Spiritual Abuse - Evaluating yourself, leadership, and your groups
In order to follow scripture it is critical that we start our evaluations by looking at ourselves.
Any and every time we believe that something may be wrong with someone else we must ALWAYS first stop and evaluate ourselves.
Are you quick to think the worst of other people?
Do you tend to think that others sins are greater than yours? Well at least I don't do [insert sin here].
Do you tend to put on others the convictions that God has laid on your heart, and judge them for not having the same convictions?
When you first read this list it may be your immediate response will no or you will blow by them and not answer. Do not do this.
It is important to take time with this evaluation and truly determine where in your life you may be doing one or more of these. You may not do it all the time, you may not set out to do it, you may not even act on the thoughts or feelings of wanting to do this. Remember, attitude and desire are just as much a part of sin as acting on them.
I say all of this because without having a clear understanding of who we are in relationship to God we will never be able to truly evaluate those around us. Notice I say evaluate. This is not about passing judgement but evaluating, taking the temperature so to speak. Without doing this we will NEVER be able to handle leadership, or organizational structures that are abusive in a healthy God centered fashion.
Evaluating Spiritual Leaders
While some leaders are free of any sign of spiritual abuse, others may only occasionally be abusive, and others may be intensely abusive. In addition to this, there maybe those who are only occasionally abusive however the impact and effects when they are is catastrophic to those around them.
It is all to easy for all of us to want to define a structure, a hierarchy, to govern and manage our lives. This is true both physically and spiritually. There will always be those who want to be in control, those who would rather someone else be responsible, and those somewhere in the middle. When you are evaluating the spiritual leaders in your life it is important to pay close attention to their thoughts and attitudes in this area.
From the beginning God did not want humans to have need for a king or someone to rule over them. (You can see this starting with the Israelites in the Old Testament) In the New Testament we start to see the unfolding of Spiritual Gifts. One of the key elements that is called out however is that the gifts are from God and that within the Gifts there is no hierarchy, one gift is not better than another. This is critical for healthy spiritual leadership.
You should never find yourself in the position of 'obeying' a spiritual leader, or being told that you should. They are there to build you up, to encourage you, to guide you, not direct your life, not to tell you how you should live. God is the one who holds that right and even He does not do that, He simply puts before you the truth for you to choose. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating those you consider to be spiritual leaders in your life:
Do they hold emotional control over others and make them feel guilty if they do not believe or act as they think they should?
Do they accuse those who disagree with them of rebelling against God?
Do they demand that others obey or follow, no matter what and without question?
Are you able to question their theology?
Are there those that they say are 'accepted' but not fully accepted into the group because of a particular sin?
I would love to hear your thoughts and questions on this. I believe that this is a dialogue that needs to take place. The only thing I ask is for all who engage to be respectful of each other and dialogue about the topic not individual preferences.