Attraction, Authority, and Leadership
Part 4 of Secret Longings, Confusing Feelings & Paths to Healing
It was a confession that sparked this sexuality miniseries. This was the catalyst, a misunderstanding of attraction was crushing a life, and one conversation unlocked the door to freedom… James 5: 16; Hebrews 12:15-16 (Note: embedded green links lead to more info)
A person finds they’re attracted to a leader; a leader finds they’re attracted to one they oversee. It’s not deliberate, and one or neither, is unattached.
When such an “accidental” attraction occurs, the experience is likely to draw the involved parties into any number of reactions. Here are four common ones:
1) a superlative leap of assumption that the issue is immediately identifiable as _____. (often lust, including for females)
2) an attempt to endure a secret torment, trying to understand how to shut down the sense of attraction, while simultaneously trying to maintain the relationship in a proper manner.
3) sabotage of the relationship due to the conflict, abdicate position or function, isolating in the process.
4) engage in an emotional and/or physical affair.
Listening to the self-despising cries of confessors who have dared to risk feeling vulnerable enough to disclose their heart sickening secret, I’ve realized we don’t often think to stop and ask ourselves the right questions. Rather people engage in all kinds of judgments–self and otherwise–and may misinterpret the situation. Feeling stuck, and perhaps ashamed, many self-incriminate and further entrench themselves through secrecy.
Whatever is hidden cannot heal. What ever is exposed can be healed. (Hosea 7:7)
The Origin of the Attraction
So what about lust? Maybe, but even if lust is a part of the issue it isn’t the whole of it. Lust alone is not usually the reason people find themselves in an ‘accidental attraction,’ even though it’s often the first causation they may identify.
People tend to compartmentalize many things. It seems that if we can identify anything at all with a label, we will name it, blame it and conclude it the end of a matter; (self) judgement served.
However, the problem we may first identify is seldom the real issue that needs discovery.
For example some people will identify with having an “anger problem”. “I get so mad I can’t control it.” In this case, the real problem may be an issue of self-control, or fear. Related, when an inappropriate attraction activates one’s conscience, a sense of lust may only be a signifier of something more covert. When one’s conscience is triggered, it functions as an alert of being in a position of choice (a way out). We are created with a governance code written into the essence of our beings, and when we are in a position of choice which might violate our conscience, or has, we receive notice. Some experience this as a sense of guilt, fear, or conviction (much may influence how individuals experience this notification; more on that in the next post).
We are tri-part beings. Along with our spirit, our minds and our physiology work in unison (psychosexually & psychosocially). Does a thought cause a physical response? Does a physiological response cause a thought? What is really happening? As we go through developmental phases all our parts intertwine and work together; for better or worse. At each stage our mind develops memories in conjunction with emotions and physiological responses. As psychologists and neurologists are fond of saying,
What fires together wires together.
When these connections happen in an appropriate way, time and place, healthy bonds and unions are created in a experiential, purposed design. Sometimes though, connections occur in confusing ways and can cause us to respond in a manner that we don’t understand.
These unsolicited experiences can trigger either avoidance or engagement. The contexts of such experiences matter. The conclusions we draw are crucial to our outcomes.
Often an attraction develops within a power imbalance relationship. For example, people who have been sexually abused or taken advantage of, even through suggestion, are likely to encounter confusing experiences again later in life, especially with someone they see as an authority figure or a leader. Why?
Something got cross-wired back a ways and now the connections are firing at an inappropriate time and place. Research shows a physiological response does not have to be premeditated or conscious to occur. Without recognizing that a misfire is occurring, and that it can be rewired, people often panic, wrestle inwardly, or perhaps fall into an emotional or physical adulterous affair.
Other people may get inappropriately involved trying to fulfill a genuine need in a ‘confused’ manner. Take for instance the young woman experiencing confusion about her identity and developing sexuality; a married leader invests in her spiritual growth which she interprets as attraction. Maybe she has “daddy” wounds (or has been abused) and the person in leadership that she looks to for guidance unexpectedly erupts all types of confusing feelings and thoughts.
