A record of brokenness  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , , , ,

            A few weeks ago a dear friend confronted me about some unhealthy patterns of emotion she saw in me. She is, sadly, correct. The unhealthy patterns exist, have had a long history, and so far have been easier to cover up than actually face and address. That too, is unhealthy, and by God’s grace is undergoing change, though the process will be, I am assured by people who know such things, neither easy nor quick. So be it. One thing is certain: I don’t want to be the sort of person who exhibits such unhealthy patterns.
            I’d be more specific but am not comfortable doing that right now—maybe someday.
            Alas. The brokenness we must own as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.
            In the weeks since our conversation I’ve thought and reflected, and prayed a lot about all this. Some things have become clearer and other things seem to need more clarity. The fact that patterns of emotion—of responses that seem so automatic as to be instinctual or reflexive—can remain below my threshold of consciousness is troubling. So much for thinking I was living an examined life.
            But then good friends willing to have hard conversations that initiate a period of hard learning, growth, and hopefully healing: this too is a form of examination, and a necessary if painful one. I am after all, finite as well as fallen.
            As I’ve wrestled with all this, some ideas about hardship caught my attention:

            “From repeated research studies, [Russ] Moxley [former senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership] became convinced that the most important element of marketplace leadership training concerns how persons learn through hardships. The center’s research summarizes the lessons learned from hardships in four categories: self-knowledge with a clarifying of values, sensitivity and compassion toward others, limits of personal control over circumstances, and flexibility…
            “Moxley… made another striking observation. He said that hardships are only useful when persons experiencing them have support systems that sustain them emotionally and that encourage them to reflect on the experience. ‘Hardships often evoke powerful and painful emotions, and an inability or unwillingness to face and reflect on this pain prevents learning.’ Vulnerability in safe relationships makes learning possible.” [p. 44-47]

            That seems so very correct. I do want to be known for those four things: self-knowledge with a clarifying of values, sensitivity and compassion toward others, limits of personal control over circumstances, and flexibility. And I am grateful for the safe relationships that envelop me that will, by grace, make growth possible.

Source: Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told us about Surviving and Thriving by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman & Donald C. Guthrie (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2013).

This entry was posted at Friday, July 05, 2013 and is filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Thank you for sharing this Denis. It inspires me to be more open and honest. I also thought of this reflection on a new film called Stories We Tell. We all desire to be truly known but are we truly knowable?http://www.mbird.com/2013/07/the-loneliest-question-knowing-whats-real-from-the-stories-we-tell/

July 7, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Thank you so much for sharing! This brings up so much for me, none of which would add anything to the process. Just thank you.

July 7, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Appreciate your comment.

July 8, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Becky W:
It's a lovely and haunting question you raise. The sort of question that isn't asked much anymore but that should be on our minds, at least sometimes. I look forward to Stories We Tell, too, and suspect we will all see ourselves in it if we are honest. We are not, cannot be completely knowable to each other, and our fallenness makes us hide so much: behind fear, guilt, shame, and so much more.

J.I.Packer said that part of the glory of historic Christianity is that its central claim relieves us of the unbearable pressure of having to know. It's central claim is that God knows us, and that is sufficient for meaning, life, and even death.

I find comfort in that.

July 8, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing that quote and your thoughts. Will be praying.

July 9, 2013 at 4:12 PM

You are doing good soul work. Thanks for being brave enough to post this.

July 10, 2013 at 12:57 PM

Thanks, mlh.
Love you.

July 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Thanks, Becky W.
Appreciate it.

July 10, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Thanks Denis. I often find you helping to give words to my own struggles and questions.
Life is so complicated. Paul did his self-examination and wound up crying "O wretched man that I am!" Thankfully there is more to be said - "But thanks be to God... there is now no condemnation." It is that which allows us to listen to the insights of others and take a look and move toward more honesty about our need. John said that God is greater than our hearts - what refreshing good news!

August 7, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Thanks for adding your voice to this conversation.

And you are correct: without the hope of something better having to face my brokenness would be too hard to bear. In a recent blog post on grace producing the "true self" we were meant to be, Peter Enns posed a striking question: "How bound am I to a life I have constructed for myself that on the surface has all the trappings of piety and faith, but in truth is rooted in jealousy, anger, fear, power, self-justification, control, and the like?" Sensing how bound I am, makes me realize just how deep my brokenness extends.

I am thankful for grace, slow healing, and for friends like you.

August 8, 2013 at 4:25 PM

This is cool!

August 26, 2013 at 9:29 AM

Haven't thought of it as cool, but glad you liked it.

August 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

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