Dealing with Spiritual Abuse - Q & A Part 4
This is the last part in this series of posts answering questions that arose from the original blog series I wrote on recognising, dealing with and recovering from spiritual abuse.
To read the original series click here
Q – I left my church because of the very things you mentioned in your series of articles. I was deeply hurt and still am, months later. I try and talk to people I know about it but they say things like, “You don’t need counselling, you just need to get over it and put the past behind you.” I’m trying, but the hurt is very real. Why can’t I just get over it like some of my friends seem to have been able to do?
A – ‘Just getting over it’ isn’t as easy as people think. There are two things I want to share with you in regard to your question –
- Your emotions and trust have been violated, and you will feel betrayed; this is normal and natural. In this case your friends are not offering you good advice. Don’t stuff it down and think it’ll go away; it won’t! It’ll simmer in your subconscious and pop up in other ways. It’ll surface as unreasonably strong responses in situations you face, as anger towards people and leaders, suspicion of anyone in a place of authority, and suspicion of God. It can even have physical repercussions, causing physical sickness and disease to develop. Science and medicine have confirmed many times that undealt with issues can cause sickness to develop.
- In regards to your friends seeming to get over it much quicker than you – that may be how it appears, but it may or may not be the truth. The only way you can truly know is to ask them. But know this, you are not them, and your journey through this won’t be exactly the same as theirs. People deal with things differently, taking different lengths of time to work through things. Your journey is your journey, and you can’t walk theirs. If you need help, seek counselling or prayer ministry from reputable ministers, but don’t measure your progress against your friends; that isn’t helpful to you or them. Some people were given good life skills by their parents, being taught how to work through issues, however many were not, and simply try to muddle through. If that’s the case for you it’s not too late to learn, and there are many good places and ministries where you can learn how to walk through things in a healthy way.
Q - I suffered from spiritual abuse at a church I was at. I attended the church for many years. The church started off okay but then gradually things got tighter and rules put in place for so many things until it actually became a cult. In the end we had to get permission to cut our hair, go to a family wedding, and much more. Some people were even told who they should marry. Why didn’t I see what was happening until it was too late and I was caught up in it all? How can a good church become like that? Don’t they see what’s happening?
A - This is a huge question, and is not easily answered, but as I said in the early parts of this teaching, most leaders don’t set out to be abusive; they set out with good intentions, and if abuse is going to develop it usually does so slowly, as you’ve shown in your situation. The spirit of deception is not usually blatant, it is often very subtle and slow in its strategic power play against people, and because of that many don’t recognise its work until it’s too late. It will twist the truth just a little, get you to believe that and when it’s established that foothold, then it will take it a bit further, until a person or church find themselves deep in error. Many of them don't realise they are trapped and those that do, wonder how-on-earth they got there.
Some leaders have had bad role models, or have been taught that they shouldn’t let their congregation question their leadership, and often the verse about ‘not touching God’s anointed’ is used to support that. But that brings you into a vulnerable place where no-one can question you. Throw in a little insecurity or woundedness in a leader and any question may very well feel like an attack against them personally, which leads to them attacking back or shutting a person down in some way. Add to that the possibility that a leader may begin to believe they are the only true anointed one, right about everything and add a bit of pride and deception to the mix of anointing and skill and being unaccountable, and you’ve got a potential cult in the making.
Years ago, as part of the pastoral team of a church, we were told in pastor’s seminars and training days to keep our distance from the congregation, to not let them get too close to us or share things of importance relating to the fellowship with them. It was posited that this would make the church feel unstable, like we didn’t know what we were doing as leaders. It’s training like this, which separates leaders from their congregation making a fertile ground for the enemy to sow his tares and begin to subtly lead people into deception. Another thing we see often, is found amongst the many independent churches that have sprung up over the past few decades and that is the leaders rarely have people they are accountable to. This is dangerous and very often the beginning of a slippery slope. This is partly why we need to be accountable, to have those who can speak into our lives as leaders.