Skip to content

The effect of SBCMB on others

This is a section of a longer paper. To read the whole paper:

Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours. Photo by Vadim Sadovski on UnsplashOnline: a roadmap for the entire paper Download the entire PDF

A person’s SBCMB can have a significant effect on those in their sphere of influence, especially over the long term. While those who exhibit SBCMB seem to wholeheartedly believe their view of moral and personal reality, it is ultimately a distorted reality. The more you live in this reality and try to love and care for the person on their distorted terms, the more the incoherence can affect you personally. This can be very disorienting, and even—for those who live a long time in the person’s world—traumatic. Both those who are sympathetic to such individuals and those who are opposed to them can end up spending inordinate amounts of time and emotional energy relating to them, or being involved with their projects or groups they lead. Some people end up confused and disoriented (“crazy-making”); others become exhausted; still others display more serious long-term effects. For those who seek to deal with the behaviour properly and maturely, the task of disentangling the issues and responding to the person themselves can take vast amounts of time, effort and emotional energy.

For those in close personal relationships with those who exhibit SBCMB, the effect can be particularly difficult, and even, in the long term, traumatic. If you are in such a relationship, you may find the person to be an “emotional black hole”: that is, the person’s emotional needs and sense of vulnerability may be so strong and overpowering that they become a centre of emotional “gravity” that compels everybody else’s emotions to orbit around them, or to get swallowed up entirely. No matter how much love you try to give to them, it falls into their emotional gravity well, and does not get reflected back to you in any meaningful way. They set impossibly high standards for supporting them and loving them, and when those impossible standards are not met, they express their continued disappointment with you (either to you and/or to others). To use another metaphor, a person who exhibits SBCMB can take up all the emotional “oxygen”; nobody else can breathe too deeply (i.e. express or feel their own personal emotions), for fear they’ll cause that one person to suffocate. This can lead to long-term emotional issues, including trauma, for all concerned.

The behaviour is particularly problematic in the context of Christian leadership. Those who exhibit SBCMB demand very high levels of love, sacrifice, loyalty and commitment. They are also often disappointed in people when their standards are not met, and those who exit the sphere of influence because they can’t cope with the demands become “the bad people”. In the context of Christian leadership, the demand for such sacrifice and loyalty and commitment is normally directed towards their ministries, i.e. the project or the church or group they are leading. These ministries are often in effect extensions of themselves; but the demand for a commitment to them is normally phrased in terms of loyalty and commitment, not to themselves, but to God. Christians desire to live our lives out of commitment to God, and to love people sacrificially, as Jesus has loved us. However, as Christians direct their commitment towards the ministries of those who exhibit SBCMB, they are met with exceedingly high demands and frequent disappointment in them by the leader. Thus, they can end up feeling anxious, confused, wrong, and inferior as Christians, and in the end can doubt their own ability to discern reality.

In our experience, those who exhibit SBCMB create situations where significant numbers of people in their spheres of influence end up being confused, or feeling that they are going crazy, or feeling traumatised. Nevertheless, the most extreme situations of emotional confusion, while real, take quite some time to manifest. It’s “slow-burn”. This is why it’s so hard to see anything especially “wrong” in any individual conversation or contact with them. It is also why it’s often difficult to give it the simple label of “abuse”. However, we believe the effect is real, especially over the long term. This is why we believe it is important to describe the phenomenon in such detail, so that it can be recognised.

It is also why we need to provide some further reflections on how best to respond to those who exhibit SBCMB. This is the purpose of Part B.

Read the next section: Part B: Responding to SBCMB

Copyright © 2021 Lionel and Bronwyn Windsor

Note well: Because of time and energy constraints, we’re not personally able to respond to any queries or comments about this paper. So please realise in advance that if you send us a message about this paper, you are unlikely to receive any response from us.

To read the whole paper: Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours

Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours. Photo by Vadim Sadovski on UnsplashOnline: a roadmap for the entire paper Download the entire PDF

You may also like: Lift Your Eyes

Lift Yours Eyes is a series of 70 reflections covering every sentence in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It’s also available in audio podcast format. You can see all the posts in the series, and connect to the audio podcast using the platform of your choice, by following this link.

