Saturday, November 8, 2014

10 Ways To Spot Spiritual Abuse

     Found this article and wanted to share. You can find it here.

spiritualabuse
This topic has been ricocheting in my heart and head many years. But recently, I’ve noticed a greater influx of reader email about this topic, so much so that I felt it would be wise to address it. Although I am thankful I haven’t had an extreme experience with spiritual abuse, I have had some incidences that have scarred me and made me leery of churches and ministries that bully.

Some of my spiritual abuse experiences include:

  • A leader above me telling me that even though I was burned out and losing my health, I had to stay in the ministry because if I didn’t I would lose all my gifting to do future ministry.
  • A church that repeatedly told us they basically had the corner on the market of Jesus and that if we had to go elsewhere, we would miss God’s highest.
  • A leader who found ministry to be a vehicle for his great gain, lying and manipulating donors to earn more and more money.
  • A ministry that shamed me into throwing away all my evil music (including Lionel Ritchie and Duran Duran…oh the evil!)
  • A leader who cornered me, threatened me, and yelled because I brought up a concern that others saw. This led to panic attacks.
Perhaps you have a story to tell too.
I woke up last night at 3 in the morning with this burden I couldn’t shake. I sat down and wrote these traits of spiritually abusive ministries and churches. This is not an exhaustive list, but it typifies what happens. Often you don’t realize you’re in a situation until your health is damaged, your soul is torn, or your outside relationships suffer. My heart in sharing this is to simply shed light on unhealthy, manipulative, controlling practices.

Spiritually abusive ministries…

  1. Have a distorted view of respect. They forget the simple adage that respect is earned, not granted. Abusive leaders demand respect without having earned it by good, honest living.
  2. Demand allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ. It’s either his/her way or no way. And if a follower deviates, he is guilty of deviating from Jesus.
  3. Use exclusive language. “We’re the only ministry really following Jesus.” “We have all the right theology.” Believe their way of doing things, thinking theologically, or handling ministry and church is the only correct way. Everyone else is wrong, misguided, or stupidly naive.
  4. Create a culture of fear and shame. Often there is no grace for someone who fails to live up to the church’s or ministry’s expectation. And if someone steps outside of the often-unspoken rules, leaders shame them into compliance. Can’t admit failure but often searches out failure in others and uses that knowledge to hold others in fear and captivity. They often quote scriptures about not touching God’s anointed, or bringing accusations against an elder. Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing critics.
  5. Often have a charismatic leader at the helm who starts off well, but slips into arrogance, protectionism and pride. Where a leader might start off being personable and interested in others’ issues, he/she eventually withdraws to a small group of “yes people” and isolates from the needs of others. Harbors a cult of personality, meaning if the central figure of the ministry or church left, the entity would collapse, as it was entirely dependent on one person to hold the place together.
  6. Cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual information. Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it.
  7. Demand servanthood of their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives. They live aloof from their followers and justify their extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges.
  8. Buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader. Views those who bring up issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.
  9. Hold to outward performance but rejects authentic spirituality. Places burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle.
  10. Use exclusivity for allegiance. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like insiders. Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.
Have you ever experienced this kind of situation? What did you do? How did you heal in the aftermath? And what can we do as responsible Christ followers to expose this kind of abuse? What can we do as leaders to follow in the gentle footsteps of Jesus?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Honesty...

                                                             

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Free From Control

I haven't written a post in a long time because I'm so far removed from the controlling, abusive church I was once involved in and the very manipulative family member I had is no longer around. The 2 subjects I've learned so much about - control and manipulation - are still a part of my life because I'm hyper-vigilant now in these areas. I don't want to ever be in these situations again!

I've been watching a new show on TLC called "Breaking The Faith" and it is all too familiar. Even though these young girls have long un-cut hair, wear no makeup, and wear dark, plain, all-covering dresses, I can still relate. The dress code we had was not as intrusive, nevertheless we had one. We were told to wear panty hose (even in the summer, even with sandals), wear skirts below the knee, and pants were not allowed at church... just dresses, skirts, and suits...very expensive suits. That is...until the pastor's family members decided they wanted to wear pant suits to church, then we were given a lesson on what pants are appropriate. Pants were only allowed with a jacket or suit coat. My daughter was once "written up" because her jacket didn't have a collar and it wasn't considered an appropriate suit coat. I've come to realize that if you are an adult and anyone is trying to tell you how to dress, it's a form of control. I understand that there are dress codes for work situations, but I'm referring to someone outside of work situations - a pastor, a controlling boyfriend, etc.

**Control is never okay, whether it be a pastor, a so-called friend, a family member, a boyfriend, or a spouse. It takes away from who you are as a person and leaves you feeling like an empty shell. Leaving controlling situations is a process and you have to find yourself again. I highly recommend you go to counseling or therapy if you have found yourself in a controlling situation and begin the road to recovery.

In the show the "prophet," the "man of God," is still controlling the people from prison. He is in prison for sleeping with minors that he calls his wives, but that doesn't stop him from calling and giving them their marching orders. The people in his group or the "crick" as the young people who've left call it, gather around the phone to hear the messages he has "heard from God." All of the people gather and listen as if it were God Himself calling. I've noticed that the "prophet" is always taking something else away from the group in order to maintain his control, and he is always telling them they will disappoint him or God if they do certain things.

Several of the young boys and girls have left the group and the show is about their life outside the "crick." I've been amazed at the similarities to what I and many others have experienced in leaving our controlling situations. The young people really have a hard time because these things have been engrained in them since birth. In passing, the girls will say things like, "We weren't allowed to play with dolls, we weren't allowed to eat sour cream, we weren't allowed to taste candy or even eat sugar." I've heard the boys say, "We weren't allowed to play any sports at all." They were told it was God's will that they work and not play. Even though the young people are out of the group, they still live with a gripping fear that if they take off their "crick" approved clothing and dress like a "gentile" that they'll go to hell. They're afraid if they try sour cream on a taco, they will be doomed. It's so sad for me to watch and I hate the control that they've been under. I fear that they'll never be able to be "normal" after the extremities they've lived under. I'd love to go to them and try to help them. Hopefully someone will.

Their practices are to the extreme and so many people could never relate, but the people leaving controlling, abusive churches today can absolutely relate. The pastors are not as extreme as the "prophet" on this show, but they use the same tactics. They modify his approach enough to make it not appear as a cult, but they slowly, over time, brainwash good church-going people just the same.

Instead of making the children wear long dark dresses, parents are told, "Don't let your children dress as if they are going to a picnic. Young boys should wear a suit and tie to church and always wear their shirts tucked in." There reasoning sounds so Godly - they are honoring God with their dress. And I say...how is that any different from the extreme cult I've talked about above. It's all still control and it's all still based on fear that you will disappoint God. The pastor's today will talk about eating organic and being healthy, but it's all still the same. It's his way of even controlling what you eat. He knows that if he can control your money and your food, he's got you.

My hope is that these controlling churches will continue to be spotlighted and that people will see the truth and free themselves. Just as when the girls from the show are asked how they feel leaving...I want others to say along with them, "I feel freedom."

God never intended for a man to lord over you. He gave you - you, yourself - the freedom to make your own decisions. He is not a harsh God waiting to scold you if your skirt is not long enough. He cares about YOU. You, the person He created and loves more than you'll ever know.

