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The Most Effective Spiritual Abuse Involves a Lot of Truth and a Little Lie

The Most Effective Spiritual Abuse Involves a Lot of Truth and a Little Lie

What would you do if you discovered a small bomb in your flower garden? You’d run. And then you’d call 911 who would, in turn, bring out a bomb technician to diffuse the bomb before it exploded. According to, “bomb technicians are highly trained explosives experts who carry out the inspection, deactivation, and safe removal of explosive devices.

Bombs hurt people. They aren’t loving. They are hateful instruments of destruction.

I’d like to argue that the worst kind of spiritual bomb is one crafted in an especially sneaky way where you take 99 parts Truth and one part Lie and mix them up together. Hard to taste the lie in all that Truth.

Satan used the words of God to tempt Adam and Eve into sinning. Satan used the words of God to torment and tempt Jesus. The Bible is his weapon of choice because it’s hard to find the lie with all those Bible verses being quoted left and right. To tell a truth with a tiny lie (I like to think of it as a glass of lemonade with a mouse turd at the bottom) is the perfect way to slip a drop of poison into the cup of authentic, life giving Truth.

So how in the world can we tell when this is happening?

Jesus. Our plumb line is always Jesus.

You hold it up to the lens of Jesus Christ. He not only loves, but HE IS LOVE. And HE IS THE GOSPEL. Anything less is anti-Jesus. The opposite of Jesus is obvious. When we see rape and murder, we know the enemy is at work. But what about when we read an article full of Bible verses? It’s a little harder to recognize.

It’s the tiny deviations from Jesus that are told with flowery spiritual words saturated with Bible verses that the enemy uses to bomb the living daylights out of God’s children. These bombs are designed to undermine the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s children, neutralizing their witness to the Gospel by crushing people with unbearable religious demands and never lifting a finger to ease the burden (Matthew 23:4).

We need to learn how to recognize these bombs and diffuse them in our own lives and, for the sake of the Gospel, in the lives of others.

I’ve seen hundreds of lives shattered in profound ways because of “Bible Bombs.” The Pharisees built this kind of bomb, and Jesus had nothing good to say about them. He had words of compassion for every other sinner. But not the Pharisees. They were “broods of vipers.”

The Most Effective Spiritual Abuse Involves a Lot of Truth and a Little Lie

The Most Effective Spiritual Abuse Involves a Lot of Truth and a Little Lie

Someone recently messaged me about a article she read. It was a big glass of lemonade, and she could taste the mouse turd at the bottom, but she couldn’t see it. She wanted me to take a look and let her know what I thought.

This particular article was called “We Can’t Grieve However We Want.”  From the title alone I could tell I was in the presence of a mouse turd Bible bomb. I’m going to attempt to inspect it, deactivate it, and safely remove it from your glass of lemonade so you can be free to unburden yourself and rest in Jesus and His love and compassion for you. Because your grief matters to Him. Your heart matters to Him. Plus your lemonade will taste better.

After just reading the title, a dearly beloved child of God might safely ask “Why? Why can’t I grieve however I want to, Father?” (As if HOW you grieve is something you have a lot of control over in the first place.) This is a valid, human question, but having been steeped in religious propaganda my entire life, I can confidently tell you that this religious mindset would immediately shame you for asking that question by saying, “Who are you to question God’s Word?” Even though God’s Word doesn’t tell us that there are hard and fast rules for grieving in the first place.

You have to remember that just because a pastor or religious man writes an article doesn’t mean the Spirit of Jesus is in it, even if they write “Spirit saturated” a half dozen times. All the isolated Bible verses throw you off balance. But stay focused on Jesus. You are actually questioning a religious ascetic philosophy. Not the Word of God. Always remember that JESUS IS THE WORD OF GOD.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

John 1:1-3

Does this writer know he is successfully doing this? I doubt it. I don’t think he’s purposely deceiving anyone. I think he is well-intentioned but deceived by the same propaganda I used to buy into. He’s probably trying to do his best to spread what he believes to be true. But just because drinks this lemonade doesn’t mean you have to.

For those who are experienced in grieving, the title might also cause you to wonder “Do I even get a choice in how I grieve? Is grief controllable and containable and analyzable like that?”

