Advice to Ministers – Hannah Whitall Smith

Here is sound advice written to ministers, but really it’s good for any situation.

“Years ago I came across this sentence in an old book:

‘Never indulge, at the close of an action, in any self-reflective acts of any kind, whether of self-congratulation or of self-despair. Forget the things that are behind, the moment they are past, leaving them with God.’

This has been of unspeakable value to me. When the temptation comes, as it mostly does to every worker after the performance of any service, to indulge in these reflections, either of one sort or the other, I turn from them at once and positively refuse to think about my work at all, leaving it with the Lord to overrule the mistakes, and to bless it as he chooses. I believe that would be far fewer “blue Mondays” for ministers of the Gospel than there are now if they would adopt this plan; and I am sure all workers would find their work far less wearing.”

–Hannah Whitall Smith – The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life

I find this to be true mostly because I am capable of a lot of worry and despair after preaching on Sunday, or other events I help lead in ministry. “Did I say the right thing?” “I could have presented that in a more compassionate way.” “I don’t think anyone really understood what I was saying.” “I don’t think I understood what I was talking about…”

I don’t think she is saying to be unreflective, it is important to think about the work you do, how it connects to your vocation, why you do it, but there is a difference here between “self-awareness” and “judgement.” She is calling for a non-judgmental finish to our work and I think this is right. To be self-aware, present in that moment, awake to what is alive and/or dead in you while do that work is another thing.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

2 thoughts on “Advice to Ministers – Hannah Whitall Smith”

  1. I have always enjoyed Hannah Whitall Smith and think her wisdom is too little appreciated today. It is certainly true that agonizing over things that are past is unproductive, although reflection is not.

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