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.
The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from the old ones—John Maynard Keynes
More often than not, people who have been verbally abused have a tendency to accept more guilt than they should. It’s one of the reasons why the abused person withdraws from his or her relationship from the Lord. Such people have an innate tendency to feel unworthy—a belief that their abusers definitely exploit advantageously.
After being shamed and ridiculed, many people’s sense of low self-esteem kicks in, and the wounded person reels emotionally from the experience. But that’s not all. After having endured the first instance of verbal abuse, the abused person has a tendency to accept guilt from then on—regardless of whether or not there is a valid reason to do so. It’s simply part of their character make up to accept blame; and the world is full of people who have no qualms about imposing additional guilt upon them.
That’s why it’s so important to think soberly. If you are the type of person who allows yourself to accept the lion’s share of responsibility when things go wrong, you need to constantly and repeatedly keep your heart and your mind open to God’s leading in dealing with your sense of guilt. You may be willing to continue in an abusive situation, thinking it’s either your lot in life or that you deserve it—neither of which is true. You don’t deserve it; and no one has the right to impose it upon you either.
It’s not God’s punishment, which you deserve. It’s abuse—pure and simple. God can definitely use the experience to make you a better person; but it’s His permissive will that allows it and nothing more. God loves you just the way you are, period—no ifs, ands, or buts about it; and He does not want you to be abused. When you find yourself in such a situation, it can help to journal about it. By writing about it—putting it all down on paper, you will become more objective and less emotive.
Before writing about it, pray. Join me, as we pray:
Now that I’ve opened myself up completely,
Being as honest and forthright
As I know how to be,
Having also admitted my faults to another,
I want to humbly ask You
To change anything in me You desire.
You are Almighty God; and I am not.
I am weary of trying to walk a path,
Which has not been intended by You.
As I continue to purge my soul
Of all the toxins that remain,
I know I need to go one step further.
I need to forgive those who have been abusive,
Relieving them totally and completely of culpability.
I have nursed my anger and bitterness
For far too long, and I have paid
A heavy emotional price for doing so.
Believing I was punishing them by being unforgiving,
I have only punished myself instead.
I no longer want to live like that—
Having to pay a huge price for being remorseless.
I forgive them—just as You have forgiven me.
I release them completely—just as You have released me.
Give me the strength to put my pain and anger away;
Which will allow me to walk into the future
Free from these debilitating encumbrances.
Refer to Step 7: I will make a detailed, written account of my abusive experiences, as well as my subsequent behavior. I commit to being as thorough and honest as I’m able.
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him. Thou are my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble; Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:6-7)
Pursue after peace with all men, and after the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by it many be defiled. (Hebrews 12:14-15)