A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences with pastoral counseling, and how it all ended. I would have to say that while I wrote about conflict of interest and confidentiality issues, what really ended my counseling was the counselor’s inability to control her temper. Why I let someone control and label me to the extent that I did is an issue I need to examine for myself, but suffice it to say that this person controlled my life for ten years. And for ten years I lived within the limits of that definition; what basically amounted to the opinion of one person. Just one person.
In some ways, I am still living with the residue of that relationship; a lot of hurt, grief and confusion. About who I am, who God is, and how He sees me. This is why scripture says that “to whom much is given, much is required”. When we are called to stand in the office of pastor, or teacher, we have a tremendous amount of influence. Whether we want that much power or not, it is inherent in the relationship, and to deny that is to create situations where the elephant is in the room, but we just talk around it.
In many ways, this person functioned as an abusive parent, as most leaders with an anger problem do. In my case, they took the place vacated by an abusive husband. I don’t know that I was in a position to see it in the beginning, and would probably have been too tired to care at that point. And, like most abusive relationships, it wasn’t obvious in the beginning. Confusing, but not obvious. The problem with both is trying to figure out if I am messing up God’s plan for my life by leaving. In the end, I didn’t have to figure it out, as both of them left me anyway.
There is a teaching series on spiritual abuse in the bookstore at church. I listened to all of it, carefully, and was discouraged to find that it really has little or nothing to do with spiritual abuse, but is instead a discourse on proper attitudes towards leadership. There is no mention of the abuse of power and authority, which is what spiritual abuse is. There is no practical suggestion for how to deal with an abusive leader, nor is there any structure in place in our church for getting help. “Touch not mine anointed” is our version of “Don’t ask; Don’t tell.”
Leaders are human. Like everyone else, they have tempers, good days, bad days, family issues, health problems and financial concerns. They will, sometimes, completely fall short of their calling. And we get the brunt of that in relationship with them. I have never met a church member or client, myself included, who couldn’t forgive much when there is a sincere apology, and acknowledgment of wrong-doing.
I have to drive by my counselor’s office quite often, as I am running kids where they need to go, or going to get groceries. There is always a car there; she hasn’t died, or fallen off the planet. She is still meeting with clients; many of them friends of mine. The whole thing is surreal. And I’m realizing there will never be an apology. There will never be an effort to make amends. My stuff is still all in her office; everything is, on the surface, as it always was. Except that everyone can go there, including my friends, and get ‘help’ but I can’t. She isn’t speaking to me. This blog hasn’t helped, as she was talking to me, until she read it.
Trusting God to help me with this has done a lot to keep me moving forward, but has in no way lessened the pain of it all. I don’t really know what else to do. I know that I don’t want any more angry people in my life, and I certainly will not pay someone to define and label me, ever again.