“An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” Jeremiah 5:30-31
We see the Lord’s displeasure being expressed against those who operate an effort to control the people. Consumed with their own ambition, these leaders have convinced the people that their power is divine. Yet in reality, these false prophets are merely wielding their self-imposed influence for personal gain, claiming they speak for God.
“From the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (NAS). Jeremiah 6:13-14
A common characteristic of an abusive religious system is that the real needs of the people are lost in the never-ending quest by the leaders for personal fulfillment and happiness.
And this has been my story. Part of it anyway. You will find my whole story in detail in my first book, ”Climbing Out of the Box, My Journey Out of Sexual and Spiritual Abuse Into Freedom and Healing”
When I needed to go to work to help support my family I was told by the authorities of the church I attended that I needed to forfeit working and stay in the ministry because if I didn’t I would lose all my gifting to ever do ministry again. For years I thought my gifts would not be used again and that I was disobedient because I didn’t obey them. (Until I was shocked when I began to see my same gifts used out there in the market place..aha moment.)
A church that repeatedly told us they basically had the corner on the market of Jesus and they had the fullness of God and His gifts, where other churches did not, and that if we ever had to go elsewhere, we would miss God’s highest.
A pastor who found ministry to be a vehicle for his great gain, lying and manipulating donors to give more and more money. He actually took the offering in decorated trash cans…(not lying). The wealthy had the high positions in the church. There was the pastor who had the men of the church build his home for free labor, stating, that as Solomon had to have the temple built before he could help the people, he, too, needed to have his temple before he was free to really be a pastor.
A leader who cornered me in a room alone, threatened me, and yelled because he said I was too “perfect” to minister to women. He said I needed to dress down and quit painting my nails if I wanted women to identify with me. He also said I needed to project being poor. I was devastated.
Openly ostracized and lied about to a congregation of people to manipulate me to quit my women’s ministry outside his organization that was reaching hundreds of women. ( I didn’t quit. I left his church organization that very night.)
Innocently called into a pastor’s office alone and watching him lose his temper at me, yelling with spittle flying, finger pointed in my face, falsely accusing me of talking about him behind his back because I told a sound man I was removed from the worship team and had no idea why. I sobbed so loudly I couldn’t gain control while he stared me down with contempt until I finally got up and left.
These are all true stories, and I could go on and on but,
…now, many years later I coach so many who relate their own stories of pain and abuse at the mercy of “godly men and women”. My heart aches for them because I know this is not Jesus. This is man or woman who wants to control and the power goes to their heads.
But, this was just the beginning of my story. Upon leaving these controlling ministries after 25 years of having a church building as home and family, I went through a 5 year sabbatical where I had an encounter with Jesus such as I never had, after being in church and busy with ministry all those years.
It took me many years to be set free from the damage that was done to my spirit and to be able to enter a church building without anxiety and tears.
So don’t lose hope in the pain of loss when you know you have to make a change. Jesus promises to NEVER leave you or forsake you. Even when you are brave enough to leave and everyone is saying to just overlook the sin.
When all the control and crutches are gone guess Who is left standing?
And oh what a Man He is…never to leave us or forsake us. He will reveal Himself to you in all truth and lead you to safe places to experience the true love of God in motion, and connect with believers who really care and walk in His love in confidence.
Things to look out for in your place of church community if you suspect spiritual abuse:
Do they say you have to blindly respect and obey them, without having earned it, just because they said so and they are your leader?
Do they demand your allegiance to them as ‘proof’ that you are a follower of Jesus?
Do they use exclusive language: “We are the only church in town really following Jesus.” “Our theology is the only sound doctrine.” Everyone else is missing the “deeper” walk.
Do they shame people, without grace, if they fail to live up to the church’s expectations?
Do they quote scriptures about “not touching God’s anointed” when referring to themselves? Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing their critics.
Do they cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual insights? Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it. And if you have an insight from God they have to approve it before you can share.
Do they demand blind service from their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives.They live aloof from their followers and justify their material extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges. They typically chase after wealth–at any cost, and often at the expense of the very people they shepherd.
Do they hold to outward performance but reject authentic spirituality. And place burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle, but they often demonstrate licentiousness, greed, and uncontrolled addictions behind closed doors.
