Summary: Have you ever had the "shame dogs" sicced upon you by a preacher? What is the power of shame? Why is it not biblical?

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Week 2 – Spiritual Abuse – Shame Systems

Power is always at the source of every conflict, every control mechanism and every abuse issue. Power is at the heart of parent-child conflict, husband-wife argument, and just about every war that has been fought.

Children are born and at just a few weeks, they raise their arms to their parents while lying in bed. We see that as communication and it is…it says, “Meet my needs.” In this case, the powerless is using the only method he or she has to ask one more powerful to meet his or her needs. We all learn how to do this. And we willingly meet loved one’s needs because we love them. So when does this move from love to abuse, from service to power grabbing?

Lets look at each of our needs for power: We might call it “empowerment” or “self-actualization” – but we all struggle with who will control our lives. Interestingly, when we marry, we willingly give up part of the power of our own lives and give it to another person. When we have children, we surrender power or control over parts of our lives to give them to our children’s needs. The challenge is that there is a slow creep into our lives of that insatiable desire to not just control our own lives, both others as well. Every one of us, whether with our peers, parents or our children…we perform a variety of ploys to get our way and/or to get others to do our bidding.

Some of it is blatant manipulation, other times it is more subtle. We may use emotional blackmail, guilt, brute power, humiliation, shame, bargaining, or even threats. Children become quite adept at using these tools as well, sometimes they learn them by watching their parents. Other times, they simply develop them through trial and error because they finally found something that works. Power games begin with children at about 12-15 months of age and really escalate, especially when the child hits around 24 months…or as most parents call it, the “terrible two’s.”

With teenagers, their behavior is less about rebellion and more a statement about the desire to become or exercise independence. Teens find that they desire more and more control over their own lives as they begin to grow adult brains and bodies, and their parents try to hold them back, knowing what a terrible quagmire adult life is. It seems that we are in a hurry to grow up until we get there and then we wish we could return to our youth.

We are speaking here today and last week about the abuse of power– in this case, religious abuse which has at its root a subtle motive of disempowering someone else, of reducing their dependency upon God and increasing their dependency upon someone or something else. Abuse is damaging. And as in every form of abuse, there is a natural side to it as well as a religious side. Today we will examine something called shame.


1. Shame – what it is/isn’t

2. Shame – where did it come from?

3. Shame – what does it do, how does it happen, what it feels like, who does it.

4. Shame – where is the cure?

“Why do I feel like Hiding?” – (Genesis 3) – Shame

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