If she doesn’t express them she’ll likely not resolve them, repeating a cycle of vulnerability, and if she does express them, she may be judged, rejected, or used. What’s a girl to do? She needs the leader to be strong and wise, to separate the precious from the common, but noticing her reactions, he may have changed focus himself.
What’s a leader to do? Everyone has their kryptonite don’t they? Perhaps he’s become dissatisfied in his marriage, maybe there’s not much intimacy left and he has needs; Western culture tends to be needs driven. Or perhaps it’s more of an identity issue for him–fulfilling an emotional aspect, and receiving the attention makes him feel appreciated again or masculine. Thoughts come, physiology responds, the struggle begins.
Who can he confide in? Maybe the first person he should confide in is the last person he feels he can– his wife.
Perhaps his wife has her own identity issues, trying to understand her own inhibitions; maybe she even did everything right, saving herself for the wedding night. She should be free to love, but the restrictive hard wiring that shaped her growing up paradoxically short circuits her “drive” and how she feels about herself, and truthfully, she is just as disappointed as he. But, maybe her leader/boss seems more understanding than her husband and she finds herself emotionally involved. The nuances are subtle and deceptive; people become collateral damage.
These types of scenarios may sometimes involve what some call Transference or Counter-transference, old concepts in counseling relationships.
Basically, transference occurs when something of one’s past is re-experienced in a non-conscious way, and the associated feelings and attributions are projected into a present relationship with an authority figure or someone who reminds them of the person from their past. For some people, a caring encounter with a leader or authority figure may be one of the few times in their life they have experienced a genuine and proper relationship, which may feel confusing. In reverse, a person in a role of authority or power projects their experiences onto someone who is in a dependent role (counter-transference).
Unaddressed, this distorted relationship interference may become a clash of emotional reactions without much reason involved; thus being aware of such possibilities and discerning such vulnerabilities may make the difference.
A further type of relational confusion may be related to a good kind of desire. One time when my dad was doing a controlled burn on the farm, I realized I couldn’t see any fire as the burning was occurring along the roots underground; but there was a lot of smoke. As I gazed into the smoke trying to picture the fire burning beneath, Holy Spirit began to express the confusion people experience in attraction to leadership (or reverse) is often due to confusing Godly desire with male-female (or other) attraction. As odd as it may sound, people genuinely perceive the fire and smoke of the Spirit of God dwelling within another (the temple: body, soul, spirit), yet mistake it for attraction to the person, because their discernment is off. The presence of God is truly attractive, Jesus is the desire of nations. With proper understanding, a person will draw closer to God, recognizing it’s Him they are attracted to–sometimes a person simply needs some gentle redirection.
As a last, but not exhaustive, common scenario: “something wicked this way comes”. Many years ago I sat across from a pastor who brought up another church member in conversation. He confided, rather unexpectedly, his wish that she would allow him more access to her inner world: he “only wanted to be a Father to her, he saw her as a daughter.” I had no reason to disbelieve him except, I knew by the Holy Spirit in that instant that this was not the true desire this man had for this woman. However, I didn’t yet know how to use such prophetic knowledge and approach him about it–nor was I sure he even realized the true nature of his confession.
So instead of empathetically confronting him in that moment, I went home and prayed with compassionate understanding. Although I couldn’t bring myself to confront the pastor (truthfully, I wasn’t sure it was my place to confront and I was also afraid of his reaction), I eventually did share with the woman (who had no knowledge of his inclinations at the time nor interest in him in that manner) and she confirmed that he had confessed it to her at some point with a witness present; and the relationship was corrected.
Unfortunately, not before there was a rippling fallout within the church, because in this situation there was more at work than one man’s confusion in trying to meet his needs or experiencing counter-transference. It became evident as more and more marriages began to experience tensions and rifts as pastoral advisement began to include suggestions of separation, and other poor counsel.
Men began to suspect something amiss, have their authority challenged or usurped and feel emasculated. Too many stories were coming out to be coincidence. It got rather ugly. Some call it Jezebel (Rev 2:20) or by other names, but when it shows up, you know it. This “thing” took advantage of weak areas of the pastor and the people. And I deeply regretted my choice to stay silent.
