Many people wouldn’t be reading here if they hadn’t been abused in some fashion. Those who’ve never been abused, or abusers themselves- wouldn’t know what it felt like, unless they, at some point, felt the sting of it themselves.
It’s my personal belief that all abuse hurts a person spiritually. It’s not likely there will be physical abuse in a church setting, but there, abuse will occur at the very heart of our soul, sometimes driving us into self-condemnation, guilt over false accusations, shaking our spiritual beliefs, and foundation of our faith to the very core.
Our reaction to this may come first as shock, followed by anger and indignation. And soon after, if we are lucky enough to remove ourselves from the abusive situation, we may lapse into a feeling of rejection as we become isolated from former brethren.
My own personal journey through the pain of spiritual abuse was absolute bewilderment and a mind numbing core of hurt that pierced the deepest places in my heart. Even with Christ there to carry me though this, it was without doubt, one of the worse experiences of my life. How could I ever trust “church people” again, now that I knew the truth? Might they not all be like that? I isolated myself from churches, not wanting to take another chance at exposing my deepest feelings to those who were going to reject, falsely judge and hurt me.
My experience with spiritual abuse wasn’t an isolated incident that merely “hurt my feelings”. Instead, without going into details, it was a long, complex series of abuses that continued over a period of time, that finally culminated with a yet another betrayal, this time even more serious than the others. With this came the realization that I had to get out. The abuse was affecting me spiritually and emotionally, and there was no other choice but to leave. I couldn’t change anything by staying.
I went through this alone. There was no one to talk to about what happened. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone, betrayed, falsely accused, and rejected in my entire life. It’s very hard to describe the feelings I had. I’m not sure there are even adequate words. Maybe something close would be like when someone closest to you died, and there is at first shock and then the grieving process sets in after that, but even that doesn’t quite fit, because when I left the church where I was abused, the only one who I felt had died, was me. The ones who abused and condemned me wrongly, basically for their own false perceptions, went on, justifying themselves together, and continued on apparently oblivious to the havoc created in my life. (Only later, have I found there are many others who were going through, or had gone through a similar circumstance, but at the time, there wasn’t the ground swell rising up of voices on the Internet to expose this “best kept secret” going on in churches all across America). I felt like I was the only one.
Next came the feelings of bitterness and resentment at those responsible for abusing me. This was a small church, so my betrayers had once been my closest friends. Well, at least some of them. The pastor was an enigma…at times he seemed compassionate and real, but most of the time he had a bully pulpit, and made a practice of calling out those who had committed what he felt were infractions in such a way that everyone knew who he was pointing his finger at. He had his little group of favorites, especially those who curried his favor and fawned over him. That wasn’t my style though and maybe he sensed that.
I knew in my heart what they did was wrong, and I also knew my resentment was wrong. I knew I needed to forgive, that I must forgive, but I didn’t know how I was going to be able to do that, the pain I felt went so deep.
Jesus said, unless we forgive others, our father can’t forgive us. That’s a big order sometimes. But unforgiveness is destructive, both on the offenders but also on the one that needs to extend forgiveness. I think this issue of unforgiveness is truly very misunderstood, but I think our own spiritual growth will be stunted if we fail to forgive and, instead, allow a root of bitterness to grow in our hearts and become twisted and ugly.
Think about that. If we allow our hearts to become cold and bitter, then Satan has won the round and we will end up more like those who abused us…hypocrites. I don’t want to be like that and neither do you. We need to keep short accounts with God so our prayers can get answered and so that we can move forward in our walk in the
Spirit, leaving ugly emotions behind us. That is the victory over spiritual abuse.
It can be done, but only through much prayer and communion with Jesus in worship, asking for help and laying all burdens at the foot of the cross, for truly, we can do nothing without him.
Jesus bless all of you going through these struggles and I thank God who will give us the victory as we turn fully to him.
Since that time, many years ago, I have studied the phenomena of spiritual abuse in churches, in depth, inside and out, and from every angle. I know what makes it tick, and the games people play in church, all the way from the pulpit, to those in other “leadership” aspects of the church, all the way to those who sit in the pews. There is a pattern to these things, even from church to church, from one denomination to another, in one way or another. I have arrived at this from not any disconnected “psychological analysis”, but from personal experience with scripture and an intimate relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who by His mercy and grace brought me out of it.
If you have been spiritually abused in a church, by the pastor, or another church member, or even the group. You may tell your personal story here, anonymously. Just post it under the comment section here and I will create a post from that, leaving out the parts you choose, (names, places, etc). Your privacy will be vigorously protected. E-mail addresses, personal names will never be released to others, nor will any other privately communicated information. If you would like to talk to me personally, send an e-mail to SpiritualAbuseSanctuary@hotmail.com. I will be glad to talk to you. Skype chats can also sometimes be arranged. I am not a psychologist, nor do I give medical advice, but I will be happy to listen to hurting people who have been through spiritually abusive situations in church, or in the home.
~God bless you,