Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Anger

I’m afraid my “Am I bitter?” posting may have confused some people. So let me be very clear: I am not at all critical of clergy abuse survivors who feel angry. To the contrary, I think anger can be constructive and good when it is appropriately directed.

That’s the tricky part. For many abuse survivors, their anger winds up being inappropriately self-directed.

Then, the misdirected anger toward self causes all sorts of trouble -- alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression, self-cutting, self-loathing, and detachment from others. Of course, that’s just for starters. I’m sure some of you could come up with other examples.

For many abuse survivors, a significant part of the healing process is learning to direct that anger away from self and toward those who deserve it -- i.e., toward those who abused us and betrayed us.

We don’t need Baptist leaders telling us to “forgive and forget” or to “move on.” And we sure don’t need to have them chastising us for being bitter or angry.

What we need is help in learning to deal with the anger that we rightly feel. What we need is help in learning to recognize the anger for what it is and in realizing that the anger needs to be directed outward instead of inward.

In fact, if Baptist leaders actually cared about clergy abuse survivors, you might think they would be happy when they begin to see our anger directed outwards. For many of us, that means we’re further along on the rocky road of healing.

Perhaps if Baptist leaders had ever focused their attention on providing counseling for clergy abuse survivors, they would better understand this aspect of the healing process. But of course, for the past couple decades, they’ve been too occupied with providing counseling for clergy-perpetrators. (Oops… there’s that attitude again… am I bitter?)

But hey… I’m no psychologist. These are just my thoughts.

What I hope for all clergy abuse survivors is simply that they find a path toward healing. And it pains me greatly – and yes, angers me – that the faith community does so little to help with the healing of those who have been so terribly wounded within it.

I’m not ashamed of my anger, and I hope you won’t be either.

Feel your anger. Know it. Become friends with it. Own it. Learn from it. Use it.

But in the words of Bruce Springsteen, I hope you’ll also remember this: “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

Shine on, survivors!

11 comments:

Bob Allen said...

"Baby I've got my facts learned real good right now."

In response to a recent e-mail from an SBC Executive Committee member, I shared by opinion that relations between their staff and SNAP were unnecessarily adversarial, and I've wondered how things might have gone differently if the first time you showed up outside SBC headquarters a certain VP had invited you in for coffee instead of sending a security guard to tell you to keep off of their property.

I've been amazed that in virtually every Baptist forum I saw this discussed over the last two years, the underlying assumption seemed to be that anyone speaking out on this issue was motivated by revenge. From that starting point, the problem is your attitude and not the elephant that is in the room.

For every survivor that I met throughout this process, on the other hand, I felt for them it was a matter of conscience--laden with a lot of emotion for sure--but basically a conviction that what happened to them shouldn't happen to another kid.

No one from the Baptist side could see it as a justice issue--meaning the Bible's demand for compassion and justice for the oppressed--but that's been a problem in the SBC for 25 years.

Sadly the moderates, who thought we had the moral high ground in that debate, didn't do much better when it came to putting words into action.

Christa Brown said...

Welcome to the blog, Bob. For those of you who don't know, Bob Allen has done more than any other journalist in the country to chronicle the problem of Baptist clergy sex abuse. Here's one of his articles, with links to many more at the bottom of it.

"We'll keep pushin' til it's understood,
and these badlands start treating us good."

Anonymous said...

Anger?
"I wanna spit in the face of these badlands." (The Boss)

oc said...

This is what I think about anger.

Sometimes we don't want to admit our anger, because we've been taught that having anger and especially showing it, is just weakness. And anyone who has been abused in any way feels weak anyhow, and in no way wants to show even the slightest evidence of yet even more weakness. So anger is often hidden because of that. I think I can see that happening right here and right now by the lack of response to this post.

We've all been taught wrong. Anger is not weakness. And while it does need to be self-controlled, covering it up or denying it is not strength. Anger is a God-given emotion and it's there for a reason. It can be a right reaction to injustice and a motivator to action. To deny it is but another lie coming straight from the bowels of Hell.
Just a thought.

(I sure wish I had some Springsteen lyrics to go with this.) :)

Phyllis Gregory said...

In my house growing up, anger was a SIN and was not allowed. Weakness had nothing to do with it. The only emotion allowed was HAPPY because we were happy in the Lord. SADNESS also was not allowed because we had no reason to be sad.

Over the years, all my repressed anger was turned inward and became serious depression. After many, many years of therapy and anti-depressants I am finally starting to gain the ability to turn the anger toward the one(s) who deserve it.

Christa Brown said...

Phyllis: Your description is a perfect example of why repressed and misplaced self-directed anger is so destructive.

OC: Don't worry... I won't harbor any bitterness or anger over your lack of lyrics. ;-)

oc said...

I Lack Lyrics.
(to the tune of "I feel pretty").


I lack lyrics,
Don't have lyrics,
Because I ain't so very bright,
I lack lyrics,
but it ain't all I'm lacking tonight.

Alright, that's enough. Sorry, I'm certainly no Junkster! :)

Anonymous said...

"I've been amazed that in virtually every Baptist forum I saw this discussed over the last two years, the underlying assumption seemed to be that anyone speaking out on this issue was motivated by revenge."

They are parroting what their leaders say. Even the pastors who frequent those forums. I am amazed at the lengths these guys go to-to prop up their idols. Not only that but they are trying to be just like them.

Lydia

Christa Brown said...

"I've wondered how things might have gone differently if the first time you showed up outside SBC headquarters a certain VP had invited you in for coffee instead of sending a security guard to tell you to keep off of their property."

Yes, and I've sometimes wondered how things might have gone differently if Richard Land would have simply shaken my hand instead of turning away when I extended my hand to introduce myself. That was just plain ol' bad manners.

Bob Allen said...

Or if the SBC president had bothered to dignify your letter to him with a response before publicly accusing SNAP of being nothing but a front for lawyers "cashin' in for a cheap hustle."
(http://brucespringsteen.net/songs/TheEStreetShuffle.html)

Christa Brown said...

Yes, I haven't forgotten that prior SBC president Frank Page publicly castigated us as being "nothing more than opportunistic persons."

And Page was a Baptist leader widely praised as being "irenic" in temperament. Uh-huh. He certainly didn't demonstrate that attitude toward Baptist abuse survivors, did he? But of course, those of us who have been so utterly degraded and dehumanized by Baptist clergy are now the untouchables for almost ALL Baptist leaders - the fundamentalists, the moderates, the irenic, and the Bible thumpers. They can all join hold hands and sing Kum-ba-yah while they kick us together. I suppose it's nice that we can serve the function of giving them something they can unite around. Oops - there's that attitude of mine again - am I bitter?