PAIN AND ESTEEM
This article is inevitably a painful one to write. It takes me back into a time of almost unbearable pain.
Recently I have been assessing my ministry. I have found a fair number of deficiencies. I struggle with All Age Worship. I find small meetings difficult to lead at times. I am far from the greatest organiser or leader. On the other hand I think both in my curent post and in my time as a layworker on the Isle of Man I have been useful at getting alongside people going through a difficult time.
This is in some ways surprising because there was a time when I was possessed with all the arrogance associated with youth. From time to time there came a reality check but it usually passed after not too long. But then came a crisis. I found what I should have done long before that I was in the wrong career and I couldn't find a way forward. Gradually, all my coping mechanisms fell apart. I hit an almighty depression and on one occasion self injured with intent. In the period afterwards, I suffere many panic attacks and had an elevated blood pressure. My wife had to keep an eye on me and to ensure that I wasn't alone for too long. I think I quickly rediscovered a desire to live but hadn't a clue as to how I could get back on the rails. Desperately I refused the sort of medical help in the mental health sphere that I should have had, for fear that to accept such help would block career options where relevant questions mught be asked. Anyhow I am grateful for my wife's help. Since then I trained as a teacher but at a time when I was probably not emotionally ready to take full advantage of the opportunities of that career although I did some teaching in subsequent years. At times I continue to experience those feelings of lowness and depression which at times is very difficult for me and those closest to me.
Anyhow, that's enough of my story, a story I have not written of in such a way before. What I want to say, is how those experiences have affected my outlook on life and ministry.
I think the thing that I learnt was that we are by nature all rather delicate creatures. We all have a vulnerability even if we don't fully realise it. In the years since the crisis I referred to, some 15 years ago, I have seen depression in some of the most unlikely people. We need to appreciate our shared vulnerability.
I am convinced that low self esteeem is one of the great modern tragedies. I guess that the emphasis on needing to succeed in a competitive world has something to to with it. If my ministry has one positive emphasis, it is to encourage people to see their value in the eyes of God and the eyes of right thinking people.
Nowadays, we are developing a most unforgiving culture. We see it particularly in parts of our media which take a joy in freezing people in their worst moments. The possibilities of growth are thus denied. When I had experience of prison chaplaincy, one of the things that most disturbed me was that many of the inmates were tragic figures. Far too many had lost their way due to drugs or alcohol and time and again, I saw the corrosive effects of low self esteem.
I long for the Christian Church to emphasis building people up into a healthy sense of self worth. This also calls us to oppose policies of governments that degrade people. Amongst these policies which I denounce is the macho competition as to who will jail the most people for the longest possible time. In this competition, we see the most irresponsible signs of pandering to a mob mentality. It leaves people unable to cope when eventually they return to society to say nothing of devestated relatives who are stigmatised.
Of course there is such a thing as evil. I have met some who show real signs of such an attribute but I feel that my calling is to look for signs of God's grace in all whom I meet.
So as a minister of the Methodist Church, I want to encourage people to see themselves as God's children and to encourage them to explore what that means in their lives. I further commit myself to not using Scripture as a weapon to degrade others.
The challenge we face today is to create a counter culture in which we rejoice in shared humanity and unworldly as it may sound encourage wasteful kindness. After all didn;t Christ love those who counted for nought.
Anyhow that's how I feel as I reflect on a time when I felt as one of no use. For God's sake let's accept our responsibilities to one another.