In describing the abuse that I endured it’s better to first share what it was NOT:
- I was never told that if I don’t do something I wouldn’t be going to heaven.
- I was not physically or sexually abused.
- I was not told to tithe more or to donate this or that to earn my way to heaven.
- I was not told to wear certain clothes or asked to have a certain hairstyle.
I was abused by a narcissistic leader who was highly skilled on manipulating feelings and distorting the truth for his personal gain. He would test our allegiance to him by talking about others and invite others to agree with him. He used the pulpit to gain influence with others. He’d include them in his sermon so they would feel like they were included in his inner circle.
Here’s a helpful article by Mary Demuth’s blog that may describe your situation:
Spiritual Abuse: 10 Ways To Spot It
In the video I describe what I went through by reading the definition of what abusers do. I write about this for understanding, NOT to rehash or tear an old scab off of a wound.
When I was searching for help online I had a hard time finding someone who experienced the same spiritual abuse as me. I desire to provide a place for clarity and to offer help to you so you can move forward and start to wrap your head around what happened to you.
In the video I shared that I ran into a family from my old church. I was not given the opportunity to say goodbye to the children I served. So when I saw Jade, I just wanted her to know that I loved her and that I was proud of her. Here’s the picture of us at the McDonalds:
Seeing families that are still at my old church is getting easier. The first 3-6 months after I resigned my heart would race when I would see families at the store on at an event. Now, I wouldn’t hardly know anyone there as many of the families that I was close to have also left that church.
Here are the definitions of spiritual abuse for you to review. Hopefully you can gain insight and clarity to your situation:
Jeff VanVonderan, author of Soul Repair writes: “Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority, the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s people MORE free, misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own.”
Dr. Ronald Enroth, Professor of Sociology at Westmont College, defines spiritual and pastoral abuse this way:
“Spiritual abuse takes place when leaders to whom people look for guidance and spiritual nurture use their positions of authority to manipulate, control, and dominate.”
Dayna Drum, contributing author at revelantmagazine.com wrote:
“Spiritual abuse is similar to other types of abuse, but it’s committed under the banner of spirituality. It can be subtle or painfully loud—anything from unquestioned pastoral authority, to practices of shaming members if they don’t fulfill religious expectations, to badmouthing members who have left.”
In the book Healing Spiritual Abuse, Ken Blue compares other types of abuse with spiritual abuse:
“Abuse of any type occurs when someone has power over another and uses that power to hurt. Physical abuse means that someone exercises physical power over another, causing physical wounds. Sexual abuse means that someone exercises sexual power over another, resulting in sexual wound. And spiritual abuse happens when a leader with spiritual authority uses that authority to coerce, control or exploit a follower, thus causing spiritual wounds.”
Another definition of the term spiritual abuse is found in the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen and it states:
“Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.”
How I wish I could see your face as you read the above definitions. Some of you may not even realize you’re in an abusive situation until the clarity found here in these definitions. You are not alone. You are not going crazy. You ARE seeing it right.
All in all, Spiritual Abuse is when someone in a key leadership position at church manipulates and takes advantage of you for their personal gain. The abuser has worked hard at mastering the skill of manipulation. The deceit and maneuvers are effectively subtle that you are unaware you are being used. Because of your respect of their position, you assume they are above doing wrong and are above sinning in the manner in which you have witnessed. They have covertly earned your trust, which causes you to dismiss the sin, believing they are held accountable by others. But often never are…
Hope this helps you on your recovering journey. Need prayer or have a question? Please reply or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org