real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

may 2 podcast

Welcome to part three in the series of podcasts I am doing with Dr. Cindy Kunsman on the topic of spiritual abuse. For LOTS more information on this subject as well as lists and lists of great resources or to contact Cindy, go to her website and visit her blog.



  thatmom wrote @

Be sure you check out Cindy’s blog each week on the date that corresponds with the podcasts. She has so much more information that we couldn’t get to during the interview and lists of resources for further reading and study. This week she addresses the topic of “love bombing” and you won’t want to miss it!

  Lin wrote @

Cindy, I would love to see you expand upon the use of words to redefine people’s beliefs. This is becoming more and more clear to me. I can see how just using the word ‘feminists’ redefines the conversation. All of a sudden one feels compelled to prove they are not a feminists and before they know it, they have aligned themselves with their views.

Other words that seem to be used in this way: Biblical Manhood and womanhood. What is that? Where is it in scripture defined?

Where is feminity and masculinity defined in scripture?

“Role’ is another word that is used to define the terms. Even ‘complementarian’ was hijacked as there is nothing complementary about heirarchies!

All we see in scripture are obvious physical differences of gender. All these words above seem to be used to control people and define the debate.

  Cindy, the non-normative wrote @

Cindy, I would love to see you expand upon the use of words to redefine people’s beliefs. This is becoming more and more clear to me.


The topic of language gets into deep philosophical territory, and some of the best theorists have humanistic views, so looking at language itself gets pretty self limiting. I think the thought reform idea of a person being comprised of three components (thought, emotion and behavior) is more helpful, as our language and thought is affected by our emotion and our behavior, and no one element can be severed apart from the other. Think of how God created the universe: He spoke to initiate creation. If we are made in His likeness, our ability to speak and use language is likely creative in a similar way. We creatively frame out our ideas with the building materials of words, but the words merely represent ideas that are just as connected to emotion and behavior.

Think also of words representing a product – an idea or concept. The spiritual abuser is selling a product which is really an idea that aspires to something higher in this life – something that lifts man out of the mire and into a better place on higher ground. We all desire to find this transcendence, and true, lasting, saving transcendence comes only through the Cross and the Word. But the power of the pull and the enticement rests in the idea of transcending the pain of living. A local sandwich shop in my neighborhood gives out small bags of potato chips with each sandwich, and I opened one the other day to find 2 potato chips. Those chips were not 1 oz each! They were unbroken, and I would have thought that the bag could have held at least a dozen chips, not two! The bag had all the appearances of contaning more, but the vendor and I were both deceived. The words of the spiritual abusers are more like the deceptive packaging, complete with disclaimers that “settling may occur,” but settling does not account for such a low yield of product. This is why sales techniques are so instructive when considering these concepts.

The twisting of language appeals to our emotions and we are drawn away by the desires/lusts of our hearts and enticed somehow, through our desire to transcend something. Now mix that language element in with all the other factors at play in the whole process. That’s why thought reform works: it is a multi-faceted assault, and everything is inter-connected. Language can be austere and analytical, but it is generally “loaded” with both thought and emotion, even outside of the context of spiritual abuse. Spiritual abusers take full advantage of that, creating new packages and new sheepskins with language all the time. It looks like they’re selling words, but they are really selling the ideas in deceptive packaging. Like Karen noted about Mary Kay, they are selling the idea that the product will make you feel like a million bucks, or maybe just 100K. The real proof is in the pudding, not the package, and the pudding is both emotion and thought rich.

  Lin wrote @

Cindy, look at how long we asked Stacey to define white washed feminist. this is exactly what you are talking about.

We would not allow the teaching to reach beyond defining the term for us. We wanted specifics and examples.

I am going to have to process this deeply. I have really gotten convicted about the loaded language and how much I have allowed it to define the debate.

  Cindy, the non-normative wrote @

Lin wrote: I am going to have to process this deeply. I have really gotten convicted about the loaded language and how much I have allowed it to define the debate.

