Emotional Responses, Going Back to Church Again, Mental Health and the Church, Personal Stories, Recovery Process, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Encouragement

Emotional Chaos after Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual abuse can leave damaging scars, some resulting in real difficulties, including anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks, etc.

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Longtime SSB reader, Refugee, left a comment with questions regarding the difficulty she is facing after having experienced spiritual abuse. Because she responded to an older article and I really want her to get answers (and likely others reading will benefit from this discussion), I’ve decided to make a post out of it.
Here is the quote to which Refugee was responding:


“We can not know everyone’s trigger, but we can be consistent in the areas we are called to. I am also sensitive about the “Where do you go to church?” question that many Southerners ask newcomers. I think this makes a huge assumption about the choices and values the newcomer makes. For all they know, the person may be the abused child of a charismatic pastor. For that newcomer, church could represent the most unsafe place in the world. Not everyone understands that. And that is OK, as we are not mind readers and we all come from different experiences. So I guess we try to stay true to the things God puts on our hearts, try to be empathic to others, and understand that we will make mistakes at times and be open to offer repentance when we screw up!”



And here is Refugee’s comment:


Is it a sign of PTSD, to wake up sick every Sunday? I think that stress and anticipation can cause our bodies to respond with real, physical illness (not just churning stomach or splitting headache, but actual fever). Or is PTSD too strong a term?

And can someone who wants to go to church, especially a new church, very different from the old, abusive one but still “corporate worship” as in joining with a group of people to pray, praise, read scripture, hear a message — can they ever get over the anxiety attacks, or is it better just to give up on “church”?

We are seeking help from a therapist, it’s on the schedule, but not yet begun. Have never done this sort of thing before. It’s unmarked territory on my mental map — you know, that blank space beyond known lands.


While Refugee is in the process of seeking help from a therapist, can we encourage her? How have you dealt with these kinds of issues? Do you have anything you can share to Refugee that might give her some hope? Whenever I do posts like these, I know that Refugee represents many others who are going through similar circumstances and are also looking for answers.




photo credit: Velvet Elevator (Pandy Farmer) via photopin cc

92 thoughts on “Emotional Chaos after Spiritual Abuse”

  1. This really hits home with me. Yes, Refugee, it IS a symptom of PTSD. It DOES often manifest in physical maladies. You’re on the right track by seeking therapy. Stick to it, be patient and love yourself. That’s the hardest part, loving yourself enough to take proper care of your body and mind. If you need to, avoid any church until you are sufficiently healed and recovered, or else the PTSD will only continue.


  2. Our family has walked this road. One member started shaking on Saturday night, could not sleep in anticipation of Sunday morning, had increased flashbacks every weekend, verbalized more detail of the abuse. The therapy was a great help. It may be that you will take a break from church. It may be that you will continue to go with the aid of therapy. At that time we stayed in the new church, since they were very supportive and assisted the process of feeling safe in church again. We are all very sensitized to potential for abuse. Not much patience for naiveté in church. It gets complicated, but yes you will get to a place where you can enjoy corporate worship again. Give yourself time. Don’t rush it and always listen to your instincts in every new situation because the potential for re-victimization exists. However, the potential for healthy church life exists. I am praying for your complete healing. Please go to my blog and scroll to the poem “Lost”..in fact I may just post it here for you.


  3. LOST

    Lost, lost, lost

    Someone help me find the way. The only way out of the woods is out.
    If I keep circling the same territory I don’t find what I’m looking for.

    Help me please because it is the only thing I know to do and it is leading me nowhere.

    I want to go back to where I was before I got in this mess,
    but there is no road that leads there.
    You would think I could retrace my steps, but someone has changed all the signs.

    Maybe what I’m looking for is outside of here altogether.

    I stumbled in here and they took it. I can’t find it. They must have run off with it.
    Maybe I will just have to live without it.
    It was nice while I had it. At least I’ll have the memory of what it was like before.
    I have that memory, but others who were younger than I when they stumbled in here can’t even imagine such a thing.

    No use looking, lost, lost, lost

    Gotta move on or die.


  4. The stress of spiritual abuse tipped me over into a semi-coma for a few months. Do all you can to take care of yourself and healing will follow. Due to being sick, I was able to stay out of church for almost a year without having to even deal with why I wasn’t going. It was very convenient for me.

    I have simple advice: Do things that help you get your mind off of it when thinking about it makes you worse. The list of practical things that helped me may give you ideas of what you can do.

    * Suduko math puzzles (when you have to stop thinking right now!)
    * Discuss something non-triggering (avoid politics & all things involving “leaders”)
    * Explore someplace new. (I love museums, discovering new hidden places in the city. Great time for a road trip!)
    * Read a safe book that takes you into another world.
    * EXERCISE (though I think too much when I’m doing this, my body is raising the seratonin levels to make me feel better.)
    * Raise Magnesium levels! (Stress lowers mag, which exhausts adrenals, which causes too many problems to list them all = thyroid, gut, brain issues, blood sugar issues, joint & muscle pain, brings on autoimmune issues, etc….) You can find great advice on how to do it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MagnesiumAdvocacy/
    * Do the basics of self-care (Water, sun, movement, eat real food, go to bed at same time & get up same time even if you don’t sleep well.)

    And when you need to think about it, do so. But do so with getting good info on what spiritual abuse is. Go to sites like this one where others are working it out too, and you are reminded that you are not alone. You can safely connect online with people that you have a strong sense that they get it, that your Spirit bears witness with their Spirit, and you pick up on that sweet sense that you are having real fellowship. Use a false name so you can feel free to be snarky and real when you need to be. 😉


  5. It helps to know the physiology of PTSD. Yes, those are symptoms of PTSD and it is very common after all kinds of abuse, especially cultic/spiritual abuse. PTSD means you hypothalamus is burned out. Adrenaline is not like the gas pedal in your car. When you experience a fight or flight response, your body produces adrenaline. When the threat is gone, it is not like taking your foot off the gas pedal and coasting to a stop. Your body must produce another chemical in the hypothalamus to stop the adrenaline. Both the adrenals and the hypothalamus can get worn out in this process. Your body is working overtime to stop the constant stress response from triggers. It is not known if physical healing is ever completely possible but over time if you remove yourself from danger and do some cognitive work, the triggers will lessen and mostly stop. Because of the abuse, your body is responding in fight or flight and is perfectly justified in doing so after your experience.

    There are some good resources to learn more about this physical process. One of the first places I learned about PTSD was in the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. There are one or two chapters devoted to explaining it. When I read them, I knew what was going on with me without a doubt. I found knowing the physiology helped me see that it was “not me” and that there was “physical” damage that affected my emotional state that I could:

    (1) learn to manage,
    (2) get professional help for, and
    (3) seek healing from the Lord who NEVER wanted this for you.

    Knowledge puts the power in your hands and takes it away from Satan and from your abusers. Sorry to be so clinical and practical today. Bless all of you as you heal gradually from these traumas. There is one consolation…I’ve read that overcoming trauma raises one’s IQ. I believe it.


