An Enduring Pattern

High conflict people have an enduring pattern of behavior. It repeats and that is part of their makeup. Their efforts to stop this enduring pattern are not effective. In fact, what they do, the only things they can think of doing, make matters worse.

Since they’re unable to stop this cycle inside of themselves, they will attempt to control you and make you stop the cycle. But they believe you are the source of their distress. So their controlling behavior will lead to serious conflicts with you and may become a source great pain in your life.

Chronic feelings of distress

High conflict people are in a continuing state of distress. They fear that at any moment their greatest fears will be realized and they will be utterly destroyed. This is not hyperbole. It is how they feel at their very core. They may not be able to express it. Then it may not be willing to admit it. Still they continually feel as though they are on the very brink of untold destruction, and, that they’re going to die.

The problem is external

High conflict people are not given to self-awareness, self reflection, or taking personal responsibility for their thoughts emotions, actions, or outcomes. At the same time, the situation of being in a chronic state of distress is intolerable. If they aren’t the source of this distress, if they couldn’t possible possibly be the source of this distress then the source must be outside of them. The distress must be external.

Of course, the source of distress for the high conflict person, just like for ourselves, is at least partially inside us. This notion alone is highly stressful for them. They find it difficult or impossible to acknowledge that they are part of the problem.

So they are always on alert to see, protect, prepare for, and avoid the source of their distress. They are hyper-vigilant and super sensitive to everything and anything that might even hint that their deepest fears may in fact be coming true.

Attempts to relieve stress

The situation a high conflict person finds themselves in is intolerable, so they set about to relieve this pressure. They are not the problem and that is a settled matter. So someone else must be. So they set about getting other people to stop being the source of their distress by any means necessary.

The key is to understand the notion of “by any means necessary.” They seek to master their feelings by controlling other people’s thoughts, actions, plans, and emotions. They will manipulate, lie, coerce, threaten, use violence, flatter, cheat, betray, make false accusations, or anything else they can think of in hopes that the threats they feel will go away. Often these means are grossly inappropriate and disproportionate to the situation they are in.

Distress continues

Unfortunately, for the high coffee person, that stress continues. Perhaps which increases for short time and then returns. Often because of their approaches so ineffective, the distress and the complications of the situation have only increased.‌ While this is easily predicted by others it catches the high conflict person by surprise and they are utterly dismayed.

Negative feedback

The response by others who have been the focus of high conflict people only adds to their distress. The pushback, asking for accountability, the complaints they receive about their behavior only increases their stress and convinces them that the problem, as always, other people. So their internal distress increases and the cause, they believe is external and we are right back at the beginning.

Thus patter repeats and repeats in a high conflict person’s life.

Next Step: Do you know someone in your family or in your church who is stuck in a pattern like this? Think through their typical actions snd reactions. Can you predict what sort of thing they might do next?

If you aren’t in conflict with this person, what helps them through these conflicts? What helps them break the pattern?

If you are already in conflict with them, take extra time to think through the pattern. Be very specific. Try to understand why they choose like they do. Can you help break the pattern?

Some Churches Do This Thing

Some churches do this thing. There are the whispered tales of who did what and when and how. And the choosing of sides and the hurt feelings and bitterness that can last for years and even decades.

Churches are torn apart. Careers and ministries are destroyed. Families broken.

Some churches do this over and over and their histories are full of pastors that have lasted only a short time and left on their own, or were fired or forced out or were driven from the ministry entirely. Sometimes these churches are called “Clergy Killers.” It is a horrible name and even worse when it has been earned.

Sometimes these churches are called “Clergy Killers.” It is a horrible name and even worse when it has been earned.

Though it is almost always a mystery to those involved, the dynamic of these sort of churches is actually well understood. The conflicts are driven by a few people with special wounds and needs.

Jesus and Paul called them wolves. We will call them high conflict people. These people are destructive. They are also in a great deal of pain. They may consider both the pain and the destruction to be completely normal. No matter. We need to learn how to love even these people as we minister.

The actions of high conflict people are very predictable. In fact, they have a very limited number of behaviors they can choose from. Learning how they think and why is essential to the longevity of your ministry and the health of your church. Learning how to recognize their behaviors and knowing what they are likely to do next is essential. And most importantly, learning how to love these people with their own set of needs is necessary to move ahead and protect your family, save your church and deepen your ministry.


That is why we created this website.


Next Steps: Even in their pain and in the wake of their destruction, these people aren’t monsters. They are the difficult people we are called to attend to. Is your church in conflict right now? Do you know who is driving the conflict? Do you know their stories? Do you know their pain? Do you know their friends, family, co-workers? Start with this for today. It will be enough.


Start Here: A Word About Wolves

More Resources: These resources have been helpful for me. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations under Attack

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

Loving High conflict people with limits

Last of 11 articles on high conflict people in church. Previous article: Loving High Conflict People with Empathy.

Beyond loving with our empathy, we need to love the high conflict people in our lives with our limits. Because they are unable to maintain relationships and they don’t know what is appropriate and was not appropriate in their relationships, they depend upon us to set healthy contours.

We are still being empathetic. We are still kind and gentle and patient. We are professional. At the same time, we set limits to help our high conflict people be successful in the relationships with us.

…we set limits to help our high conflict people be successful in the relationships with us.

The first thing we can do is reduce expectations. With high conflict people we need to be very disciplined about not promising or implying too much or offering too great of an outcome. They will take what we offer, multiply it, then come after us when their expectations are not met. In general, it is good practice to under promise and over deliver. With high conflict people this is absolutely essential.

Along with this goes the need to discourage an idealized image of ourselves. Authority figures especially, pastors and ministers, are easily idealize by people, particularly high conflict people. They will treat you as all good, without flaw, and even as the voice of God in their lives. Of course, you will eventually disappoint them in this because you, like the rest of us, are not these things. You are flawed and finite like everyone else. Remember, when high conflict people are splitting they will turn what was once seen as all good to what they believe now is all bad. And they will seek to destroy you without remorse because, you have made them afraid. Because you have come to embody their deepest fears. Because, in their eyes, you are a monster.

Your best defense is to cultivate and embody some humility. You aren’t there to fix everything. You aren’t there to rescue. Sometimes you can help. Mostly, you are traveling alongside them with your own limitations and struggles. Be honest and open about this. Not soul baring exactly, not being obsequious, but in a matter of fact way admitting what everyone else already knows.

Along with this is the need to establish a professional, arm’s distance relationship with your high conflict person. They will be looking to you for special treatment and to attend to them in a preferential way. They will want you to bend or break the rules for them because of their needs or status. They will want greater intimacy with you and more time. They will seek to become the center of your life. All of this will leave you vulnerable to their manipulations and attacks. It will also empower their self-absorbed and destructive patterns.

By establishing the limits of a professional relationship, you are helping them learn the appropriate, safe contours of how relationships are meant to work. You are saving them pain in the long run, even if they resist at the beginning and try to find some way around your limits.

When working with high conflict people it is best to keep to established policy, protocol and best practices. This will help protect you. It will keep you from being manipulated. It allows you to appeal to a common authority, a higher standard that everyone, including your high conflict person and even yourself must honor.

When working with high conflict people it is best to keep to established policy, protocol and best practices.

We also need to establish limits by not rescuing your high conflict people from the natural consequences of their actions. This is exceeding important and often very difficult. We don’t turn a blind eye to their actions or outcomes. We don’t rush in and smooth things over. Instead, we let them feel the full weight of their actions. We call in the appropriate authorities when necessary.

The high conflict person will resent you for this, but it is necessary for their development and recovery. They need to experience the natural consequences of their actions. It is how we love them.

Next Steps: Do you have people in your life or in your church who are asking you to bend the rules for them? Are you doing so and feeling uneasy about it? Do they make you feel that you owe it to them somehow?

Are you a fixer? Are you a rescuer? How does it feel to you when you watch someone fall because of their own actions? How can you be with someone in crisis without fixing or rescuing? Is this difficult for you? Why?

Do you know the policies and procedures of your church and denomination? Do you know best practices for clergy? Do you skirt around these? Make exceptions for yourself and others? Why?

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

Loving high conflict people with empathy

Tenth of 11 articles on high conflict people in church. Previous article: Recognizing High Conflict People

High conflict people are deeply wounded. They are in a constant state of anxiety and suffering. They need our help.

In ministry, we are called upon to love and serve these people, often the most difficult and dangerous people in our churches. Loving them doesn’t mean simply being soft towards them.. We need a robust love to serve them and our churches and careers and families. We need a plan and a viable approach that will help us through.

We need a robust love to serve them and our churches and careers and families.

Loving high conflict people requires approaching them with a full understanding of their situation. We’ll need to understand what suits them and what triggers them. We will need to carry the bulk of our relationship with them. We will need to work at their pace. We will need to create a path for them to be successful. Finally, we will need to find a way to maintain our own sanity and energy.

