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Inspired by a BBC blog post and the #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou hashtag, here are some signs you may be in an abusive religion, based on personal experience.

1. THEY'RE OBSESSED WITH THEIR PUBLIC IMAGE

The church I was raised in spends millions on PR and big ads in Times Square. They even financed a whole feature film about how great they are, which coincidentally had the same name as an unflattering BBC documentary so as to edge it out in search engine rankings ("Meet the Mormons").

They do a token amount of charity work, but most of it's done by volunteers wearing "Mormon Helping Hands" t-shirts, not paid for by tithing money. Of course, they do spend a lot to make sure the volunteers' efforts are visible, and take credit for them.

2. THEY MAKE FUN OF YOU

Maybe you feel that they build you up, in church meetings, but note how they talk about the "worldly," the "disaffected," the "doubters." (Insert your own abusive church's terms of shame here.) Just like with other bullies, you know that you'll become the target as soon as you step out of line.

3. THEY'RE HYPERSENSITIVE BUT YOU AREN'T ALLOWED TO HAVE FEELINGS

If people left the church I was raised in, they were said to be "offended" by trivial things. If they said anything about how hurt they felt while they belonged to it, it's because they "can leave the church but can't leave it alone." Making them look bad is mean and cruel and how can you treat them like this D: but making you feel bad enough to want to commit suicide is all on you. Don't try to pin the blame on them for your emotional issues.

4. THEY USE GUILT AND SHAME TO CONTROL YOU

Especially sexual guilt (over frustration, orientation, etc.) but also the desire to have anything in your life that they disapprove of. The least successful religious abusers go on tirades about how Pokémon is of the devil; the most successful ones more subtly imply that you should feel bad for spending time on causes, things, or activities that matter to you personally, and then let your family and your own feelings of guilt do the rest.

5. THEY COMPARE YOU TO OTHERS

Along with the guilt comes so many "positive" examples, of wives, mothers, and church volunteers who gave everything up for the Gospel. Especially if one of them makes the church look good. This is a way of making you feel inadequate, and like you aren't doing enough for them.

The same things apply to abusive families, friends, coworkers, and organizations.

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We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

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