Source: Contradictions Revisited
A discussion of profession and practice.
Source: Contradictions Revisited
A discussion of profession and practice.
My writer’s group thought that my article, Contradictions, last week lacked a connection between contradictions and expectations and they felt that the conclusion lacked connection between the aforementioned subjects and a neat wrap-up to the whole. Therefore, without regurgitating the original Contradictions, I want to try to revisit the subject for the purpose of clarity and connection.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2016 I was attempting to make amends to people I had harmed and repair friendships that had been damaged or broken. To that end I joined Facebook – after a three-year absence – and sent emails and letters. In several instances I was disappointed, hurt, and disillusioned by the response. One person I sent a letter to responded with a phone call extending forgiveness, but then proceeded to justify all his/her actions leading up to our break. I was disappointed and angry. The self-justification was unnecessary. It left me feeling like I had worked and processed my words and actions from the past, accepted responsibility for the same, made thorough admission of my guilt, sincerely apologized, and sought reconciliation for nothing. S/He responded in a way that left me believing that s/he had no confidence in my growth, no culpability in the whole affair, and had performed perfectly. It was not the response I had expected or wanted to hear. (Thankfully, after several more gentle and earnest attempts, the relationship is mending.)
In another letter I sent I recalled the close friendship this person and I had shared and some of the humorous and serious moments we experienced together. In the letter I asked him/her what I had done to him/her for him/her to not respond to me in my hour of need. The reply I received thanked me for the recollection of good memories and abruptly ended there. Not only was there no response to the questions I asked, there was no acknowledgement of them at all. Within days of receiving his/her letter s/he published an article on his/her blog about the need for a fallen Christian to embrace the church rather than run away from it. S/He used words and phrases like “safety,” “embrace,” “a place to grow,” a place where one can have the “freedom to fall and get back up again,” and a “community (where the fallen one) could have … an opportunity to flourish in faith and life,” The contradiction of his/her words and actions were dark clouds, pouring rain, heavy winds, and stormy seas to my mind, soul, and spirit.
S/He is not the only Christian who turned away from me. The community of Christians from which s/he came and of which I had been a part for 25 years did not reach out to me either. Not one person from that fellowship has ever asked me what happened or ever attempted to contact me in any of the myriad of ways one person can get in touch with another these days. Furthermore, when I attempted to befriend people from the Christian communities of my past – going back to my childhood – on Facebook, I was ignored or blocked by a host of them. (I thank God for the Christian people – mostly from my adolescent years – who embraced me, loved me, expressed confidence in me, and helped me in so many ways.)
You see, I have certain expectations of people, especially those who profess to be a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ. I not only have these expectations of them, but also hold myself to the same standard. If I announce to all that I have a certain and clear set of values, then you have a certain expectation that I will adhere to them. The same is true of me to you, I expect you to be what you profess to be. It is at this very point where expectations and contradictions converge. When you or I do not live up to the system of beliefs we profess, you and I are disappointed, disillusioned, hurt, and yes, even angry.
As I mentioned last week, contradictions of our expectations come from a variety of sources. There is/are . . .
It is this last category that causes me the most irritation. It concerns me when Christians profess to believe in forgiveness and reconciliation and fail to do either. When they profess to embrace 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” (NKJV) and fail to accept that in another. I have come to believe that the Christian community at large has a systemic issue with reclaiming their failing or fallen brother or sister in Christ. This appears to be especially true of any who sin in a dramatic or public way that embarrasses the Church or betrays its trust. At this point the Church appears to actually become hostile, critical, condemning, unforgiving, and unwelcoming. The lost sheep is not sought and the prodigal cannot return home. I will not be the judge of the intentions of others, but when it is happening to you it is hard to feel that it is not intentional.
It is a bit tricky to recognize when my expectations are mine alone and not related to a larger scheme. In my first illustration regarding the phone call I received in reply to my letter, this is the case. I had no right to expect this person to respond in the manner that I thought s/he should. The hurt and anger were of my own making because I set myself up to expect one reply and received another. I still do not like the response, but it did not necessarily violate a dearly held set of values.
However, the second illustration is, I think, an example of a person acting contrary to his/her stated standards. Instead of “safety,” and all the other things contained within his/her writing, I found coldness, disinterest, lack of concern, distance, and a refusal to engage. I will leave it to God to judge whether these were blind spots or blatant contradictions, but contradictions they clearly are. It is here where my expectations of certain behavior based on ones proclaimed position and his/her actual behavior contradicted each other. I expected him/her to act like a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ and he/she did not. That is the contradiction that most disillusions and disappoints me.
