Dr. Steven G. Minor
Church Politics Administrator
Control is not simply a passing fancy for a Sociopath, it is THE driving force of their existence. They don’t simply want their fair share of any relationship they want all of it. They are not content with their piece of the pie. In fact, merely a piece of the control is not what they are seeking. Only part of the control means there is more to be had, their work is incomplete. So few have the courage or insight to realize that this does no more than wet their appetite for more. Like an alcoholic with their first taste of alcohol after many years of sobriety they are just getting started. They must have the whole pie with no sharing and they will not be content until they finish their insatiable goal for total dominance. They cannot control themselves to be content until that is accomplished, as illusive and pathetic that may be. Control and domination is the compulsive drive of their psyche; their very soul.
1) COMPULSION FOR CONTROL – as they gain short term wins the obsession grows to an insatiable drive for domination. Like an addiction, the high will require more and more. These are not simply the grumblings of a member feeling over looked or ignored. When a sociopath raises their ugly desire trouble has arrived.
The local church is such a desirable and convenient pool of game. Such unsuspecting, nice people are prime targets for exploiting. Offenses are to be forgiven, up to 490 times as Jesus metaphorically taught. A sociopath, emerging under such a simple cloak of righteous intentions (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) will have no trouble getting their agenda started. It’s so easy to hit people when they are not allowed to hit back. With no inhibiting deterrent even the cowardly predator feels a distorted sense of welcome to the “chicken coop.” How little the people realize the nefarious toxins ready to be unleashed upon them.
Normal people with a conscience will not believe the dark intentions having arrived. Indeed, they will not want to believe what is in this demented mind. They will continue to carry on with ease. Church is supposed to be their weekly refuge. A place to recharge and reorient their sense of existing in this world. Church is where they hope to meet with God and find enrichment for their soul and peace in their spirit. Predatory sociopaths do not fit in with their purposes and hopes of church life. Their initial response will be denial that anything is wrong and when things reveal tension and conflict they will be thinking about the exit right away. The consumer mindset of modern Americans does not have time or interest in bad, stressful dilemmas. It’s not what they seek in church and besides there are plenty of other churches in the neighborhood to choose from.
Their first suspicion of something wrong will probably come by something that the Pastor mentions in a sermon. Why is he/she mentioning gossip again? As a matter of fact, wasn’t that a main point in last week’s sermon as well? And why does he/she look troubled? And that response to your compliment to their sermon and how they doubt not everyone appreciating their work, uhm . . ., why are there such rough discussions? Perhaps Camelot is not as cushy behind the scenes.
For the sociopath themselves, such comments from the pulpit affirms their suspicion that their covert plans are getting out in the open. The rest of the church is beginning to take note of these comments and getting suspicious. It’s the outright “exposure” that threatens their plans and will irritate their motivations, probably accelerating the plans.
Whatever the Pastor might say will never dent the convoluted mind of a sociopath. Without the restraint of a conscience they are immune to whatever might be “hinted” about them. Unless the point is clearly directed at them with spotlight and amplified accusation with a broad chorus of agreement, they will never get the point. If there is wrong then the fault lies with someone else.
“Simply put, he should be able to do anything he wishes, however harmful and destructive, because he’s better than others.”
Dangerous Liaisons: How to Recognize and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction (Hamilton Books, September 2011)
2) OBSESSION ON KEY TARGETS
“Everyone who sees through their mask of sanity or exposes their sophistry and lies becomes an ‘enemy’ in their eyes, and therefore a target of their hatred.”
Claudia Moscovici, “Dangerous Liaisons”
When someone resists some of the initial contempt in the sociopath’s derisive remarks, the battle has unwittingly and unwillingly begun. For the normal people they might be oblivious to any “battle” commencing, but for the sociopath they will return home sulking at the irreverence of someone with enough audacity to disagree. In the sociopath’s mind, a restlessness has been born that will not shut down until retribution has been won. They will torment themselves with unceasing plotting for revenge.