On this New Year's Eve, ponder these things and go into this new year free of demands placed on you by controlling people. Be your own person. Love yourself for the person God created. Throw the fear these controlling men have led you into right out the window. Put things you don't understand on the shelf and dwell on one truth that's most important - God loves you. He loves you just the way you are and He doesn't want you living in fear that if you make a mistake you'll disappoint Him. And just as I've watched this show and have seen these young girls think they will go to hell for cutting their hair or eating sour cream, I want you to see that God would NEVER be the way these wolves in sheep's clothing have made Him out to be.

The message is simple...it's not about what you eat, it's not about your money, and it's not even about how you dress. The message is...what really matters is that God loves you more than you'll ever know! He loves you to the moon and back and more!

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Too Familiar

Yesterday I received this comment on the post "The Controlling, Abusive Pastor". Everything she said was all too familiar. I have experienced everything she described while in my former church and I've experienced the same effects she described after leaving. I'm posting her comment and invite you to tell her your story or give her advice on how you've handled the questions, the hurt, and the inability to trust again (which is very normal.)

"I too was hurt by an abusive and controlling pastor, and by the church. The pastor attacked me from the pulpit in a very passive aggressive manor, and behaved inappropriately with me on several occasions. His wife yelled at us during a women's group because she couldn't reach her husband one day, how he needed a day off because some of us in the church are so needy and we take time away from her and her husband--yes she actually said that to us. I finally made the decision to leave, only to hear, after I left, all the hateful and hurtful gossip about me being insane, or an alcoholic etc... just because I had problems and I left. This was also my first experience in a Christian group. How can I trust again? I'd like to come back to a church, but how do I know which one to choose? I've attempted going to two new churches on two different Sunday's but I keep having panic attacks when I pull into the parking lots, believing that what happened to me before will happen again and I just leave. How do you get over the hurt and how do you trust again?"

My answer...
"I can relate to your situation so well. My best friend, who was in the same church I was in had the same experience in the parking lot of a church she was trying to attend. You are not alone. This is normal behavior for someone who was in an abusive church. The best thing to do is to continue talking about it. Don't hold it in. If you need to talk to me please feel free to email me. To trust again - it just takes time. I left my church almost 5 years ago and I still have a hard time trusting. I'm getting better with time, but it just takes time. I also highly recommend going to talk to a therapist. The pastor of my former church is still talking about us. We were called evil, snakes, etc. The good thing is, he just resigned from being the pastor. I hope some of this helps. Please feel free to vent here or ask more questions if you want to."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"The Great Sham"

I've seen many people fall so hard after being in a controlling church/cult. It seems that they run as fast as they can away from God and anything related to God. I didn't do that because I was able to separate God from my pastor because I've always believed in the love of God - even though I never saw it demonstrated from my former pastor. For a while after leaving my church I couldn't read my Bible because all I heard was the pastor's harsh voice and his bogus teachings, so I just tried to concentrate on the fact that God loved me. I basically had to put everything I learned at that church on the shelf and say to myself, "God loves me and that's all I can think about right now."

But I've noticed that some people can't even do that. The reason being...the controlling, narcissistic pastor carefully and convincingly teaches week after week that he is your "man of God." He makes you believe that when he speaks it's equivalent to God speaking. He has "words from God" for you and over time you really do begin to see him as God. I know that sounds absurd to some, but that's how cult leaders brainwash people. They do enough good to earn your trust. They actually demand your trust and you basically begin to trust them with your life. You feel like you can't make a move without their consent. Of course these self-promoted, controlling pastors know exactly what they are doing and they take pleasure in the loyalty of their followers. You are punished for a lack of loyalty - you fear that you will be the subject of his next message.  My former pastor once told me he was thinking of requiring his staff to watch 'The Godfather' movies so they would learn how to be loyal to him. It would be funny if it weren't so true...and sad.

When a person finally sees the light and realizes what they are a part of they can't separate the two - their pastor and God. That's clearly why the Bible teaches for us not to put our trust in man. It's sad to say that so many Christians have their trust in a man who doesn't even care about them. So when the pastor lets them down, lies to them, and hurts them, they run. They run away from God, when all along God had nothing to do with what they were a part of. God is love and if a pastor is not demonstrating the love of God and pointing you to that love at all times, he's not a true pastor.

I can remember sitting in services and hearing the pastor call people idiots and use phrases like "you should beat their brains out" while referring to your children. I would think to myself, "I sure wish my children could see the real love of God that I experienced when I was first saved. But dummy me...I just kept sitting there listening to his foolishness. My kids are suffering for it and I hate it. Come to find out now, they were afraid of him. They were afraid that if they weren't perfect, he would embarrass them. They were afraid the "devil would get them." The pastor would use phrases like if you do something wrong you will "open the door to the devil." Can you imagine how a child feels when they hear that? They are walking on eggshells, afraid of the devil, when what a child should be focused on is the love God has for them. These controlling, manipulative churches are backwards! They have people more devil conscious than God conscious. And the sad thing is...it's all planned by the pastor to keep people right where he wants them - under his control.

If you have found yourself in a place like this, get out now. Get your kids away from the fear that's produced in these churches and expose them to the real love of God. Run away from the control and into the arms of God's love. I know that's easier said than done, because once you've invested your whole life into something and then find out it was all a sham, you're cussing mad, you're hurt, you want to punch somebody for doing you that way, and you want to try to forget it all (which is hard to do). God's not upset that you feel this way either - He understands. Try to put your trust in Him and don't ever allow yourself to put so much trust in a man/pastor again. Just try to think about how much God loves you. Don't throw it all away because one day you will need God.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cult Or Healthy Church? Questionaire To Help You Know

I began talking about the subject of abusive churches and controlling pastors a little over 4 years ago when I left my church (cult) of 22 years.  If you go back to the first post on my blog, you’ll see that I could not use the word “cult,” but after being away from that environment and seeing the horrible effects it has had on countless people, I can unmistakably call my former church a full blown cult.
 
If you have left a controlling pastor/cult, chances are you are having a difficult time even thinking about attending church again. You probably feel bad for not going and you tell yourself, "I need to raise my children in church." There are situations where people leave a cult and find a new church right away, but for most people it's hard for them to trust again after being so hurt, betrayed and lied to by a "man of God."
 
Here's a reminder of what you need to look at when choosing a healthy church. If you are attending a church and keep feeling like something just isn't right, asking yourself these questions may help you make the right decision.

1.  Does your church tightly control the flow of information within its ranks? Does it seem like the pastor, his family, and those closest to him are extremely secretive?

2.  Does your spiritual leader use public shaming as a method to gain the compliance of followers? Does he give enough information so that everyone knows who he's talking about and yet he never uses a name?

3.  Is your spiritual leader intolerant of questions or critical inquiry? Are you supposed to be a submissive member and just go with whatever the leadership says?

4.  Is your spiritual leader the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation? Does he discredit other churches in the area and make it sound like his church is the only one doing it right?

5.  Does your spiritual leader have unreasonable fears about the outside world such as evil conspiracies or persecutions? Does he use phrases like, "God will set ambushments against our enemies" or "God beats down our foes" all the while referring to the people who have left the church?

6.  Are you discouraged to associate with former members, being warned that they are “evil” or “defiling”? Are the people you thought were your good friends refusing to allow their children to remain friends with your children?

7.  Is leaving your group to join another church equal to leaving God? Have you been convinced that leaving will be your downfall?

8.  Does the surrounding community view your church as a cult? Are you embarrased to say where you attend church?

9.  Does your spiritual leader consider it evil persecution when criticized or questioned? Does he point out "bad" things that happen to those who have left the church and insinuate that it's because they left, but when the same thing happens to him or his family, does he call it an attack?

10.  Do the goals of your spiritual leader seem to supercede any personal goals or individual interests? Does he require you to serve him even to the point of neglecting your own family?

11.  Do you fear being rebuked, shunned, or ignored for expressing a different opinion? If you are a man, do you feel like you've been emasculated and that you must accept what comes your way? Have you allowed your family to be mistreated, all the while saying nothing?

12.  Do former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances?


“If you answered “no” to all of the above questions, your church is very healthy. If you answered “yes” to three or more, your church is showing signs of being unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to six or more, your church is very unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to eight or more, your church is a full-blown authoritarian cult.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Once Again, I See The Effects Of Control

Hey friends,
I haven't written a post in a while, but I stay connected with my blog on a regular basis. I always respond to comments and I check to see which posts people seem to be reading. It's very interesting that most people find my blog by googling words such as controlling, manipulative people and narcissistic pastors. I think there are a lot more people dealing with this than we know.

I received a heart wrenching comment yesterday on a post titled, "The Controlling, Abusive Pastor," and I want to share it with you.

"These are some of the qualities that my pastor has too. He keeps threatening that anybody who leaves the church without his decision would die and go to hell and God himself would take vengeance against such a member. I feel I'm into spiritual slavery . I have felt many times that he has manipulated scripture to meet his selfish motives. Now he wants me to move closer to his house so that he can control me more (though he gives different excuses). There are forced covenants that he has made us take regarding a business that the church should start. We are only 6 members and it's a home church. I'm frustrated and can not even talk back for the fear of speaking against authority. There are times when I thought suicide would be a way out. But suicide I believe would be a direct ticket to hell so I don't dare to take such a step. On the other hand I want to fulfill the plan and purpose for which God has sent me to the world. I'm crying out to the Lord to help me. Can I ask you guys for prayers though."

This comment greatly concerned me and this is why my blog is so important to me. Once again I see the effects and the devastation that being under a controlling leader has on people and I hope something I say can help. This dear person is suffering under the hand of a man who calls himself a pastor but is so far from what a true pastor really is. I hope the person who left this comment finds the courage to leave this ungodly control and find peace.

This "pastor," and many others like him, use fear and manipulation to keep people under their rule. They go to extremes by saying that bad things will happen to you and your family if you leave. You have to realize they are just bullies and you must not allow them to manipulate you. They only want to use you so they can have their own selfish way. It's never been and never will be about what is best for you. It's all about what will benefit him - the selfish pastor. When people who call themselves leaders treat people this way, it is the total OPPOSITE of the way God treats people.

Being under a controlling leader strips you of who you are. It takes away your voice and you find yourself living only to please the leader. You lay aside your own wants and dreams to fulfill his. That is NOT what was intended for your life! When a man takes control over you in the name of God it's wrong. God Himself doesn't even take control over us. He gave us our free will to choose. How can a man claiming to be a voice for God do something that even God can't do? The answer is...he can't unless we allow him to. We have to be strong and stand up to these kind of controlling people and say enough is enough. And be warned...when a pastor says if you speak against him you are speaking against authority, he is hiding something. No one person is higher than another and when a pastor tries to make you feel lower than he is, he is a narcissist with wrong motives.

To the person who wrote this comment, I hope you read this post and realize that you need to run from this situation. It's unhealthy and it is sucking the very life out of you. I know it's hard, but God will give you the courage. I have been there and I had to stand up and take my life back from a controlling, narcissistic tyrant. Being in this type of situation only hurts you and no good will come from it. Your life is basically on hold until you free yourself. You can truly start to live again when you get out from under the control. I hope you find your voice and start to enjoy your life. You have a friend in me and I would love to talk to you. You can get through this. I did and I know of many others who have too. You are not alone.

If there are others who have a word of encouragement for this hurting person, please feel free to comment here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spiritual Abuse Resources

January is Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month. I'm glad to know that there are people out there trying to raise the awareness of this travesty that affects so many lives.

Dr. Barb Orlowski has compiled a list of spiritual abuse blogs and websites. Barb looked at over 130 sites and picked the best of the bunch. These sites provide insights into people's lives and experience of spiritual abuse. Some of them may speak to you more than others, but you can pick the ones that are your personal favorites.

I have linked the sites for you, so all you have to do is click on the title.

*Church Exiters

*Setting The Captives Free

*Pure Provender

*Futurist Guy

*Spiritual Abuse In the Church

*Spiritual Abuse

*Christian Survivors

*The Hope Of Survivors

*Kingdom Grace

*Battered Sheep

*Spiritual Abuse Recovery resources

*The National Association Of Christian Recovery

*Recovery From Abuse

*VM Life Resources

*The Wartburg Watch

*Church Abuse

*John Mark Ministries

*Apologetics Index

*Stop Spiritual Abuse

*Reflections On Spiritual Abuse

*Rick Ross Institute

*Wittenberg Gate

*The Barnabas Ministry

*Word Of Faith Recovery Forum

*Ministry From Two Poles

*Ruby's Emporium

*Wicked Shepherds

*We Survived Abuse

*Spiritual Abuse Sanctuary

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Are You Dealing With A Manipulator?

I have found myself caught in the web of manipulation a few times in my life and I am determined to never find myself there again. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if you are dealing with a manipulator.....

1. Does this person always play the role of the victim? Do this person believe he/she can "do no wrong?" Is it always someone else's fault?

2. Does this person often get angry and throw temper tantrums? Have you felt threatened during this person's angry outbursts?

3. Does this person try to make you feel guilty when you have done nothing wrong?

4. Does this person try to confuse your thinking in order to get you to do what they want? Does it seem as if it is a game to them? Have you ever wondered if this person has actually researched how to manipulate people?

5. Does this person pivot off of lies? Have you noticed that everything this person says is tainted with untruths? Even if you don't realize it at the moment, do you eventually see that this person seems to lie about everything? Do you basically dismiss everything this person says?

6. Does this person try to divert your attention from the truth? Would you identify him/her as an expert liar? Does this person talk in circles?

7. Is it always "all about them?"

8. Do you find yourself doing things you really wish you hadn't? Does this person try to get you outside your comfort zone, because then they can pull your string and get one over on you? Do you often feel agitated after being around this person?

9. Is this person very insecure? Do they talk about themselves and try to build themselves up? Have you noticed that this person subtly puts you down?

10. Does this person try to get you to cut off your support systems so he/she can gain dominance over you? Do they act sweet and innocent in front of you, while they talk about you behind your back?

11. Does this person make promises to change, but never follow through? (It is very rare that a manipulator makes any changes.)

12. Have you always had a question about this person in the back of your mind?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are dealing with a manipulator. In most cases manipulators will not change. You need to be alert and very aware of who you are dealing with. It is easy to forget and allow yourself to fall back into their trap, so keep your guard up.

