It’s a sad but unfortunate fact–people let us down sometimes. And as hard as it is when a friend disappoints you, having a pastor or other spiritual leader disappoint you is even worse. These are the people we look up to to guide us in the right direction. Yet, because they are human, they still stumble and fall.
When this happens, you have several options. You can wallow in grief, get mad at the person or even leave the church. Or you can process your emotions appropriately and move on. Here’s how to do so.
1. Realize that They are Only Human
No matter how wise, good or wonderful you thought your spiritual leader was, the truth is that they are only human. They will fall and make mistakes sometimes, just like you do. They needs grace, just like you do. In fact, they probably need it even more so since their faults are often displayed publicly.
2. Pray for Them
The most important thing you can do when your spiritual leader disappoints you is to pray. Pray that they will turn from their sin and be restored into a right relationship with the Lord. Pray that the Lord would bring about the people and circumstances that your spiritual leader needs for the journey. Pray for all of the people who are affected by the leader’s sin, both directly and indirectly.
3. Forgive Them
No matter what your spiritual leader did or where they failed, our response is to be the same: we must forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t say that what they did was okay or that they won’t have any consequences. Instead, it says that it is God’s place to judge, and that we will move forward without rehashing the same old arguments or hanging onto the same old hurts.
4. Grieve Over Your Loss
When a spiritual leader disappoints you, it hurts. It really does. You really looked up to them for guidance, you trusted them, and they let you down. It is perfectly acceptable–and even beneficial–to grieve over your loss. Just make sure you channel your grief in an acceptable way. Good ways to deal with grief include: going for a run, venting to a friend, crying, writing a letter (even if you don’t send it), or listening to music.
5. Find a New Role Model
Hopefully the sin was a one-time error that your spiritual leader can recover from. If not, however, you may need to find a new leader–someone who is committed to walking in truth, who will set a good example for you to follow. Finding a new role model can be a very difficult process. Take your time, pray a lot and choose wisely.
Spiritual leaders aren’t perfect. Nobody is. This is why your spiritual leaders need your prayers and encouragement every single day, as well as your grace, love and forgiveness if ever they should fall.
Have you ever had a spiritual leader disappoint you? How were you able to deal with the situation?