So often in life, there are opportunities to lead and teach from the darkest and most hurtful of situations and experiences. But we can learn from any situation if we really want to, we can always take responsibility, grow, learn and teach. Recently, an opportunity to respond on a key topic came up for me from Reddit, so I am going to use it to teach about forgiveness, responsibility and repentance.
By Mel Francis, Lighthouse International Group Associate Elect
A Question On Standards
As you may already know, Lighthouse International Group has been trolled on social media, namely Reddit, since February 2021. We have tried to use this situation to teach and share lessons from our experience where it is valuable to do so. In line with that, it came to my attention recently that I was named within one specific, long and accusatory post on the anti-Lighthouse trolling subreddit, contributing to the harassment of Lighthouse International, by the user 'u/Miserable-Ad-6126'. The post ended with a question to me which I've included in the below screenshot. In this shot I also included a paragraph where they refer to another article I wrote in which I mention verbal abuse from my family and bullying of me.
One of the many baseless accusations that have been made against Lighthouse International is that we are some kind of "cult" or "high control group", for which I have written three articles detailing the difference between cults and communities. Another accusation has been that people have been separated from their families, including myself, which is a) not true and b) disrespecting my own intelligence and free will.
So to address the first part of this screenshot and the statement about families risking their security to somehow 'rescue' me / others, (like I need/want/asked for that?) I would question if 'rescuing' includes trying to destroy their adult child's (I'm in my late 20s!) business and calling it "love and care". Wouldn't "love and care" be more genuine if it looked like supporting their family member through an open discourse? This statement is not about love and care, it's about money, virtue signalling through money and "we're spending money on you". For anyone who doesn't understand what financial manipulation is, this is an example here and you can see more on this in Sally Davis' article; Does Money Grow on Trees? How Money Can Be a Tool of Control For Parental Narcissists. Getting back to their question though:
"Why is it that when the Daily Mail recording was out Paul was excused because he 'lost his temper' and everyone else is a murderous troll?"
I'm really glad you asked this u/Miserable-Ad-6126 (very apt username by the way), because this is a great time to share about three very important things: forgiveness, responsibility and repentance.
No One Gets Away With Anything
First up, Paul Waugh doesn't 'get away' with anything. Neither do I. Nor does anyone. And neither do people who attack other people. If we do something wrong, we must take responsibility and apologise because if we don't hold ourselves accountable, someone else will. Period. If you hurt someone, you are responsible for making that right in whatever way you can. This is what our law system is for. If you purposefully try to cause damage to others online, anonymously or not and you are trying to justify that, you are a 'murderous' troll because you are being ‘murderous’ in kind. We say ‘murderous’ based on the degree to which the pathology is on that trajectory that ultimately extends to being capable of physical murder. One can be mentally and/or emotionally murderous in thoughts and feelings long before or even without ever committing an act of physical murder or violence of any kind. We have a number of articles on pathology but in particular this recent article by Olivia Humphries or external articles like this one by Grant Hilary Brenner MD DFAPA.
Calling this pathology murderous (sadistic, Machiavellian and psychopathic) is not a judgement. It's a tragedy. And I extend my deepest sympathy for whatever someone has experienced and is going through that ever results in them hurting someone else. Like the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Calling the shooter murderous (in a physical way) is true because it's a fact, but judging him is not my place, that is for the laws of the land and ultimately, we all have one judge, the judge of ultimate justice, God. But praying for someone who has caused damage like this is really really challenging. Even when my ego doesn't want to though, I still do pray for them!
We All Make Mistakes - So What Do We Do About It?
None of us are perfect. But what do we do with our imperfection? That is the question. Do we make excuses for it or do we try and be better? Do we expect to be forgiven because "we didn't mean it"? Or are we genuinely remorseful and willing to make amends? That means being repentant - which doesn't mean beating yourself up forever but it means expressing sincere remorse and regret and being willing to atone for that, as in make amends. And if someone is willing to atone, then forgiveness completes an upward spiral of growth that then builds a relationship. But if someone is not repentant, not contrite, or shows no willingness to apologise or to hold themselves accountable for their wrongdoing by changing their behaviour and atoning for it, then expecting someone to just see past it, "get over it" or ignore their wrongdoing can only be hugely arrogant, obnoxious and yes, abusive. Because hurting someone and being unrepentant is not just abusive, it is cruel and then if it is called love, it is straight up evil. Because evil is wickedness done in the name of good.
