“Mommy, why can’t you and Daddy be together anymore?” “Why did you leave Daddy?”
All of us survivors who have kids have been, or know we will soon be, faced with these questions. So how should we handle that? Many experts on divorce say you should never say anything bad about the other parent, because it’s damaging to the children and puts them in the middle of the adult problems. But then, these experts aren’t actually referring to cases of abuse when they say that.
Others advise to tell the kids the truth. They need to know. Covering for their Daddy will only perpetuate the abuse and confirm in the kids that they are really to blame when Daddy treats them like he treated you. Telling them the truth stops the enabling and puts the blame squarely where it belongs…on the abuser.
So, with all this conflicting advice, what are we supposed to do? What in the world should we say to our kids? We have to tell them something. Sooner or later, “the big questions” will come up. That’s not avoidable.
I think, the best approach is somewhere in the middle.
You should not denigrate the children’s father because you are angry with him, or want to get back at him for what he did to you (and/or the kids). He is still their father and they will have feelings for him.
They are going to eventually have to understand what their father has done and/or is doing and that will be very hard for them to reconcile within themselves. How can they love him and fear him at the same time? It is a seriously confusing situation for a child and speaking badly of their father can confuse them and shut them off even further from you. They don’t want to betray their dad, because they love him, but here is mom, telling them he is no good. What are they to believe?
This is a decision we can’t make for our kids. It’s a decision they have to make on their own. But, we CAN help them wade through the muck along the way. What we do need to do is be honest with them, in a way they can understand, but is not degrading to their father. We can then teach them what manipulation is. We can teach them what blame shifting is. We can call it out when we see it and help them learn to do the same. We can teach them how to treat others and help guide their character development along, as they grow.
They will begin to see the tactics, and then see their father is using these tactics and when they discover this reality on their own, they internalize the truth much deeper than if we were to simply impose it on them.
When my kids first asked me this, I told them something along the lines of: “Daddy was doing things that hurt mommy a lot and he would not stop and would not be sorry or try to change what he was doing. I wished he would stop and I prayed that he would, but he wouldn’t. So, I had to leave, because it’s not ok to let someone keep doing things that hurt you.” They asked their follow up questions. “Why did he hurt you? Why didn’t he stop?” And I told them, “I think it’s because daddy thought he could make me do what he wanted me to, by hurting me if I didn’t. But you can’t make people do things. You can’t force them to do things you want them to do or not do things you don’t want them to do.” I also told them that I prayed for Daddy. I prayed that God would show daddy that he needed to change and make better choices about how he treats people. I told them mommy leaving was not their fault. The divorce was not their fault. They were not to blame in any way.
I tried my best to tell my kids the truth, without resorting to tearing their dad to pieces in the process. I had to respect their feelings toward him, while at the same time, try to protect them from the abusive deceptions he piles on them. It’s a fine line to walk, but I believe, a necessary one.
What I would add, is to use the phrase ‘I believe..’, before telling them what daddy has done. I didn’t do that, but I think it is wise to phrase it as your opinion, rather than cold, hard fact. It distances them from it a little, which safeguards them if they end up going back to daddy and telling him what you have said. If they say, “You were mean to mommy”, they could be punished for that. But if they say, “Mommy says she believes you were mean to her”, then it is your opinion they are relaying and not as likely to get them in trouble. It’s safer for them.
Their own opinions will come in time, with education on what abuse is and what it looks like, and with their observations of those behaviors from their father. Your job is to teach and guide them, not form their opinions for them. It is a hard thing to tell your kids the truth. But it is a necessary step, for them, and for you.
Those of you who have been there, how did you tell your kids? How did they react? Those of you who haven’t yet, we know this is a hard thing to do, and we are praying for wisdom for you, in what you will say.
The ultimate key is to be honest and fair. Don’t hide or cover up what has been done, but don’t use it to beat your abuser with either. It won’t do your kids or you, any good.
