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Ministrys Double Binds

A psychologist friend speaks often about "double binds"—two contradictory expectations placed on a person. Both expectations cannot be met; it's impossible.

When faced with a double bind, no matter what you do, you are inevitably wrong.

As a country singer might put it, "When you're wrong, you're wrong, and when you're right, you're wrong."

Pastoral ministry has more than its share of double binds. DBs can be hard to detect, because one (or sometimes both) of the contradictory expectations never gets spoken. You don't discover you were in an impossible situation until you fail.

As a rap singer might put it, "You don't find the bind till you've lost your mind."

Here, for example, is a list I started of Double Binds for Pastors (spoken from the viewpoint of churchgoers):

  • We want you to guide us and help us grow, but don't change anything substantial in the church because we like it the way it is.

  • You should have a model family, but we also want you to pick up when we call and be present at evening meetings

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