How many times have we heard the saying, “Respect should be earned, not given.” Then why, oh why do we readily and so often blindly hand it over to teachers in the spiritual, religious and new age communities? In what other fields are teachers taken at face value? Credentials must be submitted before anyone is placed in a position of authority over others. There is often a board and set of rules to at least try and ensure these people are held to a set of standards.
Therein lies the first and biggest hurdle. Anyone can claim to be enlightened, have spiritual insight or possess a magical formula to teach you how to become a better you. When we hand over respect, which is a form of surrender, without any grounded or substantiated reason for doing so, apart from a belief or hope, then we are removing a healthy and protective boundary from around ourselves. The greater the respect and projected beliefs we cast upon this person, the greater our vulnerability becomes for potential abuse. Sexual abuse being just one form.
I deeply understand how we humans long for connection, peace of mind and self-improvement. I also understand from personal experience how the teacher-student relationship can corrode and decay over time. I know what happens when our intelligence and healthy skepticism fails due to the “group think” mentality and conditioning to blindly trust that our teacher has our best interests at heart. Sadly, that is not always the case. Initially, perhaps it was. Maybe in your bones you felt alive again, happy and at peace after so many years. So much so that you felt safe and allowed your guard to come down.
Whomever you follow, and despite what you may have been told or believe, if they are in a human body, then they are human and prone to human flaws. Repeatedly we see that even the greatest and highly respected teachers can fall prey to the traps of power and corruption. Many I imagine begin with noble intentions but over time, whether it is consciously or unconsciously can begin to lose grip on their morality and integrity. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule, but we do seem to be dealing with an epidemic. So how do we inoculate ourselves?
Perhaps it is up to us to take charge and be more cautious. To stop readily handing over respect, adoration and trust without fully investigating and understanding if there is a need or reason to do so. Surely, we can listen and learn from teachers, practice yoga and maintain a healthy boundary for ourselves at the same time. We should also be aware and not fall into the trap of feeling special at any given time. If you are being enticed with a private audience, opportunity to move up the ranks, special healing or heaven forbid, a transmission, then please, please take a companion with you. Do not place yourself in a potentially compromising situation, no matter how much you trust the teacher. If you do, and something inappropriate happens then you face being tormented by guilt, shame and confusion. Not to mention also being confronted with the hard choice of speaking out and enduring the hostile aftermath or of holding your silence and learning to live with its soul crushing consequence. If the teacher objects, then you have your answer. Do not second guess yourself, do not doubt your instincts, we have them for a reason. Yes, it is sad that it has come to this, but we must shield ourselves.
How many more communities must be torn apart, lives shattered, women and men having to come forward at great personal anguish and suffer attacks from fellow members in order to expose the harm and abuse done to them before we can effect change? When will the organizations themselves act with integrity, accept responsibility and stop trying to silence anyone who dares to speak out?
Personal growth and spiritual advancement should not be wrought with such peril to our mental, emotional and physical health. We can still learn, we can still grow, we can still find peace and connection while keeping our wits about ourselves. Blind faith and surrender should not be a prerequisite. How much more proof do we need? It is time to take charge, to make it a priority to place our self-care in our own hands–before we unwantedly wind up in someone else’s. Someone that we thought we could trust.