When I wrote before, I was thinking also about the speech of the serpent in Eden as well. James says that temptation draws us away through lust and enticement, and I think that as God’s creatures, we also lust after lovely words and language. What is a very obvious thing that sets us apart from animals? We speak with our mouths in complex and beautiful tones and complex words, just like God did when he formed the earth from nothing. We are creative beings, and we pursue that, painting with words like a painter creating a masterpiece, like our Creator did when He spoke something beyond our comprehension with His Word and His Power from nothing. That is truly something to stand in awe over, especially considering that we will give an account for every idle word of our own. Not to say that I’m advocating some weird, metaphysical nonsense or anything, but I think there is power in words that is represents spiritual power. I mean, Jesus is called the Word, is He not? I think that we run roughshod over the whole marvelous gift that we’ve been given to articulate our ideas and communicate. If it were not a powerful thing, why the Tower of Babel and the events that followed?
So consider the events of original sin and the idea that “Loading the Language” was part of the temptation and the “drawing away” of Adam and Eve “by their own lusts and enticed.” Genesis 3:1 says that the serpent was more cunning than all the other animals, and Matthew 10 says that we should be as wise as the serpent. So the aspect of cunning/crafty/clever/(Amplified Bible: subtle and crafty). It takes subtle cleverness to draw us away. That is what this process of spiritual abuse is all about – catching you off your guard. So without going any further into the Scriptures, what can we say then? Jesus Himself called Christians to be as subtly crafty and cunning as the serpent was in the Garden of Eden – who SPOKE. Ecclesiastes and Proverbs likens the tongue and bite of a serpent to words. I really took this to heart a few years ago, and I studied the behavior of snakes with an old professor (PhD physiologist) of mine who used to have some as pets. I also visited some pet stores with very friendly snake keepers. In one of the Minreth Meyer books on recovery from the late ‘80s/early 90’s, they talk about this as well. Observe the snake’s craftiness. I actually spent several months in informal study with a PhD physiologist professor, learning about snake behavior because I only ever wanted to be like the innocent dove.
What does the serpent say and do? “Can it REALLY be that God has said…?” God told Eve and Eve understood that touching it and eating of the tree meant that she would die. “Lest ye die.” The serpent twists that and says “You shall NOT SURELY die.” It is the direct opposite of what God has said with “SURELY” thrown in there. (At this point I think of how “non-normative” is used. It is understood connotatively and emotionally to be sin, yet those who overuse it so extensively can deny that they have used the word as sin as they have not SURELY said it meant sin.)
Then the snake confabulates a story that cannot be SURELY derived from what God has absolutely and definitively said to Eve. All we know is that touching and eating of the tree brings death. What kind of death and to what extent that death is, we know not and can only take God at His direct and clear statement. So the serpent is starting to paint God out to be a deceiver and one who is holding back information from his creation. Was God being deceptive or protective or anything else from what the Word tells us at this point? No. All we know is what He said directly. The rest is pointless conjecture and subtle craftiness. My condensced version of the next serpent statement: “Your eyes will be opened, you will be like God, knowing the difference from good and evil and from blessing and calamity.” The serpent painted a false dichotomy. What was he saying? “God is holding out on you and He’s keeping you in the dark. He’s hiding information from you that will help you transcend your current state, holding back your ‘personal growth.’ I know something that you don’t because I have special, inside knowledge about this situation, and here’s how you can transcend this predicament. You’re a smart person and any smart person would want to be able to see the blatant difference between good and evil because, though you might think you are being blessed right now, you may actually be suffering calamity.” Consider also how the fruit itself looked, something to which the snake drew her attention: it was good/suitable/pleasant for food (pragmatism). It was delightful to look at (lust of the eyes). It had the potential to make one wise (something God desires us to love and pursue). Based on what the serpent said, it made good sense to her as she was drawn away from God’s plain and clear communication by what? First, through twisted words. Second, by her human need for food. Eve tells God that the serpent beguiled/cheated/outwitted/deceived her. And then the serpent is said to one day bruise the heel of Jesus and, later, is said to bite the heels of horses.
