You Should Not Have to Hide It if It’s Appropriate

Posted: May 13, 2015 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
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One of the best gifts my parents bestowed upon me and my four siblings is the encouragement to not only think deeply, but to study and learn and question and know.  It was not enough to think that we understood something, we were to know that we understood.  It was not enough to have an opinion or to hold a position about something, but we needed to be able to defend that opinion or position – to have thought it through from every angle, to have studied as many variables as possible, to be able to identify the potential problems in every scenario and to have a plan or solution prepared in advance in order to circumvent any and all possible negative happenstance. 

Often, my step-father would question us or argue with us simply as an exercise in getting us to think through our position or a problem so that we could know with confidence that we had arrived at the correct conclusion or decision.  He insisted that we consider every conceivable problem that might arise and have not only the justification to move forward anyway, but solutions for any complication.  Were an unanticipated situation to emerge, we needed to have done our homework in preparing for it so that we would be able to avert a crisis.  

Our home was filled with lively discussions, spirited debates, and constant banter.  My husband and I often laughingly recall the first time he visited my parents’ home.  Coming from a very quiet family, he sat in the corner of the kitchen watching all of us carrying on four or five different conversations all at once – most of them debates about politics, the price of gas, our jobs, etc.  – all while a police scanner, the local radio news station, and the television were all blaring.  And even though we all held very similar positions on most topics, we debated anyway – filling our arsenal with more ammunition for when those conversations might later be held in other arenas.

As a college student, my skills in problem solving, leadership, and administration landed me in several office-holding positions in my professional fraternity.  I was often called upon by the department chair and various professors to give my take on various policy decisions, and was invited several times to lunches and brunches held by the university’s president in his effort to garner student input into university-wide policy.

I was not raised in a church-going home, so when I went to college and became a Christian, I had no idea that I would one day suffer extreme ostracism and persecution.  In fact, as a college student involved in a thriving student ministry, my questions and challenges, debates, and arguments were welcomed and encouraged.  I became a well-thought-of leader in the campus ministry as well as in the church under whose umbrella the ministry functioned.

 Though I have never been told directly what my “sin” was in our last church, the senior pastor’s brother made mention of communications that I had attempted with the senior pastor as playing a significant role in the abuse that I endured for over a decade.

As I think back over those attempts to communicate with the senior pastor, I am becoming more and more convinced that because I was asking probing questions, the decision was made early-on that I was a trouble-maker and complainer and if I was ignored, avoided, pushed aside, and shamed, I would eventually take the hint and leave.  What they didn’t realize was that in my mind, all that really needed to happen was for us to have a discussion about the facts, the appropriate biblicial response, and for the leadership to help me to understand the reasoning behind the way things were being handled.

As I said earlier, I am one who wants to look at every situation from every angle, to consider every possible eventuality, and to understand why people have reached certain conclusions.  I am certain that some of my communications with the senior pastor even attempted to explain to him that I was asking questions and seeking clarification for the express purpose of understanding, so that I could then fully support the leaderships’ decisions and policies.  It baffles me that so many people are willing to go along with pretty much anything just because it’s a “leader” who has decided it must be so.

For me, it all began when I asked for help in taking the second step of Matthew 18 with a staff member whose ill treatment of volunteers under his direction continued to escalate.  I had spoken with him several times and was met with many promises to be more considerate, to no avail.  Rather than taking that second step of having one person go and speak to this staff member with me, the decision was made to have a committee meet with the two of us.  That meeting was a complete disaster (something that I had in no way anticipated – because I had been assured of another purpose for the meeting as well as a different outcome) and so I asked the senior pastor again for help in righting the wrongs that were done to me in mucking up the Matthew 18 process and in the way that the committee members treated me in that meeting.

Of course, if you’ve read my story, you already know that pretty much from that point on, the senior pastor refused to communicate with me regarding any of the ways that I was ostracized and persecuted over the next several years.  I, of course, kept communicating with him.  I wanted to understand why things had gone down as they had – not only in that original meeting, but in all of the ways that I was told I was not good enough to participate or serve over the next many years.  

