Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Message Links

I've been sick the past week :-/ and so haven't continued the last series on conflict. Because I gave the message at The Gathering Sunday, I may spend some time going deeper into some of the points from that. If you would like to listen to the message, you can download it through The Gathering podcast. Until then, here are some links to material presented Sunday:

Video Clips:
Walk the Line - Marriage for Life
Antwone Fisher - I Owe You
Antwone Fisher - Welcome

The stages of change diagram is available here, as is additional information on the stages of change.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shame and Guilt

One of the things I mentioned in the last post was that shame can be an underlying emotion of anger. Shame is a powerful feeling in our society, and it motivates us in a variety of ways. I would say that shame is always bad. But shouldn't we feel ashamed when we do something bad? No, we should feel guilt, not shame.

In the field of psychology, we generally distinguish between these two terms. Guilt says, "I did something bad." Shame says, "I am bad." That can appear like a subtle difference, but it is actually huge. Guilt comments on our actions and behaviors, but shame comments on our identities, who we are. And it comments negatively, tearing us down, making us worthless.

Bad theology may say that God thinks we are worthless, but good theology promotes the eternal, infinite value in people. Bruce Narramore made an excellent biblical, theological, and psychological argument against using shame and condemnation as a motivational tool. As my undergrad pastor stated, all people are "made and loved by God."

Viewing ourselves and others that way will radically change our outlook on life, the world, and relationships. We can feel "Godly sorrow" for something we did, but that does not mean we are worthless. And because someone else did something wrong, that does not mean they are worthless. In fact, particularly because of Christ's sacrifice, despite all of these actions, we are all infinitely valuable.

Take a moment and think about a person with whom you have had a conflict. Or someone you dislike. Imagine them. What are you feeling toward them? Now say, "___ is made and loved by God." Repeat that. What do you notice about your feelings? Anything? I wonder what would happen if we approached all conflicts with this perspective?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Under Anger

Sometimes anger is truly anger. However, anger is often a mask for another feeling. In a conflict, it is important to recognize what the true feeling(s) really is.

Why, you may ask, is anger a cover-up for something else? Well, the current consensus is usually because of social acceptability. Anger is often a more acceptable emotion than other feelings.

But wait, Josh! Yesterday, you said anger is not an acceptable emotion in society. Okay, you're right. It's both acceptable and not acceptable. Don't you love social norms, culture, and emotions? So here's my best explanation. Anger is often not acceptable, particularly in Christian circles because it is seen as aggressive (which is viewed as a negative), immature, and out-of-control. Additionally, being angry means we are not in touch with God's peace. On the other hand, particularly for American men, feelings like sadness, fear, shame, etc. are viewed as signs of weakness. How many men (or women) want to appear weak? Anger is not viewed as weak, but rather strong. Therefore, if we feel sad, scared, or shameful, we may become angry in order to express an emotion that is more socially acceptable, or at least so that we will become more accepted.

This creates a major problem, though. If we believe we are angry and express anger, other will react to the anger, and all solutions to the situation will focus on the anger. However, if anger is not really the problem, then these solutions will be fruitless. We may, in fact, need to grieve or cry or be affirmed. Anger does not usually elicit responses or even thoughts to these experiences.

If you are experiencing anger, take a moment and try to see if you're feeling something else. Was I hurt recently? Am I scared? Perhaps not. You may be legitimately (and validly) angry. But if there's something more, try to figure out what it is. It may help conflict.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Anger: Good or Bad?

In a talk about dealing with conflict, the topic of anger will inevitably come up. Do some self-reflection right now. What is your reaction to anger, both from others and in yourself? Is it acceptable? Really?

Most of you reading this probably know I am in a psychology program, a year away from having my doctorate (PsyD, not PhD--maybe I'll do a post on the difference if enough people want to know :) ). I've seen many clients by this time, and the topic of anger has come up many times. Some people say anger is acceptable; most don't. Even those who think anger is fine don't really feel like it's an acceptable emotion to experience.

Why? Well, our society is not very accepting of anger. It's one of the negative emotions. Particularly within the Church. Some theologically, spiritually, and psychologically astute friends of mine explicitly disagreed with me once that anger is an "okay" feeling. And they are some of the more "open" leaders of the Church.

Anger is viewed as the opposite of happiness. If we are truly in line and in touch with God, then we should be happy and not angry. So if we begin feeling angry, we just need to ignore, suppress it, and think about the good things in life, forcing ourselves to be happy. Put a smile on your face, and you'll feel better.

