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Easter and Three Stories When Bad Stuff Happens

Posted: April 17, 2014 by Rob Voyle

Whenever a bad thing happens three stories can and need to be told.

1. The victim story.

This is the story of the bad thing that occurred told from the perspective of the victim of the bad thing. This is the Bad Friday story. A story of crucifixion. Interestingly, victim stories are almost always devoid of any reference to what part the victim had to play in the bad thing. Notice all the Bad Friday stories about Jesus. It is all about how he was flogged, spit upon, and crucified. There is little reference to the fact that he had royally annoyed a bunch of influential people by pursuing justice rather than maintaining an unjust society. He did a lot of other annoying things such as healing people who didn't deserve to be healed, not to mention having the audacity to forgive people of their sins, and really did he have to act like God was on his side not theirs? And after all they had given him clear warning that he was on the wrong path and something bad would happen if he continued on that path. Notice all these stories are missing in the victim story.

This is not to go down the unhelpful road of blaming the victims. But if we want to help people who are feeling victimized we need to get them back in the story by being aware of what they were doing and are now doing so they can make changes to what they are currently doing to move from being a victim to being a survivor.

2. The Survivor Story.

Even though a bad thing happened we survived. The bad story can be told from the perspective of how we survived. This puts the victim back into the story, and back into it in a resourceful way. Telling the story immediately after the trauma, in the third person, from the perspective of how the person survived as in "I see Rob climbing off the roof into the rescue boat..." can dramatically reduce the subsequent levels of distress when compared to simply telling the story from the perspective of the victim.

But surviving isn't enough. The survivor story is the Holy Saturday story. "We survived but so what, what future do we have now that Jesus is dead, or we lost our house, or any other bad thing that may have happened."

Many congregations in transition, regardless of whether it is the transition from one pastor to another, or the transitions caused by changing demographics are in this survivor mode. It is a limbo land. It is the people of Israel who have left the land of slavery but have yet to reach the promised land. They wander aimlessly in the desert.

But notice what is lost, it is the future, not the past. When bad things happen we still have all of our past what we lose is the ability to perceive of a worthwhile future. Simply talking about the past will be unhelpful. What we need to do is rebuild hope which is the ability to realistically perceive of a worthwhile future. This the third story that needs to be written and told.

3. The Thriver Story

This is the Easter day story that tells us that God's capacity to redeem a situation is greater than the combined capacity humanity's ability to screw up. There is no place on this earth that God's love does not shine. It is in the light of that love that we can help people to begin to write their thriver story. It is the story of how in the midst of a very bad thing a new much greater thing began to emerge and come into being. This is the essence of resurrection. It is when people say: "I wouldn't have wished this bad thing on my self or my enemies but I know I am a better person for having been through it." It is Easter day which turns Bad Friday into Good Friday.

The art of Transition Ministry is essentially about helping congregations work through these three stories. This is what I teach in the Introduction to Appreciative Transition ministry training program, which would be of benefit to anyone in the midst of transition. In fact I would say that the vast majority of congregations are in transition as we as a society transition into and create the post-modern word.

I also outline the appreciative strategies and techniques behind the telling of these three stories in Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment, which you can find at:

I look forward to seeing you at a future training program and in the meantime I wish you and your communities of faith a very blessed Easter.


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See Restoring Hope for healing and change strategies based in the Appreciative Way.


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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
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