Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other topics.
The term “ghost” is a recent term for a person who disconnects and disappears from the lives of people they allegedly care about. The expression “ghosting” appears to come out of the dating world. For example, let’s say a guy named Ken dates a girl named Barbie a few times. Barbie really likes Ken and is hopeful that they can deepen their relationship into a romantic connection.
Ken, on the other hand, decided that he is no longer interested in Barbie. He becomes a “ghost” by not contacting her or answering her texts. Barbie is in a quandary when she does not hear from Ken for several weeks. He does not answer his phone or text her back. She is worried. Could something have happened to him? Did she do something to offend him? After several months, she realizes that Ken ghosted her. She feels rejected and hurt. Nowadays, the definition of ghosting is also applied to all types of relationships.
The Difference Between Avoiding People and Ghosting
Relationships are always changing and sometimes we have to adjust how we relate to other people. There are times we may withdraw ourselves from them. We may need a timeout from others who hurt us or did things we felt are unacceptable. Some of us may struggle with mental health issues and isolate ourselves until we are in recovery. These measures are temporary. Friends and loved ones will understand we needed space and will welcome us back when we are ready.
It is biblical to avoid certain people for reasons such as:
- Fools who cannot control their tongues; they say hurtful things, try to influence us to do the wrong thing, and gossip about us (Proverbs 18:6-7)
- People hang around with the wrong crowd and get themselves and the innocent bystanders around them in trouble (Proverbs 13:20)
- Some people are mean spirited, malicious, and not safe to be around because they are verbally or physically abusive (Proverbs 22:5)
- Some individuals do not respect boundaries, causing frustration and harm
- Complainers and whiners drag us down with their negativity and challenge our faith in God (Psalm 14:1)
- Narcissists who use people for their own selfish purposes and then discard them
Sometimes we need to avoid individuals who can potentially harm us or may lead us down destructive paths. With others such as relatives, we may have to limit contact to save our sanity. It is not possible to have deep, healthy relationships with individuals whose behavior towards us is harmful. If asked, we can give legitimate reasons why we do not engage with certain people.
We often have already warned them that we will cut off contact if they continue their harmful behavior. If offensive people demonstrate that they have changed, we may decide to restore a connection with them. Ghosting, on the other hand, cuts off any possibility that issues can be addressed and the relationship can be restored.
Why Ghosting is Harmful
There are several reasons why ghosting is destructive.
It hurts the victim’s self-esteem
I was recently ghosted by someone I cared about and it hurt me deeply. Being ghosted felt like rejection. Victims of this behavior may blame themselves for the abandonment and ask:
“Did they ever really care about me?
“Did I do something that hurt or offend them?”
“Is there something wrong with me?”
“Am I incapable of having healthy relationships?”
When I realized I had been ghosted, my self-esteem went to an all-time low. I felt like I must have deserved this kind of treatment, even if I was innocent of any wrongdoing.
It destroys relationships
Friendships are based on love and trust. Friends celebrate our successes with us, encourage us when we are down, and provide a soft shoulder to cry on. Dating relationships have the potential to provide these qualities and more. When we cut people off, they no longer trust us. If we want to reconnect, it is difficult to re-establish a relationship later on. Even if we come back together, the connection will often not be the same.
It hurts people more to be ghosted than if we had been honest with them
Some people ghost because they think they are avoiding hurting another person’s feelings. In actuality, that their victims will feel devastated and imagine all kinds of reasons why they are being avoided that are worse than the truth. Ghosting is especially damaging to people who already feel insecure and have low self-esteem.
This behavior causes victims to live a lie that they are in a committed relationship. If their perpetrators had told them the truth in the beginning, they would have been spared months of uncertainty, self-doubt, and hurt. If perpetrators are honest in the beginning, those months could have been spent focussing on a quick recovery from hurt feelings and developing more healthy connections.
It blocks the possibility that issues can be resolved
One common reason people ghost is fear. They do not handle confrontation, criticism, or conflict well. They dislike discomfort and avoid drama if they can. They use the excuse that they are sparing someone’s feelings, but what they are actually doing is not addressing issues that should be worked through to the point of resolution. The victim is not given the opportunity to ask questions and get answers about the key issues. Nothing is resolved. This action denies everyone the opportunities to grow, change, and obtain closure.
How God Wants Us to Treat Others
Jesus said that if we are offended by a brother, we should go and be reconciled with him (Matthew 5:23-24). God wants us to do it right away, even before we make an offering to him. If we see a brother or sister sin, we have an obligation to point out his or her fault. If they do not listen to us or others, we may need to keep them at a distance or avoid them (Matthew 18:15-17). The Bible teaches us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Ghosting sends the message that we really do not care about others and do consider their feelings.
There are many benefits to confronting or being honest with people rather than avoiding them such as:
- Clearing up misunderstandings
- Helping people to understand each other
- Providing opportunities for constructive criticism that help everyone to grow
- Holding people accountable for their behavior
- Enables people to establish boundaries defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior
- May convict offenders of sins and bring them to repentance
- Provides opportunities for offenders to make amends
If we are tempted to ghost someone, we need to examine why we want to do so. Do we have emotional issues that we are unwilling to address? Are we trying to escape accountability for our words or actions? Are we running from our hurts instead of dealing with them? Are we allowing our fears to drive our behavior?
Ghosting people is generally an immature, lazy, and selfish thing to do that hurts people and ruins relationships. Instead, God wants us to live in harmony with other people (Romans 12:16, 14:19, Colossians 3:15). We can only do that if we are willing to do whatever it takes to have healthy relationships.
Holy Bible, New International Version
Christian Ghosting: The Destructive Christian Practice We Don’t Talk About, Benjamin Corey
Why “Ghosting” Is Wrong, Odyssey Online, Maddie Roura
4 Reasons People Ghost Their Way Out of Relationships, Psychology Today,, Dianne Grande Ph.D.
Why People Ghost — and How to Get Over It, New York Times, Adam Popescu
8 Reasons Why People Ghost (And 7 Ways To Avoid Being Ghosted), The Richest, Lucas Wesley Snipes
Lucy from Leeds, UK on April 12, 2020:
I am spiritual, rather than religious, but find your use of your faith as a moral viewpoint really interesting and useful.
Jack Jenn from Nelson Bay NSW Australia. on January 16, 2020:
I had never heard this term until you've mentioned it and I understand it's taking the easy way out and not facing the problem in a Christian, humanistic way, which so many these days are more inclined to do than what is morally right.
But the thought struck me that some do it to God as well. And I'm sure you would understand my meaning.
Sad to see that so many reject His pleading - 'come and learn of Me'.
That's a part of Matthew 11: 28 - 30 which I find just beautiful.
Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS from Memphis on January 13, 2020:
This is a very good article with a lot of pertinent information!