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Reflections on Ethics 54
Abuse Destroys Souls

by: Gordon Wayne

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Human nature cannot blossom under physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual abuse because abuse destroys the creative, constructive potential in human nature. Abuse is like a gardener growing vegetables and stomping on the garden, destroying the tenderest, most succulent plants, leaving only the toughest, most inedible plants. Abusive behavior has the nasty consequence of destroying a person’s creative, constructive potential so that only the destructive, negative potential can survive. Anybody who engages in abuse behavior or knowingly ignores abuse, especially those with the authority to intervene, is destroying a human’s spirit.

Physical abuse covers assaults against a person’s body, though we should note that all physical abuse leads to serious psychological problems. Psychological abuse covers assaults against a person’s emotional being while intellectual abuse covers assaults against a person’s mind. Technically, all abuse is spiritual abuse because the human spirit manifests its potential through a person’s physical, psychological, and intellectual facets. Therefore, anything that sabotages a person’s physical, psychological, and intellectual development also damages their spirituality.

Abuse covers any recurring behavior causing injury to another’s body, mind, heart, or soul without permitting the necessary time for healing. Physical abuse covers recurrent assaults against another’s body, though we should note that persistent physical abuse leads to serious psychological problems. Psychological abuse covers persistent attacks against a person’s emotional being while intellectual abuse covers repeated assaults against a person’s intellect. Technically, all abuse is spiritual abuse because the human soul manifests its creative potential through a person’s physical, psychological, and intellectual facets. Therefore, any recurring behavior that sabotages another’s physical, psychological, and intellectual development also sabotages their spiritual development, thus, damaging their soul.

Abuse, especially during childhood, leaves recipients psychologically and spiritually scarred for life. Targets of physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual abuse frequently spend decades as adults recovering from the abuse they suffered during their childhood. Many cope with their invisible injuries by punishing themselves, engaging in self-destructive behaviors, while others alleviate the anguish by becoming abusers, destroying another generation of human souls. One way or another, abuse, especially during the formative years, destroys the human spirit, preventing recipients from reaching their full creative, constructive potential.

Abusers typically choose targets who are vulnerable, weak, insecure, or lacking knowledge, experience, and confidence. They also choose places where they can conceal their activities, being especially fond of organizations that discourage members from questioning authority. Such organizations typically chastize subordinates who dare to question the actions of superiors rather than investigating the allegations fully. These organizations prefer chastising accusers long before they even think about disciplining the abuser, a practice that obviously discourages victims from speaking out against their abusers.

Unfortunately, sometimes these organizations are religious institutions, and the abusers are priests, whom the religious organization shields. Unless the accusations of misconduct threaten the institution’s credibility, these churches refuse to search for the absolute truth. Apparently, these religious organizations value spiritual hypocrisy more than they value genuine spiritual development. Consequently, they try to cover up allegations, chastising the victims while defending the abuser’s reputation rather than searching for the truth that leads to spiritual enlightenment.

Although traditional dogma brags about saving souls, any religion that knowingly permits abusers to operate under their roof or chastises victims for revealing the truth is not saving souls. Per contra, that church becomes a house for the destruction of human souls rather than a sanctuary for spiritual development. Whenever any religious institution deliberately conceals, tolerates, ignores, condones, protects, or defends any form of abuse, that organization is guilty of aiding the malicious destruction of a human soul.

Instead of passive complicity in perpetuating this form of spiritual destruction, religious organizations should conscientiously devote themselves to abating the frequency of abuse. Religion should help both abusers and victims, providing information about identifying abuse, instructions for informing the proper authorities, and directories of professional therapists. They can also establish transparent authority structures so abusers cannot conceal their wicked deeds behind the mask of piety and raise funds so victims and abusers can find professional help. Although religion will never eradicate this problem entirely, they can help reduce the frequency of abuse rather than perpetuating this form of spiritual destruction by ignoring the issue.

Omniscience probably understood the devastating consequences of physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual abuse long ago, and patiently waited for finite intellects to appreciate the consequences. Dictators will never understand the destructiveness of abuse because their egocentric ambition is preserving their power, which many achieve using abusive behavior. Theologians could understand the devastating spiritual consequences of abuse if they studied the work of psychologists and social workers. Clergy could also understand the spiritual consequences if they truly empathized to victims rather than struggling to deny the problem exists.