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15 Aug '11

Emotional Voyeurism and Pseudo Discipling

There are people who under the guise of spiritual formation and "community" encourage others to bare their deepest secrets to them. I am not talking about trained counselors here but good intentioned individuals who believe that unless all is on the table and out in the open there cannot be growth. They set themselves up as the spiritual coach who can guide the process and encourage people to peel  back the layers of their psyche to them.

In large part, these individuals are seeking to play the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others but what it often really amounts to is emotional voyeurism - looking into places in another person's life that they are not qualified to look into, opening wounds or issues that they are not qualified to deal with and creating an emotional bond (enmeshment) that is unhealthy and creates spiritual dependency on them.

These individuals naturally gravitate toward other emotionally wounded individuals who are already vulnerable and needy.  Because emotionally needy people need the affirmation of others they are easily drawn into spiritual enmeshed relationships with these "pseudo disciplers" that is unhealthy. And, it is not unusual for them to actually become even more unhealthy as unqualified "counselors" open issues in their lives that they cannot help fix.  Because these self taught spiritual coaches use hyper spiritual language, those drawn in believe that these individuals can help them grow closer to God when in reality they are often simply creating spiritual dependency on themselves.

Healthy followers of Christ never open wounds or get into issues that they are not qualified to deal with. In addition, they never play the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others. Nor do they, in their discipling of others, create a spiritual dependency on themselves. Frankly this is how cults come into being as it can be emotionally appealing to have others dependent on us an there are always vulnerable people who will go there if we allow them.

Healthy disciplers help others grow in their own self - knowledge through time in the word, in prayer and introspection. They do not need to know or even desire to know many of the details of another's inner life but point them continually to God. Appropriate sharing in appropriate settings is encouraged for mutual edification and accountability but never in a way that supplants the role of the Holy Spirit or creates a spiritual dependency on another individual. Our dependency is always on Christ rather than a person.

Churches and ministry organizations should be on guard against those who enjoy emotional voyeurism or spiritual dependencies. No matter what the spiritual language that is used, anyone who is creating spiritual or emotional dependencies on themselves are not themselves healthy. In fact, it is usually unresolved spiritual issues in their own lives that give them a need to create enmeshed emotional and spiritual ties with other vulnerable individuals. Whether called discipleship, community or spiritual coaching, be on guard. Healthy individuals create healthy relationships, personally and spiritually. Unhealthy individuals create unhealthy relationships, personally and spiritually.