So our very first example of loaded language comes from the serpent. He put on a sales presentation. He made the product sound like it would solve all the problems of the buyer who bought not only a fruit but an ideology that appealed to her human need for food (a very motivating factor for a person who feels hunger), her desire to grow in knowledge and wisdom (a worthy and righteous pursuit of a creature with a dynamic mind made in God’s likeness), her appreciation for beauty (something God clearly advocates) and her nature (after God’s image) to be safe and dutiful by making sound decisions. She was sold a lie, and the serpent took advantage of her best and highest and most admirable qualities that were created and fashioned after God’s own image. Her goodness was exploited, something that Jesus would finally condemn in His own flesh (Rom 8). How is this any different from the sale of any other thing wherein we are given a “presenation” of a product, particularly in this day and age of postmodern advertising.
How is this different from some of these homeschooling paradigms? “We have a product to sell to you, be it a book or a curriculum or hand grenades (see VF) or dolls or frocks or our Family First edition of the Bible with family oriented study helps. But what are you buying with your buck and what can I do to make you deeply satisfied with your choice so that you will want to come back and buy more? Ah. I will show you how my homeschooling oriented product meets a very basic and vitally important need for you. I will show you how beautiful my product is. I will show you how my product will help you grow in knowledge and wisdom so that you can be more godly and know better that you could possibly know on your own. (See I know more about these things than you do, as what God has clearly and directly said, AND for whatever reason – be it my beauty or seemingly knowledgable position of authority on this subject – I know things that you are unable to elucidate with my special wisdom. What God has given you plainly is inadequate for you to do the BEST job. And you are made in God’s image, so you like to be safe, dutiful and make sound decisions. Those who are safe, dutiful and make sound decisions buy my product. Let me help you meet your own goals and your own needs.”
This stuff has been around since Eden. The sheepskins might change, but the foot prints and the bite marks all look the same. Satan has been selling things the same way he always has – by a multi-faceted assault on our human needs, our gifts, our strengths and our weaknesses all at once. It’s just sorely disappointing that Satan can deceive the elect and those who believe they are elect into doing his dirty work for him. Pray that those who do will wake up before it is too late for them to repent. Forget the fire of hell – what of the burning, awesome undoing of the present holiness of God before His Holy Throne? That’s more to be feared than is hellfire.
All we really need is to know exactly what God said through diligent study and stick to that in obedience. We are all taught twists on things as a consequence of growing up from young babes without giving ear to the seeming wisdom of men that is not clearly and obviously and simply written in the Word which we know is sufficient. But does that not come to all who seek the Truth of the Word of God at some point? My life has been typified by deep questions of meaning and what God’s will and intent has been from the first. I even sought theophanies and lusted after truth. I LUSTED for truth because I’d been taught to believe lies. We need to be masters of our own lusts through the help of the Holy Spirit, a guide and helper that Eve didn’t have in the way that we have as believers. We need to learn how to think, to consider what the serpent says and bring it under the authority of the Word of God, something Eve did not know how to do, yet we are now sufficiently prepared through the Wisdom of the Word, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and new life in Christ that has liberated us from the law’s curse and written the law on our very hearts through the Spirit’s miracle. We need to celebrate beauty that glorifies God and not just the things that man finds significant. We need to guard our hearts, our minds and our actions, and if we feel and recognize and identify that one of these elements is being pulled off course in a way that is not clear and plain from the Word of God, we need to respond by repenting and turning back to the clear, simple terms of Scripture, not what men tell us that certain, isolated Scriptures mean. We need to resist their outward appearances and the beauty of the fruit and the messenger and listen to the heart of the message in the light of the Word. We need to resist following the crowd without soberly considering what the crowd does and why. We need to insist on seeing the product before we trust the package, based only on the outward appearance or the “lovely family” photo on the box. The church today has a strong lust of the eyes, and we need to have the wisdom that is greater than the serpent’s to know exactly what that means and what it means in EVERY venue, especially in religious ones. We need to be very aware of the lusts of our flesh – in the form of making our job easier, as some jobs, per God’s own declaration, are hard no matter what. We need to know exactly what that lust of the flesh means in every area of our lives with wisdom that exceeds that of the serpent. And we need to have wisdom exceeding the serpent and leviathan concerning the pride of life. There is no shortcut. There is no fast-track route through fear, trembling and mortification, and we have an opportunity to do this whenever we entertain any “sales” proposition, expecially those that are packaged as “teachings.”

