I will share more stories as I go along but today I want to talk a bit about freedom from Spiritual Abuse, through forgiveness, because it really is the heart of the matter. The enemy would like us to believe that the pain is the central focus, because he can work with that to create a root of bitterness. But Jesus came to bring freedom, therefore freedom is always the bottom line and, since freedom comes through forgiveness, it is the starting point.
I have no doubt that my story stirs up pain and trauma for many of you because of unresolved abuse issues or maybe due to current trauma. I want to encourage you; don’t give up on freedom, don’t give up on hope. But know this: freedom is up to you and is dependent on the choices you make. It is not dependent on the perpetrator(s) owning up or changing behaviours.
Your freedom from spiritual abuse hinges solely on whether you will forgive the person or persons who caused the pain. Whether they intended harm or not is not the main issue. (Yes, it feels like they should own up and our cry for justice demands it, but that isn’t the way it works, and if we want to be free, we have to move beyond that expectation.)
To be free you have to forgive the perpetrator even if they wounded you with the best of intentions and refuse to take ownership or are not able to see their wrong.
Forgiveness is not about accusing the other person, but an aspect of forgiveness is acknowledging how wrong the abuse was. Without acknowledging wrong we cannot forgive, we can merely live in denial. Nor is forgiveness about acknowledging and then saying what they did was okay. That, too, is denial. Sin is never okay. It is either forgiven or it is eating at us.
Forgiveness is always about freeing ourselves from the grip of what has been done to us, regardless of intent, and giving it all to Jesus.
There is emotional aftermath, with any kind of abuse, that needs to be talked through, and wounds that need to be acknowledged. Exploring that area is a very important part of healing. Mentors, counsellors, coaches, friends and pastors who are Christ-like, are part of this aspect of healing. However, it is forgiveness, ultimately, that sets us free. (And when forgiveness has taken place, the emotional healing happens more quickly.)
When we forgive we remove ourselves from bondage to the person or the event that wounded us. We stop living under the shadow of their abuse and control. Whether they meant to harm us or not is between them and God. If they did, it is up to them whether they repent or not. We are accountable to God for the bitterness, the unforgiveness, the resentment and the grudges we carry, if we do. If we don’t then healing will come. The root of an inability to heal is usually, in some way, unforgiveness toward the offender(s).
By releasing the offender to God, we sever ties to them. After we have forgiven, we have authority, when the enemy comes back to haunt us, to say, “I gave that to Jesus. If you want to pursue it any further, you’ll have to take it up with Him. I have forgiven the perpetrator and am not willing to hold it against them any longer.”
Understanding this is important because the enemy wants to keep a root of bitterness in our hearts toward the offender. Why wouldn’t he? He knows that it holds us in bondage long after the offender has forgotten anything ever happened.
Forgiving and releasing is not to say that there will be no pain with the memory, but the pain will no longer be the focus, nor will it take us out. Pain is not a sign that I am not healed—wallowing is—but rather it is a sign that my heart is not hard, that I acknowledge wrong from right. And with time the pain all but disappears, resurfacing mostly in the form of compassion for others.
I would be honest enough to say that, when it comes to spiritual leaders, I still have a bit of healing to go through. That is why—as I wrote in my previous blog—there is still a bit of tenderness under the scar.
Every time a spiritual leader does things that wound, even if it isn’t connected specifically to spiritual abuse, it rips at the scar and I go back to battle against believing the lies. Each time this happens, God takes me a little deeper in that healing process. And each time I trust Him more in the process.
In the past when a leader failed, intentionally or unwittingly, I immediately withdrew from God, questioning His heart for me. The years of walking with Him have taught me that God is on my side. When men and women in spiritual leadership fail, He is not like them and they do not reflect Him. It is okay to separate the behaviour of Christian leaders from the character of God. In fact, it is necessary if ever we are going to be intimately connected with Him. This is not to say those men and women are evil at the core. It means they are human. And if they are not willing to change or even see their wrongs, it is biblical to remove ourselves from ties to them.
One of the most effective ways to heal is to have spiritual leaders who are trustworthy. Risk trusting again. It pays off. Our part is to give them permission to be human, and their part is to take ownership when they fail.
In my journey, God has brought wonderful leaders into my life to help with that process. In my next post I will share a bit about them, and honour them.
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/