Jack Watts’ weekly column is aimed at helping those who have been wounded, including those who have been abused by the church. If you are in pain—or if someone you know is in pain—you will find real comfort, wisdom, and answers right here. Based on his book, Recovering from Religious Abuse, published by Simon & Schuster, Jack will teach you the value of working the “11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.” Remember, recovery is a process—not a destination. The answers are simple but not always easy. Look to the Lord and allow His Spirit heal you.
I’m not going to give anybody free rent in my head—Recovery Slogan
In the aftermath of abuse, despair is an emotion that is always present, so are anger and bitterness. Each has its season in the heart of the abused person. For most victims, these debilitating emotions remain a part of their makeup for years.
The desire for self-vindication is also often present. Many abused people insist upon setting the record straight. They want to let everybody know the truth about “what really happened,” and they will not be content until they do. Although their insistence is understandable, it’s also why most fail to learn the lesson from their abuse the Lord wants to teach them.
When Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He arrived as King. Less than a week later, He was murdered. He could have set the record straight on His own terms, but He chose to be obedient to the Father instead—a decision that changed the course of history. At the time, however, it seemed like a mistake, especially to His followers.
The same lesson is there for each of us, when abused by toxic religious leaders. Although our desire for self-vindication may be the most predominant desire in our lives, we must realize this: If we are to be raised up, it will be by the Lord’s hand and not by our own. Our insistence upon self-vindication will end in further anger, bitterness, and resentment—nothing else.
Accepting this truth is difficult, but it’s a lesson each abused person needs to learn. If this is your desire, join me in the following prayer:
As I grit my teeth defiantly,
My anger is so consuming that
Toxic emotions rule my soul.
My fury clouds my judgment,
And my smile is far from my face.
Dark clouds diminish my countenance,
Warning others to stay clear.
I have vivid thoughts of revenge,
Of making my abusers pay a terrible price
For the injustice they’ve exacted upon me.
When I look in the mirror, I don’t like
The person I see—the person I have become.
I spend my days feeding my anger,
Consuming myself with hostile thoughts,
Which race repeatedly through my mind.
I’m consumed by hateful thoughts of retribution.
I know that I’m not ready to forgive—not yet.
While I’m in this hostile state,
I need Your help more than ever.
Father, move me through this period quickly,
And help me to forgive—just like I’ve been forgiven.
While my anger dominates my consciousness,
Keep me from four things, from which there is no return:
From saying harsh words that can never be retrieved;
From wasting hours, fantasizing about vengeful reprisals;
From self-defeating behavior to assuage my pain;
And from wishing evil upon my adversaries.
Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He wishes.
Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (I Peter 4:19)
This you know, my beloved brethren. But let every one be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)