How to be Nasty Religiously

I realize mind-games and manipulative behaviors go on in every sector. But what I’ve experienced is that when someone is nasty in the work place, they are just nasty, it is recognized as such, and called for what it is. Usually. Not always.

But what I’ve noticed over the many years in the church, in spirituality, in Christianity, is that the nastiness in religious domains is more subversive. Christians, I’ve concluded, generally want to be nice, sincere people of faith. They would never want to hurt anybody.

So when something upsetting happens to them against their will, rather than get consciously angry, mean, manipulative or deceitful, they drive these unpleasant thoughts and feelings deep underground and cover it all in a sentimental spirituality laced with ultimate concern for the church, God’s will, and mission.

What actually happens is this psychologically separates the unconscious drives from the conscious ones, allowing the unconscious ones to bloom with full sanction under the guise of genuine concern. Anyone with any discernment can see the monstrosity of the person’s thinly veiled ulterior motives, lack of honesty and integrity. But the person himself is completely blind to them. His spirituality won’t allow him to recognize it. He lacks integrity. In other words, he is not an integrated person. He is not integrating his unconscious with his conscious, his dark side with his light, his sinner with his saint.

To address the issues head-on would fall on shocked, offended and deaf ears. It is useless. Unless a close friend or relative points it out. Then maybe. Otherwise, from my experience, it takes the mortifying trauma of an understood bad dream, a revelation, self-awareness, or realization (whatever you want to call it) for it to be addressed. Plus humility.

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12 Responses

  1. Fred says:

    That’s brilliantly perceptive.

  2. Ann B says:

    I think what I found the hardest was: when people felt they had “the right speak into your life when it was ABSOLUTELY none of their business! And it was nearly always done with an air of superiority and and a guise of trying to help you. So hard to say “Butt out and mind your own business” as then it became your problem and not their’s

    David, I can hardly read this. Don’t know if it is a problem my end or your page!

  3. amy says:

    My church decided to let me in on all of my dysfunction all at once, over the phone, while I was 3 months pregnant. I was friends with the Pastor’s daughter, she and I had an issue to work out and instead of doing that, I got blasted. If I was the terrible person they thought I was, you’d think maybe they would have asked to speak to me about it over the 5 years I served with them, but no, they had to get picky. I am still healing from the damage and am having a real hard time wanting to attend church again. My old church family does not speak to me.

  4. Jane says:

    This is Dissociative Identity Disorder for Christians. We actually do split apart and repress the ‘ugly’ side of ourselves to a painful outcome. I have seen it in myself. We feel the need to be good, kind thoughtful and sensitive; after …all that is what our Lord requires of us right? No. The Lord does not require that we berate ourselves and do painful penance to ‘remove’ those ‘dark’ thoughts, feelings and emotions from ourselves (spare the rod spoil the adult lol). There are a couple angles on why I think this is such an issue especially in North America.

    People who are abused will often create or develop a second personality (or more) to deal with the fact that they are being violently mistreated. It is their escape. As Christians we are abusers, first and foremost to ourselves. We repress our personalities and behaviors. And when they don’t meet the ‘standard’ a Christian person should submit himself to they become a part of the second person the who is hiding from the abuser, ourselves. The self hatred becomes personified. “I just don’t meet the standard, I must push harder, be nicer, gossip less ect.”. But what happens instead is a seed of bitterness develops. Our thoughts: ‘No one cares how I feel, they just want what they want. I actually hate that person, they make me sick. It because they are a low budget family with no morality. I am moral at least. And the congregation singing makes me crazy, it sounds like a bunch of dead people moaning to a tune, so aggravating . At least I can sing. I hate how ‘out of it’ everyone at my church is. At least I am smart and read books and try to not follow the pack. I really should be a leader and show people how they should act and be proper.”

