You're Not Finished

#YNF EP12 - Spiritual Abuse & Mental Health, Part 2

November 23, 2021 Brittany Franklin Season 1 Episode 12
You're Not Finished
#YNF EP12 - Spiritual Abuse & Mental Health, Part 2
Show Notes Transcript

In the second part of this series, Brittany details signs of a spiritually abusive environment or individual as well as the effects of this experience on mental health. 

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Speaker 1:

[inaudible]

Speaker 2:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the are not finished podcast. My name is Brittany Franklin and I'm the host of this podcast. And I am excited to finally continue talking about spiritual abuse, the signs of a spiritually abusive environment and how it affects your mental health. Because I can understand that this topic can be a heavy one for those who have experienced it. I would like to add a warning here that if the topic of spiritual abuse is triggering for you or can contribute to mental or emotional distress, please refrain from listening or listen with caution. If you like to hear my experience with spiritual abuse and the first part of this series before or after listening to this episode, you can do so by listening to episode 10, I give a trigger warning in that episode as well. So again, please listen with caution. Now this took a little bit to do, because first of all, I decided to finally officially make your not finished episodes monthly instead of biweekly , due to school and work. And additionally, as I said, in the last episode, this topic is very sensitive to me, very triggering. And so I have to be wise about not re-traumatizing myself and potentially others who have been affected by what happened at that particular organization that I was involved in. What finally kind of lit the fire under my butt is that I recently saw that someone I am connected to on Facebook recently referred to the leader of the organization that was once part of as their hero. And at that point I knew I needed to not delay this any further and continue to bring light to the issue at hand. So let's just jump right into it. Now, as I said , in part one, I'm aware that abuse occurs in many different religious and spiritual settings, and I want to acknowledge that, but for the purposes of this podcast and due to my lack of experience, in and knowledge of other religions, I will be talking about how this occurs in the Christian environment. I gave him more elaborate definition and part one as well. So I'll give a quick definition in order to get to what I would like to talk about today. Spiritual abuse is when a leader or a member, regardless of the influence or role they have in the church or religious organization, improperly or egregiously uses their position or invalid interpretation of the word of God or both to manipulate control, dominate, or even physically harm or assault. Others who are in the church or religious community, spiritual abuse can have a tremendous effect on people who experience it. And to be honest, I believe this form of abuse might be the most harmful. I mean, let's really think about it for a second more often than not subscribing to a religion or spiritual belief. And again, we're mainly talking about Christianity here, but it does apply in a general sense. It requires a mental, physical, and emotional surrender and submission to a deity or authority in a way that no other life practice or aspect does additionally with Christianity, it requires humility, vulnerability, and openness to God loving him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving your neighbors as yourself as expressed in Matthew 22 and Luke 10. And this isn't just a one-time thing. You have to exhibit this love daily and do so potentially at your own risk. Of course, you're not going to be reckless. Although Corey Asbury might disagree. Just kidding. I had to throw that in there. I'm sorry. I cannot stand that song, but I digress, but this display of love of loving your neighbor as yourself and of fully loving God with all that you have is a commandment issued by God himself and thus ought to be taken very seriously. So imagine actively choosing the Christian route and attempting to trust and follow God and believe in his word and loving others. And then experiencing those who claim to be called by. He who has the ultimate authority. He who is uncreated. And he, by which those who believe are saved using this truth to control, manipulate, lie, and abuse, I'll explain it in another way. When we're hurt by family and friends through relational struggles, we may be advised to put some distance between us and them. If not cut ties completely in the event, talking things out doesn't work or is impossible. And that's assuming that the relationship isn't toxic or abusive and those cases were just advised to end things, but in more cases than we realize, when it comes to the church, we are given biblical justifications for reconciliation, mediation, or remaining in situations that are physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually abusive, erroneous, or exhibit demonically inspired practices. Even if the perpetrators of these abuses practices and injustices are unrepentant. I mentioned a few cases of this happening in the last spiritual abuse episode, but the things that have been exposed in many ministries and Christian organization over the last couple of years alone, have shown that there are systems in play and the American Christian culture that tend to protect and even exonerate the abusers and validate and demonize victims. Ravi Zacharias, for example, maintained his innocence and was protected until his death. And it wasn't until months after he passed at the investigation into his conduct, concluded not only that his victims are telling the truth, but that there were many more over a span of several years. Now, if you are unaware of who he is, Google was there for you, but I must add a trigger warning of sexual abuse and misconduct. If you choose to look into his actions. So please do so with caution. Now, before I go any further, I need to say that I firmly believe that not all churches and Christian communities are like this. If I truly believe this, I might've denounced the faith. I want to acknowledge that there are good leaders out there who are preaching the word rightly and facilitating environments, safe environments, where worship in many forms, not just musical forms is expressed in spirit. And in truth, if you're listening to this and happens to be one of those leaders or ministers, I commend you. And I affirm you. And I pray that the Lord bless and keep you, especially during these tough times, however, it is very important to speak on this. People like Ravi were proclaimed as heroes and they are proclaimed as heroes. The person who was abusive to me and many others was recently proclaimed publicly a hero. But if we're talking about Christianity, there's only one and that's Jesus. That leads me to talk about the first of a few signs of a spiritually abusive environment or individual. And with this statement, I'm realizing that there would probably be an additional episode on this to cover more ground. The first sign I want to address is that the leader of the organization has no one who is able to hold him or her accountable for their private and public actions or statements. They claim everything they do is right, God ordained or prophetically inspired. They submit to no one. And even God never seems to correct them. They have yes men and yes, women around them, everything they say is to be affirmed and disagreements will result in people being ostracized, outbursts of anger or fits of rage or some form of physical, emotional, or spiritual punishment or consequence. So how does that affect a person's mental health? Well, let's say you have a question or you're unsure about a church or organization's practices, or you just