  6. Reading others stories and telling mine over and over and over again, really helped me. Find many sites and tell your story, yet again, if you process out loud like I do. We all do this differently, but I had to talk or I was going to combust.

    In the process I got to “know” people online and their stories touched my heart. That connection with them helped fuel that sense of loving others and being loved; even in that limited cybersense I found my lifeline. God has not forgotten me. And He has not forgotten you! 🙂


  7. “… overcoming trauma raises one’s IQ.” –Lisa

    You just made my day! 🙂

    I’ve never connected the hypothalamus issue before. But my doc is just starting to talk to me about it the other day. Now I know my next step. Thank you, Lisa!


  8. Katie – I agree – telling your story is huge and which is why SSB is here. I don’t care if you have told parts of your story 10 or 20 times, it doesn’t matter to me, that is part of the process and the goal of SSB – to be a safe place. I have 2 posts almost ready to roll, but I saw Refugee’s comment and those posts came to a halt because I *get* what it feels like to be under this kind of emotional stuff. We must care for one another. It is important to be heard and validated because in our high-controlling environments, our voices were squelched, we were told lies that we were gossiping when we noticed problems and asked questions or talked about it.

    I was diagnosed with PTSD after a major earthquake in the Philippines. Do you know what my therapist did? He listened and listened and validated. One day, it was July 16 a couple of years later and I thought to myself that there was something unique about that day and I remembered, oh yea – earthquake anniversary date (which should have triggered me). And then I thought to myself – – wait a minute – – I haven’t experienced one “earthquake” today. No flashbacks on a day that should have been hugely triggering. It was then that I knew I was healed. Last November, I spent a weekend in CA and did not once think about earthquakes. I would have avoided CA altogether or else highly triggered 2 decades ago. I am healed. There is hope after PTSD.


  9. Katie makes excellent suggestions for distracting your mind when you find yourself focusing too much. I’ve never had PTSD but my husband has for 25 years. Your symptoms are real. It might help to avoid official church until you’ve done some therapy work. Or if you really want to go, sit where you can leave easily – sneaking out. My husband learned to avoid situations that were triggers (nothing to do with the actual incident but still triggers) and took years to add some back in. If talk of church makes your stomach sick, avoid people who make that a topic of discussion. If the therapist doesn’t understand the spiritual abuse part, then leave. Don’t feel you have to be polite – so many of us were raised to not hurt people’s feelings. Don’t worry if you do. They’ll live. Honor your gut feelings and it will become second nature to know when to walk away.


  10. Healing from PTSD can take a long time. Take hope, though, because healing is possible! I don’t think that I can add much more to the wonderful advice that has been given, but I can say that we value your voice here. Take care of yourself and know that you have people here to support you.


  11. I forgot to say the most important thing – you don’t even have to be nice to ministers (as you search for a new place to worship). It isn’t a sin to say a minister is full of crap, whether you say it to their face or behind their back. It happens a lot and good ministers take it, examine it and either reject it or accept it and change. Ministers who focus on it being a sin to criticize them are fools, which just proves you were right anyway.


  12. Hi Refugee,

    I think I may be towards the end of my PTSD with churches, at least I think I have glimpsed that light at the end of the tunnel. Right now I am not interested in going back to church. Any church. And I tend to get very defensive and angry with churches and sometimes even sincere (but wrong) Christians. Every once in a while my (well-intentioned) parents and friends encourage me so often to find a new church home I begin looking again out of guilt and fear. Ok, to be totally honest, I do miss worship and seeing people. I love to sing.

    But every time I begin the process of church-hunting and attending a new place, there always seems to be a breaking point; some teaching that I just cannot abide by or thrive spiritually under. Anyway, God has brought some great Christian people into my life outside of church and I count them as my church. We support each other, we talk about and study Bible questions we have, and we pray for each other. We hold each other accountable and we are friends.

    I think those things are more what church should be about, though I still miss singing.


  13. “I have simple advice: Do things that help you get your mind off of it when thinking about it makes you worse.”

    I have to echo Katie’s advice here. I did what she advises almost instinctively. With time the anxiety episodes have decreased.

    When we first left our former cult I obsessed over tablescaping blogs, and set pretty tables that we hardly ever ate at. Now we mostly use paper plates. 🙂

    Next I spent hours reading blogs about day planners, purchased one on ebay, and enjoyed it for months. It hasn’t gotten much use this summer.

    Currently, I enjoy reading makeup and fashion blogs. Our former cult had a very strict holiness dress code. That never really bothered me while we were a part of it, but now I have to move on. I’m wearing makeup again for the first time in 25 years. At first, I’d have anxiety episodes just walking down the makeup aisle in the store for fear of being seen and judged by a member of the cult. It doesn’t bother me any more.

    Who knows what I’ll move on to next. 🙂 But, I find it really does help to focus on something other than church right now. I am still a believer, and I’m just happy that spiritual abuse didn’t take that away from me.


  14. BeenThereDoneThat, I can relate. Pinterest became my friend. I looked at gardening, camping, how to use pallets, and any pictures that evoked good feelings, like flowers! It was like a Calgon bath, “Calgon take me away!”

    When I do get triggered, I take an Epsom Salts bath and feel the stress melt away as the magnesium in it feeds my exhausted adrenals and so much more! I soak my feet in it every day, too, and what a relief it is.


  15. I am healing from PTSD, though most days I don’t “feel” like I’m making progress in the moment. Right now I am having a hard time with overwhelming fear again. The while world seems unsafe. Sundays are especially hard and often I think I am going to throw up or have diarrhea (or I do) when going to church. My husband is very understanding and supportive. If I have to walk out of service then I do. I also use essential oils frequently as a practical measure to get me out of a dissociative state. Basically, if I am either having flashbacks or triggering or scared then I have peppermint oil that I put on my hands and smell. Sometimes strongly flavored gum will help me. I try not to make excuses or much explanation anymore to questioning people. The ones closest to me understand and curiosity seekers aren’t my priority. I have to take care of myself. That alone can be exhausting.


  16. FYI: I removed a comment that recommended a site to help with spiritual abuse. I am fine with posting links directly to articles, but when I visited the site, it looks like you need to register/subscribe ($$) and that makes me feel uneasy.

    Let’s encourage people with freely accessible information where they don’t need to sign anything or pay anything. Some of that kind of stuff feels like what many of us are leaving or have left. I hope this makes sense. I’m just going with my gut because I am fiercely protective about your privacy, giving $$, signing memberships, etc. thanks, ~ja


  17. Tnmom,

    Thanks for sharing about essential oils. I can see how a strong scent could distract from the triggers. I’m glad that you (and your husband) are giving yourself grace and taking baby steps towards healing. Each Sunday, SSB is open for anyone to share because I know it’s such a triggering day. Feel free to avail yourself . . . or not (because I realize even reading here can be triggering).


  18. BTDT said:

    . I am still a believer, and I’m just happy that spiritual abuse didn’t take that away from me.

    Me, too! I’m so glad to read about the progress you’ve made. Your cult experience was not only spiritual, but affected how you lived your daily life as a mother/wife in very detailed ways, and so you have more hurdles than many of us.

    I need to send you a link to a friend of my daughter’s friend who has a website on makeup and how to apply it. I even went out and bought some of her recommended mascara. 🙂


  19. I will be looking forward to what you learn on your therapist journey, no pressure, but I’m very interested in all that you will be willing to share.


  20. L. Lawrence what you said here is true for me also. I can’t church hunt at all at this point. Maybe I do have some PTSD – I do not know. I grew up in church since I was born and also went to some fundamentalist churches. Always grew up with fear being the focus- hell, the rapture, the clothes you wear, how good of an evangelist you are, guilt laden works, etc. On top of that, I was pretty much disregarded; not asked to anything except work in the nursery (not my thing, by the way). Now, I cannot even hear the words “As a Christian, you should be……… just fill in the blanks”
    Is this PTSD? I do not know. I do know it is not as severe as what others have been through, but it sure did affect my psyche. It has taken me years to get over the fear of “whatever” and I do not plan to go back to immerse myself in that again. There are triggers for me and I can even tell if someone is subtly guilt tripping me.


  21. I had to put my Bible on the shelf for a year and let myself rest spiritually.

    When I finally picked it up again I read the New Testament straight through rather than cherry-picking as I had been raised.

    It was a very good experience.


  22. I had to be made aware of what was specifically triggering at church and how early it begain. For me it was growing up in a big family, were we were herded to separate Sunday school classes, then went to sit in the front row during service so our parents could give us the evil eye for bad behavior from the choir loft. I guess it didn’t strike them that a 6 year old girl didn’t know how to control her 5 year old ADHD brother, and 4 year old brother during a church service. I didn’t have the skills or example to engage my brothers in church when I didn’t even understand what was being said. There were two other baby brothers in the nursery.

    Now many families have a rest time after lunch. This is a great idea. However, my parents made church an impossible test that each week we failed (by talking, whispering, squirming, or giggling.) After church we were told how bad we were and were to go to our rooms as punishment for embarrassing them. I later found out they did it so they could have friends over for bridge and we would be out of their hair for the entire afternoon. Where was God in this??


  23. Yes, it is possible to experience very strong anxiety or PTSD after an abusive church experience.

    I agree with Anonymous 2. After all of the work and performance I had done as a member of a high demand group, I needed to let my soul rest.

    The Lord’s word promises that He will restore my soul – HE will restore my soul. That has been key for me….it is so natural to think that doing the church thing in some way will help us recover from the trauma that we have been through, we are kind of programmed to think that our healing will come from the church or church related ministries/ministers, but so often they were the ones who actually caused the damage. I regret to say that but it’s true.

    A book that was incredibly helpful (due to my inability at first to be able to even focus on reading the bible) was “Rooted in God’s Love” by Dale and Juanita Ryan. It helped me so much to stay connected to the truth about God’s love for me and the focus is recovery throughout the whole book. I am working through it a second time, and I am almost two years out from our departure.

    At this point, because we are having such a hard time trusting any churches in the area, we don’t go to church on Sundays. I was raised Catholic and became a Christian in my 20’s so not going to church on Sundays was always out of the question for me. I have found that as my relationship with God has grown through this trial, my understanding of His acceptance of me “just as I am” has grown as well. Now, when I feel the compulsion to go to church on Sunday morning, I remind myself that God is not going to love me any more than He does right now if I do go to church, and He is not going to love me any less if I don’t go to church. For me, at this point, it is so important that I believe that His love for me is not contingent on my performance..it is based on His faithfulness to me,His child, through the faith I have in the finished work of His Son on my behalf.

    One weekend I considered going to a church in which I suspected there had been some “mystical manipulation” because I was missing going to church. The thought came to my mind, “Why go back to Egypt?”, and the desire subsided.

    There may be a time when I go back to church. I don’t know. I too, miss the worship and spending time with other believers. My family and I get together and share prayer requests and read a chapter of the bible and talk about it. It’s the best we can do right now and I feel OK with it. That time we spend together is church just as much as anything else.

    I will not be satisfied anymore by settling for anything less than authentic. I’m not looking for perfect, that’s not possible here in this world, but I cannot abide deception and trickery.
    I’d rather stay home!

    God Bless you. I hope you find healing from the One Who is Healer.


  24. “(3) seek healing from the Lord who NEVER wanted this for you.”

    Thank you for this bright and shiny spark of hope, since for some of us this is paramount. Healing from non-spiritual abuse is impossible for me, if I buy into the lie that on some level God wants every instance of abuse to happen, even to small children. This is the particular kind of spiritual harm (never validated as “abuse” but destructive and devastating nonetheless) I am personally trying to heal from, which intensified the already existing PTSD. Talk about pain and betrayal…

    I had more all typed up, but just typing it made my stomach hurt, sent my nerves into an uproar, and gave me blurry vision, if you get my drift, so…


  25. “I have 2 posts almost ready to roll, but I saw Refugee’s comment and those posts came to a halt because I *get* what it feels like to be under this kind of emotional stuff. We must care for one another.”

    Julie Anne, meant to say: you are amazing and wonderful.


  26. Your words encouraged me so very much when I read them just now. God bless you and your search for authenticity. I think I have a better idea now what to say to family and friends who try to persuade me to find a new church. I’m just not ready, and I perhaps never will be.


  27. Thanks, Oasis – -I know you get it, too. When you’re in that kind of situation, the world kind of stops, doesn’t it? There are just no kind words for the kind of emotional fallout from spiritual abuse. I better stop now before someone has to moderate me.


  28. Julie Anne, pretty much what I was thinking earlier – the whole world just crashes down.

    When the one person who is supposed to be safe, trustworthy, beautiful…the one we can count on to truly love us…is painted as wearing a mask, hiding his true intentions…in the name of “wisdom” or “providence”… Took lots of agonizing time playing scientist in a lab, so to speak, extracting the poison, holding it under a microscope, testing it, doing away with it… But the pain remains! What to do when these kinds of usually unexpected triggers come along? (I better stop now, too!)

    But there are some helpful comments here, and hopefully they are helpful to you, too, Refugee, in your particular situation.


  29. This came at the perfect time. I am having such a hard time with thinking of going to my church; I have been hurt bad and it just got way worse recently. I get sick and feel like I can’t breathe just thinking of going there, but we are stuck there right now, my hubby works there. I need prayer. I am already dreading this Sunday. I don’t know if I will ever get past this. Thanks for posting this.


  30. It isn’t always easy to tell, but it appears all the commenters so far on this thread are women. Is it possible that church is just one more place where the sons of Adam lord it over the daughters of Eve? C.f. Genesis 3:16. Jesus warned us that we would have tribulation in this world (John 16:33), but who would have guessed that it would be so prevalent in church? I very much support those who have separated themselves from organized religion, places of abomination causing desolation. We tend to take his words as having application to a specific then-future event, but surely Jesus’ warning to flee from the abomination that causes desolation (Matthew 24:15) may be applied generally to all places that inflict trauma and desolation. Especially places where the desolation is inflicted primarily on women.