In this case, by not speaking to the pastor, I had allowed the influences of this spirit to cause lot of damage I only became fully aware of later. This could have been avoided if I had accepted responsibility and direction from the Holy Spirit who was prompting me to take courage and act in a preventive manner; to function as a type of gatekeeper. Every person has a functional purpose in the body of Christ. It’s His permission we have to function for the good of all members.
Love Confronts–gently, humbly and with mercy. We may not appreciate such confrontations in the moment, but it’s proof of being loved (Hebrews 12). We all need people who will love us in such a way. It’s His Kindness that leads us to repentance.(a change of mind and direction, see link below for more clarity)
A word of wisdom to those inexperienced in prophetic function: There are times we will be required, through obedience to the Lord, to sacrifice our sense of “self preservation” to protect other people. We need to be willing to take some risks of obedience and be willing to own the process. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s worth it as we may not be privy to, or realize what is at stake until later. This doesn’t guarantee people will listen, but you will have done your part, and God will teach and restore you for any troubles that may come of it.
Another hesitancy people may face is having something in their own past they feel disqualifies them for being a messenger or to intervene in a same/similar situation–but think about it…the best person for such a role could be someone who can identify, who knows the ins and outs of a matter and will come with a humble, wise and understanding heart. Luke 7:47 …her sins, many, are forgiven her–because she has loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little… The scarred ones become the healers.
Finally and equally important, there may be situations that God reveals but does ask you to be silent and pray only. Knowing which action is the correct one requires sensitivity to Holy Spirit. If you’re really unsure which it is, confer with someone who is seasoned in prophetic function– you can give a scenario, you don’t have to spill the whole thing with names if you’re questioning your information or senses. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on; don’t allow yourself to shut down and stop functioning prophetically over a mistake. Abandoning your function helps no one, and gives opportunity for other harmful things to occur.
What’s the difference? And what to do?
Some people, due to their past experiences, age, social or economic position, have a created confusion within them to the point they aren’t sure what to do and end up involved to some degree. It may not even be what they want, but they are as a city broken down, without walls ~Proverbs 25: 28~ e.g. no sense of self-autonomy or self-control; and there are those who will misuse or abuse their positions of power to the detriment of others. People in this situation will need third party involvement to help them get disentangled.
Still others enter a crisis of conscience and do all they know to end the issue (real or misinterpreted), even going so far as to sabotage a relationship and isolate. It may be a faulty and fear based solution, but it’s their best attempt at a change of mind. They may simply be mistaken in their assessments of the situation, such as thinking they are lusting vs being attracted to God within a person, or being influenced by a spirit. They need assistance to understand and to receive the truth. Being able to share with a trustworthy person is a step to freedom and restoration. Hiding or simply withdrawing usually creates unneeded distress and keeps the person feeling vulnerable to a similar scenario later.
Others may be unaware of their compromise; they may be temporarily blinded or in denial. And some people are okay with indiscretions; their behavior is self-focused and needs driven. Their conscience may or may not bother them. Both types of people may need someone to gently confront them in love. Confrontation has gotten a bad rap, but this is due to misunderstanding it.
Confrontation should always be empathetic and for the benefit of the other, not our own “ego”.
Whether you are a in a role of leadership or one led, and you find yourself experiencing a faulty attraction or compromising in inappropriate ways, the best thing to do to is reveal the situation to someone you trust who is spiritually minded, has mature integrity, and who will not simply brush it off or encourage you in it. There are trustworthy people who will understand and help you get disentangled (even if you are under threat, e.g. a Cult), while remaining sensitive to how people may be effected.
There are various reasons relationships can start to become unbalanced or confusing, even within the Church. Often people tend to think the worst and make assumptions, when in fact there may be information missing. Discovering such information can help bring solutions.
If you happen to be an observer and think someone may need help, or believe you’ve heard Holy Spirit, be willing to take a risk (Shamar). Offer to listen non-judgementally and involve only those necessary. Galatians 6:1-6 and 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 & 11
Coming up, Part 5, YOU Ruined My Sex Life, the final part of Secret Longings, Confusing Feelings & Paths to Healing