Margie Bryce

Your leadership coach
and self-care advocate

110: More on Clergy and Trauma, Part 2 of 3

The Crabby Pastor
110: More on Clergy and Trauma, Part 2 of 3

What is wrong with those sheep, anyway? My guest, Kristen Humiston, and I unpack that topic, and find a surprising link: our own trauma. 

Sure, it’s easy to say we are all broken, but exploring our brokenness to become wounded healers is a different sort of journey. Listen as we discuss the unexpected ways in which our scars can equip us to lead with profound compassion and authenticity. 

Embarking on a path to self-awareness is no solitary endeavor, especially for those shepherding faith communities. Kristen and I explore the importance of recognizing the patterns that tether us to our past, how to bravely step towards change, and the necessity of having a sanctuary for reflection. 

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Margie: 0:01

Hey, there it’s Margie Bryce, your host of the Crabby Pastor podcast, where we talk about all things sustainability, whether it’s sustainability in ministry, in your personal life and we acknowledge that the church is in a transitional time, so we hit topics there too that are going to stretch your mind and the way you lead, especially how you lead yourself, so that you don’t become the crabby pastor.

So how do the pieces of your life fit together? Do they fit together well and things are humming along just fine, or are there some pieces that are tight or absent or just not fitting the bill? This is your invitation to join me in my glass workshop for a video series, where I am going to do a stained glass project while I talk to you about sustainability and building sustainability into your heart and into your life. So I am going to be doing my art, which is a form of self-care, and I’m going to invite you into that space with me and I’m going to chat. I’m going to chat about self-care and I’m going to show you how I create, and there’s a nifty, nifty analogy Stained glass seems to be a very good metaphor for what I want to talk about, so I’d love for you to join me to do that. To opt in, I’ll need you to email me at crabbypastor at gmail dot com. That’s crabbypastor at gmail dot com. So you won’t want to miss this. You definitely won’t want to miss this, so make a plan to join me in the glass workshop. So I am back again.

Margie: 2:03

This is Margie Bryce, your host of the Crabby Pastor podcast, and we are still talking about trauma. We spent an episode defining it and an episode talking about healing related topics, lamenting, and I, you know, I’d like to say that, as ministry leaders, we get a pass on this. We are exempt. However, it became my understanding, at least in seminary, that the very things that drive us into leadership, which you know and I’m not negating God’s call here at all leadership which you know, and I’m not negating God’s call here at all but there are things that have happened in our lives that actually helped to propel us along.

Margie: 2:52

So usually and I have said this to be fair, I said this from the pulpit that I’m probably the most broken one here in the room, quite possibly because I came to understand that aspect of trauma in the life of a ministry leader, and we can say Romans 8, 28. And I know I said before that, if you said that to me on the right day. I might smote you for it, but still that doesn’t negate the truth just because you’ve annoyed me in the moment on a bad day. There is truth in Romans 8, 28. We just have to look for how God is going to work and redeem any situation, and usually, though, we’re called into ministry because God has done a work in our hearts and in our lives, and so we want to share that with others, and God nudges and propels us in that way. So I am here with Kristen Humiston again, and I’m enjoying our conversation. Kristen, you’ve got some really great things to offer, but talk to us some about trauma in the pastor.

Kristen: 4:11

Yeah, I love how you said. Often what draws us into leadership in the church are our own experiences, part of God’s calling on our life. Right, it is his way. It is God’s way. When I first was well, a little bit on my healing journey, I realized when I said out loud to my husband it’s almost as if God has a path of healing, like a way that he always works. God has a path of healing like a way that he always works. Which is so true and I see it again and again and again when I’m working with others as well that there is this way God has for us in healing. It’s not all the same specifics, but there are some general principles I see him pulling us through and that does bring him glory. That is part of God’s glory in us, and then that we turn that and use it to comfort others in the way we’ve been comforted. Right, there’s a passage in the word about that.

