The Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale
Whether it be death, divorce, loss of job, adolescent rebellion, family problems or any
one or combination of items identified on this scale, all have one thing in common. They
evoke fear and anxiety.
When fear and anxiety are incited, all kinds of things start happening. Intimacy
patterns are disrupted. Alliances and trusts are doubted. Anxious individuals fearfully
run away from what they had perceived to be "safe"--but find
"unsafe"--and flee to escape the
anxiety by either...
|Death of a Spouse
|Death of close family member
||Personal injury or illness
||Fired at work
|Change in health of family member
||Gain of a new family member
||Change in financial status
|Death of a close friend
||Change to different line of work
|Change in number of arguments with spouse
||Mortgage over $10,000
|Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
||Change in responsibilities at work
|Son or daughter leaving home
||Trouble with in-laws
|Outstanding personal achievement
||Spouse begins or stops work
|Begin or end school
||Change in living conditions
|Revision of personal habits
||Trouble with boss
|Change in work hours or conditions
||Change in residence
|Change in schools
||Change in recreation
|Change in church activities
||Change in social activities
|Mortgage or loan less than $10,000
||Change in sleeping habits
|Change in number of family get-togethers
||Change in eating habits
|Minor violation of the law
When one individual becomes anxious and/or fearful the greater danger is that this
anxiety can set off a chain reaction. Once it starts, the only way to stop it is to
try to alleviate anxiety. This can be done by...
1) escaping into isolation, or
- 2) fusing with other like-anxious types.
The Control Issue
Of course, the issue is control. Something that I have noticed in my personal counseling
is that high-fear and high-anxiety-level individuals tend to be controlling. They control their
environment either by escaping it or by overcoming it. Either way, the result is the same.
They strive to be in control of the forces of fear and anxiety. They strive
to maintain control of relationship. They strive to maintain total control of the tasks. Their
striving--and need--for control seeks to exceed not merely that of
the pastor and leadership, but of God Himself. It is here that they take
their furthest step away from the unconditional promise of non-abandonment
which grace gives.
It is this sort of compulsive control that "Twelve Step" processes address in
their first few steps. "Admit you are powerless....submit to a higher power..."
are strategies to transfer the control of fear and anxiety from themselves to
God. The major challenge for Christian ministry in this area, then, is to use God's Word
and congregational ministry to help lead, direct, support and urge this transformation.
- 1) intervention
- 2) allowing time
- 3) giving people a voice
- 4) publicly dealing with issues.
- 5) Allow their participation in the solution.
- 6) Giving pastoral support and attention
- 7) Prayer...
- and many other means.
Strategies For Countering Antagonist
- The truth is that effectively countering antagonists is more of an art than a science.
Countering them is more of a process--sometimes hit and miss--which may or may not work.
Indeed, even the most skillful mediators, pastors and Christian leaders can be overtaken
- 1) Preach "Fear Not"'s
- Yes, there is a risk in preaching on that which is the source and seat of the anxiety.
Yet "Fear Not" is the main result of the gospel of grace and forgiveness. There
are virtually hundreds of Scriptural references dealing with "Fear not."
Certainly if Scripture places that much emphasis on this dynamic, it becomes us to reflect
the urgency of this message in Christian ministries of every kind.
- 2) Avoid Legalistic Moralism.
- Merely preaching a sermon which lists what things to do to improve one's life does not
necessarily transform individuals. Indeed, such perfect standards and directives can
actually feed on individual and group anxieties. When the standards are "met,"
anxiety and fear are reinforced as they feed on "what if I fail? Or "Was it good
enough?" sorts of questions.
- 3) Preach Sweeter Gospel.
- Whenever people approach the Risen Christ they approach it with fear and anxiety until
they hear the words, "Fear not. He is not here. He is risen!" (Matthew 28: ??)