We need to ask the serpents to delinate clearly what they mean by “surely” and where in the written Word it says that God is holding out on us. We need to see where God has said that they have higher knowledge than we do and understand exactly why we should believe them before we even touch the fruit of the trees we are told will make us wise. What is a WWF? What is Biblical gender. What is a role and why does that limit the Authority of Jesus Christ? And where is that written clearly in the Word without a dance, a dinner and a subtle/crafty explanation. To this we are called.

  Cindy, the non-normative wrote @

Sorry everyone –

I wrote that in word processing and pasted after sleeping on it. I don’t know why the spaces in the post didnt’ appear.

  Corrie wrote @

I love the potato chip analogy! Very good!

I also love, Cindy, the example you used of the Serpent in the garden.

And, Lin, I really hear and appreciate your concern about how we allow the loaded language of others to define the debate.

I think for me the thing about it is that it is simply irritating. It is nothing but smoke and mirrors. And people will ignore that fact and any other fact that exposes the circus illusion.

  Beatrice wrote @

Wow, the story about your elder friend, Cindy, and the thing about unblessed leavers being cursed – that’s just creepy. That kind of superstitution, with hexes, curses, and whatnot, belongs in a horror movie, not in Christian thinking.

And I remember this place in the Botkin’s book where they ask “Is it well with you?” and they say if the answer is no, then you may not be honoring (which for them means a Gothard style perpetual obedience until marriage) your parents. Scary, huh? And now the reader is not thoughtfully considering whether they have honored their parents as God would have them do, but is rather anxiously reading ahead to see what the Botkin’s plan for honoring one’s father is, so they can escape any calamity. This appeal to fear is reinforced by an testimony in the book by a girl who lived away from her father for a time and said that she had a very hard time complete with car accidents and that it was NOT well with her.

I keep on talking about So Much More everywhere I go, but it’s so full of good examples of things we talk about.

And that point about how we follow the crowds around us – I’m not sure I ever had such a keen awareness of that until this moment, perhaps. I am now consciously aware of how much I look to others around me, worry if I will fit it, try not to do anything they’re not doing, ect. (Even now I feel, in the midst of furiuosly sorting things out, “Oh, I’m just sucking up to these people here, telling them how great they are. But the difference is of course that while I enjoy being around other people on blogs, I really do agree with these things.)

This stuff can all be so scary. Which is part of why you all need to discuss it so much.

That is some passionate writing in the comments above me, Cindy.

  thatmom wrote @

Cindy, you preach it sister!

Those were powerful words and so very true.

One of the things that has bothered me the most about the loaded language within the homeschooling hierarchy is that it does take advantage of the goodness and purity of heart of the parents who love their children and want to see them grow in God’s grace and to make wise decisions. They are all primed for the manipulation that is foisted upon them. If only a few people can begin to see through this manipulation through these podcasts, Cindy, it will be awesome.

  Lin wrote @

It’s like you know something is wrong but cannot describe it or put your finger on it. You are giving us the definitions. (And tactics)

I went and listened to one of podcasts that Molly linked to on TW. It was the one about putting people on pedestals. He said he did this in his past with one pastor and everytime he was away from him, he would start to see it and make a list of things that bothered him but when he was with him, he forgot the list!

Isn’t that exactly how it works!

  Cindy K wrote @

Lin wrote: It’s like you know something is wrong but cannot describe it or put your finger on it. You are giving us the definitions. (And tactics)

Lin, this reminded me of the “splinter in the mind again, something I think I mentioned following the last April podcast. You know something is wrong and you see it all the time. It’s like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. You don’t know what it is, but you feel it… You’ve felt it your whole life…

(Continue Morpheus in the Laffatete Hotel scene in the first Matrix film.)

I also put up a blog post “Blogging the Matrix” and it is listed under its own tag about what it feels like to realize that you’re experiencing Spiritual Abuse.

God bless my exit counselor (now 81 years young!)

  Cindy K wrote @


About the creepiness of the “Christian curse” and the 3-Ds that Karen has heard pronounced over her for leaving against a pastor’s wishes (Death, Disease and Divorce), let me just say that I took great joy in reading that “a curse without cause shall not land.” Many people liken this to witchcraft for it is a statement (made by a Christian, no less), prophesying harm on another. When I listened to that elder speak, it was hard to process all of it because my own mind sounded to me like it was screaming “YE HAVE NOT SO LEARNED CHRIST!” over and over again. And I indeed I had not because this is not in God’s Word.

I wanted to also add a bit about “mystical manipulation” as it overlaps here. When the exit counselor explained the details of mystical manipulation to us, she offered many examples of how this could manifest. I was most engaged by the idea of this as a prophecy of “Thus saith the Lord” as this was common in Pentecostal churches where I was raised. How does one really know if the Lord said a particular and specific thing if it is not clearly delineated in the Word? She also included the example of a person coming to you saying “I had a dream about you and in this dream, I saw you…..” The Word is full of prophets and their significant, God-breathed dreams. God spoke to the prophets through their dreams and Daniel and Joseph interpreted dreams, etc. This is another very significant thing that can be interpreted as prophetic, whether or not you believe in the modern day activity of the charismata (spiritual gifts).

