It is not easy to identify and escape the subtle manipulation of spiritual abuse. Many skilled in the word and also those new to God are vulnerable to the craftiness and control of an abuser.
She was new to church, loved the Lord and anxious to find a place to serve. He was welcoming, kind and knew his bible ‘inside out’ she was impressed with his knowledge and took the opportunity to learn as much as she could from him. He was obliging and took the chance to ‘help’ her understand many scriptures that she grappled with and introduced her to concepts she’d never knew existed.
She didn’t notice it at first, because the change was gradual. Slowly she lost her ability to say no. Each time she tried to disagree with a view or offer an opinion, he countered it with strong opposition coupled with scriptures to bolster the argument. She believed and accepted every word.
Her confidence gradually disappeared as she tried to fit the image that he told her represented humility.
She was taught to consider the needs of others and so was led to give up more than she ever taught was necessary.
She often questions privately, but fears kept her silent. She was the only Christian in her family and didn’t trust that anyone outside of her church would understand. She was isolated from friends, and there was nowhere to share. Once she felt brave enough to share with an elder. He seemed to have similar knowledge of the bible and was a part of the church hierarchy. The matter quickly escalated to the pastor and a meeting date set.
At the meeting, she got further instructions on how to be a good sister that reinforced the view that no one would understand. Maybe she imagined things, and it wasn’t that bad.
Ten years later she was a shadow of her former self. She questions every thought and double check every decision. She struggles with anxiety and continuously doubt her worth.
Her relationship with God never really formed. She served in many ministries but struggled to trust God. It was hard to believe He didn’t agree with the abuser. He used scriptures to bolster arguments on so many occasions; she was unsure what was right and what wasn’t. It was also hard to identify God’s voice from the voice of the abuser.
Abuse such as this exist in many churches, and often people are unaware of where to go to get support.
Here are some key points to consider.
Always double check biblical explanations – try to get your answer from more than one source. Additionally, it is essential to read the bible for yourself. God will speak to you in the same way others claim He has spoken to them.
Take time to develop your relationship with God. Learn to understand the unique way He speaks to you.
Avoid cliques. Many churches are filled with groups, this is one way some might get trapped into relationships that are unhealthy.
Trust your instincts.
The effects of spiritual abuse are as harmful and lasting as any other forms of violence. If you can identify with this abuse seek the help of a trusted professional to assist you to heal from the effects of the damage.