I’ve been watching a lot of How I Met Your Mother recently, and I love it. It’s funny, it’s relatable, and the characters are just awesome.
Two of the characters, the married couple Marshall and Lily, have a rule in their relationship where they can hit “pause” on a serious conversation if they need to deal with something else in their life that’s more pressing. Sometimes they use it to get out of talking something hard because it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes one of them uses it in spite of the other’s insistence on continuing the conversation.
We like to use the pause button in our lives, often before the difficult conversations even happen. This happens quite a bit in the church.
I love writing about difficult subjects, particularly writing in ways that people don’t normally write about them. Not that I haven’t been accused of being one of those “middle class white bloggers” you hear so much about nowadays. But my passion is to look at subjects from a different angle, to take a perspective you may not see in the mainstream Christian media.
So when it comes to tackling topics like sex, racism, politics, depression/anxiety, etc., I’m willing to talk about it, willing to approach it. But that doesn’t mean I never have second thoughts about it or never get scared about writing about it.
As I examined my own mind and heart about the issue, I came up with 10 reasons why people – including myself – don’t want to talk about difficult subjects, particularly in the church context. They aren’t in any alphabetical or importance order, just listed out in the order I came up with them.
1) It usually involves admitting weakness. And we don’t want to admit to the world (or even ourselves) that we’re weak.
When we talk about sensitive issues like lust or racism, we’re forced to confront the weakness in our own lives. When I think about racism, I have to confront my own internal prejudices and the fact that I have bits and pieces of it in me. When we talk about sins or difficult cultural issues, we begin to understand that we don’t have everything figured out. But we don’t want to show that to people.
2) You don’t want to mess the status quo of how things go. You don’t want to interrupt how events go down.
Usually when you go to church, there’s already an established way things happen. People come, go to Sunday school or the main service, chat about their weeks, complain about their kids/spouses/jobs, then go to lunch and go home. Actually talking about the serious issues will force you to slow down and do things a little differently.
3) You don’t want to feel awkward.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that adage – “It’s only awkward if you make it awkward.” Whether that’s true or not, talking about difficult things is uncomfortable for people. It’s awkward. It’s a natural human emotion that most people try to stay away from. They don’t relish it. So if you avoid the hard topics, you’ll avoid the awkwardness that comes with it.
4) You don’t want to burden people with your problems or the hard things.
This one is a somewhat legitimate concern. We are usually aware that people have a lot going on, and the last thing we want to do is add onto their stress with our problems and issues. So we hold onto the hard topics and the difficulties in our lives.
5) We live in an Instagram filter culture where we alter everything we do to appeal to people to make them like it/us.
We like to take out all the flaws and all the blemishes in our photos so that people can see them and like them. We love getting the notifications on our phone that say “(insertusernamehere) likes your photo.” Bringing up the hard stuff usually won’t get those kind of likes, either on us or what we say. We want the easy likes.
6) We don’t believe the Gospel applies to Christians. We believe that we’re required by law to be perfect.
Because we believe that, we believe that we have to put off this view of ourselves as perfect to be considered a “good Christian.” Talking about our weaknesses or the hard things and how they relate to us diminishes the Jesus in us in some way. Forget that being a Christian means being weak.
7) People are afraid of the potential of being talked about in a negative context.
I struggle with this sometimes. Maybe by bringing up the hard subjects, I think, people might talk about me weirdly behind my back, criticizing how I handle issues or my own personal life. And goodness gracious, I don’t want people to talk about me negatively.
8) We’ll talk about it, but only at the relevant time in the culture.
You can see this with racism and homosexuality in recent weeks. It’s difficult to talk about, but if it’s relevant in the culture, we’ll discuss it. If there’s not been any recent news about depression or suicide in the mainstream, we’ll avoid it. Same thing about pornography or sex trafficking. Same thing about youth and drugs.
9) We view church as a country club for good, clean people, not a recovery meeting for bad, dirty Christians.
Church has become a place where everybody dresses in their “Sunday best,” not just in clothing but also in attitude and conversation topic. We view church all wrong.
10) We don’t like doing difficult things.
Simple as that. Just like we avoid awkwardness, we avoid hard things. Talking about serious issues is hard and requires effort. It’s kryptonite for a lazy person, hard to overcome. And sometimes we think that it’s too hard to deal with, so we just don’t try.
None of these reasons are good reasons, by the way.
As I was working through these, I had to ask myself if I still deal with any of these. And I sure do. Nos. 2, 4, 7 and 10 are particularly relevant to me right now. I want people to like me, just like everybody else. But if we as a body of Christ are going to actually move forward, then we desperately need to have these hard conversations.
There are also 10 reasons why we should talk about difficult things, particularly in the church. But that’s the next post.