March 27, 2007 10:02pm CST
Few people can readily identify Spiritual Abuse when they see it. You may notice many of the characteristics of Spiritual Abuse can also be used to define a cult. Manipulation An artificially loving, sometimes selective recruitment process-In a spiritually abusive group, the manipulation begins the moment you set foot in the door. Newcomers are treated differently from those who are already enmeshed in the group. Black and white thinking-Spiritually abusive groups leave very little room in between the two extremes, thus crowding out personal freedom. An esoteric approach to truth-Spiritually abusive groups have their own doctrines and their own in-house jargon which they claim can only be truly understood by those who "truly belong." Scripture Twisting-Leaders of members pronounce they have come up with unique understandings of particular scriptures "through direct communication with God". A hidden agenda-The hidden agenda of every spiritually abusive group is always the same: the glorification of the leadership. The true goals of the spiritually abusive group, inconsistency and hypocrisy abounds within it. And because this is the case, information control becomes necessary. Bait and Switch 1. Spiritual abusers bait you with "authority," and switch it with authoritarianism. 2. They bait you with "righteousness," or some other form of spiritual accomplishment, and switch it with elitism. 3. They bait you with "the leading of God's spirit," and switch it with spiritual intimidation. 4. They bait you with "spirituality," or "victory over sin," and switch it with legalism. 5. They bait you with "unity," and switch it with uniformity. 6. They bait you with "honesty," and switch it with abusive denunciations. 7. They bait you with "spiritual discipline," and switch it with excessive church discipline. 8. They bait you with "transparency," and "openness," and switch it with coercive confession. 9. They bait you with "freedom," and switch it with a painful exit process. Group leveraging-Groupthink: Groups become abusive when any disagreement or dissent, or when an unreasonably low threshold of disagreement, is punished -- when conformity to the leader's opinion, or the party-line, is not an option for membership-in-good-standing, but a requirement. The group claims to have ``all the answers'' to your problems. The group seems perfect: Everyone agrees and follows orders cheerfully. Turning the tables-deflects any real or potential criticism of oneself with an accusation against the person doing the criticizing. Guilt-Tripping-spiritually abusive leaders and groups feed on the guilt of their members. They also continually recycle it, and even create it where it did not previously exist. The Emotional Roller Coaster-A member swings between the extreme happiness of experiencing the "truth" with an insider elite, and the crushing weight of guilt, fear, and shame. Unspoken Rules-These are rules which govern unhealthy churches or families but are not formally stated or written. Since they are not spoken verbally, you do not find out that the rule(s) exist until you have broken one.