The following day, my husband wrote a resignation letter to the President of the Seminary where I served as the Director of Research and Development and he was the Academic Dean and Full Professor in order to resign for the two of us. Sortly after sending that info to the President, the president called him on the phone. One of the first things he said was:

“I’ve had dreams about and I saw that you were being overtaken, and I tried to reach you, but I couldn’t get to you.”

Not 24 hours after learning about how dreams could be used as a type of prophetic mystical manipulation, this made my husband’s skin crawl! He was disappointed that I didn’t make mention of this somewhere in the podcast and after listening to them, commented that he wished I’d been able to work that in. This was part of his unravelling as he realized just how cultic and sick the dynamics of our CHURCH really were. I didn’t take that call, so I don’t feel that as accutely as he does in his memory and experience, but I wanted to take the opportunity to bring that up.

Whether you agree that this is indeed a type of “Christian witchcraft” or not is not the point, but I think that people who have not been exposed to these teachings before will have not trouble admitting that they are sick and creepy. I offer it here as a comment I’ve heard from many other people, particularly Pentecostals. Put it into perspective however you like. My husband and I call them curses because they are a type of prophesying that is not supported or taught in Scripture (save when the prophets of old did such things). We don’t even see this in the NT regarding specific people.

  Cindy K wrote @

Karen wrote: They are all primed for the manipulation that is foisted upon them.


This is so true. I think that the human condition primes us, and then we are “drawn away” by our needs which can easily become lusts. I think of the provision of the manna that God gave the Israelites in the wilderness. In some ways, it seems to be wisdom to prepare in advance for coming hard times, but for those who gathered more than they needed for that day, the manna spoiled. At some point, and for everyone it is different, when we move away from trust in God’s provision working in us into our own strength, we become spoiled. I think it is here where we get “drawn away by our own lusts and enticed.”

This is hard to recognize, and even harder to come to terms with in the deepest places in our own hearts. I struggle with this every day — simply trusting God. My pastor in San Antonio beleived that this was indeed one of the most central and critical themes of the Gospel and probably the greatest challenge of daily living out the Christian life. Like the psalmist says in Great is Thy Faithfulness, “grace for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” Grace comes through one’s daily walk. (And I assure you that I am deeply and personally convicted as I write). And Hebrews tells us that without this faith, it is impossible to please God. He wants us to be holy and to live obediently, but I believe that he desires just as much to have our faith and not just our pious offerings. He wants a loving, dynamic relationship with us, characterized by deep and daily trust in him, not in the law or some paradigm built on the law or the traditions of men (the one thing that makes the Word of God ineffective).

You also wrote: If only a few people can begin to see through this manipulation through these podcasts…

That is my great prayer for everybody in any type of spiritual abuse. Also touching on something Lin said, I think under the last podcast comment section, the leaders in these groups are often more trapped and entrenched in the systems than the followers are. They’ve invested so much into these paradigms emotionally and mentally, and many of their livelihoods depend upon the system. By examining these practices and beliefs, they may be bringing their whole life’s work into question. They also have the added pressure of doing things before the world, because of the exhibitionism and voyerism that is so often involved. They are likely and more often more trapped than the followers of their teachings. My heart (now that I’ve done major healing after years and years of prayer about the culpability of leadership and such) really cries out for mercy and the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to work mighty miracles in the lives of the leaders of Spriritually Abusive systems and schools of thought. They will have much to answer for before God. They will be held to a higher degree of accountability before God than the followers will. For them, after so many years of contemplation of how the leaders can do what they do, my heart really cries out to God to minister to them while they have the opportunity to repent in this life. It’s terrible enought for me, with fear and trembling, to consider what it is like to fall into the Hands of the Living God. And I am also broken hearted for the leaders who teach these things. (But I did not get to that place overnight, by any stretch of the imagination!) But it is something for those who recognise spiritual absue to consider and pray about.

That’s why I think it’s so funny that people have accused me of calling individuals “heretics.” I wouldn’t do that, because it the great cry of my heart that they will never be found to be so, as but for grace, there go I. In the final summation of all things, I pray that all these leaders will bring honor and glory to God and that all these things will be found under the Blood of the Lamb. I pray that all this will actually bring more glory to God and not less and that we will indeed be together at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Let it be so, Lord! Hosannah!

  Cindy K wrote @

Before I go into retreat for most of the week, I just thought I’d make an additional comment .

Following up on what Beatrice had to say, Karen Campbell does not call this all “patriocentric voodoo” without good reason. In some ways, such as this 3-D nonsense, it is not far from voodoo. I don’t think she uses the term lightly or loosely!

