So I got involved in a conversation a few days ago about how sometimes lovers and friends break up by a method called “ghosting”. It’s a term I heard around some lately, and here I had someone explaining it to me. When one of the partners in a given relationship decides to end it (marriage, courtship, steady dating – or whatever), rather than officially announcing the end of the relationship, this partner just withdraws completely without explanation.
The explanation given to me suggested that the withdrawing partner, the dumper, thinks this will go easier on the dumpee. It’s a not-so-subtle hint, though still a hint, that you can’t argue with or appeal against, a hint the dumper “thinks” makes the process easier. And so you eventually come to realize you’ve been dumped after a few (or several) missed appointments. No ugly confrontation. No second chances. Just “ghosted”.
After all, breaking up is hard to do. It’s almost always at least awkward, and usually painful for one or both parties. And this cuts right through all that messy finality. It just moves on.
But I don’t think the dumper is making it easier on the dumpee at all. I think the dumper is making it easier on the dumper instead. It’s a very selfish way to break up, filled with indifference and smug superiority on the part of the dumper who has just insulated themselves from the ugly work of honoring the feelings and decisions of the dumpee. It’s a violation of respect. It is contempt.
I am not saying a relationship should never end. Sometimes they should, but “ghosting” is disrespectful of the care the dumpee invests in the relationship. “Ghosting” adds confusion to the denial and drags out the pain and the breakup for the dumpee to figure out over time, while the dumper moves on without the hassle of redefining the relational boundaries. The dumper is too good for this, and the dumpee isn’t worth the trouble.
Feel me yet???
Just imagine if your wife of 15 years, with whom you share 2.6 children, a mortgage, two car loans, and three credit cards, suddenly doesn’t come home one night. (Actually, plenty of people don’t have to imagine this; they know it all too well first-hand.) An end to THIS relationship at all is devastating, but getting the stiff arm and/or getting “ghosted” from it compounds the problem like compound interest on a loan you can’t repay. Just imagine a society full of this! (No. Wait. You don’t have to.)
Would Jesus ever do this???
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus outlines a process for putting a person out of the assembly. That nasal laugh that just irritates you so much that you want out of this relationship??? Well, you are supposed to confront the partner about it first and see if you can get that under control. If you do, then you have saved the relationship! If that doesn’t work, then you take one or two witnesses with you and confront the offensive partner again, and hopefully this time you restore the brother. (If it’s not obvious yet, restoring the relationship is the underlying idea here.) But if that still doesn’t fix the problem, then you take it before the whole assembly and work it out there!
NOW… I TRULY HOPE that if the complaint is an irritating nasal laugh, that some good brothers and sisters in the assembly set the offendee straight on this. There are bigger fish to fry in this old world than irritating nasal laughs. It really could be that the plaintiff in this case needs to reassess, maybe do some soul-searching and discover REAL issues hidden beneath the surface – and THEN restore the relationship. But, assuming the problem is something way more legit, and assuming the offender cannot be persuaded to change, THEN the whole assembly puts this person out of the group. The dumpee is now SHUNNED.
This process is ANYTHING but “ghosting”.
But my church, the Body of Christ I belong to, it seems, has “ghosted” me. They cannot cope with my behavior or with the message I bring. And I am all but out… and left to figure it out for myself.
Yeah, the small group that WAS meeting in my home? I don’t get so much as an email from this group anymore, but I used to be included in ALL the group messages. But now… without so much as a word TO ME about it, everyone else in the group SEEMS to know where to meet, yet I don’t. When I reach out face-to-face with the involvement minister about some help with my foster kids, he tells me to “shoot an email” to him, but after months of no reply, I am left wondering.
It’s clear to me that at least SOME important players in my church ARE COMMUNICATING with each other ABOUT AVOIDING ME, but not letting me in on it. On the contrary, when I show up for worship and bump into some of these folx, they greet me with a smile, a handshake, even a hug! But it all proves very superficial. The substance is gone. I have been “ghosted”.
This happened to me before. It’s not the first church to do this. Thus it seems to be the preferred method of break up with churches too.
Not that there have been NO confrontations. There have! I confronted my churches, and went straight to leadership no less, with the WORD of God. And I didn’t come complaining about the color of the drapes or the placement of the poinsettias in the sanctuary at Christmas time either. No. I came with the WORD of God pointing out how we are “ghosting” the homeless and how Jesus has WORDS of JUDGMENT about it (see Matt. 25, if you don’t already know this). And the problem is that church leadership has no answer to this confrontation, but also no desire to get right.
I confronted the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church of Lubbock (not its real name), and leadership there decided to kick me out. In fact, they made it quite official! I was sent a letter outlining to me the fact that I was kicked out, AND THE LETTER WAS READ ALOUD TO THE CROWD OF HOMELESS PEOPLE THERE for worship the following Sunday so that they too would be fully informed that I am not welcome among them anymore. (Of course, this “church” trumped up a charge calling me “divisive”, in order to justify themselves. (Funny. I was called “divisive” FOR COMPLAING THAT WE DON’T BRING THE HOMELESS IN WITH US! The charge, more accurately stated was me being INCLUSIVE.)). But that is the way power plays work.
But except for that anomaly, “ghosting” appears to be the way of the modern church in my experience.
So it seems I am “ghosted by Jesus”.
And one thing about getting “ghosted”, it’s a bit disorienting.