Sometimes, we mistakenly believe that love is all empathy and compassion. This is an approach that can be effective for people who have a fully formed conscience and take personal responsibility for their thoughts, choices, actions, feelings, and outcomes. High conflict people are not capable of this and have repeated crisis in their relationships. They need more than just empathy they also need limits.

So, first we’ll start with loving with empathy and then, we will continue in the next article with loving high conflict people with limits.

High conflict people desperately need us to be empathetic. They need us to understand and share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. They need our empathy to work it’s way out in compassion and to be beside them in sympathy genuinely caring for the high conflict person. Our empathetic response also needs to be able to incorporate the perspective of the high conflict person and to make choices and plans based on our understanding. So our empathy needs to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. (Matt 10:16). It is a tall order.

So our empathy needs to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. (Matt 10:16). It is a tall order.

Our empathy expressed toward a high conflict person will need to take particular shape. First, spend a lot of time listening and ask others to join you in the listening. Listening fully will take a lot of time and often to be uncomfortable. In the long run though it will save you time, energy, and pain.

And this kind of listening will save a high conflict person pain as well. The ability and willingness to listen empathetically will help soothe the high conflict person. And it will help them feel bonded. And I will give them a Safeway in place to work through their upset. This is a profoundly valuable gift to the high conflict person.

Always present yourself as friendly, civil, nonthreatening, and relax. Show them respect. They are often on edge and their deepest fears are just below the surface. Slights, impatience, disrespect, whether real or imagined, will lead to conflict and pain.

When you are with them, listening, be sure to recognize their real accomplishments and strengths. Don’t flatter them because they will see through it, challenge you and come to not trust you. But their real strengths and accomplishments need to be acknowledged and it will help them feel safe, known, and valued.

Be careful to not criticize them or blame them. Be careful about all negative feedback. They do not respond like other people who take personal responsibility for their actions. They will see it as a direct threat and danger. They will see it as an attack and respond with an attack of their own. Likely their attack will be harder, stronger, meaner then you would ever imagine.

Finally, in terms of empathy it is important that you validate the person without validating the complaint. When we are listening we need to acknowledge how deeply they feel what they feel and how important this topic is to them. But until we have an opportunity to factt check and reality test, we can’t act as though all that they have told us is true because we simply don’t know.

High conflict people are known to make false accusations. They have been known to lie. Not every accusation and make is untrue or unfounded. Not everything they say is a lie. But for the high conflict person knowingly lying or making false accusations can be seen as just another legitimate tool in their toolbox. Those who see the world this way will have no remorse when they lie to you. And, because they are so convinced that this is a legitimate act, they often won’t demonstrate the usual signs of some lying. So not only do they lie willingly and knowingly, it will be very difficult in real-time to identify that they are lying. So when we are sitting with them we suspend judgment on the contents of their stories. But we give an enormous amount of attention and empathy to the emotions they express.

Suspending our judgment is necessary for them and for us. At first that may seem somehow unkind or judgmental to withhold our validation of their story. If that’s the case for you then it will be important for you think through this carefully. If you champion the story of their’s that proves to be unfounded or worse a complete fabrication, your reputation maybe badly damage. Your credibility, perhaps your career, maybe devastated. You will have added to the pain of others unnecessarily and you may have a long path of making amends. If you accept all the high conflict person tells you at face value, you may find overtime that you too have promoted false accusations.

On the other hand, if we don’t spend sufficient time and care listening to the concerns and stories of our high config people then it is very likely that we will become the targets of blame. It is a fine line that we need to walk. Perhaps in seminary or in other training you have received and practice specific instructions about empathetic listening. It is worth the time and energy to review those materials. If you have never receive training specifically on empathetic listening now would be a good time to learn more about it.

Next Steps: Have you ever received training in empathetic listening? Now would be a good time to review that training? Now would be a good time to read about the process or attend a class.

What limits specific things do the high conflict people in your life do that challenge your empathy? What inhibits your love for them? Why? And why do they act that way?

Sometimes, by temperament or by training, we want to cut through a story and find the answer. We want to know who was right and who was wrong. We want to settle the matter, take sides. This inclination, left unchecked leaves us vulnerable to the manipulations of the high conflict person. Have you ever been manipulated in this way?