For the unsuspecting member, their simple comment is likely forgotten by the time dinner is served. In reality, little was actually transacted, a mere difference of opinion. That’s the way emotional normal people communicate; they sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. No more thought need be given. But when a sociopath has been encountered a difference of opinion is interpreted as “un-cooperation.” The emotional response is indignation.
What was once a compulsion is now evolving into full obsession. Their fragile ego has been “slapped” and they will not forget it. Pride compels them to even the score, although no score needs to be evened, except for the one in their contrived mind.
The quest for power typically brings the sociopath to suspect the Pastor is the real culprit of the insubordination around here, since they are the perceived source of power. They will usually find a way to get the Pastor into their target sites. Their only way of avoiding this is if someone else ruffles their ago first and temporarily distracts them, but it’s likely only a temporary drawback. The keen rationalizing will eventually get them back on track with the perceived keeper of the power.
One other way to avoid getting into their sites is to acquiesce all responsibilities of leadership to their poor intentions. The Pastor will want to believe otherwise, but the inner fears and insecurities have just frozen their duty to lead in the agenda of God. They have compromised their call as the congregational leader and allowed another agenda to supersede what they know better. They have in fact given their loyalty to the sociopath’s devious agenda.
However, most Pastors will keep their calling clear. Despite the roughness of the matter they shall hold firm and not stray from the course of ministry. Justice will keep them steady. If only others would join in supporting the cause so much pain and harm might be avoided. But if a sociopath gets a foothold it’s only the beginning of sorrows.
“The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”
Tom Baker, AKA “Dr. Who”
Working their Control agenda will be on the lookout for good targets. Control is a sort of sport for them. As Martha Stout explains in an interview with Interview Magazine,
SIMON: Is there a particular type of person that a sociopath picks out to manipulate?
STOUT: Well, the perfect victim, from the sociopath’s point of view, is the person who is smart enough and capable enough to do him some good in the world and who is also fun to manipulate. How much fun is it to manipulate someone who is stupid and incompetent? Another good person to manipulate is someone of high character, because that is also fun for the sociopath. On the other hand, the sociopath doesn’t want this person to be so savvy that he or she will immediately see him for who he is. He wants the person to be easily enough fooled to stick with him. This can be accomplished by looking for someone who is very, very loyal. Most of us consider loyalty to be a very positive trait — and it is a positive trait. But it also blinds people to some of the traits of the person they’re loyal to.
Sociopaths and Boredom
Sociopaths are keenly prone to boredom. Like children and adolescents so restless so quickly the sociopath never gets over it. In fact, it gets much, much worse with age. They are naturally tormented by boredom, as Martha Stout explains,
“People who are sociopaths report that they crave extra stimulation almost continually. Some use the word addicted, as in addicted to thrills, addicted to risk. Such addictions occur because the best (maybe the only) consistent cure for under-stimulation is our emotional life, so much so that in many psychology texts, the terms arousal and emotional response are used almost interchangeably. We are stimulated by our meaningful ties to, negotiations with, and happy and unhappy moments alongside other people, and sociopaths do not have this emotional life to live. They do not experience the sometimes harrowing, sometimes thrilling, ever-present arousal that unavoidably attends genuine attachments to other people.
“Laboratory experiments using electric shocks and loud noises have found that even the physiological reactions (sweating, racing heart, and so forth) normally associated with anxious anticipation and learned fear are far less pronounced in sociopaths. For adequate stimulation, sociopaths have only their games of domination, and these games get old and stale very quickly. Like drugs, the games have to be done over and over, larger and better, and depending on the resources and talents of the particular sociopath, this may not be possible. And so in sociopathy, the pain of boredom can be nearly constant.”
The Sociopath Next Door, pp. 186-87
This obsession for constant stimulation combined with the grudge against their perceived adversaries creates a horrible nightmare. A deranged antagonist has evolved into monstrous proportions, self-programed for maximum destruction. If it comes down to it, they will even destroy themselves in kamikaze fashion just to assure you do not have the last imagined ridiculing laugh over them.
“It’s not paranoia if they’re really after you.”
