A Note from Kelly King: God created us for community—including leaders. Yet, there is a need to be cautious in relationships that can border on co-dependency or ones that might be unhealthy. In her continuing series, “Ministering in the Messy,” Deb Douglas discusses the importance of wisdom and discernment in regard to leaders and relationships.
Leadership can be lonely. We’re surrounded by people—people we are helping. People we put a wall up to so we can keep a distance and minister to them.
And we get lonely.
And then we get desperately lonely. We cross the line of health and boundaries to engage in relationships—ones that are not the best for us. Relationships with people who thrive in co-dependency and control, bordering on abuse. They love to be needed. They crave the power that being needed gives them.
And these relationships hurt us.
- These relationships marginalize our need to hold confidences close.
- These relationships jeopardize our ability to think on our own.
- These relationships put our position, our marriage, and our leadership into the midst of messy entanglements.
The beginning is innocent; we find the fulfillment of a need for companionship, support, and encouragement. In that innocence and sense of need, the unhealthiness takes over. We find ourselves entangled in a messiness that chokes us out. Maybe it has not led to sin or maybe it hasn’t becoming a controlling mess yet. But unhealthy relationships overwhelm and slowly take over.
The solution for messy entanglements is not avoiding relationships. We’re created to live life in community with others. To love others. So what is the solution? Discernment and wisdom, not isolation.
- If we daily find ourselves craving time with a person, things are probably about to get messy and entangled. Step away.
- Keep right relationships healthy. Limit time and keep healthy boundaries on conversations. Do not talk about the problems of the people being led.
- When facing leadership issues, seek professional help, not advice from people we lead.
- Stay away from close, intimate relationships with people of the opposite sex.
- Spend time with your spouse. If more time is spent with a friend than with your spouse, there’s a problem.
- Basic rule: talk to your spouse about your spouse! If you are having difficulties with your spouse, seek professional counseling and help through prayer.
Messy entanglements divert our attention away from our purpose and make our personal desire for companionship overshadow everything else in our lives. Being diligent in keeping our relationships healthy will detangle those messy entanglements.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.