Information about Spiritual Abuse

This page is dedicated to helping the reader understand how to recognize spiritual abuse.


Often, books, websites, and other information regarding spiritual abuse focus on cult situations or blatantly abusive issues such as sexual abuse in the church.  But, the well-kept secret is that spiritual abuse is much more pervasive than that.  Perhaps the best definition of spiritual abuse is found in the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen: “The individual is left bearing a weight of guilt, judgment or condemnation, and confusion about their worth and standing as a Christian.”

A simple Google search for “spiritual abuse” will result in many websites and blogs that offer in-depth definitions and explanations of spiritual abuse, and sometimes that can make it difficult to recognize in your particular situation.  It’s important to remember that ultimately, it comes down to your worth and standing as a Christian.  Were you in a situation or relationship with spiritual authority that caused you to question your value?  Were you told (verbally or in subtle ways like being ignored or avoided) that you were not wanted, needed, worthy, etc?  Were you disposable?  Was your Christianity questioned?  “We’re not even sure you are truly a Christian!” is a judgment that can be communicated in many ways.  And often, the process is manipulated in ways that make it look like the leadership is trying to do everything they can to resolve the situation but it keeps spiraling downward.  That’s the confusing part that many people experience.

If you took the survey at the link above, many of the defining factors of spiritual abuse are there.  If you take the opportunity to read my story, you will see how subtle spiritual abuse can be.

Please know that you don’t have to be alone.  You can reach out and find loving arms reaching back to you.  People who understand what you are going through because they have been there.  People who want to remind you how loved you are by God.


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  1. Scarlett says:

    So very true Ellen, Jesus bless you!

  2. helen says:

    I am now trying to recover from a year’s abusive from a minister in a small church who does “his way” or no highway. We have very special gifts in common and he’s spirited person

  3. BCL says:

    Ellen, thank you for this. I am now more determined to help others in their pain.
    I will not doubt when someone tells me they have been abused by church
    leadership. I’ve been there myself. I know there are those that are rebels
    and troublemakers. But I also believe those are FEW and FAR BETWEEN.
    I’ve heard stories, one after the other, of leaders using their positions in
    the church to “lord it over the flock”…I’m starting to see that many of the
    “rebels and troublemakers” may very well be in leadership. We must love,
    respect and submit to authority; but when they overstep their bounds and
    make it hard for us to fulfill God’s call on our lives, then we must step up
    and make it clear that it is wrong and just because they are leaders does not
    give them the right to beat the sheep instead of helping them along the way.
    Many times its about appearance; who lives in the best neighborhood, who
    dresses the best, who has the most income…when God says He does
    not look at appearance but only at the heart. I’m waiting for many in leadership
    to not only know the scriptures but to actually DO THEM.
    Remember, those who teach (preach, pastor, etc…) will be judged MORE
    strictly, not less.

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