Spiritual Abuse, SURVIVOR STORIES

Spiritual Abuse: A Personal Story

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“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
Corrie Ten Boom
 

The following is a personal spiritual abuse story I am posting during January’s Spiritual Awareness Month.  I’ve said it before, but after the media got hold of my story, one of the most startling revelations to me was the overwhelming amount of responses by people who have been spiritually abused.  I read literally hundreds of comments on my blog, news articles, and personal e-mails.  Spiritual abuse is not something that is done every now and then, sadly.  Many leave church entirely and never return.  Many who call themselves atheists or agnostics are former regular church attenders who because of the pain they endured, cannot face church, or a pastor, or God again.  This must stop!

 

So on this blog, I call it out.  If I see spiritual abuse or agendas that can be abusive that  might benefit others, I will post it.  This is not solely about my story anymore.  My story woke me up to the reality that there are many, many people just like me.  I understand the pain and if you have suffered from spiritual abuse, your voice is important to me.  You have a place to speak about it:  right here!  This is our sounding board.  Thank you for sharing your stories and sending e-mails.

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Thank you for this blog Julie Anne, it will help so many who are currently feeling silenced, isolated, under threat or too scared to speak out publicly and are now desperate with nowhere to turn.

I am struggling with this issue, having literally just come out of a year’s experience of ”counseling” with a pastor who should not be allowed anywhere near victims of abuse ever again.

There is no accountability! We need to push this serious and life-damaging issue wide open and keep speaking out until something is done, as many more victims will be too scared to speak up about what is going on or not understand they were/are being groomed.

I have nowhere to turn to speak out, except here or hope of survivors which is great for resources, I am deliberating over the choices I have, which seem like none. 

He is so well respected, I feel guilty, disgusting that I did not see what was happening.  I feel like I want to shout at him to give my history of abuse which i shared with him back.  I feel violated in that way, violated in trust terms.  I am glad I stopped seeing him before more damage was done.  Mine was cruelty and emotional abuse.  I feel ashamed and am still going through disbelief and intense feelings of hurt and betrayal.   

He seemed to take a perverse pleasure in seeing me struggle and then deny me support or help.  I became even more dependent, until finally i became so ill I self-harmed.  He totally denied any responsibility which nearly sent me over the edge.  He had a weird family history situation which involved mental illness and he used that to control me. 

I am frightened of him and his power to hurt other victims.  When I told him my story of abuse, he would stay on the topic of sex too long.  He did not keep my confidentiality private.  He played games with it, made me feel unstable and scared, always changing how he gave support, keeping me unbalanced and reliant on him.   I got blamed for little things, until I became such a bundle of nerves and paranoia I had a screaming fit at him once, which again he blamed on me.   But I now see it was my nervous system screaming at me to get away from him.  He is dangerous and i want to stop him doing this or worse to some other victim but i don’t know how to.

The more research I have done into the backgrounds of clergy/ministers, previous professions, the personality profiles, the jeckyl/hyde persona which gradually reveals itself until the horror is staring you in the face.   By then the abusive pastor has usually been so adept at pulling you into his world and making you feel guilty, you are emotionally broken and in need of so much support to get away.

We must keep speaking out, to all the victims, you are not alone, we need to support each other and give each other a voice. 

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photo credit: Claudio.Ar via photopin cc

12 thoughts on “Spiritual Abuse: A Personal Story”

  1. The story shared here is so similar to one I have recently heard and have been following that I wonder if they’re the same – on the other hand, I know that this type of story is entirely too common.

    For whatever it may be worth to whomever shared this story, I was an attender and former staff member of a church that is responsible for a situation very similar to your own. That church hurt me too, not in nearly the same way, but as a result of many things that went on there I am much less inclined to trust myself or my own discernment. You are right to speak up, and so brave. You are definitely not alone and please know that there are others who are watching, who also don’t know how to help, but who are praying for you and supporting you.

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  2. ” I got blamed for little things, until I became such a bundle of nerves and paranoia I had a screaming fit at him once, which again he blamed on me.   But I now see it was my nervous system screaming at me to get away from him.  He is dangerous and i want to stop him doing this or worse to some other victim but i don’t know how to.”

    I’m sure there is a psychology term to describe this. I understand exactly what you’re talking about. I had a few meetings with different ministers in my former church where I found myself shaking uncontrollably. I knew better than to vent, because, like you said, they make it appear as if you are the problem. But what I was hearing and feeling was so wrong I had a strong physical reaction to it. First, I am so sorry you had this experience. That minister was flat-out wrong. Second, you’re doing the right thing by speaking up. I am surprised at just how many stories like yours are out there. It’s time to call them out. We should’t have to give up on our faith because of the bad apples out there.

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  3. “He is so well respected, I feel guilty, disgusting that I did not see what was happening. I feel like I want to shout at him to give my history of abuse which i shared with him back. I feel violated in that way, violated in trust terms. I am glad I stopped seeing him before more damage was done. Mine was cruelty and emotional abuse. I feel ashamed and am still going through disbelief and intense feelings of hurt and betrayal.”

    I ache for you and I am angry for you. I’m glad that you stopped seeing him before more damage was done… Even though he did serious damage to your trusting vulnerable heart.

    And you are right on in saying that you feel violated, because you were violated. I understand why you use words such as guilty-disgusting-ashamed, I am still trying to purge myself from damage of sexual abuse, and my ex-pastor who insisted that I give thanks for being sexually abused as a kid.

