Being Taken For Granted
by Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman
I am a rabbi. I’m a people helper by definition. Being a rabbi is more than just being a teacher; Its being a shepherd, someone who cares for his sheep. I am there for people in good times and bad, to laugh with them, rejoice with them, and comfort them in difficult moments. Mainly, its being there for people. Emotionally, being a rabbi can be a draining experience, and it leaves me emotionally exhausted. I love what I do, making a difference in people’s lives, but I do get tired in the work.
Sometimes I feel that people take me for granted. I extend myself for people, not just my own congregants, but people who visit our congregation, as well as people I know outside our community. They usually thank me and tell me how much they appreciate what I do, yet, when it comes to my needs, I don’t feel like anyone really cares. People thank me for what I do, yet when I need them, they are not there. When people don’t show up for services, I feel like I spent all day cooking a great meal, and then they don’t show up. They don’t realize how much it means to me for them to be there. Its not like they “owe me,” but where does being there for me come in?
I lead a small congregation, and don’t get paid to lead it, so I don’t have the appreciation that an actual salary can represent, and I often wonder if anyone really appreciates what I do. When people say thank you, in the back of my head, I hear a voice saying, “Talk is cheap.” Where are they when I really need them? Nothing is more demoralizing than the feeling that people just don’t care.
In a sense, its probably a good thing that people take me for granted. It means I’m doing my job. They come to me because they see me as their spiritual leader, and not just as a contractor or hireling. I’m supposed to be the person someone looks to when they need spiritual or emotional help. I just need a way to deal with my own feelings.
I appreciate when people give me gifts like cigars, or a book. It represents care and appreciation and it means so much to me.
Some of my work involves putting out fires between people who quarrel with one another. It involves people who are either upset with me or others over things that, in the grand scheme of things are not that important, although they feel they are. If I don’t support them, they get angry with me. When people complain about things they don’t like, its like a slap in the face. Its like everything I do isn’t enough or doesn’t really matter. I try to not take it personally, but its hard not to.
So how am I supposed to deal with these feelings? I think about the people who appreciate what I do. I try to make time for myself in the midst of a busy schedule. I try to be myself. Mostly, I try to remember why I do what I do. I’m not here to have people be appreciative or make them feel beholden to me. I’m here to serve God, and I try to be his hands and his heart to the people who need it. Its not for them, but for Him that I serve. If I couldn’t serve, I’d go out of my mind. I am grateful for the opportunities to serve Him by serving His people. It makes all the difference.