Signs of Spiritual Abuse – Part 3

Another sign of spiritual abuse is when authority enforces rules they are themselves exempt from.

Organizational policies are about protecting the unstated value of control instead of protecting the stated values. As a result, the enforcement of rules is aimed down the org chart unevenly rather than consistently throughout. Behavior that would result in confrontation and discipline lower on the organizational chart remains un-confronted at the highest levels.

As an example, consider issues of anger and temper. A co-worker completely losing their cool and exploding in anger towards a peer is likely to result in disciplinary action of some kind. But when a senior level leader does the same thing, they get a pass. This is only inconsistent if the goal is the healthy protection of values. But since the goal is actually control, there is no inconsistency: both the discipline of the employee and the anger of the senior leader serve the (actual though unstated) goal well.

The issue is deeper than inconsistencies in behavior and organizational response to those behaviors. Such inconsistencies reveal that the actual values being protected within the organization are incongruent with the stated values. Usually the actual value is control and the apparent inconsistencies are about the fear tactics necessary to protect that value. Actual values within an organization are almost always protected consistently. When stated values are inconsistently protected, it’s highly likely that there is an unhealthy and therefore unstated value that is being protected consistently.

In a healthy organization, great care is taken to make sure that actual values and stated values are congruent and consistently protected throughout. This congruence is called “integrity.”


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