After so many weeks of being constricted, and of fearing the possibility of an unseen but life- threatening virus, it is no surprise that feelings run high some days. Our internal limbic brain systems have been functioning on high alert, and the natural human responses of fight, flight and freeze have come into play. These are instinctive and necessary for survival under threat; they are not in themselves wrong. What I have noticed is that the fight response appears to have risen hugely, and angry raging seems to surround us. Whether we focus that on the government, the church, the archbishops, our clergy, our lay people, our PCC, or any of the other bodies so easily criticised at this time, perhaps now is a time to rethink how we handle anger. There are societal wrongs and injustices we should find ways to protest and change where we can, but on a personal level we may need to seek to redeem our relationships and work through critical spirits.
The nature of much conflict and rage is accusatory. The finger points outwards to the other (forgetting the three fingers that can only point back at ourselves!) and we rail against the one we hold responsible for the hurt and pain we experience, thus avoiding our responsibility in relationship. Clergy experience this process of projected feelings regularly, but I detect it becoming more widespread. There is a truism in that most criticisms contain a nugget of truth that we do well to dig for when we are on the receiving end, painful as that process can be.
A healthy approach begins with curiosity, both about our own responses and about the desire of the speaker. Healthy communication uses I statements rather than you accusations. We could invite someone who seems angry with us to tell us their story, so we can understand the desire behind their anger. Only then can we respond in a truly empathic and non-defensive way.
So whether churchwarden, treasurer, PCC member, reader or you hold any other service role in the life of church know that you are valued. Whatever your current frustrations and fears about church and the future, these will be shared by the clergy to a significant extent. None of yet has real certainty, we are all full of questions and seeking to do the very best we can. May our story as the body of Christ be one of gentle enquiry, honesty and openness.