Avoiding self-inflicted violence...

I recently read a brief on-line article focusing upon criticism in ministry. At the heart was this
gem: if there is a logic to a person's concern, listen and take stock; if it is only anger and rant, let it go, shake the dust off your feet and move on. Maybe there is something deeper than the presenting issue, maybe not. It takes some discernment, but the distilled wisdom born of compassion is that all people of faith are called to listen for the word of the Lord in others, but not all words are of God. There are critiques born of projection, shame, fear, disappointment and resentment just as there are genuine differences of opinion born of substance and integrity. We are not called as Christians to be the dumping ground for disgruntled souls. There is a place for taking on the wounds of others but not to become their  punching bags. If the heart of a critique is strengthening ministry and growing closer to Christ, be open to it. Otherwise, let it and the critic go. 

Too often clergy and church workers feel that they must be "nice" and simply take an other's bullshit. Wrong. Jesus did not do this, so neither should we. With practice and courage - compassion, support and trust, too - we can learn to shake the dust off our sandals and move on. Or let our critics move on. Because anything less is self-inflicted violence. I continue to be inspired by Henri Nouwen's insights when he advises that before we can truly understand and love an other's challenges, we must be in touch with our own

The first task of seeking guidance then is to touch your own struggles, doubts and insecurities - in short, to affirm your life as a quest. your life, my life, is given graciously by God. Our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken with Jesus as our friend and finest guide... Prayer helps us stand in the presence of God with all we have and are: our fears and anxieties, our guilt and shame, our sexual fantasies, our greed and anger, our joys, successes, aspirations and hopes, our reflections, dream and mental wanderings, and most of all our family friends and enemies - in short, all that makes us who we are. To do this we have to listen for God's voice and allow God to speak to us in every corner of our being.  

Today, at midday Eucharist, we shared our reflections on the call to spiritual poverty - and how that frightens us - while being essential for wholeness. I give thanks to God for this day.


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