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Archive for March, 2014


Piling On

 

 

Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to give me the power to carry it out.

 

 

Among the attributes of God, although they are all equal, mercy shines with even more brilliancy than justice.

—Miguel De Cervantes

 

 

In the aftermath of religious abuse—or any kind of abuse—an interesting phenomenon occurs, which might be described best as “Piling On.” It’s where others within an organization, perhaps all, join in with the abuser, pouring out rejection, castigation, and false witness—all of which are perceived as justified by the group dynamic.

This kind of corporate abuse sends the abused person into a tailspin from which few return to a healthy walk with God. Most of those doing the piling on don’t think about their actions seriously enough to realize the full impact of their rejecting castigation, but the person to whom its directed feels it acutely. It wounds them at the core of their being, producing feelings of shame and worthlessness.

Tragically, church people do this so frequently that it’s one of the characteristics non-believers recognize the most. Referring to Christians as hypocrites as a result, they point the same condemning finger that Christians point. Church people, who never recognizing how un-Christ like their condemnation is, circle their wagons, mutually reinforcing each other as being “right.” In their minds, they have made a stand for Jesus. Having done the right thing, their attitude is, let the chips fall where they may.

When this happens, and it happens routinely, an opportunity for kindness, acceptance, and reconciliation has been lost, while reinforcing another legalistic outcome, which hurts all parties.

In recovery, one of the first lessons to learn is this: if you’re going to err, err on the side of being merciful rather than on the side of being correct. God’s Kingdom is full of Pharisee’s. What is needed are people who can recognize the problem and yet not point a condemning finger. If this happens, real caring and healing will occur. Because recovering people have had similar experiences, it’s up to people like us—the walking wounded—to set the standard higher.

 

 

So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)

Jack Watts

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Legalism, Sentimentality, and Recovery

 

 

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 upon 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 without allowing their values 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 being apathetically “lukewarm.”

If you have experienced religious abuse, regardless of the reasons behind it, at least you can know 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 to come.

 

 

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)

Jack Watts

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Want Your Prayers Answered?

 

 

Refer to Step 5:I recognize that the only way back to a productive life is exactly the way I came. Therefore, I commit to repairing my relationship with God.

 

 

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

—C. S. Lewis

 

Everybody wants his or her prayers answered. That’s no surprise, but many people—perhaps most—really don’t want what God wants. His desire is to develop a deep relationship with each of His children, which most people rarely even consider. They just want what they want and for God to grant their wishes. It’s as simple as that, and when they don’t have their demands met, they become angry with Him for not coming through for them.

It’s like everything else in life. You have to do the work necessary for anything worthwhile before you achieve the success you desire. If you want to be a scholar, you have to read. If you want to be an athlete, you have to exercise constantly. If you want to have a solid relationship with God, you have to become an obedient child—not a spoiled brat.

To do this, you must leave your complexities at the door, humble yourself, and believe God is everything He says that He is. It’s not easy. It’s much more natural to try and figure out things for yourself, make your own decisions, and assume that God will “rubber stamp” your efforts.

That’s what most people do, and they’re surprised when they have no peace, joy, or fulfillment in their lives. They just don’t get it. All they have to do is become like a little child, who has complete dependence and reliance upon a loving, benevolent parent.

It doesn’t get any simpler or more complex than this. If your prayers aren’t being answered, don’t become verbose with God. Become simple instead, but remember, He is God and you are not; and what He wants more than anything is for you to get to know Him.

 

And He called a child to Himself and stood him in their midst, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-4)

Jack Watts

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Calculating an Advantage

 

Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

 

It is one of the worst effects of prosperity to make a man a vortex instead of a fountain; so that, instead of throwing out, he learns only to draw in.

—Henry Ward Beecher

 

Unfortunately, this generation of Christians has proven to be one of the weakest ever. While there are millions who call themselves God’s children, most lead lives similar to people who have no interest in God or Christianity. Most Americans are hardened materialists, and so are most Christians.

Today’s Christians seek an advantage in everything they do, precisely like non-believers. When Christians give, they expect something in return. In their minds, they say; “If I give this, what will God give me in return?” Or, “If I do what God asks, how will it enhance my position in the church and the community?”

People might couch their calculations in noble, selfless terms, precisely like a Pharisee would have in Christ’s day, but at the core of their being, they are calculating a profit or something that will elevate their status. This is the generation of “What’s in it for me?”

If this is true for rank and file believers, it’s even truer for religious leaders. In nearly everything they do, there is a self-seeking component to it. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, and none of this furthers God’s work on earth. Plus, it’s why there is so much religious abuse. When Christians—leaders and followers—are self-seeking, nobody wins, especially the Lord. If Christianity is about anything of value, it’s about serving others, expecting nothing in return.

Christian leaders talk about being the servants of all but, by their actions, they are anything but servants, as they enhance their status by using, abusing, and discarding those who get in their way to stardom.

