Dark Emotions have Value

“We have lost our connection to the dark side of the sacred. We prize status, power, consumerism, and distraction, and there is no room for darkness in any of that. Americans tend to have a naivete about life, always expecting it to be rosy. When something painful happens, we feel that we are no good, that we have failed at achieving a good life. We have no myths to guide us through the painful and perilous journeys of the dark emotions, and yet we all suffer these journeys at some point. We have high rates of depression, anxiety and addiction in this country, but we have no sense of the sacred possibilities of our so-called illnesses. Instead we have a medical culture. Suffering is considered pathology, and the answer to suffering is pharmacology.”

Miriam Greenspan, author of Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair, in an interview

can’t wait to get this book! Could the “American Idol” of optimism be a source of some of our problems?


Rohr on Your Powerlessness

We are all powerless, not only those physically addicted to a substance. Alcoholics simply have their powerlessness visible for all to see. The rest of us disguise it in different ways and overcompensate for our more hidden and subtle addictions and attachments, especially our addiction to our way of thinking.

We all take our own pattern of thinking as normative, logical, and surely true, even when it does not fully compute. We keep doing the same thing over and over, even it is not working for us. That is the self-destructive nature of all addiction, and of the mind in particular. We think we are are thinking, and we even take that thinking as utterly “true,” which removes us at least two steps from reality itself.


—        Fr. Richard Rorh

Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the 12 Steps

Rohr on Addiction and 1st World Problems

“Our suffering in developed countries is primary psychological, relational, and addictive: the suffering of people who are comfortable on the outside but oppressed and empty within. It is a crisis of meaninglessness, which leads us to try to find meaning in possessions, perks, prestige, and power, which are always outside of the self. It doesn’t work. So we turn to ingesting food, drink, or drugs, and we become addictive consumers to fill the empty hole within us.”

Pastoral Burnout and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Ahh….burnout.  Been there.  Done that. Couldn’t afford the T-shirt.

Juggling God’s expectations, a local church’s expectations (even among one group there is variety), and a preacher’s expectations of himself is overwhelming at times. Throw in “good intentions” and Satan, and you get terrible stats about drop-out rates, pornography addiction, depression, failed marriages and broken churches.  You can Google the stats if you aren’t familiar with them. I am going to share from the book and not spend time explaining the problem.  If you aren’t a minister, you might not even understand the need.  If you know, you know.

I really believe that Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality provides a BIG part of the answer. There are at least two facets and both are affected by spiritual warfare.  Many congregations are sick systems.  Traditions and leadership methods which are unhealthy and ineffective are passed down.  Sometimes everyone sees it but nothing changes.  Other times leaders and members are oblivious.  Changing these systems takes a lot of prayer, time, intention.  I think the book would be helpful for sincere churches to make changes as a group but I think the book focuses (and I choose to focus) on the other aspect: the preacher himself.

What can he do to prevent, heal, and continue?

DISCLAIMER:  Yes, I am a counseling student so I am interested in mental health.  Scazzero doesn’t have a mental health background, but 20 plus years of ministry experience, a bad case of burnout, and being on the receiving end of counseling lead him to write this book.

The book actually combines two of my favorite things that I am still learning about but excited about their being mixed up together:  emotional health and contemplative spirituality.

Scazzero had a successful ministry from the outside, from a modern, worldly perspective, but it wasn’t of the Spirit.

Here is the author’s realization:

“It wasn’t until the pain exposed how much was hiding under my surface of being a “good Christian” that it hit me: whole layers of my emotional life had lain buried, untouched by God’s transforming power.  I had been too busy for “morbid introspection,” too consumed with building God’s work to spend time digging around in my subconscious. Yet now the pain was forcing me to face how superficially Jesus had penetrated my inner person, even though I had been a Christian for twenty years.”

If you don’t believe the past affects the present, you won’t like this book (and you will continue to be controlled by your past).

If you feel emotions are dangerous for Christians and should be left out it, you won’t like this book (and you will be missing out on an important part of your relationship.  Also hope to read and blog about Descarte’s Error at some point).

If you don’t accept that healing often hurts at first before you feel better, you might be wasting your time with this book.

If you think being a pastor is all about doing but don’t really think about “being,” you might not get this book.

If you don’t believe you have ulterior motives, pride, bad habits from family/childhood that affect everything you say and do, you won’t like this book and you will never get past the plateaued cycle of burnout.

So, I guess what I saying is: 

if you are about to give up, if you are questioning your ministry, if you are miserable as a preacher, and are willing to consider all options………you will love this book and it will help you.

Some of you know of Jim Woodruff. He was the interim preacher where we worshipped a decade ago.  He told the story of a lady who came to him with this revelation: “all my life I have been a human doing, instead of a human being.”  Or something like that.  I didn’t understand it then, but I do now.

We can emphasize doing and not doing without ever being. Or without ever knowing Jesus. Yes, obedience is a sign of love and totally necessary, but it is soooo much easier to do a lot of good things (and not do the bad things) than it is to really see ourselves as God sees us and allow Him to transform us from the inside by his Spirit. That’s what we should strive for. Being more, not just doing more.

Alcoholics have to recognize the addiction so they can overcome.  Christians are encouraged to get busy doing good, and that will make someone a “good person.” Okay, now I am preaching and rambling.

More to come!!

In the meanwhile, meditate on this phrase from Scazzero: “how superficially Jesus had penetrated my inner person…”

Breathing Under Water, Chapter 12

“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Step 12 of AA

Until people’s basic egocentricity is radically exposed, revealed for what it is, and foundationally redirected, much religion becomes occupied with rearranging deck chairs on a titanic cruise ship, cruising with isolated passengers, each maintaining his or her personal program for  happiness.

…much of organized religion says, “Come join our group, and maybe we will get to some actual healing some day.”

most of church history has done loads of preaching and very little healing. Seminaries are set up to train preachers and teachers, not healers.

We must learn to distinguish what looks like loving and what is actually loving for such codependent members of our churches.

Passive membership creates not just passive dependency but also far too often passive-aggressive behavior–when such stalwart members do not get what they have become accustomed to.

God loves and respects freedom–to the final and full riskiest degree. God lets evil take its course, and does not even stop Hitler or people who torture children.

Good religion keeps God free for people and keeps people free for God.

Addiction is a spiritual disease, a disease of the soul, and illness resulting from longing, frustrated desire, and deep dissatisfaction–which ironically the necessary beginning of any spiritual path.

You need more and more of anything that does not work.  If something is really working for you, then less and less will satisfy you.