Being in community can be like being in gorgeous, sunny apple orchard—that also happens to be a minefield. So often, it’s beautiful, nourishing, and joyful. But every once in a while, when you reach out to trim that branch or pick that scrumptious honeycrisp, there’s a blinding flash of light, dirt and shrapnel are thrown in your face, and you’re yards away from where you were two seconds ago.
It can be painful, and surprising, to say the least.
So what can we do to help each other avoid the minefields? To open our eyes to the triggers the enemy tries to have us stumble into? I’ve learned lots of different things—and there are lots of different things we can do to make this journey easier. This post is by no means all-encompassing. But there is one key element I want to focus on, one thing I’ve learned that’s been truly helpful for me.
Don’t be the dump.
Yep, you heard me. Don’t be the place the garbage goes to stay. Don’t let yourself hoard the trash.
What does this look like? There is a difference between being trustworthy, and keeping secrets that suck your life blood. There is a difference between gossip, and submitting to authority.
You, at some point in your life, have probably believed this lie. This may come as a bit of a shock to you if you believe it now. It did to me.
When someone tells you a problem, and addendums it with, “but please don’t tell anyone”—you CAN actually tell someone, if you do it right. And you aren’t an awful friend. You aren’t being a bad Christian. You aren’t sinning.
You see, this is called a “confidentiality trap” and it can suck your life away. Avery comes in, tells you all about what Jackson did and how it affected those people, and oh my gosh please don’t tell anyone, mk? ‘cause I don’t want to ruin their reputation….I just needed to vent.
*WEE-OOO-WEE-OOO-WEE-OOO-wwwoooOOOOP-wwwooooOOOOp-HOOOONK-HOOOONK* Why yes, the car-that-is-your-life’s alarm IS going off, you’re being hijacked, and it’s not a detour you want to take.
You know who you can always call when your car is being stolen, about to be trashed? The cops. You know who you can call when your life is getting broken into? Your spiritual authority.
Let me say it straight: There is no secret, no story, no deed that you need to keep from your spiritual authority. In a healthy home, that’d be your pastor, your parents or your spouse. Parents aren’t safe? Don’t have a spouse? Find yourself a couple (not your peers) at your church who can look out for you. If you don’t have a church family, buckle down and find one, my friend. Jesus came to build the church—He loves it, and He wants you there. The church needs you—and you need the church, your Christian community. And in some circumstances, it can go beyond family & pastor—whoever is in authority where the problem is happening may need to know, too. Teachers, instructors, coaches, principle—you get the idea.
Please don’t get me wrong—I don’t mean you have to tell EVERYTHING to those in leadership in your life. But there are some triggers to tip you off for when it’s time to bring in the leaders (and these apply even if they didn’t turn on the “don’t tell” imaginary forcefield):
1. Obsessing. When all you can think about is the problem, or you can’t go a day (or a few hours) without the issue coming to mind—you’re obsessing. And that’s not healthy. My friend, the problem is holding the steering wheel of your life. Bring in the authority.
2. Bitterness. When you think about the situation, or the people involved in the situation, and you’re getting bitter fruit in your life—anger, offense, avoidance, belittling, etc—it’s time to take it to your authority.
3. Disunity. If what you know, or feel, is causing disunity, you need to confess to someone else and get free. Unforgiveness can cause this in a heartbeat. If what you know (or in many cases, what you’re believing—which may not be the whole truth) is keeping you from working with your fellow believers in any way, get it taken care of by bringing in your leaders. Don’t let it fester. It’ll just be like an infected wound, and cause more and more problems until you’re a leper, and that’s just not good.
4. Danger. When the issue is about someone’s self harm, abuse, or if they have mentioned suicide, you CANNOT keep it a secret. In some cases, doing so is actually illegal.
Sometimes, like I said, those symptoms can originate in you, and not from Miss Don’t-Tell Dorothy. They can spread when you tell your friend, and that is a slippery slope to gossip—now you’re not just the dump, you’re becoming a sewage system. And no one wants to be that.
God gave you your leaders for your benefit. They will help you grow. Honor them with your honesty, and your communication. Honor your friends and co-laborers in Christ by being open, healthy, and protecting everyone by taking out the garbage.