Margie: 5:19

And so I remember the first time I encountered that passage. Like you know, you read past stuff, but you know the time that it really jumps out of the page at you. I mean it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up for a brief minute because you’re thinking, hmm, in the very spots where I have been broken and then healed, I am to then offer that to other people.Kristen: 5:47

Yeah. So this is what he does in us, whether we’re in full-time ministry, pastoral ministry, or whether we’re not right, whether we’re working as a teacher or in a grocery store or in a factory. We are called as believers to shine God’s glory, and one of the ways that his glory shines in us is through his redemptive work, which is part of that healing and sanctification process. I am learning and I am responding in healthier ways now and better ways. Now I’m more able to own when I have wronged somebody now, because all the protective layers that we end up piling on ourselves when we’ve been hurt, they can come off.

Kristen: 6:40

And so in our previous episode, we were talking about the prickly person. Well, the prickly person, guaranteed, has been deeply, deeply wounded, whether it’s from a highly controlling or criticizing parent. Something has wounded their soul so deeply that that prickliness is coming out of that place. Deeply that that prickliness is coming out of that place. And so, for us as ministry leaders, often what I see, rather than the prickliness, we have learned to cover it up, pretend it’s not there, and we cope in maybe, another direction, which is to keep everything always outward focused, everything always outward focused. So, as we talked today about healing for the pastor’s heart. There is time where we have to begin to allow the Holy Spirit to take off those layers, and that is done in the process, usually with another person who can be our compassionate witness, who can help guide us through learning to lament, who can look at us and validate the pain and sometimes, before even validating like, be able to expose what has been done to us.

Margie: 8:05

Okay, now, how can you have a sense as, say, a ministry leader? How could you come to an awareness that you need to pursue this? What are some indicators?

Kristen: 8:26

I want to. That is a fantastic question, and this brings to mind just the process of change altogether. The process of change starts with pre-awareness. You just don’t even know right. So right now, there may be people listening to this conversation that are like I don’t have anything to heal from, I’m good. I would highly doubt, however, that most people would think that, right, there’s either a relationship that you’re avoiding or maybe it’s a memory, maybe it is an ongoing sin, it might be feeling bitterness, it might be struggling with anger. All of those things are symptoms that something’s under there and we do need to address it. Some just flat out no and refuse to. I’m not going to go there.

Kristen: 9:32

Generally, the fear is, if I do, I don’t actually know that I can like pick myself up off the floor. It is the sense of like opening Pandora’s box, and that is far too scary. The other element, especially that I see with pastors, is that this again the external pressure of like I don’t have time. There’s still stigma in a lot of congregations. What if my leaders found out that I was seeking help? And help can be a spiritual director, it can be a therapist, it can be a coach. Obviously, trauma needs to be dealt with well, and so I would recommend doing that with a therapist. But there are other people, helpers as well, that can be a part of that support. And so not all seasons are for intentional healing. Being aware of where you’re at in your season and what you can do to begin to kind of let some of those layers go is really vital, I think, in beginning to address in the way that that is comfortable and kind of like I say comfortable, I mean like doable in your particular season.

Margie: 10:51

Right, it may not be exactly comfortable.

Margie: 10:55

Like fun picnic time you know, you know you can be toddling along in life and you can do some big and amazing things and then have a different situation just trigger you really weirdly and you’re like what is going on? And then you find out this is this is autobiographical here. And then you find out that, oh gee, I never did really deal with that trauma from 20 years ago and I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and I was even an effective leader and did some really cool things. But you don’t realize that you’re carrying this heavy baggage around and God is saying and God is saying, hey, you were not made to carry that, let me carry this for you.

Margie: 11:47

And ultimately you can be led to a place of pursuit of healing in various forms. However that looks, I think I know for me as a ministry coach that if I got to the place with someone where I was like, okay, I think this is beyond the scope of what I am able to handle and what I’ve been prepared to handle, you need to maybe seek some therapy. You need to seek something a little bit deeper to draw this out of you. You know I would do that, but sometimes, you know, coaches can be helpful and effective as well. So we’re talking about how, you know, a ministry leader might have an idea that there’s something underneath, there’s something that just keeps triggering you, or or maybe it’s just that you just don’t like the way that you’re handling something. You know.

Kristen: 12:43

Yep, and I think that’s the thing. Like it may be an ongoing issue. Like I said, chronic anger, explosive moments that maybe only come out.