  31. Gary,

    People process events differently and, to some extent, men and women have been culturally trained to process differently. I believe that is why we often see more women sharing there experiences. I think men are suffering from church abuse as well. They just may not be as open about it. And, like you said, the female subordination will play into the stats as well.


  32. Refugee, I too was diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression after my horrific experience with my church (I think the star chamber treatment was the coup de grace…like being hit with a club). I found joy and comfort in two unlikely places: When I finally opened a bible again I used the interlinear bible, and secular as well biblical lexicons to see what God REALLY said…and those clobber/authority/women are second class/God hates homosexuals (and me)/hell verses simply are not translated accurately. It’s amazing to find out what He really says. Also, serendipitously (providentially?), my son’s anxiety disorder worsened at this time and i found myself in three different mental health support groups where I experienced after the FIRST meeting shared experiences, celebrating hope together, grieving together, total transparency, and love. What i spent YEARS in “church”” hoping to find, I found immediately in the “secular” world. Love is out there…go find it! Hint: it’s not in a building that masquerades as “church.”

    “The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 NLT


  33. I’m not sure why most commenters are women in this thread, but clearly men suffer emotionally as well – I have a list of names going off in my head as I type. When I have gathered with former members of BGBC, the men talk just as much as the women about what happened. You know, that might be the difference right there – – men process a lot by discussing the events, and women are sometimes processing by connecting emotionally more easily. Men definitely feel the pain and can connect with the emotions, I think that women might me more vocal about those feelings.


  34. The Last Hiker – I’m sorry you are going through this. It sounds really complicated with your husband working at church. Does you husband understand what you are going through? Do you feel like you have to go to church? Can you go out to the parking lot if need be just to leave for a bit?


  35. I actually can’t “go” to Sunday morning at all. Unless a guest teacher is there. I do go to other events and listen to other studies. But yeah, I don’t go in to Sunday church at all, for years. But after what just happened these last few weeks I don’t even want to be on the church grounds at all, for fear of running into the pastor or his family and having to pretend I am okay with them. I was supposed to be there yesterday for something, and I just procrastinated getting ready, ate too much food, skipped it, then blew off the rest of my day laying on my bed and thinking about how I don’t know how to get over all this. My husband knows and understands, he gets it. We just don’t have any other options anymore. But I am
    Past the point of praying and fasting for things to get better, and at the point of running and hiding from the insanity.


  36. The Last Hiker,

    It sounds like you are right smack in the midst of chaos and it doesn’t sound like a good place to be. I’m sorry to hear you are going through this and hope that somehow, something will break so that you can become free.


  37. Bridget,

    I quite agree with you and Julie Anne that men as well as women are victims of spiritual abuse. Still, I am convinced that the population of spiritually abused women is much larger than the population of spiritually abused men. If I am correct, I suspect that much of the explanation lies in what you say about women having been culturally trained to process differently. I would say they have been culturally *compelled* to processed differently.

    Because I am a man, nobody thinks much about it if I push back at abusive treatment. I have tacit permission to protect myself. However, if a woman pushes back, especially in non-egalitarian churches, she is seen as being rebellious, or worse. A man who pushes back may be seen as engaging in bad *behavior,* whereas a woman who pushes back at abuse is seen as being a bad *person.” If I am dishonored, it is is relatively O.K. if I deal with the resulting anger, by pushing back, before the sun sets. In non-egalitarian churches, however, a woman is expected to stuff her abuse-induced anger, etc. Well, that which is repressed must fester until it is released–or until it becomes, as it were, gangrenous. Thank God for places like this blog where the festering emotional boils can of abuse-induced trauma can be safely lanced in the presence of supportive and understanding friends.


  38. Sometimes I worry that I am being judged as not spiritual enough because I do not pray out loud or say Praise the Lord or God Bless You or Many other Christianese cultural norms that seem to just roll off the tongues of my Christian friends. I have PTSD reasons for not doing it even though I’m constantly feeling greatful to God in my soul, mind and spirit. I’m not even sure that I want to get over that PTSD though. What does that say about me?


  39. I think you’re on to something, Gary. That would explain why my personal account of abuse at BGBC was so easily dismissed at Grace Community. I think for some of these men, they believe women should be quiet in church AND everywhere else, too. I lost track of how many men said to me: “don’t you have better things to do – take care of the kids, your husband?”


  40. I have PTSD reasons for not doing it even though I’m constantly feeling greatful to God in my soul, mind and spirit. I’m not even sure that I want to get over that PTSD though. What does that say about me?

    To me, it says you are looking for authentic Christianity. Sounds good to me.


  41. Pattij553 is judged because she isn’t vocal. Julie Anne is judged because she is. Another way of looking at it is that pattij553 is being judged because she presents as an introvert, while Julie Anne is being judged because she presents as an extrovert. (BTW, we can present as extrovert/introvert without actually being what we present.)

    Anyhow, I think we’re back into gender discrimination. No matter how a woman presents, it is used as grounds for criticism. Or maybe they just feel it’s safer to criticize a woman. I can guarantee you that if there is anybody out there who is judging me because I don’t go around saying praise the Lord, and amen, and on and on, they’ve never criticized me for it to my face. After all, I have cultural permission, even within the “church,” to blow their judgmental fumes right back in their faces.


  42. I’m kind of fascinating at the idea of judging someone based on the fact that they don’t speak Christianese, don’t pray out loud, etc. I know someone who prays like a gifted pastor, speaks Christianese, but some who are close to this individual see FRAUD written all over that. The outward Christian packaging is just that – packaging.


  43. “A man who pushes back may be seen as engaging in bad *behavior,* whereas a woman who pushes back at abuse is seen as being a bad *person.”

    In my own situation of spiritual abuse, the pastor was seen as having acted bad–a one-time thing–but having a “good heart”. In contrast, I was seen as having a bad heart, even though most of the congregation, when challenged, acknowledged that there was nothing inherently bad in my behavior. It really did come down to allegations that I was somehow a bad person. Which, of course, ‘provoked’ the pastor into calling me names!

    It was like looking in a funhouse mirror, and I think it very much had to do with gender.

    Thanks for helping me think through this, Gary W.


  44. After writing the above, I’m just mulling over how ‘complementarianism’ (which I only learned was a thing in the past year) winds up having the practical effect that ‘every woman’ is under the authority of ‘every man’. Which is demonstrably unscriptural. And idolatrous. And probably demonic. 🙂


  45. Thank you for your kind words JA. I am sure others will agree that just having one person say, that shouldn’t have happened is very healing! I hold that in my heart.


  46. Re: Anonymous2,

    I can understand putting the Bible in the shelf for awhile. When you find that reading certain Scriptures causes you to hear the pastor’s voice or the group’s ideology, it’s time to find another way to connect with God. Since working hard to gain God’s approval is often part of spiritually abusive environments, I think sometimes we just need to learn how to relax.

    I prayed telling God my issues and asked Him to come to me how He wants to and when He wants to. Then I just went about my day. I found Him sitting with me on the porch. I found Him in my math puzzles. I found Him in laughter. I found Him in still small moments. It was as if He was taking His hand and lifting my chin to see His smile. He was quietly removing my shame, the shame I’d been taught to carry as my spiritual duty. The shame I heard whispered in my ears when I wanted to shelve the Bible and take a break from church. GONE! Poof!

