Please protect my dignity

by Angela Slack – article April – June 2019

Defining the thin line between spiritual ministry and manipulation, spiritual authority and abuse is not a very easy thing to do when we consider that people behave within the context of their cultural upbringing. What is acceptable in one context is atrocious in another. The important thing is that the person on the receiving end and the one initiating the situation both have to come to a place of congruence – that is a mutual trust and a common agreement that they are both happy with the terms of the relationship. It’s how we make others feel about themselves that is critical. This is the core offence in all types of abuse. 

The diversity of global culture is vast and leaves lots of room for learning as people are the sum total of all their experiences, good and bad and their behaviour is shaped by these experiences. So, we have to be open minded, kind hearted and willing to learn from each other what is the preferred way of interacting as per the context we are in. Do not presume ourselves upon people, certainly never in the name of a God (Yahweh) who is the least intrusive and overbearing of all. Step back, ask permission, do not violate people’s rights to privacy, personal space, conscience, freedom and dignity etc..

Spiritual abuse is… where persons who have a leadership role, authority and responsibility in a faith community overstep the line and assume power and take liberties that they do not have and impose themselves upon their congregants/disciples causing distress, harm or injury. We addressed the issue of Spiritual abuse in a previous issue of SHARE, (see January 2017 issue page 14) follow the link for more reading. 

What is the ethos of Kingdom Society? I found the answer summed up nicely in, Romans 12:10, Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;  (KJV)

“Death before Dishonour” is a code of the Greeks/Romans/Japanese/ Chinese and many ancient civilizations that never allowed the dignity of their cherished or revered empire to fall to the ground, the Chinese call it, ‘Saving Face’. They would rather die trying than live to see it happen. I have been reflecting on this very deeply as I am learning some lessons about how I ought to live in the Kingdom of God. 

Do I love my God and His people enough to die for the sake of upholding the honour of His Kingdom? What Romans chapter 12, tells me is that rather than being motivated by vain pride and the need to ‘save face,’ the more honourable motivation is the love of God that is unconditional and relentless in its intention to preserve, edify, strengthen, embolden and celebrate the object of His love, i.e. you and me.

The Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would be treated,” is so simple but hard to do without the love of God motivating us. Human love is self indulgent and motivated by self gratification. I worked in the Health and Social Care Sector and I can tell you that I have seen the underbelly of human love. Family members will do the most callous things to each other for selfish reasons. Never mind strangers! Thankfully, we have an antidote to human selfishness – God’s sacrificial love that is spoken about in, Romans 12:10.

How then do we ‘in honour prefer each other’? God is honourable and if we are His children then His nature is at work in us; we are compelled by His Holy Spirit to behave as He does. 

Honour is a quality that…

  • combines respect for others, being proud of others.
  • compels you to act and honestly because it is morally right.
  • makes someone proud and happy by doing or being something.
  • addresses or refers to elders or officials in a deeply respectful manner.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/honour 21/02/19

Dignity is…

  • a calm, serious and controlled behaviour that makes people respect you.
  • the importance and value that a person has, that makes other people respect them or makes them respect themselves. 

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/dignity

How do we commonly violate others dignity? We:-

  • Assume we know what is best for them.
  • Act without their permission.
  • Impose our preferences upon them
  • Force them to comply with the popular will.
  • Take them for granted.
  • Fail to reward/acknowledge their contribution. 
  • Belittle their efforts.
  • Repress the expression of their gifts, talents and voice. 
  • Breach trust /confidentiality. 
  • Shame/rebuke them in a public forum. 
  • Trampling on other people’s  dreams 
  • Constantly fix others/expose their errors.
  • Throw others ‘under the bus’ to save ourselves.
  • Behave just plain nosey.

I am sure you are getting the drift and you will agree that this list is by no means exhaustive. We have the Holy Spirit to tell us all the rest if we would but yield; He will do a marvellous work of transformation within us. Here is some affirmative action to replace the destructive habits mentioned in the previous list. The biggest area of offence is in our speech.

Cure for Verbal Diarrhoea – what are you really saying and why? What is your motive? Think before you speak! 

Always:-

  • Judge prophecy –  what’s fit for public announcement and not. Did God tell you to make it public or to pray privately?
  • Consider is it really your truth to speak, when speaking the truth about personal matters? 
  • Give the benefit of the doubt, do not assume anything until you know all the facts.
  • Do not repeat what you cannot personally corroborate. 
  • Be as responsible in what you listen to as you are in your speech.
  • Cover your brother’s/sister’s mistakes publicly while supporting them privately.
  • Does everyone else need to know what you know?
  • Ask yourself when you have left will you leave a wreck behind?
  • Mind your own business.
  • Seasoning you words with grace and act in kindness.

Finally, in our relationships are others better off for having known us; have we reflected God’s honour by preserving their dignity?