What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the title “pastor”? My guess is it’s not “gentle.” The Iron Giant notwithstanding, our popular heroes are not known for their meekness. They tend to accomplish great feats through sheer might, skill, and force of will. They excel in hubris, not humility.

I always thought I was gentle. When reading through lists of virtues in the New Testament, gentleness never caught my attention. As a young man I prayed regularly against lust. I fought pride. I strove to ward off sloth. These deadly sins comprised a three-headed monster I knew I must oppose. But somewhere along the way, while I engaged in a frontal assault against my Cerberus, a sneaky little sin slipped out of my heart and attacked me from the rear. He goes by many names: harshness, brashness, and domineering are some of them. He is neither meek nor gentle.

So how did this sneaky little sin catch my attention? A dear brother did something brave; he told me I could be harsh and intimidating. So harsh, in fact, he wasn’t sure he could serve with me on our church’s elder body. His words stunned me. I couldn’t believe it. Yet I couldn’t not believe it. This brother is wise, godly, and I knew he wanted the best for me and for the church we both love.


We needed to dig deeper. I asked him to pick out a couple elders from our church with whom he felt comfortable sharing this information. The four of us sat down to talk and pray. He told them his concerns. He did it humbly, confessing his own weaknesses along the way. But as we talked, I better understood ways I had led conversations that made others feel little. I realized how I often provided minimal guidance while expecting maximum results. I learned that while, for the most part, my lust, sloth, and pride were in check, harshness was having a heyday.

I wondered how I missed seeing this sin for so long. After all, I prayed regularly, read the Bible daily, and preached at least once a week. I had been set apart by a local church to address the sins of an entire congregation, so how could I have so carelessly missed seeing my own sin?

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