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Neurosis & Character Disorder: Pick One!

Neurotic about your donors? 

 The late M. Scott Peck, in his brilliant book The Road Less Traveled, suggested that there are two kinds of people in the world. 

You’re either   

  1. neurotic, or  
  2. character disordered. 

 Ha! An inspiring view of mankind! 

Actually, the terms are more frightening than the reality. Both refer to an individual’s sense of responsibility 

  • Neurotic simply speaks to the tendency of some people to assume more than their fair share of responsibility for any given dilemma.  
  • Character disordered refers to folks who assume less than their share.  
  • Neurotic people feel guilty.  
  • Character disordered people feel contempt for people who feel guilty. 

Most people, Peck says, are at least a little of one and a lot of the other. Only a few exceptionally healthy people are well balanced, with equal measures of neurosis and character disorder. 

Already you’re thinking, “Aunt Martha! That characterdisordered so-and-so!” or “That helpless, wimpy, neurotic husband of mine!” Well, stop it. You’re somewhere on the neurosis-vs.-character disorder scale yourself, y’know. 

Here’s the point:  

  • Your own guilt/contempt quotient influences your view of your donors  influences your approach to ministry marketing  influences your entire way of approaching ministry. 

But wait! We can see Peck’s “two types of people”  and raise him one more! For while he may be correct in saying there are two kinds of people in the world, ministry marketing people aren’t exactly regular people (are we?) — and we can see another type of distinction in their psyches. 

Ministry marketers come in two varieties:  

  • those who look at their donors and say, “They’re just like me,” 
  • and those who look at their donors and say, “They’re not at all like me.” 

You might call these categories “identified” and “distinct.”  

Of course, again, most of us aren’t exclusively one or the other. But we tend to be strongly one or the other — probably more strongly than we realize.  

  • You’re either highly identified with your donors, or  
  • you see yourself as highly distinct, quite different in perspective, from your donors. 

Which complicates your neurosis or your character disorder considerably.  

You’re somewhere on the neurosis/character disorder scale, AND somewhere on the identified/distinct scale. 

Where the two intersect — that’s you! 

  • Let’s say you’re an identified neurotic. This means you figure the donor feels just like you do, and you think of the ministry as an intrusion into her life. 
  • Or let’s say you’re distinct and character disordered. Then you think the donor isn’t like you — she just needs to be told what to do — and she’ll love it. 
  • Or you can be identified and character disordered. 
  • Or distinct and neurotic. 

Of this one thing you can be sure: you tend to be one of the four. 

Why this long, involved psychology lesson? Because your responsibility-and-identity profile strongly influences your view of ministry marketing — as well as your execution of your marketing strategy. 

  • How will a neurotic marketer tend to communicate with his donors? Seldom. I don’t want to bother them. 
  • What tone will a characterdisordered marketer tend to take in communicating with his donors? Peremptory. This is important; give! 
  • Where does the identified marketer look for ideas for communicating with his donors? Within. I hate long letters; so does she. 

More on your neurosis and/or character disorder to come!…