Margie: 12:55

Anger’s a secondary emotion, isn’t it? It’s not, it is there’s others because I had a friend say this to me and she had a counseling background she goes well, you’re angry. And I said, yes, I am, she goes well, anger is a secondary emotion. I’m like, what does that mean? She goes, that means there’s usually something under the anger, kind of driving it and I thought, wow, I had to think about that.

Kristen: 13:22

Can you expound on that for us a bit? Yeah, so anger.

Kristen: 13:29

Anger is a good emotion, it’s a cue emotion and oftentimes there is it’s a protective emotion, so it’s keeping us being able to continue on, because all of our coping mechanisms are just that they are survival techniques and at once they served us and now they don’t, and so that’s another way that you can tell it’s time to seek some other, like some outside. Help in healing is when you can notice that some of the patterns of your behavior are causing conflict in relationships or causing struggle, and maybe just even daily functioning, even just to say like I don’t, I don’t actually like the way I feel anymore, I don’t like functioning like this. I want something different. All of those things are going to be indicators that, okay, maybe this is time and you move more into from that pre-contemplation, which is lack of awareness, to like, actually I’m going to sit a minute. Yeah, actually I do know some things that maybe are not what I want them to be. Okay, and that’s contemplation.Kristen: 14:38

There is something that I want to change, but maybe I’m not really sure yet if I’m ready to change it or how to go about it, what to do, and then the next stage is that we actually move into more of preparation or determination.Kristen: 14:53

We’re getting ready to make some changes, so that might be. You know what? I am going to sit down and maybe find two or three people that I could reach out to. I am going to sit down and maybe find two or three people that I could reach out to, and maybe it’s just a friend to start with, maybe it’s sharing a struggle with a friend that you haven’t shared before, and it just can be like I am struggling with bitterness, I’m feeling really bitter and I’m not really sure what to do with that right now, and hopefully we each at least have one safe place. And I would say that’s the other thing that for ministry leaders, if you don’t have one safe place, I don’t care what you’re aware of, other than that that is a cue to reach out and find somebody that can be a safe place, because we all need that.

Margie: 15:38

And it’s a safe place to be totally honest with what you’re thinking, with what you’re feeling, and no judgment there. But you’ve got to be able to unpack it. Unpack it and kind of look at the baggage that you’re carrying along with you and decide what things stay in the bag and what things really need to go. It’s a challenging task at times, but one that is well worth pursuing, because ministry leaders I mean you have your church realm but you also have your family and friends and you ooze the bad stuff out.

Margie: 16:22

Actually, if it’s not, you know, in the pulpit and I have seen that happen where somebody has just gone off and lost it and you really don’t want to do that because it undermines everything you’re working on. But I have seen that happen, everything you’re working on, but I have seen that happen and you kind of are like you don’t want to do that, but maybe it’s at home. Maybe it’s at home where you stand up every Sunday and you look a certain way and we all do that, we all get up there and you have a pulpit persona that just kind of goes into gear and you are that and it is you. But then maybe you go home and things don’t really line up there, or with friends or with other relationships that are of great value to you.

Kristen: 17:17

Yeah, I even think about phrases, as you’re sharing there, that come out, that can be cue phrases or words that kind of indicate hey. So if you’re saying you need to, you need to, you need to, or sometimes the opposite I need to, I need to, I need to Usually trauma is going to either turn you in towards judging yourself harshly or turn you out and criticize and judge others harshly. So the you need to or I need to phrase if that’s something that’s repeatedly happening in your mind or in your words to others, you can hear that that’s an indicator. Actually, there might be some things to explore here. It’s also kind of like the shoulding you should, I should, right. And when we hear phrases like man, it must be nice for them to fill in the blank. That is a sign of compassion fatigue, something very common for those in ministry. There’s burnout signs. You can take quizzes anywhere. Just Google it, Yep.

Kristen: 18:27

There’s on my website even Right.

Kristen: 18:30

So so, yeah, when, when those things are showing up more indicators of hmm, and you see that, and as pastors, it’s hard in yourself giving a message to always hear it unless you’re going back and listening to your message.