Use exclusivity for your blind allegiance to them. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like lucky insiders. And, of course, this meant they are more spiritual than the rest of the congregation. Did you ever feel like you are exempt from the “click” of popular people in the community of believers? Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.
We are all one body in His church.
You are the church!
We need safe places to gather together and grow together and share Him together. Don’t settle for less, and be brave enough to change if the Holy Spirit is showing you that something is just not right. In fact, run!!
The longer I stayed out of my ‘loyalty’, the move abused I was in the end. You cannot fix it!! Run!
There is healing and restoration from this horrible sin for both the ones who have abused and the victims of their abuse. Remember we are all an important part of His body. We ALL have gifts, callings and talents He wants to use. We were never meant to sit in a pew looking at the backs of heads while listening to one man teach, without using our own gifts too!! No one is more important than the other.
Be set free today!!
Call me if you need help with this issue and you find yourself sunk deep into spiritual abuse and feel like you can’t get out. Go to the home page from this blog and send me a message. Or please comment below.
“In the park we step on this bright shiny red merry-go-round. Everyone is happy and ready for a lot of love, fun and a great future.”
But then something happens. A pattern has emerged. There seems to be something very binding about your relationship. You feel like you are in prison and you can’t get out.
Codependency is living the myth that you can make yourself happy by trying to control people and events outside yourself. A sense of control or lack of control is central to everything you do and think.
Psalms 139:14 says that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are unique. You have dignity and worth. As you grow in this knowledge you will no longer need to use your codependent behavior to make you feel alive and worthwhile. You WILL recover………
There has been a lot of confusion on what real love is. On the surface, codependency sounds like “Christian teaching.”
Codependents always put each other first before taking care of themselves. (Aren’t Christians to put others first?)
Codependents give themselves away. (Shouldn’t Christians do the same?)
Codependents martyr themselves. (Christianity honors its martyrs.)
But true codependents aren’t really healthy, giving people. They learn to get their validity from other people rather than from Jesus! And they hinder those people they try to “fix” in their lives and their walk with God.
It is actually the opposite of God’s love!
In its broadest sense, codependency can be defined as an addiction to people, behaviors, or things. Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control inner feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside. To the codependent, control or the lack of it is central to every aspect of life.
” Then Denial, Delusion, Justification, Rationalizations,
Reverse Projection… emerge…these are all signs and symptoms of a co-dependent and addicted personality…”
Jesus taught the value of the individual.
He said we are to love others equal to ourselves, not more than ourselves. In fact, it is the 2nd commandment after loving God with all your heart, mind, and body.
“ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”Mark 12:31
The love of self forms the basis for loving others in the truest sense of the word.
The differences between a life of service to others and codependency take several forms. Motivation differs.
Do you give your service freely or because you consider yourself to be of no value?
Do you seek to “please people?”
Do you act out of guilt or fear?
Do you act out a need to be needed (which means you actually use the other person to meet your own needs)?
In their book, “Love is a Choice”, Drs. Hemfelt, Minirth & Meir” state that “Codependency can be defined as an addiction to people, behaviors, or things. Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control interior feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside. To the codependent, control, or the lack of it, is central to every aspect of life. When it comes to people, the codependent has become so elaborately enmeshed in the other person that the sense of self— personal identity — is severely restricted, crowded out by that other person’s identity and problems.”
I see signs of codependency in many clients who come to me with relationship problems…they are worn out and exhausted and feel trapped in a relationship that makes them feel totally controlled.
The Lord has shown me that when we can’t put up our personal boundaries and we continue to rescue people by rushing in when they have a need and become their Savior, we are actually not only deceiving ourselves, but we allow the other person to make YOU their Jesus instead of them learning to turn to God to meet their needs.
That’s a big order to fill. Can you do what Jesus can do for them?
In fact, we enable them to continue on with their neediness in our lives and drain us of our energy-while we take the place of Jesus….and they never get their needs met.
There will always be another episode of control if someone doesn’t get off of the Merry Go Round and say “enough of this.”
When no one gets off, the Merry Go Round spins faster and faster until it is out of control. When the crisis is over then everyone is remorseful and say their sorry until the next ride. And it begins again.
