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)