What happens to a person when they are exposed to continual invalidation, while feeling the pain of rejection, isolation and then made to believe that what they are feeling is not important enough to be heard?
If you have not had that experience, you will not understand what I am talking about. After serving others for most of my life in pastoral ministry and having the unfortunate experience of having Thyroid cancer, being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and subsequently, losing a wife to Cancer; I felt invalidated by life, the church, and everyone that I had given my life to serve. My experience was that when I was transparent enough to share with the church, the deacons, and leaders that I was very sick, I was pressured out of my position by a group of religious haters. If it sounds like unresolved anger that needs expressed, let me assure you that I was angry and had good reason to be angry with people that I had invested in and who were only interested in what they wanted, while I felt so sick. I am here to tell you from an experience of wishing certain (unnamed) people would eat crap and die that bitterness is a counterproductive emotion and only hurts the person who is bitter.
So, I moved away and in my new location, I do not have the constant reminder that comes from seeing the people who talk about expressing love, acceptance and mercy, but give judgment, pain, and isolation. If that sounds serious, it is, the Bible says, “to shun the very appearance of evil” and they were acting evil so I obeyed the command and made a clean break. As a recovering church and ministry junkie, I know now that I lived inside a religious life that only offered redemption as a concept and not as a practice. Personally, I felt like I was victimized by religious do gooders when, in fact, the problem was I had a distorted perception of reality. I somehow thought Christians would be Christians when called upon. However, this belief could not have been further from the truth– people always act in their best interest and out of their own need justifying what they do. The problem is that religious types do not want to admit that and believe that their actions are always spiritual.
Unfortunately, the assumption is not true and the result is misunderstanding, about the character of human behavior. When a person has false expectations about people and life, then that individual ends up disillusioned and disappointed by the false ideas believed. Disillusionment leads to failure in life, bitterness about experiences and alienation from the church. What experience has taught me is that the church is ill-equipped at helping people who have problems. What the church is good at is creating emotional invalids, people who cannot think for themselves, and creating conformity. The best organization in the world is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is made up of people who are a part of an organizational system that has no fail-safe approach for people who experience problems outside of the box. What is a person to do when all that is right goes wrong leaving you in a pile ruins, then in one fell swoop everything is lost, hope is gone, and you’re left alone?
I remember when I sat in the hospice with Linda who was dying with colon cancer and thinking– remembering about how many times that I had been there with other families who had a family member dying. I remember asking myself, “Where are those people that I served and where is the church, the pastor, the family now? Death is one of those solitary experiences that you have to go through alone, but it is a time that no one should be alone. If you want to invalidate someone, leave them alone when they get older and when they are dying. I remember very clearly the isolation and loneliness of those moments. I had just had a TIA, my sugar was out of control, my wife dying of cancer and life was ebbing away. I sat there and waited hoping that someone would come. I called and talked on the phone with my mother-in law who had told her dying daughter that she had received a word from God that she was going to be healed, repeatedly telling her that she did not have enough faith—she invalidated her in her dying moments in the name of a religious mysticism. Further invalidation came when she called and told me that I should take her out of Hospice because that was where people went to die– we did not have enough faith. I understand that it was her fear of the reality of death, the children’s inability to deal with their mother’s death that explained the confusing behavior. Meanwhile, I sat there day in and day out– around the clock wondering when someone would come. People trickled through occasionally, sporadically– but no one really came who stayed, who invested, who made a difference. It was not until the last week that Linda lived that her mother, dad, and brother finally came. On the phone I had to tell her mom, if you do not come, you may never see her alive again– then she came. How can a person ever get over that and get on with life? What I discovered through this process is that I had faulty notions about people that made me believe that if they were really Christians they would show love, if they were family, they would show respect, if he was a pastor, he would show care, but it did not happen and I was disappointed.
What I discovered is that, generally, people are the same inside and outside the church. The difference is that people inside the church have one set of answers about life and people who are outside the church have another set of answers. People do act according to their personal interests, needs, and beliefs. I believed that, somehow, people would act as I thought that I used to– go sit, pray, or give support. The result, for me, was I got disappointed. The point is that I thought they should, would– show interest and it made me angry, and not for myself, but that people could show such a lack of interest or could not feel a need to inconvenience themselves for someone who had cared about them throughout life. At the end of the day, the anger that I feel has not gone away about injustice, but I have learned to manage what I felt, experienced, and is a reality. The unfortunate thing is that when such emotionally charged memories become a part of existence that it changes life forever. I will probably never get over what has happened, but living with bitterness is no more an option that living false beliefs and expectations about people.
- Easter: Spiritual Life and Invalidation at the Cross (organizationalchangesolutions.wordpress.com)
- A dying church (geneveith.com)
- Unforgiveness is Like Spiritual Poison (uniquesingles.wordpress.com)
- Hospice Care for Pancreatic Cancer Patients (everydayhealth.com)
- A New Way of Thinking About Church: Part 3 (stjohnscathedral.ca)
- What Are Your Expectations As You Go To Church Today? (pastorpaulvbsblog.blogspot.com)
- Bill Hicks (palehorsenovel.wordpress.com)
- A nasty root: bitterness! (mrsknack.wordpress.com)
- Avoid Bitterness Like the Plague (revivalandreformation.wordpress.com)
- The Salon Writer Who Fell in Love with Joel Osteen’s Megachurch (owenstrachan.com)
- I Wouldn’t Want Her For My (Or My Loved Ones’) Chaplain, Either (thelightheartedcalvinist.com)
- What people say before they die (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
- Overheard on CNN.com: Last words (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- The 10th Commandment (steveprestegard.com)
- Why Should A Christian Go To Church? (inspire85.wordpress.com)
- Click a Blessing Today – Don’t be the dead cat (ptl2010.com)
- Don’t Go It Alone by Mark D. Roberts (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)
- The Tricky Nature of Loving Beyond Measure (stephenlbaxter.wordpress.com)
- Bitterness: Weeding out the Poisonous Root. (pastormikesays.wordpress.com)
- Poison (definingmydash.wordpress.com)
- Playing the Victim? (pstcardenasblog.wordpress.com)
- Like Drinking Poison (thewritelife2.wordpress.com)
- Bitterness: A Silent Marriage Killer (covenantfamilyaffairs.wordpress.com)
- Church Personalities (kountrykinges.wordpress.com)
- Do We Really Understand Forgiveness? (joeycoons.wordpress.com)
- How Can I Love the Church? (apologus.wordpress.com)
- The Root of Bitterness- by Pastor Mike Castanares (mynewbeginningschurch.wordpress.com)
- No Revenge (devog.wordpress.com)
- No Revenge (achristianmeditation.wordpress.com)
- So, Why Do People Really Go To Church? (organizationalchangesolutions.wordpress.com)
- Threatened with Resurrection (therevandtheboys.wordpress.com)
- The Healing Power of Forgiveness (refusingtopanic.wordpress.com)
- Strangling Roots of Bitterness – Part 3 of 3 (pocketrippingmoments.wordpress.com)
- “Am I Dying…?” (livingthekingdom.wordpress.com)