When the addicted person continues the same behavior over and over again expecting a different ending, and we make threats or promises that we don’t keep… it is insanity.
Someone has to keep their promise and follow through in order to stop the Merry Go Round.
This is not about confrontation, this is about stopping the cycle.
You are aware that you do this but you have gotten away with it for so long that you have developed a false power. In the midst of your pain.
Do you see these tendencies in yourself? Or in someone who is reaching out to you?
Have you asked God to bring this into the light so you can deal with it or help someone else?
You know as well as I that it is never easy to expose darkness.
But if you want freedom again, you have to get off the Merry-Go-Round once and for all.
So, from a believer’s standpoint here are some truths that might help you.
If you will take this issue to Jesus, you will find that:
We have worth simply because we were created by God.
Our self-worth is not based on the work we do or the service we perform–but on what Jesus so freely gives us.
Our service is to be an active choice. You can learn to “act” rather than “react.”
Our faith shows how to live a balanced living and how to take care of ourselves.
As you seek His wisdom you will learn to choose balanced behavior rather than addictive behavior and to allow others to be in charge of their own lives
You can learn how to set and hold healthy boundaries and to set limits for yourself, not allowing others to compromise those boundaries.
You can actually learn to help others in appropriate ways, by allowing others to act independently, rather than making others dependent on you.
You can learn to be God-directed and free from compulsiveness, knowing that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, brings the ultimate results.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Gal 5:1
(If this blog has left you feeling like you need help with codependency tendencies in your life, you might want to consider Life Coaching! Contact me through my home page.)
Georgia had finally reached the end of her rope when she came in for coaching. She was on her 3rd husband and could not understand why he was so much like the former 2 husbands who were rageful, controlling and vengeful. She longed for a peaceful marriage but her feeble attempts to ‘fix’ these men had made her feel like such a failure and her husband helped her along with that by saying that yes, she was a loser in everything she did.
But what Georgia didn’t understand was that she kept seeking her own healing from years of abuse by a rageful father through men that were just like him. She would just jump into the first relationship that made her feel comfortable– without seeking healing from Jesus so she could walk away from her past and make wiser choices in who she connected with.
The problem was the men that made her feel comfortable only made her feel that way because they reminded her of her father. She had this need to repeat the life she had with him– to try to make it come out right in order to fill the gaping hole her father left in her in her growing up years.
And the pattern was bound to be repeated in failed marriages over and over again until Georgia finally found her way to allow the Holy Spirit into those wounded places.
Unhealed relational wounds drive us to compulsive attempts to repair the damage. Without being aware of it, we seek out people we believe can “fix” what’s wrong with us or help us find a piece of ourselves we feel is missing.
We function emotionally like the man dying of thirst who sees a mirage and hurries to it only to find it is dry sand. His perceptions are driven by his need.
We are rarely aware that something in us wants completeness. The truth is we long for Jesus continually because He is the one who has really set eternity in our hearts. Within us, our spirits, we know the answer lies in Him. But our soulish realm, the mind , will and emotions has to be renewed and healed so we can change ourselves from the inside out.
But if we remain unaware of the powerful forces at work within us conditioned by our past emotional injuries, such as our family dynamics and how we responded to it, we can be blind to its influence and seek out the completeness we lack by making all the wrong choices. For example, consider the following scenarios:
The codependent person lacks assertiveness and the ability to confront, so she attracts controlling and aggressive people. (Georgia’s case)
The rageful person can’t bear to feel emotions that make her sad, so she finds empathic people who won’t confront her moods.
The rigid, black-and-white person with walls a mile thick is not able to let go of control, so he seeks out spontaneous, creative people who won’t try to control him.
The over-responsible, guilt-ridden person lacks self-care and feels like a loser, so she finds self-absorbed people who care for no one but themselves.
These kinds of responses do not reflect God’s intentions for us in any way. And they don’t lead to healthy or fulfilling connections.
But we are not complete without relationship with Him and knowing Him as our healer from the past.
We have missing pieces— holes in us that we carry from childhood into adulthood.
The path to completeness or wholeness is to find a relational context and healthy relationships within community in the body of Christ…..finding those who you can trust and be vulnerable with and who can help you finish the emotional work that enables you to grow into the capacities you lack and become who you were always meant to be.
