Spiritual Abuse is Invisible Abuse

"Invisible Abuse" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Cartoon Description: A woman sits dumbfounded before the desk of a "Supreme Leader" who says, "What do you mean I'm abusive? I've never even touched you!"


Spiritual abuse is rampant in the church.

I want to be clear that there is spiritual abuse as well as sexual abuse, etc., and that these two can occur simultaneously. Although there are so many cases of abuse in churches that involve sexual assault, sexual impropriety and harassment, and physical abuse, I’m distinguishing spiritual abuse as mostly invisible abuse.

I’ve worked with spiritual leaders who were incredibly abusive without ever touching anyone.

(Although one time when I told one of them he was too controlling he poked his finger hard into my chest and told me I needed psychiatric help.)

Manipulation, coercion, and control are often the primary tools of many spiritual leaders.

Of course, I admit complicity because I enjoyed the sense of community around them, the purpose and destiny, the participation in a mission, the joyful activities, the opportunities to get favored, the unquenched feelings of hope and excitement.

But the tradeoff is submitting to the overbearing and controlling authority of the leaders who supply these benefits.

It took a few realizations to free myself:

  1. I needed to be independent, stop depending on gurus, and meet my own spiritual needs.
  2. I could live an even more fulfilled and happier life from underneath their rule and influence.
  3. I realized the benefits were bait to keep me there and submissive.

Walking away from the leeks and onions of controlling and abusive leadership feels risky and scary.

But discovering your own land flowing with milk and honey makes it all worthwhile.

Believe me!

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