2015-12-29 - A Safe Place
As I grew up, I was a member of a legalistic church, in which many things were proscribed - from "women shouldn't go to school," to "no swimming on Sundays" - in spite of the fact that ironically there was no prohibition on staying home and watching scantily-clad women on a then-popular television show. Another thing that was a "no-no" was counseling. Counseling was supposedly of the devil. People were to just 'suck it up,' and never speak of it, and were told to "just have faith and pray." There are still people who believe that, even today. I never seen any Biblical backup for this advice. In fact, the Bible shows just the opposite.
There's nothing wrong with "venting." There's nothing wrong with sharing frustrations or struggles. In fact, much of the Psalmists' writing consists of expressing strong feelings, which ultimately evolve into worship.
And in fact, God built it into us, to talk about things that are causing us problems. He intended for us to help each other. The Bible is full of 'one another' passages.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 (TLB) 10 If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble.
Another legalistic myth is that we should turn only to God with our problems. Of course, we should always turn to Him. But the Bible's stories, such as the friendship of David / Jonathan and Barnabus / Paul, belie that. God intended that we provide support and community to one another.
When we don't deal with our emotions, our bodies will take care of the situation, themselves. Some of us are dealing with spirit-crushing stresses every day, that can wear us to a breaking point if we don't "get it out," whereas some of us are in an acute crisis, such as those who just lost their loved ones or homes in tornadoes. If we bottle up our feelings, they might channel themselves into stomach aches, headaches, high blood pressure, eye twitches and other maladies. In extreme cases, we could encounter a worst-case scenario. I know of one family that was denied the expression of their grief over a family member who killed himself. They were told by their church leaders, that they should just be happy that their loved one was with Jesus. Any sharing of feelings was judged and squelched. The end result was that the parents followed suit, and within that year, they killed themselves, as well.
Additionally, if we are allowed to vent with a friend or counselor, it can help us respond in a more Christlike manner. Often if we talk out feelings, that works like venting a pressure cooker; it releases the heat. But if our feelings are squelched and judged, be sure of this: They will find a way out.
So how do we find a safe place, if we need one? Ideally these relationships evolve naturally. If we are considering someone as a "listening ear," we need to seek out certain qualities - someone whom we've never heard gossiping and respects confidentiality, someone who genuinely cares and is a good listener, and of course the person should be a Christian. And if we provide a safe, non-judging place, it can make that person feel that they are not alone; there is someone else walking with them through it.
Conversely, if someone needs us as a safe place, there are several qualities that we need to cultivate: Confidentiality, lack of judgmentalism, an acceptance of honest feelings, prayerfulness for the person, and seeking more to listen than to speak. When training to serve in the Stephen Ministry©, Care Givers are taught that when meeting with a Care Receiver, we should listen 90% of the time, and speak only 10%.
Come to think of it, that might be a good ratio for life in general. ; )
Janice P. Moser
All scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.