Dealing with Spiritual Abuse - Q & A Part 2
This is part two in the Q&A posts dealing with spiritual abuse, that arose out of the original series of blogs I did on the subject.
To read the original series click here
Q – Our pastors left our church because of abusive behaviour by a person in a position of authority over them. They are looking at possibly starting a new church. What is your advice in a situation like that?
A - In regards to the leaders who left starting something new, I would advise them not to look at starting a new church immediately. They need time to process and work through what has happened to them. They will need time to examine their beliefs - both what they believed the Bible taught and the leadership protocols they operated under. There may also be denominational process and beliefs to work through. Some teaching they had, or taught, may have been influenced by denominational beliefs and tradition rather than being scripturally right. They will need to examine leadership styles – the denomination’s and their own – to find out what is good and worth keeping, and what is not, otherwise they will most likely replicate the old leadership patterns and beliefs in their new situation. If they are wanting you to be involved then you have the right to ask them some questions like the following ones. While these will be hard questions to ask and answer, they are necessary.
1. How are you processing what you’ve been through, and who do you have as reference and accountability in that process?
2. What beliefs from the situation have you identified that need transforming so that we don’t repeat the same thing going forward?
3. What will you do to make sure the same beliefs and practices aren’t carried over into anything you start?
Q – I left my old church a few weeks ago because of leadership abuses of authority, teaching and isolation; things like saying that we didn’t need any other teaching from anywhere else because our apostle was the only person we needed to listen to. I haven’t started going to another church yet. Part of me thinks I need to be in a church and part of me is scared of going straight into another situation where I could be abused. Do you have any advice on that?
A - Don’t be in a hurry to join another church. You may need some time to heal and work through the issues that were the reason you left. It is not wrong to take time out, if you do so wisely. Taking time out from church can be necessary, however staying removed from fellowship will, in the end, bring its own problems. Ask the Lord, “What does fellowshipping with other believers look like for me in this season?” “How can I do it in a healthy way?” If you’ve been abused, then most likely your thinking has been distorted. You’ll have bought into some lies that need correcting, and to do so you’ll need to put some distance between yourself and the situation for a period of time (if not indefinitely) in order to clear your mind and get back on track. Talk to a pastor from a healthy church and get prayer ministry or counselling, if needed. Also read about spiritual abuse, to understand how it works,s so that you can recognise it in the future.
Q – I am good friends with two people who are on opposite sides in a spiritual abuse situation; one is the person being accused of spiritual abuse, and the other is the victim. They both talk to me about the situation and unload their feelings on me. When one is talking to me it causes me to feel badly toward the other person, and then when the other talks to me I feel bad toward the first person. In the midst of that I feel torn between my friends and I feel like I’m expected to take sides. In doing so I somehow feel like I’m dishonouring both friends because of it all. How do I work through this?
A - Getting caught in the middle between two friends who are on opposing sides in a situation is a hard place to be, as you do love both of them and you want to be a good friend to both. But to be a true, good friend to them both you will need to be strong. Put in some boundaries. Boundaries provide a safe way for people to be in your life; they are not about excluding people. Let them know that you love them, and that you want to continue being their friend, but that you won’t be drawn into any issues they have with another person unless they are enlisting your help to resolve the problem; and you will not allow them to put others down and unload their hurts or offenses onto you. If need be, lay out some ground rules for going forward – no gossip, no putting the other friend down, no trying to influence you to take sides. Tell them they should go to the other person and work out their problems, as Scripture says. That will be hard for you to do, and they may question your friendship, especially if you have just listened without questioning in the past, but it is necessary, otherwise you will become part of the problem, not help in its solution. This is the scriptural way to deal with something like that, and the way of a true friend walking in wisdom.