This mom’s comment breaks my heart. I can relate with it so well. We as moms try to make sure our children are safe, are raised in a loving and nurturing environment. Having to acknowledge that we failed when we were doing our best is a tough pill to swallow.
How do we deal with the guilt? How do we deal with the issue that we made bad choices for our children? How can we help them when we have been affected deeply by the spiritual abuse? Some people may not even want to go to church again after this experience. I was certainly leery of pastors when we first started to find a new church.
When studying about abusive environments, you will find a common rule that is used: the no-talk rule. You can do a quick Google search for “no-talk rule” and see what I mean. Sometimes in an alcoholic family, people will be quick to “fix” the problems caused by the alcoholic: cleaning up vomit messes, making excuses for missed appointments, missed responsibilities. There is a cover-up and the whole family is a part of this, but the main issue of alcoholism is the big elephant in the middle of the room and many times never discussed. They are unconsciously following the no-talk rule.
In abusive churches, legitimate concerns can get labeled as gossip. Questioning a pastor may get turned around back to the person asking the question: “why are you not trusting the men God has placed in authority over you?” Essentially these responses create the unspoken “no-talk” rule. We don’t talk about the no-talk rule, it is an understood rule and in an abusive system, most people comply – it keeps that abusive system functioning well.
It’s time to break out of that well-functioning abusive system by breaking the unspoken no-talk rule. That is the first thing that needs to be broken. In this blog, we have the talk, talk, talk rule. If you have something to say, say it. If you want to remain anonymous, fine. If you want to ask a question, ask it. The no-talk rule needs to be broken in our homes, too. We need to discuss what we went through with our children and adult children. We need to make it very comfortable to talk – even about uncomfortable issues. People won’t want to talk initially because we’ve been conditioned that it’s gossip or wrong. By casually mentioning things and setting the example, you will be showing that it is a safe place in your home to talk about what we went through.
For those who have left and especially those who have recently left, creating an atmosphere where talking is permissible and encouraged is going to be the beginning of getting back on the right path. We need to share our stories, talk about how it affected us. Talking this openly may be uncomfortable at first. It is not gossip to talk about how church leaders treated you.
Our former pastor called out many “wolves” from the pulpit and it is recorded on sermons, posted on his blog and easily available on the internet. It is not a sin for me to say I believe our former pastor as one who abused his authority. Our children need to know the truth. It is not gossip to talk about how people in the church treated you and inappropriately shunned you. It is not gossip to talk about how you have felt and discuss how going to an abusive church has affected you. Once the no-talk rule is put to rest, you will be well on your way to recovery and healing.