Sometimes it’s fun to see heads explode in the counseling room. (Not literally of course). This happens when one of our deeply cherished religious hypocrisies is challenged. Let me give you an example.
I often find pride showing its ugly face posing as humility. This happens when someone takes great efforts to “serve” others but will not allow themselves to be served. When questioned about this there’s usually some excuse like “I don’t like to put others out of their way” or something to that effect. What is really going on is it is easier to be seen as the server because that is how they stay in control. In other words, when they are served they feel weak.
Have you ever bumped into someone at church that you haven’t seen in a while and you ask them where they’ve been? They give an explanation about some difficulty they’ve been through and how they couldn’t get to church. So you ask them why they didn’t call and ask for help. Their response is, “I didn’t want to put anyone out”. And you shake your head wondering what “putting someone out” has to do with asking for help.
What you are witnessing is pride. Yes, it may be wounded pride, or scared pride or even inferiority pride but in the end it is an attempt to keep from being vulnerable to protect our self-image.
So back to the head exploding.
I ask this person If they remember what Jesus said about how it was more blessed to give than to receive. They usually give me a sincere look and say “yes I do, I love to give.” So I say to them; “So you truly believe God blesses in a special way those who give.” Again they say, “yes I do”. Then I look straight at them as say; “So when you refuse to allow others to give to you in your time of need you are depriving someone of God’s special blessing. Does that seem very loving?” Well by this time you can smell the burning coming from between their ears because if they give their typical line of not wanting to trouble someone with their problems they are seen as unloving, and no one what’s to be seen as selfish or unloving.
I generally let them sit with that a while and hope that it opens up a door to truly understand how their behavior is really about insecurity and the need to protect themselves and that their service is a way of keeping others from seeing how needy they really are.
I am trying to put my finger on a problem that every leader senses but often can’t define. I am not advocating this kind of confrontation. Primarily because it is rarely successful since most of this behavior is unconscious. But an understanding leader will look with compassion past their façade of invulnerability to a person who is scared of being seen and accepted for who they truly are; a weak, need sinner in need of other weak and needy sinners. Our job is to gently and sensitively help them see that we all desperately need each other. This is what it means to be followers of Christ.
But sometimes I like to mess with their heads and watch them explode … In a kind, theraputic and compassionate way of course.