What can I do about this conflict between beliefs and behavior? As I stated last week, I can …
I choose to believe. I choose to believe that God’s grace is sufficient to redeem and change people and provide them with the will and desire to live free of blatant contradictions and respond quickly to blind spots when discovered. I choose to believe that people, although fallible and imperfect, want to live consistently and adhere faithfully to their system of beliefs. When my expectations are not met and there is just and clear evidence of contradictions, I will still choose to believe. As a result of believing in people to be what they profess they are, I will continue to have my expectations of myself and others unmet at times. Because people intentionally or unintentionally fall short of their professed belief system – I include myself here – there will be contradictions between profession and practice. I choose to believe in people anyway.
As a Christian I am called to love others. The greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love others. This is the core of the Christian faith. It is precisely this call to love others that results in my disappointment and disillusionment, but I choose to love others as unconditionally as I am capable. The risk of pain pales in importance to the belief in and love of God and others.
Come explore the causes, consequences, and resolutions to contradictions in our lives and the lives of others. Source: CONTRADICTIONS
There has been a question that has haunted me for the past eight months, “Why do people disappoint me?” “Why am I hurt by the words and actions of others?” I have come to the conclusion that disappointment and hurt are the result of my expectations of others. Am I wrong to have expectations of others?
As a former counselor, my clients had an expectation that I would keep their confidences. Nearly every session I informed them that everything they said was confidential with the exceptions of voiced desire to harm themselves or others, confession of juvenile abuse or molestation or elder abuse, or if the courts demanded disclosure (which is extremely rare). I held that trust inviolate. Whether in the role of pastor or counselor, to me the pastoral/mental health/substance abuse counseling office was as sacrosanct as the confessional. Once I was asked to disclose to appropriate staff and faculty the content of my counseling with college students if said counseling revealed violation of school rules or codes. I strongly objected and flatly refused to do it. And I never did. In whatever setting, clients have the right to expect that their counselors will keep their confidences.
Other types of businesses and relationships have their own set of ethical and moral expectations to which we expect adherence. The same is true of my Christian walk. If I tell you that I am a practicing disciple of Jesus Christ and if you tell me the same, it comes with an implied set of spiritual, moral, and behavioral standards. When my attitudes, actions, and words contradict my profession of faith, I should expect you to be disappointed in me. And, if you fall short, you should expect me to be disappointed in you. These I call – contradictions.
Contradictions come from a variety of sources. There is/are . . .
It is this last category that causes me the most irritation. Because of my personal failures there have been some in the Christian community who have turned their backs on me. It hurts when I send a letter seeking reconciliation that gets no reply or one that is very formal. I feel anger rise when I confess and beg forgiveness for my sins, faults, and failings to another only to hear them become sanctimonious and “holier-than-thou.” One person spent our entire conversation without taking any responsibility for his/her actions, instead s/he justified them. When I see the names and faces of people within the Christian community who have blocked me on Facebook, ignored my friend requests, or made it impossible for me to send them a friend request, I feel pain.
One author wrote, we who fail should “embrace the (Christian) community as a safe place to grow. Within holy community, we have a freedom to fall and get back up again. We shouldn’t leave when we fail!” That has not been my experience. Instead of a forgiving “embrace,” I found rejection. Instead of “safety,” hostility. Instead of a “place to grow,” a toxic and unhealthy environment. Instead of “freedom to fall and get back up again,” condemnation and ostracization. Ronald Reagan once said, “I did not leave the Democrat party, it left me.” I feel the same about many in my “family” of Christian friends, I did not leave my church family, they left me. Here I stand repentant with wounded arms reaching out for help, but many are they who pass by on the other side. (I thank God for those who did welcome me, allowed me to minister in the ways I could, and who demonstrated confidence in and acceptance of me.)
The author of the above statement is one who passed me by. Is this a blatant contradiction or a blind spot on his part? “Christian community could have given (a fallen person) an opportunity to flourish in faith and life,” he says. Does he think that statement includes me? Unfortunately, I have found it best to hide my failures from the Christian community and make them known to God and a very few confidants alone. The risk of rejection and condemnation is too great to disclose to the Church. This “haven of rest” for the redeemed Christian can become an anchorage of death for the fallen. Therefore, I stay silent. It robs me of an opportunity to share what God’s grace can do and has done, and it robs them of the joy in rejoicing with a lost son who has returned home.
I know the cause of my woundedness – expectations – yet the question goes beyond the cause. It is not enough to identify the why, I need to determine the next step. In my estimation, there are three possibilities. I can . . .