Dr. Johnny Fever, WKRP in Cincinnati
3) BOARD PRESSURED
Pushing and bullying, the Sociopath will be enraptured to get the attention and if the Board foolishly complies on any point, the thrill will escalate. It is never satiated. Board members will wear down by the constant conflict, but not the sociopath. It’s not your imagination that they really are getting stronger and more aggressive the longer the conflict remains unresolved, while everyone else is wearing out. Conflict and conquest is what triggers their adrenaline with intoxicating vigor. You have just stepped onto their playing field and they are natural players in this brutal game.
Naturally, they would prefer the thrill of doing the hunt on their own, but developing a little skill in group manipulation opens up for them a willing Board as a viable weapon for their agenda. But it’s a complicated weapon at first. They must fine tune the individuals to do their bidding. Once they fall into their perceived plans then the Board members themselves become secondary targets for their ends.
When a sociopath has been allowed to their way, they are never satisfied with merely partial assertion of their will. They are compelled like a trance to demand more and more power and control. Ironically they are virtually without power over themselves to settle for shared or negotiated decisions. They want it all – total domination. Any partial agreement is only a “pause” to allow time for planning the next steps. They will not be done until they have it all. If they have been given some power they will keep pushing and pressuring for more. And if it reaches a matter of Board involvement a truly dark territory has been opened. A good resolution is just not going to happen if it reaches this phase.
The sociopath will now employ a strategy that will thrill them to no end, but will exhaust and exasperate members of the Board – Intimidation. Most people are dreadfully afraid of any sort of conflict whatsoever. It takes a strong willed individual to cope with and survive sustained hostility.
The MMPI warrants a “masculine” personality to face such opposition. Unfortunately, the greater majority of ministers rank highest on the “feminine” scales. It’s a vulnerability that sociopaths may exploit with grandeur. What a thrill to find such a glaring opportunity, even though they probably do not have a clue about an MMPI or personality distinctions. After all, any one daring to disagree is intolerable to them and violators needs to be punished. The strong masculine will makes it harder and may even arouse greater resentment.
The intimidation that assaults a typical church Board involves the following considerations,
1) Physical threat. If someone with a sociopathic personality disorder has pushed things this far they have probably done so with plenty of threats, spoken and implied. Some have learned to use a “bigger” physical presence for bullying purposes, or as typical bullies go – at least bluffing their brute ability. Bragging about knowing karate, jujitsu or whackamacallit may be enough to put opposition on the defense.
2) Socially. When a church is conscious of its community standing, appearance and unsure influence, conflict in the house is a keen embarrassment. Hushing up the problems and minimalizing their dire effects will be avoided. Sweeping them under the proverbial rug and out of sight is the immediate reaction. They are most vulnerable to conflict when they are committed to a good “religious” appearance. They will give in quick for no more reason than to maintain their upstanding pride. It’s an easy bargaining chip for someone seeking to seize power and control.
3) Family ties. When one wonders how on earth such a devious sociopath got in here in the first place, parents or grandparents will often enter the picture to make things all the more complicated. It’s one thing to contemplate asking a trouble-maker to leave and don’t come back, but if good old founding members John and Betty might be hurt by it all, well they will hesitate and proceed to consider alternative responses.
4) Financial. If the antagonist or their family is a regular contributor to the ongoing needs of the church, more hesitation will impede a healthy solution. If you are ready to cry foul that this is no more than a cloaked “blackmail,” realize that good ethics were forfeited several stages ago. Surely no one will want to admit it, but in our materialist consumer culture money speak loud and clear. Only a deeply devoted Board will withstand this weapon of persuasion. Truth can be a costly venture.
5) Novice Board members. It is normal operating procedure to rotate officers. It keeps the system healthy and fresh and protects against burnout. Unfortunately, it also sets up some members, Chairs included, to horrible surprises of escalated conflict. They were never told about this before they agreed to their term of office. In all probability they never study conflict resolution in college. For the most part, they are all too vulnerable to the conniving plans of a sociopath. They are caught unaware and respond with stunned guess work about what to do. The first story they hear will set the tone and pace of the matter and if that first story is the manufactured side of the sociopath (which it probably will be) they will be pulled with quite a force to side with the “shocking” accusation.
