Margie Bryce

Your leadership coach
and self-care advocate

111: Final Thoughts Clergy Need to Know about Trauma

The Crabby Pastor
111: Final Thoughts Clergy Need to Know about Trauma

Discover the power of perspective in this transformative discussion with Kristen Humiston, as we peel back the layers of trauma experienced within the church. Together, we challenge the conventional approach of questioning what’s wrong with individuals, pivoting instead to exploring the pivotal events that have shaped them.

We dissect the crucial role of self-care for pastors, emphasizing the necessity for leaders to be equipped with empathy and insight—to not only heal others effectively but to sustain their own spiritual journey.

This leads our conversation to include lament: an undervalued treasure in evangelical circles. This potent path helps us heal from deep-seated pain.

Join us for an episode that promises to leave you with an enriched understanding and tangible resources to support the unseen battles within your congregation.

Connect with Kristen by clicking HERE.

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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.

Margie: 2:12

Welcome to part two of our discussion on trauma. I am here with Kristen Humiston again and we got to and through in the last episode a good discussion about trauma and what it is exactly, and we kind of, near the end, got to the place where the question was what is wrong with these people? And you know, I think as pastors, many of us ask that question why does it seem like and this was captured in Janyne McConaughey’s book Trauma in the Pews where there’s a faction of any congregation where it seems like they just grab hold of the gospel and they just run with it? And then you’ve got this other segment where sometimes you kind of wonder well, okay, in all honesty, there were days and times that I wondered if they were crash test dummies not meaning dummy people like dummies but that they were looking at me like that from the before or they would.

Margie: 3:09

It would look like or feel like that what I was delivering in sermons and stuff was just casually bouncing off of people, you know, and so you have to say well, what’s wrong with these sheep, what is wrong with them? To say is well, what’s wrong with these sheep, what is wrong with them? And I think Janyne correctly identifies and we’ve talked some here, Kristen, about trauma and how it impacts people and their abilities to receive the gospel, so. But I know that you have a bit of a pushback and that I’m good with that. I like that. It makes for a fun interview for sure, for sure, with my question what is wrong with them? So I’m going to let you have at that.

Kristen: 3:54

Yeah, thank you, Margie, thanks for having me back, and it’s always a delight and a pleasure to be able to talk with ministry leaders about trauma and healing and like, where does the church fit in to that? Because the church should be leading the way. And before you and I jumped on and hit record, we were talking about how, historically, there have been times where the church has led the way in bringing healing work to people’s practical lives. Right that I’m moving into professional social work, and social work was born out the movement of Christians seeing people who were hurting and oppressed and needing food and clothing and meeting those needs, and so, historically, the church has a part of it that has provided healing.

Kristen: 4:48

There’s another dark side to Christianity and the church Historically. We don’t need to go into that today, but how do we bring healing? And again, that is like Jesus announced his ministry by echoing the words from Isaiah 61. I have come to set the captives free, to heal the broken hearted, and so this is his heart, and we are called to be his ambassadors, right To bring his heart to the world around us. So how do we do that? And your question, what is wrong with them, like, how can we fix them. That is a common question and frustration in ministry. I was speaking with a friend the other day and we just kind of said like you know, people, people and we are people. Right, we are people, we people too, we people too. And the the better question to ask in those moments of frustration really is what has happened to them, not as what is wrong with them, but what has happened to them?

Margie: 5:59

Yeah, I mean, I think we would all agree and we’ve said I mean, I know ministry leaders have said, you know, ministry would be great, you know, if it wasn’t for the people but ministry is the people and they were all broken. It’s easy to say that we’re all broken. The truth of the reality of that is that there’s healing to be done. There’s work to be done, whether it’s growing your understanding of why I do the things I do, or, as ministry leaders, you know, oh, why is it that every time that congregant walks in the room I kind of want to smote him, or something like that? You know what I’m saying. There’s, there’s reasons that we react and respond, and sometimes it is out of our brokenness.

Kristen: 6:55

Yeah, we all have stories, Right, and that’s why I’m a big proponent and I love what you’re doing when, with that focus on-care, we have to be intentionally working on our own care so that we’re serving out of a place that has capacity to hold some of the brokenness of other people that is going to be present.

Kristen: 7:21

It’s a heavy job to walk through ministry life and respond to crises, respond to broken marriages, all of the things that we have to carry which that doesn’t even like. Those are just two of them, right, I have a big, long list that we could list off. And if we’re not in a place where we’re working on our healing, taking Sabbath rest, making sure that we’re protecting ourselves from burnout, taking care of our own personal marriage or relationships, if you’re not married like whatever that looks like if we’re not doing healthy practices on a regular basis, we are just simply not going to have the energy, the compassion you know that’s needed to really hold space well for the hurting, and that’s actually our calling. So we have to be caring for ourselves well first, so that we have something to care well for others first, so that we have something to care well for others.

