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Rejected! How Could They???!!
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
One of the most painful experiences in ministry is to have a confidant reject, subvert and/or betray another. It is painful for a number of reasons.
First, because it represents a violation of trust.
Second, because the rejective action often brings with it destructive political, spiritual, and personal consequences to the rejected one.
Third, because there appears to be a totally unexpected, undeserved, and inappropriate response for the circumstances cited.
Fourth, it is difficult because often reconciliation is made nearly impossible by the rejecting party. Any such "reconciliation" which might occur is generally superficial, ingenuine, and short-lived. This, of course, adds to the frustration of the genuinely concerned wronged one.
One of the most insightful books relating fear to relationships is Men Who Can't Love. Co-authored by Steven Carter and Julie Sokol (New York: Berkeley Books, 1987), the insights in this book go far beyond describing why some men suddenly leave women. It also explains why some women also suddenly leave good, healthy, fulfilling relationships.
The relationship dynamics described in this book, however, can also apply to any important or significant relationship between like-gendered or opposite-gendered individuals.
Whether it be friendship, working together in a business association or on a work team, or a church staff member, Men Who Can't Love details in an insightful manner what actually may go on in the mind of one who rejects a perfectly good relationship and, consequently, trashes the unsuspecting victim.
The uniqueness of Carter and Sokol's book is that their insights were based on hundreds of interviews with individuals who, though they had nurtured successful and fulfilling relationships with a loved one, suddenly rejected them.
The following example recounts "Mark's" reasons for rejecting "Jane."
"When I returned, Jane was waiting in the apartment, eager to see me; she looked really pretty and she had ordered in a special meal for the two of us. I, on the other hand, was tired and grubby--I sort of avoided any physical contact with her and went to bed, and sleep, as quickly as possible. I guess I became more and more moody and grumpy with her after that. From that point on, it got really bad.
- "At the beginning of the relationship, when Jane had been nice to Mark, he saw her behavior as a sign of her superior character and judgment. Once he wanted to leave the relationship, however, he began to find other explanations for her basic goodwill, and he decided that she was trying to manipulate him... If a women is pained by rejective behavior, for example, some men deny the honesty of the woman's feelings and decide she is trying to manipulate the man with her feelings" (p. 188).
What Hurts Most!
Have You Been "Mark"-ed?
In the final analysis, it's the unwarranted projections of guilt and other painful emotions which make this sudden rejection so difficult. Certainly, the rejection would be bad enough by itself. But the confusion and suddenness of the rejection only drive the knives of rejection even deeper into the grief wound.
Keys To Coping
Sooner or later in ministry we will experience the "kiss of betrayal." We are not above our Master. He was betrayed with a kiss by a close associate.
We, too, will have our "Judases"...or should I say, "Marks." Whether we've been "Mark"-ed by a male or female makes no difference. The grief these "Marks" can cause is, to the "Jane," seeming insurmountable.
1) Recognize the characteristics of the "Mark" personality.
"Mark"s are fearful personalities with a strong portion of a melancholy temperament. Indicators of such individuals include:
- idealization of the good;
- rich fantasy life;
- a propensity to choose for themselves things that aren't healthy;
- difficulty in making day-to-day decisions (even simple ones);
- when decisions are made, they tend to be motivated more by annoyance than initiative;
- aversion at committing themselves or their feelings to writing;
- frequent change of jobs, activities, addresses and relationships;
- show aversion to anything which infringes their freedom or entraps them.
In addition "Mark"s characteristically...
- call attention to their "perfect" family;
- compartmentalize their business and personal lives so as to maintain a facade and secrecy;
- always have reservations about giving trust;
- have an inability to form lasting, intimate relationships;
- demonstrate a tendency to over-commit and over-reveal confidences, feelings, and intimate details of their private lives;
- when escaping a relationship they blame others for the relationship break-down;
- they become inaccessible and unapproachable after the relationship break-down;
- afterwards, they feel little remorse for abandoning even the most "perfect" relationship;
- they are masterful at making others feel indescribably guilty and bewildered for the relationship break-down. Often these feelings of guilt and bewilderment can persist for months or even years.
2) Don't be too eager to help the "helpless" too much for too long!
- Though Paul told the Galatians to "bear one another's burdens," in virtually the same breath he wrote, "so that they can bear their own" (Galatians 6:2,5). The most talented and creative Christian leaders often are the ones with strength to help others. They are also the ones those with insecurity and weakness issues call on the most.
- Certainly these calls for help cannot always be unheeded. But, after prudent consideration of the request, do as the Good Samaritan did. Pick them up, give immediate first aid, direct them to where the care is, and then leave in prayer. If you can't leave the helping relationship, you're in too deep.
- If your ministry energies are focused and imbalanced in such a way that you continually go out of the way to help your insecure and indecisive "Mark," you're enjoying it too much. You are setting yourself up. Get out...before you get burned. Besides, wouldn't the most effective use of your time be directing and supporting self-starting, confident "eagle" leaders who, by their respective ministry leadership, may provide a broader base of support for the "Mark"s and for the overall ministry?
3) Recognize your own susceptibility to unwarranted projections of guilt.
- "Marks" typically reject after the going starts getting tough...or when it's toughest. Generally, the "Janes" of ministry will have already begun experiencing significant guilt, grief, rejection, loneliness, failure, etc. Weakened spiritually and emotionally, unsuspecting Janes will generally turn to the Marks for their always "loyal" and unshakable support.
- When Marks withdraw their support, the result can be exponentially more hurtful than all of the other difficulties combined. The guilt projected by Marks can be so intense and so strong that Janes can become traumatized or prone to mental illness, depression and other unhealthy behaviors.
4) Be careful of over-taxed transferences and co-transferences.
- In less technical terms, this simply means don't put all your relational support in one basket. Spread it out as wide as practical and necessary.
- Unless Christian leaders continually develop various levels of coping relationships, one can be vulnerable in conflict as spouses, family members, trusted leaders get upset, angered, and withdraw their support from the ministry--and you. Such withdrawal can truly result in the so-called "dark night of the soul." (For more insights see Ministry Health Article 14, "Five Types of Coping Relationships.")
5) Seek professional counseling before the relationships become overtaxed.
According to Carter and Sokol, the main thing that moved Mark to leave Jane was fear. Mark was afraid of a relationship which went too deep, which involved too much emotion, which meant that he would have to share and experience pain. Such was too much for him. He could offer some support...but only to the degree of his fear threshold. Everyone has their limits. So do you! Don't tax these limits unnecessarily if at all possible. Every time you do, you will pay a price.
6) Recognize the painfully transient nature of all relationships.
Individuals who have unrealistically high expectations for relationships can be disappointed. One of the most unreal expectations is that once one has worked together on staff or as a friend, the relationship will be permanent. Sometimes it is. Other times it is not.
In this changing world, the only thing that stays the same is Jesus Christ. All other relationships may come and go. This is particularly true of church relationships. There are few--if any--exceptions.
Sadly, many of even the best team relationships die over time. This is a source of countless tears. But it is the ministry. Accept it. Don't force supportive relationships. The more force needed, the more fear will be evoked. As Jane discovered, the greater the fear, the greater the chance for rejection.
On the other hand, those who did not force relationships or were not in a situation of extreme emotional duress which stressed the relationships, may experience lifetime friendships with staff members even over years. Such individuals have one of the greatest gifts God can give.
"Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:8-10 NIV
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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:04:19 PM