Archive for July, 2015

So good . . .

A Cry For Justice

[This post was written by IAmMyBeloveds, a long-time reader of this blog and abuse survivor]

Luke 17:1-2 Then said He unto the disciples, ‘It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones’. (KJV)

As I was praying one morning, struggling through the prayer due to more abuses being hurled at me, God led me to this passage. I’d read it an innumerable amount of times before. But this time, I decided to really open it up and pull it apart and look deeper into it, believing God had led me there for a reason and for a deeper understanding of Who He is and how He felt about what was happening in my life…

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Here is another interesting article on Covert Narcissism – specifically in the pastorate.  As I read the indicators, I was again nodding my head in agreement.

Link to pdf

The bullet point list in the article talks about “one-upping you in conversation.”  I hadn’t thought much about this until I saw this point, but, yes, that happened in my very limited conversations with the pastor.

Also, “awkwardness in one to one interactions” – in fact, I often wondered if one of the reasons he avoided or limited interactions to a quick hand shake was because of his awkwardness.

“Apologies go only one way, to the pastor.”  Read my story.

” . . . emotional shallowness and insincerity in their communication.”  Yep.

” . . . ignoring your thoughts, ideas, issues, or story.”  Yep.

“A consistent misinterpretation of what you say or write.” (Boldness added.)

“Tendency to name drop” – my former pastor intimated all of the important people and places he would go and speak with.

“Admonitions against . . . triangulation while they perpetrate the same.”  Remember, he had proxies to deliver messages and spiritual abuse to me.

“Non-acceptance of even constructive criticism; usually met with rapid and vicious attack.” (Boldness added.)

“Occasional . . . contempt.”  I was treated with contempt.  My story drips with it.

The article also talks about the pastors “idealized image without real emotional depth and character” and how they will brag “about the number of new members . . . ignoring the flow of members leaving by the back door.”

Another biggie in the article is that the pastors’ preaching and teaching “usually tends to be quite simplistic” but “over time, others may complain of a lack of ‘meat’ in the sermons.”  This was a common conversation between my husband and myself and a few folks who confided their discontent to us.

Scapegoating and targeting individuals and groups in meetings is another indicator.  We were told that some staff even resigned because of what was said about people in staff meetings.

“A pattern of misrepresentation of facts” such as finances, plans and directions . . . and attendance numbers.”  We often wondered how there could be as many people attending some of the sermons as was touted when the places was nearly empty whenever we attended those services.  And there was no transparency in the financial decision making.  Often, “plans and directions” were made and announced as a “done deal” without any congregational knowledge or input.

“Staff and volunteers fall away.”  One of the custodians expressed concern to me shortly before we left about how difficult it was becoming to get and keep volunteers.  Go figure.

Of course, this article has much more to offer, but these are the points that resounded with me in my particular experience.  I hope that if you have found your way here, it helps you to understand and recognize if you have been the victim of a covert narcissistic pastor.

One thing the article didn’t mention that I believe to be true at my former church:  These pastors will eventually surround themselves with like-minded leadership who will support, encourage, and carry out (proxies) their narcissistic wishes.  Just a thought.

My friend quixie over at quixoticfaith posted an excellent video about covert narcissists.

I have been told that I shouldn’t call my former pastor a narcissist because he isn’t an overt tyrant as many definitions indicate.  The video you can watch from quixie’s blog post is an excellent description of a “covert” narcissist and aptly describes much of what I observed in my experience with spiritual abuse.  Thank you, Quixie, for your post and video!

Perhaps the most important section of the video is at the end when he discusses the effect on the victim.  I have written posts about how my self-confidence, my faith, my physical health, all suffered due to the spiritual abuse I experienced.  Narcissists “slowly corrode your self-confidence” in a way that you cannot pinpoint.  They gaslight, causing the victim to believe they are the crazy one.  It is PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE.

The video is lengthy, so just to highlight the major points (these numbers do not match the listing of the video – they are just my main take-aways):

1) Just looking for information about what is happening to you indicates that you are being victimized.

2) Covert narcissist are self-proclaimed “shy” – my former pastor often told the congregation he is extremely shy – to the point that every Sunday morning before and between preaching at the three services, he would experience diarrhea.

3) Never wants to be judged – hypersensitive to criticism no matter how professional, constructive or gentle.

4) Will never apologize.  If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know that rather than apologize to me, they tossed us out of the church.

5) Projects themself as a good person – charitable acts, church participation (can’t get much higher than pastor), benevolent – and morally superior.  My former pastor would talk about being a tee-totaller, throwing out the swim suit edition of Sports Illustrated so his boys wouldn’t see it, his own level of tithing, various interactions with others that indicated what a wonderful person he is.

6) Even though they project themselves as #5, they know they are a fake.

