At the meeting of the Texas Annual Conference this past week and on Facebook in the days following the meeting, I’ve heard a lot about clergy morale. Some think it’s gotten pretty low, while others think it’s about where it’s always been (in their experience). I don’t have a broad enough view to say anything determinate about how morale is now, but I have given some thought to the general subject.
1. If morale means something like “feeling good about yourself and your current setting (geographical & social)” then I’d rather have good morale than not. If I am in a truly bad situation, or am missing out on God’s best for me through my own actions than good morale would not be very helpful. Morale from this perspective, then, can be like pain. Pain tells us we’re in trouble and need to do something. If we feel no pain when our bodies are being damaged or destroyed, we’re worse off than if we do and can respond in some way. If I’m doing the wrong thing and experiencing negative consequences that dampen my morale, then the thing I need most is to start doing the right thing, not directly try to fix my morale.
2. In a related sense, there are at least some times when we are responsible for our morale. One of the things we ask each other is “Are you happy with X?” We’re infatuated with happiness, too much so, I think. Now, I confess that I like being happy. But many times in life my happiness is simply irrelevant, making the question, “Are you happy with X” the wrong question. Am I obeying God? Am I loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? Am I loving my neighbor as myself? These are good questions. Doing these things may make me happy, may make me unhappy. My guess is that often doing these things may only lead to happiness down the road, not necessarily here and now. So do we want good morale? Then the best thing we can do is do the right things and watch our attitude.
3. But we are not entirely responsible for our morale. Sometimes we do everything we know to do and still feel kicked and beaten. I’ve felt that way before so I certainly don’t think it’s something only other people suffer. I don’t know what to do about my poor morale in this kid of situation, so I take another track. Rather than focusing on my own poor morale (when it happens), what I do is try to build the morale of the people around me. In other words, I act as an encourager. I have limited control over my situation in life. I have no control over what other people do, either to themselves or to others. Having control over my own actions, however, I can exert myself to build others up, to do what is in my power to make their situations better, to extend blessings to them. Again, my power is limited. I can rarely do everything I would like for people. But I can do something.
I’m sure I’ve just barely begun to scratch the surface here. But for me, the first question is not, What’s my morale? Rather, the question for me is, “What are you doing with what you have to raise the morale of others?”