Have a blessed week, everyone.

Under Much Grace signing off until the next podcast!

  meloff wrote @

Well, I’ve missed getting to “talk” with Cindy, but I just finished listening to all 3 podcasts today. Excellent – and I’m still just stunned.

I guess there is this part of me that wants to think that these pastors aren’t really intending to do these things – I guess a little like the person who doesn’t intend to beat their spouse, but just loses control – or something like that.

Another thought is “wow – it looks crystal clear in hindsight!”

What about the descriptive term, “like minded?” I remember probably 7 or 8 years ago I first started to hear that word in the contexts of wanting to worship or fellowship with “like minded” people. And at first it sounded like a good idea. But, in my “circles” it has become an excuse to run roughshod over people who aren’t conforming. The non-conformist is all of a sudden no longer “like minded” and no one wants to fellowship with them .

And somehow it is not considered gossip to use that term. “Why aren’t you in play group with X,Y,Z anymore?” “Oh, I’ve learned we’re just not like-minded enough.” “Why did you change churches?” “Oh, ABC Church is much more like-minded”

The next thing you know, you’re trying to figure out if you are like-minded with whomever you’re speaking with as it is obviously a “bad” thing to not be.

Have to go and ponder all of this and maybe listen to the trio again. . .

Thank you Cindy and Karen!

  thatmom wrote @

Meloff, Cindy will be available for chatting here with you so post and ask questions to your heart’s content! Also, Cindy will be doing 2 more podcasts this round and promised to come back again! What an awesome resource she has become for all of us!

Your comment about “like-minded” is right on! And quite the subjective term. I have heard it used to describe all sorts of things…conviction, practices, theology, etc. Sometimes people are like-minded about, say, homeschooling or courtship but not in theology. They can still be like-minded according to some standards. Then someone else might be theologically right on the same page but send their children to a private Christian school. Are they like-minded? Well, it depends…..I am always so confused by the use of the language.

I was once told that Jane Austin’s books couldn’t be considered to be “romance novels.” And I guess there are a lot of people who wouldn’t consider them to be the same as, say Jeannette Oake books and movies in regards to romance but I disagree. In fact, it seems to me that three is a lot less manipulation and game-p;laying that goes on in a Jeannette Oake story than in anything by Jane Austin, which seems much healthier to me. But using the phrase “romance novel” brings to mind a Harlequin book so when the phrase is used in homeschooling circles, people equate Oake with Harlequin and Austin stands apart.

Your observation about hindsight is right on, too. I have been having many of those moments while listening to the podcasts after the taping. I can see so many things so clearly now, praise God.

  thatmom wrote @

Meloff, be sure to leave any comments and questions for Cindy that you might have on this podcast or on any of them. She will get to them!

You were right on about the “hindsight” factor. I am still having those moments as I listen again to the podcasts each week before we upload them. I have had so many “ah-hah” moments!

Your comment on the phrase “like-minded” is a good one. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard it used but not always in describing the same subset of principles or beliefs that make someone like-minded with you. The problem is that often the definitions change from use to use. That was always frustrating to me when I heard it used. And you are correct, it was often used to draw a circle around a certain group or practice to the exclusion of others who were, in actuality, very like-minded as fellow believers.

  thatmom wrote @

Cindy, I was thinking of the use of language to appeal to the hearts of people.

One of the principles we have learned in our Toastmasters training is the importance of speaking to the heart of our listeners. In other words, we determine what sort of response we hope to elicit and then we craft our speeches in ways that will elicit the desired response.

Once a year there is the International Speech Contest where the winners I have heard all have a point they are hoping to make and they make it through telling a personal story that touches the heart of the listener. One time it was an elementary school teacher who developed a particular way of having children learn to read. Another time I heard a man talk about his father’s experience as a WW2 gunner. In another speech a young man talked about over-coming the pain of an abusive childhood. Each of these speakers used the principles of how to win the heart of an audience and they did a great job of it.

I think we see examples of this throughout Scripture in ways that are good. One could argue that the use of parables by Jesus was an example of this. I think when Samuel confronted David about his sin, using the story of the lamb, that he was also using speech. As you pointed out earlier, not all manipulation is bad.

I think the same can be true as far as homeschooling conventions are concerned. I love hearing inspirational speakers. But what I cannot abide are those who use speech in ways that manipulate the listeners into
following them rather than following Christ and His plan for their families.

