A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Teaching Children The Ten Commandments Of Character

God has really been working on me lately, showing me that I need to step up and be more intentional with countering the abuse in my kid’s lives. I have been reading through tons of books on abuse, trying to glean what I can from them, to help guide my children through the gauntlet of confusion my ex creates and to better understand my ex and thereby know better how to counter his manipulations. I am working on the premise that I have to teach my kids to think critically and see abuse for what it is. If I want them to be able to do that, then I have to learn how to do that first.

I am learning that part of stopping the poison of abuse is doing everything I can to bring them up to identify it and then reject it in their own lives. To that end, I read … and I read … and I read. Lately, I have been reading Character Disturbance by George Simon Jr [Amazon Affiliate link]. About midway through the book, he presents his Ten Commandments Of Character. My pen bled all over those pages and as I sat back and let it all sink in, I thought maybe I could distill that information down into terms my kids can understand, and then use it to teach them the principles of good character. In the process of doing that, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to share with other mommas who may need this for their kids too.

We are the ones who need to teach our kids and help them develop the skills they need, to not only fight the impacts of abuse on their lives, but also develop the character traits they need to stop the cycle of abuse and refuse to become abusers themselves.

Here is what I came up with, paraphrasing Simon’s Commandments in simpler, shorter language, to make it easier for children of various ages to understand. It is my hope that it will help but I would also encourage you to read the book, as it goes into much better detail than I can here:

The 10 Commandments Of Character

1)   You are not the center of the Universe. It’s not all about you. Think carefully about how you act will affect the people around you. You live in this world with many other people and they all have needs and feelings, just like you. Be careful about what you do, because your actions can either hurt or help other people.

2)   Remember, you don’t deserve things just because you think you should have them. That’s called entitlement. But God gave you your life as a gift. You didn’t earn it. Try to be thankful and grateful for the gifts you have received from God, instead of feeling like you deserve more. Respect the people around you and treat them better than you would treat yourself. Go out of your way to help them and give to them, instead of just taking for yourself.

3)   You are important to God but you are also not the most important person in the world. It’s just as important to see that you aren’t better than other people, as it is to know that you also do have value. Your talents and abilities are given to you by God. They aren’t from you. You should be thankful to God for them and give Him the credit for them. Your merit is in what you do with what God has given you. That’s what matters. God gave you your gifts. You need to make an effort to use them to honor Him and help others.

4)   Truth is very important because lies hurt other people and hurting people is against God’s laws! Don’t tell lies, cheat or manipulate to get what you want. Be truthful when you have made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Don’t take short cuts by lying, cheating or stealing to get what you want. Always be honest.

5)   Sometimes you have to go through hard times to grow and to love better. God wants you to live and be happy, but you were never meant to have everything you want, whenever you want it and expect other people to just give it to you. If you just try to always get what you want, you will hurt other people while you are trying to get it, and that isn’t right. You need to make the choice to love other people and to want to help them more than you want to get what you want.

6)   Think before you act. Think about what you are about to do, and then think about the consequences of doing that. Just because you want to do something, doesn’t make it good for you to do and it’s important to decide before you do it, whether it is a good thing to do or not.

7)   You need to grow strong in love, and in understanding of what is right, so you can be ready to make the right choices, even when it’s hard to do that. That’s part of it. The other part is actually making the choice to do what you know is right and to do what you know will help others.

8)   Being mad is not bad in itself. It’s ok to be angry, but it’s not ok to hurt other people because you are angry. Sometimes you will have to fight for what is right, but you need to do it in a fair way. Don’t try to just win or hurt someone so you can get ahead of them. Always respect other people’s needs and rights, even when you are angry and have to stand up to them because of what they have done.

9)   Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Even when people don’t act nice, you need to treat them decently. You don’t have to agree with what they are doing, but you do need to behave well yourself.

10)  Don’t pretend you are doing something to be nice, if you are really doing it just to get what you want. Tell the truth about why you are doing something. Try to do things because it is the right to do them, not because you want something out of it. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. This is called being Sincere.

I don’t exactly know how to begin this process yet. Right now my goal is just to work on one of these at a time in my kids lives and just work on them as long as it takes to help them understand. Ultimately, the choice is theirs, but I have to try. All I know is that for my kid’s sake, I have to try. I have to try and then leave them in God’s hands.

 

Thursday Thought — My abuser is not as bad as others are, so is it really abuse?

Question:

My husband is abusive, but he isn’t nearly as bad as what some others have experienced. For example, he has never hit me.  So, would he still be considered an abuser?

Answer:

All abusers are characterized by certain fundamental attitudes which are the elemental building blocks of what we define as abuse.  Without these, a person is not an abuser as we have defined the term:  entitlement/superiority, power, control, and justification.

. . . We must also emphasize that not all abusers operate at the same level of intensity. Abuse functions along a scale or range (“spectrum,” as Bancroft labels it), from lesser to greater.  This is vital for us to understand [because] it will enable us to recognize abuse for what it really is, even in what appears to be the “less serious” cases.  We need not find the most severe abusive tactics before we can conclude that a man is an abuser.  (While some abusers physically beat their victim, others are passive abusers — refusing to work or take responsibility for example).

Jesus said that the man who actually commits murder and the man who hates someone in his heart are both murderers (Matthew 5:21-22).  While we would all rather be murdered by the second man than the first, the reality is that the essential heart of murder is present in both men.  And so it is with abuse.

(From Ps Jeff Crippen’s book, A Cry for Justice [*affiliate link] pp.93-94)

 

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

Translating Mark Driscoll

Today’s post is a brilliant decoding of ‘abuserese’ — the manipulative language that abusers use to evade responsibility for their behavior and to shape other people’s perceptions of them. We have re-blogged this post from God Loves Women (original here). The author of the post leads behavior change groups for men who abuse their partners. Many thanks to God Loves Women.

If you haven’t yet heard about Mark Driscoll’s announcement that he is stepping down for six weeks while charges are being investigated, you can find more about it from Julie Anne Smith’s post Mark Driscoll Stepping Down for 6 Weeks While Charges Investigated at Spiritual Sounding Board.

* * *

This morning I watched the 17 minute videoed announcement from Mark Driscoll this weekend that he is stepping down as Pastor of Mars Hill for a minimum of six weeks. You can watch the video and read the transcript here.
[Note from ACFJ eds: Trigger Warning —  the link contains a video showing manipulative body language and speech that may remind you of your own abuser(s)]

Within the announcement Mark speaks of the “court of public opinion” not being useful in addressing issues in a Biblical manner and suggests online conversations, like this blog for instance, are unhelpful. I can see that everyone having OPINIONS can be problematic, but without the courageous tenacity of bloggers across the internet raising the issues, Mark Driscoll would not have taken the very necessary and welcome step that he has. So I’m not going to apologise for adding to the OPINIONS in the public space and I would suggest his denigration of the “court of public opinion” is a tactic to silence the hurting, and as a book we Christians honour states, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

I have recently begun working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. I am facilitating a Respect accredited programme with men who have chosen to be violent and abusive to their partners. And if there is one thing that perpetrators are “gifted” in, it is avoiding responsibility and manipulating people’s views of them. I would suggest that some of what we see in Mark’s announcement uses those same tactics, whether intentionally or not, whether orchestrated by a PR plan or by the man himself. I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting Mark is perpetrator of domestic abuse, but that his words and actions mirror those of abusers.

During the announcement Mark was emotional, at points he seemed very close to tears. It is interesting to note that domestic abuse perpetrators who visibly show remorse change at about the same rate as those who don’t. In our wider context of power based masculinity, men crying, or being close to tears brings out a specific response for many. That act of vulnerability in a society that states the only appropriate emotions for men are humour and anger can change perceptions of an offender in an instant. I’m not for one minute suggesting they were “crocodile tears” but that we must be careful not to use an emotionally remorseful delivery as a litmus test for repentance.

This is my translation of some parts of the announcement:

“When a small group of us started what would become Mars Hill Church in 1996, we could not have dreamed it would be what it is today. Thousands upon thousands of people have become Christians as the gospel of Jesus Christ has proven powerful over and over. Every day, it seems, I hear of someone whose life has been transformed by the power of the Word of God taught in this place and modeled by so many who call this their church home.”

I’m going to start by reminding you of all the 1000s of people my ministry has saved from hell, so that when I get to my bad choices, we’re all feeling that is insignificant compared to all the people I have helped. So many people’s lives have been transformed by my teaching of God’s Word and you all living out my teaching.

