Thursday, September 22, 2011

One of the difficult things about ministry...

is the need to listen to someone talk about the many ways in which the someone is rejected by those he or she loves. I can think of several folks over the course of my life who have had this habit; some were teenagers who, one hopes, will get the picture soon and quit relying on whining as a way to get what they need or think they need.

Whining can take several forms but the most annoying, to me, is the insistence on others' responsibility for the "victim's" behavior. I've heard fellow ministers, particularly those who have a hard time with congregation after congregation, refuse to consider how he or she might be complicit in the so-called victimizing. I've heard younger siblings (mine and others') translate a well-deserved retaliatory move as a deliberate, unprovoked attack (no, there's no excuse for violence, but, hey, we were kids). I've heard layleaders blame the minister for everything wrong in the congregation. I've heard middle schoolers cry bully when they had gone too far in pestering another student and got taken down a peg or two (no, there's no excuse for real bullying and it does need to be addressed, but it's very hard to sort out sometimes).

In each case, the victim refused to look at how his (or her) own behavior might have been inappropriate and had contributed to the negative response he got. Instead, it was all somebody else's fault and he (or she) was determined to bear up as best he (or she) could. Of course, that often means that the rejection will continue, rather than be addressed constructively.

Last time it happened, it was with a longtime acquaintance whose church (not mine) had not responded to him in the way he felt it should have; he's also on the outs with most of his family. I listened for awhile and then responded "it sounds like you've been rejected a lot in your life. Have you looked at why that might be happening?". I was thinking he might tell me how he thought he had contributed to the problem, but he wasn't there at all. Instead, I got a long list of all the ways he'd been rejected---by his church, his ex-wives, his children, his former friends.

I thought back to my history with this person and mentally noted all the ways he expects others to serve him, his rather alarming appearance, his taking advantage of others' kindness, and I quit pursuing the topic. It wasn't going to change his behavior.

I'm not a therapist. I recommend therapy quite often to people who bend my ear about how badly others treat them. I tend to think that we often invite the reactions people have to us and it's important to sort out which of those reactions are meaningful and which are just because someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That "poor me" persona is hard to be around. Sometimes people really deserve pity and don't deserve the kind of rejecting response they get. I'm inclined to think, however, that most of those who listen to whiners wish that the whiner would grow up, get a shrink, and get a life.

6 comments:

Robin Edgar said...

"it sounds like you've been rejected a lot in your life. Have you looked at why that might be happening?"

How ironic that this good advice applies so well to America's Least Wanted Religion aka The Tiny Declining Fringe Religion™. . .

Let's face it. If there are only 160,000 adult Unitarian*Universalists in America it is because the vast majority of Americans & Canadians *reject* Unitarian Universalism as a religious community, yet very few U*Us seem to be prepared to take a long hard look at *why* that most definitely is happening, and seems to be worsening. . .

"I've heard younger siblings (mine and others') translate a well-deserved retaliatory move as a deliberate, unprovoked attack (no, there's no excuse for violence, but, hey, we were kids)."

Ah there's nothing quite like a well-deserved retaliatory move, especially when it is in direct response to a deliberate, unprovoked attack. ;-) Allow me to point out however that neither of these things require actual physical violence on anyone's part, as readers of The Emerson Avenger blog can readily ascertain, verbal violence will do just fine. . .

Jacqueline said...

I assume there is a need not being met. When I am whiny (and we all are sometimes) it is because I want something but I am either to embarrassed to straight out ask for it or I just feel tired/cranky/whiny.

If it is a perpetual thing (we all know those people) that is when I assume there is some other issue. Something I can't solve.

Chalicechick said...

Wow. Just, wow.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've seen a post that has so exquisitely demonstrated its central point via the approval of an inevitable comment. Well done, Kitty!

ms. kitty said...

Robin, I mistakenly deleted your response. I would have published it otherwise. Could you resend it?

Robin Edgar said...

Well done indeed Ms. Kitty!

I am glad to see that you wisely and quite graciously chose the fate of publishing my *inevitable* comment. :-)

For the record Anonymouse, who lacks the courage to sign your name to your comment, unlike America's Least Wanted Religion aka *The* Tiny Declining Fringe Religion™... I have not been rejected a whole lot in my life. Indeed rejection has been quite a rare occurrence, which only makes my rejection by intolerant and abusive Unitarian Universalists all the more ludicrous. . .

Have Unitarian Universalist "victims" of the dreaded Emerson Avenger looked at how their own intolerant and/or abusive behavior might have been more than a little bit "inappropriate" and thus contributed to the negative response that they got from TEA? I am confident that the well-documented record will show that *they* obstinately refused to do so and that U*Us foolishly chose the fate of engaging in shunning, ostracism, victim-blaming, and scapegoating rather than responsibly addressing my legitimate grievances *constructively* in alignment with Unitarian Universalist principles and ideals that, amongst other things, call for justice, equity and compassion in human relations. Indeed that is the fate that hypocritical U*U religious leaders at 25 Beacon Street and the Unitarian Church of Montreal choose for themselves to this very day. . .

Condoning, and even outright whitewashing, verbally abusive U*U clergy by *pretending* that their intolerant and/or abusive behaviour is "within the appropriate guidelines of ministerial leadership" or (conversely) "outside" of their role as a U*U minister, and thus apparently acceptable, is both negligent and effectively complicit in the harmful and damaging behaviour of "less than perfect" U*U clergy.

And so it goes. . .