Spiritual Abuse Part 23__From the Pew

This series started with a focus on church leaders and the many ways congregants are bullied, abused and manipulated. I recognize, however that abuse can come from anyone, and fellow congregants can be as guilty as the leaders.

It is often elusive, making it a more difficult topic to tackle. I suffered so little of it, that I hardly know what that feels like, and even those who might have done it, meant well and had no authority, so it didn’t cut too deep.

In retrospect I realize that, unfortunately, I do know  what it feels like to be the abuser, so that is the knowledge I will write about.


You would think that, after being trapped in that little prayer room and living through the fear and anxiety that meeting caused, that I would have known better. Unfortunately I learned to be abusive as well…. something I take full ownership for. To say that I was abused and then use it as an excuse, is messed up. I am responsible for my choices, my behaviours.

In our last few years in the Mennonite church, quite a few friends left the culture. I was devastated! Certain they would go to hell, I told Tim, “We have to go talk to them and warn them! I can’t live with not trying to help them see the error of their ways! What future will their children have? What if they all go to hell? I can’t have their blood on my hands!”

Tim, having grown up in the United Church of Canada, thought very differently and wasn’t convinced that I was right. However, seeing my passion, he agreed to go with me to each of their homes.

I, being the submissive woman I was, sat there in my white bonnet and did all the talking.  (Whatever happened to women keeping silence??) I tackled those men! Why, it was their responsibility to lead their families!  I was intense! They needed to know that they were at risk of hell! I had to ask about their children, and their grandchildren! Where would this road of worldliness lead them? Did they really want to take that chance and risk sending generations to come to hell?

It sounds altogether radical. And it was. But my heart was as sincere as the Apostle Paul, when he slaughtered the believers before his conversion.

My friend Shawn, who later became an elder at the church we now attend, listened patiently as I ranted. He and his wife, Jen, also a good friend, answered thoughtfully and said they appreciated me sharing my heart, but they were following God and the path was not what I thought it should be. They didn’t pretend to have all the answers—something that was unheard of. We always had all the right answers and always knew what to say. Uncertainty in beliefs was not acceptable.

Many friends, Andy and Colleen, Dale and Janet, and others sat and listened patiently as I took an emotional strip off of them in this way.

One day I had a little conversation with God–I was sure I was right so I grabbed my Bible and set out to prove it. I prayed and asked God to silence every voice but His own, and show me Truth. I still had an agenda—I was confident that the Bible endorsed every one of my beliefs—but with that agenda, I had an open heart. I wanted unadulterated Truth.

As I read Galations, Romans, Acts, Hosea and many other books of the Bible, the truth began to penetrate, and I felt my spirit come alive for Jesus Christ! Suddenly, it had nothing to do with my denominational beliefs, or protecting ‘the constitution’.

As I read, my spirit soaked up God’s love, His grace, and His mercy. Day after day, I lived for that time with God. I couldn’t wait to grab my Bible and read. Like a desert soaks up the rain, I drank it in and, as I did, an oasis formed in my heart. Tears poured down my face constantly and I began to heal.

Suddenly, the need to beat people over the head with my beliefs left. I saw that they, too, wanted Jesus. They, too, wanted life… and hope… and freedom. And those things had nothing whatsoever to do with denominational beliefs and practices. (We still have a biblical responsibility to address sin, in love, and follow Matthew 18 to offer people repentance.)

I learned to walk in grace and let God be God, speaking Truth gently, without agenda, and letting the Holy Spirit do His work. I released control.

Spiritual Abuse, without fail, is about human beings taking control where God wants to have authority, and almost without fail, it is about human beings protecting themselves.

Yes, Spiritual Abuse happens in the pews, but when we get a revelation of who God is and what Jesus really came to do, those behaviours are no longer necessary. We have no agenda left to protect, only a God to love and worship. Out of that worship flows life and grace for others.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/

6 thoughts on “Spiritual Abuse Part 23__From the Pew

  1. Greg Mills June 13, 2012 / 9:53 am

    Thanks for your honesty Trudy. We, as a family have experienced much spiritual abuse but there have been times, when I have come down upon people with judgement and an attitude of the mind and not the heart. Thanks for reminding me of the two sides of this type of abuse!

    • Faith Girls Unleashed with Trudy Metzger June 13, 2012 / 11:30 pm

      Yes, you have been through much! It’s awesome to see what God is doing in you and how He is using you! We are all guilty of judging… that’s not always abuse, though it can become abusive, depending what we do with it, and how we handle it. Blessings to you!

  2. Marlo June 13, 2012 / 4:25 pm

    Beautifully stated Trudy. The reality is that if we delve deeply enough into ourselves, in the reflection of God’s Light, we will find that we are all probably guilty of this to some degree. But the key factor in it all is what you said:

    “…but with that agenda, I had an open heart. I wanted unadulterated Truth.”

    God will never reject the heart that seeks His unadulterated Truth! It’s all about JESUS.


  3. Andy June 13, 2012 / 11:08 pm

    You know Trudy I didn’t experience that as abuse and I have a hunch that the other couples you mentioned didn’t either. Actually I heard those same concerns from many of my peers, all my pastors and family and I don’t think I ever experienced that as abuse. I saw that they had strong convictions for those values and I knew that those values didn’t make sense to me anymore. It was difficult going through that and certainly felt judged, but I don’t see how that was abusive. Now I do think that earlier in my life I did experience spiritual/emotional abuse although I think this is a more subtle concept than you make it out to be. (I am judging by this one post) I don’t know how you define abuse, but it seems to me it has to do with vulnerability and being in a position of power over the other person. None of those people, including yourself, demeaned me or derided me, judged yes, but I don’t think that fits the definition of abuse. Even my pastors who were in a position of power really weren’t because by that point I had differentiated myself from that system. See now I am challenging/judging you; is this abuse? Andy

    • Faith Girls Unleashed with Trudy Metzger June 13, 2012 / 11:23 pm

      Andy, I’m glad you didn’t feel abused and appreciate that you saw my heart intent. (I wrote this in response to quite a few people asking if it is possible to suffer Spiritual Abuse from lay members and this is what came to mind.) I think for me, looking back, I see it as abusive in the sense of equating it with school yard bullying. Even though a child’s peers have no authority, it is still abusive, and it is still wrong. (Again, it is often in response to abuse in their own experience or otherwise learned behaviours.)
      Spiritual Abuse has many dynamics–some subtle and some not so much. (Often by well meaning individuals) Spiritual abuse is not necessarily about demeaning or deriding–in most cases where I experienced it, it had more to do with the misrepresentation of God, usually through fear-mongering etc. It is often done by associating man-made opinions, rules or constitutions with heaven/hell teaching, when clearly God’s Word does not make room for that. (And, yes, you are challenging my view here, but you’re not telling me I will or should go to hell for seeing it differently, so I think we’re good on the abuse issue here.) 😉

      If I’m not careful this will become a whole new blog post so I’ll leave it at that.

Comments are closed.