Thanks, Trish, and Joy, for your affirming comments. I’m glad to know I am not the only one out there questioning the presumption of martyrdom! Joy, hearing your support and resonance with my post really helped me feel less alone. Thank you for your openness and your sensitivity!

And Trish, wow! I have heard mention of your abusive relationship before, but this is the first time it really registered on the acute scale it must have been for you. I know that many pastoral homes are nothing like the public persona presented to the congregation, but it certainly sounds like yours was an extreme version of that. I’m so glad you were able to speak your truth and honor yourself by getting the divorce.

I love your reflections on shame. I am not fond of shame, as I feel it does not serve any useful or constructive purpose whatsoever. I was dumbfounded by your comment that you were shamed for divorcing your abusive husband! Something has gone seriously wrong with our culture when we shame the oppressed/victimized person and glorify the oppressor! But that is so often what happens, isn’t it?

And I very much appreciated what both of you have said about fear and its importance. Anxiety is one thing, and it can be pathological at times. But fear is a very useful human response, and one we should pay attention to and honor. I feel badly for your daughter, Trish, who perhaps out of her own fear needs you to refrain from having any negative emotions, about cancer, no less! I think we need the negative and the positive experiences to dance with each other. And we need to have the self awareness and the honesty with ourselves to recognize that we all have a mix of both positive and negative emotions. I’m a big believer in paradox. If we have never had a bad day, we would have absolutely no frame of reference for a good day, and might never be able to fully appreciate it when it shows up.

I’m more in the vein of “Be afraid, and live your best life anyway–through the fear, around the fear, (sometimes) overcoming the fear, listening to and learning from the fear.”

Thanks again to both of you for your wisdom, gentleness, and finding your own paths of truth and integrity in your lives. I believe we are lighting the path for each other when we do that.