Many aspects of campaigning for public office reside outside my realm of experience, and therefore do not fall squarely within my comfort zone. I have skills that are translatable of course, but being ordained clergy for over ten years presents me with some obstacles to overcome. I got good and comfortable in that zone!
A woman who routinely delivers sermons, officiates weddings and funerals, and teaches adults should be an accomplished public speaker comfortable in the public eye, right? While it is true I rarely suffer from debilitating stage fright, there are wide gulfs separating ministerial speaking from political stumping and relating to people privately from putting yourself on display.
When preaching, the subject matter is not about the minister nor should it be. A sermon is meant to involve the listener intimately and address concerns that affect us all deeply — life’s big questions we all grapple with as fellow human beings. Sermons encourage the congregation to engage in self-reflection and inspire them to personal commitment and action. The minister does not tell the congregation what he or she is going to do for them, but what they must do for themselves and for one another.
When officiating a wedding, memorial service, or baby dedication, a skillful minister manages to do most of the speaking while ensuring the focus is on the couple getting married, the friends and family grieving for the deceased, or the child being welcomed into the family. When guests remember the officiant more than the purpose for the occasion, the minister failed to perform the role well or allowed something to go horribly wrong. Officiants are paradoxically front and center while fading into the background.
Clergy are trained to be the “non-anxious presence” that deftly manages the emotional context of the situation. Our personal lives are virtually irrelevant when tending to the pastoral care of our faith communities. Our own life experiences certainly inform our sermons and guide our care-giving, but we don’t tend to reveal ourselves openly and without reservation.
Being a candidate means not only allowing the focus to be on you, but actively seeking that attention. It’s a jarring transition when you have spent so many years where just the opposite is your norm.
I was not raised in a political family, nor did I anticipate seeking political office until now. Consequently, like most people, I have not spent my life weighing the consequences of everything I have said or done. I cannot recall anything that could prove particularly embarrassing or useful to my opponent, and I think I have lead a pretty good life. Over the holidays during his freshman year in college, our eldest son thanked us for giving him a boring childhood without any drama or family issues. Thanks kid, glad to know you think I’m boring! I’ll remember that when your birthday rolls back around.
But the harsh reality is my life, past and present, is now under a microscope — being particularly scrutinized by those who do not want me to succeed. I feel like I have stepped outside my front door without a stitch of clothing on. I have no idea if I have said or done something that could be conveniently misconstrued or viciously spun, and I do worry that is precisely what the opposition will do as the campaign heats up. We have all seen it happen, and the current climate of media bubble echo chambers encourages such behavior. I would be dishonest if I did not admit it is a source of anxiety if I allow myself to think about it too much.
Well, that and fundraising. It is a lot easier to ask people to give to a faith community or a youth sports organization than it is to ask them to contribute to your political campaign. At least it is for me.
Bye bye comfort zone, it was nice knowing you! — Will someone please hand me a bathrobe?
Campaign Website: Ann Fuller for Florida House 52