All believers absolutely need strong and Godly teaching to challenge them to mature in Christ. That’s a given!
However, when subtle and not-so-subtle twists and turns take place, accompanied with shaming, or — the isolating of any individuals who ask legitimate questions, or — the pressure is applied and the unfair expectation of “perfect performance” and total compliance to make an organization or church (or marriage-or child) appear to be “cozy, holy and safe” ( when it isn’t) happens…
…..You are in the thick fog of Spiritual Abuse. (Don’t chicken out now! Keep reading!)
I know that this might be uncomfortable, but the number of individuals that have come to see us for counsel or to have nervous, painful dialogues over the phone (for many years), this painful abuse is often staggering.
Seasoned and Accountable leaders as well as Faith Based Counselors need to bravely address this because it’s so damaging to relationships. And, it’s killing families.
- “Spiritual Abuse” — What is it?
- Would you recognize it if you saw it?
- Would you know it if you were doing it?
- How can you know if you’re in a spiritually abusive relationship?
First of all, spiritual abuse is a form of emotional abuse that can be perpetrated by men or women.
All abuse (including emotional abuse), is based on power and control as opposed to love and respect.
*** That’s so important so… read it again:
All abuse (including emotional abuse), is based on power and control not love and respect.
Spiritual abuse occurs when a leader, or a spouse, a boss, a friend intentionally attempts to control, manipulate, or dominate another person.
Fear is used by the spiritually abusive because it’s one of the most effective ways to control people’s minds. If you control their mind you control their behavior.
Additionally, guilt and shame are effective weapons the abusive party uses to victimize and establish control.
Spiritual abuse occurs in marriage when the husband or wife uses religion to “rule over” their spouse.
Spiritual abuse makes its victims dependent upon the will of the perpetrator.
The abusive person may succeed in making the victim feel incapable of doing anything on his or her own without their help, permission or approval.
Victims lose confidence in themselves. They also lose confidence and assurance in their relationship with God apart from the perpetrator. They become emotionally enslaved to their abusive partner.
Spiritually abusive spouses are driven by the need to control.
- They are jealous and try to isolate their partner from others. (Male and Female folks!)
- They are disrespectful.
- They shun privacy and personal boundaries, which is also a form of emotional abuse.
So, how do you know if you’re in a spiritually abusive marriage?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does your spouse exhibit control-oriented leadership — do they “lord” over you?
- Does your spouse demand submission and unquestioning loyalty?
- Does your spouse demand obedience?
- Are questions unwelcome or perceived as challenges to their “authority?”
- Are guilt, fear, and intimidation used to control and manipulate you?
- Does your spouse claim that questioning him/ her is akin to questioning God?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s likely you’re suffering emotional abuse and are in a spiritually abusive relationship.
What can you do if you’re being spiritually abused?
- Remember & accept that you are a child of God and that He wants you to be free.
- Realize that God, despite His power, doesn’t “lord” over you — and He doesn’t expect you to allow yourself to be “lorded over” by any human being. He hates any and all means of coercion.
- Believe that God has freed you from your abuser — and gives you the right and power to stop listening to them!
- Accept the truth that you are being led by the Holy Spirit, and that through Bible study and prayer, you have the privilege to decide what is good, bad, wrong or right for yourself.
Please listen carefully to what I’m about to say next:
ou do not require the guidance or approval of a third party to encounter God or know His will.
And, finally, remember this:
- Healthy spirituality elevates people, freeing them from guilt, fear and shame.
- Healthy religion is based on love and respect and does not seek to control, but instead invites people to choose to connect with God willingly and become one with Him.
- Healthy spirituality and religion do not seek to create fear or shame in believers.
- Guilt and shame are done away with by a caring God who forgives and restores.
- There is absolutely no emotional or spiritual abusiveness within an authentic relationship with Him.
- Nor should there be any in your relationship with your partner or community of faith.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also the interests of others,” Philippians 2:3-4.
And for the record:
Those who have their hearts bent on judging or hammering on a Leader in order to CONTROL them or to enjoy spiritual posturing?
THEY TOO ARE ABUSIVE … and thrive on the attention they create. BEWARE!
In His Shadow,
~ Mary Lindow ©
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Mary Lindow has a passion for encouraging others – all generations, careers or vocations to live expressing excellence through personal integrity, healthy accountability, and wise management of talents and skills. She’s a sought after keynote, inspirational, humorous speaker and teacher across the USA and internationally in Ministers & Spiritual leaders Conferences, and training seminars for various organizations.