The Difference Between Collusion and Empathy

By Vivian Harvey & Beverly Shellrude Thompson

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What is it?

As defined by author and experienced psychiatric Registered Nurse, Dee Ann Miller, collusion is the conscious or unconscious collaboration of two or more individuals to protect those who engage in unethical practices. It is a symptom of a serious systemic thinking disorder. Collusion is not a normal condition, though individuals who have spent large amounts of time in dysfunctional communities accept it as the norm.

Why do people engage in collusion?

In an article, Basic Facts about Collusion, written by Dee Ann Miller, R.N., the following reasons are suggested as to why individuals practice collusion, (1) acculturation (it is all they have known), (2) the need to preserve a system that is important to them (Christian organizations; other parts of the community) and (3) unresolved issues including incest, drug use, addictions and other dysfunctions in the family unit.

Some religious reasons include closed system thinking, or; and in-house problem solving (avoidance of outside intervention or help). This is frequently demonstrated within Christian denominations, churches, and mission boards. This example has been seen and demonstrated by many denominations including the C&MA. The Southern Baptist denomination perpetuates collusion by refusing to set forth a standard of set policies for the churches under their umbrella.

Sadly, within the same "family" lives the idea that those who have victimized children and adults need only forgiveness and restoration; pedophilia and sexual assault are not seen as crimes.

The more a Christian community walls itself away "from the world", the more it becomes a law unto itself, and a grotesque deviation from Christ Jesus' original intention for the community of believers.

The Patriarchal mind set helps collusion succeed by demonization of all individuals who dare to challenge the closed system. "Touch not Gods Anointed" is one terribly distorted, misused section of scripture which lends Gods favor (and protection) to whatever the leader approves. This is one great example of the spiritual abuse accompanying the colluding life style. Another effect of patriarchal thinking is the ruination of personal accountability, squelching the response and appropriate behavior towards in-house abusers and abuse.

"The Family" is one more concept which aids collusion. While it seems good to have a community of "aunties and uncles" within a Christian community, this concept enables and protects those deviants and predatory individuals who seek ultimate in-house safety and protection. Sadly, within the same "Family" lives the idea that those who have victimized children and adults need only forgiveness and restoration; pedophilia and sexual assault are not seen as crimes which need to be reported to the criminal justice system.

At the same time that perpetrators are protected, restorative help aids and funds are often withheld from the victims and their families.

What can possibly help to change this attitude of a sick system?

Before anything else, I believe awareness of this disorder is necessary. After all, we won't change what we do not acknowledge as a problem, I have heard it said.

One question many of us ask is this, "What can possibly change the narcissistic perspective to one of an unselfish and other-focused, less performance oriented and empathetic mindset?"

Another couple of questions might be, "What is empathy compared to narcissism? How can an empathetic capacity affect our lives for the better?"


what is it?

Empathy can be defined as the antithesis of narcissism, or the ability to enter the world of another person. Children fortunate enough to be raised in a consistently caring, nurturing environment mirror the empathy they observe in their care takers.

The effects of empathy could include the experience of genuine love and intimacy in relationships; helping people understand who they really are and what brings authentic love and fulfillment. It might aid the lessening of self-absorption inherent in the narcissistic mindset. It provides a way of being that is less selfish and egotistical.

Empathetic training can be a huge step forward in shaping a balanced, healthy world view among Christian leaders and their families. It certainly will help to enable the works of love in the lives of Christians as described in the first through third gospels of John.

We want to thank our friends Vivian Harvey & Beverly Shellrude Thompson at for this guest post.