Margie: 8:34

Sure, and I think Jesus said it this way love your neighbor as yourself. So if you aren’t caring for yourself as a mere mortal, as someone who understands I have limitations, you know, as a human being, if I’m not loving myself and being a good steward with the body and the temperament and the mindset and all of that, then how well am I equipped to care for others and kind of in the? If you take that then away from the individual focus for a moment and go to the congregational level, how well are we as a congregation able to show compassion to those around us? Because, cause, you know, we frankly run out of gas and I don’t know, I get cranky when I run out of gas. I just do. It isn’t hard to imagine, I guess, but but yeah, I can’t be the only one out here that gets cranky and crabby.

Kristen: 9:39

Well, I think I think about when, as a parent, I six children and so I have to remember that acronym FALT right Hungry, angry, lonely, tired, like, are my kids one of these things? Because if they are, or maybe they’re more than one of those things at the time, then their meltdown makes sense. And that’s what we mean when we shift that question from what is wrong with them to what happened to them or what is happening with them now, like there’s a reason for the behavior, whether it’s a child or an adult. Something is underneath the behavior, and what we often do in ministry and in the church world is we just say sin and we slap it on there and we say, well, if you’d get rid of that sin issue, then everything would be fine. And it looks at it a little bit too simplistically. Sin is most certainly involved, but it also can be that the behavior is a result of someone else’s sin on us and not our own.

Margie: 10:52

And that is a hard place, having to deal with someone else’s sin on us, whether it leaves you feeling rejected or angry or any of any of those things and trying to navigate through that. But you’re right, sin is kind of a sometimes a simplistic, would you say that sin might be a symptom of some trauma Not in all cases, but in some.

Kristen: 11:20

It will. Sin will play a part. Okay, Right, trauma entered the world when Adam and Eve fell. That was the moment where everything changed and I cannot think of a more traumatic moment. If we’re going to look at an event that I cannot think of a more traumatic moment. Right, to go from a perfect world, no fear, no doubt, no guilt, no shame, complete free communication with God. He came and he went, he came and he went and there was no doubt of his love. There was no doubt of love and connection between Adam and Eve. And then, in that moment, they knew and they hid. So that first moment of experiencing shame, when sin entered the world. Again, trauma is really the impact of events on us, but when we’re thinking about an event that ushered in trauma, there is no greater event in history that was more traumatic to go from a perfect world to a completely imperfect world.

Margie: 12:43

And it changed everything, sure, sure and basically they got evicted because, yeah, if you think about it, where you know well, you’re not living here anymore and I’ve done some reading where it was brought out that you know God put that boundary there and you say, oh well, that’s not very nice, but the truth of the matter is, if the boundary hadn’t been there, we would have been back at the apple tree again anyway. Right. Because, that’s who we are right, because that’s who we are.

Kristen: 13:18

but basically they had to deal with life under very different terms and what, uh, what they were used to, yeah, and what was intended? Right, what was intended?

Margie: 13:26

yeah for sure. So. So let’s, let’s go to then a solution with this and that that has to do with some healing and how trauma actually gives us an opportunity, if you want to. Everybody says I don’t have any trauma. I’m like we just all went through group trauma the whole planet did with with covid right, and I think we’re still a little wiggy from that. I don’t know whether how that wears off over time, but talk to us some about healing and the opportunity for that with the church?

Kristen: 14:03

yeah, absolutely so. I think the bible gives us two really clear there’s more but two that I wanted to talk about ways that we have to heal. God given created ways to heal, and the first is that we must express our pain, and in America, or Western Christianity especially, we are not taught this. We have been taught repeatedly which we mentioned a little bit before that emotions are bad, we need to just carry on. We focus on verses such as forgetting what’s behind, I press forward towards the prize, and we use other verses, just kind of pick and choose verses that imply that we shouldn’t ever think about, reflect on or express our emotions and pain, and that’s led to tremendous anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, because our bodies were not meant to carry that kind of pain.

Kristen: 15:07

And so lamentations, laments throughout Proverbs, laments throughout Psalms and Lamentations and other places where we see it with the prophets, laments are our gift to learn and to be able to practice expressing our pain. So commonly I will walk women and men that I’m working with through the process of how to lament, and that’s something that we don’t do as a church, community or body. Some denominations or some traditions Christian traditions do that more than others, but by and large, the evangelical church does not practice lamenting. The evangelical church does not practice lamenting In. You know, in my experience and what I’ve seen, that it’s really left to maybe preach on maybe one Sunday a year.

