web analytics

Greenville Syndrome

Here are the conditions to make this work:

  • People who develop Greenville Syndrome often view the authority figure as giving success — vocational, spiritual, social — by simply not destroying it. Thus, the authority figure becomes in control of the person’s success.
  • A person endures physical or ideological separation from outside people and groups so that only the authority figure’s perspective is available. Leaders routinely keep information from their people — specifically outsider’s views of the leader’s actions. This isolation keeps the person totally dependent on the leader for information.
  • The authority figure threatens to cut-off the person from his approval, his property (“campus”), or his fellowship. That person judges it safer and easier to align with the authority, endure the difficulties of separation, and obey rather than to disagree and face utter failure.
  • The person sees the authority figure as showing some degree of affection. A simple positive gesture of attention (“being gracious” or “being nice”) is the cornerstone of Greenville Syndrome; the condition will not develop unless the authority exhibits some affection toward the person. However, people often misinterpret a lack of negative attention as affection and may even develop feelings of appreciation for this perceived benevolence — “He’s always been nice to me.” If the authority figure were purely evil and abusive, a person would respond with hatred. But if the authority figure offers some positive attention — an emailed compliment, a “we really like you here” —  a person will submerge the anger s/he feels in response to the threat of failure and desperately concentrate on the authority figure’s “good side” to protect themselves.

7 thoughts on “Greenville Syndrome

  1. Camille – I realize you are disappointed with the impact BJU left on you; however, I went to Wheaton College 3 yrs., which now leans in the totally opposite direction. It is not the same institution I attended when Dr. Edman was president, which has disappointed me. I am not proud to say I’m a Wheatonite anymore, but I have to live above that and seek God’s best for me, in spite of my education. I choose not to dwell on that, but on Christ alone. He is sufficient for me.
    As far as syndromes go, I believe Wheaton has set a double standard.

  2. It’s one thing to be disappointed. It really is. I can understand that even though I would disagree with your assessment about Wheaton. But that’s still okay. That you can disagree with Wheaton and its administration and state so unequivocally is a good thing. A very good thing.

    This is something different though, Evelyn. There is no room for disagreement on anything, and it’s a pathology. If you see what I’ve done here, I’ve just taken the DMV description of Stockholm Syndrome and retooled it to fit this situation.

    This is more than disappointment. This is a consistent problem in the training. Just like Stockholm Syndrome is more than just being held hostage. It’s going to great lengths to view that violent hostage situation as a positive that you want to perpetuate. That’s not okay.

  3. I don’t think it hits everyone the same way. It seems like a lot of the fac/staff kids I know who grew up there are more like me than I expected–not really that invested in it. Maybe it comes from living farther away geographically. I feel vaguely friendly toward the place, a bit frustrated with it sometimes, but for the most part I just… don’t care. It doesn’t affect me. What they’re doing is mildly interesting on a gossipy level, but it’s just a place where I went to school at the end of the day. Maybe it helps too that it’s not my only alma mater–there are lots of other ways to define myself other than “BJU grad”–ways that seem more relevant and definitely more meaningful to the people I meet.

    Maybe the difference is in how intertwined I was in the first place. But geography might matter too.

  4. Dear Camille,

    We have talked on Facebook Messaging. I am teh one from NYC who has a friend who became a BoJo and separated from me. I am seeing the Greenville Syndrome posts right nwo for the first time and I think they will be HIGHLY edifying to me – and maybe to the relationship that was dropped between me and my friend. I was actually praying with my NYC friend 2 days ago and I think I HAVE A SNEAKY SUSPECIAN that your posts on this are going to be God talking to me 🙂

    I hope you read this.


Comments are closed.