The first step is admitting to the pattern and seeking help.
“You complete me” is a great line from a movie, but it doesn’t work in real relationships. Another human being is simply not capable of making you feel complete. Your sense of worth has to come from God and His complete work in your life. Our pasts to not have to dictate our futures.
That is why most of us need to put less energy into romance and more into personal growth. It pays off later in romance. I recently saw this posting on Face book that got a resounding “YES” from me.
“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek HIM to find her!”
Complete people attract other complete people.
We all need relationships that are supportive and caring in order to thrive. And while there can be excitement and drama with a person who follows your old patterns of dysfunction, it will ultimately be exhausting, if not debilitating. Setting boundaries and expressing your needs clearly will not only detract unhealthy people from seeking you out, and make them less attractive to you, but it will also attract people who are healthy enough to be there for you as well.
And that is where the real passion, excitement and God’s love will emerge.
Don’t let unhealed relational wounds or the pain of a past relationship affect your future.
My belief has always been, when the dark and hidden areas of our minds are exposed to light and truth, the darkness has to go. Light and darkness simply cannot dwell in the same place.
So, as a Life Coach, I endeavor to ask the right questions that will uncover areas in ourselves that will ultimately answer our questions and set us free from bondage. Or to help us see the truth within relationships that perplex us, that also sets us free from the actions of others.
Sometimes our communication and conflict management patterns can be out of whack.
This can be for a variety of reasons based on our background and learned behavior. Those patterns can change with some insights, skills and relationship help.
And if you want it to change.
You have to want it to change.
It is always about a choice, isn’t it?
So, if this post helps you see your own passive-aggressive behaviors, you will understand why others find it difficult to be around you, trust you, and respect you as you would like to be trusted and respected.
You confuse them. People move away from folks who purposefully confuse them — if they are smart. It can be such a drain.
Or if it answers your questions or rings a bell in some of your relationship conflicts with the other people in your life who have these traits this will help you realize you are not really crazy–and it is not you!
Just becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that our behavior patterns change overnight. The minute we become believers of Jesus Christ, our hearts are born anew. We get brand new hearts, alive unto God. And we are saved by His grace, not by our own goodness, but by His.
But our souls, (mind, will, and emotions) have to be renewed on a daily basis by a continued pursued relationship with Jesus. His spirit helps us to change and it is never ending growth. We have to learn how to recognize old coping skills from the past and allow the Lord to show us how to move past them and find our security, comfort, and value from Him alone.
So, I am offering you a list of what you can look for in a passive aggressive person, or to even recognize some of the traits in yourself. If so, I hope you find it home-hitting and immediately revealing and you start the journey to correct it.
If these traits describe you as you usually are, I invite you to sit up and take notice. You likely do not even realize you are doing these things. Once you read them and ponder your own behavior, you may finally understand why you are having difficulties having the relationships you most want, at home and at work or in the church.
More good news, the more willing to work on yourself you are, the greater your chances of having the life with others that you crave. When you realize how you are pushing them away by your crazy-making behaviors, you can change things within yourself. When you are trustworthy within yourself, you will be perceived as trustworthy by others.
Although men and women express their passive-aggressive behaviors somewhat differently, generally, you are behaving in passive-aggressive ways if you are regularly:
1. Unwilling to speak your truth openly, kindly and honestly when asked for your opinion or when asked to do something for someone.
How this shows up in communication is being “assertively unassertive”. You say “Yes” (assertive) when you really mean “No way” (unassertive). Then, you let your behavior say “No way” for you. People become confused and mistrusting of you.
2. Appearing sweet, compliant and agreeable, but are really resentful, angry, petty and envious underneath and your actions are just off enough to the point that those close to you sense it. It makes those around you annoyed and confused.
People who do not get along with others are interested only in themselves; they will disagree with what everyone else knows is right. A fool does not care whether he understands a thing or not; all he wants to do is show how smart he is. Pro. 18:1&2 NLT
3. You fear direct communication because you fear rejection. You then often push away the people you care about because you don’t want to seem in need of support.
All the while, you are afraid of being alone and so you want to control those around you so they won’t leave you. Very confusing!
