Category Archives: faith

Survivors of Spiritual Abuse: Five Ways to Offer Your Support

I’m working on a new book called, Broken Trustreclaiming God’s survivors of spiritual abusegrace from toxic faith, toxic church and spiritual abuse. I want to help the many hurting people I’ve met find a way to healing and wholeness. In this post, I’d like to speak to pastors and other believers who meet survivors of spiritual abuse.

In my book, I describe survivors of spiritual abuse as the person that Jesus spoke about who  was wounded and found by the side of the road. The religious people were not willing or able to help him. Thankfully the “Good Samaritan” stopped and did what was necessary for healing.

It’s very easy to dismiss the concerns of survivors of spiritual abuse as overreacting. It’s tempting to minimize their hurt and expect them to “get over it.” But what many people don’t understand is that survivors of spiritual abuse often suffer from PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). Minimizing their abuse and expecting a quick recovery only adds to their pain and may send them away, feeling like no one can understand them, or they are too broken to heal.

Helping Survivors of Spiritual Abuse

Here are five ideas to keep in mind when befriending or pastoring survivors of spiritual abuse:

1. Listen to their story. Survivors of spiritual abuse need to tell their story. It helps them to process their experience. They gain awareness of what happened to them even as they speak. Talking helps them to sort out what happened.

Don’t feel the need to jump in and correct them or offer solutions. That’s what they have experienced in abuse: people telling them how to think and feel. What they need is a safe context to speak without being corrected or judged for their thoughts or emotions.

2. Validate their experience. As people tell their story, they are afraid of being judged. They are afraid of being rejected because they are either too far off base or too broken. Let them know that you appreciate them telling their story and you believe their experience. Even if you don’t think their experience would have wounded you so deeply, be careful not to minimize or dismiss how it affected them. It’s their story to tell.

3. Don’t offer quick fixes. Christians are great at offering simplistic solutions to complex problems. I noticed the contrast in approaches when I joined a Celebrate Recovery ministry. The small groups gave each person a chance to respond to the evening’s teaching. But other members were not allowed to offer comment. We just thanked the person for what they shared and went on to the next person. This was so foreign to me (and refreshing).

My experience in church small group studies is that someone would share a concern, and everyone else in the group felt it was their responsibility to offer their 25 cent diagnosis of the problem along with as many Bible verses as they could remember. Point: don’t do that! Just listen and draw them out. Invite them to say more and give more examples. It will help them to heal.

4. Give them space and time to heal. People are often exposed to abuse for years. It will take years for them to regain their equilibrium. Don’t rush them. If they have recently joined your church, don’t push them to become a member or volunteer. You can offer the opportunity, but don’t imply that either are necessary to be fully accepted.

You have to realize that just returning to church is a big step for survivors of spiritual abuse. It might be months or years before they can do any more than that.

5. Appreciate their hyper-sensitivity. Survivors of spiritual abuse are prone to high anxiety and panic attacks due to their past experiences. Little reminders will trigger strong reactions. Many people have spoken to me about their fear of running into someone from their old church at the local store. Don’t brush this off as silly, insignificant, or “nothing to worry about.” Some people organize their day around avoiding people.

You can be a healing presence to survivors of spiritual abuse or another person along the way who adds to their pain. Consider how you might be a healing presence.

Get a Free Copy of Broken Trust

If you would like to read a draft of my book, Broken Trust, email me and I’d be happy to send you a free copy. It’s still a work in progress. Any feedback you have to offer me would be welcome. I’m doing my best to offer practical advice so people can move toward healing and full recovery.

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Unmet Expectations: How Should You Respond?

Christmas is over. Was it all you hoped it would be? I’m not just talking about the presents, but the relationships. Did it all work out? How you respond to unmet expectations is really the daily battle of life and it determines your success in life as well.

Hundreds of Expectations

Whether you realize it or not, you face unmet expectations every day, not just the day after Christmas. You have hundreds of expectations for how the day should go, from your alarm clock going off on time, to the weather, to how your boss should treat you, to how your favorite Netflix show should end. It’s endless.

The Emotions of Unmet Expectations

When you meet those expectations, you experience a degree of satisfaction and contentment, even elation. But when they aren’t met you experience these primary emotions:

  1. Anger. You are mad that your expectations weren’t met and start looking to blame someone for it: others, yourself, and sometimes God.
  2. Sadness. You grieve the loss of what didn’t happen.
  3. Fear. You are afraid that your expectation will continue to go unmet.

For the small expectations, these emotions are barely detectable. But they still exist to some degree. The bigger the difference between what you expected and what you got, the greater the emotion.

