Tag Archives: toxic faith

Left Behind: letting go of your friends from an abusive church

abusive churchNow that I’ve released my latest book, Broken Trust, I regularly hear from people stuck in an abusive church or who have just left an abusive church. One question I often get is: What do I do about the friends I leave behind at my former church? I feel so responsible for them. I don’t want to leave them “to the wolves.”

Leaving an Abusive Church

Leaving your friends is one of the hardest parts of leaving an abusive church and it’s what causes many people to stay (when they should leave). When I left an abusive church I didn’t know what to do about my friends who stayed. I wanted to rescue them. And they kept asking me why I was leaving and encouraging me to just stay.

Then I read some advice that said the best thing you can do is have NO contact with friends from your previous church. At first I thought it was terrible advice. It sounded extreme. But over time I realized the wisdom of it. When you stay in contact with people at your former church it only adds unnecessary drama to your life and the lives of your friends. There are the continual updates about “what they did/said this week” and it only leads to gossip and confusion.

You Can’t Decide For Your Friends

It’s important to let people make up their own minds on whether to stay in their abusive church or leave it. You can’t make that decision for them. Their experience isn’t your experience. You need to respect that.

If you compel your friends to leave, they may resent you and eventually return.  Then suddenly YOU are the bad guy. But if you leave and stop communicating with them, that makes a powerful statement. It shows your friends how serious this is to you. It also gives them the freedom to hear from God on their own, without your influence. You have to trust that if God spoke to you about leaving the abuse, he can speak to your friends as well.

What To Tell Your Friends

There is no recipe that “works” in this situation. It’s like a divorce. You are just trying to make the best of a very bad situation. Personally, I would tell my friends that stay in the abusive church something like this:

“Friend, I’m leaving the church for these reasons (list). I don’t want to sway you to leave and I’m not going to defend my reasons for leaving. I’m sorry to have to say this but I’m not going to be in contact with you for an extended period of time. I don’t want to cause any dissension in the church or be a stumbling block in your faith. I leave you to make up your own mind. For this reason, it’s best that we don’t talk for a season until we are all settled on what’s right for us. I love you. I’ll be praying for you and the church. I’ll miss you. I’m not doing this to hurt you. I believe it’s the best for everyone.”

I understand that this is hard, but there’s nothing easy about an abusive church. I believe that drawing these firm boundaries are necessary. You may not agree with this approach. That’s fine. Let me know what you have found that has worked better for you.

If you are looking for practical answers to help you to deal with an abusive church situation you might want to check out Broken Trust and read the reviews from people who have already read it.

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New Book on Spiritual Abuse: Broken Trust – Now Available

A new book on spiritual abuse.

I’m happy to announce that Broken Trusta practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse, is now available for sale in paperback and on Kindle.

I’m excited for people to read it. I believe its practical nature will give many people the answers and direction they’ve been looking for.

Where to Buy Broken Trust:

Broken Trust Endorsements

…a “MUST READ for all pastors, spiritual leaders, and prospective church leaders!” Mark Halvorsen, Radio broadcaster

I will send a signed paperback copy of the book to the first 20 people who post a review on Amazon.com

This book is a cup of cold water in the desert! Remy “hears” the stories of victims, legitimizes what happened to them, and goes to the root of the problem. Liz Tinnea, ourunseenhope.com

This book will be an invaluable tool to enable congregation members and those in authority to understand the reality of toxic groups and cults and reach out in love to their victims.  Emily Walker de Villasenorfaithafterdeception.wordpress.com

As a victim of a toxic church, this book touched me personally and gave me hope in my Savior that He can heal the wounds caused by church leaders, it is just going to take time. Jim BrangenbergRadio Talk Show Host iWork4Him

Spiritual abuse and Toxic church is a complex maze, fraught with danger. Broken Trust offers a safe passage for those lost on the journey…Remy’s gift of writing is in his clarity and connection with the reader founded on sound biblical principles and personal healing.  Bill Huxley– Counselor, Psychotherapist and Survivor.

As a spiritual abuse survivor and blogger, I have now read dozens of books about this topic. Many are academic in nature, or very dense. I am comfortable saying that this book provides the clearest, simplest, most helpful coverage of spiritual abuse and recovery.” Stephen A. Smith, libertyforcaptives.com

You Can Help Spread the Word

All abuse is hidden, including spiritual abuse. The best way to dismantle spiritual abuse is to drag it into the light. I’m asking you to help promote this book to help defeat spiritual abuse.

I truly believe that people will find freedom from spiritual bondage by reading this book. Would you help get the word out?

