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Honoring What is Hardest to Hear

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

Brian said something last night that has caught my heart’s attention this morning.


A colleague-friend wondered aloud with him whether “my contempt for the church” made me “inappropriate” as “an associate” for the congregation he/they serve. I received it with a light-belly feeling, but also a little surprise. A welcoming, befriending of such mirroring. How my behaviors can often be perceived by folks long-invested (enmeshed?) in “the way things are” in today’s church.


When I need to spend so much time away from congregational Christian settings, for my own emotional groundedness and sanity, it’s helpful for me to be reminded, to receive how my words and actions can be received.

When my own grief-rage is forefront, it is absolutely true my words/behaviors can drip with contempt. I own that fully and more often than my best self desires.


Yet I am also doing the work to learn a more peaceable way to be in the wisdom of my anger, not just its fire.


This morning, I ponder the practiced inability of church folks to even hear critique within the grief, the anger, the sadness expressed by so many today. "Critique" seems to immediately become “contempt” in such eyes/ears. It’s not like anything I’ve said has not been said before. It’s not like it’s not multifaceted why mainline institutions are in decline.


What is it in folks long-invested in church today that increases this human tendency to hunker down, to refuse critique, to defend so fully against listening to outside/inside voices? What is the gain in projecting this discomfort out onto another colleague, questioning their appropriateness/inappropriateness? I cannot help but wonder: What is it in us that cannot at least honor the grain of truth in what “the other” says, even if it’s painful to hear?


I fully welcome her critique, her experience, mirrored to me in some intimate confidence between married partners. I appreciate hearing it, actually. Why can she not do the same? What does she lose by refusing to hear my rage, my grief, as a woman long unseen and unheard in today’s church as a woman?


Perhaps because her experience does not resemble mine, even as she considers herself a feminist. The familiar observation/rebuttal to my experience is that the church is more populated by women today. The logical rejoinder is wondering whether I’m judging them as “un-woke” then?


To which I always respond, No, because I don’t judge their experience. (At least when I’m not triggered and enraged. Then, yes, all bets are off for my best self coming through…). We women can be the worst listeners to other women in the church, I find.


Which is curious, is it not?

I am thankful for this colleague who spoke her wonderings projected outward. I’m sad she cannot honor my experience as a renewing competence, diverging from her own.


Ultimately, I hunger for community that practices honoring the stories hardest to hear.


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1 Comment


Guest
Sep 12, 2023

What does she risk? Everything. To be open to others views you have to be willing to risk losing your own. You have to be willing to let the tightly held edges of your own worldview to erode away. Of course this doesn’t mean that it will but it might. You have to be able to risk more than some people can.

Q

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