Almost immediately after reading just the title alone, you may realize that deep within your being, you feel shamed. Because if you’re a human being, and if you’ve experienced loss, you’ve also experienced what it is to be lost in a tsunami of grief where you feel turned upside down and inside out. And now you are finding out from someone you assume is telling you God’s Truth that perhaps it is something you COULD have controlled and even SHOULD have controlled. But you didn’t. Shame presses you under its oppressive weight.

But you love Jesus and want to honor God, and you believe this website is a spiritually healthy site that will help you find relief from your shame. You decide you need to read the article and find out all the do’s and don’ts and then set to work on the proper doing and don’ting “for the glory of God” and all.

Step back and notice how you are taking your first sip simply because you think you HAVE TO. You’ve been shamed into it! The bomb’s timer has already been triggered, and now it’s just a matter of time before you are in shreds. Can I just say here that I really despise shaming titles? Only in the Christian world will you find that a shaming title actually works as click-bait. Ah, how we humans cling to our familiar chains.

The article starts with the story of the author’s own grief over losing a child. He is experienced in grief, so we let our guard down. He knows what it is like. He has walked through it. We can immediately relate to him.

Then he attacks an idea that he labels as “popular psychology.” It’s the idea that “there is no right or wrong way to grieve.” Hmmm. We thought this was true, but now we suspect it since it has been attributed to “pop psych” which has already been damned by these same people as contrary to the Word of God. That “pop psych is bad” foundation has been laid in other articles and in other places.

I grew up hearing about how deceptive “pop psychology” was to a Christian. It was a blanket statement that ignored science, statistics, brain studies, medicine, and a host of other important factors that make our world go round. Factors set in motion by God, Himself. But let’s just lump it all under the term “pop psychology” and brainwash Christians to think it’s evil. Maybe this author grew up hearing that propaganda too. Maybe he doesn’t know any better. Regardless, he criticizes the idea that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. He argues that there is, indeed, a right way to grieve and a wrong way to grieve. And he’s going to tell us. With some Bible verses.

Before I get into his arguments, I want to point out that the statement “there is no right or wrong way to grieve” is simply to say that everyone grieves differently and moves through the grief process differently and on a different time schedule. Grief cannot be broken down into neat stages with clear boundary lines that mark the beginning and ending of each stage. There are as many ways to grieve as there are individuals who do it and as there are losses to grieve over. This is just a common sense, observable fact of life for anyone with any life experience at all under their belt. But when he labels it “pop psychology” he makes it sound evil. I say poppycock to that. 

This author, as all fundamentalists do, insists on marking out the perimeters and setting up the rules. That feels safe. You can easily see who is “in” and who is “out” that way. It’s also easy to tell if you, yourself, are right or wrong. If you are accepted or unaccepted. All you have to do is obey the rules, and all is well. You can feel good about your performance. You have something to strive for and reach. That’s why there’s such an emphasis on right and wrong along with a morbid focus on your sin in these circles. Wherever you see this focus, you will be hard pressed to find the actual gospel present, no matter how many times the word “gospel” is used.

The problem is that the rules are always changing depending on which fundie you’re talking to. Heck, I didn’t know there WERE rules for grieving until this guy created them and wrote an article about it. I used to live immersed in rules and regulations, and it was a dizzying, weary existence. I couldn’t keep up with it all, and it left me despairing. Now when I read articles like this, my personal despair is replaced with anger toward the enemy for deceiving the author, his family, and every aching soul who reads the article. And I hope one day Jesus will set them free from the shame of their sin and their failure to keep all their own rules. Including the one about how to grieve the correct way.

The verse he quotes is 1 Thess. 4:13-14. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

This verse isn’t super complicated. It’s saying “Christian, when someone you love dies, know that it’s not really the end of them. There is a resurrection coming. This gives us HOPE!”

It doesn’t even address other kinds of grief, like the grief you have when you are betrayed or cheated on or raped or lied to. Or the grief you have when you lose your job or your home burns down or you lose a limb.

So to say that this verse is communicating “THERE IS A RIGHT WAY TO GRIEVE” is a real stretch, in my opinion. It’s reading into the Scripture what God didn’t put there. That’s not loving, and it isn’t truthful. It’s what Satan did and does. When we do that, we are crafting a Bible bomb. Let’s not do that to one another, and let’s certainly not do that in the Name of Jesus. Sheesh. That’s a double win for the enemy. Shame God’s children and blaspheme His Name all in one fell swoop. SCORE!

This next section requires a close look. The author says:

I’m sure those who say there’s no wrong way to grieve truly want to comfort the hurting, but the reality is that we who suffer innocently are not immune to responding sinfully to our pain. We sin in our grief when we use it as an excuse not to love God or those around us, when we complain against God or neglect the people and responsibilities he has called us to.

Pain does not justify sin; only Christ can justify sinners. And in Christ, there is a greater comfort available to the heartbroken than handing us over as slaves to our own emotions.

Notice the focus here? When you are finished reading this section, what are you thinking about? Jesus?

Nope. His name (or God) is used four times, it’s true. But here’s the focus:

  • We respond sinfully. (Shame on you!)
  • We sin in our grief. (Shame on you!)
  • We use our grief as an excuse not to love God or others. (Shame on you!)
  • We complain against God. (Shame on you!)
  • We neglect the people and responsibilities He has called us to. (Shame on you!)
  • We assume our pain justifies our sin. (Shame on you!)
  • We succumb as slaves to our emotions. (Shame on you!)

Wowzer Bowzer. Are you experiencing the rest and peace of Christ at this moment? I guarantee the only humanoids who are not experiencing a rush of shame and guilt-tripping-ala-through-the-tulips are the narcs and sociopaths of the church. Everyone else is examining themselves with deep dismay as they realize they’re not only drowning in grief, but their hearts are big ugly sores of sin to boot! SHAME. ON. YOU!

Where is Jesus? Where is His compassion and love? Who is laying their weary head on His shoulder while this religious writer (who maybe also struggles with a great deal of shame) takes his pen and hits them over and over in the face?

I read through the gospel of John over 20 times in a row one year, and I never saw Him do or say anything like this to anyone. Ever. This was the OPPOSITE of His attitude toward the hurting.

The gospel isn’t about spending our days digging into our belly buttons for sin fluff. It’s about being set FREE FROM OUR SIN. When a person is set free, sin is no longer their focus. They are FREE to move out into life without the paralyzing fear of “doing it all wrong.”

When a person is in chains, that’s all they can focus on. This is how you can differentiate between a heart set free and one that isn’t. I want your heart to be set free to rest in the grace of Jesus Christ and DO all He has called you to do in fearless confidence and trust, because THAT is going to get you through the dark days of grief.

When your child gets hit and killed by a drunk driver, do you really believe that God is condemning you if you swear and pull your hair out and question His goodness? If your faith falters and fails through a season? Do you really believe that Jesus expects His creatures to be perfect in their grieving? Who has ever been able to do that? And must we wallow in our frailty? Is this how we glorify God and His creation of us? God knows we are dust. Do we? To believe we must rise above that in our grief is to arrogantly believe we CAN. That we are LIKE GOD and can be perfect. This is satanic.

When your husband leaves you for another woman, and you have no financial recourse and are left destitute and scrambling to make ends meet while raising the five kids you had, and you can’t practice hospitality because you are living in a two bedroom apartment exhausted and barely holding it together, must you also feel guilt and shame for “neglecting others.” For not volunteering in your church nursery?

When your friends and family and church betray you because you stood against evil and spoke the truth about abuses that you experienced, and you go into a depression and struggle with flashbacks and blackouts and headaches and stomach issues because your anxiety and fear and sorrow are so intense you feel nothing but pain in every pore of your being, must you repent for being a “slave to your emotions?”

Is that the Jesus we see in the Word of God?  Where is the mercy and compassion and understanding? If this author doesn’t have it, why should we believe anything he claims in the name of Jesus?

Do you see the bomb in this article? It’s that you are a bad little girl or boy for anything you may have done in your grief that wasn’t PERFECT. And you ought to be pen-slapped in the face, you dirty rotten sinner. And (here’s the bomb…) GOD SAYS SO. In other words, ALL THIS PEN-SLAPPING IS FROM GOD TO YOU.


Devastating. Shredded. Human. Lives.

But we’ll plant a pretty flower on top of the carnage and call it a day.

I want to look at one more thing about this article. He quotes John Piper (of course – because IS the propaganda brain child of John Piper) as saying this:

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.

