What does the Bible say [about predatory friends]?
Someone who joyfully pursues Christ has good, discernible fruit. Someone who consistently harms people, although they use all the correct Christian language and attend church like the rest of us, does not produce good fruit. Maybe it’s time we stop giving people who say all the right words a hall pass for predatory behavior. Instead, let’s be cautious when we meet someone with big words accompanied by bad actions.
We see the remorse of God and his grief as he looks at mankind’s propensity to prey on each other. How he responds is instructive: “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). Did you see that? Wickedness on this grand scale breaks the heart of God. Because not only does it harm his children, but it also represents a myriad of sins against him. So God is broken twice by a predator’s sin. In light of that, we have the empathy of God as we try to navigate the aftereffects of a predator.
What can we do when we encounter a predator?
Separate. As I shared in the narcissist chapter, Paul’s encouragement remains the same. Have nothing to do with them. Cut ties. Let go of correspondence. Unfollow them from social media. Block them on your phone. You may think it’s mean to do this, but it’s actually kind—to yourself. You are also (possibly) preventing others from being abused by creating a firm boundary of no contact. So often predators receive no consequences for their actions, but you separating is one way they can feel the weight of their behavior.
Report. Ephesians 5:11 instructs, “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.” If you see others being reeled into a predator’s trap, warn them. If the predator has committed a crime, report it to the proper authorities (the police, not your local church). Churches are great at providing spiritual counseling, but they are not equipped to handle civil or criminal cases. If the predator has not necessarily broken laws but has acted unethically, you may have recourse in reporting them to their association or place of employment. Tread lightly before you do this, and please consult a lawyer.
Don’t be a savior. If you do, you’ll have to continue to “save” a predator. Proverbs 19:19 warns us that “hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.” Similarly, don’t ever help a predator conceal his or her true self. They’re masters at reputation management and often appeal to people in their inner circle to do their damage control. Rescuing a predator only empowers them to prey on more victims.
Reevaluate pity. Predators are skilled at enticing others to pity them. According to an article about sociopathic people in the church, “Pity is another socially valuable response, and it should be reserved for innocent people who are in genuine pain or who have fallen on misfortune. If, instead, you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100 percent that you are dealing with a sociopath.”
Reform how you think about respect. In the same article, the author encourages,
If necessary, redefine your concept of respect. Too often, we mistake fear for respect, and the more fearful we are of someone, the more we view him or her as deserving of our respect. To mistake fear for respect is to ensure your own victimization. Let us use our big human brains to overpower our animal tendency to bow to predators, so we can disentangle the reflexive confusion of anxiety and awe. In a perfect world, human respect would be an automatic reaction only to those who are strong, kind, and morally courageous. The person who profits from frightening you is not likely to be any of these.
Pray. The Psalms are full of examples of people praying for release from predators. Consider this: “See how many enemies I have and how viciously they hate me! Protect me! Rescue my life from them! Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge. May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you” (Psalm 25:19-21). Be blatantly honest with the Almighty about the people who are harming you. Ask for help. Lament your lot. God is near to those who call on him with the truth of their painful situation. He hears our cries. Perhaps you’ve prayed but you can’t seem to find breakthrough. You may need to ask a friend or two to pray alongside you. In the circle of positive community, you can begin the process of healing.
Get counsel and counseling. Proverbs 15:22 encourages, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” As in asking for corporate prayer, seeking the advice of wiser, older friends will give you the perspective you need to separate from a predator. But beyond that, it’s important to realize that predators leave prey in their swath of destruction, and often those prey (you!) have been traumatized by past interactions. In this case, it’s wise to seek professional counseling, particularly with someone specializing in PTSD and/or trauma therapy.
*Taken from The Seven Deadly Friendships: How to Heal When Painful Relationships Eat Away at Your Joy by Mary E. DeMuth. Copyright (c) 2018 Mary E. DeMuth. Published by Harvest House, Eugene, OR, www.harvesthousepublishers.com