Warning Signs by Rick Ross

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader:

  • Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
  • No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
  • No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
  • Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
  • There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always are wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
  • Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
  • There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
  • Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
  • The group/leader is always right.
  • The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible/

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader:

  • Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
  • Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower’s mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused–as that person’s involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
  • Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned, it is characterized as “persecution”.
  • Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
  • Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought.
  • A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
  • Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
  • A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
  • Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
  • Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.  Former followers are at best – considered negative, or worse – evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

Signs of a safe group/leader:

  • A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
  • A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses.
  • Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
  • A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
  • A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
  • A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
  • A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
  • A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
  • A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
  • A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
  • A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

Don’t be naïve, develop a good BS Detector.

You can protect yourself from unsafe groups and leaders by developing a good BS detector. Check things out, know the facts and examine the evidence. A safe group will be patient with your decision making process. If a group or leader grows angry and anxious just because you want to make an informed and careful decision before joining; beware.

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Cor. 11:13-15)
Source: Rick Ross, Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist.  Warning Signs.  Cult Education Institute.  Copyright 1999-2014.  Trenton, NJ.  Used with written permission.  Originally accessed October 15, 2012.  This list was originally retrieved from http://www.rickross.com/warningsigns.html and can now be viewed at https://culteducation.com/warningsigns.html
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