What Does It Mean to Forgive and What Does It Have to Do With Repentance And Moving On?
Forgiveness means that you don't hold anger towards someone, they do not owe you a debt anymore, but it does not mean that you condone what they did, that there aren't consequences or that you don't hold them accountable. Forgiveness doesn't mean 'prostitute yourself'. That's what can happen when someone is unfaithful and cheats over and over and their partner keeps "forgiving" them but never actually holds them accountable and won't leave them. That's not forgiveness: that's having no boundaries or standards and is a path to misery.
What makes losing one's temper particularly worthy of forgiveness is the degree to which that person takes or has taken responsibility for their action by apologising, expressing what they learned about that behaviour, why it happened and atoning for it. That means they are taking active measures to: a) make it right and make amends with the person offended, and b) has shown a track record of a genuine committed effort to changing and improving that behaviour.
In the case mentioned where I was hurt by "comments" made by "loved ones" (I struggle to not find this ironic, knowing what those comments were), I wrote letters to those members of my family and tried to address those comments in writing and suggested how we can build our relationship to be better, stronger and healthier. These were ignored in all but one case. There was no expression of remorse, contrition, any kind of repentance or even willingness to come to the table to discuss it. That being said, I have forgiven them, meaning that I do not carry anger towards those family members anymore. But that does not mean I am a fool and that I will not hold them accountable and it does not mean that I will easily allow them to continue to hurt me if they refuse to take responsibility, particularly if they have shown no intention to alter their hurtful and abusive behaviour. That is called standing up for myself, which I learned, actually, not just from Paul, but from my mentor, from my faith and from the Bible and I am still learning what that means to stand up for myself because I was never taught what it meant in terms of the principles of personal vision, responsibility and accountability.
What makes Paul Waugh inspiring to so many people is his unyielding willingness to hold himself responsible and be repentant, but he, like anyone, cannot repent for things he hasn't done or not take action when he is being consistently persecuted for things he has already sincerely atoned for. It's not fundamentally Paul Waugh that we follow, as much as it's the regenerate universal principles and laws that he follows and tries his best to live out, that we also try to align to ourselves with.
"You steadily grow into becoming your best as you choose to be accountable and accept responsibility for improvement." ― Steve Shallenberger
Paul isn't perfect but he holds himself to a high standard and tries to make things right wherever he can. Recently Paul has taken to Twitter to personally share his life experiences and the key lessons he has learned throughout his life and all the years since he started Lighthouse.
If you would be interested in hearing more from Paul directly, go and give him a follow on Twitter @PaulWaugh64.
Context Is Everything And We Are All Responsible To Provide That Context
In the case of Paul losing his temper in the edited and manipulated audio that was included with the libellous Daily Mail article against him and Lighthouse, he apologised unreservedly and made it right at the time with the individual afterwards, which they accepted and forgave him for (which isn't mentioned in the articles). Not only that, but they apologised to him for having done the damage that they did to others in Lighthouse at the time which is the reason Paul lost his temper in the first place. He was standing up for his brother, for someone who was being hurt by this individual. How do I know this? Because the individual wanted to share the recording of the call with other associates (of which I am one) for everyone to learn from their experience. But now, a cut recording was used in the Daily Mail completely missing that context and makes it seem like Paul loses his temper all the time. I know from first hand experience of Paul that this simply isn't the case. He can be firm and direct but that is not the same thing as losing your temper. I believe you would find the same candour and directness at any high level of leadership, at any senior level of any global company, indeed leadership without directness isn't leadership at all. The character and maturity of someone at any high level of leadership requires directness, both in delivering it and receiving it.
So context and the full story, as you can see, is crucial. Just a few details can change everything and sometimes it can be years before the other puzzle pieces come together and the veil lifts on the presumptions that were made, and sometimes where horrible judgements were made.
In the recent defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, testimony was heard surrounding a particular piece of evidence which had been used to portray Johnny Depp as violent and plant the seed of doubt that he was abusive towards his then wife. An edited video was given to TMZ which cut right after Johnny Depp had angrily grabbed the phone his wife had set up to record him and left open to speculation as to whether he was violent with his wife after the recording stopped. But the full video was seen in the trial which saw that it was likely thrown and quickly picked up by Ms Heard who was unharmed, and that Ms Heard had set up the camera. Mr Depp's lawyer questioned Ms Heard saying: "You edited that video so that only Mr Depp would look bad". This gave the jury a lot to think about and do their best to consider the whole picture with the evidence they were given. I'm not taking a position on either side of this case despite the verdict for compensation for both Mr Depp and Ms Heard but I found this part of the trial fascinating and relevant.
