Profile of A Spiritual Abuser By Pam Witzemann


Profile of a spiritual aubserI am pleased to have Pam Witzemann guest blogging for Emerging from Broken this week writing on the topic of Spiritual abuse for this miniseries that I have been publishing in recent weeks. Please help me welcome Pam and as always we look forward to your feedback and all comments are welcome. Darlene Ouimet ~ founder of Emerging from Broken.


Profile of A Spiritual Abuser By Pam Witzemann


I am a Christian and my experience with spiritual abuse is in the Christian context. However, spiritual abuse is not limited to Christianity. There are abusers in every faith, religion, and philosophy. Where ever human beings gather, there will be, at least, one abusive person. Spiritual abuse is differentiated from other abuse only by the use of God and the abused’s faith in God being used as a manipulative tool. All abusers want power and control over others and spiritual abusers are no different. This power over others can be used to carry out all kinds of evil and is at the root of the terrorism we experience today. It isn’t the philosophy that does the evil but the power hungry abusive men who lead them. It is impossible to clear all faith organizations of spiritual abusers but there are ways to spot them and follow a course of action in protecting one’s self from them. The following is a profile of those who spiritually abuse.


A spiritual abuser often appears almost angelic. They seem to have their lives and their families in perfect order. They are often popular and will have a following. Sometimes, they are leaders in the church but often, they are lay persons who use the church as a place to build a reputation and a following. They usually have few close friends but the closer one is to them, the more they must maintain control over that person. A spiritual abuser mistakes admiration as love and will do anything to protect and maintain their source of admiration. When they speak of “protecting their testimony” they aren’t talking about the testimony of how Christ is working in their life, they are speaking of their image in the community. The public image they create is highly important in their quest for and obtaining of admiration.


It is easy to feel inferior around someone who appears to be a near perfect Christian. An abuser works hard to engender such feelings of less than and is diligent to maintain them. They are expert in finding the weaknesses of others and seek control over them by pointing out the differences between their victim and themselves. They will offer themselves as a source of advice in overcoming whatever they define as missing in the person they are seeking to control. They will constantly point to themselves as successful in comparison to most others. A spiritual abuser won’t tolerate anyone close to them who does not cow-tow to their point of view. They will also seek to destroy the reputation of anyone who dares to criticize anything about them. To do so is to threaten the false image they have of themselves and portray to the world. Threatening an abuser’s false image will put the person who they once desired to control in danger while the easiest way to remove one’s self from under their spell, is to refuse to give them their needed admiration. If they can perceive no personal benefit to themselves in maintaining a relationship, then they have no use for that person and in their mind, they simply cease to exist.


It may be more difficult to first recognize a member of clergy as a spiritual abuser. Churches expect near perfection in their pastors and ministers and since these people are in a fish bowl, they often feel forced to live under a certain amount of pretence in fulfilling what is expected of them. However, a leadership role in a church is a perfect seat of power for a spiritually abusive person. They have the pulpit as an aid in maintaining control over others and it isn’t uncommon for them to criticize those who see through them or simply disagree with them over some matter from the pulpit. Sometimes, very personal information is shared in this manner. If you are the one who’s personal problem is being announced before the congregation, it doesn’t matter if no one knows who the pastor is talking about. The threat is made clear and in a very public and authoritative way. These kind of preachers will always point out sins but seldom point to Christ as the cure. Instead, they will create and teach rules for their congregations to live by. People who are constantly focused on their short-comings and struggling to maintain rules that often make them stand out in the larger world, are downcast and easy to control. This is when the spiritual abuser steps in between God and the people in his congregation. He takes the place of mediator and bars the way to God for those who don’t comply with his standards. The abuse may go no further than this or it may become more sinister as a means of supplying victims for sexual abuse. They may also use their power to gain monetary wealth from the people they rule over. In the extreme, cults are formed around these kind of leaders. Once completely cut off from the outside world, followers have been led to killing themselves and even murder.


A spiritual abuser is happiest when his/her following offer so much admiration that it borders on worship. They rejoice in being able to control what “their people” wear, watch, listen to, and even eat. They leave no room for the direction of God in others but insist that they themselves be the source of spiritual enlightenment. One sure way to detect these persons is by their attitude toward God. A true believer will have a healthy respect for God and be fearful of crossing God’s boundaries. Spiritual abusers will talk a lot about God but will live their lives by their own pleasure. Their convictions will change with the situation and the person that they desire to control. A true spiritual abuser sees themselves as God and persons who truly believe as foolish and as marks.


As with preventing all abuse, I believe it is important to set boundaries that will protect us from falling under the control of a spiritual abuser. I begin by not expecting out of any human being or group of human beings, what only God can give. I look to God to solve my problems and not the church or leaders in the church. I also refuse to give anyone the power to speak for God in my life. I can pray, I can read the Bible, I can think and I can make my own spiritual decisions. No one else knows God’s plan for my life. That is between me and God. When someone attempts to spiritually abuse me, I speak out against it and remove myself from their presence. These simple boundaries make it impossible for a spiritual abuser to take control of my life. I’ve found that they will seldom persist and will move on.


I am a Christian and I can speak for no other faith but my own. There is a common misconception that when people believe in, Jesus they receive morality. Jesus instead, offers eternal life to those who accept Him by faith. One isn’t immediately transformed into a perfect person. Both believers and nonbelievers often expect more of Christians than they are equipped to give. Christians are just people who believe in Jesus and struggle with the same problems in life that everyone struggles with. If I keep this in mind, I’m not surprised when someone who calls themselves Christian does something that is unchristian. This differs from spiritual abuse as it isn’t wrong-doing for the sake of control. Some well meaning individuals may teach a twisted understanding of a portion of scripture because they have been taught it that way. They may also behave in an unbecoming manner as the faith has been modeled to them wrongly. They too are victims of spiritual abuse and usually, can be corrected and will want to change in order to please God. A true spiritual abuser cares nothing about pleasing God but uses Him as he uses all others, for his own purposes. Spiritual abusers like to think of themselves as gods but they are just frail humans like the rest of us. They can be spotted and it is possible to protect one’s self from them. I always check what I am taught by the Bible and I take time for my own personal study of scripture. I also know that Jesus is my mediator to God and I need no other. I’ve found this the best prevention in protecting myself from manipulative teaching and control by spiritual abusers.


