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Posted April 24, 2017:
Discomfort Can Be Good
This spring I have been doing the
training program for Seattle Urban Nature Guides at Discovery
Park in Seattle. Formal training is over now and I’m into doing
observations of experienced SUN-guides and assisting as they
lead programs and outings.
Part of our overall guide training
was an afternoon of “Diversity Training” from a City of Seattle
team. They started by laying out several “norms,” one of which
was “anticipate discomfort.” And there was some — for me and for
others as we proceeded.
I like the “discomfort” norm. It sort
of normalized discomfort and told us we’d survive.
It occurs to me that it would be
useful to for churches and church leaders to also, at least on
occasion, forewarn people to “anticipate some discomfort” and to
normalize it. Too often in the church there seems to be an
unspoken and unexamined norm that “I should be comfortable at
all times,” which is course ridiculous unless you are peaceably
Given Jesus’propensity for dis-comforting
most everyone — his disciples, weathy/ well-intentioned people,
rulers, authorities, angry people and people that weren’t angry
enough or were angry about silly things — we ought to expect
some discomfort in church and even relish it. It won’t kill you.
The discomfort that was part of
diversity training came from talking about hot topics like race,
sexuality and social class with people we didn’t know very well.
We listened to people we probably didn’t agree with and had to
put our own ideas out there.
My hunch is that few churches will
make progress and be truly vital without engaging some hot
topics and causing people to experience some dis-ease. It’s part
of growth, is it not?
Of course, some kinds of discomfort
that are worthwhile and promise greater health and well-being,
at least eventually. These include learning new things,
listening to people say things you don’t necessarily like or
understand, taking risks, trying out new behaviors.
And there are some kinds of
discomfort that aren’t in service of health and growth. These
would include experiencing or putting up with verbal abuse,
bullying, lying and meanness. As always there are discernments
to be made here.
Still, I like the idea of churches
being places that aren’t so frightened of discomfort, that
normalize it, and encourage people to expect some discomfort and
not run away. Sort of related I liked
this column on Change in Marriage; maybe you will too? .