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Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

emotionally healthy spirituality

An experienced priest, a friend whose wisdom I value a lot, recently pointed to a blog post, Healthy Leader, Healthy Church. Some people could too easily be put off by that post’s language and theology, but the central message is, I think, very important.

Churches are, so often, places of emotional unhealthiness. And that includes emotionally-unhealthy theological beliefs (the lenses through which we interpret our experiences, and make decisions). Clergy and church leaders often preach wellness and live unhealthily. Lay people are often overworked, so that enthusiastic lay leaders are burnt out, and the next one comes up to fill the gap – only to go through a similar experience.

Sure, there is something wrong with a Christian community if a person with emotional issues doesn’t feel welcome – every good Christian community will have people struggling with significant emotional issues.

The article focused on five headings, drawn from the work of Dr. Pete Scazzero, about unhealthy emotional spirituality for church leaders. Working on these flows over into a healthy church community.

Here are the five headings from the article with a couple of quotes from it:

Using God to run away from God

I often write about means and ends (goals), and distinguishing them clearly. God is our goal. Ministry is one means to that goal. Once we make ministry our end, our goal, however delightful it is, however successful it is, that is an idol, it is a god. Instead of worshiping God, we worship the ministry God has called us to.

Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear

Dying to the wrong things

Pastor, what do you enjoy outside of ministry? Church leader, are you having fun in life? Do you enjoy your marriage and family? Do you have real friends?…Ministry leaders need to take time away from the places and people they serve in order to refresh themselves.

Denying the past’s impact on the present

Dividing our lives into secular and sacred components

We begin to see ministry as a job instead of a calling. We begin to see preaching or leading the staff as our ministry, yet we miss that serving our spouse and parenting our children is our first, and most important, ministry.

What do you think of this list?
Can you add other points to this list?

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3 Responses to Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

  1. I’d add:
    > acting as if ordination/holy orders is a privileged status among the priesthood of all believers.
    > ignoring physical manifestations of poor psycho-spiritual health (e.g., obesity, substance abuse).

    This is just off the top of my head and heart! Blessings…

  2. My response, Bosco, as a retired but still active priest in ACNZP, is to suggest that there be a greater reliance on regular personal access to Christ in the Eucharist – as my prime empowerment for discernment and actual ministry. We clergy sometimes tend to think that we have so much to offer when, in fact, without the frequent nurture of Christ, the Incarnate Word, we have nothing.

  3. I agree with all these 8 points very much. The “idol” factor seems me the most important.

    Several people (bishops and priests alike) believe the “elevation” to sacred orders be a reward for having done a good job.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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