challenged them outright and you have a biblical basis for doing so. A spiritually abusive leader who submits to no one will say and do things that will make you believe that challenging them is equal to challenging God himself, which can bring shame, depression, confusion, and mental anguish upon those who work for this leader or who are connected to them. Now, as I implied earlier, serving God is a weighty daily life expression. Christians typically want to, or desire to act in a way that is deemed to be pleasing to him. And because we are called to be like him as expressed in Ephesians five, one through two and Philippians two, five abusive leaders can unfortunately use that to their advantage. If a leader attempts to control or manipulate someone by indicating or directly stating to them that their actions or beliefs towards them are potentially displeasing to God. This can cause a lot of mental and spiritual harm, especially if they use an interpretation of the Bible that happens to be to their own personal benefit or what they call prophecy to do. So I saw this quote a long time ago that says prophecy is not to manipulate people. Prophetic manipulation is witchcraft. It is demonically inspired and has no place in the house of the Lord. If you look at the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 22 to 23, you will see that they are love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness. And self-control, I think I've said this before, but God does not interest us with people, friends, family, significant others, children, employees, et cetera. He doesn't interest us with these people in order to control or manipulate them. He does. So for us to love them to be patient with them and all of what I just said in reference to Galatians five, that first sign, and it's actually kind of many signs including into one, but that first sign is the foundation for many others. For example, in these spiritually abusive environments, you can't really say no to a leader's request. Or if you do, you are potentially questioned as to the reason why you said no you're made to feel guilty for saying no. Or you may even be coerced into making your no into a yes in spite , a valid reasons for saying no. And possibly, regardless of whether they're saying yes to the leader's request is actually in direct disobedience to God. You're convinced that the work that you're doing is for the Lord and maybe in some ways it is maybe, but it's usually at the expense of actually being with and submitting to him directly. And if that is the case, it is not for him. All the work that you end up doing for God cannot be done without him. Truly. So again, if you are doing ministry in a Christian organization and that separates you from Christ, and that is not for the Lord, that is just my opinion. Let me know your thoughts on that. If you have a response to it now I have seen people sacrifice their friends, their families, their finances, marriages, their God-given calling, and even their relationship to God. As I just mentioned, in order to maintain loyalty to a Christian organization and its leader or leaders, there have been instances in which I've done that myself, regrettably, this damages a person's mental health in many ways, and it doesn't just have negative consequences for the individual, but can actually result in damaged relationships. And non-ideal living circumstances that may not be able to be repaired right away. If at all, these damages can lead to anxiety, hopelessness, PTSD, depression, and suicide ideation. I've even seen where this has led to substance abuse as a coping mechanism, which of course can lead to additional mental, emotional, and spiritual health issues. So when I was doing research on the effects of spiritual abuse on mental health, I found that this is a topic that is severely under-researched . And I believe that is because, like I said earlier in this podcast, there are systems and protections in play in the American Christian culture that have covered up instances of abuse until recently where people have begun to have the bravery of sharing their experiences. And so everything that I found was just that people sharing their experiences on blogs and websites and nothing that has been confirmed through verifiable research now that doesn't validate anybody's experience at all. But I like to, for the purpose of this podcast, have the psychological and spiritual information available to you guys. So that it's very clear that what I'm saying is, is factual. And again, I'm not saying it's not, I'm just saying that I would like to have that extra insurance for you guys. What I do want to do is reference a post that I found on Christian survivors.com. And this is written by a man and woman named Tim and Lisa Oakley and their posts. They say that individuals who experienced spiritual abuse may feel a sense of guilt or confusion that they were part of an abusive church environment and question why they were not able to see problems from the beginning. This can be disturbing to an individual raising issues of trust and making judgements in the future about individuals or churches, particularly as the factors, which make an experience abusive are not often evident for some time. Those who have been spiritually abused, often experience a sense of loss equivalent to a bereavement feelings of disappointment with God and even a crisis of faith. One of the most worrying realities is that many people having experienced abusive leadership will not return to church. Many others will find it difficult to ever fully participate in church life again. And I have to say, I really resonate, especially with that last part, because after I left the organization that I was at, I pretty much took a break from church for like a year and a half, almost two years, even listening to worship music was triggering, especially a specific type of worship music. Um, those of you who know me know what that means, but , um, yeah, I, I couldn't pray. I couldn't read the word without feeling a sense of anger and wondering why God allowed me to go through all of the things that I went through at that Christian organization. Um, but with therapy, with time with healing, with being in safe environments, I eventually have been able to begin listening to worship music, again, engaging with God through the reading of his word and through prayer. And while I'm still working on getting inside of the four walls of a church, I feel confident that I will be able to do so sooner than later. So in order to stick to the format of this podcast, I'm actually going to go ahead and end it here and continue on a third episode of spiritual abuse, because I want to lay out some additional signs as well as talk about how I healed from my experience and give some tips on healing. If you're going through this on your own. Now, before I go, I want to assure you that there is healing through say family and friends, professional counsel , and through the God that these abusive leaders are trying so hard to draw you away from there's hope and there's freedom. And I cannot wait to prove that to you next time, but until then, if you need additional resources for mental health addiction and suicide prevention, head over to www dot you're not finished.com and click the get help section. If you want to share your story or journey as someone with a diagnosed mental health or mood disorder to be shared publicly or anonymously on the Y and F website, shoot me an email to your not [email protected] That is Y O U R E and OT F I N I S H E [email protected] Make sure to follow me on Twitter ads, Y N finished and on Instagram at Y N F cast to stay up to date on latest episodes and for encouraging content. And I will see you again next time. Thank you so much for listening. If you're listening before Thanksgiving, I hope you enjoy your time with your family and friends, and I hope you have a good day. Bye.