Margie: 16:06

Although I can’t.

Kristen: 16:07

This is a Sunday Right Like I can’t, and some Christian traditions have Sundays and seasons where they focus on that. We just went through like Lent, and some really use that season as an opportunity to lament, and that’s our gift. That’s our gift from God well, yeah, I think about.

Margie: 16:27

one of my favorite passages is is where Elijah is saying I’ve had Lord, I am ready to just die, just kill me now. I’m the only one left and that cares about what you care about. And that wasn’t factually correct. But I still like the fact that he just kind of whines somewhere and you know you kind of whine and own it and say this is what the harm that has been done to me and what’s the value then in expressing that.

Kristen: 17:02

It gets it out so that we have to move through our pain and trauma and it will have a place where it can be kind of filed away. Events become neutral rather than continuing to affect our physiological states, even so, our nervous system, and so when we lament and we can leave it at the feet of christ, then he can carry it, and that’s what the cross was about. That Jesus carried. We focus a lot on oh, I’m a sinner, and so Jesus carried my sins. Jesus carried the sins of your abuser. Jesus carried the sins of the one who has deeply rejected you, and so who else can I go to? God is the only one who can carry that kind of pain.

Margie: 18:04

So one thing you would say then is somehow to have and I want to say avenue, have a way for lament, for pain to be expressed, maybe more than once a year, whether it is, you know, in the corporate worship or whether there’s other places within your church where that is acceptable practice. Because I’m, like you know, you just quoted my life verse. Thank you very much. I press on towards the’m. Like you know, you just quoted my life first. Thank you very much. I press on towards the goal and you know, and I think there are times and places that I have just moved past pain and felt like, as long as I can put one foot in front of the other, I’m good to go, not realizing that it is something weighing you down that does have an impact. Did you say you had a second verse?

Kristen: 19:00

I mean laments are I’m not quite sure.

Kristen: 19:03

Laments are all throughout Psalms right, so I love Psalm 6,. 6 is a beautiful. David says my eyes waste away for the grief, Like my couch is drenched in tears. Right. Psalm 13, psalm 22, 42. These are some laments. He laments and he says my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And we’re so afraid of saying things like that? We think that, like I don’t know where God’s gonna, you know might us for doing that. And yet we have not just David, but we have other people as well, throughout scripture that express that idea. Jesus himself expressed that. Right If we took it and we put it in a sentence format instead, instead of a question my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? What is David’s complaint?

Margie: 20:00

He’s been forgotten.Kristen: 20:01

Yeah, god has abandoned me. This is what David’s saying. Most of us would be afraid of saying that out loud.

Margie: 20:10


Kristen: 20:11

Yet we have examples in scripture that show us it’s okay to express that loud, yeah, yeah. We have examples in scripture that show us it’s okay to express that.

Margie: 20:17

Right, right. Well, we’re all about the happy, happy, happy, absolutely, and and you want, you want joy. But if there is a faction group of people smattered throughout your congregation that are just you know, and I’m thinking back to, oh, this is quite a few years ago, and there was a church that we visited and they were heavy into it, was charismatic. This is not you know, and I’m not saying anything negative about charismatic folk, but it happened to be a charismatic church and, yeah, I’m not saying anything negative about charismatic folk, but it happened to be a charismatic church and they happened to be heavily engaged in some amazing praise and worship stuff. But after you’d gone for three or four weeks, I was like man, I don’t know if I can rally every week to this. You know, let me take a break, you know, come in and go out or something, because it just was. It’s not the reality that we live down here.

Kristen: 21:22

Right, right, and we need both. I mean, ecclesiastes 3 talks about there’s a time for mourning and weeping and there’s time for dancing and joy. So I think we just need to learn and practice moving through our emotions a little more fluidly, embracing seasons of joy, embracing seasons of mourning, and comforting one another, being okay, becoming comfortable with other people, not being okay Right, it’s okay to not be okay. I mean, that’s a saying right now, but when I think about Ecclesiastes, it covers the breadth of our human experiences. And we have death. That’s painful. I have to have a way to express how painful that is. It’s part of my human experience. There’s no reason to always stay in this happy, happy place.

Kristen: 22:18

And what’s really neat about a lament? The primary part is a complaint about against God. I have this complaint and it eventually moves towards expressing what my need is. In Psalm 13, david says look on me and answer me Like, give light to my eyes. These are things I need. I need to hear from you. Who of us as humans hasn’t said man, would God just tell me or show me or comfort me Like, would he not just show up? Right, all of us have. So I don’t know why we feel we need to deny our humanity so much? And he moves, and that’s what a lament does. Eventually we move to that process of man. I trust in your unfailing love, and that’s what faith is. I have to cling to the character of God because I am not God, I do not have his mind and I do not understand him Right. And it’s okay, I’m okay to admit I don’t get God, I don’t have the answers, and sometimes that’s really frustrating, sometimes that’s really wearisome, sometimes that’s really painful, so so when you’re moving through pain.

