Protecting the Body of Christ from the Sociopath Part 1

Identifying those with Antisocial Personality Disorders in the Church
By Tena DeGraaf

I write as the voice of experience. In my life, I have crossed paths with a couple of sociopaths, and I felt the call to inform and warn my brothers and sisters in Christ. My prayer is that you take these articles to heart and remember that while God is sovereign, He calls us to grow in wisdom.

What is an antisocial personality disorder? What are the characteristics of this disorder? It should be noted that the terms sociopath and psychopath are also interchangeable with antisocial personality disorder. We tend to assume that these are the people who commit the heinous crimes we hear about on the television, but those with antisocial personality disorders can hurt others in many ways that do not make it to the ten o’clock news. Dr. Robert D. Hare, in his book Without Conscience, defines psychopaths as “social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets” (Bentley x). It is a person, who without a guilty conscience or remorse, suits his/her needs or wants at the expense (financial, emotional, relational, or physical) of others.
“According to the current bible of psychiatric labels, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV of the American Psychiatric Association, the clinical diagnosis of ‘antisocial personality disorder’ should be considered when an individual possesses at least three of the following seven characteristics: (1) failure to conform to social norms; (2) deceitfulness, manipulativeness; (3) impulsivity, failure to plan ahead; (4) irritability, aggressiveness; (5) reckless disregard for the safety of self or others; (6) consistent irresponsibility; (7) lack of remorse after having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another person. The presence in an individual of any three of these ‘symptoms’ taken together, is enough to make many psychiatrists suspect the disorder” (Stout 6).

With these criteria, Martha Stout, the author of The Sociopath Next Door states that sociopaths make up about 4% of the population. This means in a church of 100 people, at least FOUR of them could be people with an antisocial personality disorder. It is up to the leadership of each church to protect the remaining 96 people from the path of destruction that sociopaths leave when they encounter members. Should church leaders really be concerned about this type of person preying on their flock? Absolutely!! “Affinity groups-religious, political, or social groups in which all members share common values or beliefs-are particularly attractive to psychopaths because of the collective trust that members of these groups have in one another,” write Paul Babiak Ph.D., and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. in their book, Snakes in Suits When Psychopaths Go to Work (90). Sociopaths prey on the trust abundantly given in church settings and Christian organizations. “They can talk a good line, and they can appear to be deeply caring. But in truth, sociopaths have no conscience and no real capacity for empathy or love. And because they’re wolves in sheep’s clothing, they can be very dangerous,” according to Eve A. Wood, M.D. in her book, The Gift of Betrayal How to Heal Your Life When Your World Explodes (30).

Although most of us do not have the training to diagnose anyone as a sociopath, there are some red flags to be aware of. If you know someone who has SEVERAL of the following destructive habits, proceed in the relationship with caution.

Beware of someone who:
• moves quickly into power and avoids normal procedures such as interviews
• uses flattery often
• pits people against each other as a “get ahead” strategy
• creates a toxic environment behind the scenes
• speaks the spiritual jargon but shows no other spiritual fruit
• can’t truly apologize for his/her mistakes
• shifts blame on the victim so that the victim walks away feeling he/she is at fault
• is incapable of displaying true, deep emotions such as feelings of empathy or sympathy
• mimics others’ emotions and emulates the learned behavior of the Christian leaders
• plants seeds of doubt about people in power
• embellishes his/her past accomplishments that sometimes can’t be traced
• has gaps in the resume that are not fully or clearly explained
• acquires power through the manipulation of those who are weaker than he/she is
• has the insatiable need to dominate others
• appears to always be busy but does not do any significant amount of work
• delegates the work to someone else and then takes the credit for it

Again, most of us do not have the psychological training to diagnose someone as a sociopath or having an antisocial personality disorder. However, that doesn’t mean that we should just stick our heads in the sand and pretend these types of people do not exist. They do exist, and they prey on the innocent and uninformed to create dissention and chaos. We have a responsibility to become informed and then use that information wisely to protect the body of Christ.

If you have come across someone you believe fits this profile, you should:
• inform the deacons, elders, leaders, or board of directors of this type of behavior
• encourage them to DOCUMENT ALL concerns and complaints
This way the leadership is tracking and connecting the dots and devastation of the sociopath or person with an antisocial personality disorder. Many sociopaths use the principle of Matthew 18 to their advantage, meaning they tells their victims that it would be gossip for the victims to discuss their issues regarding the sociopaths with others.

Jesus warns us of the persecution we will face in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” ESV. As adults, parents, leaders, teachers, and members of His Kingdom, it is imperative that we do our best to protect the sheep.

