Dealing with Spiritual Abuse -Q & A Part 3
This is the third part in the Q&A series relating to the the series of blogs I wrote on spiritual abuse.
To read the original series click here
Q – I just don’t know if I can trust church leaders again. How will I know if I can trust a leader?
A – You can’t know whether you can trust a leader by one visit to a church. Assessing trustworthiness takes time, observation and taking note of several things. Our trust isn’t something we should give automatically. People, leaders included, need to earn our trust; we should never blindly or naively trust or follow anyone.
As adults, we should know how to assess a person’s trustworthiness, yet many of us have never been taught how to do this. In knowing whether a person is trustworthy or not, the following list has some things to consider. Not all of the following will be easily assessed, but you can generally find out what you need to know with some time and observation.
- Look at their track record – Is there a history of reliability, faithfulness, and integrity? What is their record in previous relationships / situations? In most situations, the future will not be different from the past, if there has been no repentance, no re-evaluation of their values, methods, or beliefs.
- Can they keep a confidence, or is there no discretion in their speech? Can you trust the person with what you share with them? Will they use it in a way that will harm you?
- What kind of people do they relate to? The company they keep can tell us a lot about a person.
- Are they willing to be transparent, or do they resent any questioning? How do they react to being held accountable for their actions? A proud heart resents questions and is not to be trusted at all. If in doubt, ask the necessary questions and observe carefully what reaction you get. (Being questioned is not the same as being distrusted.)
- Check your ‘gut’ reaction? Do you get a bad feeling about this person, or do others that you can trust have a ‘bad’ feeling about them? If so, beware. While gut feelings aren’t fool-proof they should be checked out and listened to carefully.
- Are they forgiving? Do they hold a grudge against anyone who opposes them, stands up to them or wrongs them? If they do hold a grudge then most likely, sooner or later, you will be treated in like manner.
- Look carefully at how they treat their family – their parents, their spouse, their children... “Whose interests are constantly being put first?” is the deciding question here.
- How do they view their stewardship as employees or bosses? What is their attitude to their employers / employees? How do they talk to them?
- Are they blame-shifters, minimising their responsibility, or are they able to accept their responsibility for their mistakes?
- What do they do with emotional pain – run from it, or face up to it and try to bring it to resolution?
- Who was it who introduced them to you as being reliable? Is that person a good judge of character?
- Trust takes time to build. Can you afford to be honest with the person? How will they react if you take the risk of saying what you really think? Every positive response to the effort of being honest helps trust to develop. Every offended response tells you that they can’t handle your efforts to be straight up with them, so intimacy and friendship cannot develop yet.
Q - What if any new leaders or church I go to betray the trust I put in them?
A – That is a possibility; after all we’re dealing with human beings. It will take time to begin to trust again, but somewhere along the line you must make the choice to begin to trust again. If you don’t then the option is to stay in a state of hurt, suspicion, and possible bitterness and offense. Don’t stay in that place, for your own sake and for the sake of those around you; make the choice to learn to trust again, but this time to trust from a base of understanding how to assess a person, or church, for trustworthiness. Make sure that in moving forward you don’t put old issues onto new leaders; each situation must be entered, and assessed, on its own merits. In assessing a new church or leader use the things shared in this teaching for assessing trustworthiness. If you use them you’ll be able to assess whether a person or church is likely to be a safe place. We cannot guarantee that there will be no possibility of things going wrong in any new church you go to, but if you’ve checked them out for trustworthiness, and know the signs of abuse, then you will be warned more easily than if you don’t.