"It's OK. 'This is Us' will be back soon." briefkasten2 pixabay.com
Have you recovered from last night’s season finale of This is Us? Me neither. Sadly, my weekly sob-fest must cease ‘til next fall. And I’m crushed. Wait a minute, please, while I go grab a box of hankies.
For those scratching your heads, during This is Us we discover the back-story, mixed in with current and future stories, of the Pearson clan – Jack, Rebecca, Kevin, Kate, and my favorite, Randall. Like all of us, their stories – past and present – are complicated, joyous, and sad. Last night, there was a wedding. Amidst Kate’s utter happiness, there was also the underlying grief of knowing her dad, who died years before, wasn’t there. On one hand, you cry because you’re so happy. And then, you find yourself crying because the situation tapped into the grief we all know of loss and lost moments.
It’s earnest, yes. Maybe manipulative (nah), and I can hardly wait for my Tuesday night fix each week. The Washington Post has a retrospective on Season 2’s “Biggest Cries.” And Jimmy Fallon’s parody skit will give you an idea just how gloriously weepy the show is.
Now I admit, this is not about pushing for Sunday worship to be a sob-fest. Far from it. Back in the day, I was part of a charismatic church (yes, it’s true). It was all and only about emotion, which got pretty tiresome over time. But why in the world was I attracted to that kind of worship in the first place? Because it was freeing.
In a culture that eschews outward signs of emotion (note that my This is Us crying experience is just me and the TV) there was something beautiful about being with people in church who were unafraid to cry or lift their hands in praise. If we see emotion in the public sphere these days, it’s generally anger, followed by yelling, and then shutting people down. But, the church should also be a place where at least some emotion is affirmed. Our faith calls us to be honest with our feelings and that affects our hearts and not just our heads.
Emotion is especially important as you tell stories to your congregation about how they are making a difference in the world. Telling these stories without passion is failing not only your congregation but it’s also downplaying the impact your congregation is making in the world. Jeff Brook’s of Fundraising Now recently wrote:
“In my experience, fundraisers who think they are not appealing to the emotions [because they fear being manipulative/unethical] actually do one of these things:
1. They appeal to the emotions, but ineptly. Even if you attempt to make your case in a completely flat, colorless, emotion-free way, that itself is a type of emotional message. It's the emotion of ennui and postmodern spiritual deadness. It's extremely unappealing for most people, so it's bad fundraising. [It’s also bad Gospel proclamation.]
2. They appeal to their own emotions rather than their donors' emotions…It also leads to bad fundraising.” If the presenter is uncomfortable showing emotion and insists on telling a story without passion or feeling he or she denies the listener an emotional connection to the story.
Church can literally be that sanctuary where tears are accepted and emotion is affirmed. It’s the place where individuals can authentically shed a tear or two and show joy. It’s that place where the moving stories of the Bible are celebrated. And, it’s that place where you can share the life-changing work your congregation is doing. This is us.
P.S. For more, see "You are NOT a Cry Baby: The Power of Emotion."