Tag Archives: abuse

Don’t Minimize Spiritual Abuse

minimizing-abuseThis is the fourth post in my blog series on Spiritual Abuse. Be sure to track back to read the full series.

I will soon post how a church can take steps to recover from their spiritually abusive past. That is, once spiritual abuse has been uncovered, what steps need to be taken to get the church back on track?

But before I list out what that means, I want to discuss two concerns I have about how a church might mishandle spiritual abuse. I’ll discuss one concern today and another one on Wednesday.

Concern One: People will minimize the abuse and explain it away.

The problem with abuse is that not everyone sees it. If everyone saw it, it would be obvious and people would take bold steps to eradicate it. What typically happens is only a few people see it full blown. A few more people see a little here and there.  They are concerned, but not enough to “make waves” and say something. Most people don’t see it at all. They aren’t close enough to the source so it’s easily missed or explained away.

When stories of abuse come out, they are so easy to deny. There are usually many more people who haven’t seen it. They outnumber those that have seen it. Those who haven’t seen it talk about all the good that is happening. No one wants to think their leaders have gone rogue. They shut down concerns by warning people about being rebellious, or gossips, or negative, etc. The abused either shut up or walk away. 

…don’t let people talk you out of the fact that spiritual abuse happened or convince you that, if it happened, it wasn’t “that bad” because good things happened too.

One abuse survivor said she hesitated to say anything about her spiritual abuse because: She felt dramatic and whiny for mentioning spiritual abuse, like she was overstating what happened. DAYNA DRUM, OCTOBER 27, 2014, Relevant Magazine

As a pastor myself, I’m all for supporting your pastor! But I’m surprised how many people blindly support and protect their pastor even when there is strong evidence about their misbehavior. It’s important to give someone the benefit of the doubt (especially when I’m the one being doubted) but questionable behavior warrants questioning, especially when there are ongoing concerns by a variety of people over time.

Other people will justify abuse by saying the “end justifies the means.” That is, if someone made spiritual progress, by so-called “spiritual abuse,” can it really be abuse if they were helped? Yes it can. And I question if they really were helped, in the long run.

Learning from Sexual Abuse

Comparing spiritual abuse to sexual abuse might bring some clarity. Let’s say an adult coerces a minor to have sex. The minor is willing. They even enjoy it. Is it abuse? Yes it is. The fact that it is consensual and enjoyable has no bearing on whether it’s abuse.

What makes it abuse is that the adult violated the innocence of the minor. Just because the minor didn’t feel violated, or understand they were violated, means nothing. A violation still occurred. Something was taken from the minor that can never be recovered. That’s abuse.

The same is true with spiritual abuse. People can testify to the amazing power of a pastor’s ministry. They can have multiple people stand up and tell their story of how they came to God and were set free. But if their will was violated in any way…if the pastor crossed the line of respecting their right to choose, redirected the person to rely on the pastor and not God, or manipulated their choice through intimidating them in any way, it’s still abuse.

It’s often easy for people to misinterpret any change or impact as the work of God. When someone is under the mind-control of a persuasive abuser, they are easily manipulated into thinking that God is doing something in their lives when it is, in fact, the abuser.

My point here: don’t let people talk you out of the fact that spiritual abuse happened or convince you that, if it happened, it wasn’t “that bad” because good things happened too. When you minimize spiritual abuse you are telling the abused a number of lies:

  • You weren’t violated in any way, so get over it.
  • You don’t know what it means to be spiritual.
  • We aren’t concerned about what happened to you if it didn’t happen to us.
  • You are expendable. We don’t need to “stop the train” just because you were hurt.
  • You are overreacting.
  • You don’t have the right to question authority.

When people hear these things subtly implied, they are revictimized. I’ll talk more about this on Wednesday. The answer to spiritual abuse is to not minimize in hope of it quickly going away. The answer is to fully expose it and take responsibility for it.

If you found this post helpful, please “like” it and share it below.

How have you seen a church minimize abuse?

Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom

Forgiving Abusers

Forgiving Abusers
Eight Steps to Freedom

Forgiving abusers. Is it even possible? Someone asked about forgiving the person who abused their child. This comes up often so I want to discuss steps to forgiving abusers.

