During graduate school, I lived with nuns and brothers and other lay people in a large Victorian house. There also were other priests and nuns who resided in the neighboring houses which were also owned by the department. As most of us know from roommate and partner experiences, living with someone is the quickest way to learn about their faults and flaws. After living with members of religious communities who were on sabbatical and working on advanced degrees, I was 100% certain they were human. Many of them were wonderful people, but they were far from perfect and certainly did not deserve to be viewed as “better” than average person. The shared bathroom issues with one of my housemate nuns were enough to clarify that point rather quickly!
Later in my life, I worked as the office person for a liberal church. The senior minister was definitely a flawed human being and a rather unpleasant colleague. I suspect he was having an extramarital affair without his wife’s knowledge or consent. He was also accused by some of the members of the board of allegedly committing acts that if they’d pursued would have been felonies. The assistant minister also was a challenging co-worker. She seemed to believe that laws and rules were things that were only meant to be followed when they were convenient for her. Her narcissism was difficult to work with, especially since she was in a role which was based on helping others. Needless to say, I found that environment hard to work in.
In the same way, non-denominational spiritual leaders and gurus are very much human. I've seen many spiritual leaders who lead highly toxic lives, some allegedly even committing crimes, yet they feel free to dispense advice to others on how to live. They are not perfect, and just like the rest of us, they are struggling to learn sometimes difficult lessons in their lives. Assuming that they are holy and trustworthy simply because of their job or vocation can be a major mistake.
Before you put anyone on a pedestal, nonetheless a religious or spiritual leader, remember that they are human, too. They are just as likely to err as the rest of us. Recognizing that religious leaders are no different than any other humans will help correct some of the imbalanced social privileges afforded to these religious leaders. It can also help individuals to think on their own rather than blindly following religious and spiritual leaders who may not always be speaking from a place of divine truth.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance