Should we repent for allowing ourselves to be spiritually abused? Yikes.
I am re-posting the following article in its entirety from my friend Julie Anne Smith’s blog, Spiritual Sounding Board. It refers to an original post by Dr. Stephen Crosby. This article will make you think.
I came across an article on spiritual abuse Spiritual Abuse: It takes “Two to Tango” written by Stephen Crosby. I noticed a TWW reader mentioned it, causing a little uproar as the reader challenged “survivor blogs”, and it was also referenced at SGMSurvivor site as a good resource for spiritual abuse survivors. In the comment section of Crosby’s bio, he responds to a reader:
I have experienced the abuse myself and understand it spiritually, theologically, relationally, and psychologically; I help people recover, or perhaps discover for the first time, the reality of their sonship and relationship to their Father, rather than relationship to the church or Christian religion.
It sounds like Crosby spends a significant amount of his time helping people and he clearly has an understanding of spiritual abuse. Here’s the part of the article that intrigued me the most, in particular the third paragraph (the bold parts were from the article, not by me):
I have dealt with literally hundreds of people who have been legitimately abused in unhealthy church environments. I am very sympathetic to their pain and have my own hair-curling horror stories I could tell of the things that have been done to me, my wife, and my children by “leaders” in the name of Jesus. I GET IT.
However, I’ve noticed a difference between those who are restored to spiritual health quickly, and those who remain in reactionary woundedness for years or decades. Those who recover quickly admit that there was something broken or unwhole in themselves that was a “hook” for controllers and abusers to play on. They do not just blame the perpetrators of the injustice against them. Healthy, whole, functional, adults–especially fully resourced believers (2 Pet. 1:3)–are not easy to control and abuse.
As legitimate as the mistreatment may have been, somewhere the abused individuals (assuming adults–not children or minors) failed to exercise their God-given abilities to protect themselves. God has given every mentally whole adult the “power of no” to protect ourselves. How much more so believers who have the indwelling Spirit? The trouble is, we are often not whole and we often ignore the Spirit’s prompting because of the emotional cost of following what He says to us. Being Spirit-led takes more courage than people normally think, but then again, courage is one of the first evidences of being a regenerated, Spirit-filled, human being (Acts 1-4).
This is a recurring comment we have seen here when discussing spiritual abuse – that we are partly responsible for the abuse we incurred, we should have seen the faulty doctrine, the signs, the fruit in the leaders’ lives, etc. Here’s more from the article:
Folks could have said “no” to leaders. Why didn’t they? Could be lots of reasons for that. What was the “hook” in the soul that folks could not say “no”? Folks can leave a ministry or church. They don’t. Why? Could be lots of reasons, some very difficult to face. They could have confronted.
What about wives in a complementarian or especially patriarchal environment? Do you think they need to own their part of allowing the abuse when their marriage may in fact be a system where women have no voice? In SGM-like churches and my former church, husbands are called the priest of the home. They are responsible for the family spiritually. Women are many times left out of the process.
Towards the end of my time at the abusive church I had to make the choice to “sin.” I remember feeling strongly that I was in deep sin by doing what I was doing: telling my husband I no longer could go to THAT church, that it was killing me mentally, spiritually. Somehow I had the wherewithal to say, “enough is enough,” but there was a personal cost and a cost to the family. I felt so guilty for saying I could not go back to that church and would be going somewhere else without the family. I was completely bucking this religious system I was part of and had no idea what would happen next. I was saying NO to my spiritual head.
I had difficulty reading parts of Crosby’s article. Spiritual abusers are masterful manipulators. They can pull the wool over people’s eyes. I get confused wondering what I could have done differently. And then the guilt comes again. Am I supposed to be asking God to forgive me for obeying my husband by going to the church he led our family to?
The article then goes on to discuss that many of us had psychological needs met by our abusers and that’s why we chose to remain. Ouch! I think there may be some truth to that in some instances, but again, what about wives in patriarchal families where the father makes these decisions for his family?
The final paragraph:
If you have been seriously damaged in a church situation, I urge you to forgive quickly, take responsibility for your own soul, repent to God for not using the tools he has given you to protect yourself, find people who can love you without agenda, help you find inner healing if you need it, and be restored to a vibrant and healthy kingdom life.
Am I supposed to repent to God for not using the tools He gave me? Again, ouch. I think there is good information in this article, but for me, it was difficult to read on the emotional level – no warm fuzzies, that’s for sure.
[End of Julie’s post.]
A very thought-provoking post, is it not?
I had some questions, so I read Dr. Crosby’s entire original article and then asked him to clarify several points. He graciously took the time to do so, and we developed a fruitful exchange. I’m still thinking this all through, but I believe some helpful definition of terms is in order, as well as some more nuance. I will post my position–that is, what I think the Bible teaches–in a follow-up article. In the meantime, what do you think? I welcome your comments on this topic.
You can see Dr. Crosby’s original article here. Please note the following copyright info:
Copyright 2013, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, http://www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.