Escaping Spiritual Abuse: A Survivor’s Tale -Part 1

The spiritual abuse in my household gradually built up over time, until it culminated in a screeching crescendo that tore my family apart. We were taught to fear so much and call many things “sin” which were not; yet the very sinful behavior they tried to prevent, was what happened.

I realize that God and the Bible are not the problems, but that His truths were twisted by my parents. Sometimes I had passing thoughts of not caring much about Him and His Word because I associated Him with my earthly father, and the Bible with a bunch of constricting teachings of how everything was sinful. I have come to know Christ and learn that my past perception of Him is not accurate. The Bible is not the Book of Pharisees that my dad presented; rather, it condemns Pharisees.  

I am still on the road of recovery. I continue to struggle with guilt, and the feeling that so many things are sinful. I persevere in sorting through the truths and misconstrued information that was taught during my formative years. I remain a work in progress; here is much of my story thus far:

My father prided himself on solving the mysteries of the Bible; my parents seemed to think they were authorities on it. They spent a lot of time studying Scripture, and came to special conclusions which they achieved because of all their “hard work.” Though others failed to find these same “truths,” my parents insisted they were the right way to think, and did not want to have close relationships with anyone who disagreed. They would ridicule people and even treat them like an opposing army if they believed differently about the Bible. They convinced me that their findings and diligence in studying the Word was superior, that they had found some hidden knowledge which others had yet to discover.  

My parents also mostly believed that we should not be taught the Bible by anyone but them. I say “mostly” because they did allow us to attend a local youth group and church in our teens, mainly because we needed some form of socialization. I think they were hoping we would meet future spouses there (none of us did!). However, my father did not consider it important for us to have friends; we had siblings for that. We attended church as a family until I was about ten. Dad then decided that we were not going to church anymore; instead we would start having Home Church because he was the pastor of his family. In his pride, he did not wish to listen to what another man had to say about the Bible.  

Belief that their way was the right way -about the Bible, homeschooling, etc.- made its way into my parents’ personal decisions. My mom was adamant about being surprised by the gender of her babies –after they were born. She would judge other mothers who found out what they were having, “Would you want to open your Christmas present before Christmas?” It was considered selfish, worldly, and materialistic to find out your baby’s gender. When my expectant aunt revealed that she was having a boy, my father joked to us that he hoped it would turn out to be a girl: let that be a lesson to her for “Playing God!”  

Ironically, in the very home where I was taught about the Jesus Who truly showed me love, I also learned firsthand about hatred.

Hate was a strong emotion I experienced, sadly, especially toward my father and brother. Dad seemed somewhat obsessed with the sin of pride (interesting to note: it is the main sin he carries). He would preach about how it was the root of all sin, that “pride cometh before a fall.” I remember him getting in my face and telling me how proud I was; perhaps it made him feel good to put his sin on someone else. When he yelled into my face, I would cry (I tried so hard not to, but was unable to stop); he then would tell me that I needed to stop being so sensitive. He also told me that I was very cold. 

My father helped shut me down. This causes problems in my marriage because I am unable to properly communicate. To this day I am learning how to have disagreements, and to be able to talk through things.

We learned from an early age that public school was “evil,” and to look down on “public school kids.” Homeschooling was the Only Way, because no one else should teach your children! To allow this would be relinquishing your parental responsibility, and letting them be brainwashed with worldly teachings. It is interesting to note that we were sheltered, not taught by school teachers, and unassociated with public school children; yet sexual immorality, drugs, smoking, and drunkenness happened anyway.  

While my mother was insistent about teaching us at home and not giving it up, she would openly, frequently, and loudly complain about doing it. She would say that she hated homeschooling and was bad at it. I cannot disagree with her there; she was pretty bad at it. The reason there are so many different teachers at schools for various subjects, is that one person cannot be great in all areas. Mom was definitely not equipped to teach high school. She had not learned science during her own school days, and so decided we did not need it either. Some of my siblings had learning disabilities that she was not prepared to handle; she let them slip through the cracks and fail, instead of allowing them receive the proper teaching they needed.  

When my sister was fourteen, she asked to go to school. This, of course, was denied and blamed on my grandmother, for putting the idea into her head. Grandma simply wished for the kids to be well off and educated.  

Despite my mother’s constant complaining of the task she hated so much (which was not our idea to do in the first place), we had to be eternally grateful to her for it. We were expected to feel indebted to her for sacrificing so much for us. Yes, I’m not being dramatic; those words were actually spoken. Dad told us that Mom gave up so much: to have us and then to homeschool us. I do not mean to sound rude and ungrateful, but she took those things upon herself and then grumbled about it, even insisting on it being the only way when she was asked to do things differently.  

One of my mother’s many fears was that we would be forced to go to school or taken away completely, if someone saw us playing outside near the road and called social services. She hated social workers, and drilled into our heads to play in the backyard so we wouldn’t be seen (especially during school hours). She even took it personally when the census taker showed up and inquired as to the number of people living in our house; she purposefully lied so they wouldn’t have that information. What were they doing to try to gather information on us?! The nerve!

Conflict with my grandparents (my father’s parents) went way back. They were too generous with my parents, allowing them to live rent-free on their property since they had quite a stretch of land and apartment buildings. My mother insisted that it was not enough, that my grandparents needed to give her more. She complained often: the house was too small, she felt stuck, Grandpa didn’t make the house nicer, my grandparents were controlling, and Grandma involved herself too much.

My mother wrote Grandma quite the letters throughout the years. She even told her off for talking about the Bible with my siblings. She did not agree with some of my grandmother’s Biblical beliefs, and did not want her influencing the children. Grandma has her downfalls just as anyone does, but she is very non-confrontational and only wanted what was best for our family. She sometimes taught the kids homeschool for Mom and babysat long hours; she would offer for my mother to spend time with her or attend different functions, in order to have some time away from the house. These invitations were almost always turned down.  

I loved spending holidays at my grandparents’ house. My parents would complain about going, and after awhile, we stopped. I remember being about five, in my grandparents’ living room with my dad, looking at the Christmas tree. He confided to me that he did not like spending Christmas with them. I was only a small child who simply delighted in the joy of the season, yet was forced to understand and delve into the negativity he placed upon me.

My mother was notorious for writing scathing letters. Perhaps she was addicted to conflict; she seemed to seek it out, and to love fighting with people. My sister and I would sometimes be embarrassed by her in the grocery store, when she would chew out the poor cashier girl with complaints. People who did not agree with her after the events of 2013, she made sure to give hell.  

My parents loved to talk about how my grandparents do not like children, because Grandma did not show a ton of excitement every time there was a new baby announcement. But really, who could blame her? After nine kids, it was not a new thing any more; the reaction may not be the same as with the first ones.  

Grandpa probably did not handle things the correct way; he became angry with my parents when they were expecting their third baby, because they did not exactly have great financial means and were still living on his land. He advised them to build their home first and then start a family; yet they kept adding and adding when their house was too small and funds were low. My grandparents’ concerns did not mean that they hated kids. I was not aware of this truth until adulthood; we were merely led to believe what our parents told us.  

My mother seemed to have an addiction to having babies; about every two years she would have another one. When one got old enough to stop breastfeeding, she became very emotional and cried. She appeared to grow bored of the toddler, and would then have another baby, leaving mostly me to care for the other children. She was obsessed with babies and had them over a twenty year span; she had her last at age forty-seven.  My sister essentially told her, when she was fifty, that she should not have any more, because it was not good at her age. She turned defensive and competitive and said something like, “I can have more if I want to; you want to make a bet?”

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