Responding to Unmet Expectations

Now, there is nothing wrong with these emotions. They are God-given and natural. The problem is what happens after you experience these emotions. How will you respond? Choices must be made and this is where we often go wrong. We let our emotions influence our choices.

Put simply, our choices go in two directions: constructive and destructive. We default to destructive because that’s what feels good in the moment and that’s what people modeled for us most often growing up. We follow one of two paths:

  • Silence. We shut down and isolate from others.
  • Violence. We strike out with our words, actions, or even our fists.

Unfortunately both responses only cause more loss and begin a downward spiral that leads to more emotion and more bad choices.

A better choice is to be constructive. Again there are two paths to go here:

  • Resolution: You seek to meet the unmet expectation either by raising the performance or lowering the expectation.
  • Acceptance: You choose to accept that you can’t meet  your expectations and that life can still go on.

Like I said before, this process is ongoing every day, whether you realize it or not. Your brain is processing losses non-stop, choosing these two pathways and incurring the benefit or curse of your choices. Choose well and you release the weight of your loss. Choose poorly and you add another brick to your backpack.

Inviting God into Your Unmet Expectations

You can’t do much about your emotional response to unmet expectations, but you can do a lot about how you respond to them. This is where God can help. Turn to God with your anger, sadness, or fear and say:

Father, I’m so disappointed in what didn’t happen. But I don’t want my emotions to influence me to do the wrong thing. Help me to think clearly and respond in a constructive way. Give me the wisdom and ability to resolve what went wrong or the grace to accept it and move on.

This is a very practical way to incorporate God into your daily life. Unmet expectations happen all the time, so invite God into those moments. If you do, you’ll find yourself living with a greater sense of peace than you ever have before. You’ll also find that God has become very real in your life as you turn to him on a regular basis.

Here’s to a better 2017. To learn more about overcoming losses you might want to read my books, STUCK, or Return from Exile.

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What Would You Call This Book?

I’ve got just a quick note for you about a new book I’ve written. new book

I need your help in picking a title.

Would you click this link and pick which one you like the best?

Much appreciated!

What’s it About?

The book is a rewrite of “Out of Exile,” a book I wrote to help pastors recover from setbacks. But since everyone experiences setbacks, I wanted to offer something that helped everyone. I rewrote, “Out of Exile” offering examples that fit all kinds of loss: death, divorce, health, career, etc.

The book is written with 40 short chapters to help people understand loss, how it impacts you, what you can learn from it, and then how to overcome it to make a comeback in life.

I look forward to hearing from you. The survey will take less than a minute.

You can request a free copy of the book in the survey in exchange for a review on Amazon.com. Here’s the link again.

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Lose Your Christian Cliches and Jargon

I recently spoke in church about seven ways to share your faith without Christian clicheticking people off. (Download: Road Trip- Sharing Your Faith.) One of my seven points was to “Lose your clichés, jargon and spiritual innuendos.” Christian clichés, etc. are so easy to fall into, but they undermine your credibility causing people to question your sincerity.

Here’s an excerpt from my message:

Christian clichés

Christian clichés are when you over simplify complex matters with a pat answer. Rather than offering a thoughtful response, you quote a Bible verse, or say something like, “You just gotta let go and let God,” as if that is the end of  the discussion. No more needs to be said. 

The truth is, we should learn to speak intelligently about the concerns that people have about faith without resorting to a cliché. 

Clichés are often true. But that’s not the problem. The problem with clichés is that they trivialize what’s important by making it sound like once you know God you don’t have to think any more. You just have to pull out your list of Top 20 Christian clichés or Bible verses to answer any hard question that comes your way. The truth is, we should learn to speak intelligently about the concerns that people have about faith without resorting to a cliché. 

Jargon

Jargon is the words or terminology that are unique to a subculture. A subculture is any smaller group of people, like medical workers, or athletes, or motorcycle riders, etc. You have medical jargon, and sports jargon. You’ve got biker jargon. Every hobby has its unique jargon. Churches are a subculture.

But jargon only makes sense to people in that subculture. For example, if a doctor uses medical jargon on me, I’m clueless. It’s not helpful. And it’s the same when you use Christian jargon with your friends and family. People don’t know what you are talking about. Church people say things like:

  • “I feel led to do this.”
  • “I feel a check in my spirit.”
  • “We need to bathe this in prayer.”
  • “Those are works of the flesh.”
  • “You need to be born again.”
  • “The blood of Jesus covers that.”

If you’ve been in the church a long time, you probably know what these mean. But if you aren’t a church person these phrases just sound silly, if not scary. Plus it’s rude to talk in code around people who don’t know the code.