Had he made the effort to explain his position to me, there may have been a very different conclusion to my story.   Either we would have worked through his concerns as well as my own and all of our questions would have been answered and the situation dealt with to the satisfaction of each of us, or we would have been able to come to the realization that it was not ever going to work out.  

I am certain that for it to have worked out, the senior pastor would have had to admit that things were handled improperly and that several apologies would have been necessary (fewer if this discussion had taken place earlier – more with each passing abusive experience).  

I am also absolutely certain that I would have immediately admitted to and expressed deep apologies for anything that I had done to cause him to believe that the treatment I recieved was warranted.  I know this as  a certainty because for years I expressed many apologies even though I had no idea what I was being punished for.   I confessed every sin, real or imagined, that I could think of in my desperate attempts to convince him that we should move forward into reconciliation and restoration.

Ultimately, my penchant for knowing – needing to know all angles and aspects in order to accept, support, and promote – is probably what brought on my spiritual abuse.  I asked too many questions.  I pointed out too many problems.  I insisted on answers.  

And my only conclusion is that if someone is afraid to debate their position or decision, they must already know that it is too faulty to be appropriate or correct.  No one should ever fear doing the right thing or explaining why it is the right thing.

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Comments
  1. Patricia Harrison says:

    Excellent piece! Keep using your voice!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Hello Ellen,

    I found with the narcissist leader that “questions” are the best way in getting you in trouble. Questions commit the leader to be held accountable and that makes him/her nervous. The narcissist leader doesn’t believe in accountability and that is why he chooses professions that few around him/her will be able to hold them true to their word or change their world around them.

    Narcissists live on a series of lies. Changes and questions has their mind creating new lies which in their mind puts them at risk for losing control. They feed on control or “narcissist supply”. In ministry the narcissist thinks he is building a “god” to make himself a god in the minds of people they control. And he/she doesn’t want to risk that.

    Where the competitive healthy side we enjoy in debates, the narcissist sees it as a risk factor unless he/she sees it as an opportunity to feed off what they see as a weak challenger. But if the narcissist misjudges his/her opponent as weak and turns out to be a real challenge, he/she almost sees the challenge from what he/she thought was weak as a conspiracy and will do if he can destroy his opponent. It doesn’t matter what the motivation of the challenge was; The narcissist thinks everyone thinks the way he does and looks at the person who challenges as someone out to destroy them.

    A narcissist lives in fear of being found out. They see people as two dimensional objects and cannot conceive of depth. Not the way to go through life.

    Thanks dear saint for your post. Bless you and the people you love.

    Frank
    Exiled sheep and recovering Pentecostal
    Sheepville, NY

  3. elisabeth says:

    I appreciate the fact that you have posted all of these articles on this topic. I’m going through some difficulties right now. Our current pastor tries to hide the fact that he barely tolerates me and it is definitely because I was raised in much the same way that you were… asking lots of questions and lively discussion on all sides of issues.

    My husband has been pushed aside and told he cannot serve in any way in our church because he is open about the fact that he has schizophrenia (he is well controlled and never misses a dose of medication. He is never violent and is very sweet natured. He just sometimes sees things that aren’t there). I don’t understand how he was okay to serve before they knew but not okay now.

    I probably should have seen this coming a few years back. I’m of Jewish descent but raised in the church. The pastor was going to host a Passover-style meal/program. I’ve seen a lot of Christian Passover programs that get all the facts about Judaism wrong, so I asked if I could find out what was covered as I didn’t want my children to be told things about their Jewish heritage that are untrue. His response? “I am not open to anyone looking at what I’m going to teach and criticizing it.” So… we don’t go.

    Recently my husband expressed the feeling to our pastor and his wife that we were feeling a bit unwanted and left out. The pastor’s response was “It’s all your own fault.”

    I’m stunned. It’s a small rural church. We don’t really have a lot of church options. But I’ll homechurch before I allow this type of abuse to continue. My poor husband is devastated.

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