Next Article: Loving High Conflict People with Limits

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

Recognizing high conflict people

Ninth of 11 articles on high conflict people in church. Previous article: The Fear of Being Dominated

When high conflict people come into our lives we are often completely surprise and even mystified by them. They don’t respond in life the same way we do and they make choices that are hard for us to understand.

Often we spend a lot of time and emotional energy trying to find the cause behind what they do and how they think. We try to reason our way through. We compare them to ourselves and others we know and try to bend our minds around their actions. But this is exhausting and fruitless. They’re just not like us.

But we can learn about them, understand their motivations, and the way their minds work. Then we can learn to predict their actions. Fortunately, we can learn to recognize high conflict people in real-time.

Fortunately, we can learn to recognize high conflict people in real-time.

In addition to being driven by the profound fears we have already discussed, high conflict people are locked into a crisis of conflict. They’re locked into a cycle of trying to relieve their most fundamental fears, but their temps are only partially effective in the short term and make matters worse in the long run.

While it might take some time to recognize their deepest fears in the cycle of conflict’ you can readily learn to see the telltale size signs that you are dealing with the high conflict person. It is important to acknowledge these signs when you see them and allow yourself to hold them honestly. Few high conflict people are able to conceal these traits for very long. Eventually they will show this traits themselves, often in regards to another person, before you are in conflict with him. When you see these traits be aware and take note.

  1. All or nothing thinking – a cognitive distortion that categorizes everything including people as all good or all bad.
  2. Unmanaged emotions – in a conflict at the most insignificant slight or misunderstanding their emotions and their responses are disproportionately large and their memory of the “injury” is seemingly unending.
  3. Destructive communication – once they have been threatened their communication becomes louder, faster, higher pitched, more dramatic, and more confrontational. It is very difficult for them to back down.
  4. Extreme behavior – also known has the 90% rule, includes all those things the high conflict people do that you can’t imagine doing yourself and can’t begin to understand why they think it is okay for them to do.
  5. Blaming – if they cannot be the source of the problem, and they can’t, then they will find someone to blame.

When you see these, when you recognize a pattern of these behaviors it is essential that you pay attention. Behaviors like these don’t repair themselves. Behaviors like these don’t get better on their own. When you see someone acting in these ways, as a pastor, you need to prepare for them to turn these patterns of behavior in your direction.

Next Steps: Have you ever had a time when you saw the warning signs in a person and then turned a blind eye to them? Did you think that it would just work itself out? Did you think you were being overly harsh and judgmental? Why did you ignore the warning signs?

Is there someone in your life or church that mystifies you? That you just can’t understand why they do what they do? That they easily do things you never would ever consider?

Who is blaming others in your life? Who is unable to accept responsibility for their thoughts, choices, actions or outcomes?

Next Article: Loving High Conflict People with Empathy

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

The Fear of Being Belittled

Seventh of 11 articles on high conflict people at church. Previous article: The Fear of Being Abandoned

Some high conflict people are driven by a deep and profound fear of being belittled. Their motto in life is, “I’m special.” And anything that challenges that is seen as a serious threat to their existence. Some of these people seem insecure on the surface, but the majority appear exceedingly confident. They know themselves to be more than ordinary. They believe they are exceptional and should be acknowledged as such every step along the way.

Their motto in life is, “I’m special.”

These high conflict people are known for boasting and bragging. They are often grandiose. They exaggerate and they lie about their actions and accomplishments.

They see themselves as better, smarter, more worthy, unique, better qualified. They will push themselves forward as the leader, authority or expert. They may not have experience or a proven track record though. They are just convinced that they should be on top, making decisions because they know best.

It is often thought that they do this because they feel a great personal lack of security. They are overcompensating. This could be true and clear in some situations. Other times, the high conflict person appears to have no lack of confidence at all. They will find the very notion laughable.

When these people are challenged it does not go well. They resent the slightest hint that they may have performed inadequately, could stand some improvement or were in any way at fault. They resent being asked to be accountable for their actions or outcomes. They are resistant to personal change. They do not take responsibility for what they do or who it impacts.

Instead, they blame. They aren’t nearly as interested in solving problems as they are in assigning blame to others. There will often be a pattern of putting down others while maintaining facade of reasonableness. Many are fully capable of very aggressive name calling and other firms of verbal abuse. Often there will be false accusations. It is important for pastors to understand the range of abuse these high conflict people practice. Learning to identify and how to effectively deal with these attacks is an important skill for ministry longevity.