Pam Witzemann

Pam Witzemann was born in Santa Fe, NM and is now 54 years old. She has been married for 33 years, raised two boys and has two grandsons. Pam and her husband have had their own business for about twenty years. Pam is a painter a writer and hopes to make these pursuits more than a hobby in her later years. Be sure to visit Pam’s blog “Boomer Back-Beat” where she writes about a variety of subjects.

Another popular post shared here by Pam: “To be objectified is to be dehumanized”.

Related Posts ~ Spiritual Abuse and the effects on us as Children

A movie about Spiritual Abuse ~ Paradise Recovered

Categories : Self Esteem



I found this paragraph most helpful because I have known people just like this.

“A spiritual abuser often appears almost angelic. They seem to have their lives and their families in perfect order. They are often popular and will have a following. Sometimes, they are leaders in the church but often, they are lay persons who use the church as a place to build a reputation and a following. They usually have few close friends but the closer one is to them, the more they must maintain control over that person. A spiritual abuser mistakes admiration as love and will do anything to protect and maintain their source of admiration. When they speak of “protecting their testimony” they aren’t talking about the testimony of how Christ is working in their life, they are speaking of their image in the community. The public image they create is highly important in their quest for and obtaining of admiration.”


Kate, I believe there is at least,one in every church. They have the ability to influence people by appearing to be what they aren’t. There are no perfect people and I’ve learned that if someone appears to be perfect,to be wary.

I know you’ve been through a lot and I’m glad that I was able to offer something helpful to you. I learned these lessons in the school of hard knocks too. I have several degrees from the school!lol!


This statement:

“People who are constantly focused on their short-comings and struggling to maintain rules that often make them stand out in the larger world, are downcast and easy to control.”

Has been true about me in the past. And I think that the control is easy for ANY controller, religious or not.


Kate, Yes, that is a method used by people who manipulate. They keep the person they are using to care for them, add to their image, supply them with money,etc. beat down and hopefully, thinking that they are the dependent one. The truth is that malignant manipulators can’t make it on their own and they are highly fearful of having to.



I have spent most of my life in church, and now am not. So, I have lost most of my friends from an entire lifetime! I find this condescension also abusive. So, in my experience, the churched people I have known are entitled right along with the pastor. they are entitled to a superior position above those they don’t approve, and they spend dtheir time imitating their pastor’s personality and speaking/thinking style. Spiritual abuse ripples…


Kate, I’m sad that you are having to experience this. I’ve been in church for twenty-five years and I only have few close friends. The ones that are there when things aren’t going well for me. The rest are aquaintances.

I know what you are going through but for different reasons. Abuse does have a ripple effect because abusers use fear to control people. People in church often respond to that type of peer pressure. People behave this way in almost any setting that requires membership. Manipulators are good at taking advantage of this natural human behavior.

Abusive, controling teachings also have a way of becoming traditionalized. Dress standards or what people watch or listen to end up being taught as if they are part of the ten commandments. It’s sad but I’ve found that if I quietly stand against it, others will too.

Hang in there, Kate. My heart hurts for you…


Our abusers were different I think. They would exalt themselves after church if someone gave their heart to the Lord. They kept us isolated and everyone in my family were possesed of the devil. The church and only that denomination had all the answers and everyone else were fake Christians that would come under Gods rath. They allowed their children to beat up my youngest and I was out of line if I tried to stop it. Which I did. They said I would never go to heaven that I was a whore and unsaveable. My children were bastards and maybe saveable. Only one family dare cross their boundaries and we became friends. My ex husband was exempt from all this because it was his families church…..Father-pastor, Mother-pastor/wife, Ex husband-adult sunday school teacher, Brother-Music ministries, Brother-Youth group leader,Brother-Misionary ministry. So there you have it. If it wasn’t for my relationship with God I would have become athiest. I beleive to strongly in Jesus and know there are healthy churches out there.


Renee, All the methods that a spiritual abuser will employ are written in your comment. Especially, the way that you and your family were isolate first from the rest of society and then even within the church. It makes me feel sick inside. I have experienced some of this but I was already an adult and I fought back. Even though I was an adult, my background of psychological abuse led me into a somewhat, spiritually abusive church. When I joined, they had a new pastor but I think the one before him was much like what you described. That old cliche was still alive and well even though they didn’t have the same influence and power as they did under their preveious pastor. My family and I were hurt and my children were both spiritually abused in other situations and I think our involvement in this church (which I joined as I was under pressure from some in my family)made them a mark. The church I’m in now is very large, very open, and very involved in the community. The preaching and teaching is always encouraging and practical to real life. It is a very different experience.

I’m glad that your love for God wasn’t destroyed. I believe that Jesus always wins in the end. Wolves in sheeps clothing have been in the church since Bible times. They will be with us until the end of the church age. We can learn to defend ourselves against them and we can also learn to tell the difference between a healthy church and one that is in spiritual darkness.

The image I chose for this post reminds me of Jesus saying “If the light in you is darkness, then how great the darkness!” Spiritual abusers follow a dark light and they caste that darkness over those who fall under their control. I’m glad that you and your children are out from under that dark control.

Thanks for sharing. You said a lot in one paragraph!


Hi Pam

Everyone knows my story and I think we know abusers would never succeed in harming us if they came to us with signs that said “i am an abuser” or if their behavior from the start set off red flags.

I the church I use to belong to, we were taught from babyhood up to see certain people in church as “God-like” “other christs” “Voice of God” etc. .

They studied and acquired the degree that gave them this title in our church.. so they knew what people thought of them as much as people knew what they were to think of them.

The hierarchy and religious .. knew they had power by their very title . so it was easy for the devil to slip in and dress like someone one should respect and obey!

I was shook from head to toes by nuns growing up and by the priests was shocked. After that one told me I displeased God and should be sorry for my sins of betrayal of my family and make penance. I kept a big distance from priests. I was afraid .. since they were seen as God’s voice and God’s voice told me I was bad and displeasing. I wanted no where near such a voice again.

