Dear Savvy Sister: I talked to a pastor, and he didn’t talk back. Bastard.

IMG_2614Dear Savvy Sister,

I’m going thru a life changing, emotional, difficult change in my life and I have asked for guidance. I went to a local pastor, known for tolerance and acceptance, although I am not a member of his congregation.

He met with me for about 2 hours and I felt he understood my issues and could help. Actually, he assured me he would help – and said he needed two or three days to process this. I sent him an email a week after not hearing from him, and he responded with a plausible excuse. Several days later, I wrote again, indicating I was pretty much desperate and would like like to know if he could talk again. He assured me that yes, “We are here to help.” After about four weeks of not hearing from him, I wrote a blunt note about how I was disappointed that I had shared so much with him, and that I kind of felt abused that he hadn’t followed up on his promise to help. He immediately wrote back that I should have considered that people in his church were ill, and that I should have considered the church and others first. (Keep in mind that he had written me, “I will be in touch with you next week” Jan. 20, and I responded Feb. 21 asking for an answer.) He then wished me well and ended communication.

Are there churches – or any real communities – that help others? Nearly every day in Dear Abby she advises to people to find a pastor to talk to. 
Did I expect too much from reaching out to the church, and is there really anywhere in the community to find help if you can not afford an attorney or therapist?

Signed, 

Selfish?

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Dear Selfish,

For the love of the Savvy Sister, stop reading Dear Abby. For one thing, she’s dead. She died last month. Secondly, why would you take advice from a woman who spent her whole life estranged from her twin sister, rival advice columnist Ann Landers? Idiots. Could someone explain to me again why I’m not wildly successful?

Listen, when I was 17, I had a date with a kid who….um…..well, let’s just say I had some confessing to do. The next morning, I attended church with my grandparents, and approached the priest after Mass. I was distraught – PANICKED. Afraid I was pregnant, filled with self-loathing, certain I needed to run away and live out my time as a small-town waitress with a tiny dog as my only companion.

I told this priest EXACTLY what had happened. Really. I didn’t leave out a single detail. I was sobbing, but I’m pretty sure he understood me. By the time I was done, his eyes had sort of glazed over. Then he advised me to say a few Hail Marys and an Act of Contrition. He might have thrown in a Glory Be or two.

What kind of advice was that, huh? I’ll tell you. It was FREE advice. Please note here that I’m ignoring my usual aversion to ending sentences with prepositions to remind you that: we generally get what we pay for. (EXCEPT HERE IN THE SAVVY SISTER COLUMN. YOU PEOPLE PAY ME WITH PRAISE.)

First, let’s deal with what I’m guessing is your main reason for writing: this insensitive man’s heartless rejection of you. You’re seeking reassurance from the Sister that you were wronged. So here you go: YOU WERE WRONGED.

And while it’s a stretch, I think, to call yourself “abused” by the incident, certainly it was unprofessional and needlessly cruel for him to let you rattle on about your intimate dilemmas unless he had every intention of helping you resolve them. And though it’s true that his first obligation is to his congregation, at the very least, he should have made some calls and referred you to someone reliable who could be of more service. So consider yourself validated: you reached out to a community leader who did not fulfill his moral obligation to minister unto the spiritually needy. DAMN HIM.

But you are not off the hook, Selfish. You should choose a mental or spiritual advisor as though your life hangs in the balance – because it does. Why would you confide your deepest fears and concerns to a man who – let’s face it – just seems like a nice guy? Pastors don’t know everything. Some of them don’t know anything. I just now checked, and I can be a pastor, too! For free! By tomorrow!

Yes, there are people who can help guide you, and although a good, trained therapist is worth the cost, I’m confident you can find some free advice with a little initiative. I recognize that when you’re depressed or filled with despair, you’re don’t possess oodles of initiative. But this is part of the process – Step 1, recognizing you need help. DONE! Step 2, finding the help you need.

If you absolutely want to go a person of the cloth, you will have to do some reconnaissance work. (Side note: Unless your issue is of a spiritual nature, I think that’s like taking antibiotics to help cure diabetes. But whatevs.) Ideally, have someone refer you. But if you’re going to wing it, go to a service at a church that’s progressive and inclusive; make sure the vibe feels right. Introduce yourself to the pastor. Wait a few days, then go to another service. And then – before you verbally regurgitate, privately explain to the preacher exactly what you need help with, and ask whether he/she feels qualified to assist you. Keep in mind that you might have to listen to a few frogs before you find your liturgical prince. In meantime, read Anne Lamott’s new book entitled Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. That should keep you off the ledge.

BUT. I strongly urge you to go the therapist route. Lots of them take insurance, you know. And nearly every community has a counseling center that accepts payment on a sliding scale.

Talk to some people you trust, and explain exactly what you need, and the type of person you require. Ask for referrals. I’m not being all man-hater, but it sounds to me like you need a woman advisor.

As a side note, it’s absolutely not fair that some people – like this dude in whom you confided – hold jobs they’re not entirely qualified to do. It’s further proof that: GUESS WHAT? LIFE’S NOT FAIR. And all you can do is feel sorry for yourself for an hour or so. Then move on. Ultimately, the person most qualified to help you is you; your job in this case is to be choosier about your confidantes. So chin up, Selfish. Cry for a few minutes, watch a Lifetime movie, and then start interviewing. In the meantime, take some long walks, get lots of sleep, and prepare yourself for the hard work ahead. The better the advisor, the more arduous the journey will be. Again, NOT FAIR. But in the long run, it’s exactly what you need.

Peace to you~

the Savvy Sister

12 responses to Dear Savvy Sister: I talked to a pastor, and he didn’t talk back. Bastard.

  1. Debbie Johnston says:

    If you are seeking a pastor – check in at Palms Pres / pastor Tom Walker
    *I find it eerily amusing that I find him to be one who Walks the Walk and doesnt just Talk the Talk and his name is Walker! haha
    But if it is literally that intense for the help you need ~ please reach to a therapist and Womens Centers in Jax Beach have some GREAT counselors — for free.
    Best to you!

    • tricia says:

      Great advice, Debbie. Thanks for reading, and reaching out!

  2. LU says:

    Right on Savvy Sister! You will be paid for your talent and excellent advise. Someday. I think you are waiting for the children to get older and more self-reliant. Then, I think the doors and windows are going to bust wide open. Oh and one last comment, your advise just helped me. No, wait one more comment, to appease my insecure side tell me you will remember those of us who “knew you when”.

    • tricia says:

      Artist Lu, if that happens, I will call you to paint brilliant art on the walls of my beachfront writing studio! Then I will never forget you, even when my mind starts to slip.

  3. Gale says:

    Damn if I don’t feel better and I wasn’t even the one seeking advice. It’s fortifying just to hear a woman take up for another woman with such solidarity.

    • tricia says:

      Gale, just thinking of you makes me feel calmer. You rock.

  4. donna says:

    I love Anne Lamott…everytime I read her, I want to go to her wonderful church in Berkeley. I love the stories she tells of her minister (a woman). I want to live with her and babysit her grandson….kay, enough about me.

    • Tricia E. Bratton says:

      actually her church is in Marin City, on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

      Great persona, Savvy Sister. Much more entertaining than Dear Abby!

      • tricia says:

        I KNOW, RIGHT? But I can’t grow those dreadlocks.

  5. Susanna Barton says:

    Anne Lamott rocks! And so do you SS…it’s a reminder how invested we should be in someone’s biz when they are comfortable enough to share…clergy, lay person, joe-joe, whoever we are.

    • tricia says:

      Exactly! Too often we forget how important we are to other people. Thanks, Susanna!

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