How to spot subtle spiritual abuse

subtle spiritual abuse cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward


Religious PTSD is real. Spiritual abuse is a thing.

Some think abuse is just violent treatment of another person.

But when people’s freedoms are restricted or violated, this is a subtle form of abuse.

It’s violence against the human spirit.

Like this cartoon, spiritual abusers don't tape people's mouths, cuff their wrists, shackle their feet, put them on a leash, or set them in a cage.

Not literally.

But they might silence people, restrict their movements, prevent their freedom, limit their involvement, and control their lives.

Here are subtle forms of abuse:

  1. You are not allowed to speak your mind.
  2. You can only play if you meet certain expectations.
  3. You feel shame but can't apologize enough.
  4. They expect you to give without hesitation until it hurts.
  5. Their disappointment in you can never be remedied.
  6. You live in constant fear of outbursts of anger.
  7. You feel less empowered with them than with others.
  8. There are consequences to questioning them.
  9. They have ways to disappear your accusations.
  10. They have ways to make your life miserable if you leave.

I encourage people in such situations to trust their gut.

It takes time for some of us to learn when we are being violated, when a personal boundary is being trespassed, or when a line is being crossed.

The lesson is to train your gut to notice it right away, to not deny it or doubt it, but to trust it and say, “Wait! No!” and to stop it if you can.

I’ve been spiritually abused. It took me years to figure it out. But I’ve gotten to the place now where I recognize it in an instant, sometimes even before it starts.

And I won’t take it. Not anymore.

And neither should you!

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