Kristen: 18:48

But hopefully there’s someone in your congregation that again you’re willing to receive their feedback and they can be the ones that say you know, you’re kind of focusing on this a lot because what, what’s going on inside of a pastor does come out from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, and I’ve, I’ve seen that again and again the problem oftentimes the problem or the struggle that is most intimate for the person giving the message is going to be the be the area that they focus on in their messages big picture. So if you’ve been in a church listening to a pastor for a while, the emphasis that they give demonstrates what they are thinking, what they’re struggling with. It’s pretty out there on display. At the same time, I’m currently sitting underneath an amazing pastor who the humility and the compassion for others continually oozes out, and so when we are in a good, healthy place with the Lord, that also shines forth and we can hear that in the language and in the words that people use.

Margie: 20:05

And that would be in the guard our self-care, and that self-care is not an act of selfishness. It is so that we can love others as Christ has loved us and so that we are then not not dealing with compassion fatigue right.

Kristen: 20:46

It’s kind of like being able to get out of our own way, you know, being able to become such an open vessel that my personal issues can move back and the Holy Spirit just flows in and out. And when I’m taking proper care of myself that is easier to happen. Also, we are sinful beings and we touched on sin just a little bit in the previous episode. There’s something really powerful that Diane Langberg wrote about in her Suffering in the Heart of God and if you wouldn’t mind, I think it’d be no, go right ahead. So she opens up this book again, suffering in the Heart of God how Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores. I highly recommend it for ministry leaders. Christ Restores I highly recommend it for ministry leaders.Kristen: 21:44

She opens up the book talking about standing in a dungeon over in the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and the tour guide says to them do you know what is above this dungeon? Our heads shook. The chapel Directly above 200 shackled men, some of them dead, others screaming, all of them sitting in filth, sat God worshipers. They sang, they read scripture, they prayed and, I suppose, took up an offering for those less fortunate. The slaves could hear the service and the worshipers could sometimes hear the slaves. She goes on to describe that. And a little bit later she says she goes on to describe that. And a little bit later she says our first call is not to places right but to a person, because the dungeon is first in us. That is what has created the dungeons out there in the world. Fool yourself, she says, into thinking you follow your savior where others have failed to do so, all the while hiding dungeons in your own souls, whether it is pride or pornography.

Kristen: 23:02

And the chapter moves on. And so we have evil in us because we’re human and we live under sin right, a fallen world, and so we have to be very vigilant in being open to the Holy Spirit’s correction, to repentance. And that is a part of you know, if I’m bitter, maybe it’s because of all of these things happening to me. Yes, but I’m also responsible for that bitterness. So it’s not just healing from these things that have happened to me, but there is a part that I need to admit. This is wrong and it is causing division or disconnection with others, causing division or disconnection with others. And so that’s when that work with the Holy Spirit, becoming humble and willing to receive not only the comfort of the Holy Spirit, but the correction of the Holy Spirit comes into play.

Margie: 23:53

Yeah, and you’re touching on some aspects of humility which I know. I have an author coming on in a few episodes talking about humility. What it is, what it isn’t. The willingness to say I need help is an act of humility, whether you’re seeking care for whatever trauma that you’re toting around. For whatever trauma that you’re toting around, it just is. And the other piece, that is, there is a level of self-awareness. You know, in answering questions, gee, I wonder why I do the things I do, and that’s important. I mean, what would you say is maybe a first step towards improving your self-awareness?

Kristen: 24:45

Asking the Holy Spirit to show you what is the thing right now that you want me to know about myself. And the Holy spirit is so gracious, right, like uh he. Sometimes we think why did I not realize this before? Why did I not deal with this before? Why, right, we only, as humans can can handle so much. And so the Holy spirit knows exactly what we need to be aware of and when we need to be aware of it.

Margie: 25:24

How magnificent really, and you see the hand of God even in that. And then I think, for ministry leaders, when you go on that healing kind of journey, then you have another place that you can say this is what God brought to me and this is. I chose to step into what God was asking of me and the end result is that healing has taken place and then you know that you are better able to live into the things that God is asking of you, or your compassion at least grows for those who are in the middle of their healing journey as well. What final words would you like to offer to ministry leaders today?

