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How narcissists, emotional, spiritual, and financial abusers have taken sanctuary in the church

How narcissists, emotional, spiritual, and financial abusers have taken sanctuary in the church, and how we as the church needs to rise up and be a refuge for the abused based on Psalm 82:2-4

It is a sad reality that some individuals who are narcissistic, emotionally abusive, spiritually abusive, or financially abusive have found refuge in the church. These individuals often use their perceived power and influence to control and manipulate others, particularly women and children. This behavior is not only morally grievous but also contradicts the teachings of Christ.

The church, as the body of Christ, has a responsibility to recognize and address such abusive behavior, to provide sanctuary for the abused, and to support their recovery. Church leaders and congregants should follow Psalm 82:2-4, which reads:

"How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

God calls us to stand up for what is right, to defend those who are weak and vulnerable, and to speak out against injustice. The church needs to be a safe haven for victims of abuse, a place where they can find solace, comfort, and healing.

For this to happen, church leaders must first educate themselves and the church community on the various forms of abuse and their effects on the victim’s spiritual and emotional wellbeing. They should work with trauma-informed coaches who specialize in narcissistic abuse and organizations that specialize in abuse to develop protocols that will help them recognize and respond appropriately to reports of abuse. Narcissistic and emotional abuse is not a marriage problem. It’s a spiritual problem. And it can’t be fixed with counseling. In fact, marital counseling often makes this type of abuse worse since narcissists are so skilled at manipulation and they know exactly how to play most counselors into their schemes which ends up backfiring on their victims.

The church must also adopt a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of abuse, with clear and consistent consequences for any perpetrator caught engaging in abusive behavior. Additionally, church leaders must be willing to listen to and believe the victims when they come forward, instead of victim-shaming or minimizing their experiences.

By taking these steps, the church can become a sanctuary for the abused, a place where they can freely express themselves, find support, and ultimately overcome the abuse. This, in turn, will help restore the faith of those who may have lost trust in the church due to its enabling of abusers.

In my personal experience & professional practice I have seen how many have suffered secondary abuse by being invalidated & told to just pray more, fast more, submit more, & to feed the ego of abusers while nothing is said to abusers. Oh, and did I mention victims are even encouraged to lie & cover up the abuse by having Scriptures used against them when they try to stand up or have boundaries? This results in the victim (most often women, but can be men as well) & their children to feel betrayed & unprotected by the one place that was meant to be a refuge for them. Sadly, I've witnessed how this drives the victims & their children away from God. Many are fearful to ever return because of that pain. I consistently work with clients who are having to rebuild their faith after these types of experiences. Some have lost their children from the faith who say they will never return to the place they feel enabled their abuser.

"but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Matt. 18:6

Narcissists are charming & skilled at manipulating others in leadership and counselors. Specialized training & Biblical discernment is essential to seeing through their facade. Church leadership has many responsibilities & therefore need the assistance of those who specialize in narcissistic abuse to prevent further trauma & deception.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." John 10:10

I occasionally hear others complaining about the overuse of the word "narcissist" & I get it. Some use it loosely. However, that doesn't invalidate the truth and seriousness of its existence. If you haven't experienced it, I'm happy for you. I'm glad you don't know what that horrific and devastating pain feels like. But please stop gaslighting those who have suffered something you haven't. It’s cruel and at the very least a lack of compassion.

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." 2 Tim. 3:1-5

“ And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:28-32

I understand the desire to protect the institution of marriage. That is my desire as well. I love the institution of marriage and being a wife! But we can’t put numbers of marriage vs divorce over the safety of women & children. Many use the argument of “God hates divorce” from Malachi 2:16 (which is actually not the complete translation, but we’ll save that for another day) as their defense - as though God doesn’t hate women and children being abused even more.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed," Luke 4 :18

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;" Is. 61:1

In conclusion, it is time for the church to rise up and fulfill its calling by defending the weak and the oppressed, and by upholding justice and righteousness. Some churches, my home church included, are now implementing programs that provide training and accountability for men to be strong men of God but that direct their strengths in the Biblical protective and providing manner instead of controlling, abusive ways over the vulnerable. By providing programs like these and partnering with trauma informed coaches that specialize in narcissisitc abuse, together, we can work towards creating a better, safer, and more inclusive church community that reflects God's love and compassion for all his people.

Connie Diffenderfer, BSN, RN, NC-BC, BC-MHC

Certified Narcissistic Abuse Specialist

Certified Trauma Informed

Certified Christian Mental Health Coach via American Academy of Christian Counselors

Level 3 Certified Brainspotting Practitioner

If you are ready to break free, heal, and overcome in Him, please reach out to me so that I can create a package unique to your needs and situation.

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