Empathetic Defilement

Spiritual adultery occurs when in the course of day to day relationships we grant to another a comfort and refreshment which, belongs to our spouse. This lesson discusses the roots of spiritual adultery, its symptoms, and the danger it poses to both marriage and service to God when allowed to continue. It also focuses on what to do when spiritual adultery occurs in the counseling relationship, and suggests appropriate responses by spouse and the Church. Assented to, spiritual adultery inevitably leads to physical adultery.

Additional information on the problem of empathetic defilement will further educate PDM's to protect both themselves and their clients against spiritual and physical adultery.

The Lord God said that it is not good to be alone I will make a helper suitable for him. Genesis 2:18

God wants the Body to learn how to be safely and intimately corporate with one another. Corporateness moves us from isolation and individualism to interdependence -from "I" thinking to "we" thinking. Corporateness is NOT codependency, which enables the other to be worse, but a unity of heart, which allows us to strengthen one another in Christ.

A scenario showing the anatomy of spiritual adultery

A gifted and anointed pastor, teacher, counselor or evangelist begins to do more than the Lord asks. He begins to minister constantly, sacrificing even his Sabbaths "for the Lord." Distance grows between he and his wife; from fear of breaking confidentiality, he stops sharing, and soon stops talking at all. Because they no longer talk, their sex life lacks the glory it should have. He then becomes emotionally starved and thirsty. He then begins talking with a church worker, secretary, or a counselee. Through his sharing he comes alive emotionally, while dying in his spirit. He has given his wife's role to another. People warn him about the danger in this relationship, but he doesn't listen. He feels at first that this is a spiritual connection and God is in it. Then he becomes deluded and thinks he has found "real" love. He then moves into physical adultery.

He knows that he has violated the law, but he feels good; this confused him. His "anointing" increases and God seems very close. Now he is very confused. This is God wooing him back Romans 2:4.

He now lives in fear of discovery and begins to do things subconsciously designed to get him caught. Once he is caught, if his wife forgives him and stands by him, as a result of his confession and their restored communication, both believe that he's learned his lesson and is a changed man. Now we wonder f he really is changed or did he experience only remorse and sorrow, not repentance and healing?

What should the church do?

Insist on confession to elders, and put him on a sabbatical out of the church. Assign menial tasks to be done in humility. Require counseling to ferret out the dysfunction, which created vulnerability. Be assured by the client that the adulterous relationship is completely ended.

Safeguards for the PDM against spiritual adultery

Pray that God brings to death on the cross any,(need to be needed), and to fix everyone who is broken. Put to death on the cross anything in you that needs people to see you as handsome/beautiful, powerful, or wise. Put to death on the cross any need to defile the opposite sex.

Stop ministering with the opposite sex if your marriage is not secure and you do not have stability and unity with your spouse. If you are single, find trusted friends with whom you can share regularly. Counsel in teams. Make sure that you have intercessory prayer support. Pray prayers of protection, and hiding prayers. Do not minister to the opposite sex without prayer covering!

Build inner warning systems. Do regular spiritual self-examinations. Watch for signs of vulnerability. Don't be an every day friend to your clients, be a counseling friend. No luncheon, or dinner engagements alone if you and the client are of the opposite sex.

Don't be surprised when or if a client makes you the target of spiritual adultery. The deliverance process is very intimate. The client becomes very vulnerable and bears his/her soul to the PDM. This creates a unique bonding that can foster transference, by the client, or counter-transference by the PDM. A PDM is God's love "with skin on." Sometimes both client and PDM misconstrue this love as carnal. It is The PDM who must be in control of this situation. Help the client look past the PDM to the Lord. Touch the client with the kind of love that encourages them to open up to spouse. Help the client to restore the relationship with his/her spouse.

Heed warnings of spouse and friends. Pride can close you down.

When you find yourself in a position of being someone's lifeline, do not cut off the relationship abruptly. They have come to you because they have been wounded. Sexually abused clients are especially sensitive to abandonment. Make sure that you have adequate covering, and pray cleansing prayers over yourself. Hand them over to another PDM as soon as possible.

