Maybe you saw this story Sunday about the Quinnipiac University student who was so afraid to tell her parents the truth (that she had dropped out of college the year before, pocketed their tuition money, and was not actually graduating with her class) that she phoned in a bomb threat in hopes of canceling graduation.
This is what one person was willing to do to hide a secret. I can’t stop wondering why she didn’t simply tell her parents the truth, whatever it was that made her drop out of school. Apparently, she hadn’t told her friends either.
- Are her parents savage bullies who would have kicked her out of the family after physically and emotionally pummeling her?
- Did she have a secret life (drugs? porn star job?) that required keeping up appearances?
- Was she worried about being ostracized by her friends and socially banished forever?
- Is disappointing her family A Worse Fate Than Death (or at least prison)?
How bad could it have been to say, “Mom, I’m having a hard time and need to drop out of school for a while“?
In her head, it must have been pretty bad.
So what happens in your spiritual community when someone shares a difficult truth?
- I have a friend who disclosed the crushing news to her church small group that her marriage was ending, and they asked her to leave the small group.
- I know a church musician who achingly told the pastor that he was gay and HIV positive, and he was fired.
- I know a family who shared with their church friends that their teenage daughter was pregnant and the father was removed from the Board of Elders.
Are our sanctuaries truly safe? Do we actually welcome sinners? Have we any idea how to love those who disappoint us?
My neighbor is a behavioral psychologist with young children, and he is teaching them that – if they always tell the truth – they will never get into trouble. He wants them to know that truth-telling is so highly valued in their family that they can even tell difficult truths. It’s what healthy families do.
The truth is that our congregations are often the first to punish people for sharing what is really happening in their lives. Imagine what it might look like if we trusted each other enough and loved each other enough to tell the truth?
Evidence of a healthy 21st Century Church: people are safe to be authentic, people are held accountable, people are considered redeemable.
Imagine how scared you’d have to be to call 911 and report a bomb threat to cancel college graduation. Ugh.