Here’s how to help:

  1. Buy the book for yourself to educate yourself on spiritual abuse.
  2. Buy the book for friends who have expressed concern about their faith community.
  3. Post a review on Amazon.com. The more reviews, the more encouragement you will give others to buy it. Plus, it will rank higher on Amazon’s list and be more visible for book searches.    I will send a signed paperback copy of the book to the first 20 people who post a review on Amazon.com and let me know.
  4. Post a review on your blog or Facebook page with a link to the book.
  5. Make it available in your church lobby for sale.
  6. Put a link to the book on your blog or website.
  7. Interview me on your radio show or podcast.
  8. Like this post and share it on Facebook or in an email.

Thanks so much for your support! I look forward to hearing back from my readers.

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Five Things I Learned from Spiritual Abuse Survivors

I finally finished editing my latest book, Broken Trust...a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse.  I learned a lot from the spiritual abuse survivors who helped me write the book. I want to share a few of these lessons here.

This is my sixth book, and by far, Broken Trust is the most collaborative effort. I have my own spiritual abuse story, but everyone’s story is different. To help broaden my frame of reference, I sent out over a hundred copies of the book, at various stages along the way, to get people’s feedback. I didn’t want to give a slanted view of the topic and my only hope in avoiding that was to get regular feedback from spiritual abuse survivors. Spiritual abuse is a sensitive topic. I didn’t want to mishandle it.

I am grateful for the advice I got from so many people. I included survivor input throughout the book so my readers would get a broader view of the problem.

What I Learned from Spiritual Abuse Survivors

As I think back on the writing process, here are a few of the more important lessons I learned from the spiritual abuse survivors who helped me with the book.

  1. Words matter. When talking about spiritual abuse, you are speaking about something that has torn people apart on the inside. I have a direct approach in my speaking and writing. Most people appreciate this, but I didn’t want to be reckless or sloppy with my word choice. It’s easy to misinterpret the intention of words on a page. I had to change my approach with this book, softening my words and explaining my intent with greater care.

    When talking about spiritual abuse, you are speaking about something that has torn people apart on the inside.

  2. Tone matters. The concerns of spiritual abuse survivors are typically marginalized and dismissed. They are used to people trying to get them back “in line” with trite quotes from the Bible or cliché spiritual answers. This shuts them down because they don’t feel heard. I went out of my way to see things from the perspective of the survivor and speak to them, and for them, with empathy. I wanted them to know that I was on their side and not out to “fix” them.
  3. PTSD is common among spiritual abuse survivors. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is something we often think of in terms of war veterans. That was my first exposure to it. But it was clear to me that spiritual abuse survivors suffer from this too. I’ll write another post on this soon to say more about this important topic. I think this is one of the biggest reasons survivors of spiritual abuse have difficulty returning to church or relating to pastors. There are just too many triggers that take them back to a dark place.
  4. Spiritual abuse is broader than the church. At the end of my editing, I had a former Jehovah’s Witness tell me that she loved the book, but it was hard to read it at times because of how often I referred to the “church” or to “pastors.” She said that those are two words that JW’s rarely use and it was a bit of a stumbling block. She requested that I use words that encompass a greater number of people who might suffer from spiritual abuse than just those in a Christian church. I would have never thought of that on my own. I went through the entire book and did as she asked. It now is much more inclusive of all people who have suffered spiritual abuse.
  5. Spiritual abuse is more common than we realize. People often lament that fewer and fewer people attend church. They assume that people are increasingly choosing to not believe in God. I disagree. I think church attendance has dropped, not because people have quit believing in God but because church leaders are often condescending, close-minded, and heavy-handed in their approach. There was a day when people would put up with that. No more.

The Generosity of Spiritual Abuse Survivors

I’m surprised by the number of people who wanted to help me with my book. They were grateful that someone wanted to help people in their situation heal. Many people were willing to freely give me their input and advice. It was a true team effort. It gives me great confidence, in releasing this book, that people will find it helpful because it’s filled with wisdom from a variety of spiritual abuse survivors.

Broken Trust is available for pre-sale now and will release on September 18th in paperback and on Kindle. If you read the book, I’d appreciate your reviewing it on the Amazon page. If you are a blogger, I hope you will review Broken Trust. If you have a podcast or radio show, I’d love to speak with you and your audience. Thanks for considering these options. Spiritual abuse is not a pretty topic, but it needs discussing. You can help with that!

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A New Book On Spiritual Abuse Available Soon

I’m pleased to announced that my new book on spiritual abuse is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

I’ve been working on Broken Trust for the past year. The book is subtitled: a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse. That’s an accurate description of what the book is about.

..this book provides the clearest, simplest, most helpful coverage of spiritual abuse and recovery.”

The book is so much better than what I had initially planned. I planned on simply spinning off a book from a series of blog posts I wrote with a few related sermons. Then I had the idea of inviting survivors of spiritual abuse into the process of writing the book. Good decision!

