Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Flirting With the Pastor

I’ve had my share of women flirt with me. I figure it’s because women don’t really go for those slim muscle bound fellows, but rather men of substance (big boys). Picture me as a grizzly that has just had his fill of honey and salmon. Who could resist that?

Quite a few actually.

But there have been women who flirt with me occasionally. As a younger man, I was vain enough to think it was me, but I’ve learned it usually has more to do with them. When a woman flirts with me at church, I’ve learned to look for troubles in her marriage. It can mean she’s unhappy with her husband and she wants out. If so, she’s probably not just flirting with me.

Rats.

I remember one particular woman who would flirt outrageously with me and then spend the next week saying mean things about me to others. I learned to look for knives when she batted her eyes at me.

The flirts are not dangerous or tempting to me.

It’s the women who come for counseling where I use some caution. Most of the people who come for counseling are women. To share personal things with an accepting man makes it easy to develop feelings toward him. And I could toward them, too, because intimacy is a shared thing.

However, part of the trust factor in pastoral counseling requires my not taking advantage of another’s vulnerability.

We in the biz call that a sin. I take it pretty seriously.

It can be seductive. If I had a fight with my wife that day and people were mean to me during the week, then a vulnerable woman who thinks I’m a wonderful helper can be a temptation.

I usually steer the talk down a more productive road. “What are you going to do about your situation?” I’ll challenge gently, which reminds her that I’m not there to rescue her, but to show her how to take responsibility for her life. That’s almost always all it takes to put the relationship in the right place.

They don’t flirt with me much anymore. And they don’t fall in love with me either. It’s probably because I’m a more effective minister and has nothing to do with my being old, fat, and gray.

10 comments:

  1. In this age of falling pastors it's good that you take the proper precautions.

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  2. Mike, most ministers who have affairs with parishioners do so because they weren't paying attention to boundaries and they got caught up in the intimacy. I may write a little about that soon.

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  3. (just been oh holiday, catching up with posts!) To be honest, I'm surprised you counsel women 1-on-1: it's dangerous for you. Not because you'd actually let something happen, but because one malicious accusation could put you out of business. Or is that just in the paranoid UK?

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  4. No, not paranoid. But I don't know how to avoid pastoral counseling. I take the necessary precausions--schedule appointments during the day during office hours when others are near, and I'm having a window put in my door.

    Also, I don't do indepth counseling. If there are some psychological disorders or traumatics events, I'm quick to refer.

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  5. I hear you. I am a new young pastor of a church plant. My wife is depressed with her job and pregnant. With all of my self doubt it becomes such an easy temptation. I have plenty of people I can tell this too and my wife and I talk about this (on both sides). I set up all kinds of precautions which lead me to believe, if you want an affair you really have to work for it. I mean I never in my life have ever directly had a woman come on to me that I truly feel confident that is what she is doing. I think one woman in my congregation does flirt with me. The thing that helps is honestly realizing how awful the consequences would be. I would hurt so many people, older people, young people middle aged people. And I would lose my marriage, trust, my job and my own self respect. That all being said, it sucks to counsel a woman and while you are counseling her you also know if you wanted it....you probably could have it. Just weird and humbling. Glad I am counseling couples who have had affairs. the fall out is awful, It is not just a theory. I see that first hand.

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  6. Hey New Young Pastor. You're wise to use all the precautions and to remember what would happen. All that being said, you could still find yourself being strongly tempted someday.

    When I was young and busy, I neglected my wife who was also depressive. Remember that she comes first before any other of the Lord's flock.

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  7. I am starting to find myself on the opposite end of a flirting woman pretty frequently in my ministry... I dont know if I invite this type of behaivor, because I enjoy dressing well, and I think a well groomed appearance can be very beneficial to a minister. Temptation has never been an issue with me...until now. I have been stormed with an unexpected bout of infidelity by my own wife! Any advice would help me at this point... prayers too...

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  8. Dear Anonymous. It sounds like things are painful for you right now. I'm so sorry to read that you're going through such a rough time.

    The real issues, of course, are between you and your wife. That's what makes you susceptible to giving in to an impulse that would be truly painful.

    It would hurt you, your loved ones, including your wife, and it would hurt the woman who is flirting with you. I know you know this, but I'll say it anyway because we ministers need to be reminded: We were called to live by a high moral standard--it's part of our ministry.

    PLEASE go talk to someone about this. Not one of your congregants. Maybe a fellow minister, but I'd suggest a real counselor. You might be surprised how many of us clergy guys need a therapist. Marriage counseling would be necessary, too, but I think you also need to talk to someone just by yourself.

    Feel free to contact me via the email on this blog if you want to talk about this further.

    Peace be with you,
    CG

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  9. My former pastor asked if he could "coach" me when I stepped up to lead a large women's ministry. Since he was much older than I - my father's age, in fact - and since I've been looking for a father figure my entire life (mine pretty much ignored me), I was honored he would offer his services. He wanted to meet off-site at a coffee shop rather than in his church office, but I didn't see that as a problem, as I knew this was his normal M.O. But he began making sexual comments to me pretty much right out of the chute. I was so desperate for his help and so desperate for a man my dad's age to show an interest - ANY interest - in me, I just let him say what he wanted. Yet he was also telling me how brilliant I was, how gifted, how anointed, etc. I totally bought it. After a short amount of time and many meetings and emails had passed, I was emotionally invested in him. He told me I filled a "gap" for him (yes, he is married). No sex was involved, and I kept my thought-life regarding him chaste, but he was practically leering at me and salivating. He told me he'd put me on his funeral instructions; he told me that my family (husband and kids) had emotionally abandoned me but that HE would always be there for me; he told me he thought of me 24/7. Then he told me that there were many times he'd wished he'd taken me to bed, because he thought I needed that kind of love. Now I'm 18 months out from all this. My husband confronted him, and he left the church. He lied about the funeral instructions. He lied repeatedly to my husband. He's now heading up another ministry. We're not done with him, but he doesn't know that. He took advantage of my vulnerabilities and twisted Scripture to fit his purposes. I am not proud of myself, here, but this guy should be totally ashamed - and removed from his post. Moral of this story: Don't grant someone instant trust; they must earn it.

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  10. Anonymous, that minister did an evil thing in how he manipulated and used you for his own emotional amusement. People like him will have a lot to answer for when they face judgment.

    As ministers, we're supposed to be the caregivers, not users.

    Do what you have to do to deal with him, but don't let him rob you of any more of your life. There's a lot of joy to be claimed and you deserve it.

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