Why I Know So Much About Spiritual Abuse

I talk about spiritual abuse a lot because it happens a lot.

The ignorance around spiritual abuse allows it to flourish. Like a disease: if you don’t believe it exists or is exaggerated then it will continue to kill people and eventually you.

I know about spiritual abuse for two reasons: 

  1. I inflicted it as a pastor.
  2. I received it as a follower.

The temptation for any person with power to use shame, fear, and intimidation to achieve their goals is high. I’m not just talking about pastors. I’m also talking about bosses, teachers, coaches, parents, etc. 

potter and clay cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

A preacher says to his people, “He is the potter. You are the clay. And I am the potter’s hands!”

I learned simultaneously that using shame, fear, and intimidation to get what I wanted from my kids and using these to get what I wanted from my parishioners was the same impulse and was harmful, abusive, and unproductive.

Look: I was TRAINED to spiritually abuse! Not only by my upbringing, my role models, my church and pastors, but by my studies in theology and pastoral ministry. It’s everywhere.

Even my own parishioners INVITED me to abuse them from the pulpit. They said they enjoyed being brow-beaten by the Bible! Do you know why? Because feeling guilty then repenting feels better and happens faster than actually changing.

It was around this same time that I realized how pervasive abuse is. It’s insidiously ingrained in all kinds of institutions, organizations, communities, and relationships.

So I decided to change as a pastor, a parent, and a person.
And I radically transformed my life and ministry from then on. 

This is why I talk about spiritual abuse so much.

Resources on Spiritual Abuse

Here are a list of other blog posts I've written on Spiritual Abuse. 

Back to blog

Leave a comment