Where were we? Okay, so in the first part of this post we had covered the definitions of assertiveness and a bit about the definitions of what assertiveness is and how I see assertiveness to work based on my studies and teaching of stress, trauma, and conflict communication as well as my life experiences.
In this part, I’ll be discussing how this applies to spirituality, and what I mean by assertive spirituality.
To be honest, I was a little shocked when I realized no one had previously claimed assertivespirituality.com as a domain name. It just seemed so obvious to me that these definitions fit incredibly well with the “love your neighbor as yourself” concept that is often seen to be at the heart of Christianity. (You know, that concept that’s also the basis of the golden rule found in Christianity and other religions. Oh, yes, and there’s also the prophetic voices you see assertively speaking truth to power in the Bible and elsewhere.)
It’s just that a lot of the time, sadly, the culture of many forms of power structures–including religious power structures–have often marinated in a fear and squashing of disagreement. As many have pointed out, this tendency has become sadly endemic in some forms of Christianity. This tendency has progressed to the extent where those who disagree with the way things are thought or interpreted or done are often either aggressively or passive-aggressively ostracized.
This culture of what communication scholars call groupthink is strongly unfortunate, and is in my view exactly the kind of spirituality that has been called out by prophetic voices since Jesus and before. This culture of Christian groupthink has caused a lot of hurt, both purposeful and unintentional.
We currently live in an age where this culture of groupthink has taken a peculiarly strange turn, and I know a lot of us are trying to cope with that in as healthy a way as possible. And so I (assertively) thought it was high time we focus a conversation specifically about how our conflict styles and our spiritualities get oddly confused by our upbringings, by cultural surroundings, by power dynamics, and by our perceptions of our own and others’ traditions of spirituality. I’m hoping this blog can be a place for assertive, honest talk focusing specifically how these things can hurt as well as help us all as well as said traditions.
It took me awhile to come to full awareness of it, but now I realize that I intuitively moved toward a PhD in Communication so that I could work toward unwinding the puzzles of healthy influence and conflict styles for myself as well as others. I hope whatever wisdom and knowledge I learned along the way will be useful to you as well. And I hope that we can all use the discussion here to improve our practice of assertive spirituality. (Do let me know if there’s any way I can help you with your goals surrounding that, both within the blog or outside of it. I hope to make this into a broader community and endeavor.)
I don’t pretend to be the only one talking about or working through such things, or to have achieved some sort of perfect grasp on the subject. And so I hope others will come to join the discussion here as well. But I do have lots of thoughts that have been running around from my experiences and the studies and teaching experiences that have emerged from and alongside them. And I hope to use this space to put those thoughts down as well as to engage with others’ thoughts, both in the posts and in the comments.
Some important disclaimers before I move ahead:
I currently define myself as a progressive Christian. I’m based in the United States, though I have some experience of other cultures and have taught a diverse range of students at different universities. To understand my background, I’m a pastor’s kid raised in a Christian denomination a mentor once helpfully described as on the borderline between evangelical and mainline Protestant denominations. I’ve spent a lot of time in a wide ecumenical variety of Christian organizations over the years, and that’s my strongest grounding. That means all of these things will be informing where I’m coming from. But I hope to make this space hospitable to those who have been hurt by these traditions as well as those from other traditions and cultures and those who don’t attach themselves to a particular spiritual or religious tradition. (Oh, and just to be clear, my views expressed here are my own, and not those of the public university where I teach.)
Please do let me know about any ways I can help you out with your journey along the way. And thanks for stopping by.
Next up in a few days: A series diving into how Henri Nouwen, Brene Brown, and D. S. Leiter all see assertiveness (spoiler alert: all views are valuable, but we’ll end up needing all of them!)
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