Will I be hurt again? Most definitely. I will be frustrated. I will be annoyed. I will be offended. But I choose to embrace all the negative risks that come with loving and believing in people.
Our LORD be with you.
A bathroom project builds confidence and trust. Source: Project: Bathroom and Trust
Our bathroom had not been remodeled since my wife bought the house 20 years ago. It was in rather poor shape. The shower quit working, the tub and commode were leaking, the ceiling fan had stopped a long time ago, and there was carpet on the floor – a poor choice for a bathroom.
I asked my wife if she would trust me to remodel our bath. She said yes. Now that was quite a leap of faith for her. You see, I have never done it before. Oh, I have watched hundreds of episodes of This Old House and other construction/remodel shows. And I was not totally ignorant because my brother has taught me some basic carpentry skills and I worked with him for three years when I was a teenager. I felt confident I knew how to do it, but, for the most part, I did not have any real world experience.
I started by fixing the leak in the tub, changed the seal at the bottom of the commode tank (a first), and replaced the O-ring under the commode (another first). Next, I built a wall for the new shower, plumbed the shower (first), put in a new tub surround (first), installed the shower head and valves, built an access panel, and sealed it all with calking.
There was a lot of drywall work that needed done. It went on the newly built wall, four corners with aluminum corner beads, and several other places that needed attention. I mudded and finished it all (first). (I used way too much dry wall mud and had to use an electric sander to smooth and reduce it. There was white residue about a quarter of an inch deep on everything in the bathroom, including me.)
My wife chose beige and chocolate brown for the paint scheme. The walls were painted beige. I set up a little workshop on the porch for the trim. Each piece was pre-fitted, hung with eye-screws from the porch rafters, and painted brown without the need to touch it. There was one window, two doors, three mirrors, and the new access panel to trim. It went well for the very limited experience I have with trim work.
Afterwards, I built a new closet, installed two shelves with clothing rods, and put up a new door – frame and all (first). The door sticks a bit (okay, a lot), but it will trim itself out with time. The bathroom exhaust fan followed (first). I was always afraid to work with electricity, but if I was going to finish the project I had to do it. The choice of fans was made that would fit into the 8 X 8 inch cut in the ceiling. The old one did not want to come out and the new one did not want to go in. How can a 7 1/2 X 7 1/2 replacement fan not fit into an 8 X 8 hole? The electrical part was easy compared to all that. Alas, I prevailed and the fan and new flexible, foil duct are working great.
The last step was the floor. The old carpet was hard to get up and I had to change the blade in my utility knife multiple times. (Good thing I bought ten.) The padding came up without much effort and then there were all the nails and staples that had to be pounded down or pulled out. I got real intimate with our bathroom floor – much more than I cared to. The order for our new bamboo flooring was made and I installed the eco-cork padding (first). The flooring came in and I started to lay it (first). The most difficult thing was to cut around the commode, the other cuts were fairly routine. My wife put up some decorations and our newly remodeled bathroom has been upgraded to the 21st century.
Because I am a perfectionist, I can only see the flaws, but everyone else, most importantly my wife, appear to be happy with it. When I have attempted such things in the past, I was ridiculed and told that I was not capable of doing it. But my wife believed in me and trusted me, even with my want of experience. That kind of trust brings confidence and freedom. “What’s the next project, dear?”
Source: MANAGING THE GHOSTS Learning to live with the people that precede us in the positions of life.
It was the last class I had to finish before I met all my requirements for ministerial ordination. History and Polity were two of my favorite subjects, (I know, I am a nerd.) and narrowing the focus to the denomination into which I was born, loved, and served enhanced the experience. There were five other guys taking the course, too. During one of the discussion sessions, a young minister began complaining about his predecessor and the things he did while he was pastor. I do not know if the man realized it, but that former pastor was my father.
Dad took a hard-scrabble church that had sunk to five members, with no money in the treasury, and in a dilapidated building with wavy floors, a broken-down chimney – in the sanctuary no less – and long strips of wallpaper hanging from the ceiling. It was a challenge to say the least. Dad was faithful and for the next 15 years the church grew. Sometimes the growth was meager, but he never had a loss. By the time my father resigned from that church, every member in it was saved or brought into the fellowship as a result of Dad’s work. Everywhere you looked – from the new ceiling, lights, walls, floors, piano, sound system, pews, and never had before off-street parking to the new addition that housed an entrance with separate men’s and women’s restrooms – Dad’s hand could be seen.
The new pastor was challenging the ghost of my dad. I thought then, and still do, that he had a very destructive strategy. Instead of making new memories and succeeding at new goals, he chose to fight the past. It did not end well. Within three years from his declared war with Dad’s memory, he had destroyed the church and it had to be closed. You cannot win a battle with good ghosts. You can only manage them.