Revelation 12:9-10 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
Deviled ham. Deviled eggs. You little devil. When we use the word “devil” in these ways, we don’t really mean that the ham or the eggs or the child is literally of the devil. In fact, when it comes to the “little devil” child, we actually mean he’s kind of cute. “Why, you little devil!” after he has raided the last of the cookies.
But here, I want to talk about the abuser as devil. And as I do, I in fact mean that the abuser is a literal child of the devil who shares in his diabolic father’s nature and uses tactics that Satan himself uses. Specifically, I want to talk about the abuser as accuser and how this trait truly does reveal that abuse is satanic. [Note: Of course every person born into this world is dead in sin and a child of wrath. See Ephesians 2 for example. But the abuser operates in a manner that is particularly and classically satanic. He murders. He accuses]
John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
We all know that abusers are never, never, ever wrong. Even if they admit some kind of “mistake” it will be a halfway admission disguised as a full one. Now, in order to deflect blame from themselves, abusers accuse. Call it blaming or guilting, it is the same thing. Accusation of the innocent. Not only does accusing the victim turn blame away from the accuser, it serves as a powerful means of control. When we are accused, when we feel guilty and when we doubt ourselves, we are weak. We don’t see clearly. We believe what is said about us instead of being able to see things as they really are. Accusation, we say again, is a very, very powerful tool. Accusation is used by bullies, by false religious leaders, by political tyrants, all designed to shame and control.
Recently you may have watched the Dr. Phil show about Renee Kopp and her ex-husband/abuser Kirby. He is the one who hit her “for her own good” with a wooden paddle. As Dr. Phil interviewed him, Kirby exhibited the classic abuser trait of accusation. He is hitting Renee, but she is to blame. He abused the children, but she is to blame. And what is very interesting about Kirby’s accusations is how remarkably quickly he is able to spew out those accusations, twisting the facts in order to accuse Renee. I mean, he can vomit out these accusations without even thinking about it. It is who he is. It is what he does.
If you have experienced this kind of thing directed at you, you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t, it is hard for those of us who have been targeted by the abuser accuser to explain its dynamic to you. The accuser is never wrong. No matter what has happened and no matter how obvious it is to everyone else that he is wrong, he will accuse instead of confess. And his accusations many times take a virtual bizarre and ridiculous form. One very common example of this kind of accusation is when I have pointed out to such a person that they did an abusive thing at such and such a time to specific people who I named. Those other people all witnessed the abuser abusing. And the response? “You made me do it!”
As I said, this is a very difficult thing to describe – this tactic of accusation. Because you feel it as much as you see it, and the feelings are hard to explain. The accusations spew out of the abuser so smoothly and so naturally and with such apparent certainty that even people who witnessed the abusive event start feeling doubts about what they saw and heard. And the victim, when accused by such a person, starts feeling badly about themselves. You start to feel guilt which, objectively, is not yours at all.
When you confront the abuser accuser, you will soon realize that you could go on confronting him for hours and hours and hours and it will do no good. He will just keep deflecting the truth and fire off accusations at you. And if he starts to run out of more current examples of your guilt, he will start pulling them out of your past. I wore the guilt of such accusations more than once before I woke up to the nature of the abuser and realized that not only was I not guilty of the accusations, the events that I was supposedly accused of never even took place! The abuser was citing fiction.
Whenever a person repeatedly accuses you, you can know that they have selected you as a target to be brought under their evil control for their own selfish purposes to which they insist they are entitled to carry out. Real friends do not accuse you. People who love us do not level accusations against us. They do not watch us with a motive of looking for accusatory cannon fodder. The devil does. And so do his servants. He is by nature a murderer, a liar, and an accuser of the righteous. So are his children.
I’m writing a book on the dangers and abuses of patriarchy. I would really like to include some real life examples of people and their experiences in the patriarchy movement. I will change names and identifying details to protect those who submit stories to me. If you are interested in helping, or would like to ask further questions, please contact me either through Pastor Jeff Crippen at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my “About” page on my blog: http://adaughterofthereformation.wordpress.com/about/ Comments left there are not published, and only I can read them. Thank you!