Doesn’t that sound spiritual? Can you imagine saying this to a 13-year-old girl after her father has just had his way with her? What kind of banal, disconnected-to-reality, cliche-saturated crap is this? But these people think this has some kind of meaning in the real world. Please, please don’t think you have to take this stuff seriously. The emperor has no clothes.

You guys, here’s the bottom line. Who is Jesus? Get to know Him. When you know Him, you’ll be able to see through the pretty lemonade to the mouse turd at the bottom. When you read an article, do you feel a sense of hope? Do you feel loved? Do you feel seen and heard? Do you feel your burden lifted? Do you sense His presence, and does it compel you to lay your head on HIs shoulder and rest?

When we believe we can live perfectly, eat perfectly, love perfectly, write perfectly, preach perfectly, raise children perfectly, have perfect emotions, or GRIEVE perfectly, we are doing what Satan did. We are trying to be like God. Stop it. You will never do it perfectly. Your hope doesn’t lie in how well you grieve. Your hope lies in Jesus Christ. He is your perfection. You get to be a child of God. And He loves all His messy, very human children. Just as you are. Any other message is a lie from hell.

Fly Free,


Flying Free Sisterhood

An online coaching, education, and support community for women of faith in destructive relationships.

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The Comments

  • Avatar
    Diane Marie Mitchell
    February 16, 2024

    As a woman who has left a fundamental Christian cult, I relate to every word in this article. Grieving is a huge part of me walking away from a high-control, legalistic group because I lost myself to belong to them. Then I had to find Jesus and me again after I left. Very helpful article for where I am at in my grieving. Thank you !!!

  • A Letter From an Abuser Who Wants to Keep His Wife Under His Thumb -
    December 2, 2020

    […] weeks ago I asked for sample letters from abusers and their supporters in order to expose the mouse turds at the bottom of those tall glasses of delicious looking lemonade they’re always handing […]

  • Avatar
    January 23, 2020

    I know you are trying the best you can to help others feel better through their grief and thank you for being there for others. But I noticed how angry and resentful you were getting toward the person who wrote that other article. Also I noticed that what you were writing sounded like you were teaching other Christian’s that they are allowed to act how they want even if its sinning against God and it would be ok. It doesnt say in the Bible that when you grieve just act how you want. I have grieved over so many tragedies in my whole life and held onto my relationship with Christ through it all. I know I’m not perfect but I also know that God wants me to be responsible for my own behavior. These days satan is teaching people and christians that they are allowed to be as rebellious against God as they want as long as they are happy. Everywhere I look these days I see mouse turds.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Bethany
      January 23, 2020

      I think you missed the point of the article, and I hope one day you will be able to live and laugh and breathe in the grace of Jesus Christ. I’m not angry or resentful at the person who wrote that article (incidentally, you don’t get to decide how other people feel – that violates the boundaries of another person), but I’m definitely angry about the message in that article. I’m angry because it paints a picture of an abuser God, and Jesus isn’t abusive. I was critiquing a message that I strongly believe is a lie from hell. People don’t make me mad. But lies sure as hell do.

  • Avatar
    Rebecca Davis
    April 3, 2019

    This is painful and beautiful. Thank you. The New Testament makes His love for us clear, and we follow Him.

  • Avatar
    April 2, 2019

    Very very good .

  • Avatar
    April 1, 2019

    I am uniquely positioned to see that this doesn’t pass the sniff test. You see, I too lost a child. I have had 15 years to process the devastating, life altering experience of burying a newborn.

    I too once thought there were right and wrong ways to grieve. Thankfully the Lord brought along wiser and gentler friends, who taught me not to be my own bully… or let anyone else bully me either.

    Yes, there are times our grief can be helped by seeking out others. And there are times where our job is to let others fulfill the commands of scripture, by bearing our burdens. And in time we’ll be strong enough to help them with theirs.

    The guilt trip is unnecessary and utterly unhelpful.
    As you said, look to Christ. My pastor gave me a book called “The Sympathy of Christ” by Octavius Winslow. Yes, it’s Puritan, and contains archaic language. You know what it doesn’t contain? The mouse turds of man made rules about how to grieve. It’s about Christ, and it’s beautiful.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Kat
      April 1, 2019

      Thank you for sharing your own story of heartache and the things it taught you about God and people. That was beautiful. (I lost a baby girl 26 years ago as well. My first baby. Devastating experience.)

