Disillusionment is defined as disenchantment, a freeing or a being freed from illusion or conviction.

A common response to spiritual abuse, being damaged or hurt by a church, or even just dealing with significant conflict within a church or with church leaders is dealing with feelings of disillusionment. You thought the church or the people were different than they now seem and you are left asking questions if you want anything to do with them or any other church or person with those beliefs. You may not even be sure what you believe any longer.

Disillusionment, disenchantment, and other similar thoughts and feelings are not wrong. Being honest about feeling them is an important part of coming to terms with what has happened and working through it. It is important to be honest about your feelings and how they show themselves in your thoughts. Taking a hard look at them and working through to the roots of what is behind it will lead to real healing and hope.

Finally, we lose our wrong ideas of God in church. (Thank God!) What makes this so difficult is how much we invested of our lives into a certain way of following Jesus, into certain applications equivocal truths, only to realize much of it was foolishness or perhaps even wrong.  We feel betrayed by a church tradition, a leader, or even God himself.  We realize God truly is much larger and more incomprehensible than we thought.  We lose or allusions about this new family of Jesus, the church.  It is not a perfect family with perfect people as we expected.  In fact people disappoint us.  At times, we are bewildered and shocked by their lack of awareness and sin (evil). Every person who lives in community with other believers, sooner or later, experiences the disillusionment and grief that accompanies it. (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero)

I have been told that it is very typical for people who have been abused to take 5-7 years to return to a church after they have been hurt, and many times they only become marginally involved. Some people choose to walk away from their faith, organized religion, or anything similar to where they were hurt all together. I have heard some people say they are willing to return, but had to choose a church style that was quite opposite from where they were hurt. There is no single right answer to any of those decisions and it will depend on the people and the situations involved to determine what is right in each case.

Disillusionment is a loss.  It is that dreadful time of sorrow when you grieve the death of dreams and visions of what could have been.  And it is that lonely period of mourning the death of relationships with those who once were among your closest friends and coworkers in pursuing the big, exciting dreams the captured your heart.  Except for the physical death of a loved one, I don’t know if there is a pain that is sharper or more penetrating than this wound to the heart.  Fortunately for us it is a process that will end, and there is a wonderful place of tenderness on the other side if we have the courage and will to face the anguish along the way. (Cages of Pain by Gordon Aeschliman)

Disillusionment can lead to some deep and difficult soul searching, but it can be very good. The question is how to respond to the disillusionment. As Sarah Cunningham states, there is a hopeful way to look at it and I hope each of us can get there in our own times of struggle and then can turn to others and help them. “Disillusionment with the way things are in the church can also inspire us to improve and deepen our involvement in Christ’s mission.” (Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation by Sarah Cunningham)

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