Exodus 34:29-35 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
The text says the skin of Moses’ face shone and the people were afraid to come near him. It’s clear that people were motivated by fear; what may not be quite so clear is what Moses’s motives were for putting on the veil.
If Moses hadn’t put on the veil before going about his daily business in the camp, he would have been given a wide berth because the people were scared of his shining face. It is logical to infer that Moses, in tender deference to the people’s fear, put the veil over his face in order to go about his daily life. He only took the veil off when he was directly communing with God and directly declaring to the Israelites the Words that God he had given. He most likely donned the veil out of sensitivity and compassion for the frightened Israelites, so they were not constantly scared like rabbits caught in the headlights.
Why were they scared? Not only because that shine was supernatural and out of the norm of their experience, they were afraid because the supernatural shine showed them how mighty and pure and powerful God is — and how sinful, impure and depraved they were compared to God’s perfection. Remember when they begged not to hear the voice of God at Mount Sinai? (Ex. 20:19) It was the same kind of fear as that.
The New Testament gives us some more information about Moses and his veil.
2 Corinthians 3:7-18 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The verse that particularly alludes to Moses’ motives in wearing the veil is 2 Corinthians 3:13
. . . Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.
To me, a lot hinges on what that word ‘outcome’ refer to. If the purpose of the veil was to prevent the Israelites gazing at the outcome, what is the outcome they were not to gaze at?
- Is the outcome the fading of the Old Covenant? — symbolized by the fading of that light from Moses face
- Or is the outcome the fading of Moses’ light? — the fading of Moses’ personal emblem of glory
- Is the outcome the glory of the Old Covenant?— symbolized by the light coming out from Moses’ face which was the outcome of Moses spending time in God’s presence
Let us examine these three options to see which makes most sense.
Option 1: The outcome which was veiled from the Israelites was the fading of the Old Covenant
Why would it be logical for the veil to be donned so that the Israelites would not see in symbolic form the fading of the Old Covenant? Why would they be stopped from seeing a hint of the coming transition from Old to New Covenant? Many of Old Testament prophets and God’s own words as early as Genesis 3:15 prophesied the coming of the New Covenant. Would Moses have been motivated to hide that coming from the Israelites? That makes little sense.
Option 2: The outcome which was veiled from the Israelites was the fading of light from Moses‘ face
A Christian man who is now an elder in a church once tried to tell me that Moses put the veil on his face to prevent the Israelites noticing that his shine was fading. That man thought that Moses put the veil on his face because he wanted to hide from the Israelites the fact that his face gradually lost its shine after he hadn’t been in the tent of God for a while. See how that fits the prideful mindset of so many church leaders? They are constantly trying to pose as big shot authority figures and lording it over their flock with their masks of superior righteousness and authority, so they imagine that Moses had the same mindset as them and they interpret his using the veil as a power hat, in the same way they wear their own power hats. They attribute motives to Moses through their own fleshly mindset.
This man imagined that if the Israelites saw Moses’ shine fading, they would lose faith in him and he would no longer have superior status in their eyes. His interpretation made Moses seem like a man driven by pride, a narcissist and a con artist, a man with something to hide. But this cannot be right:
Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
It seems to me that when someone ascribes motives to Moses for wearing the veil, the motives suggested by the interpreter can often tell us a lot about the interpreter — what his heart is like and the traits that dominate his character. I have often observed that when Pharisees and abusers interpret scripture, they cannot rise above their own level of self-deluded ambition and their heart of pride which craves power and control.
with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. (Ps 18:26)
I think that man had a Pharisee mindset, or, if you prefer a “Who is the greatest?” mindset like the one which so bedeviled the disciples even up to the Last Supper.
Option 3: The outcome which was veiled from the Israelites was the glory of the Old Covenant
If the outcome that the Israelites were not to see was the glory of the Old Covenant symbolized by the light coming from Moses face (the outcome of Moses spending time in God’s presence) that is consistent with the Israelites’ fear, Moses’ meekness, and the overall biblical theological narrative. This is the option I believe is correct.
