In February of 2002 we attended our first five day stress in the ministry workshop. We were invited by our close friends of near 30 years who founded this desperately needed ministry near 30 years ago.
I credit this occasion in our lives as the single most valuable force towards the renewing of our minds and the restoration of our hearts to spiritual and emotional health as well as facilitating recovery from our devastating fall from fundamentalist grace.
It is also an invaluable resource for those who have healthy, thriving relationships as well as for those who are not in crisis but just want a tune-up.
Since that time it has been our expressed honor to serve in this ministry as facilitators with these and the others who have become our trusted, most beloved friends.
Just last month another such workshop was held. There were several ministry couples attending along with two singles–both of whom are closely related to me. This added even more intensity to an intense enough event already
As always before, the spiritual and emotional healing that took place there was nothing short of miraculous. My two loved ones were among the others acquiring tools to set them on their journeys to healing.
With every workshop I’ve attended, I have come away revived, renewed and re-equipped with a growing understanding of the raw agony–previously suppressed and repressed–as suffered by those brave enough to be transparent and vulnerable.
I also discover something new about the long-term effects any kind of abuse can have on a person. I am always astounded how anyone survives the more serious physical and emotional traumas revealed there.
But there is one particular stark realization that I want to deal with in this post.
I had been taught for many years, mostly in sermons, that ‘pride’ is at the core of all the evils committed by human kind. It is preached to be the all encompassing, bottom-line instigator of every evil act beginning with Lucifer’s attempt to usurp God’s throne and continuing throughout man’s existence on earth.
It is also preached that it is somehow always for ‘pride’ that we don’t do what we should and inevitably do what we shouldn’t. The authoritarian, legalistic preacher uses his distorted, embellished and amplified definition of ‘pride’ to justify ruling, judging and punishing people as if they would all deteriorate into hopeless evil without his intervention.
I agree that such self-exalting pride is truly evil. But not every person that struggles with the many various issues of life considered ‘sinful’ does so because of a ‘pride’ problem.
There are many completely broken, often tortured individuals who come to the Ministry Stress workshops to pour out their innermost hurts and sorrows–holding nothing back–just so that they can regain their health, restore their relationships and more effectively minister to others.
One thing I know for certain..‘pride’ is not their problem.
No, these hurting people are not prideful at all!
At the bottom of all the grief, the pain, the dysfunction, the spiritual and emotional stagnation, the loneliness, the guilt feelings so debilitating, so paralyzing…. is definitely not pride…. no, not at all.
The one glaring problem that is shared by all…
This one common denominator apparent in all the victims of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and spiritual) is their crippling shame. It is something of a paradox because the one who should rightfully bear the shame is the abuser. But that simply, tragically is not true in most cases.
The one who bears the shame, that should rightfully be born by the perpetrator, is the one who is innocent and defenseless–the victim. What’s worse is the lengths they will go to prevent anyone from knowing that he/she feels ashamed, so they will try to hide it in a wide variety of ways.
A victimized person does not realize that he/she reacts irrationally and inappropriately to triggering circumstances as a direct result of the shame they feel. They just continue to live their lives suffering the reproach of friends and loved ones who do not understand why they react the way they do.
Shame- bearers view even well-intentioned, constructive correction as a personal insult.
Shame-bearers feel guilty even for the wrongs of others.
Shame-bearers are often compulsive people-pleasers.
Shame-bearers feel they can never be or do anything right.
Shame-bearers are easily agitated.
Shame-bearers find it difficult, if not impossible, to trust.
Shame-bearers often resort to drug, alcohol and other self-destructive means to anesthetize their pain.
Shame-bearers are often excessive in their dress, hair and make-up in attempts to detract from or cover their shame.Shame-bearers are extremely defensive.
Shame-bearers tend to be either obsessively good or angrily rebellious.
Shame-bearers who are victims of sexual abuse are often strangely promiscuous.
Shame-bearers have tremendous difficulty revealing or even knowing the source of their shame, even to help themselves.
Shame-bearers feel they deserve to be punished even though they were the ones victimized.
Shame-bearers will seek out ministering-type professions as a means to ease or deny their own pain and guilt feelings.
Shame-bearers feel responsible for others’ pain that was caused by the perpetrator.
Shame-bearers are prisoners to someone else’s guilt.
Shame-bearers feel ugly, dirty and damaged and worthless.
Shame-bearers are often over-achievers who feel they are indebted and need to perform some kind of penance.
And this is not all they suffer.
My experiences from this invaluable ministry service has forever altered my perspective and attitude towards people who struggle in life. These are the ones who– because of their apparent inadequacies, incompetencies, anger, addictions, disorders and general inability to fit in with the mainstream ‘accomplished’–suffer rejection and discrimination as a result.
What they need is genuine love, concern, compassion, empathy, grace, mercy and acceptance–not criticism.
Ministry families’ traumas and resulting dysfunctions are no less debilitating than the general public’s and are often even more troublesome since the expectations are so much higher, they mask their troubles and neglect to get any help.
They also need love, patience and understanding–not criticism and judgment.
I am so grateful for experiences the Ministry Stress Management workshops have afforded me. What’s more, I am infinitely grateful for the changes these experiences have facilitated in me.
It just changes everything when one gets the opportunity to enter the world of another’s pain, for only then can there be true recognition of the fact that there is no one who can be sure that given the same circumstances….
they would have done any better.
If you have ever been or are presently serving in a ministry capacity or if you are a preacher’s/ missionary’s kid; whether you are in crisis, or would just like to attend a workshop to gain some counseling tools for your ministry–please consider coming. I can promise, you will not leave there the same as you came, and THAT is a good thing!
By the way, there is a ‘story’ behind the frogs, but you will have to come if you want to find out what it is….
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Cindy Foster is “Mom” to eight gorgeous, talented, temperamental, noisy, opinionated, alike-but very different kids. She has been married to their daddy, Paul, for 34 years.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce