Psychological Healthy Pastor

一個心理健康的牧師

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黃偉康博士

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Psychological Evaluation of Ministry Personnel

 


 

 

根據最近有關教會增長的調查顯示,教會的增長取決於教會是否健康,而增長就是教會健康的自然結果。一間教會之所以能健康運作,關鍵在於擁有一個健康的牧師和執事會。至於牧師心理健康的準繩就在於他的個性和性格有多健康。

 

嚴格來說,心理健康就是指一個牧師心理失調的程度不應嚴重到會妨礙他作為牧者的角色。

 

心理學只是創造我們的神無邊智慧中的一少部份。本作者相信聖經是所有人類運作的權威。因此,牧師性格健康的最低標準是根據於提摩太前書三章一至十節特別的記載和加拉太書五章廿二至廿三節概括的記載。

 

提摩太前書 3:1-10

3:1「如果有人渴慕監督的職分,他就是愛慕善工。」這話是可信的。

2所以作監督的,必須無可指摘,只作一個妻子的丈夫,有節制,自律,莊重,樂意接待客旅,善於教導,

3不好酒,不打人,只要溫和,與人無爭,不貪財,

4好好管理自己的家,使兒女凡事敬重順服。

5(人若不知道怎樣管理自己的家,怎能照料上帝的教會呢?)

6初信主的不可作監督,恐怕他驕傲,就落在魔鬼所受的刑罰裏。

7作監督的也必須在教外有好聲譽,免得他被人毀謗,就落在魔鬼的陷阱裏。

8照樣,執事也必須莊重,不一口兩舌,不酗酒,不貪不義之財,

9用清潔的良心持守信仰的奧祕。

10他們也必須先受考驗,若沒有可責之處,然後才讓他們作執事。(聖經新譯本)

加拉太書 5:22-23

22但聖靈的果子是仁愛、喜樂、平安、忍耐、恩慈、良善、信實、

23溫柔、節制;這樣的事,是沒有律法禁止的。(聖經新譯本)

 

 

這篇文章是同時以會友和長執的角度來寫,用以除掉不健康的牧師、地區的長老或執事會以或宗派的負責人。從負面的角度來看,可用以幫助領導們懂得如何找出不健康的牧師來。

 

不健康的社交功能

 

以有經驗的事工領袖的眼光來看,牧師的社交功能是量度他是否健康的最先決和明顯的準繩。問題通常都出在社交功能方面,譬如說,性方面的不規矩規或輕率。有些人因為來自破碎家庭,或童年時有被虐待或父母遺棄的經歷,以至於會不自覺地在社交方面重演這些沒有得到解決的問題,以為這樣問題就會得到解決。特別明顯的對象是他們的家人,可以從他們怎樣虐待他們的配偶和子女得見。如果你跟這些心理不健康牧師在情緒上的關係越密切,你所受的傷害就越深。這就是互相依存,而所造成的悲慘後果是不可挽回的。就算他自稱很屬靈或是奉召來做這事工,這牧者也不能逃脫這社交上的失敗。

 

離間與分化作用,偏激情緒及思想

 

這些不健康牧師的思想傾向防衛性的,意思是說他腦子裏面所想的這個世界是一個不友善的地方,而且是“適者生存”。這是由他們在童年時身體和言語上所受到的虐待和屈辱時所留下的創傷。這對於他的自尊、自我形象和安全感各方面都造成經常性的威脅。在傳統中國文化當中,這是一個“面子”的問題,意思就是怕丟臉;為了要逃避屈辱從而確保自信心。久而久之,他對於這心理上的自我防衛的需要就越大,促使這沒有安全感的牧師將身邊的人分類,視乎他覺得那人夠不夠安全而把他歸入“好”或“壞”的一類當中。很輕易地,他會在長老會中設立圈套,偏袒這個而孤立另一個領袖。事奉對他來說就是要討好那些他所偏袒的長老們以鞏固自己的地位。相反,另外的那班長老便得到無聲的蔑視。這牧師會首先從私底下以至後來公開地用漫不經心的諷刺和流言蜚語來操控一班領導人,使他們彼此敵對。

 

 

 

三角關係

 

當分化出現的時候,它會造成不可避免的三角關係,而牧師則想處於這三角的中間。當這牧師想聘用自己挑選的領導的時候,矛盾就會產生。因為他想請的並不是好的領導,而只是一些安於現狀的跟隨者,是一班不致於聰明得會令牧師覺得不安全的人。結果,領導的階層就忙於“救火”-挽救領導道德的低落、調解人際間的糾紛、流言蜚語、澄清偏見以及會友之間相互定型等的問題。

 

