by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
First, let me remind you that if you are walking through these 21 Days of Healing, keep working on Day 1. “God loves you with an everlasting love.”
Now for Day 2:
One of the most powerful aspects of spiritual abuse is the “Don’t Talk” rule.
The strongest underlying message of the “Don’t Talk” rule is that if you talk you are brazenly undermining authority, thus proving that you are, indeed, the problem.
I was told blatantly that I was to tell no one about the judgment and ostracism meted out to me. Not even my husband. My experience was squelched by intimidation and shame. I
believed knew that if I shared what was being done to me, people would immediately think that I must be or have done something awful because the leadership of the church was held in such high esteem that they couldn’t possibly rain down judgment without just cause.
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love or belonging.” Brene Brown
The intense shame that I felt during those years of silence was debilitating. I could not lift my head when I was in church or when I met church people in passing on the street. I wept. Daily.
And I wondered, if what they were doing to me was appropriate, why couldn’t I talk about it? And the answer was because, even though they wouldn’t tell me why I was being treated like a leper, I told myself it must be to protect my dignity. Because if people found out, they would think so poorly of me.
When I finally shared my story with a few trusted people, I was amazed at their reactions. I received many messages of support and love and encouragement coupled with outrage toward the church leadership for their inappropriate handling of the situation. Their reactions buoyed my self-esteem and gave me assurance that perhaps I was not the problem after all.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it was with the sharing of my story that I was tossed out of the church. I had shared it via a password protected section of my former blog. Of course, at that time, I was still suffering under the shame and loss of dignity from the spiritual abusive circumstances I had been through, and so I went into overdrive to try to salvage my relationship with the church. I took down my blog. I tried to arrange meetings. I wanted to apologize. I wanted an opportunity to grovel and beg. Seriously. I was a mess.
For about a week.
And then I realized that I was letting them rob me of my power. Again.
So I started a new blog. When Church Hurts. And I told my story. And I password protected it. And I shared it with a few people. And I was encouraged. And after a few weeks, I made it public. And I was encouraged some more. And slowly, my power grew. My power to say, “This was wrong. This is wrong.”
And my shame diminished.
And I realized that the reason they didn’t want me to tell my story was because then the shame would be where it truly belongs – with those who did not handle the situation scripturally or by following denominational and church protocols and who simply showed themselves to be spiritually abusive leaders.
A couple of people from my former church who stayed in touch in those first few weeks made comments to me about how I must still be hurting since I am still sharing my story and talking about what happened. To them I say, “I’m not bitter or hurting. I’m doing what God has called me to do – I am vocal about spiritual abuse.”
Sharing my story has been the second most healing part of my journey to healing – after changing my brain as I shared in Day 1. I shared my story incrementally, as I described above and in conjunction with changing my thinking about God.Share your story. Write it down and give it to others to read. Or sit down with a friend or family member over coffee and tell. It probably won’t be pretty. I was a mess whenever I told my story face-to-face those first few times. But you will find your power as you put the shame where it belongs.
If you want, you can share your story here in the comments.
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