Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For Our Sweet Bishops


I have a deep respect and love for every bishop that has ever or will serve. 

If you are a bishop (or other Priesthood leader), this post is for you.

I appreciate your effort to lead and guide God's children home. I have a personal testimony that you are absolutely called by God to act on behalf of His loving Son.

I also know that you are human and sometimes need extra help in understanding addiction and how to offer support to those who come to you with their struggle. Not all bishops know how to react when sexual sins are being confessed let alone what to say or do. You may be left floundering and have no idea how to help someone who is showing signs of sexually addictive behavior.

You might even wonder what sexually addictive behavior even is.

It might be helpful to ask the following questions to determine how deep their behavior runs:
  1. Do you have a problem with masturbation and/or pornography (including returning to it after long periods of abstinence)?
  2. Do you read sexually explicit books?
  3. Do you have sexually suggestive or sexually explicit conversations, text messages (sexting), chats, video chats or instant messages?
  4. Do you resort to sexual stimuli to escape, relieve anxiety, or because you can’t cope?
  5. Have you ever tried to stop or limit doing what you felt was wrong in your sexual behavior but seem to always return to it?
  6. Have you ever thought you would be better off if you didn't keep “giving in?"
  7. Have you ever thought you needed help for your sexual thinking or behavior?
  8. Does your sexual behavior leave you feeling depressed, worthless and hopeless?
  9. Do you feel deeply embedded shame for your sexual behavior?
If they affirmatively answer any of these questions, they are likely struggling with sexual addiction.

Please don't discount those coming in to speak with you. They are likely battling great fear--fear of what you will think, fear of how you will react, and fear of consequence. Sometimes they might even fear lack of consequence. They may have been told many times before that their behavior is just a bad habit founded in choice and they can simply choose to stop anytime they want.  

Not true.

Telling someone they can simply choose to stop the behavior has the potential to leave them feeling much worse. They may feel that if you, their bishop, tell them they have the ability to stop they must be abnormal, or worse, beyond the reach of our Savior's Grace, because up to that point they have not been able to stop.

If what they struggle with truly is addiction it is likely they have tried time and again to stop. But because their brain is addicted to the pleasure drugs being released when they act out, they simply cannot. They no longer have control. They have lost the ability to choose. They have been robbed of their agency.

It takes much more than simple choice to recover. It takes a healthy 12-step program, an active support system, weekly (or regularly scheduled) visits with you, hard work, willingness to get back up again after a crash, and plenty of encouragement.

Also, please keep in mind that more often than not you will likely be their first point of contact. Your reactions, and actions, count. Please know that we watch your facial expressions as well as your body language.  We look for any sign of disgust. We are looking to see if the lies we've believed for so long are true:

Don't go see your bishop, he'll hate you. 
You'll disappoint him.  
He'll think less of you.  

It takes great faith and trust to ignore the thundering noise in our heads. If you react at all negatively you may be feeding the belief that we already have of ourselves. 

It is also likely that the first confession is not the full confession. Continue to love the person in your care. Be inviting and strive to create a safe place for them to share openly. Help them heal. Overall, be patient with them, and never leave them feeling like you don't have time for them.

Be a direct line of contact. Having to make appointments with the executive secretary can sometimes be a huge deterrent. We are scared that he will ask why we need to see you, or that he'll assume the worst. Invite your congregation to slip you a note, text, email or ask you directly if they need to speak to you, but are too nervous to go through traditional channels.

Allow them to meet with you as often as necessary. Sometimes we don't need to visit with you because we have slipped, but simply need to feel the love of our Savior. We have floundered so long in the darkness, that sometimes your office is the closest we feel to our Savior. We need your guidance, your compassion, your empathy. 

Do you ever wish you had a list of do's and don'ts when it comes to supporting someone as they strive to overcome their addiction?

Below you will find a list of "Dear Bishop Letters"... these letters are written anonymously to current/previous bishops by the women they have worked with. The purpose is to help you understand what has worked and what hasn't worked in their meetings together:  

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I have been lucky to have some awesome bishops.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for sharing a moment with me:-)

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"