Paul did not ascribe a superiority mindset to Moses. Nor did he ascribe a secrecy to Moses that purposed to keep the Israelites like mushrooms in the dark. They were only ‘in the dark’ to the extent that their sinful hearts they could not bear the light and were afraid of it. Paul did not make them unable to see, they chose to not see: their eyes flinched from seeing the light.
Rather, Paul uses the story of Moses’s veil to illustrate how the Old Covenant (a ministry of law, condemnation and death) was glorious. It was so glorious that it made Moses’s face shine — a sign that made the Israelites, in their sin, feel afraid. Can you imagine what some of them would have been thinking? “If that’s what the experience of standing in the presence of God did to Moses, how on earth could I ever stand in God’s presence?!”
But the Old Covenant was not to last. It was going to fade and become obsolete and be replaced by the New Covenant — a covenant that was much more glorious. The Israelites could not bear to look upon the glory of the Old Covenant: even its sign as displayed in the shining face of Moses scared them. And stupendous as that glory was, that Old Covenant glory was so much less glorious than the glory of the New Covenant.
The New Covenant is more glorious, but we do not have to be afraid. Indeed we can be bold, because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, and God has made us competent to be ministers of the New Covenant not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
* * * * *
For further reading on Moses’ veil, I recommend Spurgeon’s sermon The Shining Face of Moses.
Here are some snippets from it:
He [Moses] had compassion on their folly as well as on their weakness. . . . He always sinks himself, this man Moses. The God-given Glory of his face he does not slight, nor seek to abate—but so far as it would bring him honor from men—he puts it under a veil. That he may come closer to the people whom he loves, he is content to hide his glory. . . .
[The veil] was a judicial symbol, setting forth the sentence of God upon the people. The Lord, by this token, as good as said, “You are so rebellious, so given to your idolatries, so unwilling to see, that from now on you shall not see the brightness of My Glory in the dispensation of the Law in which you live. Moses shall veil his face because the veil is upon your hearts.” . . . the veil was literally on Moses’ face, but spiritually it was on their hearts. From that time on they were not to see because they had not wished to see. He that willfully shuts his eyes will find that God takes away his sight. If you refuse to understand, justice will make you foolish. . . . Moses wore the veil as a testimony that God had given them over to judicial blindness because they refused to know His will.
Numbers 27:1-7 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.” Moses brought their case before the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them.
Men are men and women are women. The Lord created us male and female. This fallen world in rebellion against the Lord actively perverts sexuality, and that to mankind’s ruin. Sexual immorality of all kinds is to be rejected by every Christian. Clearly that is God’s will for us – our sanctification.
Yet there is another form of distortion when it comes to male and female, and we find this example not only in the world but in our churches. I call it the boys’ club. Most of us experienced it when we were kids. No girls allowed signs posted on the treehouse or bedroom door. To be fair, I think I have seen some no boys allowed signs too! There is an early rivalry between the sexes which gets even more complex when puberty hits.
We see examples of the boys’ club in the news and in this world every day. Recently of course you have seen it in all its ugliness in the NFL – Ray Rice and all that. Ray and his teammates, his buds and bros have been and remain an example (with a few exceptions) of maleness gone wrong. How are women spoken of in an NFL locker room? Probably the same way they are spoken of in college locker rooms and high school locker rooms. And if they get out of line, well, you take them down just like you do an opponent on the field. It’s easier than in a game though because there are no refs and no rules – and for the most part, as we have seen lately, no penalties.
Boys’ clubs, locker rooms, and the church.
This boys’ club/locker room mentality toward women is present in most local churches. It functions as a paradigm through which Scripture is filtered – and distorted. Men are men. Women are women. But this is equated with “men have privilege, women are inferior.” Following God is for men. Following men is for women. After all, men are the pastors, men are the elders, men do the praying, men are the husband/father priests of their families (or so goes this mentality).
Now, whatever your personal take is on what Scripture teaches us about the roles of men and women in the local church, some serious thinking on your part will reveal that the boys’ club most likely exists in your church. To a much greater extent in some than in others – but it is quite pervasive. In the church, men are primary and women are secondary. [We can't get into the other side of this issue, i.e., when the girls' club mentality crops up in a church. Some people think this is the solution to the boys' club. It isn't. Because remember, we are all - both male and female - born into this world as sinners. We all in our sinful flesh desire power and control for our own kind].