  • Avatar
    April 1, 2019

    Thankyou so much.

  • Avatar
    April 1, 2019

    I love how you express truth with a visible object lesson. Who wouldn’t shudder at finding a mouse turd in the bottom of their lemonade? And we all ought to shudder at the bondage of shame foisted on us by the “holy ones”. Ugh.

    thanks for this.

  • Avatar
    Lorraine Roe
    April 1, 2019

    Thank you for your article! Very encouraging!Yes our Jesus is full of compassion and tenderness towards us always! We have to always be on guard, always aware of the stinken religious spirits that come our way!

  • Avatar
    April 1, 2019

    Thank you for your boldness in exposing the lies planted with pretty flowers on top of the carnage here! When I read the quoted words of this man’s article, my stomach immediately felt sick- and then anger arose. In my opinion, his words say, “squelch every bit of your God given emotions and natural responses to grief, trauma, and loss… that’s right! Shove all of those God given things into the closet so you can put on the face of a happy Christian servant. Someone who neglects herself entirely in order to play the role she is expected to play in front of the crowd.” Yuck! Vomit! Disgusting. Our emotions have absolute purpose! They are not ‘wrong.’ “Be angry and sin not.” Anger is not wrong. Hurt is not wrong. What IS wrong is someone telling us that we need to ignore the very mechanisms God instilled within us to promote healing, health and wholeness in Christ. They are there on purpose.

    Thank you, Natalie for exposing the lie. I am so sick of all the emporers without clothes. May all the pretty flowers planted on top of the carnage be uprooted, and the carnage exposed. And perhaps in the meanwhile Jesus will help us to plant those tulips and wildflowers and roses in the fertile soil of His all surpassing love instead. They never would have survived otherwise.

  • Avatar
    Karla Fultz
    April 1, 2019

    Oh my goodness!!! This is the most poignant, well-written, revealing, bomb-dismantaling article I have EVER read!!! Natalie, your metaphors, word choice, and passion here completely blow me away. Thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to write this through you. Wow!!! It really spoke to my heart in such a crystal clear way.

  • Avatar
    April 1, 2019

    Your insight is incredible. It’s so easy to gloss over these things and accept them as “normal”. I’m at the point where I’m just starting to be able to even have the energy to search for truth in what I hear/read. For many years I was walking in a daze, just trying to survive emotionally day to day. I appreciate your ministry to those of us coming along after you.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Robyn
      April 1, 2019

      Thank you. I’m honored to dig into this stuff with you. I pray it sets all of us free to accept the love Jesus has for us with no strings attached.

  • Avatar
    Katherine A. Clemons
    April 1, 2019

    Thank you for opening up the truth. I feel like reading those shaming, perfectionist blogs puts me into a deep, dark hole, and you just opened the window and let light and fresh air in. I can breathe again!

  • Avatar
    April 1, 2019

    Thank you so much for this, Natalie! I’ve struggled my entire life trying to be the perfect (fill in the blank – Christian, mother, daughter, wife, etc….) and I never feel like I have once gotten it right. Guilt has been my constant companion so even one year ago, that article would have set me back and burdened me with even more guilt. I was the single mother whose husband left her with a two year old, the mortgage to a new home, a load of debt and all the shame that goes along with a failed marriage. He moved ahead with his ‘soulmate’ while I struggled to sell the new house, work a full time job, put dinner on the table and still make sure my son wasn’t hurt by his father’s departure. I will never forget the hateful words of one of the ‘Christian’ women at my church who criticized me for not working in VBS. My entire life exploded and for some reason she thought I should be able to just trust Jesus, keep smiling and work at VBS. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and die. Her criticism caused me a great deal of guilt and shame – if I were the ‘right’ kind of Christian, I should have been thinking of others instead of myself. Thank you again, for dissecting the lies of the enemy. I am learning to leave so much of that guilt and shame behind because of you and this website. Thank you! XOXO

  • Avatar
    Karen Goodwin
    April 1, 2019

    Aw, man! Did you have to go and make me cry on my lunch hour?

    Seriously, though. Thank you for reminding me that I can quit trying to be perfect, that the Lord loves me just as I am.