Friday, April 18, 2014

Bent out of shape

Sad to hear that Jonathan Trott is having another break from cricket, after a recurrence of his stress illness:

Stress and anxiety do not discriminate, however, and Trott appears to have decided that the man bent of out shape by cricket is not the man he wants to be. With a young family to consider, he seems to have come to the conclusion that on-field success in no longer worth the sacrifices required.

It's hard enough to come back from a public collapse, without having a running commentary in the media and paparazzi hiding in your bushes. 

The phrase 'bent out of shape' struck me. Public roles do that to people, sometimes your mental or physical health gets bent, sometimes it's your moral compass (politicians?), sometimes it's your judgement under pressure, sometimes it's not you but your family and the shape of their lives. I'm not sure if Trott's 'come to the conclusion that on-field success is no longer worth the sacrifices', or just found that he is no longer personally capable of making them at the moment. 

It sounds all too similar to what's happening to clergy
My husband is becoming bitter and demoralised. He is an incredibly gifted, spiritual man, but the reason he joined the church is becoming less and less clear, to him and to me

It wouldn't take long to name you a reasonable list of clergy (notably, mostly in their 40s and early 50s) who have burnt out, dropped out, been found out, or otherwise found the relentless pressure too much. I heard of a hard working vicar, younger than me, who was recently hospitalised with a suspected heart problem. In recent years a couple of local clergy have dropped out of active parish ministry (getting an undeserved scourging in the tabloids was a major factor in one case). I was in a meeting a few weeks ago, all dog collars, where I was the only one not on anti-depressants: an odd thing to hold against the fact that we have higher rates of job satisfaction than anyone else. 

Elsewhere in the diocese and the CofE some clergy have had to stand down after falling into sin. That's another way that people can respond to pressure. An 'Adam. and Ellie' moment perhaps isn't that far away for some of us. 

This shouldn't be a surprise, Christian faith is about carrying a cross, the world bends Jesus out of shape and it will do the same to us. But we can't simply shove this all in the box of 'suffering with Christ' - Trott has been bent out of shape by a combination of public pressure, his own high standards, and the relentless demands put upon him by international cricket. (Vicars: insert 'parish' for 'cricket') There's a sense that he has lost the joy of the game. It's 'for the joy set before him' that Jesus endures the cross. We need the joy to get through the Good Fridays. But scanning the battlefield around me, I'm now seriously asking the question of how I'll manage another 20 years of this without joining the casualty list at some stage. 

1 comment:

  1. Trott is not the first, nor will he be the last cricketer to bend under pressure. Graham Thorpe, Marcus Trescothick and many more have found public expectations and media 'searchlights' too much to cope with.
    I think much the same is true of many clergy, their own and their congregations' expectations are unrealistically high and in trying to fulfill them, many simply crash and burn.
    Aiming high is all well and good, but sometimes it helps to remind ourselves that we are human. (That should have been 'mere;y human'.