Defense Mechanisms of Addicts
In the Assembly honest discussion was sometimes attacked as "divisive, of the Devil, mean spirited," etc. Whenever issues were raised regarding teaching and practices one was accused of "railing"-- in other words, attacking the person or the ministry.
Dealing with recovery issues concerning abusive groups is very similar to dealing with recovery issues concerning a drug addict (see The Subtle Power Of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen).
It is similar in that honesty is the difference between life and death! Being candid is not being mean, it is the flip side of the coin of which is also found love. Indifference to truth is not forgiveness, it is a careless disregard for the recovery of individuals who have been lying to themselves for years!
It is also true that the addict will get angry when you try to confront them honestly regarding their behavior and attitudes. It takes patience and real love to not take the angry response personally, but to continue to try and get the addict to a place of honesty.
The recovering Assembly member will sometimes use all the defensive mechanisms at their disposal to prevent the honest evaluation of their involvement. The reason for this is obvious. It is very painful to admit that:
- I was deceived about a great many things.
- I was emotionally dependant on the group.
- I willingly gave up my liberty in Christ.
- I contributed to an abusive system.
To consider these above things is not "a heavy handed approach" but the only road to true healing and as such a very loving approach.
In recovery the counselor is sometimes attacked as being "cruel" for insisting that the counselee be honest.
Jesus has been knocking at the door of the Assembly for many long years seeking to enter into communion with those inside. Notice the list of things the church of Laodicea was required to avail themselves of to achieve the blessing of God.
The list shows that the church considered that their condition was good, while the Lord said they were in desperate need of an honest assessment of their condition. He ends his entreaty, "Whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent."
I have the greatest love and concern for my dear brethren who are coming out of the Assembly and pray earnestly for God's richest blessing for them. If we try to establish a "no-talk rule" where we never confront certain issues we are not doing our good friends any favors.
To say that only God can address these things is an easy way for us to escape our responsibility to love our brother. We are to follow the example of our Lord by speaking the truth in love.
We may be upbraided for pointing out errors, but unlike the Assembly, it is not to attack the individual person and shame them, but that through honest assessment we can come to experience His wonderful grace!
May God bless us good!