February 7, 2014
For more than 15 years of my life, I was in various leadership positions at a few different churches, one smaller (>1000) and two much larger ones (5000+). My leadership positions spanned the range from small group leader and youth pastor to internship director and executive team member. There are many great things that happened during that time and I’m thankful for every year I spent at those places. While there were many times that I was able to have a positive impact on people’s lives, I know for sure that I also had a very negative impact in certain instances.
I hurt many people in the name of “discipleship” and “holiness.” The belief was that harshness could produce brokenness, which was required for humility to be closer to God. I became a “hammer” for carrying out brokenness in people’s lives.
I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see leaders treat people harshly in order to “help” them be closer to God, or the fact that I went along with it. I did damage with my words, and I used scripture to do it. Somewhere along the way, I personally encountered true loving kindness and I have changed completely.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask for forgiveness face to face with many of these young people and there have been some healing moments, but I wish that I could sit down with each and every person and talk to them face to face. Because that’s not possible, I felt that I should finally write this apology.
I’m not writing this because I feel guilty; I felt guilty for a long time. At this point, the guilt and shame that I have felt for years because of my actions is gone and I have found peace. I’m writing this because I don’t want you to EVER think that the way that I treated you was in any way a reflection of who the Divine is. I was not leading in a loving way.
I’m sorry. I was wrong.
- I’m sorry for using my knowledge of the Bible as a weapon and a tool to tear you down.
- I’m sorry for trying to break up your romantic relationships.
(Many of you are happily married to “the one” that I said wasn’t “the one.”)
- I’m sorry for trying to turn you against your parents because parents were a threat to my “authority” in your lives.
- I’m sorry for being completely invulnerable with you and doing my best to make myself seem perfect and that I never made any mistakes.
(You saw me make a lot of mistakes and I was far from perfect. Especially when I came to you in anger and not love. Or when I wouldn’t hear your side of the story, but instead unleash a barrage of harsh words to punish you for what I thought you did or what someone else told me you did.)
- I’m sorry for trying to “cast the devil out of you” and using harsh words while I did it.
- I’m sorry for accusing you of things you did not do.
- I’m sorry for ignoring and shunning you.
- I’m sorry for using public shaming as a fear tactic.
- I’m sorry for not listening to you.
- I’m sorry for not being supportive and kind when you confessed your struggles. Instead of valuing your vulnerability and courage, I made it my job to “fix” you.
- I’m sorry for trying to be a mediator between you & God, always telling you what I thought you should do and not teaching you to encounter the Divine on your own.
- I’m sorry for doing things to purposely frustrate you and “teach you a lesson.”
- I’m sorry for representing God as a perfectionistic disciplinarian.
- I’m sorry for stopping you from pursuing your dreams in the name of “dying to self.”
- I’m sorry for putting a corporate need ahead of your individual needs.
- I’m sorry for asking you to do things that I would have never wanted to or been able to do.
Mostly, I’m sorry for being a poor reflection of the Divine and what spirituality is. I was harsh, critical, mean, untouchable, fake and manipulative. The Divine is loving, gracious, kind, near to you, so real and walks alongside you everywhere you go. The Divine is not a commanding officer you report to but rather an ever present help that delights in showing mercy. It is kindness and love that allow us to become who we really are. So many of my actions came from a place of fear, insecurity and not feeling loved myself. As I was working & striving for my acceptance by God, I left a wake of hurting people in my path. I thank God that by Grace, I am who I am today. I have completely changed how I view the world and more importantly I have a deeper understanding of that it is Love that holds this universe together.
The longer I sat here writing this, the more incidents kept coming to mind. I’m sure that there are many more things that I could continue to apologize for but I did my best to be thorough. If there is anything that I’ve done that hurt you and you would like to talk to me personally, please send me a message HERE. I would love to talk to you and work through anything that has been weighing on your heart because of something that happened in the past. I care so much about the people that I have crossed paths with and I want to be in connection with any of you who would want to talk.
For those of you that are reading this that don’t know me but you’ve experienced this kind of treatment from other authority figures, please accept this apology as if it were written specifically for you.
I was wrong. Please forgive me.