'Tis true. Smiles do help. The process of thinking something different is a basic premise of cognitive therapy. However, there is a major danger to this.

If we suppress feelings too long, they will come out, often in unpleasant ways. Many of us will manifest the anger somatically (physically). Headaches, stomachaches, muscle pain. These can definitely be related to a medical condition, so definitely speak with a physician if you have these regularly, but they may also be related to things like suppressed anger (or sadness, et al).

Cloud and Townsend in their excellent biblically-, theologically-, and psychologically-informed book Boundaries, describe how anger is actually a good thing. What?! Anger is GOOD?!

Yes! As they say, anger is a signal that lets us know when something bad has happened. Someone has hurt us, an injustice has been done, a wrong has occurred. This is important information. We are not called to be holy doormats. After all, both God the Father and the Son (Jesus :) ) felt AND expressed anger. A boundary was crossed. Truth was violated. AND IT IS OKAY TO BE ANGRY!

Alright, this is the soundbite version of a very long explanation and argument for the goodness and health of anger. I encourage you to read Boundaries or some other works for a better explanation of the benefits of anger (no need to reinvent the wheel).

Now that I've convinced you anger is acceptable (right ;) ), there is still a "Now what?" element. The expression of anger can be controversial and a struggle. That's something to come. But first, I would suggest just being mindful and more aware of your feelings.

Aren't you glad it's that easy?! ;)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Emerging Criticism

If you're reading this right now, you've probably heard of the emerging church (generally referring to the global movement) or Emergent (usually referring to the organization). {Dan Kimball provides a nicer, more complete explanation of the differences, if you're interested.} You may not be that familiar with it, though, and may even have criticisms of it. Fair enough. As a blog where I want to encourage dialogue, criticism is a part of that. However, trying to sum the emerging church up in a single post is more than anybody really could do. For really describing it well, I would direct you to Dan Kimball's The Emerging Church. It's an excellent resource and easy read!

But for those who don't have the time or desire to read a whole book (okay, I don't do it very often either--I'm burned out from school :) ), but have serious concerns, Emergent Village recently posted an excellent response to their critics. From my discussions with others about the emerging church (if you couldn't tell, I classify myself among the emerging/emergent church), these are criticisms of the emerging movement as a whole, not just Emergent, the organization.

Emerging or not, critical or not, I highly encourage you to read the response to critics. It will help you gain more insight into the movement and also make you think about your own reactions and how you handle criticism and conflict, particularly when it comes to theology, the Church, and faith.

I think this will lead into some posts about conflict and dealing with conflict. My dissertation was on peacemaking, but doing it is a very different manner, and I definitely struggle... Anyone else?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lectio Divina & Music

This was a very interesting review by Christianity Today on Son Lux's (aka Ryan Lott) new album. The author described the album as a "musical lectio divina." Very clever idea.

Music is an excellent way to engage God in a deeper way. While I'm not a fan of Son Lux's musical style (at least from the 30 second iTunes previews), I love the idea of integrating art into our spirituality and really using it to express our spirituality and encourage a true experience of God in ourselves and others.

Particularly in the modern church, there are discussions of making music too "showy" and too much of a performance. While I completely agree it needs to be sincere, there is something to be said for good music that really gets someone "rockin'."

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a stereotypic church worship service during the music time. Now do the same thing, imaging yourself at a concert of your favorite musical artist. How do your reactions and feelings compare?

Most of us get moved more by a concert. Isn't that interesting? Professional musicians know how to touch our emotions. Church worship music often is viewed as a formality that is separated from our emotions (at least in most white churches). I would love to see the time of musical worship in churches be much more emotive, touching our hearts and souls rather than just being something we have to do...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Jacob to Israel

In Genesis 32, Jacob’s name is changed to Israel—“one who wrestles with God” or “God-wrestler.” All too often we think that struggling with God is a lack of faith. However, Israel is not exactly a curse word. In fact, Jacob’s new name came through a blessing.

Jacob received his birth name from holding onto his brother Esau’s heel. How often do we, as Christians, hold onto the heels of those before us, taking their blessings, as the way to construct our beliefs?

The goal of Jacob’s Café is to be a vehicle for people to transform from Jacobs to Israels—from those who simply and without question accept assumptions of faith to those who struggle and wrestle with God in the pursuit of Truth. We can move from people who take others’ beliefs to people who own their own beliefs.


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).