One year, three months, and 10 days ago I married a widow. It has been a glorious ride. However, I knew coming into the relationship that I would be entertaining the ghost of the dearly departed husband for a very long time. At first there were pictures of him around the house and in our bedroom. I gently asked my beloved if she could move the ones out of the bedroom, otherwise I said nothing. About a month ago, the last picture – a refrigerator magnet – was taken down and carefully stored without another word from me.
His hats and a jacket or two hung on the hall tree just as he had left them. Again, I said nothing. Eventually, she decided the hall tree had seen better days and needed to be thrown in the trash. I dismantled it and took it out and his hats and jackets were put away.
I do not sit in the same spot as he did at the dinner table, sit in his recliner, or use his lap blanket. To do so would make it appear that I was replacing him, and I never want to give that impression. My wife chose to change the plates we use from the ones he liked to the pattern she likes. The decision was hers to make. I helped her make the necessary changes in the kitchen cabinets. Her children and grandchildren call me Porter and that is fine with me. I do not need a formal familial title to belong.
On Monday of this week, we returned from a three-day excursion to one of the barrier islands off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. My lovely wife enjoys going there. She went there every year with her now deceased husband and we have gone together the past two years. It is there that I see his ghost the most. He is in the condo community where they used to stay and on the beach on which we now frolic. He is at the restaurants where we eat, the shops we browse through, and the tourist traps we give a nod to. The dolphins outside one store were “ridden” by him. He walked through the belly of a shark that is displayed at another. There is no missing him, he is everywhere on the island.
Last year I decided to find something to do that she had never done before. There is no way I can replace or overcome his memories, so I decided making new experiences for just the two of us was the way to go. I read about an uninhabited island that was good for beach combing, watching birds, hiking, and playing in the surf. She had never been there. Mid-morning the next day, we took the ferry and spent several hours on the island. It was fun, exciting, and best of all, an outing owned by her and me alone.
This year I found three places new to her. On the island there is a university marine sciences program she had never visited. It has a welcome center and multiple displays related to the local environment. We explored the Eco system of the Gulf, discovered one of the few natural estuaries in the world was nearby, learned about several species of fish the students were studying, and looked through artifacts washed ashore from Central and South America and Africa. It is another memory that only we share.
Next, we went to a national seashore preserve. Seventy miles of this very long island are exactly the way God created nature to shape and reshape it. In Texas all coastal beaches are designated as highways, so we drove a few miles down the beach until the sight of humans was very distant. We combed the beach for hidden treasures, walked where the waves gently brushed our feet, watched birds running away from the water only to return when the tide went out, discovered a species of jellyfish neither of us had encountered before, fought off seagulls that tried to steal our snacks, and built an elaborate sand castle with a deep moat and a high keep protected by three layers of defensive positions. No ghosts were present with whom we had to share our venture.
The last place was a city park built along a shipping channel on one side and the local harbor on the other. There were piers that jutted out into the ocean for fishing and viewing. A two-and-a-half story observation platform was a great place to watch the brown dolphins swim down the middle of one of the Gulf’s entrance ramps. A large ship went by headed out to another port. Beside it was a tourist boat filled with people enjoying the good fortune of escorting a ship to the open ocean. It was quite a contrast to see the two vessels side by side. The one looked like a horizontal skyscraper and the other like a bathtub toy. A walking path ran atop the sea wall built with massive mauve colored stone cut from solid granite and ran along the shore line following the natural contours of the island. While there my precious wife spoke about the beautiful park she had left undiscovered so long. It was another moment that went into a file reserved for only the two of us.
On the way out of the park going toward our hotel, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant for supper. A first time for her and a forth keepsake that we alone treasure.
I do not know if my observations for managing ghosts are unique to me or if the geniuses of behavioral sciences have long ago published them, but here are some thoughts I have found useful.
The LORD be with you to bless you and give you grace.
Source: Choose Your Insanity, Part II
Medication side-effects can be its own brand of insanity.
Come imagine with me a resilient fellow, named Sebastian, with recurrent, severe depression. In his mid-40’s, he is active when he can be. With a wife and six children in the home, he tries to be the best husband and father he can. He has experienced what it means to be untreated and under-treated for severe depression and has suffered the consequences. Now that he has found the right cocktail of medications to keep him from suddenly plunging into darkness, he has discovered a new form of insanity.