These high conflict people are generally oblivious to other’s needs or feelings. While they are often charismatic and attractive at the beginning they are not capsble or willing to live with the give and take of the intimacy required of deep and lasting relationships. These high conflict people will often be surprised by the resentment and anger of another toward them since they assume that everyone sees them as wonderfully special.

On the other hand, the needs and feelings of others may simply frustrate the high conflict person. Without empathy, these needs and feelings may simply trigger scorn or contempt. It may even lead to domestic violence and child abuse.

Next Steps: Is there someone in your life or at your church that expects special or preferential treatment? Do they bend or break little rules to demonstrate their status? Do they demonstrate their wealth, connections, or other forms of status in subtle or obvious ways? Do they embody humility in a quiet way without calling attention to themselves?

Do they lack concern or show contempt for the poor, those with addiction, those who have suffer loss of any kind?

Do they handle feedback well? Do they welcome correction? Do they blame others? Do they wait and plot their retaliation? Do they get even?

Next Article: The Fear of Being Dominated

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

The Fear of Being Dominated

Eighth of 11 articles on high conflict people in churches. Previous article: The Fear of Being Belittled

Some high conflict people are driven by a deep and profound fear of being dominated. They believe everyone is conning everyone so they want to be sure they are on top of the game. Their motto is a twist of the Golden Rule, “I’ll do to you before you can do to me”

They repeatedly break society’s rules and laws. They see these expectations that’s unfair manipulations and obstacles that they can ignore or workaround. The only rule to follow is the one in their own belly and the only law is dominate or be dominated.

Their motto is a twist of the Golden Rule, “I’ll do to you before you can do to me”

They are aggressive people. Sometimes they’re aggressively charming. They will emphasize their trustworthiness at every turn. Their aggressive charm is often seen as charisma. and many will see these folks as compellingly attractive.

They are also full of aggressive energy. They are not just high-energy people but they’re often hostile and confrontational. They don’t take “no” as a valid answer to their requests. They will continue to badger you until you give in. They will nag, belittle, threaten, bring others to apply pressure, lie, and anything else they can think of to get what they are after. It often feels like there’s no way to stop them except by giving in.

Their aggressiveness can lead to physical violence. This is the ultimate expression of personal disregard. Is the culmination of all their thoughts, needs, and fears.

They’re willing to take very high level’s of risks in their efforts to dominate. Losing isn’t the worse that can happen to them. Having others over them is far worse in their eyes than the consequences of not meeting financial or other obligations, of going to jail, or even dying. Anyway, those consequences are for losers, for others, they tell themselves.

It is said these folks lacks empathy, but that is not strictly true. Empathy can be understood as having to aspects. First, there is affective empathy in which one feels compassion for the suffering of another. We respond with an appropriate emotion to another person’s emotional state. It is certain that these high conflict people do not have this capacity. They are unable to share those feelings so in this way they lack empathy.

The second aspect of empathy is cognitive empathy. This is the ability to understand another person’s state of mind. Some of these high conflict people have a deep reservoir of this and that is troubling. They can see what causes you suffering and pain, but they are not troubled by your suffering and pain. In fact, they actually delight in your suffering and pain they will gladly use it against you to get what they want to dominate you.

These people certainly lack remorse. Hurting others can be a game for them. Life is just a tool to get what they want. They are contemptuous of you if they are in conflict with you I have any number of reasons or justifications for disregarding you.

These people respond to, react to conflict differently than others do. Often they find that their body system slowdown during conflict. Their breathing slows down and the heart rate slows down. All the while yours is speeding up. Your nervous systems getting ready for fight or flight and they are focusing and getting down to work. It isn’t a fair fight

Next Steps: Is there someone in your life or church that seems to often skirt the rules? Bending them or breaking them because they can or because that is just how they do? Do they have a criminal past?

Are they confrontational or demanding? Is it difficult or impossible to say no to them? Are them intimidating in how they talk or stand or shake hands? Do others say they are fearful or intimidated?

Do their stories not quite add up? Is something a little (or a lot) off? Have you checked their stories out or thought that maybe you should?

Next Article: Recognizing High Conflict People

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

Seeing the Patterns

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

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

Dirty Little Secret of Ministry

The first article of 11 about high conflict people in church.

If you are a pastor then you already know.  Probably your family knows as well.  Maybe even a couple of your friends.

The good people in your congregation almost certainly have no idea how it is.  They don’t really see what your life is like or know the challenges you face. They don’t know the risks.   They don’t understand your life or your work.  And they don’t know this little secret.