Yet that voice changed my world. Already my world was shaken up and I was beaten down by my abuser but now the abuser had the imprint of the Almighty on her meanness..She knew that the church would back up all her meannness and discredit me if I would appraoch with my brokenness again.

I am so broken today because of the church of my childhood and the church of 2009 I don’t know what will become of my soul. Of course, the church has let me know am heading to hell.!But< I have no desire to go there…


Joy, My experience is with churches from the baptistic tradition. This tradition was highly persecuted by the Catholic church. Still, I don’t like to bag on any particular religion but you have been very hurt by all the things that I think are wrong about human religions built around Jesus. They actually try to block the door to anyone who is truly, seeking God. They can’t win though because Jesus calls His own to Himself. Religion is a lot like the tower of Babel with men trying to build a tower to Heaven. God won’t let them succeed just as He destroyed the tower and confused their language, human religions suffer the same fate, eventually. God reaches down to all of us through Jesus. I don’t believe that you are going to suffer unending torture in a lake of fire. I don’t believe it because I can’t find that in the Bible. That image of hell is so strong though that if one doesn’t intentionally wipe it away before reading the Bible then what is read will be understood by that implanted image.

These are the things I believe, Joy. You have to find your own beliefs. If you didn’t, they wouldn’t be yours. It is good that you are questioning what you were taught. I believe God loves our honest questions when we are honestly seeking Him. In my life, I’ve found that He is patient to answer every one of my questions about Him.

Love you, Joy.



Joy, I want to add to what I wrote above. There is also a Baptist form of religion that is altogether man-made and every bit as damaging as the Catholic religion. The good thing that has remained in the Baptist tradition is emphasis on the Bible and reading the Bible for one’s self. That is what kept me from being swallowed whole into the spiritual darkness that spiritual abusers create. Jesus had to fight them toe-to-toe and they killed Him for telling the truth about God because they wanted to maintain their control and position. Nothing has changed much. Jesus shows me the way to live my life in obedience to God and not under obedience to any human being no matter what high position of authority they create for themselves. Jesus is my king, and I serve Him. I go to church with the purpose of public praise and I like getting hugs!lol! If I make no provision in myself for replacing my relationship with Jesus with religion, then the religions of men have no hold over me. In Christ, I am free. Again, this is what I believe, take from it what helps you on your personal journey and throw the rest away.



Everyone, I have to go out for awhile and visit a friend in the hospital. I will be back later today to answer any comments or questions that you have. Later!



Pam, thank you for writing this post on spiritual abuse. A few years ago, I experienced this in a new minister that I had the misfortune to be on the Board of Directors who hired her. I saw signs of controlling behavior almost from the beginning. If others saw it, they denied its existence or just looked the other way.

I also realized that the minister was an adult child of an alcoholic after some classes that I took that she gave. Along with my incest issues, I have healed many of my own adult children issues and I still recognise them in others. I refused to allow the ministers’ lies to go by unaddressed so she didn’t like me almost from the beginning.

I stopped going to church as much because I didn’t like the unease that I felt around the minister. I don’t like liars. They hurt too many people when they are in a place of authority like she was. About the 3rd year, I came off of the Board of Directors along with several others. The replacements were more willing to be controlled and do what the minister wanted with no questions as to what was best for the church. She replaced the church secretary with her husband which gave her more control. He did all of the meditations on Sunday morning. She quit inviting others to teach classes and to be guest speakers, still adding more control to herself.

Others started questioning her methods. Soon she had the Board of Directors send letters to 12 of us telling us we were no longer members of the church. We could still attend but had no voting rights. In the summer, I rarely get out to go to church or much of anywhere else because I have problems breathing in the heat. She used my absences as a way to kick me out. I was the only one to protest being kicked out.

I loved that small church and was really hurt by the inaction of those who let this happen, more than I was hurt by the actions of the minister. This was a small church that could not afford money-wise to lose 12 people. About a year later, the church gave the minister the option of quitting or taking a decease in her salary. They could no longer afford to pay her original salary. She quit.

The 12 of us that she had kicked out were immediately re-enstated. Very few of us went back. Most had moved on to other churches. I went back for awhile and tried to forget the past. I haven’t been to the church except for the funeral of a friend in about 2 or 3 years now. I realized that I have worked through my feelings toward the minister. For awhile I was still angry with the people who just sat back and did nothing. No one has ever said that they were sorry for what happened. Now there are new members who don’t even know what happened and I don’t know them.

Even though I am not still angry, my feelings for the church have changed. I will occasionally find myself back in grief over the situation. I allow myself to feel it as it comes up. I never lost my connection to God in all of this, but I have lost my connection to the church.


Patricia, My husband served as a deacon and we quickly found out that we weren’t political and our insistence upon truthfulness wasn’t appreciated. We aren’t political people. The experience changed how we feel about church also and we aren’t as involved as we used to be when we were younger in our faith. The church was never the center of my faith but it was more-so, to my husband because he grew up in church. It was ten years after I came to believe in Jesus before I ever went to church. We both now view ministry as a way of living and not service in programs. It isn’t wrong to serve through programs but they aren’t necessary in ministering the love of God to others. I had to leave the church we were hurt in also. It changed during the time we were there but I have too many bad memories and it hurts my children for us to go there.

There was a time when I felt I should do something about the corruption in church but I have a different attitude now. If I see something illegal taking place, I would act but otherwise, I keep to myself and try to treat everyone equally. Jesus taught that the church would be this way and even predicted a time when He wouldn’t be welcome in church. He promises to come to us individually during that time in history. Sometimes, I believe we are living in a time like that. A lot of things that used to bother me, I leave to God and feel that all that God requires of me is to love.(I believe, It is Jesus who is actively working to purify the church). We still give to our church but we do so secretly. No one knows how much or how little we give. We can’t write it off but that shouldn’t be our motive for giving either.

I like the word ‘ecclesia'(I might not have spelled that right) which mean’s “a called out company”. That is how I define the true church as those who truly believe in Jesus.Those He has called out of the world for Himself. Denomination doesn’t matter to me. My church is made up of all who love Jesus and I know them by their ability to love.

