Saturday, May 25, 2013

What do spiritually abused Christians struggle with? Part 2

"In Him you have been made complete..."
Colossians 2:10
(We don't need to improve on what He's done!)

Last time, we looked at 5 areas that Christians in abusive spiritual systems (family, church, etc.) may struggle.
Here are 5 other areas as outlined in the profound work of David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen entitled
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

6.  You may have a problem in the area of personal boundaries, an unclear understanding about 'death to self' teachings and 'rights.'

"People who have misused their spiritual power have disrespected or beaten down your boundaries.  They have shamed you out of your 'no,' clouded your will and intruded into your life with religious agendas.  They have violated your spirituality by playing 'Holy Spirit.'
Having an opinion has come to equal lack of submissiveness.
Having a right to not be abused is selfish."

Ever felt like you just couldn't say no to some responsibility even though it would put tremendous strain on your marriage relationship, time with your family, finances, etc simply because you felt you just couldn't disappoint those in church leadership?
Me too.
One tends to lose the joy of ministry when it becomes obligation.

7.  You may have difficulty with personal responsibility.

Do you feel like "everyone's issues are yours to solve?"
"Their heavy feelings are yours to fix.  You have an impossible time saying no to people's needs or requests.  After all, if you don't do it, who will?

(May I just insert something here?  This is especially difficult for laypeople or paid church staff, fresh out-of-college {BIBLE college..mind you}, who are young, eager, and have the training.  Just sayin'.)

"You have a greater sense of God needing you than of you needing God.
In fact, not only are you responsible for how everybody else's day goes, you are even responsible for God's day too.
It is your job to live just right, so that God can feel pleased at the end of the day."

8.  You may suffer from a lack of living skills.

"Abusive systems develop a 'bunker mentality.'
This is characterized by being closed and paranoid toward the outside, and secretive about what goes on inside.  The mentality is not only separatist, but highly judgmental.  With this mentality, many Christians may think only one or two colleges are 'separated enough' from the world for students to be able to safely attend. Or college education is looked down upon altogether.

The result is that a student is equipped emotionally, spiritually, and mentally to work only somewhere in the original system or in one like it.
Even though many of these graduates are financially on the brink of disaster, they often hesitate to leave because they aren't able to function in another system.  When they finally do leave - because their family is lacking or because they're tired of being mistreated - they are forced to take low-paying jobs in the regular work force.  In the eyes of their own, they are considered to have 'missed God's call.'  Spiritually abusive systems like this can produce a lot of college-educated common laborers."
But let's clarify here:  "There is no disgrace in being a laborer......The disgrace is in promising people the benefits of a college degree, then giving them a second-rate education and charging them as if it were first-rate."
"The danger is in educating people in religious settings as a result of a 'bunker mentality.'  People who think this way act as if contact with the evil things present in 'the world' are the reason people have problems.
For people whose lives and relationships aren't working, it's important that they come to understand their problem isn't the evil that surrounds them on the outside.  Their need is to develop maturity, strength and the ability to make wise decisions, to grow in dependence upon God as their source on the inside."

9.  You may have a hard time admitting the abuse.

Three reasons for this might be:
  1. "In an abusive system, you are told that you are 'the problem' for noticing that there is a problem.  That makes it hard to expose the abuse, even after you've left the system.
  2. Admitting the abuse out loud - or even thinking that what you experienced was abuse - often feels like you're being disloyal to family, to church, even to God.
  3. Those who have experience spiritual abuse as 'normal' have lost track of what normal really is.  Therefore, to call it spiritual abuse feels crazy or overreactive."

10.  You may have a hard time with trust.

"Those who have been spiritually abused will have a hard time trusting a spiritual system again.  This is extremely significant, because the essence of living as a Christian is a trust relationship with God, within God's family."

"Therefore, is anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation."
2 Corinthians 5:17

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