...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gift Therapy: Choose to Walk-On

A recent viewing of The Pianist powerfully reinforced what I recall from the amazing  Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Coming out of the cauldron of surviving Auschwitz, Frankl developed what he called logotherapy. The task of this therapy is to identify a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immerse oneself in imagining that outcome. That purpose no one and nothing can take away from you. The Pianist is an riveting retelling of Polish concert pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman's surviving the Nazi atrocities inflicted on the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto in WW II. Unable to play for years, he survived in part, by performing his beloved Chopin in his imagination.

Creative people are only so in the sense of creating opportunities to employ their gifts
Now, a life's purpose is almost a given in describing at least part of our mental hygiene. The popularity of The Purpose Driven Life indicates general acceptance of what Frankl pioneered in 1946.  

A more contemporary exploration is Well Being, a Gallup publication which concludes that "engagement" with life is one of the chief markers of personal well being. 

Isn't it amazing that engagement in a community can measurably help in lifting depressive symptoms? Can you remember people offering to volunteer in a church- mainly because they said it was suggested by their psychotherapist? While the psychology of seeing someone in a deeper hole than you serves as a kind of shock- therapy,  the deepest pain probably originates from wasting, or dismissing, the gifts God gives us.  

The more we can equip others to know and use their gifts, the better off they - and the world-  will be. This, too, is an encouragement for pastors to use their true gifts, because when we do this on a regular basis, we lead with our best and truest self.

Gift theory is all about self-improvement through our signature strengths- not in becoming "well rounded."  We are empowered as we uncover and use our true gifts. Gift therapy is something we can offer every day in the communities and churches we serve. But, like everything else, we make poor teachers and examples if we rarely find ways to practice our true gifts. "Creative" people are only so in the sense of creating opportunities to employ their gifts. So every one of us is, or can be, very creative.

The implications of refusing to live out of our gifted-ness may be that we never know what it's like to live a life that is given by Love, one that's uniquely our own.  The lyrics in Pink Floyd's Wishing You Were Here expose how misleading appearances can be. Like the song,  we can easily exchange "a walk -on part in the war for a lead role in a cage."  The "lead role in the cage" is what the system needs and wants and expects, no matter your gifts. 

But the walk-on part in the war is:
  • what you arrived with
  • what you were born with
  • what you were given
  • the God movement you surrendered to
  • by God's love and mercy and generosity. 
Choose the walk- on part, which is life and joy.

The song actually gets better the more you listen :)

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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