Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Seven Characteristics of Spiritual Abuse

From “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen

1. Shame-based Relationships: People learn to be or act powerless. Shame is not the same as guilt, a constructive signal which is an emotional indication of wrong actions or attitudes. Shame is a destructive signal about your personal worth, a belief or mindset that you are a bad and worthless person. (pp. 54-55)

2. Performance Focus: With this focus, how people act is more important than who they are or what is happening to them on the inside. (p. 56)

3. Idolatry: The "god" served by the shame-based relationship is an impossible-to-please judge, who obsesses on people's behavior from a distance, and is more concerned about appearance, how things look, what people think and where the power is. (p. 57)

4. Preoccupation with Fault and Blame: Forgiveness and personal apology are not enough when things go wrong, people have to pay for their mistakes and feel so defective and humiliated that they won't act that way anymore. (p. 58)

5. Obscured Reality: In shame-based systems, members have to deny any thought, opinion or feeling that is different than those of people in authority. Interaction with people and places outside the system threatens the order of things; the system (or organization) defines reality. Problems are denied or minimized, and therefore they remain (unless things change, they remain the same). (p. 58)

6. Centralized Teaching: What is true is decided on the feelings or experiences of the religious leadership, giving more weight to them than to what the Bible says. People can't know or understand spiritual truth until the leaders "receive them by spiritual revelation from the Lord" or "until the timing is right" or "until the people are ready", at which time the spiritual leaders "impart" these truths to the people. (p. 70)

7. Image Management: Image managers are more concerned with how they look to other people, and in a shame-based system, religious leaders are loathe admitting error and slow to admit the truth. What counts less is the substance of the spiritual material, and more on how it looks and makes people feel. (pp. 131-136)

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