Healing from Spiritual Abuse and Forgiving My Abusers

It’s unfortunate that this subject even needs to be talked about. However, this type of abuse happens far more than I’d care to acknowledge. If you’re not familiar with this type of abuse, Spiritual abuse (or Religious abuse) is when someone uses spirituality or a spiritual leadership role to control, harass, or even physically abuse a person. While the original purpose of the religions is often completely contradictory to these types of treatments, passages of sacred books, such as the Bible, will be misquoted for personal gain. And quite frankly I have no other word to describe this behavior other than, Disgusting.

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I understand today’s “thinks” can be viewed as somewhat controversial since you may have left religion for these very reasons, or perhaps have wanted nothing to do with it in the first place. While we may not agree on religious views (You can read my faith testimony on my Why I stopped pretending to be a Christian post), I would like you to know that you are still welcome here regardless of what you believe. As I have mentioned before, I have many friends who do not believe the same things that I do. And while we may never agree on our religious views, my friends are some pretty amazing people, and I love them for who they are.

In today’s thinks I want to share with you a little bit about how I recovered from Spiritual Abuse and how I was set free. Please know that some things I’m going to talk about might be triggering. I know that because writing this post has already brought back some pretty horrible memories for me. Even as I am writing this, I am literally suppressing a panic attack from the unfortunate aftereffects. So please bear with me if I have to take a break for a second… well you won’t know that when you read this but…

Recognize the Abuse

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The first thing that helped me on my journey to healing was recognizing the abuse for what it was. I had been taught my whole life that the abuse I was receiving was the very persona of God. Scripture was often taken out of context to condone the appalling things that were happening in my home and church. As someone raised in this type of environment, I had often thought the physical, verbal, and even sexual abuse I had received was a “punishment” from God or that I was to “endure suffering”. It took getting away from this harmful place to realize that what was done was wrong. Not only was it inhumane, it was also an act of someone’s deliberate choosing to be abusive, not “God’s chastening”. Recognizing this allowed me to see the evil for what it really was.

Understand the Evil

It is very difficult to see something or even someone in a different light if the picture of them has been painted completely different. If I was told that a $100 bill was actually a $1 bill my whole life, I may have a hard time seeing its worth. When I am finally told that the $100 is worth a lot more and is completely different than what I had learned it as I might be a little surprised. I would also have been short-changed of its true value this whole time.
I found my faith to be the same way when I discovered it for what it truly was, when I met Jesus for who He was, not who I thought He was.

unnamed-14I had learned about “Jesus” as a small child. He was a flannel graph cutout that had blonde hair and blue eyes, he liked kids sitting on his lap in the pictures, but he was not very nice if you made him mad. He even told kid’s parents to beat them or let women be raped for wearing “bad clothes”. I don’t know how many times the Proverbs 20:11 (Even a child is known by his doings) was used to show me my “wicked doings”. My father (a pastor) also thought if I wasn’t smiling when I saw him, my face was reflection of the “sin in my heart” and my “wicked deeds”. This also gave him the liberty to punch my face until I was following the Ephesians 6:1 (Children, obey your parents) verse and smiling for him. This is also the same verse that was used when I told my mother about the sexual abuse that I was receiving from my piano teacher (My Sexual Abuse Story and How I Forgave My Abuser).     I was to stop “complaining” and obey my parents who were instructing me to take piano lessons. Things like prayer were also used in an abusive manner. I had often hear my parents talking about the “Family Curse” that God would bring on people if they had upset our family. Since my father was a pastor, they would use the passage in scripture of the Prophet Elisha and the bears to explain their theory. If anyone had sinned against the “man of God” there would be punishment. I don’t know how many stories I heard of cancer patients, car accidents, and health conditions that they both laughed at during our “dinner time tales” because these people had somehow upset my parents.

When I was anorexic I remember having a day where my mind was clear. I was not high on my adrenaline rushes I would get after the black outs and I was terrified as to what was happening to my body. I was on an extremly dark path. My lowest weight was 72lbs and my BMI was no where above a 13 (A healthy woman who is not training to be an athlete should not be lower than 20 and even runway models who are controversially skinny are often banned for being lower than 18), my hair was falling out, my body was covered in lanugo (baby like body hair that forms during “survival mode”. Unfortunately some of this never went away for me.), I had lost my menstrual period for over a year, my organs were failing, and I couldn’t stay awake for longer than 5 hrs at a time without experiencing a black out.  On the particular day when I had a sound mind, I begged my mother to send me to a rehab center called Remuda Ranch.  I was terrified of dying and recognized that I needed help (at this particular stage I was about 86lbs). My mother told me that if I would only obey, I would never have to live the way I was. She then went on to tell me that “Your dad and I are praying for you”. I then believed that this was who I was and my wicked sin was causing my eating disorder. Please don’t get me wrong, recovery was definitely about taking ownership of my life and being responsible for accepting care. But at that moment, what I needed was help and a hospital, not the Bible verse taken out of context. I was able to heal once I moved away from the abusive environment, seek medical attention, and understand how to take ownership in an environment that allowed me to get help.

When I went back to visit after my Sophomore year of college, I relapsed into the eating disorder cycle again. My Father had not changed, he was still physically and verbally abusive. I was crying in my room one day and my mother told me that I was only “enduring suffering” and that I was to be “patient” with the abuse. I wish I could say that things got better, that restoration was able to take place… But sadly life isn’t always perfect. Masks can only stay on for so long until they slip, and the most recent encounter that took place was my father telling me that he never wanted to see me again. When I pleaded for him to get help, he told me that “The Lord was his counselor”.

There are more stories that I could write in this post, but for now I think this is about all that I can mentally handle. I just want to pause for a second and say thank you to all the people who had no idea what my home life was like and loved me unconditionally regardless of what I looked like my first year of college. I didn’t know Jesus then and truthfully I hated God, but you were the reason I found hope. So thank you.

Re-learn True Faith

I also want you to know that every verse listed above was used to allow abuse, and was taken out of context. After I was able to read and understand Scripture as it was originally written, I began to see who Jesus really was.

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Jesus was a healer, he never dismissed anyone who was sick by saying “I’ll Pray for You”
Jesus was a protector, he even saved a woman’s life who was about to be killed for committing the sin of adultery
Jesus was a forgiver, He never turned anyone away for their sins in fact he sat down and ate with “sinners”
Jesus was a provider, He gave food to the hungry even if it meant feeding 5,000 of them
Jesus is Life, He restored my life and continues to heal me.
He is good and He is not my abusers.

Forgive the Abuser(s)

This is probably one of the hardest things to do and to be honest, it’s almost a daily occurrence. I have been told by a therapist that I will have lifelong PTSD as well as the medical side effects that have not gone away. Understanding that this is a lifelong commitment to forgive is also a difficult process.
I have a hard time truly trusting people or wondering if people have alterer motives for friendship. But forgiveness is still the best thing that has ever happened to me.

No it doesn’t make what they did right, it also doesn’t mean they are allowed to come back and hurt you again. But what it does mean is that you are able to let go, to breath again, and to live the most impactful life that God has created you to live. It means you cut away bitter roots. The fear and anger no longer consume you.
You are Free!
My current pastor put it this way, “Forgiveness is often one-sided. Restoration takes both parties.” Although restoration may never be an option, forgiveness is something that happens even if the other party is nowhere to be found. You may never forget what happened. And trust me PTSD won’t let you forget, but you are no longer the prisoner. You are alive again!

And to my Abusers,

If you are reading this, I want you to know that I have forgiven and daily forgive you. Some days are harder than others but I have found the peace through Jesus and His healing grace. He is restoring me daily and has blessed me beyond my understanding. Our relationship is over as you have clearly stated you no longer want me in your lives. As I had mentioned in our last conversation, recovery for both of you is a requirement for any type of relationship that could ever be brought together. There are too many years of dishonesty, brokenness, violence, and addiction to simply dismiss under a rug only to fear at any given moment they will appear. This is not a relationship. You are both aware that Seth an I choose to adopt children in the future. We are also protecting whomever God places in our lives now by setting these boundaries. We already love whomever these children are and pray for them often.  You have both made your choice to live in the lies that you have created and for that I am deeply saddened. There are people that truly love you who would help you should you only be honest about everything. I have even told you both of the help that I received for my anger, eating disorder, self harm, depression, and anxiety and where to get help. No one is perfect but everyone deserves a second chance. Your story is still redeemable. No matter what you have done, God can still have victory over every pain and damage. Although our relationship may never be what every child wishes from their parents, it’s not too late for you to find healing from God. It has taken me several months to come to this point but today I am letting you both go. From all of my pain and every bit of darkness and hurt you put in my life, I let got, Jesus has set me free. I am committing to share my story only to help others who have experienced the similar heartbreak that I have gone through and He has already used my story to free others. Even through all the pain you have cased, I love you both dearly and only wish for you to lay aside your pride and reach for help. The only last thing I have to say  is that please get help while you still can. If you are able to read this, it means that God is still giving you grace.

