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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Monday, January 15, 2007

20/20 Hindsight

Regarding the recent unpleasantness... there's an aspect of all this that bothers me. Okay, there are a lot of aspects... I will cop to that. And I have been/will be chatting with a confessor & spiritual director about all of it. So, please don't add to the comments about how I should have done things differently; there is nothing you can say that I have not already said to myself, and in harsher terms than I would permit to be published here, because we don't talk that way on this blog.

One I'm dwelling on this evening is the assumption that I was repeating gossip.

Now of course I didn't think of it as gossip when I posted, or I would not have done so. So I'm thinking through that... trying to learn something, here. Please do not take the musings below as anything more than that-- a written record of thought process on the issue.

Hearsay is a form of gossip, certainly; and if it had been told to me as a "friend of a friend" sort of thing, I would have passed it off and never mentioned it. However, I was not relating a comment I'd heard from a third party. Instead, it was an experience of mine-- a conversation I had personally.

At the same time, if we had been talking about someone's personal life-- issues with husband, family, etc. -- that would also be firsthand. And I would not have repeated it, as I would have construed it as gossiping. So, what made me think this was different?

Was it perhaps in part, that it wasn't confidental? Because it was a conversation which involved others, in a public place? Well maybe in part. As a friend commented to me today, "If someone walks up to a group in the middle of a food court and says, 'I've been cheating on my wife,' it ain't confidential any more."

But then again, neither would I have necessarily felt the need to repeat it. And though I might well have blogged the experience (you have to admit, that a public statement of that nature would be an unusual event!), I certainly would have filed the serial numbers off the story-- changed or omitted names, locations, etc. (a common practice, and one I have used frequently).

So, there's one rub-- I could have/should have done that this time, as Shari rightly points out in a comment on another post.

At the same time.... this was not a personal situation, but a professional issue. A librarian is responsible for, among other things, helping citizens to find and obtain books and information-- material to which they are legally entitled. When I posted, I believed someone to be an injured party... and further, that it was an example of something larger: a lack of simple common sense, as well as an erosion of civil liberty. So was I intending to shed light on this, as a way of protection and/or correction?

Lovely road-paving, those intentions. . .

Raise your hand if you've ever backed the pastoral truck over a person or situation you thought you were treating with appropriate care. . . and please stand back, as I don't want to hit you with my arms waving wildly in the air.


Blogger cheesehead said...

Definitely have backed that truck up. Waving my arms madly right beside you.

January 16, 2007 5:39 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a pastor, and since I don't wish to have every discussion with strangers touch on their nasty diarrhea, or leg cramps, I wear as few identifyers of my trade as I can in public. (Though alas, most people in town seem to recognize me anyway).

I think that pastors, both because they are generally thought to be a willing ear, and because they usually wear clerical collars, are more likely to get people spinning yarns to them about not only the evil government, but the evil husband/wife/mother/inlaw/child/friend/fill in the blank.

Pastors are much more vulnerable to gossip than others, simply because that is the sort of conversation that they are likely to attract when off duty (as distinct from the "I've been having headaches, what should I do about it, sort of conversation" which is what people assume would fascinate me in social conversation.

I try to keep in mind that I am responsible for my "off duty" medical conversations (I can certainly be sued for them) and I therefore make an automatic shift from friendly conversation to professional conversation as soon as the conversation turns medical in any way. If I let my guard down it is in the physicians lounge, or at home. (It's difficult, and a little lonely, but is necessary for the protection of others).

It is much harder to do this as a pastor, because of course there is very little difference between "pastoring" and "being a friend". This works both ways. On a personal level, as a nonpastor whom my current priest relies on to some extent for friendship, it means that I have not been to confession for six months, because I can either have my priest as my friend, or as my confessor, but not as both (despite the fact that I have not had more than the usual sins of pride, anger, impatience etc). I know that if I were to turn to him as a confessor, it would essentially lose him a friend, and I think he needs friends more than confessees, right now, because he gets what you get. (I'll make it to confesson with one of the other priests in the area).

I will say that it is amazing how much damage priests can do by passing on information they heard in passing, while having intentions of the purest driven snow. One priest in my last Episcopal diocese , managed to set a rumor going around the city that two physicians were gay (they weren't). Another managed to set a rumor going that a different physician was a wife beater (he wasn't). The damage done to reputations was incalculable, and the worst of it was that at least one of the priests was trying to be "pastoral".

I think part of the problem is the shift in "pastoring" from the confessorial model of pastoring to the therapeutic model of pastoring. In one model, bad things that happen are between you and God. In the other, bad things that happen are part of a greater social and structural problem that is best discussed in the open, so that "healing" can occur.

I think there is rather more "healing" if one leaves it with God. I have not been impressed with the success of the other model.


January 16, 2007 8:24 AM  

Blogger Casey Kochmer said...

Life is change

We learn and grow from all experiences.

Grace is the ability to look back and smile from both the good times and the hard times.

Peace and grace for your life as it's a matter of perspective.

The whole thing taught me a little more about our world so in that I do say thanks.

And in the meantime the bloggers are busy barking up the next tree. So it goes, as the snow falls silently and in beauty.

January 16, 2007 2:04 PM  

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