I have a confession to make. Although we pastors are thought to be well balanced, thoughtful and kind individuals, I, for one, am more human than that.
I get cranky. I get irritable. I get frustrated and stressed. I have occasionally raised my voice at one of my fellow drivers (albeit unbeknownst to them); usually about tail-gaiting, or four-way stops, though often about indecisiveness or at least, the appearance thereof.
Then there’s politics, of course. One party talks a good game about the appropriate role of government in our lives, and then does a 180 when it comes to corporations using government as their own personal puppet. Another party has the moral high ground, but lacks the courage to articulate their position and act on it meaningfully.
I know, we clergy are supposed to love everybody and be supremely wise—always seeing the good in people, the glass is always half full and there’s a silver lining in every cloud.
But to be perfectly honest, there are many times when I just want people to shut up.
So I take a deep breath. I try to apologize when I’ve said something in anger that was not particularly well thought out. More than once, I’ve told my young children that yes, Daddy is frustrated, but it’ll be okay. I’ll feel better in a minute. And yes, I’ve sometimes regretted my actions in front of them, and have been aware that they may be talking with a therapist about all of this at some point down the road.
“I’m a minister,” I say to myself, “I’m supposed to be better than this. I’m supposed to be the one who can keep a cool head when everyone else is going nuts.”
And truth be told, there are times I can be that guy. There are times I can see the reasoned, less emotional approach. There are times I can help find the values behind the emotion and find a way for people to understand each other better and work through conflict rather than just argue with one another.
But I’m also human. I’m just as limited and broken as anyone else is. I’m just as much a product of my upbringing, history and relationships as anyone else. And truth be told, if God wanted us all to be dispassionate Jedi, we wouldn’t’ve been created the way we are.
That may sound like rationalization, and perhaps it is. But I really do believe that our emotions have a place. Our emotions—our anger, our fear, our joy, our excitement—all of these are part of what makes the human experience, the human experience.
But before we get too excited, before we resort to violence or name-calling, it’s important to take a deep breath, try to apologize when we say something in anger that was not particularly well thought out, and tell our children that it’s okay, we’ll feel better in a minute. And, it may be helpful to remember—good therapists are a gift from God.