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Blog Post: Chapter 10, “TOV Churches Nurture Justice”

Initially it had been challenging for me to think of justice in terms of the Polyvagal System, primarily because I was thinking of justice in terms of the justice system with its’ laws, lawyers, and courts. As I read the chapter, I became aware the authors were referring to justice in much broader terms, especially in terms of avoiding justice in order to place a higher value on loyalty to a person, denomination, or church. The authors state that a culture of justice cannot occur if loyalties are placed anwhere other than on Jesus and His Word. Justice begins with honesty and humility, tagged along with love, empathy, compassion, and grace, infusing the mores and values of the church. Justice requires strength and courage to live out.

I refer again to the ‘Three Essential Elements’ of the Polyvagal Theory – context, choice, and connection. For example, what is the context around various types of decision making, especially in relation to leadership positions? Is the process open and understood, or hidden and secret? Are the what, why, and how questions answered straightfowardly or evaded or even totally avoided? Does decision-making feel safe and trustworthy?

Secondly where does choice fit into the culture of the church? Are church members free to be open and honest with their questions, doubts, concerns etc? Or do they need to be careful what they say to whom? “When choice is restricted or when there is a feeling of being trapped, the autonomic nervous system senses danger and enacts a surivial response.” (Thanks to Deb Dana, LCSW). This response can be obvious and heightened or it can be just below the awareness of the person.

Thirdly, do connections with others feel safe and secure, or unsure and shaky, or unsafe, creating an unsurety about action? Perhaps it’s safer to ‘hide’ or ‘run’ than to connect with others.

There is safety within the culture of the church when its’ members feel safe and secure to be honest with the truth about themselves and their church and able to express their fears, doubts, and concerns. There is trust in leaders and in the body of Christ to know that the ‘right thing’ will be done. Admission or confession will be made if someone has ‘missed the mark,’ as we all do from time to time. Honesty and humility with grace, love and mercy will be the norm and will lead to doing the right thing.

“A tov culture has an instinct for doing the right thing, even in the most challenging moments. Toxic cultures find a way around doing the right thing (p. 167).”

Safety is found when there is truth telling, honesty, and humility before God and safe others. In this context, truth can be discerned and discovered, leading to the ‘doing of the right thing.’ When the context is safe and secure, when there is free choice, and when connections are trustworthy, justice can begin to take place and grow into the values and mores of the church.

Blog Post from Dianne Loerchner, Registered Psychotherapist and Elder at Kingsfield Zurich Mennonite Church

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