(If you found this post to be helpful, you may also want to read The Manipulators Behavior Defined and Dealing With Manipulative People.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spiritual Abuse Recovery

I was asked recently to review a book by Dr. Barbara Orlowski titled, Spiritual Abuse Recovery. I have been reading it and can relate to everything she has written in her book because of my past involvement in an abusive church. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has left or is contemplating leaving an abusive church.

When Barb emailed to ask me to read her book, we began to converse back and forth. I have really enjoyed getting to know her. She is a wonderful person who is passionate about helping others in the area of spiritual abuse.

One section that really spoke to me in the book was where Barb shared quotes from people who have been involved in an abusive church. In doing research, she had the participants respond to a questionnaire about their experience. I want to share some of those questions and the answers that were given. When I was searching for answers, it was such a help to know others had been through what I was going through and to hear them voice it. Can you find yourself in any of the comments these people made?

The following comments describe the reasons why participants left their church:

"There was a tremendous dichotomy between what was said by leadership, and the message they actually conveyed. They often spoke of the freedom we have as believers, as well as our individual value in God's eyes. But any attempt to think or act with any degree of freedom was quickly and firmly labeled as unsubmissiveness to leadership."

"The main problem stemmed from the fact that the leader was not submitted to anyone and yet wanted submission. His doctrine was off and his tactics were abusive and the church showed no fruit."

"It was clear that the pastor was never going to address any problems: present or future...I was told that the Lord spoke to my pastor, so if I disagreed, I was in error."

"We had invested greatly in this congregation. It was hard to understand how people in leadership positions could "put up" and even enable this kind of behavior by the pastor. Leadership and authority exercised by one person in a congregation is not only unbiblical, but is inherently abusive and destructive."

"The pastor had left such a trail of hurting and damaged people, and I felt I could no longer be a part of that type of destruction."

"We were falsely accused by the pastor of being rebellious and unsubmitted. The church we left is still being destroyed by authoritarian leadership, control, and abuse. It was a wonderful community of people that was ruined by false spiritual leadership."

"I believed so much of what they said. I towed the lines they put up. You need to understand something: these people (the leaders) were my life. I took care of their children for them. I put my own interests last and served them for years. I made it possible both physically and financially for them to exist. As far as the rest of the group, I really thought they would know our hearts and at least come to talk. Only one couple did."

"Our eyes were opened to seeing that our church was run by a manipulative and oppressively controlling pastor who had just enough charisma and mountain charm to bamboozle the masses into believing and following him as "God's anointed," appointed for this church and the surrounding area of the county. Adding to his ruling hand is an Elder Board of "Yes Men" of which the pastor was chairman."

The following are comments from those who felt that they had to leave a position or were asked to leave (were fired) from a church position:

"I got fired from the assistant pastor position for questioning the authority. Hardest part, for me, was to forgive myself for being duped by a pastor who I should have seen through much earlier on in the fourteen years I spent under his ministry."

"The senior pastor while able to be quite charming to the congregation and others in the community, was emotionally abusive to his staff in general and had become increasingly abusive to me my last year on staff. The dynamics in the office were often hard for me to understand, but in the last months working there I saw the pastor's behavior as deceptive, grandiose, and highly manipulative."

The following comment was given to the question: How did you process the negative and positive feelings after you left?

"I spent months going over things, over and over and over, tyring to figure out how they went wrong, what we could have done differently, examining my own heart, tyring to see if I was blind to the things they accused me of. That basically led me to a search to understand how and why something like this could happen. I began reading a lot about systemic, governmental, and relational issues in church, especially things related to the use and misuse of authority by leadership. Being able to understand what was wrong about our situation helped me to accept and deal with it."

A few other comments shared by participants included things they learned from their experience:

"Through this painful experience, I have learned to be compassionate and understanding toward others."

"I have a sensitivity for strugglers and a radar for fakers. I guard against heresy, always checking Bible references that speakers just throw out there to back up their opinions. I question practices and teachings that set off my warning lights. I have a heightened sense of discernment. I am very aware of the potential for the abuse of power in any setting, even my own. I am more candid and honest. I am less of a people pleaser."

"Church shouldn't hurt."

"It has made me examine the whole idea of the institutional church, and what happens when you give pastors authority and control, over their staff, over entire ministries. Who is the Church? Isn't it us? It has also made me value support groups more. The belief of these pastors is that more Bible study is all we need. Well it isn't. We need to be in relationships where we can begin to experience relationship with others, where authenticity and honesty are valued, where grace can be experienced."

"I am better than ever! Although there are ups and downs, I finally feel that I am beginning to know God personally. Although I know I have only scratched the surface in this respect. I have a hunger to know him that is not driven by fear or obligation. I feel far more rooted in grace now, not performance. And I firmly believe that performance and perfection is not what He wants in me either, but only that I would know how totally I am loved."

You can find many more of these comments and other great information on spiritual abuse in Dr. Barb's book, which can be found on Amazon.com. Follow this link. www.churchexiters.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Ugly Truth

This past weekend when another sex scandal about a prominent pastor came to light, the NPR website had some things to say that are worth repeating. The writer spoke of the devastation young people face when church leaders use their power to abuse and how we must stand up to these leaders.

"For many young people, the reality is that they are sacrificed on the altar built for pastors we have deified. We must dismantle the cult of the clergy and other leadership frameworks that place male leaders above reproach. We must stop regarding our cowardice as loyalty and take the risks to support our young when they are victimized.

How can we ensure them that if they disclose their abuse, they will be believed and their abusers will be confronted, regardless of their ranking? By challenging abusers who hold authority in our organizations, families and communities, we prioritize the safety and health of our young over peer approval and the comfort of "getting along."

One who cannot face aspects of himself that he despises will train that animus on another whom he regards as his opposite. Did he sell out countless individuals in order to throw congregants off the scent of his own hunt, the exploitation of young men? Was there a point when, at first, a few and then many knew what was happening and said nothing? How long will we enable the abuse perpetrated in word and deed by our pastors? When will we dare to speak the ugly, inconvenient truth even when we are afraid?"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Newspaper Covers Spiritual Abuse

Click here to read an article on spiritual abuse from a California newspaper. I hope that more newspapers, radio shows, and talk shows start covering this subject. I think there are so many more people out there who have been affected by spiritual abuse than could ever be imagined.

Click here to read an article about people taking action against a spiritually abusive pastor.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great Post Link

I read a great post on Provender's blog called, "Are You Covering For A Spiritually Abusive Pastor?" I could relate to all 20 signs. If you have been a part of a church like this or if you suspect you might be, this list is eye opening. Click here to read.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Attack Of The Super Apostles

I came across a very informative article called, "Attack Of The Super Apostles." It describes in detail how these false ministers operate. (Click on title to read.)

Here is also a series of articles called, "The Super Apostles Series."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Manipulator's Behavior Defined

Manipulators are very good at controlling others. Their behaviors consist of flattering, threatening, making you feel guilty, and demeaning you. You may get confused over a period of time because they use different tactics to best fit what they want at the time. If you often feel stressed and resentful after spending time with this person, you are most likely dealing with a manipulator.

