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What is Spiritual Abuse?

by | Jul 2, 2019 | Church Too, Emotional Abuse, Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual abuse is quickly becoming a buzz word nowadays, but I think few people realize just how prevalent it can be. Let’s look at a covert example of spiritual abuse I recently encountered, shall we?

As I was reading the first chapter of James this morning, I came across this verse and a prickle went up the back of my neck:
“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father…”  ~ James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭

This verse was used against me over and over in a dating relationship I was involved in last year. During this short relationship I constantly had a “gut feeling” that things weren’t right. There were several things that concerned me about this man, but I wasn’t quite ready to break things off (hindsight shows me this was a classic rebound scenario).

Even so, I constantly expressed my uneasiness to this man and kept asking to slow things down in the relationship. Whenever I would bring up these concerns he would cheerfully quote this verse and say how, according to him, this relationship was “a good and perfect gift” which meant it was from God, which meant I needed to silence my gut feeling and believe that this relationship was meant to be and I should marry this guy.

Ahhhhh…..no.

The remarkable thing about spiritual abuse is that its number one goal is to produce shame and fear in the victim, therefore manipulating the victim to swallow the hook, line, and sinker that the abuser is dangling before them. Knowing that, let’s look at this verse from a different perspective.

  • ‘“Good and perfect” doesn’t necessarily equal the will of God or the best path or purpose for our lives.
  • There can be a few good things out of a generally bad situation. There were, indeed, a few good things about the relationship I had with this man. But does that mean that we were brought together by God for the purpose of marriage? Of course not!
  • What could been seen as “good” for one person, may not necessarily be “good” for another. This man no doubt thought I was his answer from heaven, but he certainly wasn’t mine!!

Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden for a moment, shall we? Eve was promised by Satan that if she ate from the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened and she would increase in knowledge. Knowledge can often be a good thing, right?

Hey, I’m sure even the fruit itself was good. It was part of God’s creation which was called by Him as “good”. It probably even had lots of vitamins and minerals and was nourishing to Eve’s body; but ultimately it brought death.

What was created to be good by God and even appeared to be good in the eyes of Eve, was distortedly used by The Enemy to bring death to the entire world.

So back to my relationship. What differentiates this scenario from being a simple, accidental, misguided use of Scripture, from actual spiritual abuse? I believe this was spiritual abuse because the man I was dating was intentionally trying to use God’s Word to manipulate me and encourage me to feel shame and fear for the honest feelings that I had (aka the prompting the of Holy Spirit) — and his ultimate motivation was to get his way in the matter.

THAT, my friends, is abuse. Not only spiritual, but psychological AND emotional abuse.

If you think Scripture is being used against you in this way, listen to your gut!! Scripture was never meant to be used as a weapon against us in such a way. It was meant to be used as a weapon against The Enemy. In fact, I believe Spiritual abuse is directly from The Enemy; he wants to twist and manipulate gifts from God and use them for our own death. Shame and fear are his greatest tools against us, and he will use anything to wrap us in their chains.

I believe it’s time to take a stand against intentional, manipulative misuse of Scripture and call it what it is: ABUSE.

Who’s with me?! ?

~Em

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About the Author

Emily Elizabeth Anderson is a Christian blogger and rising activist for people who have experienced abuse within a Christian environment.

After growing up in a fundamentalist cult for 23 years and experiencing childhood domestic violence, Emily began her journey to recovery in 2015 and eventually found Jesus to be her ultimate healer. She soon turned her passion for writing into a blog and her story has since been featured on several media outlets including NPR.

She married her best friend, Joshua, in 2020 and together they are passionate about educating on the realities of trauma survival and recovery, as well as supporting survivors they meet through their online community.

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