So here it is.  I’ll say it out loud.  Pastors most often leave the ministry because of the difficult people in their congregations.

Sometimes they are worn out and other times they are forced out, but it adds up to the same thing.  They leave and they don’t return.

Pastors most often leave the ministry because of the difficult people in their congregations.

Now, it is true that all churches have difficult people.  That isn’t really the problem.  In truth, not all difficult people are difficult in the same way.  Most difficult people will be thoughtless, inconsiderate, immature, selfish, petty, needy, troubled, depressed, angry or addicted.  We expect these people to be in our church.  That is why we are in ministry.  These people are not the problem.

There are other people, however, that are difficult in another way.  They stir up trouble.  They fight.  They are mean and cruel.  They hurt people on purpose. They call you names and make up stories about you.  They talk behind your back.  They actively try to turn others against you.  They are planning to do you in, cut you off at the knees and force you out.  These aren’t your average everyday difficult people.  These are high conflict people.  These are the wolves among the sheep.

High conflict people have specific traits that arise from specific psychological needs.  Psychologists talk about personality disorders but we aren’t psychologists.  Not being professionals, because we don’t have the training, we can’t diagnose anyone.

But we can watch the patterns in a person’s life. These are patterns of dysfunction that are known and studied.  The actions of high conflict people can be understood and predicted and addressed.

The actions of high conflict people can be understood, predicted and addressed.

This is good news because ignoring the wolves or not understanding them will only hurt us.  Learning about them, what drives them and what they need and expect will help. Learning how to care for them, to be helpful to them, learning to love them, will be good for them and for you and for your family.

The dirty little secret?   High conflict people push pastors, priests, clergy and other ministers out of the ministry.  Given the opportunity they will make your life miserable.  Given the opportunity they will make your family miserable.  Given the opportunity they will destroy churches

Next Steps:
 What relationships are wearing you down?  Are you growing weary of the ministry? Are you thinking of leaving the ministry?  Take note of these things.  It is important to look at it all honestly.  Write about it.  Talk to a trusted friend.  Seek to gain understanding of your situation and how you feel about it.  It will be helpful to gain a new and deeper understanding before you take action.

Next Article:Seeing The Patterns

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

The Fear of Being Abandoned

Sixth of 11 articles on high conflict people in church. Previous article: The Fear of Being Ignored

Some high conflict people are driven by the deep and profound fear of being abandoned. They are afraid that the people in their lives will leave, they will be left alone and their whole world will collapse.

They typically master a range of manipulative behaviors such as clinging, controlling, bullying, seduction, gaslighting, emotional abuse and blackmail and more.

Their moods swing as they are confronted by these fears. Sometimes the mood swings are wild and extreme. Their emotional state can change in an instant. They are inclined to bouts of anger and great inconsolable sadness, but even these episodes may only last for hours or at most a few days.

Their motto is, “I hate you, don’t leave me.”

They are inclined to impulsive and self-destructive behaviors. These may include drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, spending, reckless driving and eating disorders.

They are given to aggression and even violence. This can include verbal abuse, litigation, even physical violence. They may devise and act out plots of revenge.

Their motto is, “I hate you, don’t leave me.” They are full of fury and anger, but they can’t let go. The death of NFL quarterback Steve McNair is a vivid illustration of this.

In 2009 McNair was married and having two extramarital affairs. He had recently broken off with his first mistress but was still helping her financially. She was angry that he had a second mistress.

While he was sitting up asleep on the couch his first mistress shot him 4 times. Then she sat next to him and shot herself falling into his arms and forever embraced. “I hate you, don’t leave me.”

These people will come to pastors for validation. They will attempt to build bonds with you that are too intense on one hand and never enough on the other. They will try to seduce you to keep you close. But even seduction and an intimate relationship will not be enough for them. And, of course, it will destroy your work, ministry, family and church.

For the pastor, it is important that these people will idealize you and then reject you. At first you will be seen as all good and without flaw and then after you have disappointed them or triggered their deepest fear, you become, for them all bad. The embodiment of evil. This process is called splitting.

Next Steps: Do you have someone in your life or in your church that you find yourself being extra careful around? Do you avoid them because of their emotional intensity? Are you walking on eggshells afraid you will displease them and then suffer their wrath?

Is there someone who overly admires you? Or who once admired you and now is critical or contemptuous of every little thing?

Next Article: The Fear of Being Belittled

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.