"If you have to explain the joke, life’s just not worth living” – Stanley from Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist
We all have family dynamics which we learned to navigate as a child. (Too often, children are required to navigate abuse and neglect in order to survive.) I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving family, but we had our share of dysfunction. For example, most of the men in my family have great difficulty expressing any type of strong emotion. As a child, I inferred from this behavior that it wasn’t appropriate to have, let alone express, these emotions, especially as a male. My Dad, uncles, cousins, and grandfather are ALL known as laid-back with a great sense of humor. Both of these characteristics are valued highly in the men of the Shoop tribe.
Through reading, counseling, and general life experience, I’ve learned that the strong emotions I wasn’t supposed to feel were relegated to my Shadow. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that a major theme is the integration of the Shadow to consciousness, therefore becoming more whole. I still use the coping mechanism of humor when things get “too heavy.” But when I’m paying attention (i.e., taking myself seriously), I’m able to express/enjoy the humor AND try to understand what’s behind it.
All this to say: there was a lot going on behind the development of the Progressive Christian Bingo card I posted yesterday. To date, it is the most-viewed post I’ve ever published. It was meant as a good-natured ribbing toward the bloggers I’ve read over the past 4-5 months; the writers who make me laugh, make me cry, and make me angry; the writers who challenge me to write (and to live) more deeply, more authentically, and more richly; the writers who make me ask more questions.
Bloggers: even though I “agree” with what you write much more often than not, sometimes I get really angry, sad, confused, and frustrated reading what you have to say, both on your blogs and on Twitter. So in all honesty, the card was a bit of an expression of those emotions, too.
I feel uncomfortable not only with the topics covered in these blogs (which is a good thing!), but also with how groups in general tend to use the same words and phrases over and over again until they lose their meaning, especially to people outside the group. This phenomenon can be seen in evangelical culture, the broader Christian culture, conservative culture, liberal culture, etc. Every sub-culture has specific language, rhetoric, and unspoken rules. This truly doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I need to remember when I use these words, I’m using them in a way that communicates the precise concept/value/opinion that I am trying to communicate. If I misunderstand the word or concept, I could use it in the wrong context and possibly communicate the opposite of what I’m trying to say. If necessary, I must define or redefine terms (or use different terms) for the purpose of communicating a specific idea. Finally, I need to recognize if these terms are code and/or triggers that can turn a healthy dialogue into defensive, yelling competitions that damage relationships.
My “readership” is quite small, but I was still a bit nervous to post the bingo card. Will someone stumble upon it and be offended? Will I be held up as an example of ignorance, of going too far, of white male privilege run amok? Thankfully that hasn’t happened. (Yet!)
What I’m trying to say is the bingo card was an expression of strong emotion around both the concepts I’ve been reading about lately and the words that are used to represent these concepts. Humor is how I’ve learned to cope with the junk rattling noisily inside my head. (In fact, using the Dr. Katz quote at the beginning of this post is an expression of the emotions I’m feeling about this post!) The challenge now is going beyond the initial expression and understanding more of what’s behind it. These topics and these words make me uncomfortable. That’s a good sign! It means both the concepts and the emotions around them are primed and ready to be wrestled with, understood more deeply, and integrated.