By Rev. Kathy Bird DeYoung
Spirituality often becomes more important to us in times of tragedy, loss, suffering and illness because it connects us to both our higher power and those around us, helps us to find meaning and purpose, and brings us hope and healing. Sometimes, these very same conditions can make us question ourselves, our spirituality and all we know. In our Spirituality and Emotional Health blog series, our clinicians and chaplains explore what it means to be spiritual beings, how it affects our interactions with the world and how we sometimes struggle with and question our own spirituality.
17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.”
As a Clinical Pastoral Educator at Pine Rest, I train chaplain interns and residents to provide effective spiritual care. However, through most of my ministry career (14 years) I served as a chaplain in retirement communities. It was an awesome and humbling experience for me to accompany seniors in this part of their lives, and God has used them to teach me much through the years.
No one is either just good or just bad.
As I reflect on the many experiences working with seniors, one of things that stands out for me is that there really are not “good” or “bad” people. Many times we hear people talk about others as being “good” or “bad.” Along these same lines some might even say, for example, “She has a good heart.” However, I’m learning that there are just people—people who are caught in difficulties and are trying to make the best of their situation. No one is either just good or just bad.
For example, one of the residents with whom I worked had dementia. Due to the illness he had lost the ability to express himself verbally. He would sometimes resort to hitting or even biting, because he couldn’t say what he wanted or needed in words. Was this resident a bad person? Absolutely not—he was just caught in a difficult situation and trying to communicate.
I have realized that, in one way or another, this is true for all of us.
- All of us sin and make mistakes.
- Some are wounded from childhood abuse and carry these wounds into adulthood. (One in four women and one in six men have been sexually abused.)
- Some are under tremendous stress and feel overwhelmed, perhaps with health issues or family problems.
All of this impacts how we behave in particular situations and circumstances. The bottom line is that we are all trying to make the best of whatever situation in which we find ourselves.
As humans we have a tendency to think in terms of people being good or bad. The truth is we have a mix in of both in all of us all the time.
I have found, as a Christian, it is helpful to think of myself and each person I encounter as having been made in God’s image and loved by God. This truth helps me to have compassion rather than judgment for others and to reflect the Good News of hope and healing with those around us.
Rev. Kathy Bird DeYoung is a certified Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor through the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. She is an ordained minister with American Baptist Churches USA. Rev. Kathy is also a Board Certified Chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains.