I wanted to share a few thoughts on intentional and unintentional spiritual abuse. One thing I try to remind people about is that a great many who are involved in unhealthy churches are sincere in their beliefs. They often believe that what they are doing is for the Lord. They feel they are standing for ‘truth’. Many of us can look back at our own time in our respective groups and see this in ourselves.
So in this, some hurt others. It’s not because they wanted to do so and they may have no clue as to the extent of the damage they cause. They feel they are sincerely following and serving God. Of course, this doesn’t alleviate the harm inflicted upon people.
To show a biblical example, let’s remember Saul. He persecuted the church as a Pharisee. He truly believed he was doing what God would have him to do, in upholding what he felt was truth and taking a stand against what he felt was heresy from those following Jesus. He harmed many people in his days of persecuting Christians. He was sincere, but very, very mistaken.
So everyone that is spiritually abusive is not doing it with the wrong intent in their heart.
There are also those where being in an unhealthy church is all they know. They have watched a leader or someone they admire in the church and find themselves emulating them. In doing so, they harm others, all the while thinking their actions are what they are supposed to do.
I honestly believe that a good deal of spiritual abuse comes from sincere but mistaken and misguided people. I know for myself, that I became judgmental in things and felt I was in the right. I know I did things that probably hurt people at times, but felt I was doing it for their own good. I was so misguided. Do you recall any time you hurt someone, thinking all the while you were taking a stand for ‘truth’ and doing what God wanted?
I have stated in the past that if the Lord would have opened my former pastor’s eyes, and let him see all the numerous people he hurt through the years, that he would have been devastated. He hurt many people over many years.
But then there are those who cause deliberate harm. I find much less compassion for those types. I don’t like people using and manipulating people. When I watch those shows where they are about some man who causes women to fall in love with him and then takes all they have or the ones where people scheme in other ways to defraud someone…. I get angry. It is one thing to unintentionally hurt or harm someone and a totally different ball game when people knowingly do so. There are some ministers so afraid to lose their ‘kingdom’ or livelihood that they do whatever it takes to keep it and they care not who is harmed in the process.
I heard a story awhile back where such deliberate hurt was inflicted. I saw a glimpse of the pain they had inside. And when such happens under the guise of Christianity, it hurts much more deeply, I believe. Some people have much to answer to when they face the Lord one day.
Abuse, whether intentional or unintentional, feels the same- and this is mostly true unless one sees the deliberateness. But it can also be a little easier to process and sort through when one can see that some are simply caught up in a system and do not truly realize what they are doing.