My therapist tells me things I don’t like to hear.
And I pay him to do it. Which sounds like a racket, but it seems to work…usually…
In this last session we were talking about how sometimes people in helping professions become the subject of people’s ire for no discernible reason.
For people like me, well, it really bothers me. I’m happy for you to dislike me if I’ve ticked you off or made an unpopular decision. That makes sense.
But many times pastors end up being the subject of people’s disdain simply because, well, humans need enemies. And pastors are pretty easy pickings, most days.
They (usually) care, and it’s always better to dislike someone who cares if they’re liked or not. What good is a grudge if no one feels it but you?
And sometimes people just don’t like you for being you. And that, folks, is the the hardest to take. Because there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. And so you just have to let your skin get tough…and go to therapy.
Anyway, I was talking to the therapist, a former pastor himself, about this phenomena, and he said, “Ah, yes. You’re their (expletive). They need one, and you get to be it. Lucky you.”
I mean, go ahead and choose your own expletive. He used one I can’t write on a public blog that my mom will (probably) read.
But being a Val Kilmer fan, I’ll choose his word used in his iconic role as Doc Holliday in Tombstone: “I’m you’re Huckleberry.”
I’m their Huckleberry.
We all have a Huckleberry, by the way. Or even a few of them.
Our Huckleberries are usually that not for something they did, but usually for this indiscernible reason that we just can’t seem place.
We just don’t like them. We just don’t.
When pastors get this kind of flack, there are all sorts of reasons.
It may be because they’re not the previous pastor. Or not like the previous pastor enough to pass muster.
Or maybe it’s because they made that one comment that one time, and even though they’ve clarified it, you don’t buy it…
Or maybe you don’t like their preaching or personality. Or they’re too outspoken, or a woman, or…or…
Or maybe, and this is the worst one, maybe it’s “just because.”
Most of my Huckleberries are my Huckleberries not for anything they did, but mostly because of me.
They are that because of my own baggage that I put on them and force them to carry, even though they didn’t ask for it. I have to have somewhere to put it, and they’re usually an ideal spot in my mind: they don’t have to consent to carry it.
The Biblical model for this whole human practice, by the way, is the Scapegoat. It’s a totally human, and apparently ancient, thing that we do.
Check out Leviticus 16 if you’re interested…the Christian tradition’s most damaged atonement models flow from this idea. And, I would posit, scapegoating is damaging all around, for everyone, both the goat and the “scaper.”
While having scapegoats, having Huckleberries, seem to be an important part of what it means to be a human with issues (and we all have issues), scapegoats (or, as I prefer it, Huckleberries) prevent you from ever confronting your own crap.
And instead, the Huckleberry becomes the embodiment of our issues. Our issues with legs on. Our issues that can talk and smile and do good…which makes us dislike them all the more.
See, we all know this intellectually. We know this. We know it’s a problem; we know it’s a manufactured malady that we create to deal with life.
And yet, we will do all sorts of mental and emotional gymnastics to justify having a Huckleberry. Because we will run away from our shadows for as long as we can…and some of us have become very good at it, and the Huckleberries grow on every tree, and as long as we never have to deal with our issues, but can misplace them onto others, well, we’ll go on…
And so will our issues.
Part of what the helping professions do, I think, is take it on the chin for folks who just need a Huckleberry. It’s just true. And I say that with no amount of romanticism or martyrdom or any of that useless mess.
The world doesn’t need any more martyrs. What I’m trying to talk about is truth.
And the truth is that as long as we use religion as the harbor for our misplaced issues, it can never do what it’s intended to do: free us.
Instead it just becomes the storehouse for the issues we hoard away. A living museum of our personal problems transferred from one person to another.
And no one needs that enshrined…
So here’s an idea: let’s all start unloading our scapegoats and taking back our own issues. Leave your pastor, your musician, your teacher, your social worker, your doctor, your parents, your whomever out of your issues.
Let’s all start working through them, piece by piece, and clear out the rummage sale of religious baggage out there a bit so that the church can be a place of healing. The church has enough issues of its own, they don’t need yours!
But the trick is, of course, that you can’t store them anywhere else, either. You have to start sorting them out, bit by bit.
I mean, it’s worth a try.
Because as long as you have a Huckleberry, you’re stuck working through your stuff from afar.
Because, in all honesty: you’re your own Huckleberry.