    We ended up reading the Bible through quickly, to keep us from stopping to study it. We really needed an overview, just to absorb the big point of it all. That was refreshing for us. The God we saw in that read is not the God we heard about in sermons.


  47. L.J.,

    You say you are mulling over how complementarianism “winds up having the practical effect that ‘every woman’ is under the authority of ‘every man’.” I suggest that it has to do with the way men, and especially men who are narcissistic (“it’s all about me and I have no empathy”) and/or sociopathic (“it’s all about me and I have no conscience”) have a tendency to objectify women. Such a man sees women as objects whose purpose and function in life is to feed the man’s ego, serve the man’s convenience and satisfy the man’s desires–all while having no needs of her own.

    I expect it is safe to say that this dynamic goes a long way toward understanding domestic violence. If so, this is where it begins to get interesting. The Duluth Model Power and Control Wheel (you can google it) lists the exercise of male privilege as one of the signs of an abusive husband. What is involved in male privilege? Well, for one thing, it includes the husband being the one to define men’s and women’s roles–which is exactly what complementarianism is all about: male religious “leaders” defining women’s roles.

    In summary, I am suggesting that spiritual abuse often happens when domestic abuse is extended into the fellowship of the saints. Narcissistic/sociopathic, abusive men are attracted to the adulation, power, and sometimes wealth, that ministry affords, and they bring their objectifying, abusive ways with them. Only now they expect all women in the church, and not just their wives, to feed their egos, serve their convenience and, alas, sometimes satisfy their desires. Part and parcel of all of this is that they feel entitled to define women’s roles.


  48. “Because I am a man, nobody thinks much about it if I push back at abusive treatment. I have tacit permission to protect myself. However, if a woman pushes back, especially in non-egalitarian churches, she is seen as being rebellious, or worse. A man who pushes back may be seen as engaging in bad *behavior,* whereas a woman who pushes back at abuse is seen as being a bad *person.”.”

    Gary, A few years ago a friend and I conducted an experiment on some pastor blogs that were very comp oriented.
    We commented as men but with our own interpretations of the scripture in disagreement with their interpretations. My friend is a serious scholar.

    Wewere disagreed with but treated with grudging respect. The women who came were accused of being emotional, rebellious, etc. And simply stopped trying. No one was listening to them. They were simply written off by virtue of their moniker.

    The responses to their comments were strictly ad hominem where their responses to us were based on interpretation. The difference was glaring. They had been trained to think that way. And they call that “complementary”. I think not.

    These are the same guys who get all upset if you think their wives are unthinking doormats in that comp/pat construct. They want you to believe their wives are capable of being a pastor but just not allowed to be. But their behavior toward women suggests it is very different indeed.


  49. “I am sure others will agree that just having one person say, that shouldn’t have happened is very healing!”

    Totally agree!!! (And agree with Julie Anne’s words to you, too.) Sometimes all it takes are certain life-giving words to revolutionize my entire day, or the rest of my life.


  50. I thought about your concerns, Refugee, and had some thoughts …

    For about 6 months while I was deciding on leaving a very traumatizing church situation and afterwards, I woke up with a start at 2 or 3 am *most* nights — with nightmares, drenched in sweat, on the verge of screaming. Really horrific. And it took months more to gradually recuperate from the stress of it all.

    I am more convinced as time goes on that the ABCs of arts-beauty-creativity are essential for many of us to regain our sense of identity. (I wrote about that recently in a comment at The Wartburg Watch. See link at bottom of this comment. It’s kind of technical, but it’s what came out in the moment, so there it is, FWIW.)

    So, in seeking out a church to attend, my gut intuition was that I should try somewhere that was low-demand and had upbeat worship. (I suspect the Holy Spirit often speaks and leads through the gut as much as through the brain!)

    Since I worked at a seminary at the time, I sought out some very grace-oriented friends who were preparing to serve as missionaries in Brazil, so they brought me with them to Sunday evening services at the Brazilian Baptist Church. The worship was as joyful, exuberant, and emotive as you’d expect from Brazilians, and like typical Central and South American cultures, the service was more event-oriented than clock-oriented. So no worries, low stress, friendly people, talk or chill out, it was all okay. And for those who didn’t have Portuguese as a first language, they provided someone who translated both the gist of the songs, and the sermon. It watered that need for ABC to counteract all the over-theologized legalism that had nearly killed my soul.

    I also listened to certain kinds of music that I found particularly soothing – not because it was “easy listening,” but probably because it mirrored the roller coaster of emotions I’d been going through. Art that imitates life, as it were. So, I don’t know how many times I listened to the entire soundtrack to the stage musical of *Les Miserables* or particular songs on particular days.

    When another grievous ministry meltdown happened about 6 years later, it was the epic storyline of *The Lord of the Rings.* Not kidding … I must’ve watched the entire trilogy a minimum of 50 times a year for the next few years. I don’t know how to explain it rationally, but maybe it’s just a learning style distinctive that, for some of us, we externalize the bruised feelings and embrace hope by entering into a metaphorical “valley of the shadow of death,” perhaps even surprised at dawning horizon at the end of the journey. Maybe in some mysterious way, it is a form of liturgy — the work of the people being the story of God’s people.

    I found solace in hope-filled theology about suffering and being surprised by God’s providence in writings by and about J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, and another guy who went by initials: A.J. Gossip. (Yes, really.) This quote was passed on to me by a seminary student about 15 years ago, and it’s stuck with me all these years:

    “A basic trouble is that most Churches limit themselves unnecessarily by addressing their message almost exclusively to those who are open to religious impression through the intellect, whereas … there are at least four other gateways – the emotions, the imagination, the aesthetic feeling, and the will – through which they can be reached.” A.J. Gossip (1873-1954)

    (P.S. it’s the only gossip we’re allowed to pass along, I am certain, without it being sin.) I’ve pondered that piece of Gossip a lot, and believe it holds a key in why churches that overemphasize intellect tend to end up gnostic, perfectionistic, and legalistic. In other words, abusive. They don’t care about God’s people as whole people, and don’t connect with us holistically.

    So, there are some thoughts that came out of spiritual practices that made a significant difference for me over time. There were other things, but these all relate to that ABC/arts-beauty-creativity core that got lost in naughty gnostic churches where everything was about “right” theology and rules – and left out the heart of faith from those other gateways God created in us, with which to worship and enjoy Him forever as men and women, girls and boys all created in His image.

    Refugee, I truly hope your escape from such damaging church experiences does not stymie your sojourn with Jesus or with His people in the long run. Praying you find some kind of situation that fits how God uniquely created you to enjoy Him and His involvement in your path forward in the Way of Jesus …



  51. @BradFuturistGuy:

    I’ve pondered that piece of Gossip a lot, and believe it holds a key in why churches that overemphasize intellect tend to end up gnostic, perfectionistic, and legalistic. In other words, abusive.