I had a series of posts on Forgiving the Unforgiveable that you might want to reference. I go into more detail about forgiving there. Today I just want to lay out a map for people to see the big picture of what it takes to forgive an extreme offense like abuse, rape or betrayal.

I recently reflected on situations where I forgave someone in the past. It dawned on me that the hardest things for me to forgive where offenses against my children. So when someone said they had trouble forgiving the person that molested their child I understood the intensity of that situation.  Let me outline a few things involved in forgiving abusers.

Eight Steps to Forgiving Abusers

  1. Keep your distance. I initially wrote seven steps assuming that people would already be separated from their abuser, maybe for years. But I don’t want to assume anything. Forgiving doesn’t mean staying in an abusive relationship. If you are in any danger or if your abuser has shown no remorse for past behavior then you need to get to a safe place and remain separate. Remember, forgiving abusers doesn’t  mean excusing their behavior.
  2. Appreciate how hard it is to forgive. Don’t minimize what’s happened to you. Understand that you’ve incurred a MAJOR loss. You don’t just say a prayer and pronounce forgiveness.  Damage was done to your heart. There are deep emotional wounds.  It’s like the person who barely survives a car wreck. At first they might think they won’t make it. They may be on life support. It’s touch and go. But then there is a good day. And another. And then there is an upward trend. Recovery is taking place, although slowly. You will recover but it takes time.
  3. Give yourself permission to take small steps. Next week I’ll be taking a cross-country trip; from Florida to Arizona. A family adventure. We won’t make it in a day. It will take  six long days. Sounds like they will be hot days too. But we’ll make it, one mile at a time.  Forgiveness seems daunting because we expect too much too soon. Start small. If you are even considering forgiveness after a major offense you should be happy. Celebrate that. Think in terms of months, maybe years to forgive. That will take the pressure off you.
  4. Invite God into the process. Forgiveness is bigger than you are. You need a power greater than yourself to tackle something of this size.
  5. Understand that you need forgiveness too. Then receive it. I wrote an earlier post about “The Nazi in You”. The point was that when you understand your own need for forgiveness and receive it from God then you are more inclined to forgive others.
  6. Deal with your shame issues first. People often can’t forgive because they have too many shame/self-worth issues. They’ve got nothing to give others because they feel so empty.  My book (Healing the Hurts of Your Past) is a good place to start with this. Once you feel whole inside it’s easier to forgive.
  7. Share your story.  There’s something “crazy-making” about hiding your story. Find safe people, a support group and/or a counselor to share your story. It gets it out of your mind and makes if more familiar and not so hidden.
  8. Read books about forgiveness. I’ve read many books on forgiveness and each one seems to help me in a different way. Forgiving an abuser is one of the toughest things to do on the planet. You need a continual influx of encouragement. Starting in May I posted three or four times a week on forgiveness here at readingremy.com. You might want to back track through the posts: especially the one about what forgiveness is NOT. Forgiveness is not excusing your abuser.

These are just a few ideas. My overall point is that forgiving abusers is a long, long journey but if you start today you’ll get their quicker than if you start next year. When it finally happens you’ll enjoy the freedom of getting this off your back. Abuse is bad enough. Don’t let it rob from you the rest of your life.

Question for you; if you’ve been able to forgive abuse, rape, severe betrayal (what some might call the unforgiveable) what helped? People need to know it’s possible. Share your comment below.

Learn more about how to forgive in my book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.

What Causes Shame? – Study Guide 2


What causes shame?

This is part two to an overview of my book  Healing the Hurts of the Past; a guide to overcoming the pain of shame.  You can also listen to a radio interview that covered this in more detail. We looked at what causes shame.

The second interview covered what I call the “roots of shame” following my model of the Shame  Tree. We spend most of our time reflecting on abuse but here are the five areas discussed in the book:

  1. Abuse
  2. Ridicule
  3. Neglect
  4. Family and Personal Secrets
  5. Trauma

What Causes Shame?

When I talk about shame most people assume I’m talking about feeling ashamed for the bad things you’ve done. But in reality shame has more to do with things that have been DONE TO  YOU. The bad things you’ve done can lead to shame but more often guilt. I discussed the difference between shame and guilt in a previous post (see below).

