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How to Benefit from a Clergy Relationship

In the dark periods of a divorce process, a clergyperson's presence can feel like a gift from God. But maximizing the benefits of a clergy relationship requires three things from you: realistic expectations, willingness to listen and awareness of boundaries.

  • Expectations
    Clergy disagree on the merits of divorce. Some regard it as sinful under all circumstances and will always steer you to reconcile. Others accept it as a necessary step, akin to death and rebirth, for certain people who've found reconciliation impossible. Don't assume you know a clergyperson?s philosophy on divorce just because you know his or her religious or denominational affiliation. Ask up front. Chances are you'll get a clear answer.

    Clergy do agree on this point: all human beings make mistakes and need forgiveness. What's more, clergy like to work with people who admit their weaknesses and want to grow stronger. To see clergy as people who expect perfection and want you to seem squeaky clean at all times is to misunderstand them. They want to help people in need, even those who share blame for their problems. And remember: clergy, too, are far from perfect. The good ones admit as much.

  • Seeking answers
    Clergypersons are beacons. They aspire to guide people back to the Source of all life and to personal peace via trust, hope and moral decision-making. Don't expect pat answers from them. If you get them, you're getting gypped. Listen for what the clergyperson is trying to tease to the surface. Expect inquiries so personal that they make you squirm a little. With thought-provoking questions that elicit cathartic emotions as well as helpful ideas, clergy steer struggling souls back to moorings that never move, even in times of crisis.

  • Boundaries
    If you're going through a divorce, you are very likely lonely and sad. The clergyperson may be lonely, too, and enjoy your company. However, at this transitional point in your life, it's usually best not to let the clergyperson's needs and your own get mixed up. A better course of action is to remember this person is here to help you recall who you are at the core and to establish for yourself what your life's purpose will be going forward. Let new love come later.

* NOTICE: * Any advice provided here represent the opionions and research of the writer and are for informational purposes only. For guidance relating to your specific needs, contact a professional.
About the Author:

The Rev. G. Jeffrey MacDonald is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and an independent journalist. His articles have appeared in TIME magazine, USA Today and The Washington Post among other national news outlets.
The Rev. G. Jeffrey MacDonald's recommendations for Divorce Partner visitors:
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