On this Bastille Day I say Vive la Voix! For me, healthy Personhood is all about having a voice, being able to express my true self. My relationships/ associations, to be healthy, must always include my freedom to speak not only from my mind, but also from my heart, without censorship, and without threat of rejection. Of course I understand that there are times and places more or less suitable for various specific kinds of expression, but I now know I need to be certain I have the freedom in all my important relationships to express my true thoughts and feelings without any threat of rejection.
Voice in Vocation
I’ve also figured out, (just now!), this is why church-ministry work isn’t such a good fit for me. I did well as a Music Minister in the Catholic Church at a couple of parishes for over 26 years. I have many gifts and skill sets that make that kind of work mostly a good fit for me. However, the more responsibility I shouldered, the more I realized I too often had to censor myself. I could do the work well, but at great cost to myself. The kind of thing I’m talking about is nothing dramatic; I doubt any of my “issues” would cause any believer scandal. It’s just that I honor and am much more devoted to Process*, than is typical of Church hierarchy. By Process* I mean the development of people’s thinking, their faith journey, their understanding of relationships, their perception/understanding/interaction with Sacraments.
I tend to be solidly “conservative” theologically; in Catholic terms, I would more often refer to the Catechism and to Scripture than I would to anyone’s explanation of them. But relationally/ pastorally I have discovered I would probably be viewed as very “liberal” by my fellow-conservatives! And when push comes to shove, I don’t make any political allegiances within the church; I don’t take sides, so I don’t have allies. That leaves me extremely vulnerable to the opinion of whichever priest is currently boss of the parish.
In my experience priests tend to be thoroughly “conservative” or thoroughly “liberal.” I.e. the priests who are process-oriented pastorally tend to embrace liberal theology, and those who embrace more traditional interpretations tend to relate w/ staff and parishioners in a more authoritarian way.
I have however met some priests who are exceptions to what I’ve just described. From my vantage point, priests who are “liberal” theologically but “conservative” or authoritarian relationally are to be avoided; life with them is a nightmare! Conversely, some of my favorite people are priests who are “conservative” theologically but “liberal” pastorally. (Yes, I know, that’s like myself.) What I find healthiest in church ministry is when a team of professionals and lay people work together, i.e. a more colleague-model of leadership, (much like I experienced when I worked in colleges/universities), regardless of priest’s style of leadership.
Regardless, my parish received (and heartily embraced) a priest I simply couldn’t work with, and I knew some of my reasons for not wanting to work with him, but I had a gnawing feeling that maybe I should have been more “flexible”. In this case, that would have meant submissive, less active, less vocal, less involved! But today I have a clearer understanding of why every fiber of my being knew I would die there spiritually if I forced myself to stay. (The priest wanted me to stay but with less responsibility and drastic pay cut. As I see it, he just wanted me to be one of his tools; he didn’t want to share ministry.) He’s one of the new crop of young conservative-conservative priests who lean toward Traditionalism, if not altogether engulfed in a Pre-Vatican-II attachment.
Real Respect in Relationships
I also recently let go of an old friendship. My friend’s narcissism was becoming more pronounced. She had attempted to manipulate me into supporting a sick relationship involving her daughter. I was convicted the daughter was entangled with a pedophile, and I refused to endorse the relationship in any way even though by the time of the breaking-point in our friendship, her daughter was “of age.” Not only could I not support it, I felt obligated to report it to authorities for investigation!
However, the real conviction to cut off entirely relating with my friend came when I realized I couldn’t trust her to understand or honor all I had shared with her about myself over the years. Given that I couldn’t trust her, I was no longer interested in further sharing one bit more of myself (my heart, my time) with her.
Although I feel some loss, I have no regrets about quitting the job, letting go of ministry work, parting ways with an old friend. Even though I greatly valued those experiences and relationships, I have now grown to a point in my own healing where I am no longer dependent upon pseudo-affirmations, and in becoming aware of that, I am positively uninterested in sustaining such.
I am choosing to put my own health and wholeness first. For me, that takes tremendous courage; it feels radical, like a risk a hero would take. It feels that way because it is. Since my abuse I’ve looked for safety or rescue or justice from others, and mostly it wasn’t to be found. This time I’m the hero.
I feel odd saying that. I imagine most people who didn’t experience abuse in their formative years would naturally put their own health first without even thinking about it; that’s part of being healthy. So I can’t expect others to understand what this means for me. That’s okay. That too is part of being healthy! I don’t know if you can tell from my tone, dear Reader, but I am smiling at myself! It feels good to be one’s own “hero!”
If you too were abused, maybe you’ve already taken this step on your path toward wholeness. Or maybe you haven’t even considered the possibility. Where-ever you are in your healing process, my hope for you is that you will find within yourself the desire and ability to keep going, keep choosing health, keep believing you’re worth it. And my prayer for you is that God will grace you with gentle patience as well as steadfast perseverance!