7) Guilt-tripping – “Look at me!  I’m being attacked!” In other words, they will claim that they are the victim when they are actually victimizing someone else.  Always the biggest victim in the room even though they are the one hurting others (and, in my case, much of this was done through proxies).

8) Extremely self-centered – doesn’t have time for anyone or anything else.  “I am a work-a-holic,” my former pastor would remind us.  He was so busy he rarely slept more than 5 hours a night.  Too busy to respond to questions.  Too busy to schedule a meeting. 

9) Paints a picture of a perfect childhood.  “Our parents were stellar,” he would say.  And he often told stories of how wonderful his parents were and are.

10) Lies their *sses off.  And lying leads to the abuse.  See my post on “How to Keep From Spiritually Abusing People.”

11) They are able to trick therapists (and others) into believing the victim is the narcissist.  In my case, I believe he was able to convince leadership and those I considered friends into believing I am the perpetrator.

12) Can be very intellectual.  Our former pastor would often tell us he is “highly educated” and “highly intellegent.”

The video has a great deal more information about covert narcissists.  If you have been researching what is happening or has happened to you, give it a listen.  And let me know if you can relate.

Tell the truth.

That’s it.

You’re probably thinking that’s crazy, but think about it.  If you have been spiritually abused, think about if the perpetrator had told the truth.

“I am not open to questions.”

“You have to support the staff and their decisions no matter what.”

“We do not allow people to express concerns.”

“I’m only interested in getting my own way.”

“Give me enough money and I will listen to you.”

“If you are wealthy enough or have a high enough position in the community, I will befriend you.”

“I am petty.”

“I am vindictive.”

“I am self-aggrandizing.”

“I hate you.”

“I don’t really like people.”

“I don’t want to be bothered.”

“You don’t matter.”

“You don’t deserve a response.”

I’m sure you could add to the list.  In fact, please feel free to do so in the comments.

Can you see what I mean?  If my former pastor had just blatantly told me the truth, I would have either assured him that I would accept him as is, and seen his abusive behavior as it really is – his own problem – or I would have high-tailed it out of there.  Either way, I would not have gotten entrenched for over a decade in an abusive situation that nearly robbed me of my faith.

But, because he/they refused to tell me the truth, and I adamantly determined that I would see him and his proxies in the very best light, I opened myself up to a level of spiritual abuse that was overwhelming and debilitating.  The truth would have freed me from that tyranny.

Tell me, if you had been told the truth, would you have averted being spiritually abused?

I have often questioned the Christianity, faith, and salvation of those of my previous church who have turned their backs on us. This post succinctly explains why my concerns are valid.

A Cry For Justice

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:59-60)

If you are an abuse victim or survivor, you know all too well what I am talking about in the article. Namely, that very, very few people (including professing Christians) actually stand firm alongside an abuse victim when standing is going…

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I recently received a message on the Facebook page for  When Church Hurts in which the writer asked if they should leave a church if no one cares whether or not they come back because they are seen as not contributing enough.  The writer didn’t define  what they meant by “contribute,” but it could mean any number of things – not enough money, time, energy, attendance, spiritual depth, etc.

The question got me thinking about when I went to counseling a few years ago.  I only attended counseling a handful of times because as soon as I finished telling the counselor about my abusive church experiences, she asked me, “Why do you want to be at a church where no one cares about you?”  This was  a shocking question.  After all, this was CHURCH – where people are obligated to care!  Yet, as I thought about it, I quickly realized that the counselor was correct.  I had described absolutely nothing as I told my story that indicated that I was cared for at all by anyone in the church.

(This question was followed almost immediately by another: “Why do you want a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you?”  This question was in regard to the senior pastor whom I had described to the counselor as someone who allowed me to be abused, never responded to my pleas for help, and never answered my questions regarding why I was being ostracized.”)

Oh, sure, I had people who would chat with me, occasionally have lunch or coffee with me, but usually there was an ulterior motive behind their interactions.  They wanted my help, my support, my intellect, my skills, my musical abilities. But never was I invited to spend time with someone just because they cared about me and wanted to share life.

My husband and I would talk occasionally about how on Sunday morning when we were working in the coffee bar, we would hear about the other volunteers and/or the staff woman who managed the coffee bar, getting together for parties or dinner the night before.  We were never included.  Volunteers, lay people, and staff were often sent to conferences and seminars around the country to develop them as “leaders,” but even though my husband and I held a variety of “leadership” roles, we were never invited or included. And once my husband took a break from volunteering in the coffee bar in order to prepare for our sons’ wedding, the manager would turn her back and walk away whenever she would see us.

When my husband, over a period of three years, was hospitalized three times for various reasons, no one came to visit him.  And even when we lost close family members (parents), no one expressed sympathy and the only visit we received was from a pair of women who were “assigned” to us.  We had no personal relationship with these women and they didn’t even approach us about visiting until nearly a month after my mother passed away.