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Yes no“Paul within Judaism” and Romans 2:17–29
    My article on Romans 2:17–29 supports one key feature of the "Paul within Judaism" perspective, but undermines another common feature.
  • Photo by Engin Akyurt on UnsplashThe goals of Bible teaching (1 Timothy 1:1–11)
    In gospel ministry and Bible teaching, if you’re not committed to the right goal, or if you have the wrong goal, it’s not just a matter of being ineffective: you’ll be downright dangerous. So what is that goal? What are you seeking to achieve in your gospel ministry and Bible teaching - now and in the future? And how would you know if you’d done it right? This passage in 1 Timothy 1:1–11 speaks to this issue of the goals of ministry and teaching. It challenges us to think about our own aims in teaching, and to see how important it is to get it right. A sermon preached at Moore College Men's Chapel on 14 July, 2021.
  • Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours. Photo by Vadim Sadovski on UnsplashSlow-burn crazy-making behaviours: recognising and responding
    Do you know someone who seems to have drama and problems constantly appear around them? Whenever you relate to this person, perhaps you find yourself feeling vaguely guilty, or uncomfortable, or put down, or obligated to affirm them? Do you often feel like you’re questioning yourself and your actions because of what they say and do? You don’t feel the same way around other people; it’s just this individual who seems to attract these dramas and give rise to these feelings in you. If that’s the case, the chances are it’s not you who is the problem. It’s quite possible that the person you’re thinking of is exhibiting a pattern of behaviours that can be significantly detrimental to you and to others. This pattern of behaviours is hard to pin down; it doesn’t seem too serious in the short term, and indeed it might appear quite normal to a casual acquaintance. However, over the long term, it can cause serious problems for you and others. That’s especially true in close-knit communities, like families, churches and other Christian ministries.
  • Romans Crash CourseRomans Crash Course (video)
    A 75 minute video course in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans designed for church members and leaders.
  • The Mistranslation "Call Yourself a Jew" in Romans 2:17: A Mythbusting StoryThe mistranslation “call yourself a Jew”: A myth-busting story (Romans 2:17)
    This is a story about a scholarly myth and how I had the chance to bust it. I’m talking here about a small but significant 20th century biblical translation: “call yourself” instead of “are called” in Romans 2:17.
  • Breaking news: Religious Scandal in RomeThe named Jew and the name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29
    I've just had an article published in the journal Novum Testamentum. In it, I provide a detailed defense of my new reading of Romans 2:17–29. This passage is not primarily about Jewish salvation - rather it's primarily about Jewish teaching and God's glory.
  • Photo by Joseph d'Mello on UnsplashPreaching the Pastoral Epistles
    A one-hour audio seminar with principles and ideas for preaching the biblical books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus ("Pastoral Epistles")
  • A Crash Course in Romans: Livestream
    Here's a <90 minute "Crash Course in Romans" I'm running on Monday evening 1 Feb 2021. It's aimed at leaders and any interested members of my church St Augustine's Neutral Bay and Church by the Bridge Kirribilli. Anyone is welcome to watch the livestream.
  • Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with the world? Is there hope? (Ephesians)
    Guilt, weakness, spiritual slavery, prejudice, arrogance, tribalism, conflict, war, victimhood, persecution, pain, suffering, futility, ignorance, lying, deceit, anger, theft, greed, pornography, sexual sin, darkness, fear, drunkenness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, workplace abuse, spiritual powers... In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says many things about the problems we face in this world. He also gives us wonderful reasons to find life, hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Along the way, he provides practical teachings about how to respond and live together.
  • What does Ephesians say about reconciliation?
    We humans are not very good at living up close with others. This is especially true when we have a history of conflict with those others. Reconciliation isn't easy. No matter how much you might want healing, it’s hardly ever a matter of just everybody getting on and pretending the hurts didn’t happen. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says some very important, fundamental things about peace and reconciliation, and gives many other very practical teachings about how to live together in light of these truths.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor