Friday, December 27, 2013

Catholics Must Continue to Go to Mass, Regardless of the Circumstances

Catholics must attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. There are no exceptions and no provisions for bullying. One option is to change parishes. If that's what it takes to leave the bully (or bullies) behind, then this is usually the best solution.

However, especially in this age of mergers and closings, many people live in an area with only one Catholic church. So staying and praying is the only option.

We all have crosses. Spiritual abuse is a heavy one because it involves our freedom to worship God, without distractions and a lot of nonsense. Spend as much time as you can in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This will give you the peace that only Christ alone can bring.

Flickr photo top by Phil Roeder

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Church Offers the Perfect Camouflage for the Covert Narcissist

Malignant narcissists are a lot like sociopaths. But there's one critical difference. A sociopath can operate without giving a thought as to how others view him. He doesn't care.

But a covert narcissist is very invested in his social standing. Being an active member of a parish offers the perfect cover, as people seeing him at prayer will assume he's a nice person. Since narcissists also like to run things, it's only natural that they gravitate toward church, where they can find ample opportunities to head steering committees and to assume various other leadership roles. (Remember the Pharisees?)

This explains why you'll find so many covert narcissists cloaked in a veil of sanctity. Church, unfortunately, is not the place to let your guard down. Many potential problems can be avoided by staying in the pews and praying, instead of getting involved with various projects. This is what often leads to trouble.

That's because a narcissist in power doesn't like to yield anything. He or she is threatened by new talent and new ideas.

Flickr photo top by ell brown

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dealing With Covert Narcissists at Church

Some narcissists are over the top. They are grandiose. They are blowhards. Their disordered behavior is easy to spot, so most people don't take them seriously.

Then there are covert narcissists. They are the most dangerous, because they appear so nice. They are fun to be with. They are witty. They are charming. They are also very cunning.

If they worked above board, and others could see the destruction they cause, they'd be stopped. Instead, they literally get away with murder because they kill with words. Gossip and slander are their knives and bullets. So adept at destroying others, it doesn't always appear as if they're particularly malicious. Nonetheless, they sow much discord.

At church, if you find yourself targeted by a covert narcissist, start looking for a new spiritual home. Your pastor probably won't help at this point. That's because this type of bully wouldn't strike unless a victory was guaranteed. Angering the pastor, and having him take your side, is not their desired outcome. But they've already taken care of that. By the time you sense trouble, they've filled the pastor's ear with false witness against you.

Underneath the saintly exterior, a covert narcissist is seething with rage and envy. He is playing to win, and he won't stop until the battle ends. Lying and deception come naturally to a narcissist. So it's not going to be a level playing field. There's little to nothing you can gain by staying. God will be right by your side as He leads you to a better parish.

Flickr photo by jans canon

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Need to Pray for People Who've Hurt Us

As Christians we need to love our enemies, even those people who've hurt us deeply. Even if they don't apologize. We also need to pray for them. I've noticed that as I continue to pray for a particular person it becomes much easier to forgive them.

Bullies are most in need of our prayer. If they hurt us unintentionally, they deserve our pardon. If it was deliberate, they desperately need more grace. They need to get right with God, because they are walking in darkness. He will also demand a full accounting of their actions. Bad behavior doesn't happen in isolation. If someone mistreats one person, they will mistreat another. Most bullies are serial bullies, selecting new targets where ever they go.

Although I have no proof, I believe that if someone mistreats us, our prayers for them are especially efficacious. It might be God's way of helping them get into Heaven. (Don't worry, they will be totally different people once they arrive there.)

Flickr photo top by LenDog64

For a discussion of malignant narcissism that afflicts females, please visit my Female Bullies blog.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Not Getting Involved Often Prevents Church Bullying

Some people are likely very far from God, despite the fact church occupies a large part of their waking hours. It appears as if certain individuals, who rise to a position of prominence, and who try to run everything, don't have much else going on. They may not work and they probably have few friends. They may not be on speaking terms with their adult children.

They are undoubtedly very miserable inside. But church is a place where their personality quirks are overlooked.

Unfortunately, difficult people are also territorial. If they sense that someone else is enthusiastic, and wants to participate in parish life, they may feel threatened. This is their turf, and they don't want anyone else encroaching upon it. In a healthy environment, everybody should be able to contribute their time and talents. Not so in a dysfunctional one, where one or two lay people may rule the roost.

Much of the time, church bullying appears to be a power struggle. One way to prevent becoming a target is to not get involved in parish projects. By staying on the sidelines, you can still participate in the congregation and use the church for prayer. But you won't get caught in the fray. You can spend all your time and energy focused on God.

Flickr photo by bterrycompton

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Forgiving the Person Who Hurts You Isn't Always Easy

Even if someone hurts us deeply, we still need to forgive them. We need to do this for several reasons. The first, and the most important reason, is that Jesus readily forgives us and He expects us to do the same for others. The second is that forgiving those who've wronged us frees up our energy. One of the worst things we can do, for our body and soul, is to carry a grudge.

Forgiveness might take a little time, but we need to keep working on it. Put the situation in the hands of God and ask Him to have mercy on that person. We don't know what's in someone else's heart. If they hurt us unintentionally, then we must pardon them. If they did it deliberately, God will demand an accounting. Picture them at their particular judgement. This will help you develop mercy toward them. (It is Catholic teaching that we each will have a particular judgement immediately after our deaths. At the end of the world, there will also be a final judgement, where everyone's sins are revealed.)

If you have difficulty with forgiveness, be patient with yourself. As long as you're trying, you're moving in the right direction. Sometimes putting someone in a mental box is helpful. Imagine they are in a little box, far removed from your present life. Pray that God will change them into the person He wants them to be.

What you ultimately want is for you, and for them, to be able to enjoy being with God in Heaven for all eternity. They won't be the same person when they get there.
Flickr photo by mamamusings

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Be Careful When Discussing Your Problems at Church

In my personal encounter with a church tyrant, I see now where I went wrong. When things started to go crazy, I confided in my close friend. I told her how worried I was, and how this was hurting our family. I told her my husband was starting to lose his faith, so scandalized was he by what he had seen. She seemed sympathetic. As time went on, she was one of the few people in our community who was still approachable.

It was a very sad, confusing and trying time. We loved this particular church. It was our home away from home. We spent a lot of time there helping out, whenever we were asked, and attending the events geared toward young families. I was so grateful to have this oasis of faith, removed from the secular world.

However, I later realized the woman I confided in (always without mentioning specific names) was also, most likely, causing the trouble. How do I know this? The trouble didn't stop after we left this church. It trailed us like a demon we couldn't shake.

Then, one day, a certain situation unfolded. I could no longer ignore the obvious. That's when it dawned on me I was dealing with a very disturbed person. Once I distanced myself from her, all my various relationship issues ended.

The moral of the story is, if you are running into difficulties at church, be careful whom you confide in. It's better not to talk about it with anyone at your parish.

I've learned a lot about bullying and personality disorders. In every case, there is usually one person pulling the strings. He or she recruits others to do the dirty work, so you're not sure which direction anything is coming from.

People who like to abuse others will use any information you share with them, and they'll use it to discredit you.

Oftentimes, when they're creating chaos, they'll pretend to be your ally. Generally, we're able to see this treacherous dynamic only in hindsight.

Flickr photo top by filsinger

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Should You Tell Your Pastor that You're Being Bullied?

This is a very hard decision that only you can answer, preferably after much prayer. Bullies are cowards. They strike only when it benefits them and when they're confident they can get away with it.

The real reason any member of a parish is abused is because of weakness, on the part of the pastor.

This might not be totally his fault. He could be new and still finding his way. He could be greatly outnumbered. Bullies are master manipulators, so he's probably operating without all of the facts. However, it's his job to ensure the wolves are kept away from the sheep, especially the most vulnerable ones.

So should you tell your pastor what's happening? Think long and hard before doing this. Your bully (or bullies) have, most likely, cultivated a strong connection with the pastor. So he may not believe these individuals are capable of such despicable acts. He may then doubt your credibility. It's possible the person trying to run you out of church has also made some preemptive moves, by trying to discredit you before you complain.

The difficulty with spiritual bullying is that there aren't a lot of options, as there are a limited number of churches in any given geographical region. Even so, you might want to think about finding another one, so you can focus on God and not on the drama.

If you still want to bring this to your pastor's attention, you'll be on more secure footing if you already have an escape plan. That way, if he's not supportive, you can move on.

Flickr photo by unkreatives

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why Does the Pastor Allow this to Happen?

Pastors are shepherds of souls. They are charged with keeping the wolves away from their flock. So why would they let someone be abused, by another parishioner or even by a group of parishioners?

One explanation is that they don't know what's happening. They may be blissfully unaware one of their sheep is being mistreated.

Or they may know, but believe they're unable to help. Pastors are only human and they're subject to the same weaknesses and temptations as the rest of us. Deep down, they may be afraid of the bully and his or her cohorts. Although I don't condone this type of hands-off approach, it's easy to see how someone chooses this route. Catholic clergy are under a great deal of pressure. They must run a small business, often with little help and a limited budget. They're also painfully aware that it's easy for anyone to level a charge of misconduct, even if there's no basis. So they take the path of least resistance, at least for the short term.

