A few months ago, I lost a great deal of data that I had on my old computer. I’ve slept since then, and I don’t know if I remember what I wrote! Among those posts, I’d developed a few more about cognitive dissonance. I also had written a great post about how the Twelve Steps (when balanced with faith and study) can be a great framework for working through some of the problems we face when we are working through spiritual abuse or just through our ideas about why we believe what we believe. But my computer crashed before I could get it posted online.
1. Before I can get a chance to write about the topic in more depth, I wanted to point out a specific element of one of the Twelve Steps:
Step #3: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
I’ve heard this step maligned by some fundamentalists and even some who call themselves Reformed, completely rejecting the Twelve Steps as something “unbiblical” because it does not require the person who is in transition to start with God “as He is” per the Bible as opposed to starting where we find ourselves. I wholeheartedly disagree with this perspective, because even God does not require this of us. This requires the helpless and confused person to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps,” and that is an impossible burden when in this kind of situation. The old adage that says that you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going, but an essential part of getting to a better place of understanding and insight involves being very honest about where you are to start with! You do yourself no favors if you lie to yourself about your starting point.
What is so nice about this step is that it is completely non-coercive which is vitally important if you have doubts about what you believe because you were manipulated. If the other aspects of your spiritual understanding were all wrapped around both someone else’s enforced doctrine in concert with abuse, it is unethical and counter-productive for someone else to dictate “how God should be understood.” Legalism concerns itself with procedure, but liberty offers freedom to be honest. People who are thinking of doctrine in terms of doctrine only have trouble understanding this, but in terms of figuring out how to just simply feel good as a starting point, this aspect of the Twelve Steps offers lots of room for healing on many levels. And if God is who many think He is, then He is not confined or disarmed by our understanding. He’s big enough to work around, through, and in spite of everything. A period of time of doubt can actually help spiritual growth rather than thwart it. I think that this is an important part of recovery from spiritual abuse.
This matter also came up in a discussion I had recently with someone who has been investigating the Emergent Church Movement. Though I don’t agree with the
doctrine on many points (when they state clear doctrines), I identify with the need for more kindness and grace within most churches today. I’m just not happy with how the Emergent Church seeks to go about this in many respects. I would like to again address how the Emergent Movement can be helpful and how it can be problematic in greater depth. Again, this is an area where my personal preferences and where freedom from spiritual abuse represent two of my own interests and agendas. So that is a topic that I would like to eventually address here, something that might be a component of healing in terms of “God as we understood Him.” Emergent Church
So until I can address this in greater depth, I wanted to advocate a bit for the virtues of being honest with yourself and the concerns of your heart and mind through the concept of “God as we understood Him.” For anyone who wants to have a greater and truer understanding of themselves and how they can best fit into the world, whether they are Christian or not, we must begin and give ourselves permission to be exactly where we find ourselves and what we understand about where we are at the time. That is not to say that as responsible people who want to grow and learn that we should desire to cling to an understanding as our final destination. I see much of my own life as a journey that begins every day from my understanding of God which hopefully has become more clear to me by the end of that day. In these terms, this is true spiritual growth that seeks after truth, not a statement of hubris that claims I do not have to grow. I think this is often misunderstood.
(and maybe I’ve written a blog post already?!!!)
The Twelve Steps also give a bit of a platform for other ideas that I’d like to explore concerning some of the common things that people feel when they exit a manipulative situation or an environment of spiritual abuse.
2. In recent posts, I’ve talked about illness and fatigue after spiritual abuse and/or trauma. I also plan to discuss more aspects of apathy (a type of fatigue) as a self-protective process that God gave us to help us. Apathy, disinterest, or other “symptoms” of disillusionment prove to be quite common after any manipulative experience, and these are actually very good things that should be honored.
3. I have a wee bit more to post on defense mechanisms and how we develop causality (or how we explain the meaning that we find in things which gives our lives a sense of meaning and continuity). This also continues from the subject of cognitive dissonance and how that affects how we share our faith or defend our beliefs when we interact with others.
4. I’d also like to continue to discuss triggers and dissociation that usually happens as a means of coping with the stress one faces under spiritual abuse. I began some limited discussion of this in a previous post, and I still intend to address this in more detail. I have much to say on this subject which can seem very intimidating. Many sources discuss this experience, so that is something I definitely want to explore.
5. Two years ago, I participated in the online discussion of the misleading and distorted teaching within patriarchy that intervention for tubal pregnancy constitutes abortion and murder. I have some additional things to add to my recent posts on that topic, a matter that I feel that Christendom did not adequately address at the time. I believe that Vision Forum’s upcoming “Baby Conference” will use that venue to exploit the matter even further, so I will take time to readdress this issue in a few more posts.
6. I still have book reviews that I have promised to do for several authors, and I want to attend to these as well. I’m most excited about Hillary McFarland’s book which appears in the sidebar here, available in just a week or so.
Whether I actually get to all of that and how soon is currently a mystery! That should provide plenty of things to talk about over the next six months or so.