I am careful not to use jargon in church on Sunday. It’s tempting because it’s like shorthand for people in the know. But I understand that many people come to our church who didn’t grow up in church. Using jargon is confusing at best and offensive at worst.

Spiritual Innuendo

You probably know what sexual innuendo is. That’s when no matter what you say someone reads something sexual into it. They always find a sexual connotation. They think it’s funny and clever.

It’s not clever. It’s awkward. And it’s just as intellectually insulting as sexual innuendo.

Personally, I find it insulting to reduce everything to sex. I don’t mean it’s morally insulting (although that is true as well). I think it’s intellectually insulting. God gave us a creative brain to talk about interesting things, yet some people want to use that brain to talk about sex and they assume I want to do the same. That’s insulting to me.

People do that with faith. They turn everything into an opportunity to work God into the conversation. You might say, “Man, I love these French fries.” And then I say, “That’s interesting you should say that because I was just thinking about how much God loves us.” And you are thinking, “Really, that’s where you want to take this conversation? I can’t even mention French fries without you bringing God into the conversation?”

It’s not clever. It’s awkward. And it’s just as intellectually insulting as sexual innuendo.

If you want people to treat you seriously, hear what you have to say, and not get mad at you, then please… lose your Christian clichés, jargon, and the innuendos. It’s hard at first because it’s a strong habit. But people will relate to you better if your faith doesn’t drip from every word you speak.

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Toxic Pastors and Why They Are Not Confronted

Why is it so hard to confront toxic pastors? If they are clearly in the wrong, it seems like it would be the obvious thing to do. But if you’ve ever been in a toxic church, you know how hard it can be.

Here are ten reasons why people don’t confront toxic pastors.

Ten Reasons People Don’t Confront Toxic Pastors:

  1. You don’t want to be accused of being rebellious. Toxic pastors make you feel like disagreeing with them is equal to questioning God. And we all know that bad things happen to people who question God, right? The Old Testament has more than enough stories to give you pause. You don’t want the ground to open up and swallow you, and you don’t want to be labeled a rebel, or God forbid, having a “rebellious spirit.”
  2. You get filled with self-doubt. Toxic pastors make you feel like YOU are the problem. They say things like, “The reason you disagree with me is because you aren’t as spiritually mature as I am. You need to trust my leadership and submit to my authority like the Bible tells you too.” That can mess with your mind. They turn things around and before you know it, you are asking for THEIR forgiveness when it should be the other way around.
  3. You fear losing your circle of friends. Sometimes we tolerate a toxic church simply because that’s where our friends are. When I left a church, after being there for seven years, I lost my entire network of friends.
  4. You don’t want to lose your equity investment. If you have a home mortgage, you have an equity investment. Each month that you make a payment, your equity, or ownership of the house, grows. But if the bank foreclosed on you, you lose your equity. All that investment would be lost. That happens in relationships too. You feel that you’ve invested so much time and energy into the relationship/church that you don’t want to lose your investment. So you try a little harder, a little longer, hoping it will work. You even tell yourself that God will reward you for persevering. So you invest another year, but the system doesn’t get any better. Now you’ve lost another year and your equity has increased which makes you feel even MORE obligated to stay.
  5. You like to be liked/needed. If you are a good performer, the toxic system can be very rewarding. You feed off of the praise. Or, maybe you simply can’t handle the thought of the church people not liking you if you leave. Your low self-worth keeps you trapped.
  6. You fear losing your salvation. They had you convinced that their way was the only way to God. Even though you know they are wrong, you fear falling away from God without their strong input into your life. You’re not sure you can make it on your own.
  7. You fear exposure/humiliation for leaving. You know if you leave that your name and reputation will be trashed by those in the church. You’ve seen it happen to others who left the church and you don’t want it to happen to you.
  8. You fear being wrong. What if they ARE right? After all, what do you know? You don’t know the Bible like they do. And the pastor and his/her followers seem so convinced.
  9. You lack boundaries. You were raised to believe that people had the right to impose their thoughts/beliefs/will upon you. You don’t feel like it’s your right to question others. You are used to being violated. You think that’s your lot in life, so you let it continue.
  10. It’s not worth your time. You are so sick of the craziness that you are just done. You don’t think talking to the pastor will change anything, just aggravate you more. So you up and leave. End of story.

As you can see, confronting toxic pastors isn’t so easy. There are lots of reasons people fail to follow through on their intentions. It takes maturity to stand tall and confront the madness. Someone has to do it. Why not you?

Can you think of other reasons that people don’t confront toxic pastors? Leave a comment below.

