Why Religious Leaders Need To Share Their Personal Challenges (STR) – Episode 29

Why religious leaders need to share their personal challenges - Episode 29A problem shared is a problem halved. Isn’t that why most of us choose to share our troubles and difficulties with our loved ones? We value their advice, their insight, and their support. In this episode of The Missing Conversation, Robert and Dave share how religious and spiritual leaders can extrapolate this idea by sharing their own challenging issues to help their community better.

We tend to place teachers of formal religion or leaders in spirituality on a pedestal. While believers and practitioners may take advice from them, rarely do we see help flow the other way around. What if, instead of shouldering their personal challenges alone, these leaders turned around and shared their troublesome issues openly? This would create a relationship of mutual respect and trust while humanizing leaders. It would also support them to relate to people in a more complete and authentic way. 

In doing this, not only will people be able to see how to deal with similar challenges, but they will also learn how to apply their religion’s teachings to help resolve or get through difficult times as modeled by their teachers. In addition, leaders would be able to help themselves and others by being vulnerable, open, and transparent. When leaders partake in their communities on the same level, it supports self-acceptance and helps everyone build a friendlier attitude to themselves and others. After all, the example teachers and leaders set is critical in how supported and accepted the people feel when dealing with their own most difficult emotions and situations.

For those who have difficulty figuring out what exactly they’re feeling, Robert recommends the first Introspective Guide that has 75 of the most challenging emotions that will help you put a name to what you’re facing. Learning how to name our feelings precisely is immensely valuable in discovering what we need.

Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
Awareness That Heals: The Introspective Guides

Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast

Announcer: (00:01)
The Missing Conversation, Episode 29.

Robert Strock: (00:05)
We’re going to explore how we can as students and teachers alike realize it’s our honesty, our values actions, attitudes that need to be made the core of what we deem as truly the spirit that matters.

Announcer: (00:26)
On this podcast we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.

Robert Strock: (01:04)
Welcome again to The Missing Conversation where we address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today. And we’re looking for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support a greater chance of survival for our planet. Today, we’re going to continue to go more deeply into how we can add benefits to religions and spirituality, as well as students, teachers, and ministers of all kinds. The greatest potential lies for us focusing as human beings and focusing, especially on our values, thoughts, actions, and attitudes. As we began to touch in the last episode on the beliefs, traditions, rituals that have led to becoming more important than the pure motivations and love for humanity, the earth, and all those that need it. It highlighted that many of the faces throughout history, including now, have fallen prey to that occurring. We also will penetrate more deeply into how it’s almost universal and commonplace that this is compounded by the spiritual and religious leaders not revealing their own shadow sides of what are their own personal challenges and include that as part of their teachings or religion.

Robert Strock: (03:00)
And because they have left these challenges in their own personal lives, there’s all too great of a danger of it going to their unconscious. And therefore, it is often come out, as we’ve all seen, sideways with war alienation, superiority competition, and sexual perversions. We’re going to explore how we can, as students and teachers alike, realize it’s our honesty, our values, actions, attitudes that need to be made the core of what we deem as truly the spirit that matters. We are as Buckminster fuller said a verb, always in interaction and action with ourselves and those around us. This is true with facing our challenges and looking for the qualities and actions that can help us heal and also heal those around us. For those of you that find it hard to specify exactly what your challenges are, or if you’re able to find your challenges and can’t find what might be the essential qualities and actions that would help you, please go to awarenessthatheals.org, there’s a list of 75 challenging feelings and seventy-five actions and essential qualities that will help us move toward healing.

Robert Strock: (04:47)
So, I’m going to start with giving the first example of many examples of teachers that I believe could have helped thousands of people and still could, if they were to reveal what their challenge is that’s most significant for them, and how they used the teaching to actually support themselves. Now, this is so crucial because we look up to these people and what if they really revealed the challenge that you’re facing and you could use their wisdom and their practice in your life rather than predominantly experiencing them. If not dominantly experiencing them as arrived or compassionate, peaceful, meditative, calm. I’m not going to mention any names because the point of this podcast is not in any way to be critical toward any. So, this man was, and I hope this word is political, correct obese, and has been around for 40 years. And I’ve had several conversations with him about why don’t you share, and please, I’m always delicate with this.

