Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Closets and Keeping a Record of Wrongs or Not Forgiving

Given the comments on the last post of Closets and Leaving, I see that many people have experienced and felt the same. They too have dealt with leaving for sometimes a seemingly small thing only to realize that the things over the years that had not been dealt with and had been pushed into a "closet" in their spirits were the real reasons for eventually leaving a group or church.

In the comments, Mary touched on a topic related to this that I want to address. She said that if she spoke to anyone about all the things that she had in her 'closet' they would accuse her of keeping account of wrongs. I know about 10 years ago we went to the Leadership of our church with a written paper of the things that were bottled up in us that we felt were weakness and things to be addressed in our body and in the leaderships lives. Husband had gotten to a point where he was ready to break so he decided to go to them with the things he had not dealt with and talk it out with the head leaders. (understand we were also in a leadership position and had been told that we could bring up these kinds of things)

Basically things got aired out but then stuffed back into the closet. We were told that we were harboring unforgiveness, keeping a list of wrongs and that we needed to have our hearts right with the leadership. There were some, "I'm sorry you have been hurt," kind of things said to us but basically that was about it. To continue to push it any further would have made us look bitter, unforgiving, mean and petty. One pastor (brought in for mediation) gave us a book on being highly sensitive to try to understand why we would have such a problem with what was going on. (unbeknown to us at the time, the rest of the team was also having the same questions and later left because of them) So we stepped down from being an elder. Looking back now, it was all the same reasons that we eventually left for. We just had a fuller closet to deal with at the end.

In these kinds of groups you eventually learn that anything brought to the leadership only ends up in you being blamed for being too sensitive or not being loyal, for being petty or for being divisive. So you decide to try and live with it. In reality you are essentially asked to keep this closet. Not in so many words but everything is to be laid down and not brought up. You are supposed to "get over it," "get on to more important things," "quit thinking of yourself more highly than you ought," and "just chill out." So you just kept pushing stuff into the closet so as to keep peace.

You are asked to trust the leadership. They have the bigger picture. They know more than you do about each situation. There is always a reason for their actions. This is their church. They are the ones God has placed as the head. They are the Apostle and Prophet (pick your title). They have other men they are accountable to.

You can see why you would have such a 'closet' for the unfinished things you are seeing.

But my question is this: Is this truly keeping a record of wrongs? Is this closet full of not forgiving? Is it sin on your part?

Let me say first of all that it certainly can be. If you refuse to go to a person and let them know there is a problem, all the while adding things to the list.....that is keeping a record of wrongs. Or if you approach someone and tell them there is a problem and they tell you that they are sorry and deal with what is wrong - either change their behavior or try to explain how your offense is unwarranted and then you still don't forgive....that is not forgiving. But if you have learned that it is just not worth bringing up or if brought up will result in pain for you, you will eventually either have to leave or start a building project of your own to add onto the closet that you already have full.


Anonymous said...

IMO, its not a issue of unforgiveness. Where the issue basically boils down to leadership "character" issues, and not personality or doctrinal issues, or personal offense, then its not keeping a record.

For example, if the leader "heard from God" and changes the direction of the church every 3 to 4 months, for years, again because he "heard from God", then bringing this up is not a forgiveness issue or keeping a record of wrongs. Its a character issue. If you notice it but stuff it away, and it continues to happen every 3 to 4 months, then it is an issue that has to be addressed, and not a forgiveness/records issue.

If you continue to treat the leader kind, and not harbor resentment/unforgiveness/ect, but try to be a good follower, which is what I suspect you were, then IMO its not keeping a record of wrongs. If you on the other hand, became suspicious, distrusting, leading others to do the same, harbored hatred because of this, then yes, it could/would be a case of harboring unforgiveness.

Its a issue that does have some complexity and can be used against you by someone with something to hide - which is what you alluded to. Yes, it is indeed a dance by abusive leadership, where all the moves are known in advance and followed. You say "____", the leader responds by saying "____" and accusing you of XXXXX. Same song and dance as millions have suffered.

Be free! Its not you! However, it might be though if you did not go to the other elders or brought it up to the church as required by Matthew. There is an unpleasant thought which is a whole different, and very real debate.

Joel B. said...

I think that in many cases, such as the ones brought up here by you and others, the whole "you're keeping a record of wrongs" thing is a diversion on the part of the 'leadership' to avoid dealing with issues that really need to be dealt with.

From what I see, they are ripping a verse out of 1 Cor 13, and using it in a context in which they're able to divert attention from their own faults and issues, and put the focus on someone else. Very convenient.

My thought, if someone were to take that route with me, would be to not go there! I wouldn't even entertain the thought about whether or not I'm keeping a record of wrongs, because that's not what this is all about!

Extreme example to make my point... If a husband is committing adultery and has a drinking problem and is hooked on porn and so on and so on, and the wife addresses it, and then the husband says, you're just keeping a record of wrongs, the wife shouldn't sit back and say, "Hmm, maybe he's right, I'm not acting in love toward my husband because I'm bringing up these wrongs of his." The husband is the one who is in the wrong, and he's trying to make the wife look bad!

I'm all for grace and forgiveness, but that doesn't mean not confronting issues that hurt people.

Mary said...


Thanks for doing an excellent job of articulating this. As I was reading this, a thought struck me.

I think that someone (person A) could ask person B if they are keeping account of wrongs IF person A has acknowledged their error and asked for forgiveness from person B previously. Then if person B keeps bringing the errors up, then person A has a legitimate claim.

But to accuse someone of keeping an account of wrongs when they have neither been acknowledged nor repented from is not right. Does that make sense?

What do you think?