If you need help in confronting church leadership, see my post on how to confront a toxic pastor here.

If you have encountered a toxic pastor, let me know about your experience. I am in the process of writing a new book on how to handle a toxic church experience and your insight would be helpful to me. Email me here. Thanks.

 

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Toxic Church, Toxic Faith… a new book in the works

People often ask me what my next book will be. My answer has been that I’ve got nothing in the works. But then I noticed that my blog series last year on toxic church and toxic pastors has gotten a lot of reads. In fact, they are always in the top ten of my years of posts.

I wondered why that was and so I googled some of the topics I covered on toxic church and saw that my posts are near the top of the list. Hmmm… maybe there is an interest out there that I didn’t realize existed.

Checking Amazon.com there is only one book on the subject. So…I have a new answer to the question about my next book. I just started a new book to help people discern a toxic church and know what steps to take with it.

Would you contribute your thoughts on toxic church?

I’m letting you know about this because if you had an experience in a toxic church, I’d like to hear about it. You can email me your thoughts by clicking the link in the margin. I may or may not include your story/thoughts in the book but whatever is included will be anonymous with some details changed so no one could trace the story to you. Whatever you send will broaden my understanding and make for a more helpful book.

It’s a sad statement…

It’s really a sad statement that a book like this is even needed. “Toxic” and “church” should never be two words that are linked. But when it happens, people need to know what to do, so I’ll do my best to offer advice so believers can discover the true church that Jesus had in mind for us: a gathering of people that encourages people to know God and find freedom.

Let others know

Please share this post with your friends who may have interest in contributing their experience with a toxic church. I’d love to hear from them. Thanks so much.

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The Gift of Cancer, An Unexpected Guest

the gift of cancerCan cancer be an unexpected gift? In my book, Out of Exile, I help people reframe their loss by showing how God might use it to broaden them as a person. When you are able to believe that good can come from evil you are able to return from “exile” and live a fuller life that blesses others. With this in mind, I’d like to share with you what my sister has come to call “the gift of cancer.”

Last year my sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and has been receiving chemotherapy for the last several months with very positive results.

One Qualifier

Before I share her thoughts on the gift of cancer, it’s important to admit that, if your life, or the life of a loved one, was ravaged by cancer, hearing it called a “gift” might be offensive. I understand and appreciate that. Everyone’s experience is different.

If my sister’s treatment hadn’t gone so well, maybe she’d have a different perspective. But I’m happy to know that she’s gained something from her cancer experience and not let it steal from her. I hope her words might encourage you. This is what she wrote:

The Gift of Cancer

In reading other blogs, I have seen that maintaining a positive attitude through our journeys is common of the bloggers and their followers.  On that note, I have rewritten a common saying on what cancer cannot do to what it can do for us.

This saying has been sent to me a couple of times over the past 8 months and they are posted in my office.
Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal eternal life,
It cannot conquer the spirit. – Author unknown

There’s More To It Than That

I believe all these statements are true, but I also see that cancer has been a gift in my life.  I have chosen not to fight it, and be angry with it, but to recognize its gifts, be grateful for them, and then encourage it to leave my body.  So far, it’s been a good approach.

We are parting ways each day and I honestly feel it has left my body.  I am hopeful that the gifts it showered on me will remain with me the rest of my life and the cancer will not return.  I have chosen to rewrite the common cancer phrases in a more positive light.  I hope you can understand my position on why I choose to follow this journey:

Cancer can be a gift…
It can expand your love,
It can encourage hope,
It can enhance faith,
It can bring peace,
It can build friendships,
It can make new memories,
It can develop courage,
It can blossom the soul,
It can help me face eternal life,
It can inspire the spirit. – author – Diedre Kaye

No matter what journey we are following, whether it’s a loss of a loved one, a concern for a child, a tragic occurrence, depression, or any disease, we all need to keep the spirit of joy, love and gratitude in our hearts.  May we all look for those gifts every day that make us happy. Diedre Kaye

Good Can Come From Even Cancer

Back to Remy here. From my perspective, you can trust God to make good out of anything, even cancer. It’s the ultimate act of worship. Rather than focus and lament over what’s been lost, why not focus on what’s been gained?

Too often I hear people speak as if God owes them a pain-free life. Any pain is fought with bitterness and they resent God for allowing it to visit them.

But I never read that guarantee anywhere. I’m grateful that God is willing to walk with me through my pain and give me eyes to see the silver lining that exists if I look for it.

Bitterness will shut you down and close you off to all that’s good, even the healing you might be longing for. Gratefulness does just the opposite. I hope you might see the gifts in your life today.

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