The Lies of Shame

The most important thing to understand about the cause of shame is that it’s not an event that causes shame. It’s the LIES YOU BELIEVE about that event. Where there are no lies there is no shame. It’s the lies that breathe life into your shame.  For example, when you are abused you might believe the lie...If this important authority figure is abusing me they must know something about me that I don’t. I must be worthless. 

Overcoming Shame

The connection between events and the lies we believe is actually good news because if you can deal with the lies in your life you can ELIMINATE THE SHAME. If shame was directly tied to the events then there would be no escaping the pain of shame.   But lies can be exposed as false and when that happens freedom follows.  If what causes shame is lies. Then truth is what will overcome shame.

The truth that we all need to know is that God loves us unconditionally and no person can take that away from us. When we fully receive this truth and allow it to penetrate our being we will be new people. Pray that this will be so in your life!

I talked about much more on the podcast and answered some live call-in questions. I hope you can take the time to give it a listen!  Why not get the book and join  in  the study?

  • WWIB Radio Podcast: What Causes Shame?
  • Study Guide 1: What Does the Bible Say About Shame? (readingremy.com)
  • Shame: Do You Feel Like Damaged Goods? (readingremy.com)
  • The Difference Between Shame and Guilt (readingremy.com)

The Gift of Pain – Wisdom from Abuse

The Gift of Pain

The Gift of Pain – Wisdom from Abuse

Following is an excerpt from a message I shared recently called “Walking with God in the Desert”. It is a look at finding God in hard times.  I called it The Gift of Pain.

Today’s piece addresses abuse victims specifically but is meant for anyone who has gone through a time of suffering.  I think it’s such a sensitive topic and I might be misunderstood. I’d like to hear back from you…especially if you’ve been abused…to see if you find this helpful at all. Please read parts one and two first to give you context.

The Gift of Pain

If you’ve been abused then you know something that others don’t know. You know a side to life that others haven’t seen or experienced. And you have a choice how you view your life. You can focus on what has been stolen from you and go through life feeling crippled…living the life of a victim. Or you can see that you’ve been given insight into a side of life that few people have and use it for good. Yes, something has been taken from you but something has also been given. You undoubtedly don’t like what was given or how you received it. But the question is…do you want to use what you’ve been given to help others?

Abuse Brings Wisdom

Consider this. If I’ve been abused and I’m looking to talk to someone and I have the choice of talking to you (the abused) or talking to someone who hasn’t been abused…who do I want to talk to?  I want to talk to you. That’s a no-brainer. Why?  Because you have something the other person doesn’t have. I don’t look at you as deficient or handicapped. I look at you as rich in experience and wisdom – a great resource to my pain. What you have is priceless.

That is both ironic and possibly offensive. It’s ironic because who would ever think that the result of abuse could be priceless? But it could also be offensive because you may not want to assess any value to something that cost you so much.  In fact, you might say.  I don’t want to be a great resource. I never asked for this. I don’t care if you think it’s priceless. I don’t want to have anything to do with it.

True. I understand these feelings. They are valid. But you can’t unscramble the eggs. You can’t change your situation. So you can either let the abuse haunt you and continue to steal from you for life or you can overcome it and let God turn what was meant for evil into something good.

The Price of Wisdom

You earned that wisdom. You paid a great price/tuition for that wisdom, so why would you want to waste it? That’s like going to medical school and working in a factory. But that’s exactly what happens with so many people. They go through hard times and then waste the experience. They hunker down, pull the sheets up over their head, hold their breath and ride it out…praying to God that they’ll survive.

Then when it’s over they want to bury it…act like it never happened. They put as much distance between themselves and their pain as they can. Or they play the victim and spend their life complaining and seeking sympathy.

But they’ve been given a gift…the gift of pain. Imagine the good that could come if they would share it with those who have suffered like them.

Note; I don’t think asking an abuse victim to turn around and immediately help others is healthy. They need to process their pain. This message is directed to people who have suffered in the past and now feel stuck in past pain.  I’m asking them to consider using their wisdom to  help others.  Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.