Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How to Win Friends and Influence People

A few years ago our annual clergy conference was devoted to the theme of clergy wellness.  For several days we heard from experts and talked in our small groups about clergy wellness.  Almost all of it centered on spiritual and psychological practices intended to prevent burnout while strengthening our spiritual competencies as priests and pastors.  I offered up a comment on the last day during the wrap up session that got me into a lot of hot water then, and is still remembered by those whom I offended. 

I certainly don’t remember exactly what I said, but in general it had to do with the observation that we, as “embodied souls,” had only to look around the room to see that we had ignored an important element of clergy wellness, and that was physical well being.  As important as spiritual and emotional well being is, so is physical well being, and maybe we ought to spend a little time on that as well.

I might as well have shouted out “the seven words you can’t say on television” while tossing hand grenades into the group.

One offended colleague shouted that she already had enough to feel guilty about so what right did I have to add that to her burdens, and I think she spoke for many others.

I’m not exactly the paragon of physical fitness.  I hate exercising at the gym and more or less force myself to go a couple of times a week because if I don’t the pain in muscles damaged by accidents and surgery would be excruciating.  It’s my loving spouse who keeps us both on a diet high in vegetables, low in fatty meats and almost no high calorie low nutrition things like sweet rolls.  I have, however, been known to sneak over to the 7-11 for a Hostess Cupcake on occasion. 

The point is, we cannot achieve wellness in any sense if we don’t take on the task as a comprehensive whole.  A life of prayer, spiritual direction and psychological therapy does not add up to clergy wellness if it is practiced in the context of daily habits that destroy the body through muscular atrophy and caloric poisoning.

What brought all this to mind was a meeting held yesterday where I was reminded of that day.  Apparently the spear struck deep and stayed there.  Sometimes I feel like Jeremiah, but without his virtues.

 

5 comments:

deus-vobiscum said...

I can understand where your colleagues were coming from. As someone who neglected physical well-being for a long time, any remark or advice which encouraged me to pay attention to my physical well-being would certainly have been interpreted as being an attack. I'm trying to leave that attitude behind, though.

Physical well-being is a key component of emotional and spiritual well-being. When I was younger I thought that I was more or less just a brain locked in a body. My mind was all that mattered, and my body suffered. But I wasn't happy. I struggled a lot with depression (I still do, but it was worse then), and food and physical activity became my enemies. I denied myself the joy of food because it was too busy being my emotional crutch and the symbol of my lack of physical well-being. I didn't like playing sports because it would show how inept and out of shape I was (and therefore show my lack of value). I also think my poor diet and lack of exercise also contributed biologically to my depression.

Now that my diet and physical activity level have improved, I feel a lot happier. It's not about being muscular or skinny like the media and popular culture would have us believe, but physical well-being is about recognizing our human need for play, recreation and good food. Once I stopped living the lie that "I have to get skinny/muscular in order to satisfy some duty to society/to be a worthwhile human being" and accepted "I get to eat nutritious and delicious food, and I get to play and work with this body I've been given," then I realized that physical well-being, in addition to being a good in itself, helps me maximize my enjoyment of creation. I had to stop living in my head and live in my body and mind together.

There's a book entitled "Fat Jesus" by Lisa Isherwood about Christianity and body image. Not sure if it's good or not, but it would be interesting to read how theology and body image intersect.

Country Parson (Steven Woolley) said...

Wow deus!
That is some testimony. Congratulations!!! By the way, I intend to take your thesis with me to Hawaii. It will be my airplane reading.
CP

SUNRISE SISTER said...

Here, here for the post and reply!

xoxo to you both:)

Geezer Dude said...

Good for you for presenting the body as part of the whole person with respect to wellness. And, good for you for being incorporating the spectrum of wellness factors into your own life.

It was a bit difficult to swallow the sermon from the obese woman on the importance of stewardship with respect to the human body. I understand that people are different and I have a very fortunate heritage, but ...

Yeah! for deus-vobiscum for taking action that helps to deal with depression and other ills. How difficult it is to take personal action from the down in the valley of depression. For many of us, that uphill walk, or run, can help take us out of the shadow of that valley.

Commitments to positive action with respect physical, financial, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual wellness have served me well. Each part of one's life affects the whole, for good or bad. The choices may be conscious or subconscious, but most of us do have choices.

Winning friends and influencing people sometimes seems to be in conflict with espousing worthy principles. I commend your skill in choosing an appropriate balance.

D

Wren said...

Health of body seems equally important to health of mind and spirit. It's too bad your comment was seen as an attack. Could it be that in regard to subjects about which we are defensive, any mention of them is automatically offensive?