You know that something doesn’t feel right at church or around other people in a Christian atmosphere. But you can’t quite put your finger on it. They seem to be saying all the right words. And they also seem to be doing all the right things. But despite this, you feel like something is wrong. You feel dragged down instead of encouraged and edified. Is it possible you are being spiritually abused?
Being spiritually abused is one of the hardest things to recognize in order to heal. The passive aggressive, gaslighting, blame-shifting and underhanded double-speak all fly under the radar because everyone thinks the spiritual abuser must be such a kind and godly person. That is the very thing that allows them to continue to abuse unabated. But, once you realize something is wrong and start to look for answers, it isn’t so difficult to see exactly what is going on. The spiritual abuse quiz below will help you see things even more clearly.
When someone spiritually abuses someone else, they may use all the “right” words and actions. But they use those right words and actions to make you feel “less than.” Their words may sound encouraging, but their tone and implication is demeaning. So you are confused. And you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. The more you do that, the more they will take advantage of you. The spiritual abuse will continue to rise. And you will continue to feel worse, never realizing what is actually going on.
Believe it or not, there are some definitive ways we can discover whether someone is spiritually abusing you. Let’s start by looking at some of the most obvious signs of spiritual abusers (also known as spiritual narcissists).
If you would like to skip the following information and go straight to the quiz, click here.
Table of Contents
Spiritual Abusers Need to Look Like the Most Holy Person in the Room
Many narcissists who profess to be believers are covert narcissists. This means they must be sneakier about the way their narcissism presents. They try to look humble. They look for back-door ways to get the praise and accolades they so desperately desire. And one of the ways they will do it is to try to appear to be the holiest, godliest person in the room.
For those that are wise and perceptive, they will recognize the narcissist’s bag of tricks pretty quickly. But to most other believers, they will seem like a sincere, godly person who puts God first in their life. And the narcissists will be able to fool them for many years if not a lifetime. It all depends on how close they get to the narcissist and how comfortable the narcissist feels in “letting their hair down.” It also depends on whether the narcissist chooses to use them to abuse them or to bolster their “squeaky clean” reputation. (They have to have people around them that give them glowing reviews of what a great person they are.)
Spiritual Abusers Will Look Loving Toward You in Front of Others, but be Hateful to You Behind Closed Doors
If the spiritual abuser or narcissist does not see you as someone who will think they are the godliest person who ever lived, they will instead use you to bolster themselves up. Behind closed doors, you will be the victim of their endless gaslighting, blame-shifting, projection, and overall hatred. But when there are other believers are around, they will be the most loving and kind person to you. It is all in what they need from you at that moment. Do they need to tear you down to make themselves look or feel better? Or do they need to make other people feel that they have the best, most kind and loving relationship with you and them?
It will seem very confusing to you for a long time. Until one day it all makes sense.
What the Confusion and Chaos of Spiritual and Emotional Abuse Look Like
Have you ever seen the movie, Gaslight? It perfectly shows us how Spiritual abusers function, even though the movie never uses any spiritual terms or ideas. The tactics are exactly the same for narcissists, whether they profess to believe or not.
In the movie, Paula meets and falls in love with Gregory. He is so kind and loving when he is with her. But he is totally devious behind her back. Unfortunately, he is crafty enough to make the devious behavior look like genuine love and concern to her and those around them. For instance, he convinces the house staff that he is deeply worried that there is something terribly wrong with her when she is not there to defend her sanity and good health.
On the other hand, when he is alone with her, he gets frustrated with her for not being “good enough.” He hides her things and calls her forgetful. He gets irritated with her for doing strange things that he is actually doing, then making her feel like she is crazy when she says she never did those things. The constant gaslighting never stops, and before long she indeed feels like something is wrong with her. She begins acting out because of her frustration, which in turn convinces the house staff that there actually is something wrong with her.
Recognizing Your Own Ties to Being Gaslit
If you think that you are dealing with a narcissist in your life, you need to watch this movie. And then you need to watch it a few more times because the more you watch it, the more you see all the underhanded behavior that can be so easy to miss if you aren’t really looking closely.
My counselor recommended it to me once my ex-husband was diagnosed with narcissism so I could see more clearly the things that were swirling around me. When I watched it the first time, I clearly noticed the brooch being hidden and her realizing it. But I missed so many of the subtle things that Gregory did and said. I watched it a couple more times. And a whole new world was opened up to me. Once you see the narcissist’s bag of tricks, you will never be able to unsee it. And you will likely never fall for another narcissist and their tactics again.
For more information on the movie Gaslight, click on the picture here:
Spiritual Abusers Will Constantly Correct You so They Can Appear Right to Everyone Else
While this is true whether you are alone with your spiritual abuser or in a large group, the way it manifests will be very different depending on the circumstances. When you are alone with the narcissist, they will make you feel stupid and worthless. And they will use God to do it. They will make you feel like less of a believer, like God doesn’t accept you, or like you are too stupid for God to care about.
The worst part about this is that often they will do it using loving, godly terms. But the hidden meaning of their words comes through clearly to you. They will say things like, “I know that the pastor asked you to be a mentor, but I think right now you just have so much going on in your own mind that you won’t be able to help guide others.” While it sounds good and responsible and perceptive, and like good advice. Except that he doesn’t tell you that he is the one making you feel like your mind is racing and not able to focus on other things in life. And if he shares this false concern with others, they will agree with him because it sounds like he is just making sure that you are living a healthy life and not putting too many things on your plate.
