Can You Hear Me Now?

Recently a businesswomen’s group considered me as a speaker on anxiety. I heard from my contact that they had decided not to invite me after checking out my website because at least one woman was offended by my faith. I had a tangle of reactions upon hearing this. Disappointment: I love speaking. I’m probably a better speaker than I am a therapist! Indignation: What? I’m not a qualified speaker on anxiety because of my religious views? What worldview would be acceptable? Anger: What are they thinking rejecting me! Resignation: I am who I am and I’ve made that pretty public. Sort of a sad world in which we live.

People like me don’t win the contest of persecution or personal prejudices—I don’t want to start that dialogue. What I do want to open up is a question that this situation raised in me. Who am I unwilling to listen to? This group that didn’t want me speaking on anxiety….maybe they thought I’d turn a lecture on anxiety into an opportunity for a “Come to Jesus” meeting. I can see it now, so you’re avoiding flying in airplanes because of your anxiety?….how about avoiding HELL???? Maybe that’s exactly what has happened to them in the past. I remember being invited to a seminar on rock music in high school that was actually a play-the-music-backwards-and-it-says-worship-satan infomercial. It was a bait and switch and I was burned by it! Or how about those half-hour buy-a-condo pitches that wind up sucking half your day while you’re on vacation? We’ve all had experiences like this and, truth be told, it isn’t easy to recover! And if I’m honest, am I willing to listen to members of a certain political party, professional affiliation, ethnicity, or religion talk about social justice, anxiety treatment, privilege, or equality? Who have I disqualified to teach me and on what subjects?

I’ve had lots of surprises in my life that merit remembering:

  • I learned a lot about sex from an author who is a celibate priest.
  • I learned about what it means to deeply contemplate uncertainty from someone with OCD.
  • I learned about how I want to honor my clients from my teacher who comes from an entirely different faith background than me.

In my counseling practice, some of my clients have no idea of my faith, while others specifically seek me out because of it. I hope to honor them by resisting disqualification in my own heart. What does it look like to live well in a world where we are all impacted by predispositions and attitudes that bother us? How do we bring our expertise into situations with our whole selves and our whole stories while respecting the autonomy of others? These are questions not easily answered but the only true starting place I see is with each individual.

How do we become people who are willing to look closely at the temptation to disqualify folks? What surprises do you remember that can help us stave off the temptation?

8 comments


  • I would hope people could learn that the merits of ones speech, presentation or arguement should be evaluated independent of ones faith, education, qualif

    May 10, 2012
  • …qualifications, or lack of faith. I think this is something we teach to younger generations and a value I remind myself to engage in regularly.

    May 10, 2012
  • Coli Cole-French

    “How do we bring our expertise into situations with our whole selves and our whole stories while respecting the autonomy of others?” Yes, because one option is “checking faith/personality/opinions at the door” and doing that frequently erodes honesty, integrity and meaningful connection or as you say learning. I’ll be reflecting on this today as well as how do I invite others to bring their whole selves and stories into relationship with me.

    May 10, 2012
    • Janice

      I really like your reflection, Coli.

      May 10, 2012
  • I am struck by the personal learning that you took from this experience — and it prompts me to look at my own stereotyping. How unfortunate for that business group that they are truly missing out on a gifted speaker

    May 10, 2012
  • Doug Wolfe

    Maybe the woman was not so much offended as anxious. Ironic, if that is the case, since you were going to talk about anxiety. Sometimes fear is at the heart of a feeling of offense, anger, or (you fill in the emotion.) Fear wears many faces.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

    May 10, 2012
  • Pat

    Thank you, Janice, for yet another movingly beautiful reflection. They keep me on target to be my best me.

    May 11, 2012
  • Elise Rittler

    One of my favorite, unexpected benefits from my graduate program was getting the opportunity to interact closely with people who did not have the same perspective or background as me. I learned so much! For someone who has lived in the same place all my life (except when I went to college far, far away, in Virginia) this was such a helpful experience for me. I love the way you put it, “honor them by resisting disqualification in my own heart.” What a great reminder to guard against closing myself off from what others have to offer.

    May 11, 2012

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