It's possible the pastor knows what's going on, but doesn't really believe that someone is being bullied. He (being human) may have heard unsavory stories about the target, from several different sources. He doesn't think multiple parties would fabricate the same tale. So he goes with what seems the most plausible. Abusers are very good at recruiting others to "help" their cause.

People with disordered personalities can appear holier than thou. It's possible the pastor thinks highly of them. Unless he's personally confronted someone with narcissism, he probably can't even fathom how one (or more) of his favorite parishioners could be so devious.

Sometimes, the pastor has a character flaw, and he abuses the sheep he's supposed to protect. If that's the case, pray for him.

Flickr photo by gwp57

Friday, October 25, 2013

Letting Your Guard Down Because You're in Church

Bullies have a distinct advantage when they enter a church. That's because his or her targets, as well as nearly everyone else, assume all fellow parishioners have good intentions. So it often takes a long time to catch on to the fact a disordered person is in your midst.

One sign there are one or more sowers of discord is that people who once worked well together no longer do. Sometimes there will be a scapegoat. The bully typically has a cadre of allies, or else he or she wouldn't have the power to disrupt. However, it's very difficult to figure out who's really behind all the commotion. That's because narcissists are extremely clever. They may have manipulated a proxy into doing their dirty work.

It's hard to even fathom that such a deceiver could operate in a religious setting, because, as Christians, we're supposed to assume the best, and view our neighbor in a positive light. But Our Lord warned us against these wolves. He also told us to be "wise as serpents and simple as doves." (Douay-Rheims version.)

Flickr photo by arranET

But What About Turning the Other Cheek?

Christians are taught to turn the other cheek. It's true that we have to forgive, and we need to pray for our enemies. We have to love them and to sincerely desire the best for them. But we don't have to put up with being abused.

We can be nice, we can be kind and we can be charitable. But we don't need to be doormats. The best way I've found to deal with difficult personalities we meet along the way is to rise above the ruckus and pay little attention to their antics. Don't put yourself in the position of needing anything from them. Develop a wider circle of friends outside of your church community so you don't feel so dependent upon one group for all of your socialization. Encourage your children to do the same. Bullies look for your weak spot. If you desperately want to fit in, they'll sense this.

Yes, we are called to forgive, no matter how many times someone hurts us. We also must forgive even without an apology. However, this doesn't mean we return to the same spot we left, as if nothing happened. We don't need to set ourselves up for a repeated cycle of abuse.

Flickr photo by ell brown

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Keeping the Faith, But Losing the Bully

Church bullies who inflict abuse bring about a spiritual battle. A church should be a refuge. When bad behavior happens inside a House of God, it creates a deep inner turmoil. You were seeking to escape the evils of the world, only to find more evil in a place where you were trying to walk closer with the Lord.

At first you try to stick it out in your spiritual home, hoping the storm will pass. Then, when things become unbearable, you have one of two choices. You can either tough it out or you can leave. This is an excruciating fork in the road for families with children. Should you uproot them? Where will  you go from here? Will they lose their faith in the process? Will your own faith weaken because of this disruption?

If the church is very family oriented, you worry about how to find a replacement. You might live in an isolated area with no other churches around. How far are you willing to drive each Sunday?

In nearly every instance, though, the best answer is to leave a bad environment and go somewhere else. Only then can you find the peace of God, which He intended for you.

Flickr photo by FortheglryofGod

Bullying from a Catholic Perspective

I am Catholic and my experience with church bullies is from a Catholic perspective. Spiritual abuse is something that cuts across all denominations though. Anyone who finds this blog is free to leave his or her opinion in the comments section. No Catholic-bashing will be allowed, but sincere queries about the Catholic faith are welcome and I'll do my best to answer them.

Despite my experience with bullying and mobbing in a church setting, I am still committed to my Catholic faith. God allows these trials to hit and we have to weather the storm. It's a test of our faith. What we need to do is to lose the bullies, but keep our faith.

Flickr photo by Dan44

Appearances Can Be Very Deceiving

Just because someone goes to church and appears to be holy doesn't mean that's the case. Actually, since my encounters with religious bullies, I've learned that piety can provide the perfect cover for the mentally disturbed.

Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder like to run the show. They crave positions of authority, and a church offers plenty of opportunity to use their "talents." Once embedded in the organization, they cling tenaciously to their unpaid position. Sometimes, though, narcissists are on the payroll. You'll also find them in the pulpit.

Narcissism and bullying are almost one and the same. A healthy individual with a full range of emotions, including empathy, doesn't employ devious tactics to discredit another. A narcissist, on the other hand, doesn't care who stands in his way. If he sees something he wants, he considers it his.

Church bullying is something that exists, and it appears to be pretty widespread. But it's one of those things no one likes to talk about. However, I'm going to discuss it here in hopes of offering consolation to others who've experienced malicious behavior in church.

Flickr photo by rappensuncle