I hate lies also. Manipulation is the slimiest lie of all. It is the original type of lie that Satan used on Eve. People who resort to manipulation to appear as spiritual, for control, and worldly gain are committing a very serious sin, in my estimation. They certainly do a lot of damage and make life hard for people who believe in Jesus. We often end up being targets of the hatred they earn.

I still go to church but I don’t expect my pastor to be my psychologist. I don’t trust him with any personal secrets unless he is a proven friend. I don’t think my pastors prayers are heard above mine or anyone elses and I don’t ask that of him unless he is a personal friend. There was a time when I was more nieve and then I was disillusioned. It hurts to be disillusioned but we are empowered when we embrace the truth. The truth is that Christians are just people who are apt to commit the same sins as anyone else. The only difference is belief in Jesus. I’m not downplaying the power in that belief but Christians aren’t perfect and they won’t be perfect in this lifetime. I try not to set myself up by expecting more than what people are capable of giving. That’s true of life in general and includes the church.

I know how you feel, I’ve been there. I’ll pray for the complete healing of your heart.



Pam – what a great post; I like the way you identified the signs of spiritual abuse and abusers. I really believe that it is in the becoming aware of these kinds of things that we empower ourselves to “see” them and then are enabled to discover healthy relationships vs being in fear and wondering who the next abuser is or seeing all persons/religions as either all good or all bad.

Like many others religious/spiritual abuse was key in my journey. I was raised Lutheran. Went to Sunday school. Heard lots of messages about being “good enough” which simply served to re enforce what I was learning at home – that I was not good enough. At all.

I left the church as a pre teen (long story) then in my 20’s started seeking out answers to my struggle in life and relationships. Not having a true sense of “self” I was an easy target for abusers of all kinds. When I was about 24 and married to an abusive man his family stepped in and made like they were helping and supporting me.

They indoctrinated me into their “non denominational” religion based on the christian faith; the grooming was easy; my earlier abuse made me a prime target for their intrusion into my life. Once they “got” me they made it clear that something was “wrong” with me and I again strived to be and do “good enough” that they would return to the former state of “loving interest” yet it was now simply actively ignoring me and comparing me to their more desirable family members of a similar age who had grown up knowing how to play their game. Once indoctrinated to their family cult – I never again “measured up” no matter how hard I tried to win back the “love” that they now withheld.

What they did over the initiation as I was drawn into their fanatic christian beliefs was to begin the grooming and isolation that would separate me from the rest of the world for the next 10 years as I believed everyone was “sinners” and on their way to hell. In the end my then husband was of course a child victim to their fanaticism so it was natural that when his family stepped in to “help” we relocated to the state they lived in and their influence directed the next 10 years as we became enmeshed in a large non-denominational church run by a charismatic man who cultivated many obedient followers and leaders in the church who would follow his doctrine. Even in the realm of “non denominational” this now Mega Church saw itself as different and better often criticizing the faith and message of other mega church pastors.

Those who left or did not agree were quickly demonized. Whispers here and there about their “problems” and “rebellion”. I of course did not want to be THAT so I toed the line, was compliant, obedient and for 10 years followed the teaching to the letter. But – like Darlene has mentioned – what I was hearing was not lining up with what I was reading and studying myself in the christian bible.

Long story short – after 10 years of striving to be “good enough” and do things “right enough” that my husband might finally love me and honor me as his godly wife and a hope that he would be able to give that “godly” gentle love to our children instead of the neglect and abuse that was our reality…I finally escaped. For 10 years I’d tried to be good enough so he wouldn’t hit me and might finally love me and I couldn’t maintain any longer. This was when the “church counselors” referred me to the mental health system for my “anger” problem as I could no longer contain myself as I had all those years when I carried the responsibility to be good enough to not be hit or abused. This is another story – the mental health abuse I experienced and I’ve written here on EFB some about it – but that journey took the next nearly 20 years of my life.

In the end – I worked out my spiritual relationship with God, with God. I no longer follow any particular faith but honor all faiths. I believe there is one God and while I see the christian bible as a good resource and full of wisdom I no longer ascribe to the idea that Jesus is the only way to God but respect those who do. I also think that Buddha has lots of wisdom and see wisdom in the many other faiths out there. I honor others choices to believe in the way that meets their needs while honoring my need to follow my own path. Maybe one day I’ll write about how I came to my beliefs but for now – I’m grateful to be able to share story and heal from the deep wounds that were so destructive to my family and my life.

Thanks Pam for an insightful post…btw – found your blog and love it!



Hi Susan

I like very much what you wrote of . that you believe there are many ways to God and that you respect everyone else’s beliefs

I believe exactly like you .

I got into it the other day with former friends in my shopping adventure that usually ends up in a firework display. Its the only store in town. so bound to see someone i know.

Anyway I told them. that “charleston” is a popular place for people to go. there are many roads to charleston..all get there. Would someone be able to convince another to take one road over another? Maybe . but they all lead to charleston.

I see that like the road to Eternity. THere are many roads that will get us to that Final Destination: Heaven. The Promised Land. .. but we get to choose the road thats best for us. I think God. the Eternal, the Almighty gives each of us a map inside to follow and each map is different ..even though we are all heading the same way.

I am shaken up by all my brokenness and all the terrible things of 2009 but there is something good that come of it all. and that is a deeper appreciation and respect for the individuality of every person .

Before I feel I was narrow minded. .thought everyone had to be one way to be going the right way. Now I am convinced there are many right ways and mine is only to find my right way..



Susan, Thank you for that honest and revealing comment. People who have no respect for anyone will behave that way no matter where they are. They will use anything at their disposal to control and use another. It is more than sad when they used God, the one we go to when we need love and comfort, as a weapon. I’m glad you found your way out from under that.

I don’t know if there is any faith-based organization that will not have amoung its members an abusive manipulator. I doubt it, but when we learn to spot them, we are able to go where we want and not be under their control. That is the path I’ve chosen. I wont allow them to move me. I feel blessed to be in the church I’m in now but I know it could change for the worse at any given moment but I won’t.

I’m glad you enjoyed my blog and thank you for saying so!


