Abuse is magnified when a disparity of position exists between the abuser and the victim. The more authority or control and abuser has over his or her victim, the greater the damage that can be inflicted. Imagine, then, the damage that can be inflicted when the person with control and authority over you claims God in their corner.
In spiritual abuse, people with authority and control over you present themselves as having divine authority. They usurp God’s authority and exert power and control over you—sometimes with the very best of motives, often when warped by personal intentions. They aren’t God but position themselves as his spokesperson in and for your life. They use the Bible as a bludgeon to coerce you into giving up all your free will and turning it over to their personal revelation of what’s “best” for you. Too often, what’s “best” for you translates ultimately into what’s best for them. Like any emotional abuser, they seek to control your thoughts, attitudes, and actions for their benefit so they can feel better about their own life and about themselves.
We often associate this kind of behavior with those churches or organizations we label as cults. However, there are many organizations, Christian or otherwise, that are not recognized as cults, but utilize many of the same self-serving tactics. Within these types of churches, the tone of preaching and teaching is one of extreme negativity. The followers are made to feel bad, worthless, and unworthy. Messages are filled with guilt and shame. Every sin is scrutinized, and an endless spotlight is placed upon the ideas and actions of the follower, always through a negative filter.
At some point, the followers no longer feel able to judge the rightness or wrongness of an action or thoughts and must go to others within the organization to interpret their spiritual compass. With no clear vision of who they are, or convinced of how bad they are, people will do just about anything for relief and salvation. At that point, they are eminently controllable by the powers that be, which is right where the spiritually abusive leader or organization wants them.
Just as there are certain specific types of emotional abuse, spiritual abuse carries its own unique watermarks. Clothed in religiosity, they can be difficult to discern at first, but they always end up showing their true colors. The sooner a person can recognize their true nature, the better.
Spiritually abusive churches and organizations are often consumed with growth for growth sake. This is because growth equates to money, which equates to power. This power is then used to acquire more. Nothing could be further from God’s definition of true religion. This kind of abuse is not what Christ died for. If you recognize this kind of enslavement in your past or present, it’s time to break free.
Spiritual abuse negatively alters one of the most sacred aspects of a human being—their relationship with God. This can negatively impact many aspects of a person’s life. If you have suffered from spiritual abuse, we encourage you to seek help. The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in holistic care, taking special consideration for a person’s spiritual well being. We also understand that one trauma can ripple into other areas of a person’s life, and therefore are highly specialized in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, addition, and other types of abuse. Call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 today to get the help you deserve.
Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr, Jantz’s Hope & Healing from Emotional Abuse.