So, the counselor’s question helped me to take a hard look at reality.  No matter how badly we wanted to develop friendships with people in the church, no matter how much we showed up, no matter how many times we sent cards, made visits and phone calls, invited people to our home or coffee or dinner, brought people treats, etc., there was always an excuse that they couldn’t do it or make it.  And never an offer of “How about next week?”

Aside from how the pastor and leadership had treated me with ostracism, judgment, and persecution, the counselor also helped me to see that the attitude of the people “at the top” was inherent throughout the church.  “Can you see, Ellen, that this is a leadership problem?” she said to me.

She helped me to grasp that if the people in my “circle” were truly friends and truly supportive, they would have spoken up long before when I was first treated poorly.  They would have informed the leadership that what was happening was wrong and would not be tolerated.  Instead, a couple of people had told me over the years that they were afraid to speak up.  Afraid that if they did, they would risk the same happening to them or that they might jeopardize the position of someone in their family who was on staff.

When people allow leadership to denigrate others and leadership allows people to do the same, they are all sending the message that respect, love, care, and concern do not exist.  “Why do you want to stay in a church where no one cares about you, Ellen?”

Yet I did stay – for several more months.  Because I still thought that if I could just be long-suffering enough, if I could love them enough, if I could give enough time, money, resources, etc., the day would come when I would finally win their respect, love, and care.  After all, to have a friend, you need to be a friend, right?  We did our best to be friends.  To no avail.

It wasn’t until I had enough respect for myself to say, “Apologize for what you have done to me or we will leave the church” (a message my husband conveyed to the leadership), and they took us up on the offer – telling us to go – that I began to move toward healing.  For a while, I still longed for those people whom I wanted to claim as “friends” to take a stand on my behalf.  I waited for them to reach out to me and to defend me – to demand that the leadership do the right thing and apologize, make amends, and bring the whole affair to a God-honoring conclusion.

As the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months, I realized that the counselor had been right.  These people were not my friends and had never been my friends.  Why would I want to continue to be with them?  Quickly,  my self-respect grew and my longing to be with people who cared not a whit for me or my family diminished until I no longer had any desire to have a relationship with any of them.

I have often indicated that were anyone from the church to approach me and apologize, seeking forgiveness, I would welcome them.  I still believe that God can bring reconciliation if they ever experience a softening of their hearts (though I’m not holding my breath).

My advice to the person who messaged me on Facebook was similar to what my counselor said to me.  I wish that I had walked away sooner, that I had listened to my counselor and not kept trying to change other people’s minds.  All of that was just an indication of how unhealthy I was at the time and it wasn’t until I walked away and fully realized my own value and self-worth that I experienced healing.

I no longer have any desire to win over anyone.  I spend my time with friends and family who, for years, demonstrated their love and commitment to me.  My life is filled with love and acceptance, friendship and delight.  And I know now that if you have to try to win people, you will lose.

To anyone who is reading this and is in the same position:  trying to win friends in a church where there is no care or love or respect for you, please walk away.  You won’t change anyone’s mind.  And you don’t have to.  Go love the people who already love you.  Be friends with the people who are already your friends.  These are the people who value you and will stand up for you when others are trying to tear you down.  No matter how badly you want it to be different in the church, the place that has all of the things you are looking for is already there for you in those who already love you.  They are ready and waiting to show you.  Give them a chance.

 
Bottom line.  Right there.  I stood up for myself.  I questioned the way that I was treated.  I demanded apologies.  I pointed out the problem.  Which made me the problem.  And still does.

Wanna convince me otherwise, dear former-pastor-of-mine?  Dear leadership?  

Prove it.

Lay your evidence out in front of me.  Emails asking questions.  Pointing out problems.  Demanding answers and apologies.  

Prove to me that asking questions makes me a bad person.

Prove to me that ignoring me is an appropriate response.

Prove to me that ostracism and persecution without transparent justification is appropriate.  (In other words, explaining to me – proving to me – why the ostracism and persecution were justified.)

You won’t.  Because you can’t.  

No person in their right mind would agree with you that what you did and didn’t do were appropriate.  

And you know it.  

That’s why you had to banish me.  

That’s why you had to do everything you could to shut me up.

That’s why you had to convince the people in my “circle” of influence that I was the bitch problem and that they should not/could not hear my side of the story.

To save your own ass.

Interestingly enough, in so doing, I’m wondering if you are losing your own soul.  

Because the God you profess to believe in has a great deal to say about leaders. And their fate.  

Your fate.  

If you believe Him, you have much to fear.  And much to prove.  Or much to apologize for.  But you won’t.  Because you can’t.  Because you don’t really believe.