First, I want to mention that I’m not writing this post to put down spiritually-minded people, but I’m showing thorns to watch out for on the path. While we expect unethical behavior from corporate leaders, politicians, and celebrities, we’re all equally human. The wounds we experience from unethical behavior in the spiritual communities can go deeper because we trusted our spiritual mentors or gave our power away to them.
I would think no one is above making a bad choice at crucial moments in their lives. We all make mistakes and some of us pay a high price for our mistakes or errors of judgement. However, the following unethical practices harm others and harm our reputations as healers, teachers, and practitioners. Tread carefully as you grow spiritually and once in a while, wear another person’s shoes and ask yourself, “How would I feel if I was on the other side of this choice I’m making?”
1. Using another practitioner or teacher’s concepts, ideas, visions, even phrases without giving proper credit. This includes using someone’s literature, photographs, drawings, and other intellectual property without permission or proper credit.
I have witnessed this a lot with online webinars and radio shows where a healer or teacher or author uses someone else’ phrases, concepts, or ideas without giving proper credit. Perhaps they trained with that teacher and so they feel they own those concepts. Consider, coming up with your own metaphors, ideas, and speak from your own heart-soul, instead of living vicariously through mentors. This takes time and practice. Better to teach something authentic than to sound like a cliche.
2. Making money off of someone else’ ideas (this happened to me recently), without giving this person proper credit or compensation.
This is hurtful and thoughtless behavior that will come back around and bite you in the butt. There is no excuse for taking someone else’ ideas, especially if you’re on a spiritual path. If you’re so special, come up with your own ideas.
3. Lying to a client to make them feel better, which basically enables the client to keep repeating destructive behaviors but keeps the client returning to you for your fee-based service.
Tell the truth as gently as possible, but tell the truth as you see it. Empower people and the Universe will send you more new clients, instead of the same clients with problems they never solve.
4. Withholding information that comes through for a client through divination or a higher source
The Higher Guides would not bring forth information that the client can’t handle. Find a gentle way of passing on the information. However, you should never tell someone about an upcoming tragedy or death since that could interfere with the person’s free will in the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can mention energies that are present and support the client in making highest and best choices based on those energies. Besides, channeled information is never 100% accurate and is often colored by the person channeling. It could be false information so be careful what information you pass on, but don’t withhold information that you know the client needs to hear even if they don’t want to hear the truth.
An example is a client asks if they’re going to marry their lover, but you see that this lover is demeaning to your client. Tell your client what you feel about the situation even if the client would rather cling to their fantasies. Share steps with the client how to create self-love and honoring so that he or she can attract healthier relationships.
5. Pretending to have all the answers and playing the role of know-it-all.
Instead listen to what the client tells you and get a feel for the real energy that is present. Some times we just want to show off our expertise and get caught up in our egos. And by doing this we serve only our egos and we could hurt the client by not listening to their real needs and experiences. Don’t ever make the client feel wrong or helpless or hopeless because you think you know what’s best for them. You are partners in healing and the client’s input and comfort level matter.
6. Force spiritual beliefs or metaphysical concepts onto another person. Which goes along with #7.
7. Don’t tell a person going through a challenging time a bunch of mantras such as “you create your own reality.”
While this is true in most cases, not everyone is ready or prepared to understand the law of attraction and quantum physics is a hefty topic that takes years to fully comprehend. Many people who blurt out mantras haven’t lived their lives fully and haven’t developed compassion. They confuse compassionate non-attachment with blaming the victim. And while I believe strongly that we need to move past victim-mentality and empower ourselves through manifesting lives we want, this is a step by step process that begins with baby steps.
Instead, of telling a person that they create their own reality (unless the person already believes this concept), ask them what they need at that moment. Do they need a dose of gentle truth? Do they need a referral to a life coach or therapist who is better at handling their situation or do they need advice on keeping a journal or do a program such as Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” which will allow this person to heal themselves one step at a time. Then eventually they can embrace the law of attraction, maybe.
8. Practice what you preach.
I feel it is unethical to expect high standards from a client when we don’t try to live up to those standards in our lives. We live by example and we can only inspire others to heal their wounds and get unstuck if we are willing to do those things ourselves. An example is that I wouldn’t want to go to a doctor who is in denial about a cigarette, drug or alcohol addiction or who lives an unhealthy lifestyle. This doctor doesn’t know anything about wellness with those habits.
9. Disowning mistakes and acting like we have it together when we don’t.
It’s true that we should never bring our personal problems into a session with a client or dump our problems on students or anyone else we work with on a professional level. However, we can give examples of when we made mistakes and the solutions that resulted. And when we mess up in our practice (which we do because we’re only human), to admit making a mistake and offer an apology.
10. Carrying the burdens of others.
So many people mistake compassion for taking on other people’s burdens. While we can help a client or student shift some of their burden by giving them tools to work with or referring them to reading materials, taking on someone’s burden enables them to hang on to wounds. Gently guide a client or student in a healthy direction then encourage them to find the answers and do the work. Ultimately, this leads to empowerment instead of a dysfunctional relationship between healer and patient or teacher and student. Everyone has the capacity to heal despite how their lives look like on the surface.
The song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” might leave us with a weepy sentimental feeling, but carrying another person’s burden is a sacrifice not worth making. It harms both people by tying them into a dysfunctional relationship. Some behaviors promoted by society as loving and compassionate are actually subtle forms of manipulation.