Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Recovery from Spiritual Abuse

Expand Messages
  • brighttigress
    I d like to repost this one from alt.support.ex-cult and to add to Jan Groe= nveld s comments, because I know some former eckists have bad feelings about=
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 2002
    • 0 Attachment
      I'd like to repost this one from alt.support.ex-cult and to add to Jan Groe=
      nveld's comments, because I know some former eckists have bad feelings about=
      Christianity, well...if you substitute things like "good spiritual truths f=
      rom all over" for "scripture", that might help.

      I'm also going to post a few more things Jan has "shared" from various sour=
      ces. It's *so* nice that there are excellent resources out there because ot=
      hers do it *so* much better than I could!! <gg>

      And I'd like to encourage anyone, just talking with others & sharing experi=
      ences, etc., can be a big help - so I'd like to recommend that people join h=
      ttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/ex-cult-support - and also /freedomofmind, whic=
      h is public. You'll find them *extremely* helpful in getting out of the "ec=

      Folks, I know some of you don't believe in God etc ... but bear with this
      message and get out of it what you can ..... OK? This article is written f=
      Christians who want to help .... but no matter who we are, we can learn fro=
      m it.


      Recovery from Spiritual Abuse
      How You Can Help

      By Sharon Hilderbrant, M.A.

      Recently, I have read two new books that describe in detail the
      abusive behavior of various churches and the effects of this abuse
      on church members. Churches That Abuse, by Ron Enroth, and Damaged
      Disciples (in press), by Ron and Vicki Burks, both published by
      Zondervan, relate stories that may be hard for some Christians to
      believe. Those of us who work with the victims, however, know the
      stories are true.

      Churches on the fringe exist in every major metropolitan area as
      well as in small towns and isolated rural areas. Some are large,
      "mega-church" organizations, while some may be small house-church
      gatherings. Most of them look fairly normal to outsiders. That is,
      until abused persons begin to leave and tell of their experiences.

      Getting out of the group is only the beginning of recovery. Recovery
      involves, according to one survivor, getting "the group out of us."
      The effects of abuse are long-standing. The following outlines how
      Christians can help the spiritually abused in their recovery.


      Most survivors will have much trouble trusting. Anyone. Especially
      churches. A support system is desperately needed, but survivors will
      have difficulty approaching. Help with material needs (housing, job,
      food, etc.) is usually much appreciated. Social support via
      invitations to events or dinner, or just a conversation about
      something other than church or religious issues is very much needed.

      Therefore, a safe place for confidentiality, a place to be relaxed
      without expectations of appearances or performance, a place to
      connect with another caring person (or persons) without becoming too
      involved in private lives, is needed. A dysfunctional don't trust
      rule was present in the system, by teaching, by practice, or both.
      Don't push for trust. Don't push the recovery process. Respect their


      Survivors need to tell their story. So they will remember it
      themselves, and not deny any part of it. So they can be validated by
      others who believe them. So they can use the truth to dispel the
      deceptions of the past and discern deception in the future. The
      dysfunctional system no doubt had a don't talk rule by practice—but
      probably spiritualized and cloaked in scripture as well. The don't
      talk rule serves to hide a myriad of the leaders' sins.


      It is normal for anyone who has been victimized and abused to feel
      intense emotions. The longer the survivors had to endure abuse
      without an outlet for emotions, the longer it will take for them to
      experience the full range of emotions about it. Depression and
      anxiety are common masks for other emotions.

      Too much intellectualizing may inhibit the survivor from getting in
      touch with his or her emotions. Fear, guilt, anger, grief, rage,
      sorrow—all must be felt and expressed in their own time. An
      overspiritualizing of emotions may have been present in the
      dysfunctional system, with certain emotions demanded and others
      condemned by a twisting of scripture. The result is a don't feel
      your real feelings rule.


      Encourage survivors to talk about what happened to them. Listen.
      Empathize. Offer words that may describe what the person is feeling,
      since they may not be able to identify it themselves at first. Limit
      feedback and comments to supportive statements. Keep
      confidentiality. Be trustworthy.

      Who am I? Survivors typically do not know who they are anymore. They
      lost themselves in the church/cult. They need to know they are
      lovable. Count them as equal to yourself—not less just because they
      are needy. Assure them they do not have to be perfect. Accept them
      as they are. Encourage them. Build confidence, offer choices. Allow
      them to have strengths and weaknesses.

