Around a man who has been pushed into the limelight, a legend begins to grow as it does around a dead man. But a dead man is in no danger of yielding to the temptation to nourish his legend, or accept its picture as reality. I pity the man who falls in love with his image as it is drawn by public opinion during the honeymoon of publicity.Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings
Dag Hammarskjöld was a Swedish economist and diplomat who, in 1953, was appointed as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. Markings is Hammarskjöld’s only book, his personal journal that was found and published in 1961, following his death caused by a plane crash. He began his diary at the age of twenty. It contains brief remarks, observations, insights, and poetry.
As a public figure, Hammarskjöld understood the pitfalls and dangers of life in the public eye.
As unknowns enter the public square and become “known” figures, a story is offered of the accomplishments, actions, and deeds that make that person deserving or worthy of their position of power and influence. Hammarskjöld observes the dead, likewise, have legends that are told about them. In eulogy, most are remembered well, spoken kindly of, and praised for their admirable qualities. We know these words of praise are not the sum total of a person’s life, but they are the words we would like most to remember and keep. But unlike the dead, the living can buy the hype, fall in love with their image, exchange their authentic self for a persona, and fall victim to an illusion.
Ministers, like everyone I suppose, are prone to this temptation. The nature of the pastoral office places the minister in the public eye. For the minister who “plays” at pastor in the pulpit or on church grounds, but who is something else entirely in their private life at home, ball field, or grocery store, the incongruities between the projection and reality will reveal themselves in time. It may not be plain to the minister, at first. But these incongruities will be seen plainly by everyone else.
Sadly, it can be the case that everyone else knows you are a fraud long before you do.
In the spiritual life, it is vitally important to know yourself, your flaws, weaknesses, besetting sins, and shortcomings. It is also important to know your strengths as well. If things begin to go well in your life and ministry, if people begin to speak well or praise you for who you are or what you are doing, it is best to be prayerful, to be on guard against pride and self-delusion. Stay in touch with reality. Don’t fall in love with an image that is false.