“In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right,
until someone comes forward and cross-examines.”
A minister weathering accusations will have to be strong to endure the irrational display of hypocrisy. They will also need to forcefully assert their innocence because a Board may be naively seeking a way to just end the problem however that may happen.
The accusations thrown around at this time are often gleaned from real events and real conversations. It’s just that not all of the conversation happens to be included. Sociopaths usually have enough sense to know that a kernel of truth needs to be in the mix to carry lethal results. An outright lie is much too difficult to wield about for no one will buy into it, but that partial point of truth might be enough to build support to their side.
And for the Pastor who preaches, teaches, counsels and advices the Board and committees, what a bountiful wealth of resources to find “something” useful to use against them. Once again, a devious agenda can work such terrible unfettered harm within a “nice” church community.
“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” James 3:2
You can virtually be assured that a well-intentioned Board will always seek a means of Appeasement. If it were an issue of emotionally balanced people seeking a means of negotiating their differences and searching for common ground it would be a worthy venture, but that’s not appeasement does. This futile effort is trying to satisfy and calm down a hostility in their midst that will not be satisfied. But in the minds of the Board this “should” be acceptable. Why do they reason such? Because it would be acceptable to them if they were in that situation. The deadly mistake in this reasoning is that they are not sociopathic and the hostile individual they are trying to soothe is sociopathic and playing for destructive ends.
What finer champion of appeasement could there be but Chamberlain, former prime minister of England. In 1938, he arranged a heroic meeting with Adolf Hitler and his Reich Cabinet to gain assurances that their intentions of conquering Europe were not true. Hitler and Joseph Goebbels took lead roles in assuring Chamberlain that they only meant to regain what truly belonged to Germany in the first place. Elated and so easily duped, Chamberlain immediately returned to England with great fanfare as he assured England and the world that he had gained wonderful assurance that their fears were without reason. Peace was a present reality for everyone.
Meanwhile, back in Germany, Goebbels wrote of the meeting in his diaries referring to Chamberlain as that “funny British fellow” who naively believed whatever he wanted. They felt the whole venture was a great joke as well as a great unexpected benefit to gain more time in building the Wehrmacht to prepare for their pursuit of world dominance. Absolutely nothing had changed in Germany. For a sociopath like Hitler, as well as any other, appeasement is such a pleasant gift to enable their greater plans. Such a fair comedy the emotionally stable seek to play out.
“Appeasers will always try to get the least dangerous person to bend to the most dangerous person. This is one of the main problems in dysfunctional relationships. The more mature and rational you are the more you are victimized because, they are aware that you’re not going to be as aggressive, destructive, or possibly as abusive and so you are the one who has to bend. You’re the one who has to change and this constant rapping of rational people’s souls around the prickly irrationalities of other people are what appeasers are constantly doing.” ― Stefan Molyneux
When Trust Expires
Ministry effectiveness requires a strong bond of trust between Pastor and Board. When suspicion and clandestine planning enter into the relationship the entire church suffers serious harm and the consequences are long lasting.
But when tension runs high and Board members are desperate for a solution or even just plain relief for their anxiety this trust is crucially compromised. Under pressure and without a spiritual foundation, which is ironically usually the role the Pastor provides, who is the very one they are plotting against, the center does not hold and things begin to fall apart (c Nietzsche).
As deadly as it may be, a Pastor may be faced with such a painful question as when to pull back and protect their very survival. Again, if the Pastor is guilty of a grave offense then restitution must be face. However, if a sociopath has sown this discord then accusations will at best be petty and even ridiculous when an outsider may see the for what they are. But for desperate people looking for anxiety relief they are capable of resorting to any way out, fearlessly distorting reality itself if that is what it takes. Without an objective mediator to guide healthy reasoning, herd mentality can plummet the thinking processes into terrible lows.
Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler were the masters of such distortion, AKA “propaganda.” Their formula was basic; state the lie, make it big enough to be worth believing and pressure the masses to accept it as the way it is. They called it the “Big Lie.” Constantly pushing, pressuring and intimidating will finally convince the masses to go along with their manufactured reality. Whether it is objectively true hardly matters. This is what motivated George Orwell’s novel, “1984,” about trusting Big Brother in spite of common sense and logic. We will show you how 2+2=5. The Nazi propaganda link becomes clear when one notes that Orwell began writing “1984” soon after the deaths of Goebbels and Hitler; and the end of their nightmare.
So how does the Pastor know when trust has been compromised and hope is a dim pipe-dream?
1) Has the Board made any decisions without your knowledge?
2) Have pleasantries evaporated, especially with the spouses of Board members?
3) Clandestine meetings; Board members meeting in homes instead of the church.
4) Talkative Board members are peculiarly silent.
5) Can you discern “sides” being formed; people paraded into side rooms and the door suspiciously shut?
6) If a Board member tries to explain anything the information is oddly incomplete. They may “think” they are sparing an informer’s well-being by concealing their identity from you, when in truth they are only stirring up the mud of this sad melodrama.
7) The general attitude of the Leadership is starting to feel like playground politics taking over. Mature and straight-forward communication is not happening.
“Evil does not exist in isolation.
It is a product of amorality by consensus.”
Eichmann in My Hands, by Peter Z. Malkin
These are just a few suspicious points ministers have noted. As there are so many unique churches so there are many and peculiar responses of people and groups under pressure.
C. G. Jung again lends keen insight into the phenomenon of group thinking, especially as it degrades itself into the Abyss of despicable behavior. Using Hitler and the Nazi’s as a prime model of such reckless delusion, Jung responds to the following enquiry,
“Do you consider [Hitler’s] contemporaries, who executed his plans, equally ‘psychopathic’?
. . . Hitler was able to work on all those who compensated their inferiority complex with social aspirations and secret dreams of power. As a result he collected an army of social misfits, psychopaths, and criminals around him, to which he also belonged. But at the same time he gripped the unconscious of normal people, who are always naïve and fancy themselves utterly innocent and right. The majority of normal people (quite apart from the 10 per cent or so who are inferior) are ridiculously unconscious and naïve and are open to any passing suggestion. So far as lack of adaptation is a disease, one can call a whole nation diseased. But this is normal mass psychology; it is a herd phenomenon, like panic. The more people live together in heaps, the stupider and more suggestible the individual becomes.”
C. G. Jung, The Symbolic Life, p. 605
When such destructive behavior has begun the Pastor is left with little recourse but to demand a mediator, someone who is outside of all this mess. When available, call in the middle judicatory or a nearby, well respected church leader to intervene and call a time out to halt the degrading rationalizing.
Should legal consultation be sought?
Yes, absolutely and the sooner the better, while you still have any strength in your soul to care about resolution. You need to know where you stand and what are your rights. These change from state to state. Some states exercise what is known as “Right to Work” laws, which leaves the door open for termination by just about any legitimate consideration. If a Board does not like the Pastor’s choice of ties …, sorry, but “Right to Work” will not help you. You may discover just how very vulnerable you are in a given situation.
At the least, seek help through arbitration. A skilled mediator can explain that forced termination, without credible reason, will instill distrust and repercussions on the board itself for years to come. Many more people than they realize will never trust them again. What they think is a “quick” solution will haunt them for a long time, perhaps the rest of their life. Personally, if the deed is for cowardice, then may they carry their guilt to their grave because they have ruined someone called by God. And if the reason was for no more than easing their anxiety . . . ?!
Dante explains in his tour of hell, “The Inferno,” that the very lowest rung is reserved for traitors and violators of trust, far beneath thieves, murderers and any other despicable crimes.