Robert Strock: (06:23)
Please allow me to address this issue because I know it probably is a delicate one what your best methods are with your teachings as to how you help support your inner life and explicate this and see it as a possibility of how it could benefit so many tens of thousands of people that are suffering from the same condition. And it’s really hundreds of thousands, if not millions and emphasizes meditation. So, I asked how does meditation relate to this? Can you see that the members of your community would be so benefited, if you could share what your thought process has been and how it’s evolved through the years? Now, it’s important to mention that this teacher is still obese. There’s been no change, but there’s never been a commentary that I’m aware of as to what the process is, and if there is one, it was a small one, it wasn’t a central part of the teaching.

Robert Strock: (07:38)
It wasn’t a central part of his books. So, the question would naturally arise. Is there a glandular problem? And if so, maybe you have difficulty in how you’re being seen and you can help people how they’re being seen who have glandular problems, because that is an extraordinarily painful issue for probably 1 or 2% of our country. If not more, are you an overeater? Is there a tendency that you have not been able to control with overeating, or might it be a combination that would probably be even more beneficial to being such a loving example in so many ways and imparting so much wisdom, but ignoring the elephant in the room, pardon the expression, did not mean that and not addressing the obvious and you probably have a large percentage of people every time you present to your large audience, you could include your efforts and your failures and how wonderful would that be for people who are suffering with the same thing.

Robert Strock: (09:03)
Now, you who are hearing this, probably a good percentage of you are dealing with this. Can you see how beneficial it might’ve been to support self-acceptance to support a friendlier attitude toward yourself when you’re being seen a certain way, or if you can’t have control of certain part of your impulses, but beyond that, you’re extraordinary or you’re great, or you’re a good person and how you can keep your focus on what you do best. And maybe it will give you a hint of how to work with it directly to get your body more in shape. And maybe it won’t, we all have issues. And as you see the many examples that are not exposed, I guarantee you, you will identify directly with, at least one of them.

Dave: (10:10)
Just want to say, as you speak about this, uh, that I’d like to hear from you, the strength of your feelings about it, I know how strong they are. And this is one example that is a relatively compared to some of the things you will, I know go into because I know you for 50 years go into, um, but the example teachers set, or don’t, the way that impacts as you’re describing people who do or don’t feel supported, uh, to accept themselves, but are looking at somebody that’s in really an aversion or denial. And I just know how strong you feel about that. And we’d like to hear that part of you.

Robert Strock: (10:59)
Uh, I’ve got to thank you so much for giving me that opening, speaking loosely, it’s driven me crazy. I really really feel this is one of the greatest tragedies of our time it’s one of the greatest tragedies before our time. It’s this compartmentalization of looking at the ultimate goal and believing that any of us can arrive there and ignoring our challenges. That’s led to war, that’s led to alienation, and religions and spirituality have been a mainstay of our world forever and probably will continue to be. And if we don’t integrate a human example as a spiritual teacher that is causing us to pursue the absolute ideal of whatever the teaching is and lends to ignoring the challenges that would allow us to have a better chance of making progress. And every group, either in the religious or spiritual, or in the, the formally non-religious and spiritual has an ideal.

Robert Strock: (12:16)
And all of these groups are in danger of not facing their challenges. And so, they can be wonderful people, but their subconscious suppressed anger, competition insecurity, inadequacy, fear, jealousy, all of that’s going to come outside sideways and it has, and it’s obvious. And so, yes, I feel very passionate that this is really probably the number one thing that religious teachers, spiritual teachers, and students, especially students who I suspect is the majority that are listening right now. You need to ask your teachers nicely, with respect, with great sensitivity. Would you mind sharing a bit more of where you are challenged? Because I know it will help all of us in the group because we have a tendency to want to arrive and not to want to be human, trying to arrive and recognize that that’s virtually inevitable for all of us until we die. And none of us are going to arrive before we die.

