This past week has been exhausting. I’ve been following the #churchsurvivors and #churchabuse hashtags on twitter, I’ve been reading all of the posts linked up as part of Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week . . . and . . . it’s taken a lot out of me. A lot. I’m exhausted. We’ve all been reminding each other of the importance of self-care right now, and that is oh so very true.
I have another post ready to go up tomorrow for the last day of Spiritual Abuse Awareness week, and I’m proud of it, and I think it ends this week on a good, hopeful note.
But I am drained. Going back to that place inside of my head, trying to understand myself as I was ten years ago– it’s frightening. And soul-crushing. I get angry– not an anyone in specific, just more of the world at large. I understand why it happened– and I don’t, all at the same time. So I get confused, and then I don’t want to think about it anymore. But, I take a deep breath and plunge back in anyway– because it’s important that the world sees this– that the world understands what can happen when good men stay silent and do nothing.
What we’ve all done this week is important. We needed to tell our stories– if simply just to get them off of our communal chests.
But the real first step is to take the blinders off, and to start honestly looking at our own lives. Where have I been that’s been a spiritually abusive environment? What have I done that’s fostered spiritual abuse in my church, or in my family? What things have I said and done that has done damage to someone’s soul? How have I willingly participated in a culture that encourages abuse? When have I spoken up in defense of it?
Because I have done all of these things. I continue to do these things, completely unconsciously. I belittle, I dismiss. I ignore. So very often, I don’t want to make myself uncomfortable in order to help someone else. I could stand up and offer a healing balm to someone who I know needs it… and I don’t. Because I’m hurting, because I’m tired… there’s always a reason.
We also need to take a good, long, hard look at our churches, at the leadership we’ve put in power. We might be able to look at our pastors and say, “oh, he’s such a godly man,” and that might be very true. Or it might be a terrible lie, and our reticence to see the truth might blind us from the untold damage he’s doing. It might be our elder boards, or our deacons, or our Sunday school teachers. It might be someone who has no “actual” leadership position, but for some reason always bullies everyone else– and we let it go, we let it slide, because… why? Because being a bully isn’t a “real” problem?
It’s easy to look at our churches and think “my church is fine, none of that happens here,” and the thing is, statistically speaking, that’s probably a lie. Walk into a typical Sunday school class of 20 children, and at least two, maybe three, of them have been sexually abused. At least one of those has been sexually abused by their parent. Look around at the married couples in your church. Statistically speaking, roughly a third of those marriages is going to end– and a few of those women are being verbally or physically abused by their husbands, and your pastor might have told one of those women that they need to “love their husband through it.” Or, they might not even realize they are being abused, because they bought the lie that a “strong man” is just naturally expected to dominate his wife.
Maybe none of that does happen at your church, or in your community, or in your family. And maybe it does. We shouldn’t be going around leaping at shadows and inventing evils where there aren’t any, but we should be conscientiously developing awareness. We should be encouraging an atmosphere of accountability in our homes and churches– for everyone. We can’t afford to be blind.