Overcoming Destructive Patterns in the Church Chapter One Understanding Destructive Patterns
The emotionally abused Christian is a particular type of Christian. A person who has established a pattern of continually being emotionally abused by those he or she is involved with, whether it be their Pastor or another authority figure in the church. No matter how successful or intelligent they may be, there is always the feeling of being "less than" other people. Despite having great abilities and talents given to them by God, they are still feel afraid to stand up for themselves, fear authority figures, and have a never ending need to be taken care of by others. These Christians may or may not recognize how extensive this kind of emotional abuse continues to affect their lives.
They agree to do things they really don't want to, go places they don't want to go, and all the while resentment is continually building up in their hearts, but they just can't seem to say no, no matter how hard they try.
These Christians often feel helpless and increasingly critical of themselves and others. Despite their best efforts to find a caring church, there is something wrong with their ability to choose one that has a pastor who will treat them with respect and consideration.
If a pastor or other authority figure is emotionally abusing you in your church, you have nothing to be ashamed of and a perfect right to do something about the abuse you are suffering! While it would be hard to determine the exact number of Christians that have been abused in this way, we do know that the number is astronomical to say the least. While emotional abuse is probably the most common type of abuse in the church setting, until now it has received the least attention. Many good Christian men and women who are being emotionally abused do not even realize what is happening to them. Many suffer from the effects of emotional abuse (depression, lack of motivation, confusion, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions, low self-esteem, and self-destructiveness) but do not understand what is causing these symptoms. This was the case of someone very close to me in our family as they began to tell me the problem with their pastor. Yes folks, for all reading this book who feel that a pastor is always right and to be obeyed because of his position in the body, there will be times when your "man of God" is in the wrong. That's because he or she is human just like the rest of us. The problem is not the fact that a pastor or other authority figure in the church can be wrong, it is when he or she uses their position of authority given to them by God to emotionally control those under their authority to such an extent that it becomes abuse.
Although my relative wasn't being very specific about the problem, as the weeks passed I discovered that her vague description of the pastor not being pleased with her was an understatement. The pastor's wife was tearing down her self-esteem daily by constantly complaining that she never wanted to comply with her, that is, to the pastor's wife's wishes.
ARE YOU BEING EMOTIONALLY ABUSED?
Have you ever met someone claiming to be a born again believer, yet suffering from these severe bouts of depression, lack of motivation, low self-esteem, feelings of failure, worthlessness, and self-destructiveness?
Many Christians don't even understand what is causing these symptoms. Many of them who seek help because of these symptoms, do so without any awareness of why they are suffering. This was the case of some members of my own family. They said that their pastor's wife had been complaining a lot because she seemed to think that they just weren't doing enough for the church and that they weren't showing enough love toward the pastor. I asked her, " Well, do you love your pastor and his wife?" She said yes she did, so I began to talk to her to see if there might be another underlying problem which could possibly be leading to a simple misunderstanding of the motives behind the pastor's wife's actions. My relatives stated that they did indeed love them but they felt under so much pressure that it seemed like her they couldn't seem to do any thing right for them. As they began to open up and share some of the things about their situation with me, it became clear to me that they were trapped in a vicious cycle. The more their pastor and his spouse complained about them, the more depressed they had become, and the less energy they had to do the things that were being required of them. This in turn made the pastor's wife complain all the more. Even though my relatives were not being physically abused, the emotional abuse they sustained from the people in authority was damaging them just as much as if they were being beaten. In reality both the pastor and his wife were abusing them. The pastor's wife was abusing them openly and the pastor in actuality was abusing them underhandedly by his willingness to empower his wife to continue the abuse while he kept quiet about the situation or offered excuses for the actions of his wife in the abusive situation. Those in authority were being extremely demanding, complained constantly that the saints were not doing their jobs, verbally berated them in front of other saints, scrutinized their every action. If they were a few minutes late for a meeting, having privileges taken away punished them, as though they were children instead of mature adults. The saddest part about the story was the fact that they didn't think they were being abused at all. Even after I told them that I believed that they were actually being abused, they just couldn't understand how both the pastor and his wife could be in the wrong, so the fault must be with them, right? Why else would they both be saying the same thing? "Maybe I am lazy and I don't do the best I can at church, get confused easily and don't make the right decisions. Half the time I seem to be in a daze and it's a wonder I do as well as I do."
Please remember this, those who are being emotionally abused often grow to believe their abuser's accusations. The abused Christian does indeed become less and less productive, less motivated, less passionate, and less caring. As their self-esteem plummets and their depression deepens they also begin to feel less loving. Like my relatives and many other Christians, you may not know that you are being emotionally abused. While you may realize that your pastor or those that are in authority over you seem to be demanding and hard to please, you may not consider their behavior abusive, so let's talk a minute about what exactly is emotionally abusive behavior.
WHY EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS SO INSIDIOUS
First let's define what abuse really is. Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being by the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal or physical assaults. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle forms such as, intimidation, manipulation, and a refusal to ever be pleased.
Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically drives away at the victim's self-confidence, sense of self-worth, self-perceptions, and self- concepts. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation or under the guise of "teaching a lesson" Eventually the recipient loses all concept of self and all ruminants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and lasting than physical ones. In fact, a great proportion of the damaged caused in physically or sexual abuse is emotional.
This emotional abuse, the insults, the intimidations, the criticism, and the accusations slowly eat away at the victim's self-esteem until the victim is incapable of judging the situation realistically. The victim becomes so beaten down emotionally that they blame them selves for the abuse. Their self-esteem is so low that they cling to the abuser. While those who emotionally abuse others don't always intend to destroy those around them, they do set out to control them. And what better way to control someone than to make him or her doubt their perceptions? What better way than to cause the Christian to have lower self-esteem so that the victim becomes dependent on the abuser?