The manipulator's behavior defined:

Flattery. Manipulators will pour on the flattery when they think it will help them work their way into a person's life. Manipulators use flattery to pull in unsuspecting prospects. Every time you turn around they pour on the compliments, sometimes to the point of being ridiculous.

Threats. Threats can be subtle or they can be severe. Some threats may include refusing to allow family members to see the children, divorce, and even suicide. In many cases these are just empty threats because manipulators are bullies on the outside, but cowards on the inside. However, never take a threat lightly and always take the proper precautions to protect yourself.
Guilt. Manipulators will make you feel guilty if you try to call them on the carpet. They are never wrong in their eyes and in most situations you cannot win against a manipulator. They play the victim and place the blame on everyone but themselves. You will find yourself constantly apologizing when you haven't done anything wrong. The best thing you can do is not deal with a manipulator at all.

Demeaning. When things don't go their way they will try to tear you down. They will call you names, talk bad about you to others, and sometimes even physical abuse is involved. The manipulator will try to wear down your self esteem so that you will become dependent on him/her. Most manipulators have terrible self-esteem issues.

Tips on dealing with a controller or manipulator.....

*When you recognize that you have been controlled or manipulated, distance yourself from the manipulator and his/her agenda.

*You should know that you cannot change them. You can only change your reaction to their bizarre behavior. (Many times you don't even realize how bizarre their behavior really was until you are away from it for a while.)

*Have the self-respect to stand up for yourself and do not let the controller take away your independence any longer. Life was meant to be enjoyed with a person who respects you and allows you to be yourself.

*Don't blow off the opinions of your friends and family. They have your best interest in mind. If everyone who cares about you is concerned about your relationship, trust them. You may be under such control that you just can't see it for what it is. Once you get away from the manipulator you will begin to see it for what it truly is.

*Know that people like this rarely change and probably the best thing for you to do is remove yourself from this type of relationship and not look back.

(If you found this post helpful, you may want to read Dealing With Manipulative People and Are You Dealing With A Manipulator?)

How To Live

There are many people who lived under strong legalism for many years in our former church. There were so many rules it was hard to enjoy life, but that has all changed now for the better. The people who have left are thriving and we are very happy. The sad thing is, for all those years many good people were trying to live by every single rule only to find out the leaders were living a double life. There was nepotism, lies, money issues, mistreatment of members and staff, promises made that were never kept, and to top it off the youth pastor recently went to prison on federal sex charges.

Sometimes when people have been in an extremely controlling situation, they have to learn all over again how to live life and be themselves. This is true for church situations, job situations, bad marriages, and other types of relationships gone bad.

This is a great song that encourages you to enjoy your life and not let someone else control you and rob you of your freedom.....


The Controlling, Narcissist Leader/Pastor

Ungodly, controlling pastors have hurt many people. The phrase "ungodly pastors" seems to be an oxymoron. These two words shouldn't go together in the same sentence, but the sad truth is there are pastors and leaders who are only in the position for their own lustful desires.

These dictating leaders can be described by many words - controllers, manipulators, narcissists, psychopaths, cult leaders, false pastors, and dictators, to name a few. There are varying degrees of this type of leadership and some are more damaging than others, but I have seen the negative effects these type of leaders can have on people. Some pastors are just strong leaders, while others are narcissitic psychopaths. If you haven't ever been around a person like this it may be hard for you to imagine that there are people who go to these extreme measures. But for those who have suffered under this type of heartless leadership, you know all too well how deep the wounds go.

Here are some signs and characteristics of a narcissist, unscriptural leader.....

*Resembles the same attitude Diotrephes had in III John verse 9. He is proud, carnal, demanding, overbearing, impatient, uncompassionate, "loving" only toward those who submit to him, but mean-spirited toward those who do not agree with him.

*He develops doctrines from pet verses that appear to support his view.

*He makes people feel that they cannot make important decisions and know God's will without him.

*He exalts himself before the people.

*He ridicules his associates, making them look small in the eyes of the church members, thus increasing his own prestige and authority and decreasing theirs.

*He treats men who leave as fools and evil men. All kindness and friendship is withdrawn by the leaders. People are only treated kindly when they submit to his doctrines and "authority."

*He contradicts himself a lot.

*He is accountable to no one.

*He provokes and intimidates people to get what he wants.

*He demands respect instead of trying to earn respect.

*He wears a phony grin and acts like everything is all right even when things are falling apart in his church.

*He acts as if he knows everything, but he really doesn't know how to handle problems he has caused.

*He is a captive storyteller and exaggerates the truth all the time. He is able to spin a web that intrigues others and pulls them into his life.

*He has the capacity to destroy his critics verbally and disarm them emotionally.

*He does not recognize the individuality or rights of others.

*He is extremely self-serving and thinks he deserves royal treatment.

*He has no checks on his behavior - anything goes.

*He has tremendous feelings of entitlement. He believes everything is owed to him as a right.

*He presents himself as a genius.

*He has an insatiable need for adoration. When others aren't praising him, he will praise himself.

*He gives the perception that he lives a grandiose life, but paranoia rules him. He creates an us vs. them mentality because of his perceived hostile environment.

*He lies coolly and easily, even when it is obvious he is being untruthful. It is almost impossible for him to be consistently truthful about either a major or minor issue.

*He is a plagiarist and a thief. He seldom gives credit to the true originators of ideas.

*He is extremely convincing and could more than likely pass a lie detector test.

*He does not have friends.

*He doesn't not have feelings of remorse, shame, or guilt. He feels justified in all his actions because he considers himself the ultimate moral arbiter. Nothing gets in his way.

*He is unmoved by things that would unset the normal person, while outraged by insignificant matters.

*He is cold, with shallow emotions, living in a dark world of his own.

*He can witness or order acts of utter brutality without experiencing a shred of emotion.

*He casts himself in a role of total control, which he plays to the hilt.

*He is tragically flawed in being able to either give or receive love.

*He despises community and emotional intimacy, and so he is profoundly lonely. On the one hand, though, there is something about his loneliness that he likes; for he can attribute it to his unique and superior nature.

*He constantly tests the beliefs of his followers, often with bizarre behaviors.

*He readily takes advantage of others, expressing utter contempt for anyone else's feelings. Someone in distress is not important to him. Although intelligent, perceptive, and quite good at sizing people up, he makes no real connections with others. He uses his "people skills" to exploit, abuse, and wield power.

*He will favor and offer help to people who are down as long as he thinks they will be useful to him later on down the road. Such favors might include offering employment, loaning money, or offering personal counseling. He may call in his favor if he sees you slipping away. Also, such opportunities help the narcissist persuade himself that he is good, despite the gnawing awareness of the dark cellar at heart.

*He has an inflated sense of superiority which propels him to recklessness; for he is subject to fantasies of omnipotence and unequalled brilliance, and he feels that he is above the law. And it is this sense of superiority that allows him to underestimate the intelligence and determination of his adversaries.

*He is indifferent to injustice and it's victims, but he rages against the person who is a threat to his charade and/or who refuses to cooperate with his underhanded schemes.

(I have taken a few of these statements from an article I have been reading, entitled Narcissism and the Dynamics of Evil. I decided just to add the link instead of continuing to add to my post. It's a very informative article.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Symptoms Of An Abusive Group

Are you still wondering if your church is showing symptoms of being an abusive group? Are you talking yourself out of leaving because your church may have virtues that seem to compensate for its possible abuses? You may not be able to see right now how being in a controlling, abusive system is affecting you, but it will damage the central core of who you are. And I can assure you it will affect your children at some point. To help you make a clear assessment, here is a review of the symptoms of an abusive religious group according to Jesus in Matthew 23:

1. Abusive leaders base their spiritual authority on their position or office rather than on their service to the group. Their style of leadership is authoritarian.

2. Leaders in abusive churches often say one thing but do another. Their words and deeds do not match.

3. They manipulate people by making them feel guilty for not measuring up spiritually. They lay heavy religious loads on people and make no effort to lift those loads. You know that you are in an abusive church if the loads just keep getting heavier.

4. Abusive leaders are preoccupied with looking good. They labor to keep up appearance. They stifle any criticism that puts them in a bad light.

5, They seek honorific titles and special privileges that elevate them above the group. They promote a class system with themselves at the top. They desire to be number one and they require everyone to refer to them as "Pastor" or "Dr."

6. Their communication is not straight. their speech becomes especially vague and confusing when they are defending themselves.

7. They major on minor issues to the neglect of the truly important ones. They are conscientious about religious details but neglect God's larger agendas.

I encourage you to read Matthew 23 in the New Living Translation. Jesus felt very strongly about religious leaders who abuse their power and use it over innocent people. He told us not to follow these "blind guides." He also pointed out in Matthew 23 that this "greatism" these leaders seek is false faith. Christianity is not about one man trying to build himself up and promote his own agenda. It is about reaching out and making a difference in many lives by sharing His love, grace, and mercy. Can you really go on giving your time, energy, and money to support something you know is destructive? Can you go on placing your family at risk by continually exposing them to the toxins of spiritual abuse? Sometimes the best thing we can do for abusive leaders is to leave them. Sometimes the most human act is to let an abusive church die. Stephen Arterburn says, "We must have the courage to follow Christ's example and overturn the system if the system is wrong. Silent submission in the face of violence, dishonesty, and abuse will only enable that abuse to be passed on to generations."

This information was found in Ken Blue's book, "Healing Spiritual Abuse."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Positive Side

The words in Romans 8:28 ring true to me today…..

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”

God looks out for us, even when we have gone places He did not lead us. He helps us learn from our mistakes and turns bad situations around for our good. That's what He has done for many people who have left controlling, abusive situations. Even though we haved walked through some very difficult moments, we can now look at the positive side.

Here are some strengths I have noticed that develop in people when they leave controlling churches:

*Greater compassion and empathy towards others

*Analytical thinking (You think deeply about core concerns. From this point forward you will exercise keen judgment and discernment so you will never find yourself in the same situation again.)

*Greater level of honesty and trustworthiness (You are so disgusted at the lies, fraud, dishonesty, and even criminality that went on, it makes you resolve yourself to live in a higher degree of honor and trustworthiness. You don’t want to be anything like your former leaders.)

*Social/community activism (You are so tired of looking inward and catering to the needs of selfish leaders, you become extremely enthusiastic about reaching out and serving others.)

*Fearlessness (You have given into a bully for so long, it’s time to stand up for yourself and take a new direction. You decide no one is going to control you or stand in your way! You also decide to step out and go after your dreams.)

*Courage

*Gratitude (You are so glad to be free from the control, manipulation, and harsh judgment you were under, you become more thankful even for the little things in life.)

*Inquisitiveness and curiosity (You realize it’s okay to question anything!)

*Sense of direction and purpose

*Flexibility

*Openness

*Ability to show emotion

*Ability to be yourself

*Ability to find meaning in adversity

*Ability to cope with difficulties (After all that you experienced and dealt with in a controlling church, handling the normal strains of everyday life seem like nothing. If you have survived a controlling, abusive situation, you can survive just about anything!)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's Been A Year!

This Sunday marks the one year anniversary of when I left my former church! I feel like having a party to celebrate! I cannot find the words to describe how happy I am to be free from the control I was under. If you have followed my blog at all you know how difficult it has been for me at times, but God's grace has brought me through. I am truly thankful for the important lessons I have learned over the past year.

I have learned to follow my heart and take heed to red flags when they pop up. When there are questions, they are there for a reason. I will never let another man control me or try to take the place of Jesus in my life. I will stand up for what I believe in and I will not keep silent when things are wrong. I have learned that being a Christian is not about following a set of rules and regulations, but it's about having a relationship with God and knowing His love. I have learned that true joy comes from serving others. I have found that there are many wonderful, normal people who love and accept others for who they are. They are true examples of Jesus. I have learned that what really matters in life is loving God and loving people.

I still have some questions, but I know in time all of my questions will be answered. As I look at how far I've come, I am excited about the things I will learn over this next year. There will always be those who are just beginning their journey out of the control, so I hope I can use the experiences I have walked through to help others find their freedom.

I invite you to comment and share an important lesson you have learned. I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Controlling Leader

Here is a list of characteristics of a controlling leader:

*Preoccupied with his own needs being met, while the needs of his subordinates are ignored

*Preoccupied with looking good, labors to keep up appearances

*Seeks honorific titles and special privileges that elevates him above the group

*Promotes a class system with himself at the top

*Demands loyalty and honor

*Speaks often of his authority, constantly reminding everyone that he is in charge

*Stifles any criticism that puts him in a bad light

*Majors on minor issues and neglects the truly important ones

*Speech is vague and confusing when he is defending himself

*Feels the need to embellish the truth and make things appear more or less grand than they really are

*Speaks out boldly on wrong behavior, even when involved in that same behavior

*Believes people are extremely bad or wonderful, depending on the amount of support offered to him

*Motivated by greed

*Impressed with material goods and those who have them

*Fears sexual inadequacy

*Feels he is owed something

*Lives in a false world where he is convinced he is right

*Surrounds himself with people who are insecure and easily swayed

*Manipulates others using guilt, shame, and remorse

*Tries to come across confident in an attempt to cover up his insecurity

*Blames others for his own failures

*Is not involved in any accountable relationships and has no intimate relationships

*When in a bind he will ask for forgiveness and appear sincere in doing so

*Fears not measuring up or losing his image

*Needs professional help

The Controlling, Abusive Pastor

In the book of Jeremiah, God spoke against those who operated in their own authority while abusing the very people they were supposed to bless.

"An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?" (Jeremiah 5:30-31)

Leaders were using their influence to convince people that their power was divine. Yet in reality, these false prophets and priests were merely wielding their self-imposed influence for personal gain, claiming they were speaking for God. The people bought the lies and believed all the promises that were made. This happened in the Old Testament and it's happening today. Don't let it happen to you!

Here is a list of some common characteristics of a controlling, abusive pastor.....

*Preoccupied with his own needs being met, while the needs of the people are ignored.

*Focuses on his own never-ending quest for personal fulfillment and happiness, while the real needs of the people are lost or forgotten.

*Expects the people to obey his every command without question.

*Preaches on his spiritual authority every week, constantly reminding everyone that he is in charge.

*Tries to take the place of Jesus in people's lives.

*Tells people they cannot leave the church with God's blessing unless he approves the decision.