    We repress the child that feels slighted, over looked and not liked. It is the opposite with people who are being abused by an outside party. But this inner torment of DID the Christian deals with reverses that pattern, we repress the expressive, hatred filled person with freedom of speech side. We take away our own human rights. The rot eventually will appear on the face of the abuser, our conscious mind. But how quickly we grab the veneer, the cover up or the smile. Then berate ourselves for having such thoughts. “That damn side of myself which wants to rear it’s head and be sinful. I must try harder to be good. I’ll keep it in submission, that is what a good Christian should do.” Down, down, down, the illness just festers until we do something that shocks our “humble” appearance and Abused Christian all of a sudden takes over. Even then, we may just push it down again, justifying our unruly behavior as stress, overwork. Or we can see it for what it is and try to find healing. With support and encouragement in a safe atmosphere this healing could take place. The self hatred and repressed hatred must end.

    In North America especially we repress things. Why, there are many reasons. The one I think is foremost is the drive for success in our culture. It’s either all or nothing. The best must be our goal. No rest is penned into the plan, just barrel ahead until it’s complete. You can’t approach Jesus this way. Against popular belief, Jesus was not born on American soil, but in the east. The east is a world onto itself. And guaranteed, not nearly or insanely success geared as our domain. Pausing and reflecting is what we are worst at here. So in an attempt to keep up with our inner success story we repress, repress, repress. Not just Christians. But the sickness is in our ‘Body” as well. And I think a huge contributor to this DID we suffer with. I know a lot of Christians see Buddhism as an evil tool of the Devil. I myself am not of this school of thought. But if you can manage a peek with out berating yourself you might get a better picture of how the east approaches spirituality. Not every country of course, some are ven just as repressed as ours. But why has Buddhism become so popular in North America? Because we know we are sick, we need respite. Our inner repressed child is crying out for rest and healing. One our North American version of Christianity rarely serves up.

    These are just some thoughts inspired by your wonderful post David. It’s always a pleasure to hear your revelations. Especially since I am at the place you spea of. I am looking to heal that inner abused spiteful child, even if it means expressing myself in ways I’d rather not and sitting with my conscious mind and having a heart to heart about how Jesus would never desire this pain to propel my walk of faith. That a whole person is a broken person. Sounds strange? Welcome to earth!

  5. Kim says:

    amy, that sounds very shocking and hideous. I hope you find peace and healing.

    David – the page is very weird and tiny?

  6. Doug Sloan says:

    Ditton Kim’s comment about the page format – it’s all squished to the left.

  7. Justin says:

    As always, I thought this very insightful. I am reposting it (with a link and credit of course) on mine. I have seen this a lot in my 13 years of ministry. It captures how I feel. I don’t think people mean to be like this, in fact I think their intentions are (as you stated) are to be nice people. I think it captures why I get both optimistic and pessimistic in ministry at the same time. Big fan, thanks as always!

  8. Doug Sloan says:


    Thank you – the page format is fixed on my computer.

  9. andrée says:

    I was a doormat. Then I got to be a very angry doormat. Now I’m learning to say no. I use to define my life by the need of others. My intentions seemed noble but I became more and more angry as my needs were not met and I was spending most of my time doing what was asked of me while having no time left for the things I’m good at or the things I want to do.

    When Jesus died He said that He Gave His life, not that it was taken from Him. So I try to be more aware of my feelings, my needs and my goals so that I sometimes say no in order to be able to say yes and be fully there when I think I should be…I want to choose to give and not let people take all the time…

  10. Julia says:

    Been there. Done that. Have seen it lots. It’s such a long process to get out from under the pressures of the law of being “kind” and “loving”. Many times these are poor substitutions for the real challenge of being honest with ourselves and others, and loving well.

  11. David Smith says:

    Your post made me laugh. I was once in a meeting where the man who called it announced that he was blackmailing (he used nicer words) another man for kissing his daughter. He was protecting his family as a man of God should.

    Well, yes. But blackmail? Telling the younger brother to leave town or he’ll get him in trouble with the police with a trumped-up charge?

    Yet, he was serious, and, to me, seriously deluded. He was “powerful” which meant there was no one able to communicate the truth to him. He had several other similar issues and these taught me that a man could act gently in his evil.

    I can better watch myself.

  12. nakedpastor says:

    horror stories like that abound david. thanks.