In the end, you lose the mentorship position that you were so excited about. And you feel like you could have done it and been very good. You now feel the loss and the sting of your spiritual abuser making you feel worthless and incomplete in your life.
Spiritual Abusers Will be Extremely Judgmental, Even Though They Constantly Talk About the Grace of God
Spiritual abusers expect to be shown absolute grace in their mistakes while throwing the book at anyone who offends them. And they are so easily offended.
They are extremely judgmental, especially about spiritual things. To seem more spiritual, they must make everyone else seem less spiritual. Once my church leadership realized what was going on in our home and started to call him out on it, his spiritual abuse moved from me to them. He told others in the church that the leadership was acting “unbiblically.” Our church denomination has a government that works like American government. It has church, regional, and national levels which line up with city, state, and federal government.
When our church charged him with abusing/abandoning his family and rebelling against the church’s guidance on correcting the abusive behavior, he gathered other members around him to convince them to defend him in these “false allegations.” Of course, he didn’t tell them what the allegations were or what caused them. He just said he was falsely accused. And because we had been members there for 25 years by this time, they thought it was such a horrific thing that the church leaders would accuse such a “godly man” of ungodliness.
We saw that if we moved forward with the charges, he would cause a church split. I asked the church to drop the charges. They did because they saw and were concerned about the same thing. But as things got worse, they, along with our counselors, helped to have him removed from the home. When he refused to leave or allow me to have the kids, the church hid us in a member’s home until a legal agreement could be established that would allow the kids and me to get back to our home safely.
When Spiritual Abuse Goes From Bad to Worse
This made him so angry. Instead of getting the help and healing he needed, he pressed charges against our church at the regional level. And with a counsel of 12 that researched and studied the situation, all 12 unanimously agreed that our church acted in the best interest and safety of our family. The regional governing body, around 75 people, also agreed unanimously in a vote that our church acted correctly. And then he left the church and moved on to another church, claiming that the whole denomination was “unbiblical.” This was his favorite term for anyone who disagreed with him.
The church he moved on to (the denomination was Orthodox Presbyterian Church or OPC) contacted our church, as is the regular practice when changing membership. When our leadership explained what had happened, the new pastor and leadership agreed to work with our church toward healing and restoration of our family. Instead, upon my ex becoming a member there, they justified his abusive behavior toward his family and actually accused me of being wrong because I wouldn’t let him back into the house before healing occurred. And I also wasn’t “meeting his physical and sexual needs while we were separated,” which led to them telling him he had grounds to divorce me.
The Fallout Of Churches that Support Spiritual Abuse
My church was livid that they would contribute to the abuse rather than work to heal our family. But in the end, our family is now safe, and he still pretends to be the godliest man around. He is now fooling a whole new church, new wife, and new circle of friends because he realized the jig was up with his whole previous life with us.
Oh, and his church had no problem with him marrying his new wife just six days after our divorce was final, and who he was dating while he was supposed to be working on his marriage with me. If that wasn’t confirmation that the kids and I were better off far away from him, nothing is.
One more final detail. In the end of our long, drawn-out custody case, the judge, who was a devout Christian, recognized the spiritual abuse and told him that he had destroyed his family with religion. And then she did not allow him overnight stays at his house or visitation on Sundays. And instead of joint custody, I was awarded sole custody.
Applying Spiritual Abuse to Your Own Situation
I know our situation was pretty extreme. But if any of this sounds like what you have experienced, taking the spiritual abuse quiz below can help give you an idea of whether you are indeed a victim of spiritual abuse.
Also note that spiritual abuse can come from a spouse, parent, adult child, pastor, friend, fellow church member, or literally anyone you are in relationship with. While my experiences were with my ex-husband of 31 years, your circumstances may be similar but the relationship may be totally different.
For this spiritual abuse quiz, there is a series of 25 questions that you will answer yes or no to. Then, based on your answers, you will see the results instantly, along with some thoughts about moving forward according to your results.
This test is not meant to be a substitute for counsel, medical attention, or professional advice. It is for informational and educational purposes.
Spiritual Abuse Quiz
There are 25 questions that you won’t have to think too hard about. They are just yes or no answers. Don’t try to put to much thought into the words or technicalities–just answer the questions naturally as they impress you one way or the other.
As soon as you finish the test, the answers will appear directly underneath.
If you feel that you are being spiritually abused, even if you may not be, it would definitely be good for you to speak with a trusted friend who will keep your words confidential. It may also be wise to speak with a counselor or other professional that can help you to work things out in a healthy way.
And with that, let’s begin!
So, how did it go? Did you get some more clarity? I am hoping if someone has been spiritually abusing you that you are able to see through their tactics and get yourself on healthy, self-assured ground.
What has been your experience with spiritual abuse? How have you sought healing? Are you better now? Ar eyou able to help others experiencing the same things you have? I would love to hear your thoughts and story.
Share your story in the comments below or if you don’t feel safe commenting in a public forum, feel free to contact me here.
Blessings and hugs,
If you found this article valuable, I think you will also find the following articles valuable:
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- Flying Monkeys Spying: Understanding and Dealing With It - September 21, 2023