A sort of introduction

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” “Think before you speak.” These are admonitions most of us have heard more than once in our lives. There’s even a biblical precedent: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11, ESB). There’s a much larger point beyond “watch your mouth” to Jesus’ words, and I’m grateful for that verse for helping me move beyond my “shellfish crisis,” but mostly they served as another prohibition against speaking freely.

The premise for this blog is that ideas and ways of being meant to be life giving can have the opposite effect, especially if those ideas are so rigid and constraining that they stunt healthy emotional development by insisting on inauthentic representation of the self. We all need structure, and limits provide safety for people of all ages. Children, especially, need to be able to push against boundaries in order to orient themselves and move forward in the world. But we can go so far as to dismiss human uniqueness which is as messy as it is beautiful.

I think it’s important to say something about the blog’s title. I’m pretty sure the most obvious meaning doesn’t need clarification beyond that it serves to reject the rigid constraints of verbal piety. Secondly, the title is meant to set the stage for discussion introduced in the second paragraph: dogma, ideology, and theology can be at least destructive as instructive. But in the spirit of redeeming “what comes out” of us, the title is more of a triple than a double entendre. As humans, we produce what we are. And we are complicated. Rejecting the shadow side of our natures is like dismissing our need to defecate. So, this blog is also meant to alleviate spiritual and emotional constipation.

In my professional work as a therapist, I am never surprised to discover myriad complications and suffering induced by our attempts to make ourselves “clean” by rejecting our parts. Too many of us have been told implicitly or explicitly that this or that side of us is not welcome. In my personal life I have been gratified by the graciousness of those willing to put their shadow side on display. Rather than diminishing their beauty, their wholeness radiates invitation to participate authentically in a more abundant life. Their honesty is contagious. And I hope ours is too. We will speak openly about our own experiences in and the disastrous effects of a toxic system of being. And we welcome your own holy shit.

A Loving God?

I was doing step work with my sponsor last night and we were working on step three.  For those of you who are not familiar, step three is “(We) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”.   I have always had a love/hate relationship with AA and the God issue in particular.  Much like Christianity, there is the potential for AA groups to have a fundamentalist bent. I naturally recoiled at the thought of turning my will and life over to God, particularly in the beginning, for several reasons.  Number one, the God I knew from my childhood was judging, vengeful, and capricious, and I had long since decided He was not someone / something I would entrust with the guidance of my life.  Number two, I have always felt like I had to do everything on my own and it is incredibly difficult for me to ask for help to this day.  So faced with these prejudices, step three was and is difficult for me to navigate.  When I initially went through the steps ten years ago, I was so desperate that I honestly cannot remember my thought process at the time.  I just knew I was willing to do anything to stay sober.  This time, however, with a new sponsor, I was once again faced with this dilemma.  With a clearer head and years of sobriety under my belt, I found myself being quite resistant once again to the idea of asking God for help.  My new sponsor had me write on one side of the page the characteristics of the God I was raised with, and on the other the traits of the God I wanted to believe in. As we sat in his truck and I faced the page in front of me, I wept.  I wept because it was still so hard for me to accept that maybe the concept of the God I grew up with was wrong, and that I could at least entertain the possibility that there was actually infinite love for me to tap into instead.  Even after all these years away from the church, the ideas and beliefs I internalized as a child still have at least a tenuous grip on my soul.  I wept for the child that had to endure this indoctrination, and I wept for the years of depression, addiction, and even sobriety spent feeling so alone and spiritually disconnected.  I am still not sure exactly what I think about the whole God idea… But I am so grateful I have moved to a place in my life where I have a community of friends and family to support me as I redefine my spirituality apart from fundamentalism.