Other notable people through history
have this to say for the crime of passively allowing the innocent to suffer,
“Of injustice there are two types: men may inflict injury; or else, when it is being inflicted upon others, they may fail to deflect it, even though they could. Anyone who makes an unjust attack on another, whether driven by anger or by some other agitation, seems to be laying hands, so to speak, upon a fellow. But also, the man who does not defend someone, or obstruct the injustice when he can, is at fault just as if he had abandoned his parents or his friends or his country.”
Cicero, De Officiis I (Justice),
I ch. vii, 20
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph
is for good people to do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke
“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
– Abraham Lincoln
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
— Elie Wiesel
4) RELIEF TRUMPS JUSTICE
Although a true sociopath will be energized by the conflict and the thrill of destroying someone who has withstood their efforts to dominate them, everyone will wear out fast. Emotionally stable people do not typically handle conflict very well. Unless one has a high “masculine” personality type score, the encounters will be frightening and exhausting.
When fearful people find themselves in overloaded anxiety they become desperate. If the conflict persists, their civil notions of justice begin to shrivel. They begin to search for an out; any out available, even if they have to become creative with an exit strategy.
As sad and wrong as it may be, some Boards are so shocked by the trumped-up charges that they are eager to remove this source of anxiety. This is when the proceedings evolve into what is known as a “kangaroo court.” Facts may only complicate things in their panicked minds. Unraveling all this will require draining and uncomfortable work. The expression “he said/she said” will somehow become a verdict of wisdom and proof that a reasonable solution is not to be found. They are not interested in Truth; they are interested in Relief.
Demented Groupthink will plummet the Board sense of Christian duty, and at least decency, right out the window. The perceived threat of pressure brings them undone and the hope of effective solution suffers and may even collapse. Even functional mental processes are faltering.
Stress will lead to depression which leads to actual inability to think clearly and perhaps even fail to order the given facts of the situation. Cognitive Psychologists Gary Emery and Aaron T. Beck teach this shocking reality through their Stress Seminars that functional IQ will drop in prolonged adversity. Average IQ is 100 with genius defined as 140+. To give you a gauge for the other direction, Forrest Gump registered as 86. However, when someone suffers from stress and depression their functional IQ may drop by up to 40 points! A genius becomes average and an above average person now understands Forrest Gump.
Do not overlook this reality – clear thinking is deteriorating and decaying before your eyes. These people should know better, but their minds are actually muddled by fear and distress. When they devise foolish and “stupid” notions, it’s a real reflection of a group of people suffering the effects of unresolved anxiety. And it only gets worse. This is a prime reason for outside intervention. The distressed group is no longer capable of feasible considerations. The group process has become ill.
Vilifying the Pastor
If a Board has decided to rid themselves of the perceived source of anxiety, the Pastor, then it requires their efforts to completely vilify him/her. If the culprit is only somewhat bad then that leaves too much suspicion to come back onto them. They must “scapegoat” the Pastor. They must bear all the sin and problems this group experiences. Just as the Levitical priests would pronounce all sin upon the goat and send them into the desert, so will they lay their guilt upon this individual (Leviticus 16:8-10, 21-22).
It’s just like drifting right back into the Salem Witch Trials, the modern Pastor must suffer for all this wrong. The practice is horrifying to watch such demented group panic heap their abuse upon the accused. But just like playground bullies they must play along or risk their own expulsion. The Pastor’s innocence is no longer much of the issue. If the “fall guy” has been chosen then the faulty thinking must escalate the crime to its logical conclusion to assuage their guilt. Total condemnation needs to be reached to absolve suspicion falling back on them. It’s a selfish and sadistic crowd mentality and as horrifying as the notion may be it happens sometimes and it may even happen in a church setting. Ironically, it probably happens more in church settings than anywhere else, since a sense of “righteousness” is desired. And be assured this same crowd will sweep the offenses out of sight as soon as possible.
It is worth a lot of bother to be able to think properly.
L. Frank Baum (1856-1919)
5) Pastor’s greatest tool for self-defense: DETAILED LOG
The strongest tool of defense a Pastor can employ is the detailed log. The emphasis is not upon judgment of right or wrong, or focus upon “behavior.” The behavior is where you must focus and emphasize. This involves just the observed, objective facts. Exposing the specific offenses and allowing the peculiarities to stand on their own pitiful merits is the goal.
