Thursday, December 31, 2009

The heart of a protector

A while ago, I took an online personality test and the results were amazingly accurate. They showed that I'm an Introvert, Sensing, Feeling and Judging. (ISFJ) My personality was described as a protector or a defender. When I saw the results, I immediately thought, "Wow! That's me!" This is a personality trait that I've come to recognize.

I tend to have compassion for the underdog and I immediately want to rescue them from hurt. I hate to see anyone or anything abused which is why I try to promote online groups like "The Animal Rescue Site" and "Not One Sparrow" which focus on animal rights. This has also led to a passion to inform people about the damage caused by spiritual abuse. I've never been one to march and protest but I do share online about those issues that have become important to me.

Being a protector is a wonderful characteristic but, like all personality traits, it also has its downside. After many years of struggling with this, I'm finally beginning to accept the fact that I can't rescue everyone.

A number of years ago, I was involved in a spiritually abusive church. Even after I became aware of what was happening, I stayed and a large part of the reason why was because of my desire to rescue the pastor and to see him set free. Also, I wanted to protect the people from his abuse. I finally left but I felt guilty for many years feeling like I had failed God. I've since come to understand that I left because it was time. God had accomplished in me all that he wanted to accomplish and it was just time to leave.

Since I've become involved with online groups, I've once again seen this trait surface. Unless properly moderated, online groups tend to become extremely abusive. I was a member of two groups that became abusive and I finally had to terminate my membership. Even after I left, I would check in daily out of curiosity. Finally, in order to maintain my sanity, I had to drastically limit even that. I've found that I have to be extremely careful because seeing the abuse and feeling helpless to stop it is emotionally draining for me.

I stayed in both groups longer than I should have because I wanted to protect the other members. Worry and concern for their welfare was tearing me apart emotionally. Putting some distance between me and those abusive groups has helped me tremendously.

I’ve come to believe that it’s impossible to bypass leadership. They control all the cards and there’s nothing I can do to change them or the abusive system from the inside. The truth is each member is free to choose . . . they can stay or they can leave. It’s really up to them. I know people can be so emotionally beaten down that it’s hard to make decisions but ultimately, it’s up to them to take responsibility for their own rescue.

Because of my personality, I’m having to learn to put limits on myself. The bottom line is do I really trust God? Do I really believe that he loves them and will take care of them? While I can be a friend to some, I can’t rescue the world and the truth is that it's really God's responsibility and not mine.

Do we trust God to take care of our friends. They have a spiritual journey they have to walk themselves, just them and God. We can't be expected to rescue everyone. By doing so, we may circumvent the very avenue that God will provide for their escape. Let God be God. Pray, have faith, rest and take comfort in His faithfulness.” (Pigs in the Pulpit – p.287)


Joel Brueseke said...

I've seen much of the same in myself. Although my experiences generally wouldn't really be regarded as me having been abused, or having seen others abused, I've had a heart to protect others from legalism and from legalistic people. (Sometimes I have seen abuse, but for the most part I've basically been involved with people who are legalistic, but simply not realizing it).

Anyway, I can definitely relate to wanting to stay in certain circumstances for the purpose of being a protector. And I too have found that I simply can't protect everyone who I want to protest. Many don't even realize that they are in a bad situation, and my "protection" of them seems strange to them. And so I've had to back off and let them continue on in whatever it happens to be, and hope and pray that they don't fall farther into legalism, and that they become free from it altogether.

Jim Robbins said...

I love your heart, Aida. I can see why you're a protector and defender. I can also see the maturity you have as you've grown in this.
My own prayer has been that God lead me to those who are hungry and thirsty for what I can give. It's too draining to go the long haul with those who won't be helped. Thanks again.

Aida said...

Thanks, Jim. You're always such an encouragement to me.

I agree. Why waste time and energy on those who aren't interested when there are so many who are eager and ready to receive?

Aida said...

Joel, this moderation mode gets confusing at times. For some reason, Jim’s comment got through before yours so I answered his before I knew you had commented.

It’s hard to see people in bondage. Some people don’t even realize that they’re in a bad situation and, the sad thing is that when we try to protect them, they’ll often turn on us and try to make us the villains. The truth is unless they want freedom, our attempts to protect them can sometimes drive them further into bondage. It’s hard to let them go and just trust God to make the truth real to them but that’s really the best thing to do in those types of situations.

Joel Brueseke said...

Hi Aida,

I agree. In fact, as I think about it, the biggest 'protector' of them all is Jesus. If people truly realized the bondage they are in apart from Him, and how He and He alone is their eternal answer for hope and security, etc, they would flock to Him and not turn on Him and make Him out to be the villain that they make Him out to be.

Aida said...

I think because of our legalistic approach to christianity, people are afraid of God. Instead of seeing him as a protector, they see him as a cruel taskmaster who doesn’t care how they feel. I think you’re right. If they only knew the truth and believed it, it would set them free.

ben said...

Aida, thanks so much for an excellent post, and for mentioning Not One Sparrow as well. I believe I have a very similar personality type, in terms of sensitivity and desire to protect the vulnerable. But I can't see I've been nearly as patient with putting up with difficult situations as you have been. I tend to check out pretty early, perhaps too early. I also wanted to tell you I would be grateful and honored if you would help me keep tabs on the environment at Not One Sparrow, perhaps especially at Facebook, and let me know if anything becomes uncomfortable for you, or seems to be veering in a bad direction. I certainly want it to be a place where folks feel safe and affirmed, and I don't want to be a leader who unwittingly becomes desensitized. Ben

Aida said...

Ben, I think there’s a fine line between knowing when to bail out and when to stay and it’s different for everyone. I’ve found that if I hold on too long, it starts to drain me. I think you’re wise in knowing where your limit is and sticking to it.

Although I don’t get a chance to participate much, I’ve enjoyed being involved with the Not One Sparrow Facebook page. I love your heart regarding animal rights. It’s definitely an area in my opinion that the church needs to be involved in.

I would love to help you keep track of the atmosphere on the Facebook page if you feel that would be helpful. I can’t promise I’ll have time to go over to the website but I do check Facebook regularly so it won’t be a problem to keep up with the Facebook page too. I’m honored that you asked me.

I appreciate your comments. BTW, how did you find me?

ben said...

Thank you, Aida, that would be more than fine. And I found your site through my own site's stats, which show other sites which refer to Not One Sparrow. It's always encouraging to see, and gives me an opportunity to thank those sites and their owners as well! Again, thank you for the link ... Ben

Aida said...

Ben, I thought that was probably how you found me since I’m pretty obscure. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I also listed your site on my sidebar as a recommended website. Since my blog’s primary focus is God’s grace, most of my links are about that so I put the animal rescue sites at the top so they won’t get lost in the middle of everything else.

ben said...

Aida, thank you very much for sharing the link on your sidebar, I'm grateful for your affirmation and encouragement in doing so. I often thank bloggers who post a link on their pages in the next Not One Sparrow newsletter/post, would it be ok if I thank you and link back to you? thanks very much, Ben

mellow roc said...

Ida, came back today to read a couple more of your posts. I was also at another board and answered someone's question, is this the way God wants it? They were experiencing his favor and abundance in their lives not because of their efforts alone but his enablement. I said to this person, yep. I participate on a third board where some bullying goes on, I may induce some of it, but also things get stated in loving ways which teach us all how to better communicate with others who are His disciples too. I think it is hard to leave others in God's hands if we are the type of people who see ourselves as God's hands, ambassadors, servants, etc etc. If we have grown up with a developed Jesus First, others second, and ourselves last, JOY, we are going to be less likely to simply let go and let God. I know what it's like to be a loner, lonely, fall through the cracks, taking the back seat, not making waves, and don't wish that on others who are in the faith but would rather they come in and enjoy the glow of being cared about! It may be doing them a disservice, but perhaps folks like myself need to pray for the ability to discern, and folks who are the tough lovers need to do the same on becoming more sensitive. Gee, I am liking this blog of yours and will be back soon.

Aida said...

Ben, I would appreciate you linking back to my blog. That’s very kind of you to think of doing that.

Aida said...

I like the motivational tests that were given in the institutional church. One of my motivational gifts was as a mercy person. It’s not my strongest characteristic but couple that with my gifting as an encourager and I end up being a protector. I hate to see people hurt and it’s hard to trust that God will work in the middle of their hurt to bring them to a good place.

I agree with you that we need discernment. We really do need to discern when we should intervene and when we should hold back. It’s not always an easy call.

I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog and I appreciate your comments. It’s good to get input from my readers. It helps me to crystallize my thoughts.