4. Complaining that others treat you unfairly frequently. Rather than taking responsibility for stepping up and speaking your truth, you set yourself up as the (innocent) victim. You say others are hard on you, unfair, unreasonable and excessively demanding.
5. Procrastinating frequently, especially on things you do for others. One way of controlling others is to make them wait. Ouch!! I know that speaks to so many of us. You have lots of excuses why you haven’t been able to get things done. You even blame others for why that is so. It’s amazingly unreasonable, but you do it even though it destroys relationship, damages careers, loses friendships and jobs.
And, you tell others how justified you are in being angry because, once again, others treated you unfairly.
6. Unwilling to give a straight answer. Another way of controlling others is to send mixed messages, ones that leave the other person completely unclear about your thoughts, plans or intentions.
Then, you make them feel wrong when you tell them that what they took from your communication was not what you meant. Silly them!
7. The silent treatment. Passive aggressive behavior is recognizable by the disconnect between what is being said and what is being done. Nothing highlights this more than the famous silent treatment. Silence generally signifies agreement but not in this case. When you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment, you realize that the other person is far from agreeable. They have a big problem with you and just to allow themselves the victory, they have no intention of telling you what that is.
There are 2 other common versions of the silent treatment. One is to answer the question ‘What’s wrong?’ with ‘nothing’, when there certainly is something wrong. The other is to answer any question with just one word. This is intended to signal that there is a problem, without you having to say it.
Both expressions say “You poor confused person. You’re not worth talking to.” But the real reason for their behavior is that they have not, cannot, or will not take responsibility for their own behavior.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2ESV
8. Frequently feeling inadequate but covering it up with superiority, disdain or hostile passivity.
Whether you set yourself up to be a self-sabotaging failure — “Why do you have such unrealistic expectations of me?” or a tyrant or goddess incapable of anything less than perfection, “To whom do you think you are speaking?” You are shaking in your boots from fear of competition and being found out as less than perfect.
9. Often late and/or forgetful. One way of driving people away is to be thoughtless, inconsiderate and infuriating.
And, then, to put the cherry on top, you suggest that it’s unrealistic to expect you to arrive on time, or, in your words, “think of everything”. Being chronically late is disrespectful of others. Supposedly forgetting to do what you have agreed to do is simply demonstrating your lack of trustworthiness. Who wants to be around that for long?
Pro. 16:7 When people’s lives please the LORD, even their enemies are at peace with them.
10. Making up stories, excuses and lies. You are the master of avoidance of the straight answer. You’ll go to great lengths to tell a story, withhold information, or even withhold love and affirmation in your primary relationships. It seems that if you let folks think you like them too much, that would be giving them power. You’d rather be in control by creating a story that seems plausible, gets them off your back, and makes reality look better from your viewpoint.
11. Constantly protecting yourself so no one will know how afraid you are of being inadequate, imperfect, dependent or simply human.
12. Complaints of injustice and lack of appreciation
13. Dragging your feet to frustrate others. Again, a control move somewhat like procrastinating, but the difference is you begin and appear as though you are doing what you said you would do. But, you always have an excuse why you cannot continue or complete the task. You won’t even say when it will be — or even might be — done. Do you know anyone like this?
Everything is viewed as an attack on you. When something doesn’t go your way, it is seen as unfair or an injustice. It’s all about how the world impacts you.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1-20ESV
14. Disguising criticism with compliments
At first, passive aggressive people may seem pleasant and warm. They often appear to be complimentary. It is only after they have left that you realize that the compliment was actually disguising a cheap jibe.
15. Always getting in the last punch.
Passive aggressive people love to throw the last punch. So much so, that even when an argument has been reconciled, they slip one last insulting remark into the conversation. This remark is often more subtle than the ones which went before but it is still an insulting remark which allows them to feel victorious.
We belong to God. It is time for us to step into maturity and begin to face truth about the strong holds in our lives that hold us back from producing His fruit in us.
The answer always lies in Jesus. Our renewed minds will flow out from Him if we are willing to admit the truth of our actions to ourselves and then to Him. It is not in our own power but in His. In our weaknesses He is made strong, but we have to be willing to get out of denial and face our truth. He will help us with the rest!
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7