      They need to know that they are not evil or possessed, not crazy,
      not shameful. They need to know that they are not powerless and that
      they can recover and grow beyond this experience. Don't make
      decisions for them and don't try to fix them. Let them know you
      speak for yourself. Be careful of speaking for God. Tell them
      recovery takes a long time—2 to 4 years, or longer.

      What about the group? It is critical that survivors know that God is
      not the group. Leaving the group is not equivalent to leaving God.
      They must hear that no group has exclusive truth, or is the elite,
      or is especially anointed over another for ministry of the gospel.
      (It is the gospel that is anointed!)

      They also need to recognize that group leaders actually deceived
      people, used and abused people, twisted scripture, and fostered
      co-dependent and/or addictive behaviors (perhaps immoral behavior,
      too) among members. Be gentle as you interpret what was hurtful and
      wrong in the group. Remember, they probably have left behind some
      people that are still dear to their hearts and do not wish to blame
      them. Information about co-dependency and dysfunctional families and
      other institutions at this stage may be helpful in confronting
      denial. Save Bible reading until the individual is ready to grapple
      with it in small doses.

      What is God really like?

      Just as survivors lost themselves in the group, so did they lose
      reality about who God is. They need to have grace explained in depth
      and to examine God's attributes carefully. The long process of
      recovery involves continually uncovering misrepresentations of God
      conveyed by the words and behavior of group leaders, parents and
      other authority figures.

      Survivors will need to be reminded again and again of the true
      attributes of God and the principle of grace. Be genuine. Be
      personal. Explain how scripture helps you to understand God's
      attributes. If you have received grace, you can speak confidently
      about it. Tell what you love about God.

      God's people:

      To become reconciled to God requires reconciliation with God's
      people. Many who begin to trust God again have much more difficulty
      trusting people in any church. It helps to confront the truth about
      God's people with statements similar to the following:

      * Leaders are not more favored by God over others in the church.
      * All struggle spiritually, even leaders.
      * All are in various stages of growth (no instant spirituality).
      * All make mistakes, none are infallible.
      * All can learn to hear God's voice for themselves - no need to
      remain spiritual children who must submit to parental leaders.
      * All need each other - none are needless.
      * All have something to give and are valuable to God.
      * All leaders and lay persons—are called to live by the same standards.
      * All need to have their own relationship with God apart from the involve=
      ment of
      other believers—including spouses.
      * The church is not just one building or one gathering, but believers eve=

      Be honest:

      Be honest about yourself and your own church. Admit your own
      inability to have all the answers. The truth will not hinder their
      relationship with God. Remember it is the Holy Spirit's job to draw
      them to Himself. Your admission of struggle may help them to learn
      to struggle and not give up.

      Going to church:

      Survivors may need help working through memories and emotions
      triggered by going to church. Continually point them to God Himself.
      It is not God who has violated them, but people - some well-intended
      and some deceptive. Help survivors to see that Christians are
      individuals - imperfect - not to be put on pedestals, but to share in
      the struggles and the benefits of the Christian faith.

      Help them to recognize the distorted thinking - about themselves,
      about God, etc.—that accompanies traumatic reactions. This is a good
      time to use the safety and authority of scripture to confront the
      deception created by the group, and to soothe and console. A trained
      counselor may be needed for this part of recovery.

      Untwisting Scripture:

      All survivors will need help working through memories and feelings
      triggered by scripture. Scripture was twisted to the advantage of
      the group or its leaders. True meanings of Scripture are healing and
      give life. Untwisting takes much work. Make no assumptions of what
      they know or understand. Challenge every concept, all usage of
      jargon and Bible language for clarification of what it means to
      them. They may assume you know their understanding of a phrase, as
      if there is only one way to interpret it. Respect their spiritual
      boundaries. Be sure they are ready to grapple with scripture. (It is
      normal to avoid reading the Bible at all for 12-18 months or more.)


      The recovery process I have just outlined takes a long time.
      One-on-one support is a long-term commitment. More helpful is a
      group support system, where all are assisting survivors in various
      aspects. Create a network of Christians who will assist with
      material needs, who will provide financial assistance to attend
      community events (or a couples' weekend, or a family camp) for rest
      and recreation, who will assist with filling out tax forms, or who
      will advise on how to buy a good used car.

      Help them obtain medical care or tutor their children to bring them
      up to grade level. Provide information that will help them learn (or
      re-learn) how to function, without fear or shame, in the larger
      society. Lend them self-help books to read. Help with professional
      counseling as needed. Be available as a friend in a small group of
      friends. (Isn't that how Jesus would do it?)

    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.