 

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:18-20)

Jack Watts

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Rejecting Shame

 

Father,

My heart aches,

And I feel so unworthy

To come before You.

I feel worthless and,

By the contemptuous smirk of others,

I’m certain that I am.

I feel so ashamed of myself,

And nobody is to say,

“It’s okay. God is there for you

No matter what.”

I feel like I need to cringe

And not hold my head up high.

I feel like I need to lurk in the darkness

Rather than boldly embrace the light.

I feel like You don’t love me,

And I wonder, How could You?

I know I don’t love myself

And I probably never will.

And yet, in the depth of my shame,

You are there, always vigilant,

Always available, always telling me,

My child, I know what you’ve done.

I know how badly you feel.

I know that you think your life has no value,

But that’s not how I see you—not at all.

In spite of everything, I love you

Just the way you are.

That’s why I sent My Son.

He took care of your shame

And washed it whiter than snow.

Now, leave the past behind.

Hold your head up high

And walk with Me into the future.

I still have a plan for you—a plan

Filled with hope and promise.

Jack Watts

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Father,

When will terror of the unknown

Cease to grip my soul,

Tossing me about,

Robbing me of sleep,

Robbing me of purpose,

Robbing me of a purposeful life.

You know me intimately, Lord.

You know the thoughts

And the intentions of my heart.

But I can’t find You in this dismal pit,

Which has become my life.

Tell me, will I find joy once more?

Will I regain my confidence?

Will I smile at the future once again?

 

Question: Everybody who has ever been abused has felt like this at one time or another. Answer the questions asked from your own experience.

 

 

 

Because of your relationship with God, you have all the tools necessary to reverse the negative emotional input of your abusers. It’s all there—inside you—waiting to be utilized. All you have to do is appropriate it. Don’t allow all-consuming fear to incapacitate you. If you haven’t already begun to repudiate your fearfulness, start today. Remember, you can still be everything God ever intended you to be, which is definitely His will. All that’s stopping you is yourself.

Journal: Write about how fear has gripped you in the past and how you deal with it now. Be completely honest and forthright.

 

There is no principle in Scripture that is clearer than there is “no condemnation” for believers. At the same time, it’s the weapon of choice for most religious abusers. They wield condemnation like a sword, constantly pointing their finger at people, scolding them for the way they behave and even for the way they think. Because the abuser is in a position of power, the condemnation he or she heaps upon others resonates, finding fertile ground in the soil of the abused person’s heart, but you don’t hve to accept it as true. It isn’t.

 

Journal: Write about how someone in spiritual authority has used condemnation to abuse you. Be sure to write about how effective it has been in putting you down.

 

When despair comes, recognize it for what it is, but never give in to it. The feeling is normal for humans, but if you nurture it, it will develop into self-pity, which will consistently prevent you from standing on your feet. Instead, ask God this: “What do You want me to learn from this experience? What is the lesson You are trying to teach me? I want to understand, to learn from my experience, and to grow from it.”

 

Journal: Write your answer to the questions asked in the paragraph above.

 

You are in a unique position to help others—just as you’ve been helped. All you have to do is keep your eyes open and your ears keen. If you do, God will bring as many people into your life as you have the capacity to help—perhaps more. The enormity of the problem is that severe, and those who have the capacity to help, so few. Be vigilant. Be open, and get involved.

 

Question: Do you recognize how important you are? Are you vigilant? Are you open? Are you available to get involved?

Jack Watts

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Being Available to Others

 

Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to give me the power to carry it out.

 

Be alert to give service. What counts a great deal in life is what we do for others.

—Anonymous

Although you may not recognize it yet, you’re a much more valuable person than you once were. Because of the heartache you’ve endured, and your willingness to take a hard look at the painful events surrounding your abuse; you have learned recovery skills that will help you live life more successfully. Unlike most, you can now look at life more realistically than ever.

Because abuse is so personal—because it’s such an affront to who you are—each person who has experienced it believes his or her story is unique. As they see it, nobody has ever suffered as unjustly as they have but, if you think about it, this couldn’t possibly be true.

Sadly, religious abuse is quite common. Multiplied millions have experienced it, just like you have. Most haven’t recovered, however, which means you understand many things they don’t. You know the way out; you know about the 11 Steps. Most don’t have a clue about their abuse or that recovery is even possible. They’re still grinding out their days in mediocrity, suffering from shame, disappointment, and disillusionment.

You are in a unique position to help others—just as you’ve been helped. All you have to do is keep your eyes open and your ears keen. If you do, God will bring as many people into your life as you have the capacity to help—perhaps more. The enormity of the problem is that severe, and those who have the capacity to help, so few.

Be vigilant. Be open, and get involved. Regardless of whatever else you might be doing, because of what you know, helping others discover spiritual freedom has got to become a part of your life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (II Corinthians 1:3-4)

Jack Watts

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