That’s what he told me. My friend said, "Be careful around that man."
The guy had made life miserable for many a minister. I’m glad my friend warned me. That has been years ago. His advice was warranted. And, I was careful.
You may have read Jan’s comment the other day regarding a post on this blog:
I was thinking along these lines earlier today, wondering about the
boundaries of emotional and spiritual vulnerability of a pastor with
others. Iâ€™ve found the line can become blurred, that line between our
willingness, our need, to be open and honest and our selfish desire to
be the centre of someoneâ€™s attention. There is a confession of our
souls that can be very self-serving and darken the lives of others.
Being vulnerable before God isnâ€™t the same as being so before others,
yet there are similarities. Perhaps you could elaborate.
A few observations in response to his comment:
It helps me to first think about this subject in terms of extremes. One extreme is the person who is so carefully guarded that you feel like you never really know her or him. This person carefully reveals only what he wants you to see. You may never really feel as if this person is fully present with you in a relaxed, trusting manner. So often this seems to be a control issue. Meanwhile, others are never allowed to really see him because he is carefully controlling and manipulating the situation.
The other extreme is the person who just exposes most EVERYTHING with sort of a recklessness. I have seen some preachers/teachers who seem to expose most everything about their lives in classes or Sunday messages. I’m just not sure that the men, women, and children present are best served by hearing the graphic details of an illness, hints of sexual frustration with his wife, or others matters that maybe should have been dealt with in a less public setting. Some filtering may be very loving especially if it spares family members or others embarrassment or humiliation.
As a preacher/teacher, I must examine my heart. After all, it is very easy to turn self-disclosure into a kind of self-exposure that becomes self-serving. I knew a man once (a teacher in a church) who would go on and on about his faults in most every class he taught. He regularly spent lots of class time talking about this fault and that fault, on and on. No matter the subject, the class seemed to return to himself, his issues, etc. Then each week people would respond by telling him that he was not really as bad as he was saying. This went on week after week.
I want to live as a person who is not always being self protective with others. However, that does not mean that I park my good judgment in the presence of unsafe people. And, there are plenty of unsafe people around. They are a few in many, if not most, churches. At times, wisdom demands that I use some discernment or even caution about what I say and when and where I say it. I want to love people but that does not mean that I forgo all wisdom and judgment, especially when I am dealing with a person who is unsafe.
At the same time, I do think that James (5:16) clearly envisions a church where some kind of confession is taking place in the life of the Christian community. What form? Where? In the assembly or privately? Lots of room for discussion here. Yet, I do believe that believers need someone or a few "someone’s" with whom we can talk openly and freely. It is tragic when a minister/pastor/church leader feels as if there is no one at all to talk with. (And there are many who feel that way.)
I sure don’t have all the answers to this one. Maybe I am trying to live avoiding the two extremes. I don’t want to be completely reckless with my words, parking all judgment and discernment. Neither do I want to be more focused on self-protection than loving others. In the end, I want God’s love to come through. I suspect that all of that requires much prayer and thought.
What do you think?