I counseled a lady years ago with severe PTSD from a history of abuse. She would orchestrate these fake crisis and seek help from everyone around her—yet she believed them! I learned this the hard way once when she said her ex had shot at her in front of a local courthouse. She brought her two children to our home to hide. I literally called the police and asked for extra patrols on our street and stayed up all night with my shotgun at my side…only to find out that it never happened.
I made some calls to verify and learned that she had made the whole thing up. Angry, I sat her down with my wife and said, “How can I help you if you don’t tell me the truth? What really happened?” Instead of “coming clean,” she burst into tears and shouted, “Even my own pastor won’t believe me!” She then grabbed her kids and her stuff and bolted out of the house.
Over time, she forgave me. But I learned that we must often deal with people from the perspective of their own reality. She really believed her story…and so challenging it didn’t help.
This came into play later when she faked her own abduction in the Northwest Hills. She literally duct taped herself and hid in a shack. The FBI, State Police, and local authorities including the National Guard all got engaged in the search for her and then for her captors. Eventually, they figured out that it was fake and were ready to toss her in prison and throw away the key! I intervened and pushed them to get her psychologically tested based on our past experience with her. They did and the PTSD diagnosis was levied, saving her from prosecution.
The lesson for leaders, especially pastors, is to meet folks where they are and then take them to the next step. If we don't deal with people from their perspective of reality, we will miss the opportunity to lead and ultimately help them. This doesn't mean we acknowledge or give credence to what's not true. It DOES mean that we start where they are--even in their confusion--and then slowly help them move away from it.
As John Maxwell often says, "Leadership is influence." Let's endeavor to influence those who are in need versus challenging their perspective before they're able to process that challenge. Influencing through love and example starts that process. Then, we can slowly reveal the truth--truth that as Jesus taught, will "set (them) free (John 8:32)."