If you are looking for more information on this topic, here is a list of recommended informative books:
A Dance with the Devil by Barbara Bentley
Snakes in Suits When Psychopaths Go to Work by Paul Babiak Ph.D. and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.
The Gift of Betrayal How to Heal Your Life When Your World Explodes by Eve A. Wood, M.D.
The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
Without Conscience by Dr. Robert D. Hare

Protecting the Body of Christ from the Sociopath Part 2

Pressing on After an Encounter with a Sociopath
By Tena DeGraaf

If you have been aggrieved by someone who possesses some of these sociopathic characteristics mentioned in part one, here are some helpful suggestions to move on:
• acknowledge that anyone except God can be deceived (Genesis 27:35)
• be wise as serpents and read credible books on the subject

Fervently Pray for:
• wisdom and guidance for each step (Proverbs 3:21-23; Proverbs 3:6)
• protection for your family and church from any harm or evil (Psalm 64:2-3)
• clarity of thought (Isaiah 5:20)
• strength during and after the persecution (1 Peter 4:12-13; 1 Peter 1:6-7)
• endurance/hope (Romans 5:1-5)
• justice (Psalm 146:7, 9)
• your enemy (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:28)
• discernment for your Christian organization’s leaders (1 Timothy 2:2)
• other victims (Colossians 1:11-14)

Other words of wisdom are:
• Be aware your views will not be understood by many or most people.
• Understand that this disconnect can lead to feelings of isolation.
• Ask God for guidance on whom to trust as you may need to unload on someone.
• Pray for a prayer partner or support group to help you move on.
• Immerse yourself in Scripture during and after an encounter to remind you of His omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence (Romans 8:31, Isaiah 42:13, Hebrews 13:5, John 16:33).
• Listen to praise music and hymns to remind you God is bigger that your persecutor.
• Give yourself time to heal. The deeper the wounds; the longer the healing process takes.
• Forgive your enemy so you don’t allow the sociopath to have control over your thought life (Ephesians 4:32; Mark 11:25; 1 John 2:10-11).
• Realize forgiveness is an ongoing process in which you may have to continue to forgive as different hurts, reminders, or thoughts wound you again and again.
• Take time to reprogram your thinking so as not to be gullible when the sociopath tries to convince you that his/her tall tale, exaggeration, embellishment, or lie is true.
• Remind yourself that many sociopaths are fluent liars.
• Realize God may have you offer hope, encouragement, and clarity for another victim (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
• Press on with the full life God has intended for you (Psalm 18:17, Psalm 118:24, Philippians 3:12, Proverbs 10:25).

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
Psalm 27:1

Truths About Us Part Two

Every wonder what the Bible says about us?
Here are ten more truths to ponder:
I am loved by God. John 3:16
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit. John 15:16
I am a personal witness of Christ. Acts 1:8
I know that all things work together for good. Romans 8:28
I am God’s temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16
I am united with the Lord, and I am one with him in spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17
I have been bought with a price, and I belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
I can find grace and mercy in times of need. Hebrews 4:16
I am born of God, and the evil one can’t harm me. 1 John 5:18

Happy Grandparent’s Day! Sharing our Faith with our Grandchildren

As we love our children and grandchildren, how do we share our faith in God with them? I asked this question to my friend, Mary Davidson, many years before I became a Grandma to share at one of my workshops. She offered timeless advice.
Here are a few ideas to help you share your faith in God with your grandchildren:
1. Write letters to your grandchildren. Share a verse of Scripture.
2. Tuck them in and pray Scripture over them.
3. Pray for their parents.
4. Pray for your grandchildren and let them know you are praying for them.
5. Offer Godly solutions to their situations.
6. Clean out your home of anything contrary to God’s Word: check your movies, magazines, books, etc.
7. Read picture Bibles to them when they visit.
8. Have Christian videos for them to watch such as Odyssey and Veggies Tales.
9. Have praise music on in the background when they visit.
10. Learn enough technology to keep in contact them such as texting and FaceTime.
11. Love them and ask them about their lives. Remember God is working in the parents’ lives as you minister to your grandchildren.

Time Management Tips for Busy Christian Women

I am thrilled to partner with Christine van Tonder of South Africa. In this video interview, we chat about time management for busy Christian women. To access the video, you will be asked to register as a member first, but don’t worry, this just means you will get free access to her videos, audios, and other resources first, as she releases them. You will be able to cancel your membership at any time. May this interview help you make the most of the precious minutes each day.

Is using your limited energy and focus a challenge for you?Would you love to learn how to use your time wisely, and…

Posted by Christine van Tonder Faith-Led Wellness Coaching on Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Blessings of Prayer Partners

The following story was taken from the book The Power of Praying Together by Stormie OMartian with Jack Hayford.
“Why We Find Strength in Unity
When Pastor Jack Hayford was a young teenager, he heard a missionary lady tell how she was trapped with some people in a dry riverbed just as a flash flood came. The people immediately joined hands and withstood that danger by strengthening each other. As they united against the sweeping waters, their lives were spared.
That is exactly what a prayer group does. People join together to stand strong against things that would seek to wash away their lives and destroy them. The Bible says that rather than be anxious about our lives, we are to pray about them (Phil. 4:6-7). And when we find ourselves in serious circumstances, we are to stand united with other believers and pray for one another” (106).

How do you begin to have a friend or group of friends praying for you?