    As a former kid genius who grew up ALL intellect, I can attest that with only Intellect something serious (and HUMAN) goes missing. And what’s left can easily become a monster in the mold of (RL) Citizen Robespierre or (fictional) Ozymandias from Watchmen. Especially beware of the Pure Intellect with a Cause..


  52. Praying you find some kind of situation that fits how God uniquely created you to enjoy Him and His involvement in your path forward in the Way of Jesus …

    That is so beautiful, Brad. I believe God works that way. I am so stubborn and I have big-time trust issues, with even God. God knows that and He has always made Himself known to me in just the way I need it, when I need it.


  53. “Praying you find some kind of situation that fits how God uniquely created you to enjoy Him and His involvement in your path forward in the Way of Jesus …”

    This was my “hope” for so long I actually believed it, I was / am a very stupid and pathetic person. If I learned one thing as a Christian in the evangelical religion it is that. One should never need, ever, no matter what. It was made clear to me in my early years as a Christian that I was created, even before I was born, I hated God, even in my mother’s womb, even before the Egg and Sperm connected I, personally hated God, and God personally hated me with a divine passion . Because I am am a very shallow spiritual person, which has been passionately pointed out to me on many occasions. I remember the first time the I hate God card was played. It scared me, which is why it should be used because it is very effective. If I had to come up with one word to describe the evangelical religion it would be pragmatic.

    I remember the first time I was told that I, personally killed Jesus, even though I was not born, but I killed him, I hammered those nails into his hands, I was part of the people that said crucify him etc. In my unconverted state I make Hitler look like a choirboy. As a child as 18 month old child I would kill my father and walk across his bloody corpse with no remorse. I screwed up on that one, my father died a horrid, lingering death that lasted over a decade. I stayed with him, even when he berated and cursed me as a useless piece of crap. The late at night cussing sessions where my father would curse the day I was born, I dont fault him that. My father and me eventually reconciled, something that is not seen as very important in the evangelical religion. I was there the day my father died, I had to identify his body, I had to tell my two remaining siblings, one who was in prison and the other who was estranged. I had to, not us, but me. There was no church family there back then it was just me. As it should be, we should not need, anything. I agree. We are all islands unto ourselves.

    I get all that. But I did the right thing reconciling with my father, I was able to give my siblings and my mother great peace when I reconciled. But my faith tradition thinks I am a satanic worshiping piece of trash. I dont deny that, they we with (which is the most important thing outside of raising more revenue) I get that to. Do you actually want to hear something really pathetic, it is pathetic and I admit that. I actually believe the things Jesus said and did. I posted this under a loose pseudonym. Thanks Julie Ann, Michael, and Alex oh and Wartburg Watch saved me, especially Alex and Michael.


  54. Sorry about the typo / spelling mistakes, Michael may understand this my hands are on fire with the carpel tunnel damage done during my many years of having the literal crap beaten out of me by folks I work with. Metal chairs a frying pan upside the head I even got hit with another student a client picked up an threw at me. I was able to keep any students from getting really hurt if it means I take a hit or two or three or ten or …. no problem. I mean that. One lady tried to take out her one remaining eye and I was able to block that one (I dont know how accurate this is but I see the scares every time I look at my left hand.) Fact is she did take out her other eye with a utensil, this lady would dig down to her skull and rip off her skin. I cant post what she did with other parts of her body. I still dont get what glory God got out of that, if He could have stopped it and did not, I wont move on past that.

    It can get worse, these are the mild stories. I did not know how to process them and the Satan, fallen tripe I was told was just plain stupid, please people this is just stupid. People with developmental / psychological issues are not demon possessed that is stupid on steroids. I was there I saw their pain, I prayed, no I begged God, almost daily to heal them. Not once, ever, not one time was any relieve given except through human intervention, then I came to the conclusion that every good gift comes from God, that He chose to intervene through human agency. Because God meets us where we are. I find great comfort in that. I dont understand why that makes me an enemy of God and a God hater. I dont hate God, why would I hate my father?


  55. incogneto,

    I’m going to just come out and say it. The people who taught you that pack of lies as you describe were no Christians. They were the very mouthpieces of the satan, of the accuser himself–the accuser of both God and man. I can protest that God loves you, that He is Love, but I fear that mere words to that effect must always ring hollow. May you find yourself among friends who demonstrate their love for you by their deeds. I know of no other way for the love of the One who is Love to be written on the human heart (though I am sure our Lord knows). May you be comforted, and richly blessed.


  56. Linda,

    We ended up reading the Bible through quickly, to keep us from stopping to study it. We really needed an overview, just to absorb the big point of it all. That was refreshing for us. The God we saw in that read is not the God we heard about in sermons.

    That was my experience too. When I read the Bible quickly — as an overview — I realized that many of my beliefs, including my view of the end times, were completely unwarranted. In order to retain my old view (and other narrow beliefs) I had to pick and choose verses from disparate passages just as flagrantly as cult groups do.


  57. More thoughts on the devaluation and consequent abuse of women in the Church: In his article to which brad/futuristguy links, we are reminded that western culture, including the church, has drunk deeply of the philosophical poison of Platonic dualism, the notion that spirit is good and matter is evil. I posit that the men who write theology, as well as the men who install themselves as captains of organized Christianity, have conveniently assigned men to the category of spirit, while at the same time assigning women to the category of matter. That which is (evil) matter is available to use and abuse. Therefore, since women are assigned to the category of matter, they are available, whether consciously or unconsciously, to use and abuse.

    Readers can judge for themselves whether and to what extent a particular “pastor,” “church,” theology or teaching consigns women to the category of evil matter. However, it is interesting to note that, according to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/matter?s=t, the English word “matter” is derived from “māter,” the Latin word for “mother.”

    Which theological traditions and churches are most likely to have embraced Platonic dualism? I suggest that it is precisely those that embrace the doctrine of the total depravity of mankind–a doctrine I understand to have deep roots in Platonic dualism.


  58. incogneto:

    I hope you really take Gary’s words to heart. He is right. It sounds to me like you were more acquainted with Christ than “those people” who taught you about such an evil and hurtful god. That’s not the god I serve. Where is the love in all of that? It’s not there. You showed love to your family – even through painful reconciliation. You are the real deal.


  59. Brad,

    I just read this: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2014/06/30/did-southern-seminary-give-baptist-tuition-breaks-and-academic-perks-to-sgm-pastors/#comment-149947

    It is really, really good and very helpful because so much of high-controlling churches is based on the black/white thinking.

    For those who haven’t read it, Brad discusses how helpful the arts are to healing. I find it interesting that many high-controlling churches limit the arts and control what music can be played/sang for worship. We can’t get too emotionally-feely, now, can we?


  60. @Brad, You and I have very similar tastes in music, movies, and books. I also tend to be more on the “intellectual” side of the scale, and perhaps more now. My spiritual abuse came from embracing too much of the emotional and seemingly super-spiritual highs. The people I was with encouraged me to shut off my brain and just “let God”. Seems to me a good balance is what God intends.


  61. @Gary, Do you think Eastern churches view women differently than American and other Western churches? Or do European churches have a different view of women than what has been discussed here?