Robert Strock: (13:32)
You know, and I leave room open that there might be one or two of us, but it’s much better to deal with the 99.999, 9% of us, and be an example of a process rather than a conclusion. So, I’ll use my own example of a hell that I went through. And to some extent, still have elements of it in my life where I’ve mentioned this in prior episodes. When I had my kidney transplant, I had a severe and very unusual reaction to the transplant medications, which I have to take for life. And I slept for an hour for six months and then basically slept mediocre for the next six years. And I was in a chronic state of exhaustion, depression, emptiness, anxiety. And I had to, as a guide, as a teacher, cause I consider myself to be a cross between a therapist, and a teacher.

Robert Strock: (14:44)
I had to ask myself, how could I use my teachings and what teachings did I need to evolve to be able to survive and thrive. Even though I realized I couldn’t do anything to feel love, compassion, joy, and my same degree of tenderness and many other things. So, what did I have access to? I still had access to a certain amount of wisdom as to what’s going to be helpful to everybody. You know what the way was to focus on our intentions, to be caring toward others, to have our attitudes, to be caring toward others and to use my will. Those were the areas that were not knocked out and compromised. That’s exactly what we need to do. If we are a teacher it’s to see when we’re screwed or when we’re partially screwed, how do we use our teachings and how do we share that with our students so that they can benefit from that?

Robert Strock: (16:02)
That’s been a major part of my teaching for the last 21 and a half years. All of the examples that any of us could give throughout our life as teachers or ministers or preachers or any kind of leaders of faith would be immensely helpful. Just imagine a bullseye you’re dealing with this issue and the teacher has this issue, and they’re telling you exactly in your terms, in your congregation, how they dealt with it. It gives me goose pimples to imagine the teacher saying, gee, I have an issue with insecurity and this is how I deal with it. And you have an issue with insecurity and how do you become kind toward insecurity? How do you make it, your friend? How do you not suppress it, but not let it dominate you? How did the teacher show you how to do it? And the same would be true with anything that a teacher was, was courageous enough, generous enough, out of the box enough, to really bring that to you.

Dave: (17:24)
Just want to relate to students for a second. And a students need to have somebody on a pedestal putting aside for a second the teachers and their need to be on a pedestal, which is another issue altogether. And your view on students that need that and how they would take to and will be open to a vulnerable teacher, or will they simply reject it?

Robert Strock: (17:55)
That’s a question that I’m going to go into great detail in later on, but I’ll give a short answer. Now. I think there’ll be a certain amount of fallout because those students are really looking for the teacher to be perfect, which is going to hold them back, but they’re going to be content in just having a father figure who’s the ideal that they’ll never reach. So, it will, it would result in a great limitation if the teacher became more human, especially if it wasn’t the areas that were directly relating to them. And so, what I would call that as very, very worthwhile collateral damage. So one of the questions that I think it’s good for all of us to ask, would we feel comfortable enough to ask our teachers to reveal more about their challenges?

Robert Strock: (19:15)
And I think if you take a close look, you’ll notice how likely this is to be scary. It may be even, be a form of excommunication or ridicule or rejection, which might be one of your hot buttons. And you’ll notice that in many traditions, it’s frequently a sacred cow feeling that you shouldn’t ask partially because you can sense it, partially you can see that no one else has been asking it. And as we described before, resistance to asking these kinds of questions or even seriously thinking about them serves the teacher and the potential need to be idealized, as well as the student in their wish to rely on someone who quote “knows,” so they can be comforted as they look for confidence. And on the outside and unwittingly are avoiding their own challenges. Now this relates a lot to what you were saying, Dave, and, and it’s just the very beginning of what we’re going to delve into.

