I found these comments on a site called Messy Christian, and they make a lot of sense. On a post called The Loveliness of God Amidst Pain the blogger writes:
When it comes to people who’ve been spiritually abused/been through a bad church experience, it really helps if we talk about what has happened. It’s an act of affirmation; when you listen without interrupting with platitudes like “You must forgive” or scold her for her sharing, you’re indirectly saying: “I share your pain, I allow you to feel them.”
Kari said something that I totally relate to: “It really helps to talk to someone who has been there. They at least understand where you’re coming from.”
Messy Christian is right. People who haven't gone through spiritual abuse try to find good on both sides and bad on both. They can't see a church leader acting out of pure evil or being sociopathic or narcissistic. If you haven't run across such a leader before, it makes sense that you expect a little error here or a problem there. The trouble is, when you start loading blame on innocents because you assume there must be some fault there, it adds to the suffering and helps nothing. Messy Christian also writes:
The things that happened! If I told you the full sordid details of what we both went through, your toes will curl! [Or maybe not, knowing how prevalent stories like ours are, sadly.]
Yet, we still smile and laugh despite these painful memories. And most amazingly, despite having given up on the once-pristine vision of the church and her people, our love for God has increased.
This is a hopeful message. Too often you see people soured not only on church but on the loving Savior also. You understand their hurt and their revulsion for anything of their previous life, but it's painful to see them give up on the one great physician when they are in such need of healing.
On another post, Messy Christian writes: It’s such a “top secret”, “underground” subject in Christian circles that those who’ve been spiritually abused have nowhere to go - unless they’re pointed at the right direction.
That is a very apt characterization. Top secret. Underground. Churches DON'T talk about spiritual abuse. Maybe they don't want members falsely diagnosing spiritual abuse where there isn't any. Whatever the cause, it's a sad reality that those most in need of information have few resources in the church to discover it.
Thanks, Messy Christian, for your words of hope!