教會之所以不增長是因為高層領導化上了太多精力於解決內部問題,去搞清楚誰“對”和誰“錯”。由於看到教會裏似乎每個人都被牽涉到糾紛當中,有很多滿懷好意的領導和訪客都會因此而離開。這教會就演變成一間“理性”的教會,每件事只需要合理而不顧關懷和感受。“更正確”比有效的事工更重要,大使命只是在禮拜天所談到的課題而缺乏了向外傳福音的實際策略。每個人都害怕得失別人,所以事工沒有更新而只有墨守成規。這樣,應該在健康教會中流行的基督教文化卻很多時候被這股傳統中國文化所勝過了。

 

守秘密

在教會中存有一些流言和隱密,人們私下會談到,但是沒有人會公開地承認,因為怕被人視為反判者,也就是“不屬靈”。有時候,牧師會講關於“怎樣處理流言”的道,用意是想令會眾在私下談論教會隱密時感到一種虛假的內疚。這些流言通常都是關於牧師和敵對領導們之間的鬥爭。教會本應有效地學習古聖徒所樹立仁愛和恩慈的榜樣,但所見的只是領袖層中的不信任與信徒之間的疏離。屬靈生命根本沒有成長,因為他們談的只是應該怎樣關心別人而沒有實際的行動。在教會中,人們都感到一種“共通虛假的內疚”感。訪客並不真的受到歡迎,因為他們會找出這間不健康教會的毛病來,以致令各人羞愧。這教會最終會成為一間僵硬的條文主義教會,只會教導“理論上正確”的教條。所講的道是對於聖經真理所作理論性的神學教導,而牧師本身卻不能成為一個榜樣;隨之演變成雙重標準。這變成了一間“課室”教會,而會眾都變成了聽話的學生,透過把神學教導正確地記錄在筆記本上來証明自己是屬靈的。

 

惡劣的調解糾紛技巧

 

因受到這牧師不健康的教導〈他們本身沒有錯的〉,有些人根本沒有經歷何為有效處理人際糾紛的方法。迴避是第一種不健康的方法,而“砍斷和逃跑”是第二個。迴避是否認,是過度單純地相信“時間治療一切”以及“讓過去的過去”等策略可以解決問題。這牧師不將注意力集中在解決問題本身,反而把它放於他所認定是冒犯他的人身上,想嚐試用反咬和操縱的手段來使之喪失信用。當他失敗的時候,要不就是那位會友因受到這種不公平對待而離開,要不就是牧師本人離開。換言之,“人們用他們的腳來投票”,而那個問題也就“消失”了。當這不健康的牧師離開後,他的問題也會跟著他到下一間教會,然而這個循環會持續到這牧師踏入中年危機以後而且犯上嚴重的錯誤為止。

 

不健康個人功能

一個健康的牧師能應付壓力和以有效的方法處理糾紛。一個不健康的牧師經常都會受到很大壓力。小小的失望對他來說成了很大的問題,譬如說他什麼時候可以放假,他在教會的什麼地方停放車子,買了書要教會還他所花的錢等等瑣碎的事也會給他帶來很大壓力。他抗拒別人對他提出的要求,因為什麼事都會給他造成壓力。

 

不能分優先

 

這不健康牧師內在的防衛方法就是完美主義;他相信如果他能無瑕疵地做他的事工,那就沒有人能找到他的不是。他亦要求別人是完美的。為了要避免犯錯,他會確保不會漏掉任何一個瑣碎的細節。不重要的事跟重要的對他來說都是一樣的,所以他經常都為瑣碎事緊張,長此下去只有一個可悲的前景。這個心理的問題在於這牧師只顧看那些地方有可能會出錯而忽略了那些有可能會做對和有挑戰性的地方。這問題並不關乎信心,只是以不犯錯求自保的求生本能。

 

羞恥與指責

 

一個不健康牧師對羞恥和內疚感非常敏感,他會用盡一切辦法去迴避它們。在傳統的中國文化中這稱為“顧全面子”,是避免受到侮辱時所產生的羞恥感。因為內在心理對於抗拒被發現犯錯而所作的防衛,以導致投射一種不能接受的感覺給別人,這就是指責。指責是一種否認,因為這牧師不能忍受被人“抓”到他做錯事,以致於將這罪疚感歸咎於他人,在這過程中使他覺得自己更超然一些。這是一個暫時性的方法以獲取短期性的心理解脫。它長期的副作用是令這牧師失去從別人的批評中作自我反省的能力。

 

頭腦封閉:缺乏反省能力,沒有自知之明

 

指責促使一個人去查看別人什麼地方做錯了,而不是看自己錯在那裏,所以就沒有機會作自我反省。沒有自我反省,就沒有自我改正、覺悟和向人學習的機會。這牧師使自己陷入一個主觀思想的惡性循環當中。過一段時間之後,這牧師只會以蔑視的態度對待那些跟他持相反意見的人,而這些人通常是一班權威人士或屬靈領袖。通常他會用點名和封號的手法,暗中破壞他們的權威以減低自己的罪咎感覺。

 

自大

長此以後,這不健康的牧師需要不斷的對自己確認他在公眾的心目中是被接受和有價值的。所以他傾向於對自我肯定有矯枉過正的問題出現。對公眾來說,這個牧師表面看來很有信心,但有時給人自負和自大的感覺。這自信的姿態可以從他言談中所用以貶低別人的字眼看出。因為缺乏別人的幫助,這種態度會越來越差,最終他會當眾出醜。為了挽回教會形象以及遏制對個人所造成的傷害,執事會不得不作出適當的反應。這牧師最常在自己的聯盟圈中以點名和封號的手法來對待另外那一班的領導或屬靈權威。然後,他會漫不經心地公開地談到他們,以致引起會眾的震驚。一個非常不健康的牧師會錯誤地認為這種震驚是對他個人的一種注意和認同。為了引起會眾更多的注意,於是他就繼續不斷地重覆這樣做,直到一個令領導們無法再忍受的地步。

 

 

個性失調

 

以上只是不健康牧師的少部份表現。我們可能看到某些牧師有大部份的問題,而另一些卻只有少數的問題。但這種缺陷有一種更嚴重的形式,就是個性完全的失調。這些牧師會做犯法的事以致被執法者所起訴,如說謊、逃稅、盜用、戀童、對會友的性虐待和通奸。

 

自戀性的個性失調

 

這是一種很嚴重的失調,叫做自戀性的個性失調。一般在中國男性和長子中比較常見。可以分為兩種;高性能的自戀以及低性能的自戀。高性能的一種是比較有智識、複雜和外型長得比較吸引的,低性能的一種比較笨拙和外表沒有那麼吸引人。不健康牧師多出自高性能那一種。由於他們在個性和知識上都擁有過人的魅力,以致可以在完成整個神學院課程的時候都不被人察覺到他們有這個問題。有些甚至帶著一個好的動機開始讀神學,直到人生的後期才變回有自戀的情況。一旦改變回去以後,就使整個基督教領導圈子都感到震驚,各人都有被出賣的感覺,所以很憤怒,因為他們本來都很看好這牧師的。有些更拒絕相信這事實,因為他們與這牧師曾經是知心的朋友。

 

因自信心低而導致膨脹的自我評價

 

自戀的牧師是由成長時自信心低而演變成的,為了補償他這方面的不安,於是觸動心理上自我擴張機制,來補償他這種在自我評價中所感到的不安。他藉著形成自己一套對自我的看法來補償他的弱點。

 

資格

由於他主觀地評價自己為很“特別”、“很好”,那他便有資格得到別人特別的對待。這是一種心理的狀態,他相信自己有資格享有特別的權利,是他所配得的。這些人沒有能力去承認自己的錯處、不會講對不起、沒有後悔的心以及將自己的錯推在別人的身上。

 

利益的衝突、雙重關係、含糊的身體界線和脆弱的情緒限度

他是自私自利的,只顧及自己的利益,看看從中可以得到什麼好處。因為處於雙重關係當中,他根本不知道什麼導致利益衝突。舉個例子,一個不健康牧師會邀請一個正在辦離婚的婦人吃午飯,以為可以“幫助”她。因為他對於權力和被需要的欲望很強,以致防礙他,令他對於身體界線和情緒限度不能作出正確的判斷。這是第一方面的問題。

 

缺乏同情心

一個自戀的牧師,因為成長時受到嚴重的虐待和忽視,他會只顧及自己的感受。他從多年的經驗中知道父母是不會對他好的,所以他只有靠著變成自我中心來在這不健全的家庭中求生。這種自私自利攔阻這牧師去體會別人的感受。換言之,這牧師有很低的EQ:情緒智商,變成跟別人在情緒上有很大距離。他們唯一生存的途徑是以擁有過人的智識來彌補這缺點。這些不健全的牧師可能是很健談、有說服力、很有邏輯、答辯時反應很快和很會自我辯護,但當別人有需要的時候,他們就變得很無知。有些高性能的自戀者是知道別人的感受的,但他們要不就當沒有看見(埋沒良知)或是利用它來擺佈別人因而從中得益。

 

未完全發展的良知

一種更嚴重失調的型式就是一個“未完全發展的良知”。他會私底下做一些不道德的事,是一些連非信徒也不會做的事。這是因為他們自我約束的機制被他們對於自我滿足的慾望所勝。他們會沉淪於食物、衣服、財產和虛榮當中。以他們麻木的良知,他們可以利用他人來做出很多壞事而覺得沒什麼。這麻木的程度會隨著時日而增加,一方面是因為他們年紀越大就越需要得到滿足和肯定,另一方面是因為出現跟他們競爭的對手。

 

一半的真相、謊言和過雙重生活

對於不健康牧師來說,撒謊並不難,因為他們已在雙重標準之下生活很久了。當他知道自己在教會內被人觀察時,他會做“對”的事。當他與非信徒或家人相處時,就是判若兩人。他用一半的真理來替自己辯護,告訴自己他“沒有撒謊”,只是沒有將整個事實真相洩露出來。他以謊言來隱藏事情以及來逃罪。舉個例子,一個牧師會偶爾在家或旅遊的時候講一些褻瀆的言語,但在教會他就絕對不會講。

 

缺乏情緒的約束

不健康的牧師可以說是情緒未完全成熟的成年人。他們有較低的EQ和不能力去延遲他的滿足感。他們沒有忍耐力以及很容易被人激怒。不像一般的成年人,他們受情緒操控,這情緒通常是一些他個人在受傷害時的主觀感受。當激動時,他們會覺得很緊張,會講一些不榮耀神的話來。

 

衝動的憤怒:憤怒的插曲

不健康的牧師害怕兩件事:第一,他們害怕在撒謊後被人知道,當這情況出現,他們會變得非常憤怒。第二,他們害怕被羞辱,所以他們對於別人向他所作任何的侮辱非常敏感。他們對於配偶和子女所有的“錯誤”和“不完全”也特別的敏感。他很容易就發怒,所以家人都學會怎樣避免點起導火線。他將不能控制的怒氣歸咎於別人身上,而家人亦只好默默接受這指控。他也不是一個有耐性的駕駛者,很不喜歡排隊。當他不同意人家的意見,他會為了保護自己而說別人是笨蛋。這樣令他覺得比別人優越些,他並不將別人看在眼裏,這正好成為他利用別人的辯護。

 

不健康牧師的嗜好

當一個牧師過份的著眼於這不健全的問題,又或者過度地想滿足掌權者的期望時,通常都需要一樣嗜好來“平衡”他的生活。上癮的先兆是與親人感情的疏離和知覺的僵硬。可以說是用這嗜好來幫助他減壓。這個嗜好幫助他發洩他的憤怒和減低挫敗感。綱上的色情物品、情感上的關係、性的關係、股票投資、賭博和憤怒等都是很常見的嗜好。

 

如何幫助不健康的牧者

神學院的收生:個性失調的審查

收生要求應不只看成績,也要看性格是否健康。應對一些可疑的投考生作出心理的評定以排除有個性失調的可能性。

 

直言!沒有秘密

有經驗的臨床心理學家和神學院教務人員應從實將學生的性格弱點透露出來。中國人常保持沉默以避免教會間和神學院間的衝突的做法應該到此為止,因為我們需要追求更高的善:保護將來會友的安全和健康。如果我們不對這些傷害會眾的事情加以阻止的話,最終是要向我們的神交帳的。

 

 

負責任和監管

一個健康的牧師會很樂於接受一需負責任和受監管的制度。相反,不健康的牧師則會蔑視這制度。獨立教會因為不需向任何宗派負責任,所以在這事上是特別脆弱的。不健康牧師通常都喜歡這些不受監管的事工和教會,因為他們可以有完全的影響力。

 

受監管的心理治療或輔導

跌倒的牧師和不健康的神學生,應該在經過心理評估後和有經驗和信譽的精神醫生的轉介下接受輔導。過程必須保密,只能向監督報告以便他對治療過程作出監管和為他禱告。

 

教會的訓導

當這個不健康的牧師跌倒的時候,他應同樣受到教會根據聖經而作出的訓導。但是恢復的過程應由一些有經驗來領導來設計。這通常是一個多人組成的紀律組,是由沒有利益衝突和雙重關係的人所組成的。這犯錯的牧師應不准在沒有監管的情況下事奉。

 

(作者為加州執照臨床心理學家,現任香港浸會神學院教牧輔導課程義務主任,曾任三藩市公立醫院精神科主治心理醫師、加州大學三藩市分校醫學院精神科助理教授,以及美國信徒佈道會、家庭更新協會的同工。與妻結婚20年多,育有一女,現居美國三藩市灣區。Info@ChristianMentalHealth.com)

翻譯 ShelleyTse@yahoo.com

 

(本文章是作者黃偉康博士授權於本會刊登,其版權歸作者所有。)

 

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 A Psychologically Healthy Pastor

(English version)

Melvin W. Wong, Ph.D.

Translation credit:  mailto:ShelleyTse@yahoo.com

 

Based on recent church growth research it was indicated that church growth depends on church health, and growth is the natural outcome of a healthy church. A healthy pastor with a healthy board is the most crucial element in the healthy functioning of a church. The measure of psychological health in the effective functioning of a pastor is found in how healthy is the character and personality of the pastor.

 

In the stricter sense of the word, psychological health should mean a pastor should not have a psychological disorder that is serious enough that will impede his functioning in the role of a minister. The minimum standard that the elder board should up keep is the protection of congregation members from harm and the prevention of dishonor brought upon the name of Christ.

 

Psychology is only one aspect within the wider wisdom of the Lord our Creator. This author subscribes to the belief that the Bible is the final authority of all human functioning. The minimum standard of the healthy character of pastors is therefore based specifically on 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and generally on Galatians 5:22-23.

 

This article was written from the perspectives of the congregation member as well as from the governing board to root out unhealthy pastors. This can be members of the local elder or deacon board and the denomination superintendent. The negative perspectives will be used to help leaders know what to look for in unhealthy pastors.

 

 

Unhealthy Social Functioning

 

From the perspective of experienced ministry leaders, social functioning of the pastor is the first and most obvious measure of a healthy pastor. When things go wrong, they are generally in the area of social functioning, such as sexual misconducts and indiscretions. Individuals who were from broken families, with abusive childhoods and experience of parental abandonment will unconsciously re-enact these unresolved problems socially as a desperate attempt to resolve them. This is most obvious with his family members, beginning with how he mistreats his spouse and his children. The closer you are emotionally to this unhealthy minister, the more hurt you will experience. This is codependency and tragic outcomes are inevitable. This pastor cannot escape this lose-lose paradigm socially despite his claims of being spiritual and the call to ministry.

 

 

Splitting and Polarized Emotions  

 

This unhealthy pastor’s mindset is one of defensiveness, meaning that he thinks that the world is generally a hostile place and it is “survival for the fittest”. This is coming from the childhood trauma of physical and verbal abuse and humiliation that he has experienced. There is a constant threat to his self-esteem, self-image and security. In the traditional Chinese culture, this is considered as an issue with “face”, meaning the need to avoid losing face; to avoid feeling humiliated in order to assure self-confidence. Over a long period of time, his pervasive need for psychological self-defense causes the insecure pastor to categorize people as either “good” or “bad”, depending how safe he feels a particular person is. Without trying very hard, he will set up lose-lose traps in his elder board by favoring one leader and alienating the other. Ministry to him will be the desire to please the favored elder to secure his position. The opposing elder will be treated with quiet contempt. This pastor will inadvertently use sarcasm and gossip to manipulate one group of leaders against another, first privately and then publicly.

 

 

Triangulation

 

When splitting occurs, it sets off an unavoidable process of triangulation where the pastor wants to be placed in the middle. There is collusion where the unhealthy pastor wants to install only leaders hand picked by him. These are not good leaders but good followers of the status quo and they cannot be too intelligent as to give this pastor insecure feelings.

 

Eventually, the leadership will be more involved in “putting out fires” of low leadership morale, resolving personnel conflicts, gossips, demystifying biases and congregational stereotypes and etc.

 

The church cannot grow because enormous energy is used in high level leadership for internal problem solving, in deciding who is “right” and who is “wrong”. Many well-intended leaders and visitors will leave because everybody at church seems to be involved with some conflict. This church evolves into an “intellectual” church where things have to make sense, but caring and emotions are suppressed. Being “more correct” is more important than effective ministry, the Great Commission, though talked about on Sundays is an academic topic devoid of practical strategies to out-reach.

 

Everyone is afraid to offend others, therefore there is no ministry renewal but traditionalism takes over. By default, the traditional Chinese culture is used, and at times it is more eminent than the Christian culture that should always prevail in a healthy church.

 

 

Secret-Keeping

 

There are some gossips and unspoken secrets in the church. People talk about these privately and no one can acknowledge this publicly or openly for he will risk being judged as a rebel, which equals “un-spiritual”. At times, the pastor preaches on “handling conflicts (gossips)” to manipulate the congregation to feel false-guilty in discussing church secrets privately. These gossips are usually about the pastor and his private battles with opposing leaders. There is mistrust within the leadership and this curtails intimacy development between believers, and there is no spiritual growth except a discussion on what should be and not on how to care, instead of the effective use of role-modeling of love and grace in edifying the saints. There is a “common false-guilt” felt within the church as well. Visitors are not really welcome because they may find out what’s wrong with this unhealthy church family system, thus putting everybody in the family to shame. The church will eventually become a rigid church involved in preaching the “technically correct” doctrine and legalism. The sermon is a technical theological teaching of Biblical truths, but the pastor himself cannot role-model these concepts; a subtle double-standard ensues. This becomes the “classroom” church and congregation members are obedient students coming to church with note books to record the theological teachings correctly in order to be spiritual.

 

 

Poor conflict resolution skill

 

As part of the unhealthy upbringing of this pastor (to no fault of his own), he has not experienced effective resolution of interpersonal conflicts. Avoidance is the first unhealthy method while “cut-and-run” is the second. Avoidance is denial and the overly simplistic belief of how “time heals”, “let the past be in the past” strategy in solving problems. Instead of focusing on the issue of resolving the conflict, the unhealthy pastor will focus on the perceived offender with an attempt to discredit him by back-biting and manipulation.

 

When this fails, either the church member will leave because of the injustice involved or the pastor leaves. In another way to put it, “people vote with their feet”, and the problem “disappears”. When the unhealthy pastor leaves, his problem will go with him to the next church and this cycle repeats until he reaches beyond mid-life crisis and does something very serious.

 

Unhealthy Intrapersonal functioning

 

A healthy pastor can handle stress and practices effective ways to resolve conflicts. An unhealthy pastor is stressed all the time. A little bit of disappointment becomes a big issue with him, such as when does he get his day off, where does he park his car at church, reimbursement for a book, etc. Trivial issues are stressful as much as relevant issues are stressful. He resents perceived demands made on him since anything and everything causes him stress.

 

Inability to Prioritize

 

This unhealthy pastor’s internal defense is perfectionism; the belief that if he can do his ministry perfectly, then no one can find faults with him. He also expects others to be perfect. In order to avoid mistakes, he makes sure every small, trivial matter is covered. Unimportant issues are equal to important ones, so the pastor is always stressed with little things and a pessimistic outlook ensues over time. The downfall of this psychological processing is that the pastor looks for what can go wrong instead of what can potentially be right and challenging. This is not about faith, but about self-preservation and personal survival in not making an error.

 

Shame and Blame

 

The unhealthy pastor is very sensitive to shame and guilt and he will try everything he knows how to avoid them. In the traditional Chinese culture this is called “saving face” to avoid the shame in being humiliated. The internal psychological defense against being found in the wrong is by ascribing or projecting the causes of an unacceptable feeling to others, this is blame. Blame is a form of denial in that the unhealthy pastor cannot bear being “caught” in the wrong, and by blaming others for this guilt, he can feel more superior about himself in the process. This is a short-term method in bringing about short-term psychological relief. There is a long-term side effect in that the pastor is not able to evaluate himself through the use of others’ feedbacks.

 

Close-Mindedness: Lack of Introspection and Insight

 

Blame causes a person to look at what’s wrong with others and not what’s wrong with himself, so there is no opportunity for introspection. Without introspection there is no self-correction, insight and no opportunity to learn from others. The pastor has caught himself in a self-defeating cycle of subjective thinking. With time, the pastor can only hold contempt towards those he does not agree with, this is usually about authority figures or spiritual leaders. He tends to undermine their authority privately to ease his guilty conscience. This is done by name-calling and labeling.

 

Arrogance

 

Over a long period of time, the unhealthy pastor will need to continue to assure himself that he is acceptable and worthy in the public, so he tends to “over-correct” in his needs for self assurance. To the public, this pastor appears to be confident, but at times boastful and arrogant. This is in his subtle attitude of sounding confidence in his choice of words as well as personal put-downs. This attitude will continue to worsen because without outside help, this unhealthy pastor will eventually embarrass himself in public and the governing board will need to respond in order to contain personal damages as well as the restoration of the church’s image. It is common for an unhealthy pastor to use labels and name-calling privately among his close allies towards other leaders or spiritual authorities over him.

 

Later on, he will inadvertently slip up when he speaks in public causing shock in the congregation. A very unhealthy pastor may mistake the congregation’s shock as attention and approval, and will inadvertently use personal attacks and off-color jokes to win the attention of the congregation by shocking them more. This will spiral downwards until the leadership cannot bear with him any more.

 

 

Personality Disorders

 

The above are bits and pieces of the manifestations of an unhealthy pastor. We may find one pastor having most of these problems and some with only a few of the problems. There is a more serious form of these dysfunctions; this is in the area of a full-blown personality disorder in a pastor. These pastors will commit actual crimes and can get prosecuted by law enforcement for lying, tax-evasion, embezzlement, pedophilia, sexual abuse of congregation members, and adultery.

 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

 

There is a serious disorder called narcissistic personality disorder. This is more common in Chinese first-born sons and men in generally. There are primarily two types; high-functioning narcissists versus low-functioning narcissists. The high-functioning ones are more intelligent, sophisticated and more physically attractive, while the low-functioning ones are clumsy and unattractive. Unhealthy pastors are usually from the high-functioning type. Since they are more charismatic in their personality and intelligent, they usually can finish their seminary training without being uncovered. Some may even begin seminary training with the best of intention, but later revert to a narcissistic functioning much latter in life. Once uncovered, shock waves are sent all over Christian leadership circle and everyone feels angry and betrayed because they used to think very highly of this person and as a pastor before. Some are so shocked that they refuse to believe the reality of the offending pastor who used to be their trusted friend.

 

Low Self-Esteem becomes Inflated Self-Evaluation

 

Narcissistic pastors began with low self-esteem growing up and to compensate for this insecurity in himself, a psychological self-aggrandizing mechanism begins to take over to compensate for this insecure self-evaluation. He has become used to compensate for his weaknesses by forming his own opinion about himself.

 

Entitlement

 

Since his subjective evaluation of himself is that he is “special”, “wonderful and good”, that entitles him to be treated in special ways by people. This is a psychological state of being where he believes he should be entitled to special privileges because he deserves them. These people are unable to acknowledge personal faults, cannot say sorry, they have no remorse and blames others for his wrongs.

 

Conflict of Interest, Dual Relationships, Blurred Physical Boundaries and Poor Emotional Limits

 

His self-absorption is strong and he can only consider his personal interest and what benefits him. He will have no ideas of what constitute conflicts of interest by being involved in dual relationships. For example, an unhealthy pastor will invite a woman who is going through a divorce to have lunch with him to “minister” to her. His strong desires to be powerful and needed will overtake his judgment to be proper in his physical boundaries and emotional limits with women. This is the first area of problem where unhealthy pastors do wrong.

 

Lack of Empathy

 

The narcissistic pastor, because of serious abuse or neglect suffered while growing up, he can only care for his own feelings. He has learned over the years that his parents will not treat him well and he had no choice but to be self-centered to survive this dysfunctional family full of chaos. This egoistic self-absorption prevents the unhealthy pastor to appreciate other people’s feelings. In other words, the unhealthy pastors have very low EQ: Emotional Quotient, and becomes somewhat emotionally alienated from others. The only way for them to survive is to have an overly developed intellect to compensate for this short coming. These dysfunctional pastors can be talkative, persuasive, logical, quick to argue and keen at self-defense, but they are woefully ignorant when other’s needs are called into consideration. Some high-functioning narcissists are aware of others’ feelings, but they choose to either ignore them (by suppressing their conscience) or to exploit them in order to manipulate others to benefit him.

 

Under-Developed Conscience

 

A more serious form of this disorder renders the pastor a “under-developed conscience”. He will do immoral things privately that even non-believers will not do, but they lack a self-regulatory mechanism in them because the need for self-satisfaction is more important than self-regulation. They indulge themselves in food, clothes, possessions and vanity. With their calloused consciences, they can do hurtful things by exploitation of others, but they can still live with themselves. This insensitivity increases over the years because the need for satisfaction and approval also increases over time due to aging and the presence of more competent and healthy pastor on staff.

 

Half-Truths, Lies and Leading a Double Life

 

Lying is not a big issue with unhealthy pastor as he has lived with a double-standard for a long time. When he knows he is observed by others at church, he can do the “right” thing. He becomes another person when he is with non-believers or with his family. He uses half-truths to justify his conscience by telling him that he “did not lie”, just did not disclose the whole truth. He lies to cover things up for himself and to get away with being found out. For example, a pastor will use profanities occasionally at home and while he travels, but he will never do so at church.

 

Lack of Emotional Regulation

 

Unhealthy pastors can be conceptualized as adults who have not achieved emotional maturation fully. They have lowered EQ and are not able to delay gratification. They are inpatient and get irritated very easily. Unlike mature adults, they become driven by their emotions, usually the subjective feelings of personal hurts and injury. When frustrated, they become stressed and will use words that are not God glorifying.

 

Impulsive Anger: Rage Episodes

 

Unhealthy pastors fear two things. First, they fear being found out after they told a lie, so they become angry when this happens. Second, they fear being humiliated, so they are very sensitive to any slights from others. They are especially sensitive towards the “wrongs” or “imperfections” in their spouse and children. He gets mad very easily and his family has learned to avoid getting him into a rage. He blames others for his lack of anger control and his family members have learned to not dispute with him by accepting the blame. He is not a patient driver and does not want to wait in line for his turn. When he does not agree with others, he protects himself by saying they are stupid. This makes him feel superior and others can be discounted and disregarded, this further justifies his exploitation of them.

