As part of the Spiritual Abuse Awareness month, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences on the topic.  The next few posts will be short little vignettes that I have collected in my notes and studies.

I guess if I want to write about spiritual abuse, I need to define it first.  There are some great definitions out there already.  In my last post I shared this definition:

Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority, the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s people MORE free, misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own.  -

What I want to do is just expound on that a little. 

  • Spiritual abuse is the misuse of godly authority, power, or influence.

Abuse doesn’t necessarily have to come from the hand of a leader or pastor in a physical church.  Anyone who exerts their spiritual authority, power, or influence over another for personal or corporate gain is committing abuse.

This means that if you have influence in another’s life and you misuse that to get something you or another person wants, instead of for the glory of God and the building up of the believer– you are committing spiritual abuse.

  • The abuser can be anyone, even a true Christian

Abuse doesn’t come from the hands of the ungodly alone.  With a fallen nature and a tendency towards selfishness, we can all be guilty of such an offense.

Relationships that rely on edification and guidance are most vulnerable to these abuse situations.  Marriage, parenting, work, and ministry are not immune.

  • Although abuse is usually accompanied by some form of legalism or “gospel-loading”, it is not always so.

Many times the abuser controls the situation through legalistic tactics.  This is usually done by forming a relationship between your walk with God and your obedience or agreement with the abuser’s will and dogma.

In extremely abusive situations within churches, questioning the leadership or controlling faction is considered questioning God himself.

But in some instances, the abuse comes in a form of a direct attack, a plea for help, or an absence of any guidance.  The latter would be considered a form of abuse known as neglect.


If I had to come up with a word that could describe spiritual abuse, I would say control.

There is a positive connotation to control that is asserting authority and influence over something.  But I’m talking about the negative connotations that come with control.

As in- wanting to be in charge.  Feeling better if things go your way.  It is a fountain whose well is sourced in pride and self-will.

Synonyms include domination, manipulation, rein (the kind horses have), regulation, and possession.

The biggest antonym to this kind of control would be freedom.

In the next few posts I would like to explore just how this control is different from the biblical model of the leader.  I will look at:

  1. The examples of the good and bad shepherd
  2. Motive of each
  3. Method of each
  4. Mannerisms of each
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2 Responses to A Definition of Spiritual Abuse

  1. Sisterlisa says:

    Yes, I see it this way too. Even from a psychology perspective, this is right on target. A person who seeks absolute control over others is in fact lacking his or her own self control to begin with. And for those who believe that God gives them “Free will”, then why do these controlling ‘leaders’ not also give the same “free will”? I look forward to more articles on this delicate yet so needful topic.

  2. […] have written about spiritual abuse before – here and […]

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