  TulipGirl wrote @

Something that has been niggling at the back of my mind, really came to the forefront when listening to the most recent podcast.

Recognizing, as John Calvin said, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess—almost everything we know—can be summed up under the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves.”

As we grow in “knowledge of ourselves” and knowledge of people as a whole, we are more alert to manipulations, sales techniques, psychological vulnerabilities. . . As I think we discussed at a previous time, sometimes these things are not intended as manipulations, but still are.

Which leads me to what is troubling me. . . What about the church (or family) that is truly trying to reach out to someone in kindness and God’s love? In retrospect, it might be viewed as “love bombing”–but the motivation was not for power or manipulation, but simply to show God’s love.

Similarly, when we are not well-versed in logical fallacies and are trying to dialogue and make a point. . . The motive may be good and the technique may be persuasive, even though the soundness of the proposition is weak.

So, how can we discern truth and honorable motives? In ourselves as well as in others? How can we be aware and guarded about manipulative techniques, while recognizing that they are sometimes used by those with sound doctrine and true motives? How can we seek to communicate the truths of the Gospel winsomely, and avoid being perceived as “manipulative”?

In the podcast, you referred to the “love bombing” you experienced–but it sounded like it wasn’t calculated as much as it was. . . sincere? Even if manipulative. . .

  Cindy K wrote @

I’ve gone on a major internet diet, but I did have an opportunity to get online today for a little while…

Tulip Girl asked about how to differentiate love bombing from just genuine care and hospitality. That’s why spiritual abuse and thought reform work so very well. You really can’t readily tell until payday comes, or until you open the package of chips to see what’s really in there. In Whitlock’s Scam School that I picked up on Amazon for 1 penny (plus shipping, of course), he says that the very best scams are never identified as a scam. That’s the goal — to things so that the mark does not even ever recognized that they’ve been scammed. They walk away loving their manipulator… The process of thought reform is very effective and it is subtle. It’s hard to tell just regular everyday life from heavy duty manipulation.

Was the good Samaritan a spiritual abuser? No, because he required nothing of the man that he picked up off the road. He just did it because it was the right thing to do. Reverend Moon, the one who reportedly coined the term, said that the goal was to keep people completely full of God’s love at all times. What is terrible about this? Well, it’s the motive, something you have to figure out as the process unfolds. When pay day rolls around, then you know you’ve been bombed. And frankly, if these groups could keep up with the high level of demand and resources that love bombing requires, it probably wouldn’t be thought of as a cover-up for something less desirable.

And knowing about these techniques is definitely not a guarantee that we won’t get influenced, because that is our human nature. We’d have to check that at the door of every church which is impossible. We will get pulled into some of these things to some extent. The trick is learning how to quickly realize when stuff doesn’t add up so that you can be prepared to respond rather than react and suffer more manipulation. Love bombing will work and will be effective as long as humans have needs, and not all of meeting human needs, even in very profound ways, is wrong. Not all manipulation is wrong (what are you doing when you tell your kids not to go out of the house wearing crazy, mismatched clothes?). The proof will be in the pudding. I think the lesson to walk away with about love bombing is not to allow yourself to get too invested too quickly.

Also, another good point is the incremental change that occurs over time. People may start out with love bombing and then keep you on reserve for later. That which is required of you will be slow and gradual so that you won’t notice. I think that I’ll go post that good (and silly) Frankenstein video on my site. It’s all subtle and that’s why it works.

Love bombing works well, because it may start out very genuine and become manipulative at a later point. Manipulators are good at gauging how deeply you’ve been taken, too. They generally press you very hard until they realize how firmly they have your cooperation.

The proof is in the pudding. It is an effective method because you essentially don’t know what has been done to you until you’re pretty well entrenched in the relationship and will be unlikely to leave because you’ve become invested.

  Cindy K wrote @

Meloff wrote: I guess there is this part of me that wants to think that these pastors aren’t really intending to do these things – I guess a little like the person who doesn’t intend to beat their spouse, but just loses control – or something like that.

Good analogy, considering so many in the helping professions are what some authors describe as “flaming codependents.”

I think the minute we forget from whence we came, we are at risk to fall into these patterns. Because of what seems like universal trends in all of this, I think this is just what the religion man boils down into, whether you’re selling Amway, running a totalitarian government or a church. Sad, isn’t it? Human nature, at its best and at its worst is all about the same. How much more important for us to keep checking ourselves against the Word and its standard!