Antidepressants can bring with them their own set of issues. The side-effects can range anywhere between slightly annoying to extremely agitating. What happens to you depends on the type of medication you take. Sebastian takes a SNRI (selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), two atypical antidepressants, and an alpha blocker for nightmares.
Common Physical Side-Effects
One of the first side-effects our fellow had was blurred vision. He was driving his children to school one day when it happened. He could no longer see things in real proportion. Sebastian’s poor daughter had to take a quick lesson in driving a long wheel-base van. Fortunately for our fellow, it lasted less than two weeks, but it can drive one crazy during the experience.
Dry mouth is another ongoing problem. He often wakes up with no liquid in his mouth, parched lips, and an awful taste that he thinks surely his wife and children can smell. If he does not take a drink first, one of his medications will stick to the top of his mouth and stay lodged there until some flood of fluids carries it away. Sebastian has discovered the only remedy is to keep something in his mouth throughout his waking hours. Copious amounts of water, flavored drinks, or hard candy help. See what our fellow has to look forward to every morning.
Sebastian has tremors, too. They can be mildly irritating or outright disabling. He tries to be somewhat of a handyman about the house, but often finds he has to make several attempts to get a screwdriver in the slot, hammer a nail, or put something up that requires a steady hand. He is especially embarrassed at supper. He sometimes spills his drink and when he tries to eat, there may be nothing left on his fork by the time he gets it to his mouth. Our fellow feels like a little child that needs a large bib and someone to feed him.
Other physical side-effects can be headaches, dizziness, sweating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, joint pain, muscle aches, and skin rashes. These are often mild and temporary and “many people build up a tolerance to these early side-effects, and they rarely require discontinuation of medications.” (Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, MD.)
Issues with Sleep and Weight Gain
Sleep is quite an adventure for dear Sebastian. Without medication, he has terrible insomnia. (Sometimes anti-depressants can cause insomnia. Go figure.) When he does sleep, he has to take a “no dream” pill to prevent nightmares and acting out. It does not work all the time. Sebastian will flail about with his arms and legs, hitting and kicking imaginary people or things. At other times he screams, cries, sounds like a baby, makes speeches, or carries on a normal conversation with an unseen person. His lovely wife has to be a brave woman to sleep next to him. His sleep disturbances can contribute to irritability and anxiety. Trouble sleeping can cause Sebastian to be fatigued and drowsy during the day. Our fellow would either be taken to jail or declared legally insane if the right people observed his behavior while sleeping.
The inability to sleep also contributes to suicidal ideations. Although suicide is a slight risk affecting about two to four percent of those who take anti-depressant medication, it is a grave concern. Those who already have a plan to harm themselves may be the most vulnerable. Anti-depressants may give them enough energy, which was in short supply before, to carry out their plan.
Weight gain can be a late arriving and long lasting side-effect. It is one of the major reasons people either stop taking their medication or insist on a change. Sebastian has lost a significant amount of weight. He looks good and feels better about himself. However, the last 20 pounds he wants to lose has been tortuous. He has cut his food intake so severely that he wonders how long he can maintain his restrictive lifestyle. But, it is necessary if he wants to reach his goal. Our fellow is fighting the good fight against increased appetite and weight gain, but he wonders how long he can maintain his restraint without a complete breakdown.
Sebastian is young and healthy enough to act on his sexual desires, but the medication prevents performance. Sexual side-effects from anti-depressants are long-term. Like weight gain, sexual dysfunction is a major reason people stop their medication. Sebastian has experienced it all – difficulty getting an erection and maintaining it, trouble with decreased orgasm or none at all, and a decline in sexual desire. After all, why would you be interested in sex if you cannot perform? Sebastian has tried several things, but has not found anything that works consistently. He and his patient wife try to schedule a night for intimacy. On that day, he does not take his medication. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. The lack of medication during the day can leave him feeling sad and blue, and without any sexual desire. At other times, he is still unable to achieve or maintain an erection, or have an orgasm. Our fellow has a God given natural desire, but the inability to carry that desire to fruition is maddening.
I have often told my children that the most difficult decisions in life are not between good and bad, but between good, better, and best or bad, worse, and worst. Sebastian has found this to be true in regards to untreated, under-treated, or treated depression. The choice comes down to which form of insanity do you want to experience. Our long-suffering fellow has chosen to be treated for his recurrent severe depressive disorder and learn to live with or manage his side-effects. To be untreated or under-treated has caused too many adverse consequences that he does not care to repeat. Furthermore, the risk of suicide without proper treatment is too great for Sebastian.
Sebastian is right. Although the medication side-effects can be nearly intolerable, death is too great a risk to take with the other choices.
May God be with you.