By dealing with objective behavior you allow Board members to focus on specific instances rather than focusing upon the discomfort of judging an individual. It give the squeamish a chance to stay on board with the problem without wearing down too soon. No one is being declared bad or good, only determining that given action is acceptable or unacceptable.
Think like a lawyer preparing their defense. What is the material that brings the most convincing weight to a trial? Facts! Bits of reality that exist despite our preference that they did not exist. The facts are stronger than our opinions.
Presenting such detailed accounting of behavior will totally stymie a typical sociopath. Their track record is filled with twisted lies and trumped up accusations that they will not be able to keep their stories straight themselves. As soon as one lie is exposed they naturally move on to another before unsuspecting people realize what they have done. If one has a strong enough will to not allow such rapid, distracting tactics a sociopath can be rendered impotent, but few are willing to assert such resolve. A detailed log will cover this defensive strategy and enable you to retake the metaphorical battlefield.
One of Napoleon Bonaparte’s chief battle axioms is to never allow your enemy to choose the battlefield. You must always arrive there first so the strategies might be formulated and applied to your advantage. Decide which hill/valley will lure an enemy’s advance into a trap. Determine the angle of the sun for optimum defense and attack. Where reserves might be positioned for rapid reinforcement. Or even to decide this field is not conducive for your military style and strength. Retreating may be a viable option in some circumstances. Be proactive and take the advantage. If you are down to merely responding to accusations you are playing someone else’s planned battlefield and have given away all advantage to your enemy.
In the confrontation narratives of Matthew 21-23, the religious leaders of Jerusalem are on the daily attack trying to find any weakness in the defenses of this backwoods prophet from Galilee. Notice how Jesus responds to every attack and how he never directly answers any of their charges. Not once does he follow their strategy for humiliation and defeat. They present the case and immediately Jesus presents another situation and returns the plan back no them. He is re-seizing the battlefield. Just because someone poses an accusatory question does not mean you have to answer it according to their plan, in fact don’t. You would only be playing their game in which you do not hold any cards; they hold all 52 cards in this deck.
Matthew adds the summary statement,
“No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” Matthew 22:46
Solomon also presents wisdom in this situation,
“Do not answer a fool according to their folly,
Or you will be like them yourself.”
Keeping a Log
When some behavior present itself as rather unusual you need to pay attention to it. Our reflexes may draw a quick conclusion of scattered brain thinking, but is that always the case? Sometimes our mind has just caught an out of the norm behavior that does not fit its given circumstance which is why our brain picked up on it. Like journaling dreams, never assume the silly points are without meaning. If it connected some area of attention then we need to pay attention.
Our best step is to start keeping a journal or log of such instances. Maybe it caught our attention because it revealed a surprise party being planned (then respect it and let it go). But if there is conflict in the air it might be something requiring a first clue to a developing mystery – think like Sherlock Holmes on these points.
Composing a log of events will build your psychological playing field that may reveal that you are being unnecessarily paranoid or by locking onto “facts” you might find justification for your suspicions. The log will help you to examine your own reactions and behavior as well as your antagonist’s behavior. Honest introspection will lift out your own guilt and missed job performance.
The Purpose and Benefits of a Log
1) Expose and Clarify. Get things out of the murky darkness and build your objective case in this ordeal. Focus on peculiar behavior – always on acceptable/unacceptable behavior — by noting,
a) The event itself, what happened?
b) Date and time, before/after what other events
c) Witnesses, are there others who could collaborate the situation
d) Feelings, how were you dealing with this? Especially if you felt fear and intimidation.
Use a simple wire bound notebook and set up these four columns per page. List any detail seeming appropriate. Someone driving by your house several times in one evening needs to be noted.
2) Personal review. Study the psychological playing field for your own involvement in all this. Are you overreacting or even causing some things yourself? Are you giving too much away to your adversaries? Are you allowing them to choose the battle ground? How will you respond different next time around?