The book took on a totally different feel. Rather than a one-dimensional slant coming solely from my perspective, my helpers challenged me in many ways to consider new angles on the topic that I hadn’t personally experienced myself. The result is a much broader and more compassionate approach to the topic.

High Praise for the Book

I’ve sent out many draft copies of Broken Trust already for feedback. One survivor of spiritual abuse, and avid blogger on the topic, replied back to me saying:

“As a spiritual abuse survivor and blogger, I have now read dozens of books about this topic. Many are academic in nature, or very dense. I am comfortable saying that this book provides the clearest, simplest, most helpful coverage of spiritual abuse and recovery.”

That was great to hear and gave me the confidence to start finalizing the book and put the publishing in motion.

The book is scheduled to launch on September 18th. I still have some final tweaks to make on the book, but the clock is ticking.

Would You Join My Launch Team?

My hope is that my book gives grace and wisdom to readers who have been deeply hurt by abusive church leaders. I want so much for people to make a full recovery and not be reduced to spiritual “road-kill.”

Would you consider doing the following?

  1. Read a free advance PDF copy of the book.
  2. Post a review of it on amazon.com on September 18th.
  3. Repost your review on your blog and/or Facebook page.
  4. Share a link to the book on your Facebook page or other social media.

I’ll send a signed paperback copy of the book to the first twenty people who post a verified purchase review of the book on amazon.com and post a copy of the review on their Facebook page.

Reply to me here if you are game to help launch the book!

Read more about the book on amazon.com

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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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Churches That Abuse: Six Warning Signs

In researching my new book on spiritual abuse (Broken Trust), I’m unearthing a number of good resources. The following is a recap of an article about the book, Churches That Abuse, by Dr. Ron Enroth. The book is currently out of print but this outline is still helpful.

Six Signs of Churches That Abuse

Spiritually abusive churches have many markers but here are six signs to help warn you of the presence of abuse:

  1. Dependency: The church fosters a dependence on its teaching and input from the leadership with what’s called “learned helplessness.” Members are instructed on every facet of life, who they can associate with, where they should work, how much they should volunteer, etc. The leaders imply that life is too complex for people to make it without the informed guidance of their spiritual wisdom. To operate without their input is to put your life and success at risk.
  2. Legalism: Legalism is the ladder that you climb in an attempt to reach God. The problem is that when you get to the top of the ladder, there is another ladder. You never get to where you hoped to be.
  3. Isolationism: this is where your church is insulated from outsiders. It’s a closed system. People within the church community are the only ones that can be trusted. People outside of the system are often spoken of in disparaging ways. Anyone that has left the church is belittled and cast as a threat to members. The church leader is often seen as the ultimate source of truth.
  4. Discipline: Abusive churches are obsessed with exposing detractors and publicly exposing them or excommunicating them. On the front side, the church might seem warm and accepting, but on the backside they can be incredibly cruel if you cross them in any way.
  5. Disrupted Family Relationships: A sign of a true believer is when they are willing to cut off ties with their family. Abusive churches often encourage this and discipline the people who refuse to do it.
  6. Surveillance: To keep people in line with the five areas above, surveillance is required. Church members are told to keep an eye out for how people behave under the guise of mutual accountability.

All of these attributes work in consort to control the person and develop strict allegiance to the church.

Jesus spoke of wolves coming in sheep’s clothing. There is no better disguise for falsehood than the church.

If you would like to receive a free copy of my book, Broken Trust, before it is published, please email me here to let me know. I will send you a PDF copy for your review.

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Making Progress on Book About Spiritually Abusive Churches

Here’s a quick update on the new book I’m working on. It’s a book that helps people in spiritually abusive churches identify what’s wrong with their setting and what to do about it.

Four Changes

I’ve invited people to read my first draft and give me their honest feedback. It’s been very helpful, causing me to make the following changes:

  1. Change the name of the book to reflect a primary feeling associated with experiencing spiritual abuse: Broken Trust.
  2. Eliminate half the material I suggested. It didn’t flow with the main purpose of the book, which is to give practical “how-to” steps” for people in spiritually abusive churches.

  3. Soften my approach. I’m a straight shooter and most people appreciate that about my writing. But people who have suffered in spiritually abusive churches have been shot at enough. I need to be more careful with my words with this audience.

  4. Answer more questions. People in spiritually abusive churches are hurt, confused, and often full of guilt. They don’t know what to do. It seems that everything they do is labeled as wrong and incurs the condemnation of many. They want answers, so I included a whole chapter on FAQ’s and gave more detail to many questions I had already answered.

These changes will make the book much more readable and helpful. If you would like to receive advance drafts of the book, email me here and I’ll add you to the e-list.

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