Isn't that where fear and anxiety is really taken away? It worked for Mary, Mary
Magdalene and the "other Mary." It worked for Peter, too. What's holding you
- 4) Preach "Twelve Steps" Processes
- This does not mean that you continue to go through teh 12 steps four times a year, and
take off only for Christmas, Palm Sunday, Easter, and your one Sunday off per year. But it
does mean that anxious and fearful ones in the congregation can be helped with regular
doses of "Twelve Step" concepts. These concepts include contentment, letting go,
powerlessness, repentance, confession, renewal, etc. Once one recognizes these concepts as
being spiritual keys for healthy, non-anxious functioning,
5) Develop A Consistently Non-Anxious Leadership Style
- Some pastors wonder why they have so many antagonists. Sometimes its because a pastor's
leadership style incites anxiety and fear. Reactivity, reclusiveness, detachment, lack of
vision and goals, poor communication, and a general lack of pastoral concern for people
are just some things pastors do which incite fear and anxiety.
- Extremes of legalism or license, unpredictability, workaholism, impatience,
judgmentalism, lack of self-differentiation, setting extremely/impossibly high standards
and goals, impatience, and other leadership behaviors can do the same. Given the large
number of clergy resignations, one wonders how many of them were due to the pastor's
conscious or unconscious inciting of fear and anxiety responses.
6) Develop A Vision For a Non-Anxious Church
- Churches ought never be totally anxiety free. There are good anxieties for churches.
Some of these relate to the anxiety of knowing that sinners will go to hell eternally
unless members respond to this need.
- Whatever things the healthy church must be anxious for, the key word is
"respond." Responding is a planned way to manage fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
It necessitates careful consideration, timely intervention, and communication to affected
parties. "React" on the other hand is rooted in anxiety and incites it, too.
- Certainly unexpected things do occur. But leadership which continues to cultivate a
non-anxious vision for God's church recognizes there are no such things as
"surprises." There are just "unforeseen opportunities.
- "Surprises" aren't always pleasant mostly because they are considered random,
threatening phenomena. "Unforeseen opportunities," on the other hand, are
recognized for what they are: special situations which God has allowed in a given ministry
to direct, shape, and propel its direction.
- Surprises can be scary. But isn't there a comfort in knowing that when "unforeseen
opportunities" arise that it's a sign of God's working in that ministry? If only we
could learn not to be so reactive to God's "unforeseen opportunities!"
7) Recognize Pastoral Care Situations
- One of the greatest examples of clergy malpractice is mis-labeling individuals as
antagonists...before, during and after their action of antagonism. Letting go of the hurt
they cause can be extremely difficult. Restoring them to leadership is even more risky.
Though it must be done with loving discernment and pastoral encouragement, it is what
Jesus did to Peter. There is virtually no one from whom we ought to withhold the Gospel,
regardless of the antagonism.
- One congregation had a long-term leader who served the church faithfully and vigorously
over the years. When the corporation for which his wife worked threatened downsizing and
massive lay-offs in successive periods of three months, and his own business was not
meeting his financial expectations and needs, this congregational pillar--in terms of both
involvement, pastoral support, and financial giving--this trusted individual and his
family became anxious.
- This anxiety was intensified by a seasonal financial shortfall in the church's receipts.
Personal anxieties and fears smoldered and festered. He shared his anxieties with others.
Because of his influence, others' did the "Christian" thing: they empathized and
showed they cared by sharing his anxiety.
- The result was that all this "caring" started a fear-anxiety holocaust
unprecedented in that congregation resulting in 2/3 loss of membership. Seeing this, the
long-term leader suffering greater anxiety did the only thing he could do to reduce
anxiety and gain control. He left the church. Unfortunately, the toughest
lessons of the
devastating affects of fear and anxiety are among life's most painful.
- Build On A Fear-Less Foundation
- Whatever one does to counter antagonism, the most important thing is to build on the
only real Foundation which can endure, namely Jesus Christ. He, after all, the cornerstone of our faith.
Why? Because His love casts out all fear.
- Perhaps that's the greatest tool Christians have to minister to fear: show
unconditional love, loving others as Christ has loved us. Why not "show
off them Gospel-tools" today to "fix the fear" in your
- Thomas F. Fischer
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
Copyright © 1997-2004 Ministry
Health, LLC All Rights Reserved.
FrontPage and Microsoft Internet Explorer are registered trademarks of
Adobe Acrobat and PDF are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems
Hosted and Developed by SAMSA
was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:10 PM