Margie: 23:38

You brought us through the lament, where you’re going to identify what your issues are. You can even go to scripture and, you know, read about.

Margie: 23:47

David was in the pit of despair you know all of that, and then we just get to the place where we decide, because there’s a cycle that David goes through. He has this complaint, and then, by the time you get to the end of the Psalm, he’s back at yet God, you are God and I am not, which, personally, I’m very happy that I’m not God and that God is God. And is that a way, then, of moving through the pain?

Kristen: 24:17

Absolutely, absolutely, and I think you know I think about women’s Bible studies or the typical retreat. It’s very much like a you rah rah rally, and I was sitting with someone recently who had gone to a large women’s event that had focused on lamenting, and throughout the weekend that’s what the event did was walked, you know, hundreds of women through the process of lamenting so they could lay it down. And then what do we do as a body of believers? We rejoice together, right. We become one another’s compassionate witnesses and we’re able to hear harder stories and share our harder stories. We’re able to experience humility and vulnerability Again, things that are pretty lost in most American churches, and then we can offer that belonging and safety to people, because it’s okay to come and bring my painful story into the church Again and again. One of the biggest things I hear in my one-to-one work with people is I can’t share this anywhere else and we are. We are being complicit in like inner death inside of people by not allowing people to bring their stories into the church walls.

Margie: 25:48

And then it will. You know. One thing that has just really been coming to me late is how can we challenge the church to bump it up in the compassion to others realm? How can we increase compassion for us?

Kristen: 26:09

I think, when I hear that, I go back to the question what happened to you? When we hear people’s stories, how do we respond? As humans, we respond to story, and I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience, but I have, where I’ve totally made up some thing about a person, right, oh, they are so fill in the blank and I carry that belief around with me. And then maybe I carried around for a few years, right, maybe I carried around for many years. And then I find out something about them that they experienced or that had happened to them that I never knew, and I go, oh okay, well, that makes sense now. Now I understand why they fill in the blank.

Margie: 26:59

So if they were extra prickly and then you responded with maybe you were prickly back and then you responded with maybe you were prickly back, or maybe you just retreated or something. Any of those responses are less than loving. And maybe if we came at some things with gosh, are you okay? Yeah, what’s going?

Kristen: 27:18

on what happened to you. What happened to you, yeah.

Margie: 27:21

That would be a different, different result, maybe

Kristen: 27:25

Yeah, and I like how you use that example, because let’s use the word prickly there’s a lot of people in churches that are prickly no Right, and my husband and I have a name that we would use for those people sometimes, and so it’s the ones that you’re like oh man, lord, just give me some more love, give me some more love for them. And when I think about it, when we’ve sat down with those people and started just asking questions like hey, tell us, like more about how you grew up, what was, what was your life like? What have been some of the highlights or the lowlights? Right, tell us more about you. I have always walked away from those conversations with greater compassion. So we need to make time for relationship of ministry and kind of how the system has set itself up, because leadership boards put a lot of demands on pastors with their time that are unrealistic and cannot be fulfilled and leaves very little time to make relationship with those that are actually in the congregation. So this is an everybody in the body of Christ job.

Kristen: 28:43

It is to connect with one another to learn another person’s story? Right? And if we were all doing that? Because because often I also hear from ministry leaders no one cares about me? No one? Right? Because we just don’t have a, a system or a body, a culture of caring for one another. So who’s going to go first, right? Who’s going to be the one that says you know what? I’m going to set it? I’m going to set aside one hour every month and just meet and connect with someone that maybe I already know. It doesn’t need to be somebody new, but I don’t really know their story and I’m just going to, I’m just going to hear their story. What if we spent 12 hours out of an entire year learning 12 different individuals stories? How would that grow our compassion? It doesn’t need to be difficult, it doesn’t need to be intensive, but that alone will grow your compassion, will grow your compassion.

Margie: 29:45

Absolutely, absolutely. Give me a minute to walk in someone else’s shoes. Well, thank you very much for this conversation around healing and around other people’s pain and how we can press ourselves to be the hands and feet of Jesus for other people.

Kristen: 30:08

Yeah, thanks for having me again.

Margie: 30:11

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 margiebryce dot com it’s on the homepage of the website and you can get your burnout questionnaire and kind of see where you’re at.

Margie: 31:50

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

Margie: 31:59

I make stained glass, that’s 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: 32:33

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 leaders. 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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