Tag Archives: legalist churches

Who’s Watching Your Drama?

Why are soap operas so popular?  (Okay, so they’re less popular these days.  You can substitute reality shows.)  Why do we love watching these fake dramas?

Because they are not our dramas!  There is something that makes us feel better about ourselves and our situations when we watch others struggle in theirs.  Even when we know it is fiction and acting, it still feels better to have it be someone else.  That’s also why soap operas and reality shows have to get more and more ridiculous; we are catching up to the fiction.  We want the characters to have more divorces, more fights, more drug and alcohol problems, and more problems with kids—than we have.  At least there is someone worse off than me.

So what do you do when you can’t watch television or go to movies?  You watch each other!  (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.) 

But there is truth in that, isn’t there?  People in legalistic groups or churches or even families watch each other.   They enjoy the drama of others because it takes their focus off their own drama.  In fact, if they work it right, it might even take the focus of others off their drama.

We all struggle through life.  There are times when things don’t go well.  We have our dramas.  But remember, the legalist isn’t supposed to have these problems.  Their system is supposed to protect them from troubles.  If they tithe, they shouldn’t have financial struggles.  If wives submit, husbands won’t wander or be angry.  If parents use the right discipline, children won’t rebel.  A drama in the life of a legalist shouts failure for others to see.

So friends of legalists know they are being watched.  They are being watched for weaknesses others can use to keep the focus off themselves.  No one wants to be the weekly drama for the group.  Who knows, your problem might even come up in the pastor’s sermon.  (I have known pastors who will talk about counseling sessions from the pulpit.  Anonymously, of course, but the family he’s talking about cowers in shame and fear.)  Have you ever noticed how people turn around in church to see whose kid is acting up?  Why do they need to know who it is?

Think of what that means for friendships in the group.  You don’t dare express your real heart, your fears and failures.  And, if you do, you have even more fear that your “friend” talks about you to others like she talks about others to you.  Don’t give her any ammunition!  Don’t let her into your house to see the disorder.  Pray that she isn’t around when you have to discipline your kids.  And certainly don’t let her know that you and your husband are struggling.  After all, she is your friend.

Maybe legalists don’t really have friends.  Maybe they just have projects and entertainment.


Filed under Legalism, Relationship

Legalism and Friendships

Perhaps one of the reasons I began to understand narcissism was because of the narcissistic perspective legalists seem to have toward friendships.  

There is one concern in the heart of the legalist—measuring up to the expectations of the system.  Now, I didn’t say measuring up to the expectations of the Lord because there would be no difference in the mind of the legalist.  What the system expects of its followers is what the Lord expects of His.  Yes, this depersonalizes God and makes His love and His will subject to formulas and structures, but that’s easier to understand than a relationship with Him.

It also depersonalizes others.  If my success and failure will be judged by a system, then I must focus on that system for my hope and promise.  Other people are important only as they fit in my service to or focus on the system.  In other words, if you help me climb my ladder toward righteousness, you are welcome.  If you hold me back on that climb, you are my enemy.

This is why legalists are so involved in fixing the people around them.  They think they get spiritual points for things like exhorting, reproving, and chastising.  By fixing you, they help themselves.  Good works include helping others and acts of kindness, which are defined within that climb to righteousness.

So, when you tell the legalist your secret fear or compromise, she will remember it as something she needs to work on in you.  You are not a person as much as you are a project.  As you climb toward righteousness, she is pushed upwards as well. 

Sadly, this becomes a multi-level marketing scheme.  For each one I help toward success, I gain a few more points toward my own success.  There are people above me and people below me and we use each other.  I may go to classes taught by those above me and I can give words of encouragement to those below me. 

But what about friends? 

Friends are just part of the system.  Friends, for the legalist, are people who help him climb the ladder.  If he disagrees with the system, I have to get rid of him, maybe even make an example of him by revealing his secrets.  If he agrees with the system, I can call him friend—at least until we disagree on something.

Wow, Dave, you sound bitter! 

No, I’m not bitter.  I just understand now what I didn’t understand then.  This explains how the legalist can just cut off a friend with cruelty and meanness.  It explains why there was this constant comparison among friends.  It explains why a church might not be a place of safety and support, in spite of how nice the people seem.  It explains why the phone suddenly stops ringing and why people avoid you at the grocery and why your kids are suddenly not good enough for their kids.  Agree and support the party line and they are your friends.  Drift away and you learn the truth.

Your thoughts?


Filed under Legalism, Narcissism, Relationship