Jump directly to the Content

What Aquinas Can Teach Us About Shepherding Sufferers

Theological insights on the nature of human emotion and how to interpret it.
What Aquinas Can Teach Us About Shepherding Sufferers
Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source images: Lucas Sankey / Unsplash / Wikimedia commons

When I was ten, I remember my dad offering his hand to a man who resolutely put his hands behind his back. The man was a former member of our church who was angry at my father.

This uncomfortable scene taught me about what it means to be a pastor. I remember my dad explaining to us without bitterness why the man was angry. He did it in such a way that helped us see this man’s pain.

There is a common saying in psychology that behind anger there is fear, and we might add, behind fear there is pain. I observed in my dad a healthy capacity to reevaluate someone’s anger as pain. My dad didn’t take the man’s emotion as clearheaded judgment against himself. Instead, he chose a perspective that opened up the possibility of empathy.

In this cultural moment, we are engulfed by anger, fear, and pain—and pastors are no exception. Our calendars are filled with a steady stream of angry people. This is exhausting. It is all too easy for us to internalize their anger or to view ...

Support Our Work

Subscribe to CT for less than $4.25/month

Homepage Subscription Panel

Read These Next

To Find a Worship Leader
To Find a Worship Leader
From the Magazine
Jesus and My OCD
Jesus and My OCD
Christ’s death is the beginning of my relief from mental illness.
Editor's Pick
The Last Gift My Father Gave Me
The Last Gift My Father Gave Me
A surprising encounter with my dad, Jesus, and Jerry Seinfeld opened a door to long-awaited healing.