-I edited this post because I wrote it on the fly yesterday (we were heading out to go apple-picking) and when reading it again, some things didn't entirely sound the way I meant them to at all, and I also needed to expound. Sorry about that to those who happened to read it...
Last week I listened to a great podcast at Free Believers (see sidebar to link) about spiritual abuse...
A few comments stayed with me (these aren't word for word):
-all too often in the IC (institutional church) you are only allowed to have two emotions- happy and maybe sad
-saying you're bitter is like using the "F" word in the IC (he cracks me up)- but it's really okay to be mad at the way the system messes with good people (how can you not be "bitter" at it)
People in the IC are way too scared to admit they are angry at the abuses done, it's true. It's considered a sin to mention anything negative that happened to you within church. So they stuff it, suppress it, put on a happy face.... Enough is enough. Let's be real. We are not machines!
Another emotion that is allowed in the system, and expected, is FEAR. Be sure you have it, but don't show it too much. Geez!! CRAZINESS (been there)
I think anger is stuffed the most and then turned inward it can become self-contempt (e.g - "I am so bad for being bitter at these things that are "great" and supposedly helping people") This is so awfully destructive-- you start to feel guilty for having a whole normal range of human emotions. It begins by denying your thoughts and perceptions, and then, subsequently, your feelings as well. The contempt follows. This has been my experience, anyway.
Nowhere, in my understanding of the bible, does it say that we should not be angry at wrongs done, rather, it says that in our anger we ought not to sin:
In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry...
In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
To me this shows that God expects us to feel and acknowledge our anger, especially to him, otherwise he wouldn't say to "search our hearts..." I think God cares very much about our emotional health. He's the one who gave us these thoughts and emotions that make us human. People will say we need to submit it all to him, but how can we even do that if we are stuffing all our feelings? It's too easy to get out of touch with what's really going on inside... Then we become mechanical in our "religion" and it's not real... and we suffer for that.
I have been afraid, as I have left the IC to name all the unhealthy things I was subjected to... It feels wrong, they trained me well unfortunately. But I'm outgrowing this a bit at a time.
The last IC I went to was on the healthier side of the spectrum, but there was still a lot of nonsense there. I left a little over a month ago. There were some hurtful dynamics there and perhaps I saw them more than others because I had already been subjected to an very abusive "church" environment years previous, so I knew the signs. My heart was still raw and I'd been looking for a healthy environment.
Now I honestly believe that it is almost impossible for any IC to not be abusive on some level. The system sets even good people up to become arrogant. I've been around the block enough to confidently say that. Is that reason to completely stay clear? I don't know, I guess that's between each person and God. For me, I'd already been beat up enough and God opened the door and said I could leave. I also happen to think there is a better, healthier way... but it's a process-- It's not me signing up to a new church (no thank you)... it's about relationships and love and the Spirit leading. It's about walking by faith into the unknown, trusting God will provide. That's what I'm seeing-- it' s a new way to walk and in my spirit it feels right...
What I mean by "the system" is any system, really, that tries to control people in one way or another. It's everywhere, but it should not be in the family, the home, or the church!! It is NOT God's nature. It isn't!
by the way, we have 10+ pounds of yummy hand-picked apples in our fridge now : ) I'm gonna go have one!