    And I know or suspect that you already know this: This man set you up, it is his fault, it is to his shame, he should have the guilt and he should be ashamed because what he did to you was disgusting. I am so sorry, I will pray for you.

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  4. Unfortunately, we are living in an age of narcissists. These are people who can not see their own sin; they are hardened to it. They have been allowed years of practice and so know how to get away with the abuse. They are masters of shifting the responsibility and shame to the victim. This I am afraid is not isolated, but an epidemic. I sure hope you find the help and friendship from solid people who know the love of Christ and live it! i know it has been hard for me and my family to find it too.

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  5. I sense a common experience with those who have written in response to this post; once you leave an abusive group, particularly one led by a pastor who assumed a type of mediatorial role between the members of the church and the Lord–where does the survivor go to find God again?

    That is the place my family and I were; we’d fled our particular religious gulag, left behind the lies and hiding and harsh-religion, but had a really tough time finding a safe spiritual community to join, belong to, and grow in. Honestly, our woundedness led us to be a bit judgmental and rough on some of the churches we visited after our departure from the dark church: these poor, honest churches and their pastors were a type of “rebound” experience for us, and we were so much more traumatized that we realized at the time! But God was/is bigger than our pain, and the resulting dysfunction and paralyzing fear that follows spiritual abuse!

    My faith was shattered, but I did continue to talk to God, which is an evidence of at least a tiny bit of faith. I understood from reading Ezekiel 34 that God had a visceral-level hatred for those so-called shepherds who hurt His flock, who used God’s people for their own, person, profit and indulgences. God said that He Himself would search for His sheep, would care for them, would deliver them from where they’d been scattered, would feed them, and would lead them to good pasture and to rest. Well, since my family and I were certainly NOT fed, led, cared for, protected, delivered, etc., something had certainly gone wrong somewhere along the way! I began to preach back to God’s Word to Him–reminding Him of what it said about false teachers, abusive shepherds, scattered sheep, etc., and asked him, point-blank, “So, is THIS what happens to people like me, who think they’re doing the right thing, think they’re truly following you–and yet get abused and trampled by these abusive pastors?! Is THIS how You care for your people, your flock?! This is not what the Bible says! Are you going to seek me out, and lead me and heal me, God? You said you would in Your Word! Please, God, I’m waiting for You alone, and I am alone as I wait!” When I began to seek Him in prayer in that raw, honest way–He couldn’t stay silent (at least not for very long), for His character as the Good Shepherd was challenged by a hurting sheep (me!), and He began to work, and to heal me. It was often imperceptible, and varied between being too slow and too fast for my preference, but the healing did begin, and continues.

    So, in too many words, what I’m suggesting is, don’t give up on the Good Shepherd when you’ve been hurt by a false shepherd, but also, don’t stop pressing Him for the healing, leading, and rescue that He promises in His Word! Preach His own words back to Him; He’s big enough, and loves you enough, to handle it!
    Blessings, Ken

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  6. Ken- Not “too many words” for this ole gal! I’m clapping with appreciation for what you wrote. I don’t want to blab on about myself, which I could easily do, but I went AWOL from Christianity for a few years- the one & only thing I did, was what you suggest, I journaled my prayers, venting, asking, knocking, fighting. He has brought me back to faith and love… I thought I was dead toward Him inside, so it is my small miracle, O, I have miles to go on the healing I long for, but I am grateful for our Merciful, Loving, Good Shepherd.

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  7. I began to preach back to God’s Word to Him–reminding Him of what it said about false teachers, abusive shepherds, scattered sheep, etc., and asked him, point-blank, “So, is THIS what happens to people like me, who think they’re doing the right thing, think they’re truly following you–and yet get abused and trampled by these abusive pastors?! Is THIS how You care for your people, your flock?! This is not what the Bible says! Are you going to seek me out, and lead me and heal me, God? You said you would in Your Word! Please, God, I’m waiting for You alone, and I am alone as I wait!”

    Now THAT sounds like something straight out of Psalms or Lamentations.

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  8. For twenty two years I suffered spiritual abuse. Always trying to be the best Children’s paster that I could be, but more times than not always feeling that I never met their expectations. While serving as Worship Leader, I was silently pushed aside without even being told that I was being replaced. I was accused of horrible things only in a secret round about way to where I was made felt like I knew very little about how to move with the Holy Spirit and I should follow their direction, even to the point of putting my family aside in order to be at their every call, whim, being totatly used and drained. I don’t even know what my spiritual gifts are anymore because i could never reach their expections. It has been almost three years. I have attended other churches but all I can see are church leaders trying to squeeze all of the life out of you until you don’t know who you are or purpose for which you’ve been called. There was a time when I truly felt I was fullfilling God’surpose for my life. I don’t know who I am or what my purpose is anymore. So much abuse that I couldn’t put it all down in words. Will I ever trust again. Will I ever know the purpose for which I have been called like I once knew in the deepest part of me what God had called me to do. Mabey God is finished with me and it is time to????? that’s just it. Time to do what? I am complelty lost. I don’t know who I am anymore and I am so afraid of getting myself into a cult- driven church again. I want the peace of God that I once knew. I feel as though I have disappointed God and should have stayed and stuck it out because if you leave, you are the one who is weak and can’t submit to authority.

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