The most powerful of all unspoken rules in the abusive system is what we have already termed the “can’t-talk” rule. The “can’t-talk” has this thinking behind it: “The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change; so it must be protected behind walls of silence (neglect) or by assault (legalistic attack). If you speak the problem out loud, you are the problem. In some way you must be silenced or eliminated.”
Those who do speak out are most often told, “We didn’t have all these problems until you started shooting your mouth off. Everything was fine before you started stirring things up.” Or else, to make it sound really spiritual, “You were angry [or bitter]–you didn’t confront the matter in a ‘loving’ way. So it proves you weren’t handling the matter in a mature, Christian manner.” In either case, the problem remains.
The truth is, when people talk about problems out loud they don’t cause them, they simply expose them.
In abusive spiritual systems, there exists a “pretend peace”–what Jeremiah decried, saying, “The prophets say ‘peace, peace’ when there is none.” If what unites us is our pretending to agree, even though we don’t agree, then we have nothing more than pretend peace and unity, with undercurrents of tension and backbiting. This is far from “preserving unity and peace in the Holy Spirit,” which is to be the hallmark of healthy Christian churches. That is to say, any topic should be open for discussion, and on some points we may agree to disagree and to continue open dialogue on the subject, both parties willing; or we may both agree to suspend discussion for a time if it raises tension. The important point is that both parties be involved in forming the agreement. If what unites us is truly the Holy Spirit and love for one another, then it is possible to disagree and it will not destroy our unity.
The “can’t talk” rule, however, blames the person who talks, and the ensuing punishments pressure questioners into silence.
~page 68, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church (David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen)