I went back to school last week. This was the third occasion my role as one of the voluntary chaplains with South West Ministry Training Course (SWMTC) had taken me to the lovely city of Salisbury for Easter School (or Lent School, depending on the dates)

It was an enjoyable, if somewhat intense and tiring, week. It was very rewarding to see the development, formation and progress of those training for lay and ordained ministry in the Church of England. It was good to spend time with staff colleagues also.

While one stream of students focussed on funeral ministry and inter-faith relationships, another concentrated on the skills needed in leadership and self-care – something increasingly important in the demands of the 21st Century church.

In the latter group, among many other aspects, sessions considered the ‘drivers’ behind our behaviour and how these influence they way we work and live, and the impact on other people. One particular model, drawn from Transactional Analysis, summarised these drivers. I wonder which one(s) you can relate to:

  • Please others
  • Try hard
  • Hurry up
  • Be perfect
  • Be strong

I don’t buy the ‘everything goes back to childhood’ theories although undoubtedly that time of life is very influential but what we experience in adulthood also plays a significant part in our own development, formation and progress through life. Whenever or however these influences took place, we all may need to ‘unlearn’ some of what we have ‘learnt’ or were (inadvertently, perhaps) ‘taught’ in order to be able to both lead others and care for ourselves.

As I reflected on those drivers, ‘Be strong’ was the one which came to the fore. To be strong for other people, in particular – nurtured through my professional career and in family life especially. But it also raised something in my own childhood which I had never thought about before. My mum was disabled for many years before her death when I was 17 so perhaps that did place that particular driver within me. It is one for which I am grateful (although there are weaknesses in being strong).

The majority of the students and staff and, indeed, anyone who considers themselves to have a vocation (whether within the church or outside it) will talk about being ‘called’. That sense of calling can be a positive, helpful reassurance especially when things get difficult, knowing that God has called one to a particular vocation.

A sense of ‘calling’ can also be an unhelpful ‘driver’ when used as the reason for always feeling one has to be perfect, try hard, be strong, please others and do it all in a hurry! (And how many people I see do that!) A while back, someone told me how they felt they could never say ‘No’. I replied, possibly to their surprise (and potentially offence!): ‘What makes you think you are the person to say “Yes”?’

Are we driven or called?

Driven or calledThe image is part of the font at Salisbury Cathedral. The words from Isaiah (43.1) are a good reminder that God calls each one of us by name. God calls us by our own name – not somebody else’s.

That name represents the person we are, the person God made us to be, the person God is developing and forming, the person in whom God delights in seeing progress.


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