Portrait of an Emotional Abuser: The Preacher

Carl knew it was coming. The real question was how long it would last. Depending on what kind of day his dad was having, it could be a few minutes or a half hour. If he didn’t have to bring back his progress report signed by a parent, he wouldn’t even have showed him his grades. Carl might have asked his mother to sign, but he knew her response would be, “Show your father.” Might as well get it over with.

Carl shifted from foot to foot as he stood by the kitchen table watching his father read over his grades and teachers’ comments. His father was silent for quite a while as he read over the report. That wasn’t a good sign. Great, though Carl, just what I need.

Fifteen minutes later the “sermon” was over and Carl was released. His legs and back ached from having to stand still and listen to all the reasons he had disappointed his father, his family, his teachers, even God.

Preachers have a sermon for everything you do. Preachers are used to controlling and manipulating people by their words. Often they love to hear themselves talk. They don’t so much communicate with other people as preach at them. They can be compelling and charismatic, and often they invoke religious themes in their speeches. They use these “sermons” as a way to pontificate on the faults of the person specifically and the world in general.

Any small infraction, to preachers, has earth-shattering implications. Their words and messages are grandiose and meant to make the listener feel contrite and moldable. Invoking the name of God in their speeches reinforces the “rightness” of their point of view. It also makes it impossible to argue with them, for arguing with them equals arguing with God.

Unfortunately, like any other type of emotional abuse, “preaching” can lead to guilt and shame.

The above is excerpted from chapter 4 in Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Dr. Gregory Jantz.

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About Dr. Gregory Jantz

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc., in Seattle, Washington. He is also the author of more than 20 self-help books - on topics ranging from eating disorders to depression - most recently a book on raising teenagers: "The Stranger In Your House." Married for 25 years to his wife, LaFon, Dr. Jantz is the proud father of two sons, Gregg and Benjamin.