  62. “So, there are some thoughts that came out of spiritual practices that made a significant difference for me over time. There were other things, but these all relate to that ABC/arts-beauty-creativity core that got lost in naughty gnostic churches where everything was about “right” theology and rules – and left out the heart of faith from those other gateways God created in us, with which to worship and enjoy Him forever as men and women, girls and boys all created in His image.”

    This explains so much. It explains why the rich musical gifts in our church either left with people who left, or withered in the people who stayed. The music was “safe” but no longer stirring, the singing seemed subdued to me over the past year or so, though I thought maybe I was projecting my subdued feelings on the whole. Expression at the annual arts event was ever more stiff and constrained and surrounded by rules. It explains my own lack of inspiration, from composing new music on a daily basis, to… I can count the number of songs I’ve jotted down in the last five years on the fingers of one hand, and none completed. My head used to be filled with music. Not very practical, though. Not of any value unless written to the glory of God, and even then it would have to pass a vetting process to be played in church, a gauntlet I never had the courage to run, though the leaders would likely have blamed me for holding back — they vocally encouraged creativity that honored God.

    I think it explains some of our family troubles, as well. Either we were drawn to the black-and-white thinking of that church, or the church influenced such a proclivity in us. This kind of thinking has led to an amazing amount of pain and dysfunction.

    I have more hope than I have had in a long time. Someone told me the other day that I was glowing. The only recent change in my life has been leaving that church.

    We are trying different churches. I am very wary of homing in on the first church we try, no matter how wonderful and welcoming it seemed. I love the story of going to the Brazilian church. I don’t think certain members of our family would be open to such radical change. Some of us still don’t really understand why others of us *had* to leave that church and couldn’t just make things work, but at least they’re willing to try different churches now, so long as they’re not *too* different. Hopefully different enough.


  63. p.s. it also explains something of what I perceive as a war on women. Emotion doesn’t fit this intellectual approach. You can’t trust your feelings. Women tend to be emotional creatures (and if you’re a “feeling” man, well, you’d better keep yourself under control lest others in the social group look at you funny), or at least that is the stereotype, and emotion is discounted. Oh, quiet joy is fine, so long as you’re not too obvious about it.

    But that is probably bitterness speaking on my part.


  64. p.p.s. Thank you for the link to the comment on TWW. I started to read it, and found much food for thought to chew on, but am a little scattered this morning and need to come back to it later.

    Thanks to all who commented, especially with encouragement and suggestions for dealing with the fallout. It helps to know we’re not alone in this, and that others have come through.


  65. L. Lawrence,

    I just don’t know the answers to the questions you pose at 8:51 am. To the extent my views have any validity, it probably is best that they be understood as only having application to what goes by the name of church in the United States.

    My understanding is that the Orthodox Church is run by men. The Church in Western Europe is in severe decline, but what remains appears to be very much dominated by men. Even the very liberal Church of England is resistant to female leadership. Maybe it is different in places where the fellowship of believers has been driven underground, if only because in such places actual fellowship has not been replaced by activities that are very carefully constructed to discourage active, meaningful participation by non-leaders. On the other hand, it may be that in the underground church women are still required to sit on the opposite side of the room from men.

    The domination of women by men has been the lot of women since God warned Eve that Adam would rule over her. It is unfortunate that this condition persists in what goes by the name of church. I am inclined to think that any place where men dominate women is not truly church, whether in the United States or elsewhere in the world. The irony is that what progress has been made is more attributable to the Enlightenment and its secular progeny than to anything that goes by the name of Christian. I am not saying there is NO progress within Christianity, just very little.


  66. Off topic, but I just wanted to share a praise report. My mom has only 13 more radiation treatments left and then she’s done. I thank God for allowing her to breeze through these with only tiredness as a side effect. She remains in very good spirits and now no longer needs to use her walker to help her walk. She’s able to go on shopping errands and Thursday, she and my brother came over to my apartment to take me out to lunch and then stayed at my place to visit for a couple hours afterwards.

    Refugee, if it’s any help, I find that now that I am no longer in a church setting, I have a closer walk with Him. I study my bible very often on my own. The only things I miss are the fellowship and the music (I had been very active in all my choirs from the age of 4 all the way through my 40s). It’s hard to be a Berean if you continually listen to lies or twisted scripture.


  67. Refugee … glad those narratives and ideas were of some help. Some additional thoughts about stereotypes:

    For those of us (men and women) with … shall we say, more “prominent emotional profiles” and higher E.Q.s (emotional intelligence quotient) … we often hear things like, “You’re overreacting!” To which I say, “No, I’m having a strong reaction. Why do *your* lower emotional levels get to determine what the standard is for correct intensity of emotional responses for everyone?”

    For those of us who are more holistic, paradoxical, and maybe even “mystical” in our thinking processes … we often hear things like, “That isn’t rational!” To which I say, “No, it’s non-rational, not irrational. I’m using many other sources of input other than simply cognitive capacities and conventional logic. Can you completely figure out paradoxes — like Jesus being both fully God and fully human but without sin — with your mental capacity? Why not dive deeper into the devotional ‘so-what-does-that-matter-and-mean?’ instead of trying to analyze it all to its rational elements and truth statements?”

    It’s too bad we don’t celebrate the differences in how people are “wired” differently to process information and experience the world around us, and realize these differences are there by God’s good design. I believe that’s the basis for a real “complementarity” for all people, because each of us has something that other people don’t, and that they need, and vice versa. For all their theologizing about the Church as the Body of Christ, so many theologicians don’t seem to have made it over the bridge to the practical implications and applications of what it means for parts to have specializations that all contribute toward healthy function of the body as a whole.


  68. @ L. Lawrence — July 26, 2014 @ 8:49 AM.

    Re: balance. I think I’ve got enough IQ and EQ to keep things going. Now I’m working on my GQ. Suggestions for how to earn “cool factor” style points welcome.


  69. One thing that helped me was changing my Bible translation. At the SGM church ESV was essentially required. Every time I tried to read it I could hear my ex-pastor’s weird inflections. I discovered the NLT at our new church and it has helped me so much. It sometimes feels like I am reading the Bible for the first time.


  70. JoyfulandFree – I did the same thing. No more NKJV for me. I, too, like the NLT. I know what you mean about reading the Bible for the first time – it’s like a breath of fresh air.


  71. “Re: balance. I think I’ve got enough IQ and EQ to keep things going. Now I’m working on my GQ. Suggestions for how to earn “cool factor” style points welcome.”

    Um, skinny jeans and a goatee? Please NO!!!


  72. Heh-heh … my signature look is camo cargo pants (one of 13 styles, depending on the season), T-shirt, and army boots. Plus I have an almost shock-white beard, so goatee is always a possibility.

    Like I said, needing to work on some GQ …


  73. I want some army boots! But my daughter is mortified.

    Well Brad, it is a good thing you are not wearing suits! Did you read the blog article about men wearing suits is causing Christian women to lust? I wish I could remember the name of it. it was right on. :o)


  74. I don’t have any answers or input. I just know I still go in/out of churches visiting and when I do go, I struggle with anxiety. Wish I could land somewhere, but just still struggle.


