Spiritual Abuse

I recently came upon this term 'Spiritual Abuse' and was intrigued at what it actually meant.
Occurs when a person in religious authority or a person with a unique spiritual practice mislead and maltreat another person in the name of God or church or in the mystery of any spiritual concept. Spiritual abuse often refers to an abuser using spiritual or religious rank in taking advantage of the victim's spirituality (mentality and passion on spiritual matters) by putting the victim in a state of unquestioning obedience to an abusive authority.
As I began to research this topic I found that there are millions of people who suffer from this kind of abuse, including myself. I have indeed suffered from this type of abuse. Many people don't even realize this is happening to them and when they try to seek help, people mark you as a church gossip and disloyal to your preacher(leader). Often times husbands won't realize it either and discredit their wives or children as being critical and demand them to be silent about the matter. Men who have their families in a spiritually abusive church will most likely defend their leader over believing their wives, whom they may also label as emotional.

The reason why I believe these husbands will do so is partly because I have seen it in the marriages I know and also because these men are being taught to always defend the preacher.

Today's modern Christianity seems to have lost it's focus on their families.

If you were to conduct an Internet search with the keywords: "Spiritual Abuse", you will find many resources available to educate yourself about how this type of abuse works. I am not going to reinvent or re-write what has already been diligently researched and written about, but I do want to encourage you. There is help available and you do not need to remain in a fellowship where you are being abused.

This is a hefty topic and this may be the first time you have ever heard of such a thing. Even if you don't think you are being spiritually abused, I encourage you to find a few websites and do some reading about this topic. You might discover that you are suffering from this in your fellowship and you might discover things that you know a loved one is suffering from it as well.

Some key points to recognizing spiritual abuse are: (taken from Wikipedia)

* Psychological and emotional abuse
* Any act by deeds or words that demean, humiliate or shame the natural worth and dignity of a person as a human being.
* Submission to spiritual authority without any right to disagree; intimidation.
* Unreasonable control of a person's basic right to make a choice on spiritual matters.
* False accusation and repeated criticism by negatively labeling a person as disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demonized, apostate, enemy of the church or God.
* Prevention from practicing faith.
* Isolation or separation from family and friends due to religious affiliation
* Physical abuse that includes physical injury, deprivation of sustenance, and sexual abuse.
* Exclusivity; dismissal of an outsider's criticism and labeling an outsider as of the devil.
* Withholding information and giving of information only to a selected few.
* Conformity to a dangerous or unnatural religious view and practice.
* Hostility that includes shunning (relational aggression, parental alienation) and persecution.
There is an incredible amount of control among leaders that abuse and most times their ministries become cult-like. They refuse to allow other people lead in ministry if they have not declared and proven themselves to be a die-hard follower. If the leader says something hurtful to the women in the church, he may contact their husbands to praise the wives to their spouses. They may avoid contact with them in the future and refuse to return phone calls or emails. Leaders are not supposed to lord over God's heritage, but are supposed to be examples.
1 Peter 5:3, "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock."

My heart aches for the women who know they are being treated wrongly and their husbands do not protect their wives from this kind of abuse. I realize none of us are perfect and leaders do make mistakes, but when their behavior becomes a perpetual habit that is difficult to confront and/or correct, then I would suggest it is time to look for another fellowship.

You can heal from this abuse and our Lord hasn't missed a thing. He sees everything and He knows your pain. He does not expect you to remain in an abusive situation. He loves you and He has chosen you to receive an abundant life, not an abused life. He already knows we aren't perfect and yet he accepts us anyway. I don't mean that it's acceptable to take advantage of the grace He has given you, but He knows you can't live up to His expectation. This is exactly why He died for you.

Luke 7:13, "And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not."
Our Lord Jesus certainly has seen everything you have suffered and He truly has compassion for you. Just turn to Jesus and surrender to Him completely. He can fill the emptiness and heal the pain that you have experienced.

If we can help encourage you further about this matter, please don't hesitate to contact us or leave a message for us and our readers so we can all support you and send love, through prayer, in your direction.

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{ Lady Jess } at: August 14, 2009 at 9:46 AM said...

Very good article! I am so overwhelmingly blessed to have parents who are listening to each other and open to the Potter's hand. While I was reading your article, a passage came to my mind. In Exodus 3:7 it says that God heard his people and that he knew their sorrows. So true! God DOES know what we are going through.

{ Provender } at: August 14, 2009 at 9:51 PM said...

You are absolutely right. Spiritual abuse is a hidden kind of trauma. Few hear about it until they go through and not even then. Good article.

{ Reborn } at: September 8, 2009 at 7:49 PM said...

Great post! This is a topic that needs to be addressed more freely and openly among the Christian community so that believers can recognize the harmful behaviors. It's often difficult and confusing to identify borderline behaviors as abusive, especially if it's all you know (i.e. you grew up in a church or it's the first one you attended as a believer). In that case, folks may confuse the abusive requirements with spiritual discipline.

faithwon at: September 10, 2009 at 3:22 PM said...

Thank you very much for writing this piece. I was completely taken aback to see myself in that article. I thought I was alone.

I have gone through this type of abuse. My husband didn't believe me at first. He thought I was being over-emotional and didn't want to listen to me. I stayed at the church regardless of what was happening because my husband didn't want to leave, and I was taught to be in "subjection" to my husband. (The subjection I was taught was not God's meaning but man's version.)

It got so bad I had no choice but to leave. I mentally and emotionally couldn't take it anymore. It caused a rift between my husband and I when I left. He didn't leave the church and was angry at me for not staying.

God was so awesome! While my husband continued to go, God opened his eyes and ears to what was going on. My husband apologized to me, and went to talk to the pastor. He left the church after that meeting.

My husband and I were persecuted by some after that, including a public message to us on the church's marquee for all who drove by to see. They believed the rumors that abounded, and they believed that, because we left the church, we were sinning. In truth, we weren't sinning at all. God was using that time to heal us both and our marriage. Jesus truly heals broken hearts, and binds up wounds.

May this article help many others.

God bless!

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