Many times in church leadership I have run into a problem where the symptom is different than the cause. Someone is upset, frustrated, or concerned about an issue but the way it comes out or is expressed (the symptom) is very different from the true reason (the cause). Another word for this is passive aggressiveness. It is an art form in some people but a royal pain to people in leadership as they try to root out the cause while having to deal with the symptoms.
Massage Therapy has a couple of terms for this as well, trigger points and pain referrals. By definition, active trigger points are tender to touch and have a signature referral pain pattern. This referral pattern explains why the pain is often in a location removed from the trigger point. Where it hurts is not always where the problem is. Each muscle has its own pattern of pain referral. Knowing these patterns is essential to troubleshooting soft tissue pain. Referral pattern knowledge also helps distinguish between the cause and the symptom.
For example, I suffer from seated chair victim. Since I end up sitting at a desk for hours at a time my hamstrings shorten. They become shortened because my legs are bent, which is the natural position they are in when you sit with your feet on the floor in a chair. After a while those muscles are naturally shortened, or tightened, because of this position. What happens is these tightened muscles then add pressure or pain to my lower back. The cause is my shortened hamstrings and the symptoms is lower back pain. Do you know of anyone who suffers from lower back pain and sits in front a computer screen for hours a day? To learn more on Seated Chair Victim clickhere.
A keen and knowledgeable Massage Therapist will work the cause of the problem not only the symptom. When my massage therapist works on my hamstrings it hurts and it is not a relaxing massage BUT my lower back pain diminishes. If she only worked on my lower back, the pain would return soon enough. Knowing the trigger point and its pain referrals allows massage therapists to diagnose the cause of the soft tissue pain to gain a longer and more permanent solution for the client.
There are books and books about trigger points and pain referrals because they do have a set pattern. The key to those in church leadership positions is to learn the trigger points and pain referrals of their congregations. Although there is no book on this subject specific to your congregation, there usually are patterns that evolve which can be diagnosed over time.
For example, Mrs. Betsy doesn’t show up for worship any more. She attends her Sunday School class but then goes home instead of to worship. She doesn’t attend any of the meetings of the committee she serves on either. It seems, to the pastor, that she has given up on her church except for her Sunday School class. She assumes the cause is because of something she said or did. Her lack of attendance and participation are her pain referrals or symptoms. As the pastor sits down with Mrs. Betsy and gets her to open up about why she has pulled away, the pastor learns that she is truly upset. With more digging the cause is revealed. It seems that in a grocery store months ago, another church member was very rude to her. Something happened and an argument broke out. This fellow lay person sits in her section at worship and sits on the same committee as she does.
Finally the true caused is understood and discovered. Now the pastor can spend time dealing with the cause of the problem, mending the relationship, and working through this conflict. Whether that will heal that relationship or not may still be up in the air but at least the cause was addressed and not only the symptoms. Plus the pastor learns it is not about her, which relieves some pressure and worry in her own soul.
It is hard work, pain staking work at times, to get to the root cause of an issue. It is especially difficult if people do not want to tell you the true cause of their frustrations. Once those causes are flushed out good Church Leaders will recognize the referral patterns and start to think ahead. They will recognize situations or decisions that may cause these trigger points to flare and work hard to lessen the blow. The important thing is not to get so caught in the web of symptoms that the cause is forgotten or ignored. If the cause is ignored the problem will not go away. Just as a good Massage Therapist, a pastor has to work the cause to build a healthy and vibrant Body of Christ.