Virtually every superhero has some weakness that makes them weak or unable to perform. For Superman it is Kryptonite: a rock-like green substance from his homeland that causes him to lose all super powers. A couple of weeks ago, on a flight traveling home from NCYC, I sat next to what the world would say is a highly successful businessman. We began talking about a lot of topics, including God and many other parts of life. I asked him what was the key to his success — without hesitation, he turned and looked me in the eye and said, “It’s all about kryptonite — until someone discovers what their kryptonite is, they won’t be able to achieve real success.”
I asked what he meant and he replied: “Most people think they are Superman and ignore that there is something that renders them to be weak and defenseless.” He went on to explain, “the more responsibility you are given, the more you start to think that you are invincible and the more you ignore that thing that takes away all your strength. The key to success is identifying that thing that is within you and avoid going there.”
Of course I started thinking about how this concept of discovering our kryptonite might apply to youth leaders. While being successful in business is very different from being effective in ministry, the concept did strike a note in me. In our own way as leaders of youth, we are given a lot of unearned respect just because we stand up and tell people we are being called to work with teens. This doesn’t mean it is not deserved; respect just gets thrown on us quicker than we can really earn it by nature of our titles. If you have ever had to follow a youth leader at a parish who lost that respect, you know how hard it can be to gain back that initial respect.
So I started thinking about what forms of kryptonite are out there for youth leaders and came up with this list of things that rob us of our joy:
1. Pride - we are so afraid to look bad that we lead by trying to look good and be accepted, rather than by making radical moves others might not understand all focused on reaching the souls of teens.
2. Laziness - we talk ourselves into the “I’ve done enough and I deserve a break today” mentality, instead of asking God if there is anything else He needs us to do that day. We justify our loaf times because we have stocked up in our minds all these good works that can “buy” us time off.
3. Hypocrisy - we live two lives. The one we proclaim and want people to see versus the hidden life that is nothing like what we proclaim.
4. Overcommitment - this is often tied to pride, but in some cases we simply don’t prioritize. We begin to take on the posture that we are the savior and if we don’t add on one more thing to ministry, no one will step up and do it. This makes the assumption that God could move only through us to accomplish this and discounts God’s ability to move in another.
5. Perpetual Doing - We avoid staying “prayed up,” justifying it by staying so busy that we don’t have time to pray. This eventually leads to our counting our sacrifices, feeling unappreciated, alone, and isolated, and leads to burnout in ministry. Prayer and Sacraments are not optional for those of us who work with teens.
So do you know what your kryptonite is? Are you avoiding it at all costs?