Friday, August 23, 2013


The problem solver or the "fixer" lives in every one of us. We may be attracted to movies that tell of how things get fixed, like The Godfather or a series like Ray Donovan. Both examples mirror the myth of redemptive violence, where murder and mayhem are a stepping stone to something else- in these cases, career advancement.

Even if we say we reject the myth of redemptive violence, we do like problems solved, don't we?  

Tex Sample, the one-time seminary professor, described whole faith communities of what he termed the cultural middle, where the main function was to offer an "explanatory theology." It explains why everything is the way it is. Upper managers provide the same function for their corporate bosses and shareholders. In their own way, soothsaying managers learn how to explain away anything potentially perceived as a problem.  

If you look on social networks of all kinds, you'll find people who don't really know each other offering all kinds of advice. Although we should know better, clergy are often tempted to fix people in our own image. But parishioners' lives are messy just like our own.

Pastors find it hard to resist being a rescuer or deliverer. A fixer of problems. I do. It's also a temptation to serious codependency. Buying into that role can damage our chance to lead. The drive to fix others' problems, to offer advise, or even to smooth out group differences with fake consensus are all defaults from sharing our lives as we really are.

It's clergy's ministry and mission to create safe places in relationships and in groups where it's possible to share our real selves without fear of being condemned. If we do not do this, the sharing will be superficial at best or at worst, people will be offended and hurt at our attempts to fix them, with all the judgement that implies.     

In the end, fixing is self-flattery and illusion. It's all about us, about our ability, our wisdom, setting ourselves above others. But fixing strains relationships, stresses people out, drains our energy and really doesn't work. At all. Better to be our own best self. Doing our own soul work and respecting the journey of others is a good place start.  

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