ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, Addressing Abuse, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Authority

Spiritual Abuse: When People Tell You, “No Church is Perfect”

Spiritual Abuse, What Not to Say, Jonathan Hollingsworth

spiritual abuse, ken garrett, cults


Being hurt at church is tough, and sometimes it’s a lonely journey. You may have experienced something that other congregants have not experienced. Some people may have good intentions, but say things that are not helpful, and in fact, may be hurtful. This can lead to more isolation as you don’t know who is safe to talk to. This can lead hurt people to stay away from church entirely.

One of the most confusing things about spiritual abuse is that not everyone is able to identify spiritual abuse. I remember dropping hints to people seeing if they would acknowledge my experiences or even add to them. Thankfully, many did, and I didn’t feel alone.

I posted an old article by Jonathan Hollingsworth, What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Been Hurt by the Church, on Twitter and the SSB Facebook page which seems to have resonated with a lot of people. I thought it might be a good idea to discuss these unhelpful statements one by one here, and give people the opportunity to share their experiences.

Remember, one of the best ways for others to learn about spiritual abuse is for them to read the personal stories of others. When people can identify with your story, and you are naming it as spiritual abuse, it opens their eyes to the reality that what they experienced could have been abusive. Some people can sit with that uncertainty for years, but it will be one person’s story that will wake them up to their spiritually abusive reality.

Here is the first bad response that many of us have heard:

“No Church Is Perfect.”

Jonathan Hollingsworth writes:

Instead of empathizing with those who have been hurt by a church, some Christians go right into defense mode.

They might argue that the victim just had a “bad experience.” Or they’ll say the church is full of imperfect people who are “only human” and make mistakes just like the rest of us.

But can we agree that these excuses only distract from the problem? No one wants to be told to “focus on all the good things the church does” when they’ve been hurt by one. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of people have been positively affected by a church or ministry. The good experiences don’t cancel out the bad ones.

When I heard this said to me, it minimized the abuse and said that I need to toughen up and put up with what I was experiencing. It’s kind of like telling a victim of domestic violence that their violent husband is not perfect, just cut him some slack. It also could imply that other churches could be worse.

Did anyone say this to you? How did you react/respond to this unhelpful response?



111 thoughts on “Spiritual Abuse: When People Tell You, “No Church is Perfect””

  1. @ Katy

    “Bike Bubba is a self confirmed “complementarian.” Need I say more?”

    I think it is so embarrassing when a man says he is complementarian.

    Oh, you have decided the sex that gives birth to you and the sex your sex sexually terrorizes as they are children; you should be the boss of this sex. But, they do not want to take the blame for their selfishness and typical misogyny. They blame God, the Bible, or women. No. It is they are connecting with their Ariel Castro tendencies.

    Ariel Castro wanted to be the boss of women, did not want women having the right to tell him no, and did not want women having the right to cut him out of their lives for good.

    Women and little girls can tell these selfish, self-promoting, self-elevating, self-important men they are hurting them. These men sweep it under the rug, change the subject, or try to blame someone else. They can’t go off somewhere and think critically about how degrading and very hurtful it is to women and little girls. In comp it is always the woman’s or little girl’s job to hurt to make the comp man feel better and make his life easier. It makes us feel awful and makes our lives harder. I do not think people have to hurt to make me feel better. People have every right to tell me no and cut me out of their lives for good. I do not want to be a user and an abuser.

    Comp men have to stand on their wives and daughters backs to elevate themselves. That is how low and embarrassing they are. It is our job to hurt to make our fathers and husbands feel better about their laughable feeble manhoods. Manhoods they are consistently begging people to believe they have.

    Real men are not afraid of women and do not need to imprison and degrade women to feel safe with women and feel better about themselves. Real men think it is embarrassing for a man to hurt women and hurt little girls. Comp men promote the self-serving idea as a prerequisite.

    Complementarianism is part of the female slavery culture, part of the little girl rape culture, and part of the wife beating culture. The comp man who sexually abused me as a child was always trying to explain to me that his ideology was actually good. Yeah, good for creeps like him that got a thrill out of degrading women and elevating himself and men like him above women. He thought because he was born with a penis and I was born with a vagina I should have to kiss his @ss. Why? What has he done? A woman gave birth to him and he raped a female child. I think he should kiss my mother’s and my grandmother’s bottoms.

    Comp men need to be embarrassed and get over themselves. The toxic brainwashing did not take on me.


  2. Bike Bubba is a self confirmed “complementarian.” Need I say more?

    Katy, one thing I’ve realized over the years is that when I’ve given people the benefit of the doubt, or tried to find some ‘other explanation’ when something didn’t smell right, I have always been wrong. The explanation is generally they are flat out lying, they are a sexist, they are a racist, etc. It doesn’t do much good to look beyond it, in my experience, because it generally comes down to something awful, in the end.

    @ Daisy “I hope you’re not disappointed with me, here, but… I do still want to get married.”

    There is nothing wrong with that. What is a mistake is to marry someone awful just because you want to check a box, which I know you haven’t done.


  3. Lea, “The explanation is generally they are flat out lying, they are a sexist, they are a racist, etc.”

    What I’ve been consistently struggling with ever since I left my complementarian/authoritarian church is that, yes, there are people who proudly wear their sexist/racist badge, but there are many, many more that are sexist/racist because they believe they are 100% following the Bible because it’s been so misrepresented by the church. They shun their wayward kids because that’s what the Bible says. They beat their kids because that’s what the Bible says. They avoid and belittle people with “sinful” lifestyles because that’s what the Bible says.

    I was like that. I didn’t think I was misogynistic because I was taught that it was “God’s Plan(TM)” for men and women, but when it didn’t work in my marriage it led me to question why – was I not trying hard enough, or was it not actually God’s plan?


  4. ‘There are no perfect men / perfect church / perfect pastor’..
    That often touted clichee just assumes that when we talk about abuses, we are in fact going around with a magnifying glass looking for faults! When in reality, most victims tried for years to ‘see the good’, no matter how harsh and cruel the leaders were. Especially when you’re youner.. the deep need to be accepted can make you stay and try to find excuses for bad behavior.
    Knowing what I know now about my ex pastor, how he for years belittled and cruelly used people for his own gain, I do not ever visit his new fancy building, even when he hosts interesting visiting preachers. Those visitors only see the smiles and the good front, they do not know what has been going on ..
    There is no need for perfection, but there is a need for kindness. Respect. Love. Compassion. Decency. Integrity. Truth. Safety.
    When those lack.. no thanks.


  5. When I had people tell me this:
    1. They didn’t know what they were even telling me to get over, because I had not shared with them the details, the magnitude, or the nature of the abuse I had suffered and witnessed others suffer. I made a general statement about the church hurt me and received emails and private messages from people rebuking me.
    2. It actually hurt me even worse than I was already hurt and made me lose even more trust in the church. When I needed help, I found no safe place, no refuge, no healing balm from “brothers and sisters”, only harsh critical words, misguided judgments about me, and accusations about my bitterness. All with no clue as to what exactly I had been through.
    I won’t set foot in a church anymore. That is not the place to go and find what they say you will find. I was victimized, abused and then blamed for it.

    Admin note: I changed name from Anonymous to Terry. We already have someone here with the name Anonymous 🙂


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