 

Addictions of the Unhealthy Pastor

 

When a pastor is overwrought with dysfunctions and with a great need to meet the expectations of those in power, there is usually an associated addiction to keep his life “balanced”. The precursors of addiction are emotional alienations from loved ones and cognitive rigidity. In a way, there is a counter-balancing effect of an addiction that helps him cope with a pervasive need to de-stress himself. The addiction helps him release anger and frustration. Online pornography, emotional affairs, physical-sexual affairs, stock market speculation, gambling and rages are common forms of addiction.

 

How to Help Unhealthy Ministers

 

Seminary admission: Personality disorder screening

 

Admission requirements should not only be based on academic achievement, but also be on healthy character. Psychological assessments should be included in some questionable candidates to rule-out serious personality disorders.

 

Tell! No secrets

 

Experienced clinicians and seminary faculty should disclose a candidate’s character weakness honestly. The Chinese practice of keeping quiet to avoid conflicts between churches and seminaries should stop because we have a higher good to achieve; the protection of the safety and health of the future congregation. We are finally accountable to our Lord should we fail to prevent potential harm for happening in a congregation.

 

Accountability and supervision

 

A healthy pastor will welcome a system of accountability and supervision, whereas unhealthy pastors will disdain upon the authority bestowed upon supervisors. Independent churches without the accountability of a denomination are especially vulnerable to this. Unhealthy pastors generally prefer ministries and churches without supervision for the desire to fully control his influence.

 

Monitored Psychotherapy or counseling

 

Fallen pastors and unhealthy seminary candidates, after psychological evaluation and recommendation from an experienced and trust worthy mental health professional should be referred for counseling. The confidentiality between a therapist and a pastor should be designed so the progress of the pastor should be reported to a supervisor for continue monitoring of his recovery and prayer.

 

Church discipline

 

After an unhealthy pastor falls, he should be subjected to the same standard of church discipline based on Biblical principles. However, the restoration process should be designed by experienced leadership, usually in the form of a multi-disciplinary team without the presence of conflict of interests and dual relationships. A pastor who has been convicted of a crime should not be permitted to serve again without close monitoring and supervision.

 

 

(作者為加州執照臨床心理學家,現任香港浸會神學院教牧輔導課程義務主任,曾任三藩市公立醫院精神科主治心理醫師、加州大學三藩市分校醫學院精神科助理教授,以及美國中國信徒佈道會、家庭更新協會的同工。與妻結婚 20年多,育有一女,現居美國三藩市灣區。 Info@ChristianMentalHealth.com)

 

(本文章是作者黃偉康博士授權於本會刊登,其版權歸作者所有。)


 

Psychological Evaluation of Ministry Personnel

 

    The evaluation begins with an email, telephone or fax referral from the supervising pastor or the personnel director of a missionary sending agency.

 

    Then the candidate should contact this office to personally arrange a time for the evaluation process. The fee will be paid at the time of the evaluation either by the candidate or the agency requesting the referral. The fee for a usual evaluation is USD $800.00 covering a two-to-three-hour face-to-face individual clinical interview. This fee also includes all materials needed in the administration of the standardized psychological tests. (Generally consisting of two tests, with administration, scoring, and interpretation) and a written report. Additionally, there is a time for telephone consultation between the evaluator and personnel director to clarify any parts of the report and/or to answer any questions.

 

    Usually, the evaluation can be completed within one full day (up to three hours of interview and three or four hours for paper and pencil testing).

 

    While not required, a two-day arrangement is generally recommended because the second day can be used as a feedback time for the candidate.

 

    A confidential written report containing the findings and analyses usually takes about two to four weeks to be emailed to the supervising pastor or the missionary sending agency.

 

    Upon the first meeting of the face-to-face interview, the candidate will sign an authorization to release the confidential findings of the evaluation. In other words, the candidate will be informed that the confidentiality that exists in this evaluation process is limited and conditional. The candidate will be made clear of this understanding for the presence of informed consent.

 

    The candidate will fill out a four-page biographical questionnaire to establish a written record of family history, educational and occupation history, ministry and spiritual history; drug and/or alcohol use history, family history of serious mental illness; history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse; history of destructive behaviors; and personal perceptions of strengths and weaknesses.

 

    The candidate will take at least one or two computer-scorable and standardized[1] psychological tests. The results of these instruments will be used as objective evidence to complement the subjective-clinical findings for the formulation of the impression, analyses and the final recommendation.

 

    The report will generally include areas of strengths and weaknesses for the personal benefit of the candidate.

 

    After the final report is forwarded to the supervising pastor or the personnel director of the missionary agency, this office will be available for a limited time of telephone consultation to clarify any unclear items.

  

[1] Standardized tests are instruments that have been normed and researched to establish a standard of reliability and validity. These instrument will include the:

 

The latest versions of these instruments will be provided. Chinese translations of these question booklets can be made available to candidate whose primary language proficiency is Chinese.