My husband and I were discussing this morning the many different times we’ve witnessed and experienced abuse in church whether it be emotional, sexual, and especially spiritual. (See links below)
I’ve been in turmoil these past few years over it all..first, about realizing what it looks like and second, recognizing that it’s happening in my church far more than many want to acknowledge, much less talk about.
There’s many circumstances happening and have happened that I would never put my children into, or myself, ever again..and yet I still believe in the many truths taught in my faith and I can’t just walk away from something I hold dear.
So I’m in turmoil. How do I handle going and being at a place that teaches good things that I believe in, but simultaneously encourages a culture that’s abusive and bad for our mental health?
So as I talked with my husband about this I realized something.
Just like I work on having a healthy relationship with my husband and children and my Lord and Savior..I needed to form a healthy and equal relationship with my church. I’ve experienced too much fear and inequality there and I know it’s not healthy.
But how do I change that?
Well let’s look at a healthy relationships such as marriage:
Both parties work to communicate and listen to each other’s needs, feelings, thoughts, and also hurts. They both realize the other is not perfect and try to work it out despite that. They try to communicate to one another and show they care. They respect each other as equals and as a person with feelings, even in their differences, and they accept and make room for those. They also listen to the person and care when the other says something they’ve done that hurts. They try to make amends and heal when there’s hurts. They work to understand each other and when they make mistakes they get back up and apologize and try again.
That’s my definition in a nutshell of a healthy relationship.
What does an emotionally abusive one look like?
It involves one person wielding power over the other, refusing to listen to the concerns and hurts of the other, the need to always be right and enforce that on the other. They use threats, shame, belittling, name calling, rejection, withholding affection, as well as other forms of abuse to get that person to conform to what they want them to do. They refuse to apologize or change when they’ve hurt the other, nor do they recognize and validate that person’s feelings or pain, or allow for the other person to feel things contrary to what they want them to feel..should I go on?
Seeing any parallelism here between the church as an institution and its members?
I do and it’s very distressing.
I asked my husband how do I stand up to these things I’m seeing and I know are wrong all while loving the people, (because I believe in charity always being a top goal) ? I believe in 1 Corinthians chpt 13 with all my heart.
He said just like any marriage you’d first address the abuse. Nothing can get better until the abuse is addressed and changed. Then there’s a place for all of the little things that make a marriage work and healthy. Until then nothing else can grow.
It rang true to me. I want a healthy relationship with my church but that can’t happen until the abuse is addressed. So I’m gonna treat it like a relationship and do my best to communicate what I see and feel and need, so at least from my end I’m trying to be healthy. I hope that I can feel the same results from the other end, eventually, but if not at least I can help protect those being abused and fight against that part.
I have my own healthy relationship with the Lord. I know I don’t need to go through someone else at church to have that, but He is my everything and I want to show it in deed and serve Him because I love Him. I want to worship Him on Sundays. I want to help grow and teach the things He’s taught me are true: eternal families, His Atonement and love, the scriptures that testify of Him, His grace, my heavenly parent’s love for us And much more.
But I want to do these things in a safe environment, too. And honestly I can’t unsee the abuse that happens soo often in my church culture. It’s a crazy feeling to one minute, feel truth and love being testified to your heart from the spirit, from something taught at church..and the next it gets snuffed out by something said or done that’s cruel or abusive. Some of those are church policies, to be honest.
Mostly, I feel like there’s a war going on in church between the Savior and the Pharisees. I’m always shocked at how often, we as a congregation, completely miss knowing and recognizing who The Savior is because we’re soo caught up in our righteous traditions and culture that we actually persecute Him and His followers right within the walls of His home.
It makes me crazy with frustration.
Seriously, how do we study the “Come Follow Me” this year and not see the parallelism? Am I truly the only one? If I’m not will you please raise your hand? Speak up?
Anyways, I think my husband’s right. We need to take care of the abuse situation before anything can truly grow and become more.
So that’s what I’ll do. I’m gonna point it out every chance I can and talk about it and against it. I’m gonna fight against abuse at church…and please Lord help me to do it with love. Not sure what that looks like but I’m about to learn.
Never once did I dream at age 14, that as I stood up every Sunday and said the phrase “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places” that one of those places would be in my own church and that it’d take more courage than anything I’ve ever faced.
Things I’m reading, seeing, and have personally experienced that nobody’s talking about in church. Well I’m gonna:
And what the world? Why?
Then there’s these people that I’m grateful for more than they know:
And then I see a ray of hope because there’s good things being done:
Definition of spiritual abuse by Wikipedia (cause we need to wake up and see this and stop it):
Spiritual abuse includes: