Across the Board

Posted: April 24, 2015 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts

Information about spiritual abuse is not hard to find.  Not all definitions or descriptions agree and that is why I have refined my personal definition to be this paraphrase from Jeff VanVonderen and David Johnson’s book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse:  “[Spiritual abuse occurs when you] are left bearing a weight of guilt, judgment or condemnation, and confusion about [your] worth and standing as a Christian.”  

There was a time when I didn’t look any further than books, articles, research, and stories that dealt specifically with “spiritual abuse” for information.  But as I have begun to delve further into and farther into tactics of abusers of other ilks, I am seeing that many of the abusers characteristics and the resulting impact on the abused fit very well into my experience – and perhaps others who were ultimately left questioning their value to God Himself.

Some of the notations I have made just this week about abuse that was not specifically labeled “spiritual” but resonate with me include:

  • Those who are abused pay a high price when they stand up for themselves.
  • The abuser terrorizes the abused by keeping them on edge and wondering when the next abusive episode will occur.
  • The abused works extra hard to please the abuser.
  • The abuser can criticize the abused, but the abused is not allowed to criticize the abuser.
  • When the abused is accused of nagging the abuser, the “nagging” is, in all actuality, the abused attempting to hold the abuser to meeting his responsibility.
  • The abused is more at risk for pointing out a problem that actually exists because the abuser is more frightened when allegations are true.
  • The abuser would rather destroy you than allow you to have or express an opinion.
  • Abusers are very good at getting other people to think like him and he will always win at this.  If the abused tries to win over people, they will lose. People will get defensive if the abused says bad things about the abuser.
  • In order to help others see the abuse, you must get them to identify the same abusive tendencies in others outside of their sphere and hope that they will eventually make the connection to the abuse you have suffered.
  • The abused should not point out the abuses of the abuser, but they must correct misinformation.
  • Trying to talk to an abuser is rarely fruitful.  Rather, it opens the door to further abuse.
  • Talking about the problem is not the problem.  The abuse is the problem and belongs to the abuser alone.

These notes have been very insightful to me this week and I hope that those who are struggling with abuse, as a victim or as an observer, find this list helpful, as well.


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