“The most tragic consequence of our criticism of a person is to block their way to humiliation and grace, precisely to drive them into the mechanisms of self-justification and into their faults instead of freeing them from them. For this person, our voice drowns the voice of God.”
― Paul Tournier (1898–1986)
Something I find there is too much of in the church is the minister or layperson who knows it all. They’ve not only put themselves beyond reach of their own growth, they’re an irritation (if not dangerous) around those people who choose to (or must) trust them.
Constant criticism under the guise of ‘tough love’ is the worst yet most common spiritual abuse.
This is what Tournier means, I think. A punitive focus on the negative leaves a person discouraged at best, and inwardly seething at worst. In a place where there is a mandate to encourage — and there is no encouragement! In such a reprehensible state of affairs a person learns to go inward, for they have learned their trust is no longer worth the risk; they’re in a place where they cannot grow, and they can only grow bitterer and bitterer.
I think this is the worst spiritual abuse because it’s like a cancer — aggressive yet persistent — killing cells through mutation. Our ‘cells’ are the vestiges of consciousness that require encouragement like oxygen. Yet a different code — a covetous envy, for instance — decodes those cells in a way that those cells’ immunity cannot cope. So it is with a constant criticism — there the Spirit within a person is quenched.
A person we cannot trust is someone who always thinks we’re wrong; who always thinks we need correction, especially subtly. This person is dangerous as a minister for God for they’ll strangle all the life-giving potential for growth in a person willing to grow. This critical spirit will force a person who is willing to be wrong sometimes (and therefore grow) into a state of bitter confusion, and such a thing is a spiritual abuse which happens far too often.
The voice of God is to be nurtured into a flourish in all our brothers and sisters.
No leader runs independently of Christ’s Spirit. If anything it’s opposite. As a leader we’re to be invisible; we’re less and God’s Spirit is more, exemplifying John the Baptist at the advent of Jesus’ ministry in John 3:30.
As a metaphor for ministry, we ought to be microphone holders. We’re to hold the microphone close to the mouth of God such that we might all hear his voice.
Heaven help the minister to get out of the way, and let their voice be muted if it’s not encouraging.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.