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Archive for November, 2010


Refer to Step 7: I will make a detailed, written account of my abusive experiences, as well as my subsequent behavior. I commit to being as thorough and honest as I’m able.

It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.

—James Gordon, M.D.

In the weeks and months immediately following your religious abuse, the devastation is so complete that you feel certain life will never return to normal again. The wound to your soul leaves you bleeding emotionally, and most feel certain that the destruction will be permanent. For many, it is, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There is an alternative.

In my own experience, my wounds lasted for nearly twenty-five years, which was far too long, but there was no program available to help me climb out of the hole either. To me, it seemed like I would have permanent emotional scaring, but that’s not what happened. I finally became sick and tired of living life as an emotional cripple, after being abused by mean-spirited men whose purpose was to destroy me. I realized that there was nobody that would help, so I had to trust God once again and dig myself out.

There were many things that helped me recover, including my firm commitment to do so, but perhaps the greatest recovery tool was when I started writing about my experiences. I wrote about them in excruciating detail—feeling all of the debilitating emotions I had originally felt once again. When I was finished, I read what I had written and made numerous changes.

As I continued the process, I realized that the longstanding sting from the affront had abated, and I no longer felt as wounded as I had for years. I had begun to heal. By the time I was finished, my understanding about what had happened was much clearer than it had ever been.

Over time, and slowly, my healing became complete. Now, years later, I understand my wounds, but they are no longer painful. Instead, I have gained wisdom I never would have had before I wrote about my experience. This can be your reality as well, and writing about it can be a valuable tool for you.

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the lord always. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in this way. (Proverbs 23:17-19)

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Refer to STEP 4: I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

Pride erects a little kingdom of its own, and acts as sovereign in it.

—William Hazlitt

Nearly every minister can point to a time when they first realized God wanted them to serve in the ministry. Even those who become abusive can point to their calling with certainty. That’s what makes their dysfunction so difficult for them to recognize. For the most part, they believe they are being faithful to their calling—never questioning their motives or goals.

Because they have been “called,” when a conflict arises, it’s never their problem. It’s the other person who is wrong—not them. The problem is with those who criticize their leading, whether blatantly or subtly. Because the person doesn’t follow their lead—blindly, without question—that person must be wrong, and they deserve the criticism they receive. Religious abusers not only position it this way, they actually believe their abusiveness is sanctioned—even justified. That’s how narcissists think.

For an abuser, there is rarely any grey area. You are either with them or against them. If you are in opposition, you might as well be questioning God Himself. Because God has “told them” what to do, any criticism of their agenda is met with harsh rebuke; but that’s not all. That’s just the beginning of their abusive treatment.

The person who doesn’t buy into the program is not only rebuked, but his or her relationship with God is also called into criticized. To question the leader is perceived as questioning God, making the person who disagrees have flawed character qualities. Routinely, those who are in opposition are depicted as “carnal”—as purposefully going against God’s will.

This makes the questioning person’s walk with the Lord seem defective. As such, the person’s character is castigated, and they are abruptly discarded and shunned—just as a leper would be in India. The person asking hard questions becomes an “untouchable”—rejected by those who were co-laborers just a short time before.

This kind of treatment happens routinely in ministries and churches, wounding people beyond their ability to cope with the condemnation they receive.

Who among you is wise and understanding? Lert him show by his good befavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. (James 3:13-14)

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Refer to Step 1: I acknowledge that my life is shipwrecked and not where I want it to be.

Faith is our greatest gift; sharing it with others our greatest responsibility.

—An AA Slogan

Each entry in 365: One Day at a Time is authentic—devoid of meaningless, sappy, religious drivel. That’s a promise. Having heard unimaginable war stories of abuse, authenticity for recovering people is required—not religious platitudes, and that’s what’s being delivered. Regardless of how badly you’ve been treated—of how abusive your experience has been, others have similar stories and have recovered to lead fruitful lives—lives of value.

The Great Commission is to make disciples—not new converts, which makes languishing, wounded believers like you very important to us and to God. Make no mistake about it; the Lord loves you just the way you are, regardless of your circumstance—regardless of your state of mind. He knows you’ve experienced dark times and have made self-destructive choices. He loves you, in spite of everything, even though you may not love yourself.

Your life has value and, once you have experienced God’s accepting, forgiving touch, you’ll want to help others—just like you’ve been helped. Having been derailed will no longer continue to thwart your destiny. Like Israel after the Holocaust, you will learn to say with confidence, “Never Again.”

Our goal is to aid you healing—to provide reflective material that will help you become the mature man or woman God redeemed you to be—healthy, sound and resilient. As you continue on your journey to complete emotional and spiritual recovery, your entire outlook and attitude on life will change, becoming far more positive and productive.

Isn’t it time to put down your anger and malice? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness once again? Your life can be one of calm, strong sanity. This is not a “name it—claim it” approach to recovery. It requires real work, real faith, real commitment, and time. If you work for it, however, you will be amazed at the progress you can make—so will others.

Thus says the Lord, “If you will return, then I will restore you—Before Me you will stand; and if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman.” (Jeremiah 15:19)

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Refer to STEP 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

There are two kinds of people:

Those seeking the truth

And those afraid of it.

—an AA slogan

In the aftermath of spiritual abuse, your eyes become opened. You see things differently—with much more clarity and far less naïveté. It’s like the blinders have been removed, and you realize the direction you’ve been traveling will not take you to the place you believed you were going.

It’s like Todo has pulled back the curtain and revealed the fraud you thought was the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. Realizing that your religious leader is narcissistically self-interested, you feel like a fool to have been so gullible. Once you realize this, that’s when you become cynical, and nothing spiritual seems real to you any longer.