Note, if you are at fault, immediately get your apologies in order before the problem can escalate any further. If the power of the tension is in your hands then play the card that can quickly resolve the conflict. Don’t allow it to escalate beyond the sphere of reason.
Strengthen your resolve if you are right. You will need the logs details to prove to yourself that you need to proceed with your defense with good courage that does not waiver. Sociopaths will take anyone on a roller coaster of emotions and wild tails. Know what is true and proper and stick to your guns in any encounter. Do not alter a correct course. Another reason to stick to the exposed “facts.”
3) Pick out the lay of the land. Who is drifting onto the “side” of your adversary? Who can you trust and who should you guard information? What sort of strategies are they working and which direction are they attacking their attack?
“Know your enemy”
4) Know yourself, too! How are you holding up? How are your energy levels? Are you noticing particular points that wear you out quicker than others? Monitor your reserves and strengths. You may decide that these battles are not worth the pain and exertion. Be honest in what you are feeling and believing. Merely fighting for proud ego matters ought to be put under a microscope for careful scrutiny.
5) Strategize. How will you take back the battlefield? What should your responses be?
Perhaps employing humor would help to restore perspective. Study the debate styles of Ronald Reagan, the absolute master of handling opposition before an audience (which is exactly what you are doing, the rest of the church is watching!) Who can forget his classic line against Walter Mondale, “Well, there you go again.” The implication is clear in the minds of the observers, that that last rambling episode really does not amount to much. Humor will disarm the opposition and relieve some of that anxiety that has inflicted the judging Board. That sort of indirect rhetoric may open some prematurely closed minds.
6) Defense. Establish a strong defense through clear facts. Listing dates, times, witnesses, etc. does much to clarify accuracy and honesty. What you are relaying is not simply subjective feelings, but events in actual time. This really did happen. It’s no one’s imagination. “On August 14, at 4:45, Bob D. stopped by my office and said …” is a powerful presentation of reality. Those called upon to decide a matter are fighting against reality itself when your points are based in reality.
Note, sociopaths will fall apart by such scrutiny when you turn the tables on them and begin to establish your own battleground of real and honest details. They will wiggle, squirm and protest, but hold them to the fire. They spin so many stories they will not be able to retain any facts for their actions to link themselves to reality. Their self-focused arrogance naively expects others to believe and adore their natural brilliance. You will not only outclass your opponents, such detail will pull back the curtain on their real behavior and self. Suspicion will arise in the minds of the Board, because it is truth they know is already present but they have been denying it. Most important, the sociopath’s collaborators will begin to desert them when they see how flimsy and vulnerable their self-described crusading champion really is.
Let the log and its facts speak for themselves. Don’t meddle with that power and try to make up the minds of your judges. Discovered truth is always the most powerful and influential. If you would change minds then they must be the ones who allow their minds to be influenced and truth is the greatest force for such strengthening convictions.
If a mediator has successfully been employed, they may need to be the ones to use the log in group meetings. Some churches have been known to sink so low that they disallow the Pastor from making a defense. If the Pastor is still holding on, by this stage of the process their energies have been severely drained (they are likely on the brink of serious psychological harm). They may seek to leave in order to flee any further personal harm. A skilled mediator or arbitrator knows to intervene and present the details of an orderly log to uphold truth and justice.
Stay or Leave?
The painful reality is that if a church has plummeted to such pitiful depths can trust ever be rescued? Even if the Pastor may have the option of staying, can they ever trust members of this Board again? Even if the Pastor survives the onslaught and proven innocent will he/she want to stay? Can they forgive such vile offenses? And can they survive the suspicion that will always haunt them. The rest of their ministry will be with a baseball 0-2 count, with two strikes always waiting for that inevitable third. They are always walking on thin ice. Whatever level of conflict escalation was reached, that same level will resume with any future disagreement.
Our vote? Move on! Jesus’ words make really good sense in this consideration,
14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Matthew 10:14, 23