Spiritual Leaders

Gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom. Sharing it, is the first step to humanity.” – unknown

Several years ago I had a friend who was struggling to keep his marriage together after it was revealed that his wife was having a long-term affair. From time to time he’d recount some of the help and advice they were getting as they tried to heal – from therapists, friends and books. One of the most insightful pieces of advice he got was from his pastor who sagely counseled, “You are going to have to say ‘good-bye’ to that marriage. If you two are going to go forward, you will have to build a new marriage together.”

It takes a special role to be able to drop truth bombs and still be heard. Friends might be able to do it, but often have a vested interest in offering up advice. More often than not, they offer idiot compassion as therapist and author Lori Gottlieb calls it. “Idiot compassion is where you want to make somebody feel better, and so you don’t necessarily tell them the truth. And wise compassion is where you really hold up the mirror to them in a compassionate way, but you also deliver a very important truth bomb.”

Therapists can deliver truth bombs but I think we often forget that our spiritual leaders have that capacity too. Given that church affiliation in the US has dropped below 50% for the first time ever, I wonder if we are losing touch with a unique group of people who want to help and also celebrate with us.

Twelve years ago when I was in crisis going through a divorce, I was lucky enough to find my way to a meditation teacher that helped guide me into that practice that has changed my life in many ways. And often when I have a spiritual question or even a lapse in understanding, I will go to my meditation teacher.

I also have the added benefit of relationships with a number of pastors since my dad was in the profession. They teach me again and again that our spiritual leaders whether they be pastors, rabbis or yogis have deep wisdom and history to access whether or not you agree with every bullet point of their theology.

When I asked my dad about that job/role/life calling as a Presbyterian pastor in the years before he died he said,

“I never would have imagined, at 20 years old when I finally made the decision to go in to ministry, I never would have thought that this is what my life would be like. I am so grateful to God for what that has meant, the number of lives that I’ve been able to be a part of. One of the unique things about ministry is that you are able to be with people in some of the most precious, important, holy moments of their life . . . birth, death, baptism, marriage, funeral, crisis. A pastor steps in to the middle of someone’s life at those unique times and that is pretty rare.”

So on this day that is Good Friday for Christians and the start of Passover for Jews, I dedicate the post to all our spiritual leaders that are willing to help us through the important moments of our lives. May we all find ways to support and honor them.

(featured photo is one of my favorite pictures of my dad)

19 thoughts on “Spiritual Leaders

  1. I’ve never heard the term “idiot compassion” but I understand it. It takes an empathetic person to be able to deliver any kind of difficult truth. I like your father’s take on what it was like for him to be a pastor. Interesting– and obviously required a bit of wisdom and a compassionate personality.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you are right on that it takes an empathetic person to deliver difficult truths. Thank you for the lovely comment – yes, my dad was a wise and warm man and clearly, I adored him. 🙂 Happy Friday, Ally!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, there’s a vast gulf of wisdom between spiritual leaders and religious leaders. That’s why church attendance has been dropping off for years!

    After I found out that my husband had cheated on me and left me for her, the “advice” I got from church leaders was: if I had been a better Christian wife it never would have happened! Never mind that he was a recovering addict and alcoholic who I expected to pull his weight as a husband and father. He couldn’t handle life with a child and my expectations that he give us some of his time, for he had basically switched his addictions to workaholism.

    The 1st church I was in told me I was a failure as a woman, a wife and as a Christian, because my faith was supposed to be able to control him and his leaving me was evidence of the lack of control I had over him through my faith!

    It’s this kind of advice which many, many other people receive and have received! It’s this kind of advice which tears people down instead of helping them! It’s this kind of advice which is causing people to leave churches, for victim blaming us a huge pastime with many church people!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such an excellent point, Tamara! You are right that churches and religion have done some great damage and somehow it seems so much more awful when it’s done in the name of God. I think we all have a responsibility to call that out so that people who are in genuine need of help are not victimized yet again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I used to think that all that needed to be done was to call it out, so I did that for myself and on the behalf of others. I don’t feel it mad me one half shade of difference in the color of their rhetoric. They stand strong in their beliefs and feel those who fall away are at heart sinners and so not worthy of their compassion.

        So I left, as did many others like me. We live our faith quietly, away from the church people who broke us. We put ourselves back together and even though we choose not to be part of any church, we still quietly live our faith through the love we share with others!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Love your phrase, “quietly live our faith through the love we share with others!” And may I add that you in turn have become a spiritual leader for others willing and wanting to help them.

        I’m sorry that happened to you. The strength in numbers can really be such an awful and powerful dynamic in the hands of people with bad leadership and ideas. Kudos to you for leaving.


  3. This is a lovely tribute to your dad and to his profession on this day of healing.

    I certainly am one who does not agree with every aspect of religion and theology but I have great respect and appreciation for those who devote their life to bringing care, compassion and yes, the truth bombs to those in need.

    Hope you and the kids enjoy the long weekend ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a beautiful way to express it “great respect and appreciation for those who devote their life to bringing care, compassion and yes, the truth bombs to those in need.” Yes – for those that do it well, it is such a gift!

      Thank you, Ab! I hope you all enjoy your long weekend as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for two takeaways from one post!

    There’s an old quote I like, “Kindness is a language which the dumb can speak, the blind can seem and the deaf can understand.” Now that you’ve introduced (thank you for that, too!) “idiot compassion”, it’s shedding a new light on it: sometimes rather than being a helping hand, kindness can be a negative enabler. It brings another interpretation to what Ariely said (from your previous post) about sometimes the friend (nurse) may find it easier to be compassionate (pull the bandages) rather than force the person in need to face reality (the slow removal of the bandages).

    The second takeaway I got was from your father’s wise words: there are, indeed, few people who share so many of one’s most important moments in life. As we move around (geographically) and our communities weaken, fewer still. Your father must have been a great spiritual leader.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – you are really amazing at connecting dots. I hadn’t thought of that about kindness. But what you say makes so much sense. It also forces a little clarity about what we are seeking when we discuss things with the different people in our lives.

      And thank you for the lovely compliment about my dear dad – he was a very gentle and wise man. You’re right that as we move, it makes it rarer that we have the same anchors for those big moments.

      Love your comments – so grateful to have connected with you!

      Liked by 1 person

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