*Uses scripture in order to gain biblical grounds to control people's lives.

*Instills a sense of obligation by reminding the people of everything he has done for them.

*Demands loyalty and honor from the people.

*Demands performance from people, not accepting them for who they are.

*Thinks the people in his congregation belong to him.

*Manipulates people into giving their money.

*Has an elitist attitude and says that no one else is preaching the gospel as good as he is.

*Overly concerned with appearances

*Has no respect for other churches or denominations.

*Is insecure, jealous, and cowardice

*Uses fear and intimidation to keep people from leaving his organization or church.

*This information is from the book "Toxic Faith," by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Crying Shame: Charlatans In The House

I came across a great article called, "A Crying Shame: Charlatans In The House," by J. Lee Brady. Don't fall for these foolish gimmiks!

"Churches and ministries are employing bizarre gimmicks to raise money. What has happened to our discernment?

You've probably heard it on Christian television before. An evangelist opens his Bible, reads a Scripture and then suggests that you send an odd amount of money to keep your favorite program on the air for another month. He begs. He pleads. He cries. And then he tells you that if you hurry and give right now, "while God is stirring the waters," the Holy Spirit will reward you in an extra-special way.

I've heard different amounts suggested-such as $64.11, or $72.14, or $53.24, to correlate with some obscure Old Testament Scripture reference. The implication is that if you write a check for this magical amount, God will release some kind of special blessing on you, such as the salvation of loved ones or the quick sale of a house.

To the untrained ear this may sound like a formula for blessing. Actually it is more akin to superstition-or worse, witchcraft. It's not even remotely biblical, but those of us in the charismatic movement are so used to tolerating such shenanigans that we think this is standard procedure for fundraising.

Some ministers who raise money for Christian television stations have succumbed to the infamous "debt reduction" tactic. It goes like this: "God says that if you will give a $1,000 sacrificial offering right now (God always seems to be in crisis mode in these situations), you will supernaturally get out of debt! The miracle anointing is here! You can release it by writing that check! And we take credit cards, too!"

Talk about voodoo economics. This kind of manipulation is actually against the law in Canada. The U.S. government allows American evangelists to get away with it, but that doesn't mean it's right. It is a spiritualized form of arm-twisting. And believe it or not, it is getting more blatant and bizarre.

A widely traveled minister recently gave a message about what he called "the Boaz anointing" at a prominent church in Florida. He then invited anyone who wanted this "new" blessing to come to the altar, where gullible souls were encouraged to deposit a check for $1,500 in the basket. Apparently the Boaz anointing can be yours if you can afford this hefty price.

At another church in my city of Orlando, a self-proclaimed prophet said that he would have a personal word of blessing to pronounce over any person who could give $1,000 in the offering. That's right- he was selling personal prophecies.Those who actually gave the amount (yes, some people actually fell for this charlatan) stood up to receive "words." I want to rip my shirt in half and throw dust on my head.

Why should we be surprised that the church in America is making such a weak impact on society when we are allowing greedy impostors to pollute our pulpits? They are no different than the sons of Eli, who took the people's offerings "by force" so that they could spend it on their own selfish wants (see 1 Sam.2:12-16). They have fallen into the error of the sorcerer Simon, who offered to buy the power of the Holy Spirit so that he could impress people (see Acts 8:18-20).

And what happens to the people who buy into this craziness? I've heard some suggest that "God will bless anyone who gives," even if they give to a crook. That's hogwash. Those who use manipulation, strong-arm tactics or Scripture-twisting to get money, or who sell the anointing of God so they can buy clothes and houses are not going to release any form of blessing.

Such dark forces actually follow ministries that have given themselves over to this spirit of financial manipulation. The Bible actually says that charlatans - those who follow the "error of Balaam"- will face a harsh judgment. (Jude 11,13).

What can you do about this? You don't have to stop giving. God loves a cheerful giver, but He does not want us to give under compulsion. Nor does He want us to reward the modern sons of Eli. Speak out. Confront those who misuse the Bible to dig for money. Change the channel. Get up and walk out. Give to ministries that focus on meeting real needs and maintain ethical accounting standards. This financial foolishness will end when all of us take a stand."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shame-Based Systems

If you have ever been involved in a controlling, abusive church, this post will make a lot of sense and hopefully bring some understanding to you. The information I am using can be found in the book, "Tired Of Trying To Measure Up," by Jeff Van Vonderen.

What is a "shame-based system?" A shame-based system can be a church or Christian group in which the authority figure demands a certain level of performance, whether spoken or implied. If you don't live up to the standard of the system, messages that are either subtle or overt will tell you that you are not good enough - you simply don't measure up. But that's not even the saddest part.

Worst of all, a sense of shame can keep you at a distance from God. It keeps you from praying because, "Why would God want to do something from me?" In abusive churches, the disconnected, controlling leaders, who are supposed to represent God, have given people a distorted view of who God is. People who have been in situations like this might think, "Why would God answer my prayers? I don't come close to living up to His standards. He probably doesn't even want to be around me."

People who are involved or have been involved in these types of situations encounter struggles over a period of time.

Here are a few:

*Difficulty trusting people
*Low self-esteem
*Highly performance-conscious
*Don't know yourself very well
*Feel Wounded
*Feel tired
*Can't tell what is normal until away from situation

The following is a list of characteristics that best describe the relationship systems, past and/or present, under which tired, wounded people labor:

1. Out-loud shaming

Comparing one person to another causes shame. Name-calling causes shame. Phrases like, "What an idiot you are!" and "What's wrong with you?" will shame a person. This type of shaming is hard to overcome.

2. Shame-based systems are performance-oriented

We all need an environment where we feel our needs are met because of who we are, not because of what we do. In this system, value and acceptance are earned on the basis of performance. We become ingrained with a need to measure up. We are taught that acceptability comes from religious performance, rather than being taught to rely on our identity as a child of God.

3. Unspoken rules govern shame-based systems

The rule that reigns supreme in this type of system is the "can't talk" rule. The truth of the matter in a church system is that some pastors are afraid of what the existence of a problem says about them as leaders. If there is a problem or question, then the person raising the question is the problem for raising a challenge.

Here is a list of other examples of unspoken rules that govern shame-based systems:

*"What's real doesn't matter; how things look is what really matters."
*"What other people think is more important."
*"Adults are more important than children."
*"People who feel sad are oversensitive."
*"Something is wrong with people who feel at all."
*"Feelings don't matter."
*"We don't have any problems."
*"Questioning is disrespectful."
*"Women are here to do what men want."
*"When women are upset, they're just being oversensitive."
*"It's not okay to have needs - needs are selfish."

Left in the dark, these rules have an incredible amount of power and anyone who brings them to light will be shamed.

4. People in shame-based systems "code" when they talk

In this system when someone asks you "to do them a favor," you know you don't have the option to say no. It wasn't really a favor, but it was a command. It swiftly becomes clear that needs, honest feelings, questions and opinions that differ are not okay. Saying things straight will get you labeled as the problem, so you have to learn how to speak in code to get what you need. You learn to carry an invisible code book in your head that helps you say things with the least amount of waves possible.

