AUTHOR ARCHIVES: https://davebarnhart.wordpress.com/author/davebarnhart/
About Dave Barnhart
I’m a United Methodist pastor of a network of house churches (Saint Junia United Methodist Church) in Birmingham, Alabama. My mission in life is to teach and live resurrected life in Jesus among passionate people. I’m married and have a son. I’ve written a couple of books: What’s in the Bible About Church? and God Shows No Partiality. If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can email me at dave (at) saintjunia (dot) org, or send me a message on Twitter.
SOME LEARNINGS ON SADNESS AND WORRY
Posted on April 7, 2020
This is my own learning, and it may be helpful to you, or not:
As much as I believe that we can feel better if we reframe and adjust our thinking, there is healing that comes from acknowledging pain and honestly naming our hurt.
I am incredibly sad. I was looking forward to things that now are not going to happen, at least this year. Sometimes I am tempted to minimize my sadness: after all, other people have it worse. But that is not actually helpful thinking.
I am also worried—about individuals, about the church, about the economy, about our failing government, about what the world will look like on the other side of this unmitigated clustertruck. Sometimes I am tempted to just put a good face on it, to mimic non-attachment and parrot the words of Jesus, to say, “Well, tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.”
It is not weakness to name sadness and worry, and it is not strength to avoid them.
Here are my learnings:
1) If I name my negative emotions instead of avoiding them, if I look at them squarely, allow myself to feel and cry, I am able to feel my gratitude and my hope more deeply on the other side of it. I cannot be truly grateful unless I also acknowledge my disappointment. In Buddhist terms, I cannot experience “non-attachment” by being dishonest about what I’m attached to. In Christian terms,
God embraces my suffering. I have to name my worry—that my brain is trying to solve an unsolvable problem—in order to move toward solving the problems I *can* solve.
2) When we name our negative emotions in public in a supportive community, we find that others feel the same way. The Powers that Be want us to be silent about our pain, to put a good face on it, so they can pretend that their policies are effective and the status quo is fine.
Naming our pain is the first step to community organizing. The Powers that Be do not want us to do that. They describe our exhaustion as laziness, our anger as “divisiveness,” our worry and fear as cowardice. It is in their interest to gaslight and minimize our cries. We have this critical voice in our heads and in the world, always policing our pain. It is not the voice of God. The last thing they want us to do is say to each other, “Oh, you are afraid of losing your for-profit healthcare in the middle of a pandemic, too?”
3) Any version of Christianity that tells you that negative emotions belie a “lack of faith,” or that your pain and fear is unacceptable to God is garbage. Exodus 2:24-25 describes God’s activity when the Israelites “cry out” — God hears. God remembers. God sees. God understands. Hagar names God “God who sees me.”
Many would-be spiritual gurus think policing negative emotions is a sign of sanctification or enlightenment. They think their job is to help other people feel better. It is not. Holy Week is, in part, about God embracing the whole reality of human suffering and loving it to death. This kind of divine incarnation is “beyond good and evil” the way we normally think of it.
It’s okay to feel whatever you feel. Preachers and pundits will gaslight you in the name of Jesus, Buddha, the Market, the Party, or whoever. But acknowledging our suffering will allow us to distinguish between the suffering that is manufactured—by our individual selves and by society—and the suffering that is simply part of being human.
Posted in Disciplines, Psychology, Reflections, Resistance | Tagged cognitive behavior therapy, depression, emotions, gaslighting, mental health, psychology, spiritual growth, spirituality, worry | Leave a reply
SUBMITTED FOR REPOSTING ON THE NCC BLOG BY ERNESTO VASQUEZ