When this happens, you can either fritter away many years of your life, nurturing anger, bitterness, and rebellion; or you can redouble your efforts to develop your relationship with God. He is real and can be trusted. He is not abusive like some of His misguided people.

Having your eyes opened is a good thing—despite the disillusionment necessary to make it happen. Nothing good comes from blindness. In order to be of maximum use to yourself and others, having your eyes opened was necessary.

Now, what you need to change is your perspective. When you realize that God allowed your abuse to get you to a better place—a place where you could trust Him and not a self-serving narcissist, you can bow your knee and be thankful. When you look at it from this perspective, you can learn to think positively about your experience. By changing your perspective, cynicism will leave you, and you will be far less likely to be fooled again.

And Jesus said, For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind. (John 9:39)

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Refer to Step 7: I will make a detailed, written account of my abusive experiences, as well as my subsequent behavior. I commit to being as thorough and honest as I’m able.

There is a weird power in a spoken word. . . and a word carries far—very far—deals destruction through time as the bullets go flying through space.

—Joseph Conrad

Words are more powerful than most people can comprehend. No matter how much you desire to do so, you can never retract hurtful words spoken in the heat of an argument. Once they leave your mouth, those words can never be retrieved. Nearly everybody can remember hurtful words that were maliciously spoken when they were children, even if it was decades earlier. For many, the pain from a rebuke can be felt years after it was delivered.

Hurtful, scolding words make indelible imprints on our minds and on our hearts. The wounds they inflict may last a lifetime. Unfortunately, apologies don’t erase them from our memories—nothing can. The Scriptures tell us that no man can “tame the tongue. It’s a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The power of words is incredible, especially negative, abusive ones.

Several years ago, a survey asked mothers to keep a daily record of how many times they made negative and positive comments to their children. The results were startling. The mothers documented that they made critical remarks ten times more often than encouraging words.

Statistics reveal that in an average household, children hear “no” or are told they “can’t” more than 148,000 times by the time they reach eighteen. One school did its own three-year survey and discovered the teachers were negative with their students 75 percent of the time. The study also determined that it required four positive statements from a teacher to offset the effects of one negative statement.

Why not take a few minutes and write down the negative things you have said to someone you care about? If you do, it will help you to think before you speak, and it can also help you make a positive impact upon another. Saying something positive can help heal a broken relationship. By encouraging someone today, it will also help advance your recovery. So, be merciful to someone who is wounded—someone who is in desperate need of validation.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Psalm 18:21)

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Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He wishes.

The brightest crowns that are worn in heaven have been tried, and smelted, polished, and glorified through the furnace of tribulation.

—E. H. Chapin

For faith to have any lasting impact for you or others, it must be robust—filled with confidence that God is in charge and knows what He is doing. Does that sound like a tall order? If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ll probably admit that it does. Like most, you wish that you were a stronger person; but in your heart, you probably know that you are not.

If this is an accurate depiction of you, you’re not alone. America is full of Christians who lack the strength of their convictions. Being short of strong, heartfelt faith, they either become legalists or sentimentalists.

The former doggedly pursue Christianity, trying to enforce harsh rules upon themselves and others, which is decidedly unappealing to most. The latter relegate Christianity to a small area of their life, choosing to believe but not allowing their beliefs to impact their lives appreciably.

In America, there are more Christians that are sentimentalists than any other kind. They are certainly more fun to be around than legalists but, being shallow, they lack the resilience to have much value when the chips are down, and the chips are definitely down.

This is where the value of being in recovery comes in. By having to dig deeply within, recovering people develop a toughness that eventually becomes significant for others. Because their faith has been tested by fire, their resilience becomes established, allowing them to develop strong, positive internal character qualities. Sentimentalists, by way of contrast, do little more than hope for a “divine bailout” in the form of the Rapture, which justifies their weakness with a “Last-Days” mentality that venerates apathetic “lukewarm-ness.”

If you have experienced religious abuse, regardless of the reasons behind it, at least you can know that the pain you have suffered need not be in vain. If you are still suffering from your abuse, rest assured that your future will have value—perhaps great value. By fighting back, you are creating strong, resilient character qualities that will be vitally important in the years ahead.

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36)

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Refer to Step 7: I will make a detailed, written account of my abusive experiences, as well as my subsequent behavior. I commit to being as thorough and honest as I’m able.

In the weeks and months immediately following your religious abuse, the devastation is so complete that you feel certain life will never return to normal again. The wound to your soul leaves you bleeding emotionally, and most feel certain that the destruction will be permanent. For many, it is, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There is an alternative.

In my own experience, my wounds lasted for nearly twenty-five years, which was far too long, but there was program available to help me climb out of the pit either. To me, it seemed like I would have permanent emotional scaring, but that’s not what happened. I finally became sick and tired of living life as an emotional cripple, after being abused by mean-spirited men whose purpose was to destroy me. I realized that there was nobody that would help, so I had to trust God once again and dig myself out.

There were many things that helped me recover, including my firm commitment to do so, but perhaps the greatest recovery tool was when I started writing about my experiences. I wrote about them in excruciating detail—feeling all of the debilitating emotions I had originally felt once again. When I was finished, I read what I had written and made numerous changes.

As I continued the process, I realized that the longstanding sting from the affront had abated, and I was no longer felt as wounded as I had for years. I had begun to heal. By the time I was finished, my understanding about what had happened was much greater than it had ever been.

Over time and slowly, my healing became complete. Now, years later, I understand my wounds, but they are no longer painful. Instead, I have gained wisdom I never would have had before I wrote about it. This can be your experience as well, and writing about them can be a valuable tool for you.

Read Full Post »

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