I can remember my first class in grad school, Intro to Counseling, almost a decade ago. I remember fidgeting with a brand new ink pen, tapping it against a pristine 3-subject notebook I’d just bought as I hungrily devoured my professor’s words.
“A lot of people will question whether they want to talk to you. They live with the mindset that if you don’t talk about your personal issues, you will be able to get over whatever you’re going through,” she said.
That mindset remains ubiquitous. Publicly, if you’re asked how you’re doing, you’re expected to answer positively. No one wants to hear otherwise. Only monogrammed-throw-pillow-worthy phrases are allowed in polite society. Vulnerability is pretty much a requirement for connection, but genuineness and honesty don’t factor when it comes to conversations suitable for a dinner party. So we hide the hard stuff in our lives, and we feel more and more alone.
That’s why, at the Sick Pilgrim blog, we’ve talked about a lot of things that wouldn’t be deemed suitable in esteemed company: we’ve had essays on depression, suicide, miscarriage, grief, addiction, self-harm, and a series on struggling with the practice of NFP.
We aren’t interested in being polite at dinner parties. We’re interested in accompanying each other, in really seeing each other.
The blog doesn’t pride itself on brokenness, but we do prize honesty. We aren’t saints. We need healing. We know we’re sick, and we’re trying to get a little closer to God with every post.
But I’m going to be dead honest here. We have, in many ways, failed at exactly that.
When the blog started, I’m not sure what we expected would become of our faith lives. I think we assumed that radical honesty and spiritual accompaniment would make the road of belief a little easier to walk. In some ways, that’s been true. We’ve made friendships and established collaborations here that have changed our lives for the better. We feel less alone. But we’ve also, three years in, read so many stories of spiritual abuse in our church–and experienced such personal and professional betrayals–that the road of faith has only gotten more perilous.
Truth: Just among our administrative team, two of us have stopped going to Mass, and another is now going to an LGBTQ-affirming Episcopal church with a woman priest. But we’ve hesitated to talk about our respective crises of Catholicism on the blog.
Why? Why haven’t we been talking about the very real problems that are shaking our faith right now? That’s one of our reasons for being–to let people in spiritual crises know they aren’t alone. And yet we’ve been cowering from the task.
I think we’ve worried that our personal doubts might lead people astray. Which, to be honest again, is pretty arrogant of us.
So we’ve launched this new series, and we’re going to do what we do best–that ol’ uncomfortable honesty. Because we really do think it’s the best policy. And we really don’t want to lose our faith. We want to believe.