Jesus tells his followers to “beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing” even within the church. The recent revelations of priests and ministers abusing children sexually is a perfect example of those wolves within the church.
Psychopaths and other predators frequently wear a “mask” of goodness and kindness, but if you observe closely, these people will show that they are not what they are pretending to be. Sometimes only a small patch of the “wolf within” shows through.
We want to trust those people in our lives who present themselves as loving and caring toward us and others, because without trust there can be no love. Trust, though, must be earned or we will allow those wearing the masks of kindness to get close enough to us for them to feed on us, just as a wolf sneaks up on a flock of sheep, the wolves in sheep’s clothing disguise themselves as benign and “sneak up” on us.
Some offenders are very cagy, and able to disguise their real motives toward us. They wear the mask carefully, but none are perfect and the signs will make themselves apparent over time.
One of the ways we can see some of the “wolf” sticking out is how that person treats everyone, not just how they treat us. If they show contempt for people who serve them and are rude to others, you can bet they will be rude or worse to us in the future.
Dr. Anna Salter, a nationally and internationally known expert in child abusers tells in her book Predators how to differentiate people who love children from people who “groom” children for sexual abuse.
People such as Jerry Sandusky who was a blatant abuser of those children in his clutches is a perfect example, and those people who covered up for him, knowing he was abusing children, are such wolves in sheep’s clothing.
My son Michael works for the Boy Scouts of America and one of the iron clad rules of Scouting is that no adult is EVER to be alone with a youth. If it is important for an adult to talk one-on-one with a youth, they do it in FULL VIEW of another adult leader, never in “private.” This is one reason that molestation of children in scouts is rare. Charles “Jackie” Walls III is an example of the rarity of this abuse in Scouting, but he abused hundreds of children over a twenty year period before being sent to prison for life without parole.
I personally knew Jackie, and knew his family who were good, honest, hard working productive members of the community. I liked Jackie’s family, but I never liked Jackie. I didn’t know many people who did, he was overbearing and narcissistic much of the time. I didn’t know why I didn’t like him at the time, but I just knew he was “hateful.”
I knew another man, Jack Pratt, who was eventually convicted of possession of child pornography and was arrested in an FBI sting and went to prison. I knew Jack through my living history organization and he worked for a state park. I liked Jack….but there were signs that he was not the “nice guy” he pretended to be, but I didn’t see them except in retrospect. After his release from prison Jack went back to seeking jobs working with children over and over. He eventually killed himself when he was discovered working as a volunteer with children for the “umpteenth” time and cautioned by local police.
I can’t and won’t go through life not trusting anyone, but I will be cautious in giving my trust, and observant. At the first sign of “wolf hair” I will distance myself from that person. Any sign of dishonesty, hatefulness, irresponsibility, or a lack of a moral compass or conscience, I don’t want anything to do with that person. None of us are perfect, and from time to time we all make mistakes, but when there is a PATTERN of bad choices, and lack of remorse or learning from these choices and mistakes, then we can be sure that person is not going to be beneficial to our own lives.