Second of 11 articles on high conflict people in church. Previous article: Dirty Little Secret of Ministry
Often the thoughts, motivations and choices high conflict people make will utterly mystify us. They are so different from our own ways that we tend to look past them. We ignore the danger signals.
This combination of mystification and denial can cause us an enormous amount of pain. The high conflict person will continue to escalate a conflict until it is impossible to ignore them and real damage has been done. Maybe to your church, your career and your family.
We can learn to identify the patterns of high conflict people in real time. This is discernment; learning to see the patterns. High conflict people have a particular set of needs and motivations. We are best served when we can recognize these needs and motivations early in a conflict. Our churches will suffer less from conflict once we are discerning, once we can identify the patterns of the high conflict people among us.
We can learn to identify the patterns of high conflict people in real time.
Interestingly, the high conflict people will benefit as well. When we are able to meet the high conflict person where they are and respond in ways that are appropriate for them, they won’t spiral down to such painful depths so readily. They won’t be consumed with overwhelming emotions. They will be able to move on.
We identify high conflict people through the patterns of their thinking and actions. A good portion of this website is dedicated to this. Continue reading these introductory posts and you will have made a good start.
We are identifying patterns but we are not diagnosing anyone. This is essential. In this website we refer to specific personality disorders. It is important to know these and understand how people with these disorders function. However, you and I are not able to diagnose anyone. We don’t have the knowledge or the training to diagnose a psychological disorder.
In fact, even for psychologists diagnosing a personality disorder is a complicated process and isn’t done off the cuff. Such a diagnosis will surely include a physical exam and an extensive psychological evaluation. It may also include interviews with family and close friends. Even under these circumstances a diagnosis my be difficult.
It is the very act of judging others that Jesus warns against.
We identify patterns, but we don’t call people names. Hopefully we can recognize that if we can’t diagnose someone then we can’t use a diagnostic label to describe them. It is helpful to understand the dynamics of personality disorders, but it is completely unfair to call someone a borderline or narcissist. It is a short cut. It is a way to dismiss the person. It is a way to marginalize them and put them in a box. It is the very act of judging others that Jesus warns against.
By the way, if you want to really set off a high conflict person call them a borderline or narcissist or high conflict. You have just escalated the conflict several steps and it is likely they will never forget or forgive you. It will work against everything you stand for and are working toward.
We are looking at the patterns of the people we are in conflict with so we can discern the nature of the conflict and the needs and motivations of the other party. We can learn about high conflict people to make peace, to bring reconciliation and to love those in the deepest pain.
It isn’t our job to judge them, to condemn them or to shame them. That is never our job.
Next Steps: Take a few minutes to consider the difference between judging and discerning, between condemning and understanding. Look up the Scriptures. Do a quick study if it will help.
What are the predictable outcomes of discernment and judging? Why do we find judging so easy when we are under pressure and discernment so difficult? Why will judging high conflict people make matters worse?
What steps will you need to take to stay with discerment and suspend judgement?
Next Article: A Crisis in Bonding
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