5. Shame-based systems have a hard time with kids

Needs, feelings, opinions, and certain behaviors all have the potential to bring on a sense of shame - especially to kids. Everything must be perfect. You must walk on egg shells and take everything seriously. Tow the line, mind your p's and q's, and act your age. Watch what you say and don't make too much noise. It's not okay for kids to be kids in shame-based churches. They must be miniature adults. It's not a healthy environment for children because they don't find out what's real.

6. Shame-based systems are preoccupied with fault and blame

These systems burn a lot of energy in self-defense, and in asking "Who's responsible?" This question is not asked for the purpose of helping the guilty party face the consequences, but it is raised so they can know whom should be shamed and made to feel bad.

7. Shame-based systems are strong on "head skills"

People in shame-based relationships live in a defensive mode. Shame hurts. It cuts to the heart. Therefore, people must become experts at "self-defense" techniques. These include: denying the existence of problems or rationalizing them away and blaming others. In this system, people are constantly interrogated. But the questions have no answers. "I just can't understand why you did that! Is your head on backwards?" "Why did you do that?" The only safe answer is "I don't know." Any other answer would be analyzed and made to look foolish.

8. Shame-based systems are weak on "heart skills"

Experiencing or expressing certain emotions such as sadness, hurt, loneliness, or humiliation is viewed as an indication of weakness or defectiveness. In these systems people believe that feelings should go away. Consequently, they get stuck carrying a lot of heavy emotions and are never able to resolve them.

9. People in a shame-based system only look as if their needs are met

People come away from these systems with a sense that they are:

*Not loved and accepted
*Only loved and accepted if, when, or because they perform
*Not capable, valuable, or worthwhile
*Alone, not really belonging anywhere, to anything, or with anyone

10. The shame-based church is a system that is upside-down

This relationship system isn't there to pour strength and fullness into its members. Instead, it draws from its members in order to perpetuate itself. Since love and acceptance are something to be earned, members have learned to be good performers. The result is people who are empty and disconnected on the inside with the appearance of fullness on the outside.

People in these shame-based systems spend their lives wondering when they are going to start living and being happy. But life is here to be had and enjoyed freely. Make the choice not to listen to these "killing" voices anymore and choose life!

I Wonder What Jesus Thinks

I read this verse the other day and it hit me in a way I had never seen it before.

"When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves." (Mark 15:11-17)

I want to briefly share some of the thoughts that came to me....

I wonder what Jesus thinks about the way certain churches handle money. Have some used the church as a way to make money off of honest, God-fearing people? I mean after all, why would a church charge $7 for a CD of the message when it only cost about .40 to make? I know of churches that make all of the messages available free of charge.

Has Jesus gotten upset because honest people have been taken advantage of? I remember a meeting that took place a couple of years back at a very nice venue in town. A special guest was in town and he was going to speak during a luncheon. The true cost of the ticket was less than $20, but the leaders of the church charged $40 for each ticket. The high cost of the ticket made it impossible for some members to attend, but that did not deter the leader's decision to make money off of the tickets.

Is it right to charge more for a church event than it really costs? I don't believe there's anything wrong with covering the cost of an event or even covering unforeseen charges, but it seems to me that the intention of making money off of the church members crosses the line. I think the church should be a place that will try to make a way to include everyone who desires to be a part. The attitude that came across to me was, "If you don't have the faith to believe for the money, then we don't want you to come."

I know God wants churches to prosper so they can get the Gospel out and reach the world, but it should be achieved by honest means. I think people should at least know where their money is going when they give it and I believe people should be treated honestly and fairly at all times.

People should not be conned or coerced into giving - hence the 20 minute prelude before every offering. Do people really have to be pounded week after week, year after year with a mini sermon on tithing? I think the leaders should consider a different approach because if people haven't gotten the message in the 10 to 20 years of hearing it, maybe they aren't going to. I love the approach they take at my new church - let people follow their own heart and give cheerfully when God leads them to.

The main emphasis of a church should never be on money, but it should be on what really matters - having a relationship with God and helping people. Why isn't this the main focus of some churches? I think the answer is clear....To some, money is more important than people. That's not the way it is with Jesus and that may be one reason why He got so upset that day in the temple.

Just curious.....Do you think there is anything to these thoughts and questions I have had or have I misread this?

The Narcissist Leader - Do You Know One?

The DSM-IV, a psychological diagnostic source, recently came out with a list of the criteria for NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). A person displaying a pattern of at least five of the following signs indicates that there is a strong possibility that he/she is a narcissist.

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3. Believes that he/she is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions.

4. Requires excessive admiration.

5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations that others will treat him/her with favor or will automatically comply with his/her expectations.

6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his/her own ends.

7. Lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him/her.

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behavior or attitude.

10. Will often have temper tantrums, unreasonable expectations, shocking selfishness, and a complete inability to engage in teamwork.

Dealing With Manipulative People

If you think you may be dealing with a manipulative person, ask yourself these questions....

*Have your friends or family members remarked on how you don't seem like yourself since you entered this relationship? Are they looking at you sideways?

*Have your family relationships become filled with tension at the mention of the manipulator's name?

*Are the people who care about you the most getting worried about you?

*Have you severed ties to the familiar stability of the world you have known and placed the manipulator at the center of your universe?

*Are you losing your individuality and strength?

*Do you find yourself doing things you wouldn't ordinarily do?

*Have the goals and dreams that previously defined you all of a sudden been pushed to the back burner?

*Does the manipulator try to isolate you from your friends and family members?

*Are your attitudes changing to more closely mirror the manipulator's rather than who you really are?

*Do you willfully close your eyes to behavior that you know is wrong?

*Do you excuse the manipulator's behavior? Are you constantly defending him/her?

*Does it seem that it's always "all about him/her?"

*Does the manipulator know how to pull your strings? Do you find yourself doing things you really wish you hadn't?

*Does the manipulator try to take over your financial decisions?

*Do you find that you are being controlled or manipulated through half-truths or omissions? Are you slowly finding out that you have been lied to repeatedly?

*Does the manipulator in your life play the victim and blame others for his/her problems?

*Is there just enough weirdness to make you stop and think, but not quite enough to get you to re-evaluate the entire relationship?

*Are the manipulator's apologies shallow?

Here is some information that you should know if you are dealing with a manipulative person....

*Being in a relationship with a manipulative person is a destructive cycle.

*People in healthy relationships have nothing to hide or defend.

*Don't blow off the opinions of your friends and family. They have your best interests in mind. When you cut off your support system, it only helps the manipulator gain dominance over you.

*Compassion is not easily understood or accepted by manipulators. It will only hurt you more in the end.

*Manipulative people are often very insecure. The root of their selfish control is their own damaged self esteem.

*Don't try to point out the above warning signs to the manipulator. This type of person won't recognize it and you will only be wasting your time.

*This control doesn't happen overnight, but it happens subtly over a period of time. Manipulators will invest months or even years in "training" you to accept and carry out their will.

*Severely controlling and manipulative people often have clinical mental disorders. You cannot hope to change or rescue such a person. As much as you may care for them, the best help you can give them is to refuse to be their victim and direct them to professional help - although most of the time they won't admit they need help.

*Manipulators are legends in their own mind, but the truth eventually comes to light.

(If you found this post helpful, you may also want to read The Manipulators Behavior Defined and Are You Dealing With A Manipulator?)