venn diagram for spiritual abuse

venn diagram for spiritual abuse April 30, 2013
venn diagram for spiritual abuse by nakedpastor david hayward
“Venn Diagram for Spiritual Abuse” by nakedpastor David Hayward

I have been in and observed spiritually abusive situations. I think this diagram generally represents most of them. I can identify with all of them. You?

I have entrusted myself, willingly, to leaders I admired. Even loved. I wanted to serve them, help them, and further their ministry. I believed in it. I was on board, on the same page, riding the same bus to the same destination. I voluntarily and enthusiastically signed up.

I have also entrusted myself to leaders because I felt that I should. They were my pastors or my teachers or my leaders. Sometimes even my bosses. I agreed to the terms and conditions and, because it was the right thing to do and because I was being paid by them, I therefore submitted myself to their authority.

I have also entrusted myself to leaders because I didn’t feel that I had a choice at the time. The situation was so complicated and my family or friends were so enmeshed in the system and I was so enmeshed with my family or friends that I couldn’t see a way to extricate myself from it all. The best way that I could see my way through at the time was to stay, not rock the boat, and wait for the prime opportunity when it presented itself to get the heck out of there.

This is all from my perspective. But the other ingredient is the leader’s belief that he can use that trust I’ve given to do to me whatever he thinks is necessary to get me to do what he wants or, in extreme cases, what he believes God wants me to do. My willingness to entrust myself overlaps with his belief that he can use that trust in his favor for his ends is the land of abuse.

In every case you have a choice. Each one has its own difficulties with leaving. Each one can be profoundly traumatic. Each one will inflict a wound that will develop into a scar that might stay with you for the rest of your life. But in each one, I repeat, you have a choice. One might be more difficult for you than the other to leave, but you still have a choice.

I love hearing your stories. Does anyone relate to this? Share with us by leaving a comment.

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  • David Kernohan

    Thank you, so relate to this. Grew up in an enmeshed spiritually abusive family and then replicated that when I became a minister myself within the church. Grace got me out of the church, hopefully before I did too much damage but it is a subtle thing that often takes distance and time to see clearly

  • We left a church that my husband and I grew up in about 4 years ago. We explained that we felt we were being called to help launch another church in our town. Rather than being supportive or understanding they were angry, and “disappointed” in us. It was then that I realized we had been sunk in and stuck in an unhealthy environment and I was glad we had taken the step to leave.

  • Shary Hauber

    A church should be a supportive group. I can remain in my church because though I have many opinions that differ from most of the church I am not force to accept their or the pastor’s opinions. They might like me to change but there is no push. The abuse comes in when only one opinion is allowed. My church has taken a strong stand against abuse of children and women which is something I feel is my area to make the world a safer place. We differ on politics, and even a number of doctrines but differences are accepted. If they were not I would have to get out.

  • Adam Julians

    I can relate to this David. What I also think of when recalling such experiences is to consider to what degree I have acted similarly towards others. None of us is immune from the sins of others and none of us are without sin.

    I remember what CS Lewis said about love. That this side of heaven it is dangerous to love and be loved because to love means being vulnerable. And the way to avoid being hurt is to wall oneself off from others with work, hobbies etc.and be wrapped up in the coffin of selfishness. I recall also what Jesus said about the heart being precious and keeping it guarded.

    So, I know I will be hurt and I will hurt others. What I find is of importance is how to love and be loved and an appropriate amount of guardedness knowing this has and will happen. Something I have learned about and am learning about. We can’t control others but we can control ourselves. I’ve found in exercising self control and being loving that I have greater influence over others than if I try to determine what they do. There is a vers in proverbs which say that it is better to have control over self than a large number of cities. What that say to me is that thougth someone may be of low status, they can be more powerful than a king.

    It seems to me that this is what happend some time ago with a homeless Gallilean carpenter.

  • Renae

    I play piano and spent many years of my life as a musician in the church because I was told that if I didn’t use my talent there, God would take it from me. Also, it was in a church that my parents and most of my family attended, so I felt an obligation. It started when I was a vulnerable teen and went on until well into my 30’s – I’m 46 years old now. I never received any compensation, was criticized more than thanked and was expected to be there every time the doors opened. Any time I spoke to a pastor or even the choir director about feeling tired or miserable I was told that I would be rewarded for “carrying the cross.” I have been in some not so great relationships in my time but this made me feel more used up than any of those. Spiritually, it was one of the most miserable times in my life.

  • Chester McMackin

    David : While we might not agree with each of our views on “stuff ” of life, I am with you on this one in agreement. You have obviously realized this in younger life than I experienced, but I can tell you that as I grow older, I am less concerned with surrender to the brain washed traditions and practices of INDIVIDUAL expounders of their human understandings than I was heretofore. Not in a manner of paranoid DIS belief of what they say, but rather with a reliance on the brain God gave me. Mind you, I do not have all the answers, because I have so many questions concerning TRUTH. Questions have become a significant factor in my every day contemplation ( between, and including ,retirement tasks ).

    Many answers come from HIS silent but felt direction, and it seems to always come in the form of TRYING to do the RIGHT thing.

    The old saying I COULD WRITE A BOOK applies, but it is not my intent to so do in this space. Besides…………….it might have a commercial value by sales of such to unsuspecting and trusting people who enjoy controversial comment. That is is the human aspect of me……………..SINNER that I am !

  • klhayes

    This is a good diagram….it not only shows how abuse can happen but how to maintain healthy boundaries while looking for someone a spiritual counselor.

  • David: While I agree with the trust side of your diagram, I don’t agree with the abusive right. You’ve lumped all leadership mentality under one heading, while sub-categorizing submission under three. Just as there are different reasons for submission to leadership, there are a variety of reasons for leadership misuse of trust. As I’ve shared before, I’ve been on both sides and can honestly say that often leadership abuse is not intentional, but rather the fruit of a very unhealthy way of seeing the role of a leader – whether in the home, business, or church. And it’s deception goes so deep, that apart from the grace of God, it is almost impossible to for that leader to see, let alone change.

    If I were to list the three types of leaders it would be: 1. Some because they truly care and want to help with no regards for personal gain. 2.Those that are immature and still discovering their sense of purpose and identity, and leading others helps them get that – yet their heart is still to serve those they care for.3. Leaders I call ‘orphans’; men and women without an identity of their own who are compelled to control and manipulate the identity of others in order to create one – nothing they do is about serving others, and everything about gaining something for themselves. We are there to serve them and see their ministry grow (and as we do we will then find our true call in life – cough cough).

  • Adam Julians

    I appreciate your comment Shawn. You bring a balance to the discussion and a reminder about leadership abuse not being intentional and near impossible for the leader to see or change.

    The rare occasion of it having been acknowldeged had been form your input previously. If more leaders were like that and more congregates as willing to admit too where they had gone off track and change, then we will be more on the godly path of mutual submission and edificarion than the worldly language of rights and freedoms.