Taking anything out of it's appropriate context, particularly when that context provides important details that greatly change the nature of any situation, might sell sensationalised clickbait newspaper articles and it may create uproar on a little subreddit, but it does not make it true and it does not make it accurate.
For instance, inflicting physical force on a child is not ok. But vigorously knocking a child out of the way of a passing car because they were about to be hit and to save their life is much more understandable. In one context something violent can be toxic and harmful and in another it can be protective. Just to be clear, this is a point about the importance of context. Context is everything. Context is key.
We Are Responsible To Seek Truth and Be Repentant
We live in a world which is so unbearably afraid of putting things in their complete and true context because then you can't play the victim anymore or blame someone else. It might mean you need to take responsibility yourself for your part in things - even if you are 0.00000001% responsible, you still need to take responsibility for that part. Because no matter how small your responsibility is, it is yours and no one else can take responsibility for you.
"The function of journalism is, primarily, to uncover vital new information in the public interest and to put that information in a context so that we can use it to improve the human condition." ~ Joshua Oppenheimer
The Daily Mail ought to have provided the context of that audio, but they didn't. Which is why we get anonymously written questions rather than a transparent open dialogue with a mature adult who is willing to take responsibility for themselves and seek the truth.
On the last day of the Depp v Heard trial before jury deliberations on Friday 27th May, Johnny Depp's attorney Camille Vasquez in her closing rebuttal said the following in relation to free speech: “The First Amendment doesn’t protect lies that hurt and defame people, and there’s a difference.” It was a reminder to all that falsehoods do not get free reign without consequences and that calling something "free speech" or even just "expressing an opinion" ceases to be lawful when it causes damage to another person. Read more on this here.
What Do You Do With Your Wrongdoing?
Dear reader, what do you do with your anger? With your wrongdoing? I know it doesn't feel good, and it's a lot easier to point the finger at someone else having done something wrong, and sometimes they have done something wrong, but what about you? What do you think should happen to you when you behave badly? When all the worst parts of your life are played back to you, do you pretend they're not a part of your story or blame someone else, or minimise them, or blame the person bringing them up again? Do you want them published in the newspaper and held over you indefinitely? Don't you want to be forgiven?
We all have wrongdoing but we're working towards being better by owning our mistakes. By comparison, I look at the little subreddit where the question I mentioned earlier in the article was posted and I ask, when have I seen apologies, repentance or responsibility being taken by those who spend their time (even during their working hours!) pointing out everything I and we have done wrong? I haven't seen a single instance of "maybe we mischaracterised them" or "maybe we got it wrong here" or "maybe we took this too far" or "maybe we made a mistake". There's always an excuse and Lighthouse is always to blame, right? It seems their entire community is built on hate, jumping up and down and rallying around the next opportunity to get a kick in. But you "love us" and are there to support us? Really? I've seen nothing to back that claim up. Where is your interest in regeneration and everyone becoming healthier and forgiving one another? Where are the wishes and expressions that you wish us to improve on our mistakes and continue with our work with constructive criticism, that you pray for us and that you want us to all get on and even be friends again one day, to grow, to say sorry and to make amends? I would love that! Wouldn't you? But I fear there is too much bitterness in you for now, and because of this you WANT Paul to be a terrible man and, because I support him, it suits your story to label me as brainwashed rather than think you could be wrong and that I am freely supporting someone who has supported me like a brother. You do this and you seem to think taking this pseudo-moralistic position makes you virtuous. But what about YOU? Yes, you. What if you are wrong? Wouldn't you rather say that you were truly repentant and willing to be wrong in order to be right?
For anyone out there who wants to ask me or anyone of us here at Lighthouse a question, please do so like a decent human being: using your own name, sent directly to us, rather than throwing them on forums from the shadows. Perhaps take a leaf out of Paul's book, show some character and take responsibility for your biased judgements and cowardice. I will be hopeful and await your extension of responsibility and reconciliation, you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (no pseudonyms).
"A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody." ~ Thomas Paine