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You know what I like about Saint Paul? He steered into the pain of the really tough topics. And when the time came for action, he was decisive. Don’t believe me? Flip over to Titus 3:10-11.

Do you want to know what else I like about him? When it came to troublemakers, he named names. Don’t believe me? You need to take a look at 2 Timothy 1:15-18.

Sure, Paul stood by the Biblical prescriptions regarding reconciliation, and yet when it became apparent that such efforts were futile, or that he was dealing with an obstinate person of influence, he didn’t allow for confidentiality to be used as a weapon. He not only made sure others knew what they’d done, but he made sure everyone knew their names.

I have an ever-increasing appreciation for this practice. You should, too. In fact, if you are a member of a church, you should demand it of your leaders. I think if more of the deliberately bad actors feared the possibility of being called out for their slithery trades in private, they might just rethink things.

Alas, this doesn’t change the fact that most regular folks are fearful of confronting the troublemakers in our midst, and with that, those same menaces continue to get more and more difficult. Why? Well, isn’t it obvious? Because, as I just said, they know most observers will keep their heads down, refusing to say a word.

I’ve been trying to break free of such silence. I’ve more than experienced the results of weaponized confidentiality and the damage it can cause. And so, I’ll admit to a more rigid adherence to those texts in the Bible that set the course for solving problems between people. I’ve only come to the point of naming names in certain settings. The only reason I haven’t done it in most situations is because the people around me might not be ready to experience the liberating power of such a purifying event. To get there, a lot of teaching is needed. I’m doing that now.

In the meantime, how about this for ventilating an example? I’ll stop short of names, but I will share the story of a disgruntled and former member of my parish who loves to take the opportunity to spread the venom around. This person left over a year ago and has continued to receive my weekly email newsletter. I simply forgot to take the person off of the list after leaving. Still, it isn’t uncommon that it gets back to me (because the person still associates with a number of current members) that this person is praying doubly hard against our successes, and I’ve learned recently that when my email newsletter communicates a challenge in our midst, there is rejoicing, but when the email is filled with joyful news of stability and success, there’s visible irritation and an attempt to tear down. The last six months of newsletters have been nothing but successes. With that, I get the sense that the person just couldn’t take it anymore and finally had a breakdown. The result was a request by the former member through a current member to no longer send the emails.

Interesting. I think had the person sent me a message directly—an honest message—it might have read something like this:

“Pastor Thoma, please stop sending me the weekly newsletter that for so long I was willing to continue receiving because it kept me in the know as to what was happening around there but now only communicates just how happy everyone is at the church, that all are doing well, and that life goes on splendidly even without me. Such weekly news is terribly searing to my conscience, especially since I left for ridiculous reasons, all of which I was completely unwilling to speak with you about. Yep, I got ticked and left. Your weekly newsletter is but a constant reminder of what I gave away so cheaply and without a word for the sake of my own ungodly pride.”

Yeah, that should about do it.

By the way, I fully expect for this post to end up in this person’s internet backyard. I also expect a nasty email in response. If I receive one, I’ll be sure to share it with you, my readers, name and all.

Now, why did I do this? Isn’t it a bit provoking and possibly unkind? I suppose that some might think so. But what a lot of folks fail to realize is that the tolerant days for accepting potshot commentary is coming to an end for a good number of us. Hidden back biting and “Minnesota nice” assaults are what they are, and as I said, there’s a good number of us that have had enough. It’s all just too unnecessary and really rather cumbersome to getting the work done. Conflict is fine, healthy even, but deliberately malevolent acts hidden behind a gilded facade are evil and must be exposed.

I’m one who believes that a cordial conversation can occur between people who disagree. I’m even optimistic enough to think that this particular relationship could be salvaged. I say this because I’m not afraid of being wrong. But I’m also a realist and I know why such conversations happen less and less and fewer and fewer relationships find their way out of the gutter these days. It is as I winked a moment ago. Innately, people know that there exists the possibility they might be wrong—or at a minimum, they know they may have played an influential role in the squabble in which they find themselves. For a radically individualized person, this is terrifying prospect. Such a person is, by definition, a culturally bred narcissist. Narcissists cannot swallow the possibility of being wrong. They choke on the thought of being at fault and someone to blame. Their opinions are always right, and unless others get in line, or if someone dares to step forward with an opposing position that, in the end, offends the plotline, there’s an all-too-easy resoluteness toward casting the irritating relationship aside, no matter how long it has existed or what wonderful bonds might be broken.

Sitting here sipping whisky and thinking… You know, I really think I’m getting over the fear of more boldly confronting this kind of childishness. I guess as I get older, I just don’t have the time nor the space in my viscera for excusing it much anymore. So, I’ll steer into it and call it what it is—and if I need to, I’ll name names. God will handle it. He’s more than capable, and I’ve got a job to do.