Religious Trauma destroys relationships.
The trauma of religious abuse has long-lasting effects. From loss of friendships and community to loss of trust in God, the fallout endured leaves scars. But, most painfully, at the core of all this suffering, is most commonly a fear of trusting oneself. "If I didn't see the truth the first time, how can I trust myself to see the truth the next time? If I didn't recognize his lies, how can I trust myself to recognize her lies?" And just like that, you're stuck, unable to move forward. You've not only lost your external relationships, but you've lost your relationship with yourself.
But the story doesn't end here. There is hope, and countless individuals have seen that hope fulfilled. You can rebuild, and beEmboldened can help you. Through our mentoring services, resources, and trainings, we come alongside you. We meet you right where you are in this moment, with a combination of understanding and empathy that can be hard to find. We've lived through religious trauma ourselves, and we wholeheartedly believe that you can, too.
Spiritual abuse is widespread.
Talk of spiritual abuse has become more prevalent recently, through news reporting and social media. Yet, this form of harm is far from new. Stories of spiritual abuse can be found all the way back in the Old Testament of the Bible, when kings, priests, and prophets wielded their power for their own gratification. These leaders used their authority to manipulate those under their care to feed their personal appetites for power, prestige, money, and physical comforts and desires. Their concern was not truly for those following them and obeying their direction, rather they were concerned for their own well-being.
But we can do something about spiritual abuse. We can take back ground that's been unjustly claimed by these harmful authorities. We can teach you to recognize their tactics, so you don't find yourself someplace you never intended to be–someplace that creates deep wounds. We can help you to find your voice, train you to speak up, and show you how to set healthy boundaries. As we grow, we can continue to replicate these skills until no one is left unarmed and at-risk for victimization.
Religious cults don't only exist off-the-grid.
A myth exists that cults are few and far between. That the groups who do fall into this category are hidden in the woods or the desert, never to be seen at the grocery store or coffee shop. Media has done a great job of sensationalizing the culture's view of cult activity, which unfortunately, has done us all a great disservice. As a result, society doesn't know the truth of cults–their prevalence, the typical dynamics involved, the nuances of engaging a member, or how to support an individual who has exited. Because of this, those in great need of a friend continue to feel separated from the world around them. Only now, they're not only separated from mainstream culture, they're separated from their community as well.
If you've been in a cult, you're not crazy and your experience was not your fault. Despite what some may say, indoctrination could happen to most anyone. They just don't want to believe this truth, because it's a scary truth to admit. But with proper training, everyone can become strongly equipped to recognize the red flags of harmful authoritative groups. And for those who have already suffered, we at beEmboldened ache for your pain and grieve your losses with you. We've been through it, too, and while we know the suffering, we also know the hope and the freedom. We know that healing is possible, and we'd be honored to be part of your journey forward.
Religious abuse can be prevented.
There is a metaphor used in Christianity that's taken from an actual practice in the U.S. Treasury. Trainees for the Treasury are taught to recognize real money, which then enables them to recognize counterfeit money by default. Christians say to teach authentic Christianity, and you'll be able to recognize a false teacher by default. While this is true, if done thoroughly, it's a much more daunting task that can take quite a bit of time. The Bible has a lot more going on than a dollar bill, and abusive leaders are very tricky. They know their audience and they know how to coerce their audience to get what they want. So, while you're working on learning the real deal, is there anything you can do to strengthen yourself against the wolves out there?
Absolutely. We believe that knowledge of common abusive teachings and cult recruitment practices should be foundational for everyone. Whether as part of a religious training, or simply general safety precautions, these topics are important. beEmboldened is working against dangerous recruiters and abusers by educating you on their games, so when you meet one, you'll know that something is off.
Survivors can become equipped to avoid revictimization.
Many who have been hurt by spiritual abusers–whether in mainstream churches or in a cult–step away from organized religion altogether. Some fully walk away from faith, while others choose what feels safer: to go it alone, practicing their beliefs privately. They no longer trust "community" or their own assessment of who is good and who is not. Others choose to find a new church home in hopes that they can heal and grow from their previous experience. Neither of these responses is wrong, but both of them speak to a concern for revictimization. The person remaining at home is fearful of being abused again, and the person stepping back into a communal environment may still be at risk for abuse.
It takes three main things to get your feet back under you after leaving a spiritually abusive environment: time, an understanding of what happened and how it happened, and a willingness to fully lean into the healing process. With these three things in place, your world will begin to open up again. You can live outside of fear, resting in the peace of knowing you're no longer at a high risk for harm. And that is our hope for you at bEmboldened. We want nothing more than for you to feel whole, to feel strong, to trust again, to find truth, and to embrace your ability to make choices for your life. We're here with you.
I've been in a cult my whole life and I could lose everything
I’ve had the privilege of having Naomi help me through what is the hardest decision I’ve had to make yet: leaving a cult church. Her advice, and just being there for me, have helped and are helping me stay sane and centered. For those of you wondering if you should get help: do. It will be such a relief. I’m so glad I reached out to Naomi and I’m very grateful she was willing to help me.
I needed someplace to send those who were hurting
There are few matters requiring more pastoral sensitivity than finding healing from hurtful experiences in the trust of those who supposedly there to help—including, lamentably, faith leaders. beEmboldened provides a vital ministry with mentors who serve as guides to healing and wholeness, with spiritual sensitivity and wisdom from experience. They are an inimitable support for binding up the brokenhearted, making meaning out of the incomprehensible, and finding God’s presence and peace.
I thought my elderly parents were exempt from a cultish experience
My pastor suggested I reach out to beEmboldened when I shared concerns related to my (elderly) mom's new involvement with what seemed to be a fringe religious group that had some political overtones. Naomi was a sensitive and compassionate listener with whom I could easily share. Most importantly, she helped share sound ideas for how to engage with my mom around my concerns. She was very helpful as my family found ourselves in a situation for which we felt unprepared.
I thought I could never trust again
beEmboldened is helping me see how my current thought patterns and habits have been influenced by the religious conditioning I received as a child. Working with this team has been incredibly validating and healing. Thanks to my work with beEmboldened, I’m starting to question, without guilt, the ways the rigid religion of my childhood continues to affect me and to see a path forward for a happier future.
Stories of healing, hope, and gratitude.
Your financial gifts enable us to keep working on your behalf and on the behalf of others who need our support. Religious abuse and cult trauma are major problems today, but with your giving, we can change the future narrative of those around us. Let's take back our power and put an end to spiritual exploitation.