Joy

Live in Freedom

Sorry guys… Not going to lie, I had to take a good long minute to put myself back together after that.
Thanks for sticking around…

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Lastly I want to talk about living in freedom. For those of us who have experienced spiritual abuse, it’s not uncommon for us to constantly think God is “mad” at us. We constantly look over our shoulder even if we are doing nothing wrong or feel we have to explain ourselves to everyone in fear they will judge us. This is something I constantly struggle with. But here’s what I have to remember, God was not the one keeping me in my abusive home, He was not the one who “caused” my sexual abuse, He is not the one who made me think I was not worth being alive, He has never wished ill for me or wished me pain.
Yes He is a just God, yes He is to be reverenced, and yes He is to be honored.
But God himself is Love. He even wrote it down for us incase we ever forgot.

” And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” I John 4:16

 

full-3He Loves YOU! I know it might be hard to believe. But lets absorb that for a second. God Loves ME! And to any of my friends that may not believe in God I hope you feel so much love right now. Because even if we don’t see eye to eye on this, I want you to know that I love you! You are valued, you have a purpose, you are NOT a mistake. You are on planet earth breathing because you are meant to be here. Don’t you ever doubt for a second why you’re here!
To those who have found Jesus, embrace the freedom that you have found in Christ, because He is truly good!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

 

240436_10150305809787926_5318568_oThanks so much for reading today’s “thinks”. Posts like this have been extrememly difficult for me to write and I’m sure for some they have been hard to read. Your love and support means everything to me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

All my love,
Joy

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14 comments

  1. So much bad stuff happens under the veil of perceived ‘goodness’. Thank God that veil is lifting. Thank God that you are helping to do that. Thank God – and you – that you have the courage to make your voice heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Joy. Don’t know if you remember me from PCC but your story really spoke to me. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that, but I totally understand. My background is similar to yours, but maybe to a lesser extant. The abuse in my household was mostly emotional, although sometimes it grew out of control. My father, step-mother, and biological mother all wonder why their kids don’t talk to them anymore. They have no idea the amount of pain they inflicted. I am not as brave as you. I still talk to my parents, mostly (if I’m completely honest) because I’m still afraid of them. My husband tells me over and over that they have no power over me anymore, but you understand that it’s hard to shake years of them telling you you are a bad person and withholding love unless you continually go out of your way to do things for them to make them happy. I struggled for a long time, thinking that no one could love me. Even thinking God was always mad at me and would not love me if I messed up at all.
    Well, time changes things, and I am so happy and much more mentally healthy than I was, even in college (where I struggled a lot). I wish I could say I am completely healed, but I still struggle every day with things from the past.
    I just want to thank you. I’ll try to share your story with my siblings, who experienced abuse from my family as well (including sexual and physical abuse). Maybe it will inspire some of them to forgive my parents and turn to God (some of them are unsaved as a direct result of my parents hypocritical “faith”, similar to what you described as abusive above).
    I know I’m rambling, and I didn’t really share any details, but I’m not sure I’m really ready for that yet. I’m proud of you and I’m glad you found, like I did, that the love of Jesus is unconditional and free to all who believe. Thanks, Emily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Emily!
      Thank you so much for message. I do remember you! I definitely understand how you feel. And truthfully I feel that emotional abuse can easily be the worst of them all. Bruises can heal but the unseen damage never seems to go away. It’s also hard to explain to others as well because they are unable to see from the outside.
      One of the things that really helped me was sharing my past with a counselor. Even though the abuse may have happened years ago, the abuse we faced was processed with an adolescent mind. And our brains do this crazy thing where it stays locked in there like that until we revisit it with our minds after we have neurologically developed as adults. It helped me to process everything and helped me gain back control. Scariest thing I’ve ever done though! But it was so worth it.
      I’m sorry you’ve had to experience so much pain. Its sometimes “easier” to tell others that it was just an awkward family upbringing and wonder why we can’t “get it together”. But the reason you feel real pain is because what happened was also real.
      Thanks again for reaching out! Please let me know if there is anything I can do or if you ever just need someone to listen.
      God bless you,
      Joy

      Like

  3. I nearly cried as I read your story. I am so thankful you have found the true God Who loves you and that you have found that He is gracious and kind. I cannot begin to put into words my feelings about those who portray Him as anything else. It is a sadness beyond description. I will be praying for you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

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