So please, listen to our stories. Lay aside your concerns about our bitterness or the status of our faith, and just hear us out. There’s more to our stories than you know, and we want to invite you into our safe spaces to talk about what we’ve been through and seen. ~ Hannah Ettinger of Wine and Marble

This week, survivors of spiritual abuse will be sharing their stories. Our goal is to show, not tell, what spiritual abuse looks like and how it can (in fact, usually does) happen despite good intentions.

We invite you to come, listen to our stories, lay down your assumptions, and lay down your fears. Cry with us and then work with us to find ways to make this better. We are not here to vent bitterness and rage, we are not writing to rake others over the coals or exact revenge. We write to share the truth of what has happened and what is happening so that even those who’ve never experienced it can understand. We want to work together to make the church better, safer, a place of healing not of hurt. I know we can all agree that this is worthy of our best efforts.

Note: while avoiding bitterness and rage is our goal, I want to encourage you to understand where that comes from. I know that when I get fired up, it comes from desperate love that hates to see others suffer. Please please please remember that when reading our words this week. Consider this: 

my rage comes from my compassion

I’ve begun sharing some of my story: Shame Is a Prison, and I’m Breaking Out and Why I Stayed in the Cycle of Shame.

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Day 1 (March 18th), hosted by Hannah, at Wine & Marble

I had thought I had done everything right, that I’d figured out what was right and wrong, that my dad and I were practically best friends, that I’d never have a bad relationship with my family.

But that morning I realized that I wasn’t free, he didn’t treat me like a spiritual or moral equal, that my relationship with my parents was inappropriately codependent, that the world was muchmuchmore saturated with gradients of grey than I had ever dreamed, and that I didn’t have anything figured out.

I was morally and emotionally infantile, asymmetrically maturing in my fluency in Pharisee, successful passive-aggressive social manipulation, intellectual irrationality through simplistic logic, and unable to name for myself my own feelings, experiences, loves, fears, passions. If something about me wasn’t acceptable to the world of SGM and my parents’ approval, it didn’t exist as a valid reality.

Read her entire post, “Paved with Good Intentions,” here.

Day 1: Your story & language/culture of spiritual abuse

What is your story? Share your experience — showing the details without going into specifics about places or people involved. What made the environment spiritually abusive? Was it language, unspoken social codes, beliefs, assumptions, expectations? How did these factors enable the abuse? How did you eventually leave, and why?

Day 2 (March 20) hosted by me here, at Joy In This Journey

Day 2: Your journey and consequences of spiritual abuse

How has your experience affected you? What has it done to you emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, etc.? What has your journey been like? How have you gotten where you are today? Do you feel you’ve healed? What do you still struggle with?

Day 3 (March 22) hosted by Shaney Irene

Day 3: What others should know & moving forward

Why should those who haven’t been hurt care about this issue? What do you wish you could tell those who want to help but weren’t close enough to know or see your situation? What do you wish every pastor knew before starting ministry? What would make the church a safe space for you?

Optional, for those who didn’t do the first two days: What did you learn? What changes will you encourage in your churches, etc. in order to prevent spiritual abuse and provide healing?

Every day next week, Elora Nicole will be hosting anonymous survivor stories on her blog as part of her Rebel Diaries project  for those who aren’t free to speak up publicly yet.

In addition, Rachel Held Evans will be highlighting spiritual abuse on her blog. Her comments sections always contain thoughtful discussion, so don’t miss that.

Hashtag for Twitter discussion is  #ChurchSurvivors