I appreciate your openess, you said something that is; in my opinion what is wrong with Christians and that is their narrow mindness. Like the pharasee’s they beleived their way was the only way to God. I guess that is why the “SHACK” made sence to me. It was a total different concept of Christianity. I at one time lived in the mountains in a very small town. It took 1.5 hours to get to the next town that was larger. When I would run into the people that made my life a living hell I would be nice and say hello if I was approched. I would not go out of my way and speed up my shopping to get out of there. If I couldn’t avoid it I would say Im in a hurry because—— whatever and made the conversation short. Why would I want to invite these peoples rudeness to control my day? I started looking at it as giving my power away to them each time they made my day crappy. Each time I drove into the parking lot I verbally out loud said: I hate shopping but I have to do it. I will keep my power and my peace within and not hand it to anyone. It is mine to keep or give away and I choose to keep my power and my peace. My kids thought I was nuts but I explained to them that I have a choice and I have to hear myself chose it. This may or may not work for you, Joy yet it is important to know if it is effecting you in a negative way your choosing to give that power to them. I care for you and love your writing. It hurts to see you suffer. Yet you remind me of me and when I stopped giving myself to those horrible people they started to avoid me even more. Just wanted you to know you have a choice dear friend.


When the abusive ex ran out of ways to control, he turned to spiritual abuse. It blindsided me and began to have an effect. I began to doubt my spiritual faith. I was forced out of my spiritual community. I have had to find it elsewhere, but haven’t found it yet. I tried somewhere today, and ended up a mess.

But it did occur to me during the service that he attacked what he knew was a strength to me. That was a major reason why he wanted me – because he could hide behind my spiritual strength. I now believe he was jealous of it. Now he wants to tear it down and prove that I have lost the plot there.

He wants to appear the spiritual one. He was late returning the boys tonight, but gave a very spiritual reason. He was helping a new person with the salvation call. That way, I could not protest or it would show me as having skewed priorities.


Hi Renee..

I don’t want to judge others. but for myself i was very narrow minded..we. in our faith were brainwashed. to believe “there is no salvation outside the catholic church” its a DOGMA.

So in a sense.. “how dare i dare i . .step outside the elect!”

I mean my abusive mother says I am going to hell ..for leaving the “ark”

More attention is put into how you pray and where you pray then to how you live. .

I believe we are all little temples of the living God and so why should i go miles and miles away when i nearly need to bow my head to pray..

Regarding shopping..its a nightmare every week.. its like they have to get me back hook or crook .they will try everything and anything. Humiliations.. guilt.. sympathy ..

Perhaps if they get me to go back to church they will get a prize. .. I don’t know but am not interested..

I need to work on my inner thoughts when I see them as they are not kind were I to say them out loud i would shock them completely..

I don’t want to judge them . gotta give them credit for their persistance but . no means no !

I don’t want to give them my power. and I try to be assertive . but am not so good at it yet!



Thanks so much for guest posting on emerging from broken this week! One of the things that struck me deeply about your post is that this profile can fit ANY abuser or controller. Some of the details are different, but in the end, it is all the same crap. Abusers LIVE by different rules then the ones that they teach and preach that YOU should live by. They don’t love by the definition of “Love” that they teach to others. They don’t “respect” by the definition of respect that they demand from others. The difference with spiritual abusers is that they use the Bible to back up what they teach and demand from others~ except that they twist it around a bit so that it suits their purposes. The brainwashing with spiritual abuse has an extra layer of dangerous!
Hugs, Darlene


Your commit to Pam is exactly correct discribing the abusers in our lives. It was very hard to break away from it because of the twist in words. It is true , a lie will go to any lenght to disguise it self as the truth. What was so hard was when my ex father-in-law would stand up at the pulpit and preach lies, just a twist here and there! When Jesus gave me a vision of a time span of three years (in a dream) he showed the liars and abusers for who they were. In church he would give me a message that was a warning that if people didn’t start seeking the truth the Holy Spirit would leave. I gave them that message and told of my dream. With in that 3 year period I left my ex, he got the church and town to turn their back on the girls and I, my ex-father-in-law took a sledge hammer and beat the pulpit to shreds (his father carved it with his own hands)left his wife in the middle of the night, cleaned out their bank account and the churches and went to California, weeks later was shacking up with someone., the church closed it’s doors my ex married the richest lady in the church after shacking up with her, and everyone stood with their mouths gaping. Was the dream and the word of worning true? Yes every word!!I beleive God can use anyone to speak for him, even a person like me.


Krissy, You hit the nail on the head today. I’ve had the same kind of experience with people I loved and thought loved me. Controllers can’t allow their mark to become too strong and if they have strong faith, they will either twist it and confuse or when desperate, go to all out attack agaisnt that which gives strength, faith.

Keep your eyes set on the prize, Krissy. You’re doing fine.



Darlene, That is exactly the point I was trying to make. They are just abusive people with a powerful tool but it is possible to disarm them. They have the power to confuse and hurt people deeply but they don’t have the power to remove anyone from the hand of God. They are a dark illusion and as all things hiding in darkness, are afraid of the light. When we shine the light on them, their stature is greatly diminished. They have no power of their own so they feed on others.


Renee, I also believe God can use anyone and isn’t impressed with titles. A lot of what you write about as your experience is illegal. What happened to your son was asault. Adultry is adultry. It is amazing what those who use their faith as a cloak for evil can get away with but it is all illusion and deception. I’m glad you saw through it, escaped, and kept your faith in God.


@Joy – what you wrote makes me smile and at the same time feel very sad that the differences created by humans can be the source of so much pain and suffering. I envision a being bigger than I can imagine sort of in a similar state. tsk tsking at how his kids could be fighting over such things and yet grieving the pain and suffering being created throughout the world by this kind of conflict. I feel so very sad for those who cannot allow others their own faith. It is so freeing to have left the “doing” of that kind of faith behind me where I had to do and be “right enough” to be accepted by God. Its good to hear that you’ve shifted from that focus of right way wrong way to that of acceptance. I’ve found thats a really good place to be:)

@Pam – thank you. It took a good long time for me to work out my issues around the idea of a God – or not. In the end – it was my faith in that thing bigger than the rest of eternity that helped me put my life back together after 2007 when I escaped psychiatry and went through the withdrawals from numerous drugs that I’d been told I’d have to take “for life”. For me this is all connected and been such a huge part of my journey. Its nice to talk about it. 🙂

@Darlene – I like the way you point out that the characteristics Pam brings up are those of all abusers. It was in learning how to recognize these things that I became empowered to protect myself and finally stop repeating the patterns in my adult life. Thank you for doing that here on EFB in so many ways. 🙂


Hi Susan…

It is freeing not to be concerned about which knee I put down first in church and whether I crossed myself right.. I do believe GOd is so much bigger than we can imagine after all God is bigger than all he universe and God is not finite or mortal.. so no matter what word or what measurement we try to apply to God we would be so totally off..this i believe..

I really don’t want to be tied to any “faith” but want to try every day to love everyone as much as I can because I truly believe. real love .. is from God and makes us closer to God when pure. .but i may be wrong. but rather be wrong in loving too much than in not loving enough..

Hope someday I can be healed and whole and be able to do everything I am suppose to do. I really am so grateful I have T and therapy in my life!


Susan, You know that I was told the same thing by psychiatrists and it was also God who helped me escape and rebuild my life. However any of us conceive of God, I know He loves all of us and accepts us as we are. I am good enough and I’ll gow where I want to go and do what I want to do and I’ll let no manipulative maniac have control over me. I am free. I hope everyone who is being abused through manipulation will learn the tricks they use, create boundaries around their own person, and also find freedom. One thing I know is that I’m not going to let the bullies rule any playground I want to play on!


Joy, Your love for others will play a major role in helping you to heal. When you’ve put all of your personal boundaries in place and know how to love others safely, there will be no stopping you! I was much like you and sometimes, I thought I was too open and loved too readily but I just had to learn to love while keeping myself safe. It is victory to me that no matter what was done to me, I never lost my ability to love and I no one can seperate me from God. Those two things are my anchors that keep me from being swept away in all the storms I’ve weathered.


Between the ages of 7-15, I spent an average of 12 hours per week either in the car travelling to and from church, or in classes or services in church. Add it up and I could have earned a master’s degree by then in something useful to everyone, including me and my family via my ability to earn money.

Instead, what did I have? A use for God’s creation, that is, me? Not at all. Just a bunch of words w hich got me nowhere that do NOT live rent-free in my head anymore!!

At age 15, I went to a church with a large youth group, which in essence, became my parents, as they were pretty non-involved in my life anyway. The paycheck of the youth pastor became the driving force in my life. We were told if we were dating how and when we could touch, and not to touch, hence we had no privacy as the pastor’s words got between the two of us. We couldn’t know our own selves or navigate our own relationships. We were divided into groups where we memorized everything that they taught us for the past six weeks, which we wrote down furiously while the leader lectured. Then we had “quizzes” where we competed to answer questions as teams, earning points, and, are you sick to YOUR stomach yet??

We needed to be working by then and having adult level responsibilities and we were forced back to kindergarden, AND to knock on every door of our small town harrassing everyone who wasn’t in our church to come to our church or die and go to hell.

Our youth director told the rest of the group (about 100 people) that if I would get baptized their way then MANY others in the group would repent and get humble and be saved.

Abuse, control, manipulation, anyone??


Sure it was illegal, but you have to understand where I lived was a “good ole boys” town. When we filed police reports do you know what I got? A police officer sitting in my living room telling me they define child abuse as a broken bone or death. Bruses, blood, and welps are not abuse! Slaping or slugging is just a means of keeping your wife or child in check. This is the absolute truth! When I went under ground I was turned away from every church in the city I went to. My girls and I slept in our car for 2 weeks. I prayed and prayed I got another job (2) so I could get a place. I was driving around when I saw a guy doing some remodeling on a duplex. He turned out to be the owner. After hearing my story he told me to come back the next day. He wanted to talk to his wife. I met with him and he said we could move in. He also went to the electric co. because they wouldnt turn on the electric. He was a blessing.
When my youngest daughter went into counseling the phyciatrist notified the police dept. and asked for our police reports. They were distroyed as well as the pictures of bruses. My ex’s girlfriend was related to half the police dept. and like I said before she was very rich, her parents leaving her 1.2 million in assests and life insurance. So you see we had no value never did.


My mother didn’t go to a lot of these church functions, and I don’t remember her ever asking me about them. My dad might have asked me how the catechism class was, and I probably said, “Fine.” Imagine your child being in a place where she is about the only girl and lots of guys around, and thinking about it now, I wouldn’t even LET my kids into a situation like this and they wouldnt’ have wanted it anyway. But we don’t question anything that goes on in a church, THAT is the abuse. If it calls itself Christian, then we don’t evaluate the character of the people found therein. Above scrutiny.


Kate, None of that has anything to do with God. It has more to do with parents who want the church to handle their teenagers for them and clergy who want to please those who are supplying the funds for their paychecks. It does create an atomosphere of abuse because it is first and foremost an abuse of what believers meeting together should be. The church was never meant to be a surrogate parent. I don’t know what emptiness your parents were trying to fill by being over involved in the church. Sometimes, I think people who have little success in the outside world like being somebody because of their visibility in the church. Others, I think are trying to earn favor. There are also those who truly love God and like to serve. I don’t think it is so much the action as the underlying reason as to why people spend so much time in church service. I know there can be intense pressure to do so but a psychologically and spiritually healthy person won’t do any more than they feel led by God to do. The integrity of people that we entrust our children to should always be under scrutiny. It is foolish to think a christian is above committing sin. It makes me feel sad that you were treated that way. I think parents who behave that way are trying to fill a void left by great dysfunction in the family and it is more a symptom of the bigger underlying problem than the problem itself. My parents were that way with alcohol. Jim Beam and Pabst Blue Ribbon were god in our house. When they quit drinking, I thought things would get better but I found out that the alcohoism was only a symptom.

Thanks for sharing, Kate. All of that stuff needs to come out.


Renee, You are valuable to God and to me and so are your kids. I know all about small towns. People think crime is bad in cities but in small towns there are those who are allowed to commit crime and those who are blamed whether they did anything or not. I believe that people who use God for gain and to hurt others will have to account to God for what they’ve done in His name. That’s the only comfort I can offer right now. We live in a world where the bad guys are in control but I also believe that their time has a limit and there will be a time for the righteous to rule. I know I’d rather be kicked out of every church in the U.S. rather than be a part of what you just described. I’m sad you had to go through that and I know it makes Jesus sad too. If they could, they would do the same to Him.


