As I have been doing my daily deeds, I have been reflecting on the ICSA conference attended last week. There was so much good information shared and many new relationships formed. It was a lot to take in all at once. So, as happens with me and I suspect others, I remembered things said during meetings that at the time did not get my attention or make an “Ah Hah” moment. Today, I remembered a quick comment made by a speaker that has since jarred me. I cannot remember exactly which speaker said this since I believe it was in a session where a panel of counselors and experts were leading the meeting. The comment paraphrased was “Leaders of these groups have to control their members because of their own insecurities.” The manner in which it was said conveyed the speaker’s position that we all should remember this. This is where we start when understanding the motivations of a leader of a controlling group. We must get past the smoke and mirrors of any religious authority or special enlightenment. We must push through the euphemistic phrases used by the leader and even the leadership. The reason for the control of a group leader to keep people INSIDE the group is NOT healthy. The motivation is from the leader’s own insecurities. Okay, that being said, we are talking about destructive controlling groups here of which I firmly believe Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) has become one of those groups.
The statement remembered today brought me back into focus on several levels. When getting caught up in telling the horror stories of members inside and those who have left, lost in the menagerie of descriptions replete with heartache and drama is the starting point. Lost can be the reason for the leader’s profound motivation to keep people within their grasp and control. The starting point is the leader’s dysfunction, NOT the state of those recruited into the group. Time after time, people pose the question often in a sense of superiority – How could anyone get involved in a group like that? Though this question is viable in the discussion, it is not the starting point. The starting point is the dysfunction of the leader and the measures growing out of that dysfunction which trap victims in the web of control. In my opinion, the leaders of these groups are NOT mentally healthy. True some evolve into a black hole of dysfunction, but that still does not excuse the outcome nor should it cause us to begin with the victim when considering the evolution of the group.
I remembered the series posted here several months ago about narcissism. “Why is it Always About You?” by Sandy Hotchkiss, LCSW (Copyright©2002, 2003 Sandy Hotchkiss, Free Press, ISBN-13:978-0-7432-1427-8) was the resource for us during a series of posts about narcissism. I do not plan to retype the entire series. The link to the first in that series is here.
In my opinion, the leader of WOFF, Jane Whaley fits in the category of a narcissist. That is the starting point when discussing the involvement of hundreds of people in her group. She could be considered a “successful narcissist”– if there is such a thing. The comment during the conference helped me refocus on the starting point when discussing WOFF. We know of the abuses, we know of the controls, we know of the dangerous dynamics evolving inside the group. However, the starting point when reviewing this sad case should be the leader Jane Whaley. The dangerous practices have evolved to soothe her insecurities and that cannot be forgotten. If she were stable, then her healthy confidence in her own image and worth as a person would allow members to freely come and go as they see fit. It would not be an offense and cause such drama in her group when members leave.
From the resource text, “The Narcissist suffers from a deep character flaw in the development of a sense of Self. This flaw prevents such individuals from being able to recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who offer the possibility of some sort of gratification will be treated as if they are a part of the Narcissist and will be expected, automatically, to live up to that person‘s expectations. In the mind of the Narcissist, there is no boundary between Self and other.” (page 27-28)
How does this apply inside of WOFF? In my opinion, leadership status was awarded on the basis of how many needs for Jane one could fulfill. If you repeated the mantras and were hyper-obedient then you could be in leadership. Thus you became an extension of Jane’s person and represented her in your life and how you dealt with others inside and outside the group. She expressed it as-“Your sin affects me.” in a November seminar when addressing Dorthea. What did that mean? As a faithful member she believed your life reflected on her. In effect “everyone” watched her members to see what kind of person she was. Therefore, she felt justified to govern your life in every sense of the word. She owned you because you were a part of her. She had no boundaries- in the Name of Jesus. After all, we were all one Body- right? In practice, in WOFF, the head of the Body was Jane. No boundaries.
Members of leadership are obviously owned by Jane- for the will of God. Regular members may or may not understand how they are owned by Jane until they attempt to cross out of the boundary of the group. That boundary was obvious to many and seemed to be the most important boundary Jane knew and defended. When you were in, you belonged to her. When you attempted to leave, it caused a tearing in her person because she owned you.
A healthy leader would not be offended when members leave, but would trust them to the God they serve. Does this sound right? When a healthy leader is comfortable in their position and worth, then members leaving may be saddening, but not a cause for DRAMA and active vilification of that person.
The daily drama Jane lives in testifies to her unstable mental health and is not an automatic indictment of the people around her. This could be said of leaders of other high-demand groups. Take a step back and look at the daily drama inside for the leader and the members. Is it not obvious? Remember this, “Leaders of these groups have to control their members because of their own insecurities.”
Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.
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Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 485.