Do you have emotional allergies?

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

The other night, Dan and I were talking about church drama and how to avoid it.

Impossible, right?

It seems inevitable that any community, be it faith-based or not, comes with its fair share of squabbles and gossip, jealousy and resentment, personality clashes and misunderstandings.

Even as we dream big dreams for The Mission, we can’t help but wonder how long it will take before someone hurts someone else’s feelings or someone feels God leading in a different direction than someone else or someone spills the beans and admits she watches “The Bachelor.” 

As we talked, I confessed to Dan that I’m not always the victim when it comes to drama, that often I let my own insecurities make me into a judgmental, fearful person, eager to perpetuate the gossip, form a clique, or get offended. 

“Why do we do this to ourselves?” I asked, not really looking for answer. “Why do we get involved in these silly tit for tat controversies that only make us miserable?”

In response, Dan said something worth writing a blog post about:

“People are made to solve problems,” he said. “We thrive when we have challenges to overcome and things to care about. The problem is, the things we care about aren’t really that important, and so we get all worked up over nothing.”

“It’s like allergies. Allergies happen when the immune system, which is supposed to fight off disease, suddenly turns on itself. Some folks even think that living in an environment that is too sterile, where the immune system doesn’t get enough exposure to pathogens, can cause it to respond negatively to harmless things like tree nuts or dust or…”

“…anything with paws and hair,” I finished. It had never occurred to me to blame my allergies on my mother’s obsessive-compulsiveness.

“It’s like we have emotional allergies,” he said. “Our sterile lives leave us nothing worthwhile to fight against, and so we turn on ourselves and each other.”

His words reminded me of Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

This got me thinking that perhaps if we rallied around something more important, if we decided to take on truly significant challenges—like addressing poverty, pursuing racial reconciliation, defending immigrants, sharing the gospel, caring for the lonely, living simply, embodying the Kingdom—we wouldn’t have as much drama.

...Or at least our drama would be about more important things, like kids who are falling through the cracks in school, families that can’t afford to healthy food, a teenager who doesn’t have anywhere to sleep at night. 

If I’m going to get worked up about something, I want it to be over something that matters. And this might mean getting a little dirty now and then.

What about you? Do you suffer from emotional allergies? How do you deal with them? (And don’t say Benedryl, because that stuff will knock you out.)

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