My parents had a loveless marriage, a truth that I lived with my whole life, but came out clearly in later years. Also, my mother cannot go to sleep at night in a bed, she recently told me, and I think that she was abused as a child. Her home was extremely dysfunctional. She has never told my dad that she loves him!! I think he had to have had some issues to have married her and buried himself in the church to avoid having to really deal with his wife.


Kate, My parents treated alcohol the same way and I had to realize that alcohol wasn’t my problem, it was the way they treated me. People do use church like a drug as a place to escape and to numb their emotional pain. What they did to you was neglect. They abdicated their responsibility toward you to train you to be a part of the world around you. My parents did the same. Neglect is hard to wrap your mind around and it took a long time for me to realize what a huge whole my parents left in my upbringing through emotional neglect. I’m sure they have their hurts also but they will never get well until they take responsibility and quit hiding from it or pushing it off on others. My dad went from alcohol to being a preacher with the very same results. His faith is like an alternate reality that he escapes to. It is also a cloak for the evil things he has done in his life. People don’t talk much about having a healthy spiritual life but as you know, there are many who have an unhealthy one. We can be spiritually healthy also. We can enjoy a relationship with God and still function in the real world. In fact, it should be a source of strength that helps us cope with reality not escape from it. Hang in there, Kate. You’ve made some big, important steps lately. Go easy on yourself.



Psalm 25:3, “No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.”

The statements (“trusting in you” and “try to deceive others”) are contrasted to show that deceiving others and trusting in God are opposites.


Kate,Yes, they are opposite. God is truth and lies are required to deceive others. I’m not connecting the dots somehow, Kate. Could you clarify a little?



#36, Curious as to what you mean by my making some big, imortant steps lately?
As for the scripture quoted above, just a good confirmation of reality that relates to all the subjects we dicuss on this blog, and especially to the kind of confusion resulting from spiritual abuse. if people are deceiving you, they are not trusting in the Lord. Why hang around?


Kate, Maybe I misunderstood but I thought there was a split between you and your parents lately. Sorry, if I didn’t get it right. I see what you mean by deceit from clergy. I thought maybe you were making a specific reference.



Pam, i guess that you could say that I have made more definite boundaries between me and my parents. For many years, I never learned to say the things that needed to be said. I never learned to stand up for myself. But in the last few years, I have said some things that needed to be said, and still having more contact than I wanted due to circumstances beyong my control, I have suffered through the agony of having to hear so much untruth over and over. So, now that I have moved away, it is WAY better for me. And I have seen that what they say to me, with all of the hidden messages, has never changed, even if they only talk to me (on phone or in person) once or twice a year!! Amazing how they prioritize on what to say and get in the regular insults. And no more excuse-for-abuse making for me. No more feeling sorry for them, etc., analyzing them, no more. Not listening.


Kate, I know those boundaries are a good thing having done much the same. I’m much happier without the cloud of disapproval hanging constantly over my head. I know no that I never deserved it but it was a major part of their manipulation of me. I don’t make excuses for it any more either. When I confronted them openly and found out how little reguard they had for me, there were no excuses left. I don’t analyze anymore either. It is all pretty easy to understand once I admitted to the existence of evil in them.


One of the best books I’ve ever read is titled “Tired of Trying to Measure Up: The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” by David Johnson & Jeff Van Vonderen! I would be interested in reading your book also! God Bless! Thanks for writing and sharing with us! Angela


Hi Angela,
Welcome to EFB. I read that book too! I love Jeff VanVonderen! He has some really great books out!
Hugs, Darlene


Angela, Thanks for the compliment! I don’t have a book out on this subject but maybe I should!



This is true and it needs to be said. Thank you for saying it. I have experienced it myself.


I am so emotional!!! I basicly told my sister it was ok if she moved out. I told her that when she said I was cold hearted it really hurt me. I told her I had done my best to support her and with my abuse issues I can only do what is safe for me. I don’t measure up to her or any one and It just all hit me about how disrespected, devalued, not supported and unloved I felt. I told her the animals got better treatment than I ever had. I cried and cried, then I sent her the letter. I am over whelmed with sadness.


Nicki, We all need to be able to spot an abusive person and protect ourselves. We find them in faith based organizations but they are everywhere. God is just a tool in the hands of a manipulative abuser.



Renee, I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m glad you stood up for yourself though. I know what it is like and I had one of those cries also when I really took an honest look at how my family treats me and understood how little they value me. It is better now though because I value myself and I only have relationships with people who treat me with respect. It is a whole new world. Hang in there.



Thank you, It hurts a lot. It’s been going on all my life. Being devalued, unloved. You would think I could get over it. I just want to be loved without strings and conditions I could never meet. I just don’t know how to grow beyond it.


Renee,I’m blessed to have the love of my husband but he is still human and I respond to his love by also meeting his needs for love. That is a kind of condition because humans are all so needy. God loves me just because He made me. He loves everyone that way. I found my way by responding to God in love and learning to love myself unconditionally as He does. I can’t give you all of the answers you need but I know you can find them. You are loveable, Renee. Your family missed the boat by mistreating you and using you in a way that didn’t fulfill your intended purpose.

I know how hard it is. I deal with that void where my family of origen should be every day.



[…] Related Posts ~ Profile of a Spiritual Abuser by Pam Witzemann […]


[…] Other posts by Pam ~ How I learned to Self Abuse ~ Profile of a spiritual abuser ~ […]


Pam, I am finding myself very sensitive to this topic lately. Maybe it’s because my ex’s abuse turned very spiritual as he could no longer physically, sexually or emotionally abuse me. Then I began to notice (and hate) spiritual abuse in general. It’s got to the point that I just wonder how people could be so invalidating in a church.

For example, I find people treating me in a condescending way when they find out I am a single mother and victim of domestic violence. They want to help, but they end up being patronizing in the way they define me. I feel like they think only a certain type of person ends up divorced and leaving a violent relationship. It must be a person so broken and damaged that they have nothing to offer.

