What not to say to someone who has suffered spiritual abuse
1. Your bad experience prevents you from seeing this PRESENT circumstance/church/pastor objectively. This implies a survivor's instincts and insights are are invalid. Here's the thing: maybe our abusive experiences aren't The Rule but they do provide insight into how abuse happens and how it is propagated. 2. Your bad experience prevents you from seeing your PAST circumstances/churches/pastors objectively. Do you see what I mean? No matter what concerns a survivor raises, the underlying assumption is that their perspective is flawed, clouded and reactionary--including how they reflect on their OWN past.
3. There's no such thing as a perfect church! Just eat the fish and spit out the bones! Again, dismissive. This statement downplays legitimate concerns about lack of accountability. The survivor is faulted for holding church authorities to an unfair, "perfectionistic" standard. Also, just because some people are able to spit out the (massive) bones doesn't mean everyone can. Some of us will die choking.
4. Have you forgiven the people who hurt you? People who have suffered spiritual abuse are repeatedly reminded that Jesus commands them to forgive. We get it. Really. Also, we forgive you for being so unhelpful.
5. You know, you can wallow in self-pity or choose to move on. The subtext, here, is that people who talk about their abusive experiences are indulging in self-pity. Believe me, we want to move on. This is why we talk about it. Talking about is actually a sign of healing. When we're really hurting? We stay very quiet.
6. Well, what were YOU doing that was wrong? Were you behaving rebelliously? Dressing immodestly? This is classic victim-blaming. This line of questioning seeks to cast doubt upon the victim's credibility and motives. It also casts the perpetrator as the noble character who was "seduced" against their will or understandably "provoked" to violence.
7. Are you allowing a root of bitterness to grow in your heart? No, actually. I only allow root vegetables to grow in my heart. Ahem. Look, this is a loaded question. It presumes that people like myself have an axe to grind and that we're allowing our pasts to define our future. We're not bitter. We're bursting full of sweet, sweet boundaries.
8. Don't speak against the Lord's anointed servant! There's this idea that if a church is growing, the pastor is above the rules that apply to everyone else. Tithes welcome, whistle-blowers not.
9. Human beings make mistakes. True. I make them every day. However, just because we all make mistakes doesn't preclude accountability or making amends.
10. We used these methods and MY children/family/marriage turned out great! How awesome for you. Those methods were used on me and I had to go to therapy for 5 years. Soooooo. Yeah. How about them Dodgers?
What unhelpful advice have you heard? Can you add to this list?