When you minister to someone who is in spiritual adultery with a third person, finally request that your client step away from the relationship immediately. Ask your client to stop praying for that person and turn that job over to someone else. If you find yourself feeling attached to a client, know that God uses you to set the captives free not to defile them with your selfish agenda. Back away before you cause one of His little one's to stumble.

Speak truth to your client about the limits of your relationship. Say it loud enough for your spirit to hear it. This will notify' your client and remind you of the rules. Say, "this is not to get you hooked into a person, but rather to free you up, so you can receive directly from Father God all that He would have you, do, feel, and be". This puts the process and goal of what you are doing into its proper perspective.

Women tend to be more vulnerable than men to spiritual adultery. Men have more walls, and are generally less communicative. Women seek corporateness, and feed on communication.

Some times the feelings that we have are not our own!

This occurs when, in the process of identifying with others and bearing their burdens, our mind and or/heart translates their problems as our own. Burden bearing is not defilement; we simply feel what others feel as it is drawn through us to the cross.

We are defiled when our minds and or hearts embrace the lie that what we are feeling or thinking is our own.

"...There In nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him,~ but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. "Mark 7:15

Not all-empathetic defilement is related to spiritual adultery

A doctor, sensing a mother's helplessness at seeing her child sick, begins to feel incompetent to help. Of course this is not the case, because the doctor has handled this type of case several times. Yet he experienced her emotions.

A professional musician, directing a choir of people who can't read music, thinks, "I can't read music, I can't keep tune. I don't know what I am doing." This is not so, but he is feeling their emotions.

In the areas of relationship and sexuality, defilement can speed the progression of spiritual adultery into physical adultery. A pastor feels the inappropriate desire for closeness of one of his flock and believes it is his own.

A PDM feels the sexual desires of a client as his/her own. If there is an open woundedness in the PDM he/she might think that it is his/her desire and fall into a compromising situation, or make a move and get rejected, as well as see his/her ministry destroyed.

Many times we can recognize when we are burden bearing for another, but sometimes our heart and minds are deceived, perhaps due to unhealed areas in our lives, or the enemy setting out to confuse or seduce us

How can we discern empathetic defilement?

Very often, the feelings and thoughts don't fit, as in the examples of the musician and the

doctor, or those feelings come out of left field somewhere.
However, if you think that they could fit, and discernment isn't clear, consider the following safeguards in addition to those already listed for spiritual adultery.

o Never act hastily. Give the Holy Spirit time to clear confusion and restore clarity.

o Talk with close friends and spouse, without breaking any confidence

o Pray cleansing prayers over yourself

o Ask the lord for sharper discernment; learn from experience, and maintain safe boundaries.

o Understand the problem: "For wisdom is protection..Wisdom preserves the lives of it's possessor "Ecclesiastes 7:12

Empathetic Burden Bearing Defilement
John and Paula Sandford

Empathetic burden bearing defilement occurs when, in the process of identifying with others and bearing their burdens, our mind and/or heart translates others' problems as though they were our own. Burden bearing itself is not defilement; we simply feel what another feels as it is drawn though us to the cross, it becomes defilement when our mind and/or heart accepts the lie, that -what we are, feeling or thinking is our own.

Some Examples
A woman for whom John would never feel sexual attraction came for counseling. John found himself thinking, "I want to peel this woman's clothes off. I want to get in bed with her'" Alarmed, he cried out to God (silently), " What is this?" God answered, and John asked the woman "Since you came in here, have you been thinking lustful thoughts toward me?" She replied "Yes, pastor, I have, and I'm sorry.
As a counselor, John had identified with her and felt what she was feeling. Up to that point. it was simple burden bearing.
o It became defilement when John's mind translated it as his own thoughts. -

A pediatrician testified: "I'm a well-trained competent doctor. But, every once in a while another will come in with a sick child, and while ministering to him medically. I find myself thinking, "I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know what to do for this child!"
o A good doctor must empathize, but this doctor's mind took as his own what the mother felt thus, it became defilement.