1. Ask God to reveal to you who is a trustworthy, praying person who loves you enough to take time on a regular basis to pray for you.
2. As God reveals, ask each woman to prayerfully consider this commitment.
3. Let each friend know it is two-way street with your willingness to pray as well for them. Your prayer team members not need to know each other. Once a month, I copy and paste my basic email to each woman. Then, I personalize the beginning where I share how I have been praying for each woman’s needs. Look for a friend or an inner circle of friends who will lift you up. Proverbs 17:17. My team is local so I have them over once a year for a prayer breakfast where we eat, chat, and prayer for one another.

TakeAwayTruth-Prayer partners help us to press on.

Now, I would love to hear from you. Answer one of these two questions:

1. When it comes to asking someone to be a prayer partner, what has held you back-Is it fear, time commitment, or not wanting to bother someone?

2. What area of your ministry or life would improve dramatically if you could partner in prayer with someone? Is it having more peace or confidence or wisdom for example?

You can one or both questions in the comments below.

Lord, thank you for the blessings and benefits of praying for one another. Amen.

Celebrating Father’s Day

In honor of Father’s Day, I am sharing two poems my dad, Rich Latta, wrote. One is about life and the other is about me. What AMAZES me about these poems which were written many years ago is that each of their messages is as true today as the day Dad wrote them. May these poems inspire you to cultivate your creativity, something that my dad was always pursuing.

Life
That brief
Glimpse we
Get into who
And what we are
Seems like
A mere
Flash one
Hopes never
Goes out.

Tena
You’ve run through
tall fields of thick
grass struggling against
the odds of failure
and defeat and now
covered with the pollen
of knowledge you
can grow into a
flowering field of plants.

10 Truths About Us

10 Truths About Us

Ever wonder what the Bible says about us? Here are 10 Truths About Us:

I am the salt and light of the world. Matthew 5:13-14
I am a child of God. John 1:12
I am a branch of the true vine. John 51:1,5
I am a friend of Jesus. John 15:15
I have been justified. Romans 5:1
I am a member of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27
I have been adopted as a child of God. Ephesians 1:5
I may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. Colossians 1:14

National Day of Prayer

Today Thursday, May 3, 2018 is the National Day of Prayer.
Let’s join together and pray. Here are a few ideas for prayer:

1. For children, that…

they will know Christ as Savior.

they will obey their parents.

2. For parents, that…

they will be imitators of God.

they will walk in wisdom.

3.For families, that…

they will be committed to loving the Lord and loving each other.

they will be protected physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

4.For schools, that…

students will grow academically and socially in safe learning environments.

students will learn Christian values and morals.

5.For churches, that…

pastors will clearly proclaim the Gospel.

all church activities will continue to glorify the Lord and draw people closer to Him.

6.For missionaries, that…

they will feel loved and encouraged.

they will be safe as they share the Gospel of Jesus with others.

7.For the government, that…

government leaders will seek the Lord as they lead others.

public officials will live lives of integrity.

The Promises of God

This passage comes from the book, Women Who Loved God, by Elizabeth George.
“What has God promised you, one of His precious women? The Bible contains as many as 8,000 promises. In difficulty and disaster, in trial, tragedy, trauma, and testing, in times of spiritual, emotional, and physical darkness, you can trust these promises. You can be assured that God will do for you, too, exactly as He has promised.
A young French woman once created a ‘promise box’ to teach her children that the promises of God bring special comfort in times of need. The small box contained 200 handwritten promises copied out of the Bible onto small pieces of paper. Little did she know that her own trust in the Lord would be severely tested in war-time France!
With no food available for her family- her children emaciated and hungry, wearing rags and shoes without soles- she turned to her promise box. In desperation she prayed, ‘Lord, O Lord, I have such a great need. Is there a promise here that is really for me? Show me, O Lord, what promise I can have in this time of famine, nakedness, peril, and sword.’ Blinded by tears, she reached for the box to pull out a promise and knocked it over. God’s promises showered down all around her, on her lap, and on the floor! Not one was left in the box. What supreme joy in the Lord she found as she realized that all of the promises of God were hers- in the very hour of her greatest need.”
Eighteen years ago, I found the book that this passage comes from at a yard sale. This story in particular touched my heart. I was overwhelmed by the fact that there were 8,000 promises found in the Bible. “What if I created a promise box of thirty-one promises from the Bible to review with Dan and Mitch?” I asked myself. Thus, began a search for promises I wanted them to know and think about when needed. Once I chose the thirty-one verses, I typed them out and glued them each to a different colored piece of construction paper and put them in an index card box. When the boys were little and could not read, I read them one promise each morning while they ate breakfast. This truly took only seconds each day. When they could read, each boy took a turn to read a promise in the morning before going to school. Being human and brothers, sometimes we HAD to read TWO promises because we could not really remember whose turn it was and an argument ensued. Just keeping it real, my friends! After many years of this simple habit, all of us hid these thirty-one bible verses in our hearts so that we can remind ourselves and others of God’s promises.
If you would like to purchase a promise box, go to http://tenadegraaf.com/blog/book-shop/ and scroll to the bottom of the page. The promise box sells for $34.00 which includes 31 laminated promises along with U.S. Shipping.
Father God, thank you so much for each of your perfect promises. Amen.