Robert Strock: (20:36)
Do you have the self-trust to ask with kindness and sincerity, this lack of questioning is normally viewed as a kind of loyalty or respect when I believe oftentimes, and really, I would say most times, is actually a form of codependency using the broadest of terms. Now, what do I mean by codependency? What I mean by that is the weakest part of me and the weakest part of you are agreeing to not really grow. That means I’m going to put you up on a pedestal and you’re going to be content to be there. And that leaves you in a place where you don’t get to have mirrored for you, both the challenge and the guidelines, or some guidelines, or some hints, or clues as to how you can move in a direction in the very area that’s most challenging for you. We’re taught to think, I won’t ask you about where you’re challenged and I’ll still revere you, that’s all too common. It would frequently be considered offensive or being too personal. I don’t believe this kind of respect is worthy. I do think it’s important to be sensitive. However, whenever we might have the courage to change the paradigm, because we’re really talking about changing the paradigm of what it means to be a religious or spiritual teacher.

Dave: (22:36)
As you describe, a student having a sensitivity to ask the question about vulnerability. Another side of that coin to me, which I’ve experienced many times is seeing something that, where I not in a relationship of co-dependence would, I would clearly see it as something’s off here, but I don’t even see it. I’m blind to what’s off. I’m blind to it. Can you speak to that? Because I know you understand exactly what I mean.

Robert Strock: (23:17)
I love your laugh. Uh, and I know you’ve been deeply experienced in this way. And I think the point you mentioned is very important that we really see it as maybe not even a vulnerability or we see it as a vulnerability, but we certainly don’t see it as an evolution.

Robert Strock: (23:45)
And so, it’s so important that we pause right now and longer than now to ask ourselves where might I disagree in any way at all? And what’s stopping me from having the courage and the clarity, because we might just have a fuzzy feeling like, oh, well, I’m going to sort of fall apart of it, but I still completely idealized or, or, or love the teacher and delving into that confusion or fog as being an act of heroism, an act of being true to yourself. And I’m a big believer in being true to yourself. You can’t be false to anyone, as Shakespeare says. And so, therefore it’s quite crucial that as Dave said that many of us aren’t even, let’s say aware that we’re holding back or even aware that we’re vulnerable. Now in Dave’s case, he was aware he was vulnerable, but some of us aren’t even aware of that. Some of us just are so wrapped up in the gratitude for having a path, having a belief system that we compartmentalize our whole human side or dominantly our human side and act as if they’re not related.

Robert Strock: (25:26)
And as I’ve mentioned, this has led to so many obvious perversions and we’re trying to isolate how come and what can you do with your teacher? What can you do with yourself, if you’re not oriented toward having a teacher to really challenge yourself, to broaden your perspective. And if you are in a teaching to really be one of the leaders as a student. Change the tradition. So, it’s so important that you think of an example that if a teacher were to model it, it would most help you. So, take a few seconds and go there, even more than following my words. If you’re there already just stay there. And imagine your teacher saying I have this issue and how much your ears would be perked up, how much potential there would be for learning gratitude. And also you being able to help yourself and more people how exponential this could be, how this could transform our very idea of what it means to be a spiritual or religious teacher or a proactive student.

Robert Strock: (27:03)
That from my vantage point is almost equally responsible for not facing themselves. So, my great hope is that this expose, which we’re again just barely beginning to get into, will lead you to have more courage to say, okay, where do I not fully embrace these traditions? Or where do I have challenges that I would like to ask the teacher to talk about? Or where do they have challenges that may help me, that you see that’s part of the spiritual path. And even if you’re someone who doesn’t see yourself as on a spiritual path, but has these kind of humanitarian or humanly sensitive values that you also ask yourself, where are my challenges? And am I facing my challenges? You might be a good person, but you still might not be facing your challenges, which is going to limit you and you can still go sideways to. So, my great hope is that this will be a catalyst and a support for you to face your challenges. Look for the best ways to move toward well-being and to ask this of your teachers and ministers and all the people that are serving that function in your life. Thank you very much.

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