Common examples of the boys’ club are usually touted under such titles as “men’s retreat,” or “men’s ministry,” or “men for Christ,” or, well, “Promise Keepers.” There are many more such names I am sure. And the thing sounds good on the surface. Wives see their husbands off to these events praying and hoping that some miracle will take place there to transform their husband. What could be wrong with something so noble? I will tell you. They usually have a speaker – a man – who is supposed to be some walking, talking example of what a Christian saint should be. He’s a jock, or used to be. He pastors a “dynamic” church. His wife has written books and so has he. And he tells these men gathered there how to be men. How to be warriors. Courageous. How to be…well…just like him. How to hang with the guys in prayer groups.
Now, the more neurotic men, that is to say, men with a conscience and who sincerely want to follow Jesus Christ and love their wives and children, how do they come away from boys’ club meetings like this? I can tell you. I am a neurotic. They come away feeling defeated. “How can I ever measure up to that? I never was any good at athletics. My company, my church, my career isn’t blossoming like that guy’s is.” So he goes home defeated and feeling condemned.
But then there are men who leave such events “empowered.” Oh yeah. The Spirit of the Lord has come to them. They have a role now and they gladly step up to the plate. The problem is, the role as they see it is a complete distortion of Scripture. For this kind, it is about power and control over women. It is about guys being guys and women, well they better learn what God says about being women. Somehow, “husbands love your wives” gets tweaked in this boys’ club climate and in the mind of this latter kind of man. God’s Word gets morphed into some mutation of truth that exalts the man over the woman.
I don’t like men’s ministries for the most part. What I have found as a pastor in the last decade or so is that because Scripture presents both men and women as Christians, full heirs of the promise in Christ, my ministry to them is really the same. I teach both men and women (and young people as well) with the realization that they all need the same thing – God’s Word. I don’t teach our women’s study some simple, shallow, “how to make your hubby happy” nonsense from a publishing house giant. Nope. I teach them Romans. I teach them biblical theology. Why? Because they are saints, fellow heirs in Christ, indwelt by the same Spirit every Christian is led by.
I am sure that our readers can help me explain the operations and mentality of this boys’ club thing in our churches. It is a difficult and slippery thing to pin down. But I suppose what I am trying to say is that so often what parades as “men’s ministry” in our churches simply ends up promoting the boys’ club mentality. And that is bad news for women in general, and abuse victims in particular.
Two Important Types of Aggression
Two of the most fundamental types of fighting. . . are overt and covert aggression. When you’re determined to have your way or gain advantage and you’re open, direct, and obvious in your manner of fighting, your behavior is best labeled overtly aggressive. When you’re out to “win”, get your way, dominate, or control, but are subtle, underhanded, or deceptive enough to hide your true intentions, your behavior is most appropriately labeled covertly aggressive. Concealing overt displays of aggression while simultaneously intimidating others into backing-off, backing-down, or giving-in is a very powerful manipulative maneuver. That’s why covert-aggression is most often the vehicle for interpersonal manipulation.
Covert and Passive-Aggression
I often hear people say someone is being “passive-aggressive” when they’re really trying to describe covertly aggressive behavior. Covert and passive-aggression are both indirect ways to aggress but they’re most definitely not the same thing. Passive-aggression is, as the term implies, aggressing through passivity. Examples of passive-aggression are playing the game of emotion “get-back” with someone by resisting cooperation with them, giving them the “silent treatment”, pouting or whining, not so accidentally “forgetting” something they wanted you to do because you’re angry and didn’t really feel like obliging them, etc. In contrast, covert aggression is very active, albeit veiled, aggression. When someone is being covertly aggressive, they’re using calculating, underhanded means to get what they want or manipulate the response of others while keeping their aggressive intentions under cover.
[from Dr. George Simon's book, (In Sheep's Clothing *) , pp21-22]
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