A choir director admitted: "I'm a Juilliard graduate; I know music backwards and forwards but sometimes I direct nonprofessional choirs, people who don't know how to read music. Than once I have found myself thinking, 'I don't know how to read this music; I can't keep time, I don't know what I'm doing!' it didn't make sense!'
o She had felt the fears of the untrained choir members.
She had empathetically thought their thoughts.
o It became defilement when her mind and heart believed they were her own feelings and thoughts.

Who has not experienced the following puzzle? You meet someone for the first time, and within five minutes you get an impulse to hit him/her in the face, or give an insult, or do some other strange hurtful thing? Sometime the person's looks, speech or manner remind you of some9ne you haven't forgiven, but often it's simply empathetic defilement. That person had a bitter root expectancy to be rejected and hurt. Defilement caused you to think you wanted to do something hurtful.

Why does this happen? We don't know. Burden bearing isn't always defilement. Sometimes it's easy to recognize that what we're feeling and thinking is only burden bearing, not ours at all. In

other instances, our minds and hearts become bemused. And it's not always matter of immaturity in the gifts; it happens occasionally to experienced, well-trained counselors. Occasionally the person triggers something undealt with in our memories, but more often it is empathetic burden bearing defilement. Defilement can happen as demons employ tactics to confuse and seduce, but it will also occur by our flesh, without demonic help. In short, it simply happens.

How can we discern if what we are experiencing is our own, or empathetic defilement? Often, because it doesn't "fit." John knew he wasn't really interested in the woman. He felt no corresponding passions; he only found himself thinking strange thoughts. John is secure with Paula, tremendously moral, and has never ever given himself to another, or even wanted to. A moment's reflection enabled his discernment to function. In like manner, the doctor and the choir director knew their competence, so the feelings didn't "fit,"

But suppose the counselee is "your type," someone who is sexually attractive to you. In this situation you may not be able to get clear discernment. We are fallible creatures entrusted with a task too big for us. It is important to acknowledge this in humility, and then to institute some simple safeguards:

o Never act hastily. Step back. Regain perspective. Time is your friend, haste your enemy. Talk with your spouse or close friend (without naming names or breaking confidence Give the Holy Spirit time to let the dust of confusion settle and restore balance and perspective.
o Never act immorally-or in any way Jesus would not.
o Be in accord with your spouse; cease counseling if you are out of sorts with your spouse. knowing you're too vulnerable to be risked in the arena at the moment. Settle the problems at home, and then return to counsel. If you're unmarried, have friends who check and balance you.
o Don't be a Lone ranger." Counsel in an office with others, or make sure there is an authority over you.
o Don't take yourself and your work too seriously; save time for recreation; have fun, enjoy life; keep your Sabbath times inviolate; get enough sleep; get out into nature; if married, maintain a good, wholesomely fulfilling sexual life.
o Pray hygienic prayers regularly: "Lord, wash away from me whatever defilements I have picked up today."
o Ask the Lord for sharper perceptions and increase in the gift of discernment; learn from experience; build and maintain safe boundaries,

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." So few know anything about empathetic defilement. We have seen many leaders fall because they believed what they thought and felt was their own, when it was only defilement at a time when they happened to be vulnerable and needy.
"For wisdom is protection...
Wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors
Ecclesiastes 7:12

Teach these things. Save some, snatching them as it were from the fire.
Jude 23.


Genesis 2:18 - The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

Psalm 111:10 - The fear of the Lord is the begin-ning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

Proverbs 1:5- ...let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance

Proverbs 11:14 NAS-Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Proverbs 12:15 NAS - The way of a fool is right in his own eyes. but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

Proverbs 13:10 NAS - Through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom.

Proverbs 14:4 - Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest,

Proverbs 27:5-6 NAS - Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed, faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 31:10 - A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

Ecclesiastes 7:12 - Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this:
that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.

Hosea 4:6-"...my people are destroyed from lack of know1edge~ Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God,.."


Matthew 5:8 - "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

Romans 2:4 - Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

Romans 5:20 .- The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more...

Romans 11:29 -.. .for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Ephesians 5:23 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...

Ephesians 5:33 - However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Philippians 2:12b - .. continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,...

Hebrews 5:14 - But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

I Peter 2:5 - .. you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Jude 22-23 - Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

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Site Last Updated: October 23, 2023