Friday, October 26, 2007

Living Emotions

I was talking with a friend about how disappointed I am in some people in my life. I am grieving over (what I can only call) a lapse in integrity. He pointed out that I should get used to the fact that people are disappointing. This was said in honest concern for me. While I appreciate that this is reality- people sin, people fall short, people disappoint people- I was reminded of one of my pledges to myself and God. I would rather be in relationship with people, with all of the associated risks, and then go through grief and pain when I am disappointed, as opposed to shut down and "protect my heart" from such pain.

My pledge is rooted in having spent time hearing stories (mostly from other clergy) who have shut down emotionally because they are tired of being hurt and disappointed. One of the choices that a person can make after loving, trusting, or otherwise being in relationship and then experiencing something that hurts is to stop taking some of the risks of relationship. This happens greater or lesser degrees, depending upon the person.

One of my personal convictions is that God did not give us emotions so we could pretend that we do not have the difficult ones (i.e. anger, pain, grief, disappointment, fear). So often humans respond to pain and hurt as if it should not be a part of life. I have not discovered any evidence or orthodox Christian teaching that supports this notion.

So I have determined that I would prefer to be fully alive, which includes all of the pain, rather than shut down. Appropriate boundaries are vital. Healthy relationships, with good, realistic expectations are important.

But here's the thing, and there is no getting around this: relationships are risky and people sin. Given a choice between opening my heart, and being optimistic, followed by later experiencing pain or not opening my heart at all, I believe in relationship.

I think part of my effectiveness as a pastor is rooted in my ability to be in healthy relationship. I also think that the "negative" emotions (like anger, disappointment, pain) are the ones that have the power to motivate change.

So I'm hurt, disappointed, grieving... and that's life.

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