I know arguing with certain people only gives me indigestion. I am getting better about avoiding such gastric upsetting contests. It still sometimes happens. Obstinate people cause problems. But they are not usually major problems. Liars cause major problems. Many people fall into agreeing with liars because they don’t understand the issues at hand. It is difficult to tell the two apart.
Living With Sociopaths
Liars never intend to educate people. Screwtape expresses his disgust at the assumptions of “younger tempters who think it is our job to educate.” Tempters should befuddle and discourage education. No one who avoids the truth about anything wants it known by anyone else. In fact, they would prefer not knowing it either. This is the reason it is hard dealing with an obstinate person. It is aggravating.
My home church employed a non-credentialed person as an associate minister. He was a retired military man who passed himself off as a counselor and teacher. The man was arrogant and ignorant. When I tried talking to him about being a minister, he said, “You will never be accepted because you part your hair down the middle; and your parents are divorced.” The fact is I did not part my hair down the middle. As to the other issue, I did not understand how my parents lived was any issue about me.
I did not go home with my tail between my legs. I took my case the board of elders who assured me that would not be a problem. How could a person like that have any leadership position in a church? Over the years, I learned about how churches attract sociopathic people. Many of these people become clergy. Others find their ways into powerful lay positions and become the bane of decent pastors. Such people, like that associate minister, are manipulative, deceitful, and attractive to the unwitting.
Arguing With The Obstinate
Ignorant people manipulated by such monsters will often rise to their defense. The sociopath gives every appearance of acting from the best of motives even if the actions taken are inappropriate. My associate minister claimed to be more interested in “personal evangelism” than counseling after that. It took many more years and a church division before he was finally dismissed.
People who draw personal satisfaction from emotionally manipulating others make followers. Manipulative clergy make disciples for themselves by convincing them they are important and special to the pastor (and thereby God). A follower has many psychological reasons to maintain the good graces of the master. They become obstinate and refuse to listen to reason.
Years ago, a dear friend was victimized by a sociopath and his disciples. She asked for my input on the situation. After a one on one talk, she asked if I would go meet with them. My exact words, as I recall, were, “I don’t get into puking contests with buzzards.” I could not think of a better way to describe the potential experience.
I advised my friend to do what I eventually did. Simply walk away from contests you cannot win. You will only harm yourself for engaging in them.
Arguing and Deconstruction
Happily, ignorance is curable. We call it education. And it requires teaching. Teaching is a form of love in action. We all need teachers. The process of deconstruction many former fundamentalists undergo requires teachers who have walked the path. I am one. But education also requires arguing points of view.
There was a time I did not know any better. I was one of the ignorant who arrogantly believed I knew what was right. But I never felt comfortable with it. Was what I thought I knew all there was to know? These reflections continue today.
Teaching what I was learning was problematic. People accused me of being an “arrogant know-it-all.” It was an appropriate accusation. I already knew I was that. But I am trying not to be that. Deconstruction for a teaching-pastor is a painful process. The biggest part is ego-deflation. Learning to discuss rather than argue is difficult when you have mistaken one for the other. Still, the question of how to tell the differences remain.
Obstinacy and Self-Preservation
Obstinate disciples of sociopaths are practicing self-preservation. The manipulation affects their personal identities. But it is possible to overcome it. Teachers must act in ways that do not threaten. We must do the unexpected. Threats are expected. But, being from the evangelical perspective, many of us are able to speak the language. Using familiar, if not technically accurate, terms is important. This approach helps in dealing with people from an evangelical perspective without the manipulation as well. But, due to social media, more people have been manipulated into supporting major evils.
The sociopathic personality attempts self-preservation as well. But it is self-preservation at all costs. Enemies are mercilessly attacked and forced out. Then certain disciples are “thrown under the bus” and become enemies. Then they leave destroying as much as they can.
Healing begins. But it only happens by recognizing who and what I am fighting. Doing no harm is the first general rule. It is not easy. It is not safe. Good teachers know this. Otherwise, we fall into the trap of becoming what we oppose.