A big, big abyss in all of this is trying to figure out what exactly is going on in the head of the spiritual abuser or in the mind of a leader who has “signed on” in an existing system. Consider that they are also victims of the system and if they are a second generation follower of this, they have likely been duped better than you. What is sad is that they are likely more entrenched because of their leadership status, perhaps risking their livelihood at some point. That makes it tougher to face when your meal ticket depends on the system to some extent. Keep in mind that these folks are far more deeply invested tangibly than the follower. They’ve got a harder gravitational pull to compensate for in order to get out.

There is also a high degree of dissociation that goes on. Karen and I didn’t get to discuss this at all in the podcasts, but one of the features of those who emerge from spiritual abuse is a staggeringly high occurrance of dissociation. In order to survive psychologically, you have to start walling off parts of your conscience because of the tremendous mental stress created by the confusing system and the contradictions inherent in it all — part of that pervasive sense of knowing something doesn’t add up but you can’t describe it. You start to shut down your conscience, little by little, as a result. Dissociation is a natural response to this kind of cognitive (mental) stress which is meant to help you survive, and it’s also seen in people who have suffered terrible trauma.

Dissociation can range from you feeling “fuzzy or foggy,” and Paul Martin of the Wellspring Center says that he actually went to an allergist because he thought he had allergies. This is first stage stuff and a type of “derealization.” The next level is a degree of dissociation when people feel like the world is dreamlike to the point that they loose touch with their body. I bordered on this when I saw black when I was told about women not being permitted to teach at homegroup. (I’d essentially been doing it within two homegroups we held, but when I suggested that we formally rotate the teachings among the group we were in, I heard this message.) I was not really present in that room for a few minutes as I processed this. As is common with trauma victims, a deeper degree of this involves the conscious actually leaving the body, such as having the experience that one is floating above the scene taking place. You are there, but you see yourself outside of your body. This is depersonalization at it’s strongest degree.

It is a natural reaction to consder what the leaders ar thinking at this point (and it’s likely that they have not given any thought to what they are doing at all but are blindly following and submitting to the will and example of another leader in the group. They can’t let themselves think about things on an ethical or a deep, analytical level. Robert Lifton, after working with the Korean POWs also then studied the Nazi Doctors and wrote a book of that title. He and most everyone else in the field believe at some point, leadership experiences a deep degree of dissociation that allows this thought stopping of ethical consideration. The Nazi Doctors could inflict horror upon their vicitims and then go home and be loving and wonderful to their own. Part of this is dehumanization and redefining the value of the people they were treating, but it is believed after expert investigation of all this, that there is also a survival response of dissociation that takes place. The personality fractures and splits into different modes.

Another thing to consider and a very important consideration is that the leaders of these groups, on well-developed and statistically validated psychological assessment tools, demonstrate an impaired ethic to begin with. They generally have a high degree of entitlement and a low sense of natural empathy towards others. Abusers of other types and people with long-term PTSD show physical atrophy of these regions of the brain. (In fact, many of these very angry people demonstrate a lot of indicators of brain dysfunction in the left temporal lobe region, and some behave like they have ADD when they thrive off controversy. Defiance and confrontation fuel and stimulate blood flow to the front part of the brain which is impaired in ADD. The controversy and confrontation helps them think better. All this supports the concept that the leaders in some of these movements who are quite aggressive actually have issues of some kind of trauma or enmeshment with an overbearing parent in their own development.

So all that to say, most of these people are victims that are trying the best they can to survive. Like a drunk or a wife beater gets a neurochemical high from indulging their behavior, these guys are getting something out of spiritual abuse. And it is highly likely that they were just as put upon or more so than their followers. They are the biggest victims with a greater set of obstacles to overcome to get out from under the system.

Again, that perspective does not come overnight. That was a dilemna that I clearly have done much research on, even reading Lifton’s “Nazi Doctors” in some effort to have forgiveness and understanding for the leaders in these groups. It’s complicated stuff, but I think it’s very reasonable to say that they are victims like everyone else.

  Cindy K wrote @


I’ve worked on a couple of posts that I put online today concerning some deeper reasons why and how those in leadership positions inside spiritually abusive systems get caught up in it all. In a response here, I described a little about dissociation, but what Lifton describes is more complex. Frankly, I don’t like to think about it much and seem to always forget the correct term of “doubling.”

For further reading for anyone who is interested, take a look at these blog posts:

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