Then the way the Bible is quoted to you. It’s as if I can’t read it for myself? Many times I actually don’t even agree with some of the statements made (like the way Darlene can’t agree with statements people post on FB that are supposedly inspirational). The central theme of many messages seem to promote blame and guilt. It’s always about what we did and how we should look at ourselves, which is great under certain circumstances, but when it comes to abuse, victim-blaming is just plain wrong. And most of the major crises in relationships are due to abusive dynamics. Nobody seems to recognize the elephant in the sanctuary or feel inclined to really address it.


ello everyone,

That’s so much interesting to read you all.
I am in a difficult situation and I have any closer friends to talk about it.

I met a spiritually high guy with who I laugh, do crazy things and that’s contribute to free me. He also admires me and say I have a great potential and that I am strong, clever.

But some of his behaviour makes me doubt.
We had a relationship a month ago, but I had to litterally threw him out of my house because I felt in danger because he totally lost his control one day and broke things in my home in front of my eyes.
And one another day he took a kinfe and cut his arm with it because I refused to listen to him.

I decide to give him an another chance because he seemed to have changed. I recognized that he overeacted a lot.

He knows my story about my abusive father and he listens to me.
He believes in reincanations, in prior lives, and explain problematics situations with people by the fact that these situations have already occured in prior lives. Which for me seems totally crazy but why not, it’s his beliefs after all and it’s his buisness.

He once said that we choose to born in our family. Yesterday, I said to him that I don’t believe that and that’s makes me angry because that put the blame on the childs.
He answered me that I was born to endure all this to become later a powerful spiritual person able to do reiki, to heal people with energy, to eat prana and no more food.

But his sentence “we choose parents” was painful for me and he didn’t understand and he spoke out on me and I was alfraid that he loose again his control like one month ago, so I didn’t answered.
I feel a huge anger not being heard by him on this issue that matters a lot for me.
I felt guilty to be on my nerves and I told him. He said to me very angry : “fuck the guilty” !
And I was so afraid of him again.

He told to give him in my arms and he came in my bed.
I told to him to leave because I didn’t feel secure and aganin I felt terror. And he answered me : “we don’t care about your wishes, your needs only matters” !

Finally he was ok to leave.
This night I made the nightmare which is the same since 12 years, I am again in my house and my dad is here and I don’t how to escape.
That’s the feeling I have with him.

We again talked on the phone and it was horrible and we were angry at each other and couldn’t speak cool.
He didn’t accept my reaction and said that I have hate towards him due to my father.
He says that other people don’t answer when he gives them advice. And says “when someone give a piece of advice, you have to listen”.
(not like me who doesn’t accept his advices”.
He pretends to know what is good for me because he is spiritually high and a god’s child and to know “general truths” about the meaning of life that I didn’t know.
He often say to me that he will move to an other town because he was sick of us too. And that breaks my heart.

Is it me who overeacts a lot with him like he said because of my childhood or my anger was justified ?
I am so lost and I don’t know if I can trust him or not.
He said he wants to liberate myself and sometimes I believe him.

Thank you for reading.


I’ll be glad to have your opinion.
Thank you.


Hi Aurele
It was hard for me to learn to stick to the facts when deciding if it was me or the other person who was the problem. I had to look at the truth I knew and the details that I also knew were “off”. He cuts himself? (huge red flag) He loses control and breaks things? (huge red flag) He says that he is “spiritually high” and therefore knows the meaning of life which “you don’t know”. (that is a huge red flag) I picked out many other red flags in what you have posted here about him. He is telling you that you are bitter about the past and judging him because of it, but you say he has said and done these actual things that are very dangerous and manipulative.
There are some articles here about trust that might interest you. It seems to me that this guy has given you lots of information by his actions.
Hugs, Darlene


This was a great article ~ explained SO well what spiritual abuse is, how it can be damaging to family members who are stuck in a relationship with a person who uses God’s Word in inappropriate & abusive ways to control them, isolate them from friends & family, etc. (this can also apply to female abusers……….often their male spouse is being spiritually abused & tries to stay & make their relationship work to protect their innocent children!)


I appreciate this article so much! I feel absolutely validated! I was 21 when I entered into the Christian world and had a very dramatic experience with my acceptance of Christ as my Savior. After 38 years of total commitment to the various churches I attended because I moved from one end of the country to the other, I have found manipulators on every level. The worst was a church I attended from 1984 – 2004 with a brief interruption. When I returned, there was a new minister whom the church which had grown considerably in my absence, had completely embraced. Long story short, this man sucked so many people in with his smooth, angelic like manipulation. The last 3 years of my membership I was in the “inner circle”. Wow! I was so controlled and deceived! Talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing! I finally listened to my inner voice and left but not unscathed. I was harassed by this man for quite a while until I threatened to take legal action. I saved every letter written with the church letterhead and every letter written by certain members all condemning us to hell if we did not comply to their BS. I lost a lifetime of friends and my belief system was cracked. I worried about my foundation in life. I had other issues in my earlier life perpetrated by a dysfunctional family that made me ripe for the type of manipulation and control that I fell under. It was so insidious what went on within that church over the years which I began to learn when I entered the “inner sanctum”. Murder was also a thing that happened generating a book written by a popular author. The book did nothing in bringing down this man but the church grew smaller and he began reaching out more diligently to other spiritual communities under the attempt to claim that he was an apostle and that these other small spiritual leaders and gathers should unite under him. He often would write letters in the third person as though it was God speaking. I have not been in church in 12 years. I still believe in the triune God as God had nothing to do with the wrongness. I have learned a lot about myself from this experience. It was not and still is not but it is
better. I suffered depression and distress in many area of my life. I am just now feeling able to be in charge of my life. I have had to unravel my entire life piece by piece to understand how I could let something like what I experienced happen to me. I so wanted to die at times because I felt so horribly guilty by the affects of my shortcomings on my family. I am grateful that I have the wonderful family that I have. Pam’s word’s are so true about how we are to truly minister and worship.


Hi Debra
Welcome to EFB ~ Thanks for sharing.
I hope you will consider joining the discussions on other posts as well.
Hugs, Darlene

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