I have been in and observed spiritually abusive situations. I think this diagram generally represents most of them. I can identify with all of them. You?
I have entrusted myself, willingly, to leaders I admired. Even loved. I wanted to serve them, help them, and further their ministry. I believed in it. I was on board, on the same page, riding the same bus to the same destination. I voluntarily and enthusiastically signed up.
I have also entrusted myself to leaders because I felt that I should. They were my pastors or my teachers or my leaders. Sometimes even my bosses. I agreed to the terms and conditions and, because it was the right thing to do and because I was being paid by them, I therefore submitted myself to their authority.
I have also entrusted myself to leaders because I didn’t feel that I had a choice at the time. The situation was so complicated and my family or friends were so enmeshed in the system and I was so enmeshed with my family or friends that I couldn’t see a way to extricate myself from it all. The best way that I could see my way through at the time was to stay, not rock the boat, and wait for the prime opportunity when it presented itself to get the heck out of there.
This is all from my perspective. But the other ingredient is the leader’s belief that he can use that trust I’ve given to do to me whatever he thinks is necessary to get me to do what he wants or, in extreme cases, what he believes God wants me to do. My willingness to entrust myself overlaps with his belief that he can use that trust in his favor for his ends is the land of abuse.
In every case you have a choice. Each one has its own difficulties with leaving. Each one can be profoundly traumatic. Each one will inflict a wound that will develop into a scar that might stay with you for the rest of your life. But in each one, I repeat, you have a choice. One might be more difficult for you than the other to leave, but you still have a choice.