  75. Hello Refugee,
    Many of these comments are packed full of wisdom! I was an assistant pastor at the church wherein i was wreaked. Church was the entirety of my life. I was the typical “do everything else” pastor. I was in charge of music, youth, kids, tech, men’s fellowship, any extras like VBS’s, and to top it all off my wife and I ran a teen centre in the church basement 3 other afternoons and nights a week. We had / have 4 of our own children that followed us around or went to daycare. We had no time for anything outside the walls of the church unless it was being run by the church.
    Our pastor at the time picked off individuals on at a time, tearing then apart publically. He often went for those who were excited and going a better job than he. Intimation, humiliation, and PRESSURE were his most common tactics. That and exploiting any sharred weaknesses.

    So when I went on sick leave and eventually was told I needed to resign, the G A P in my life was huge and i fell into a deeper depression.
    We didn’t walk in the door of a church for almost a year. when we started going again it was a very different format (from “evangelical to Presbyterian) where the minister had gently and genuinely cared for us. (Months before even considering ever going to church again)
    After we started going it was almost another year before we even took part in anything other than simply attending (and that was hit and miss)
    Songs were all new, service format was new, most everything was different. That played a huge factor in our lllooonnngggg, still continuing, healing journey. There are still the odd triggers there and migraines result, but they have been greatly minimized.
    Studying spiritual abuse helped us get past the “am i crazy” stage. Some books im on the third read. lol. It’s been almost 4 years and I still greatly neglect the bible, prayer, and playing / singing music. The truth is that

    “Jesus knows all about our struggles,
    he will guide till the day is done,.
    There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus.
    No not one, no not one”

    I believe that Jesus takes me right where I am and understands that.


  76. I felt for years that I had been/was being spiritually abused. Couple that with family members that exhibited traits of borderline personality disorder and I was a mess. I have had some counseling and that has/ has not been helpful. I believe that this abuse has caused me to make decisions in my life I would not have made if I had been healthy…things like not going to college-the world was ending in 2000, so what was the point, marrying at 17 and moving clear across the country just to escape the BPD family members, divorcing and remarrying multiple times to wind up in a dysfunctional, at best, marriage now. Just recently I have started to experience a desire for whatever is being predicted to happen in the future to just happen and get it over with. I am burned out and have spent my life waiting for the world to end. There is depression and symptoms of PTSD. Just today I stared researching PTSD in connection to spiritual abuse. Thank you for this post. I need relief and I’m not sure how to get it…it took 41 years, of which 15 were spent ‘backslidden’ to get here and then only 4 years of any kind of recovery… Thank God I have found a supportive, healthy church to worship in.

    Liked by 2 people

  77. There is depression and symptoms of PTSD. Just today I stared researching PTSD in connection to spiritual abuse. Thank you for this post. I need relief and I’m not sure how to get it…it took 41 years, of which 15 were spent ‘backslidden’ to get here and then only 4 years of any kind of recovery…

    You’re absolutely right. People do get PTSD from spiritual abuse. I went to a licensed psychologist for PTSD (not for spiritual abuse) and was in therapy for about 2-1/2 years and one day I realized I was no longer having flashbacks and other symptoms. Those issues have been completely resolved for over 22 years. I hope you can find someone to help you. 🙂


  78. I was part of the order of sisters minor of Mary immaculate under patrizi she was abuseive and neglectful of her sisters. I was refused medical attention forced by patrizi to leave the hospital. I was physically mentally spiritually abuse I witness abuse and neglect of other sisters in the order which gave me no choice but to leave. She even helped cover up priest abuse and tolerated and allowed sexual assault of her sisters by other sisters in the order by having a closed meeting with church official Alcoholism was tolerated and patrizi would put unfit superiors into authority torturing sisters and breaking thier spirits, souls, bodies and minds down, so as to make them submissive to do evil things. severe punishments were given, like beating, starving and imprisonment. Medical attention or going against doctor wishes was perpetrated by Patrizi and Kovacs and other sisters that were superiors. There was no charity and most of us sisters lived in fear not of God but of Patrizi and Kovacs. For some reason or other the church allowed this for years because of her family name Patrizi which is tied to the Vatican. I have reported the abuse I suffered at the hands of Patrizi and Kovacs to my diocese so they know. They knew since 2004. There was racism in the order where an African American sister would be called a black dog frequently by her superior. She left. Other sisters were stuck in countries because thier visas ran out and one particular sister was stuck in Italy.

    There was a death of an Italian sister who was imprisoned and not allowed to see her family she did not get medical attention and she had lung cancer. Another sister who was Polish was put in an institution against her will she called me for help. Another sister nearly died because she was bleeding internally she is American and if it was not for her doctor she would not be here today. October 4 2014 a document from the Vatican was addressing patrizi that the order she founded and other orders she started were abusive and she no longer allowed to find another order.

    Please other members come forward. Do not be afraid. I am willing to connect with ex members of the order and other orders or those who are were under authority of Elisabetta Patrizi and Theresa Kovacs. Only bringing darkness into light can the real healing begin. Truth sets everyone free. God bless


  79. It’s been over 30 years since i left a very spiritual abusive missions organization. The first thing I had to realize was that the God didn’t do the abusing – it was people who had too much control and knew how to manipulate me using the word of God. Through the years I’ve had many bad nightmares and even more panic attacks. With counciling I was able to forgive but not a day goes by that triggers a memory. I have chosen not to go to church but have found a community of believers who are broken like me. The best thing there is no structure. The other day though someone in our group was reading from the Bible and it talked about repent. I couldn’t focus on anything but that word – repent, Judgement, a harsh God. All to say I am on my second day of panic attacks. I love God but it is hard for me to read the bible or go into a church. Unfortunately I think this will always be the case. Encouraged by other responses – I don’t feel so alone.


  80. Bless your heart Barb: God is gathering His spiritual refugees… we all love Zeph 3:17, but often stop there… and even the commentaries aren’t sure how to interpret and translate Zeph 3:18… but these verses (18-20) are about God gathering and honoring His spiritual refugees that have been pushed out of the institutional expression of the Church… know that He will give the spiritual refugees praise and honor in the lands where they/you were put to shame…


  81. Thank you for sharing, Barb. I’m glad yo have found a community and that you are not alone on your spiritual abuse journey. I sure understand the memories. They affect me, too. Yesterday, I was downtown Portland and walked by a street preacher using a megaphone and holding a big sign saying, “Repent,” etc, and telling everyone walking by they deserve hell. It disgusted me and made me think of my cult church. I’m sickened at how many want nothing to do with church/God after going to that church under Chuck O’Neal. Blech!


  82. Wow, Bev. I love those verses. Thank you so much for sharing. What an encouragement!

    “At that time I will deal
    with all who oppressed you.
    I will rescue the lame;
    I will gather the exiles.
    I will give them praise and honor
    in every land where they have suffered shame.
    20 At that time I will gather you;
    at that time I will bring you home.
    I will give you honor and praise
    among all the peoples of the earth
    when I restore your fortunes[e]
    before your very eyes,”
    says the Lord.”


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