The tactic I call "Never Quite Enough" is, essentially, a variation on the old carrot on a stick idea. It can be used in a church by the leaders or at home by parents.
In the church setting, it goes like this.
First, you are told what wonderful things are available to those who do things the "right" way. This can be anything from material possessions to greater wisdom and enlightenment to the perfect marriage and the perfect children. Often, it will entail promises of never having problems again. The carrot will usually be tailored to the group.
Once the "ideal" has been established, they begin working on the things you need to change to reach this ideal. I understand that there is a legitimate place for instruction and correction. This is not what I am talking about. In this manipulation tactic, the promises are grandiose and the requirements ever more and more exacting.
Once they have you hooked, they continue to teach the elements of what the steps are to achieve the ideal, but add the element that if it isn't working for you, you aren't serious enough about doing it right. Ah, does this sound familiar to anyone? It is a classic tactic of abusers the world over. "If you aren't happy - don't have what you want - aren't getting what I promised you - it is YOUR fault for not doing it right."
The problem is, they are a little vague on the finer points of what it is you are or are not doing that is holding up the works - at first. They will keep it to a vague "live like the Bible teaches." But, over time they will begin to get specific. Things like giving more money, getting rid of anything that might be offensive to God.
Some of the things promised included never being sick again. Never being poor again. They did not come right out and say that problems wouldn't come. In fact, because the Bible teaches that they will (Matthew 18:7, for instance), they would say that the problems would come but you could reach the level where you would be above it all, like being in a plane that is above a storm. They would also teach that it was possible to never be sick again.
Now, I don't want to step on anyone's doctrine here, but this leads, in my experience, to blaming the victim. They would teach that if you were sick, it was your own fault because your faith was not strong enough - you just weren't believing hard enough. It was actually stated from the pulpit that depression was a sin and Christians had no business being depressed. Again, this is a classic blame shifting tactic of an abuser. If it is coming from a pulpit, RUN!
Now, here is where it really starts to get sick. Many people who come to a church are coming because they have problems. There are a lot of wounded people in this world. When victims of abuse come to a church seeking help to heal - to find comfort and solace - and are told that if they have problems, it's their fault, this is not helping them. Most people who have suffered from abuse are ready to believe it was their fault because that is what their abuser told them. I actually know of more than one woman who went back to an abusive husband because they were told that if they just believed harder, it would all work out. This is criminal.
The other part of this is the constant "encouragement" that says, "Come on, we're almost there. Don't give up on us now!" The carrot on the stick. The problem is, the donkey that follows that carrot never gets to eat it. The more emotionally and financially invested in the "ministry" the people become - the more they believe they are "almost there" - the more focussed they become on not wanting to be the one holding the works up for everyone else. The problem is, no matter how much you give in, it will never be enough. If it worked, it would work. Period. It would not leave you feeling like you need to scrub your life with a bristle brush to find that little thing that God isn't showing you that is holding everyone else back. Never enough. If your pastor is yelling at you and you always feel like you're missing it, step back and look more closely at what is going on behind the scenes. Are they REALLY practicing what they preach? He was not.
An example of this (I found out later) was to tell us what God has told them to do. "Now I'm not saying that God is telling you to do this, but He told me to get rid of all my 'fill in the blank'." The unspoken implication, through tone of voice and facial expression, is that if you don't do it, too, you will miss out on what God is getting ready to do. Bleah!
It is important that we all continue to grow, but this only truly happens in an environment where we are accepted as is and encouraged in love. What happens in the above scenario is a twisting of the emotions and self-image to the place where you believe that you don't deserve anything because you are never enough. You actually believe the abuse IS love. The Scripture that says the Lord rebukes those He loves (Hebrews 12:6) was used to reinforce this idea. This is criminal.
Don't do things JUST because your pastor or leader told you that God said.