The curious case of the guy from church (let's call him Mike) has been high in my consciousness for several weeks now, and very recently I've been having an email conversation with another person from church, this one a friend, who shared some concerns, experiences, and insights.
Today I had two additional emails from people who'd read my post from Sunday. One was from an old (old? heck, she's ancient!) friend who'd been a groupmate from a help line training about 35 years ago. She wrote thoughtfully and caringly and presented some excellent strategies. I gave her words careful consideration. While they made sense, they just didn't seem to apply to this situation. My gut was telling me that traditional limit-setting just wasn't going to work with this dude,this Mike.
The second email was from a cyberfriend who jumped right in to stand beside me with the problem. "I am praying for you right now." It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.
The latest installment in the email conversation with the friend from church came later in the day, after I'd had time to absorb the first two. This church-lady mentioned the possibility that the offending man has Asperger syndrome. I had a very vague understanding of the disorder -- "It's on the autism spectrum" -- and as I googled and read (this, this, and this ), my understanding grew to the point where I'm ready to believe -- right or wrong -- that this is what Mike's problem is. That he is simply unable to be relational or sensitive as most people are. He honestly can't help it.
There's a young adult woman with some mental retardation who accompanies her mother to church sometimes. They always sit in the back. Joanne is given to strange vocal outbursts that some people, especially new people, find disruptive. But because I know what is causing them, I am able to almost completely tune them out.
I'm hoping this will extend to Mike.