In counseling, I have worked with both male and female adults who had a warped view of God because of dysfunctional parenting. They had a parent who misused Scripture and spiritual concepts to belittle, demean, and criticize them as a child. These individuals took the difficult and damaging parent they lived with as a child and projected that image onto God. God’s image, then, was not his own but was overshadowed by that parental image. When this happens, God does not speak with his own voice; the parental voice becomes God’s voice, with all its inherent authority.
When a child is told that God approves of, and even commands, harsh treatment by a spiritually abusive parent, the child is even more convinced of their worthlessness. Scripture is used to destroy the child’s sense of self, and that child becomes susceptible to dependency behaviors in every relationship going forward. Convinced of their lack of value, the child will look to others to provide purpose, validation, and approval in relationships.
If you were deprived of love, grace, and acceptance as a child, you may desperately seek after them, all the while convinced of being completely unworthy of receiving them. This is the horrific catch-22 of relationship dependency compounded by spiritual abuse.
If you were spiritually abused as a child, you may seek out a familiar religious environment as an adult. Within that religious environment, you may seek to create relationships with others who hold a worldview similar to what you learned growing up. When this worldview is formed in childhood and reinforced in adulthood, you may find it difficult to break the chains of spiritual abuse.
As you look to reflect on your past and consider whether spiritual abuse has impacted your life, below are 7 dependency traits of which to be aware:
- Difficulty making everyday decisions without advice and reassurance and needing others to assume responsibility for major areas of your life.
- Difficulty disagreeing with others out of fear.
- Doing things you don’t want to do to gain approval.
- Considering the opinions and feelings of others as greater in value than your own.
- Feeling extreme anxiety at the thought of being alone.
- Recognizing others’ needs but unsure of your own.
- Urgently seeking another relationship when a close relationship ends.
I have watched the struggle of those seeking to escape the influence of spiritual abuse. I have also seen the liberating truth of the love of God create freedom, forgiveness, love, and acceptance.
If you are struggling with spiritual and emotional abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.