Kristen: 26:18

Anything else you want to add. There are two things that come to mind, okay, the first is just not to be afraid of stepping into the healing journey. Many are, because it feels too time consuming. There is that fear Again what’s going to happen if I do address this? There is a sense that when we clean out a wound, when we begin addressing heart wounds, things that have happened to us, it does feel painful at first, and so we can be really afraid of feeling that. The results of that How’s that going to affect me? What are other people going to think? But just to trust the process and to step into it, knowing that the joy of the other side, of greater compassion, greater ability to connect, greater ability to love others, is so worth the journey and what you may have to encounter along the way. I like that.

Kristen: 27:24

The other thing that I want to leave with is just that God utterly delights in us, and he is not sitting up there with his arms crossed angrily looking at you, so disappointed or disgusted at you. You know, in a sense, that you just can never do anything right. Rather, god is the God of perfect love, and 1 Peter 4.18 says perfect love casts out fear. It is because of his perfect love, fear. It is because of his perfect love, it is because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection that we can come to him boldly, that we can step onto that healing path and know that he is with us, holding us. Those would be the things that I want to leave, because I know it’s a tough road when you’re under that microscope in ministry, but it is so worth it and you will be want to offer God our very best and sometimes you know, admitting that, all right, maybe there’s a few things I need to look at in my life for that to happen, and you know the willingness then for you to step onto that healing path.

Margie: 28:59

I mean it. It might feel not so great at different moments, but the end result will be what God is nudging towards. So at the end of the day it’s, it’s you’re putting yourself on the pedestal and letting God mold and shape you as a little lump of clay, leave you with that picture from Jeremiah that God’s never done with us, right, and I always think of. Well, you know, you get to a certain age, you retire or you whatever, and God’s never, never done with us. So thank you very much, kristen. I so appreciate your words of encouragement here.

Margie: 29:42

Yeah, absolutely, and thanks for having me We’ll have to look at some other things in the future that we could just yammer on about huh, it’s been lovely.

Kristen: 29:53

It’s been lovely, yeah, to have these conversations with you.

Margie: 29:55

So, thank you, Margie, thank you yeah, to have these conversations with you. So thank you, Margie, thank you, are you wondering whether your fatigue, your lack of motivation, your lack of interest is burnout maybe? I just wanted to let you know that I have a resource on the website, margiebryce dot com, that’s b-r-y-c-e. Margiebryce dot com and it is a burnout questionnaire, free for you to download, and kind of self-assess and get a sense of where you’re at. There are questions that not only ask about what you’re going through but maybe how often you’re experiencing it, and that’s kind of a key to where you might be, because you have to know where you are in order to chart a course forward. And most pastors who experience pastors and ministry leaders who experience burnout rarely know that that’s where they’re at until they’re well into it. And if you’re unsure about that little statistic, so far, everybody that I’ve interviewed on this podcast who has experienced burnout, when I asked that kind of question, they’re like, yeah, I didn’t know that’s where I was at. So again, go to margiebricecom it’s on the homepage of the website and you can get your burnout questionnaire and kind of see where you’re at.

Margie: 31:37

Hey friends, the Crabby Pastor podcast is sponsored by Bryce Art Glass and you can find that on Facebook.

Margie: 31:46

I make stained glass as part of my self-care, and also by Bryce Coaching, where I coach ministry leaders and business leaders, and so the funds that I generate from coaching and from making stained glass is what is supporting this podcast and I will have opportunities for you to be a part of sponsoring me and, as always, you can do the buy me a cup of coffee thing in the show notes.

Margie: 32:20

But I will have some other ways that you can be a part of getting the word out about the importance of healthy self-care for ministry leaders. Hey, thanks for listening. Hey, thanks for listening. It is my deep desire and passion to champion issues of sustainability in ministry and for your life, so I’m here to help. I stepped back from pastoral ministry and I feel called to help ministry leaders create and cultivate sustainability in their lives so that they can go the distance with God and whatever plans that God has for you. I would love to help, I would consider it an honor, and in all things, make sure you connect to these sustainability practices you know, so that you don’t become the crabby pastor.

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