“Today, we are blessed with lead pastors who love Jesus and the people He gave His life for. These men faithfully serve the Mars Hill family.”

Though there are 21 ex-leaders of the our church who are publicly stating that I have behaved in horrendous ways and were either sacked or left due to their strong convictions, the current leaders are supportive of me.

“While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good.”

I am a 43 year old grown up, but I am going to describe myself as “young” in order to suggest that my young-ness mitigates the bad choices I have made. I would also like to remind you that I have done good things and not actually say that I have done bad things, but just things that are “not so good”.

“I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for.”

I would like to remind you all of the powerful man I am and the many successes I have had in my career so far, but that I also want you to know that I am humble local church pastor, even though I have intentionally and ruthlessly built a large megachurch over the last 18 or so years.”

“It is because of my deep love for the local church in general, and Mars Hill Church in particular, that it grieves me to see anything come against it or threaten to harm it. It also grieves me greatly when something I say or do results in controversy and publicity none of you signed up for when you decided to be a part of this church family.”

I get upset when my choices, actions and words result in people challenging me. I am so totally uninterested in the people I have hurt that I’m not even going to mention their hurt in my announcement. I don’t want to accept the consequences of my actions as the leader of a large church which I am paid large amounts of money to lead and rather than say this, I am going to make it about the peripheral hurt of the church family, which I am actually responsible for not those who have challenged me.

“Over the years, as I have grown and as the Lord has been molding and pruning me, I have, on many occasions, shared with you some of the lessons I’ve been learning. Some of these have been painful, and some I’ve been slow to learn. I’ve acknowledged and confessed many of my sins, shortcomings and missteps, and God has been more than faithful with His forgiveness. Most of our Mars Hill family has been forgiving as well, and for that I’m grateful and blessed. By God’s grace, I want to always be humble and teachable.”

I would like to remind you all of the times I have said sorry for what I did over the years. The fact that at no point have I actually changed my behaviour is something I’m going to try and ensure you don’t think about by making it all about the ways I’ve learned. I’d like to also remind you that before God I am forgiven. Rather than mention how much I appreciate and value all those who have tried to stop it coming to this point, I’m going to validate all those who collude with my behaviours by honouring those who keep forgiving me. Although I have proven that over the last 18 years of ministry that I am not willing to be taught and am not humble, I am going to say that I am both of those things.

“A central theme in my personal walk with Jesus in recent times has been to follow the Apostle Paul’s charge to Believers in Romans 12:8: If possible, so far is it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip or anything else not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and I am deeply sorry for the times I have not done my part to living peaceably with all men.”

By quoting Scripture I can reduce my ongoing hurtful behaviour to the term “not living peaceably with all men”. I am going to use the term “my part” so as to suggest that it is not all my fault, but that it is a reciprocal thing where both I and every other person involved are partly to blame for the hurt I have caused.

“I want to thank those who have come directly to an Elder, lead pastor or me to tell us of an offense they are carrying. This allows us to deal with it head-on between the two affected parties, rather than in a court of public opinion and public media. I believe God is honored by this approach—the approach He prescribed for us in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures.”

All those who have used public spaces to challenge me are wrong and dishonour God and only those who have come to me and the leadership of the church are right and honour God. I am going to use the term “offense they are carrying” so as to avoid saying that I had hurt people. The fact that when people tried to come to me I refused to listen, sacking them, threatening them and destroying their lives and livelihoods is of absolutely no relevance. God is not honoured by anyone who publicly holds me to account. I am going to mention the first bit of Matthew 18 where Jesus tells us to approach other Christians who we have been hurt by, but I am going to conveniently ignore the bit Jesus says that’s someone who fails to listen should be treated like a non-believer.

“Others have chosen to air their grievances with me or this church in a more public forum. As is often the case, some of what is said it true, some is partly true, and some is completely untrue. Lately, the number of accusations, combined with their public nature, makes it much more difficult to know how to respond appropriately. Indeed, many times we have chosen not to respond at all, which probably raises even more questions in some people’s minds, and I understand that.”

I am going to use the term “air their grievances” rather than talk about people being hurt. I am going to talk about truth, half-truths and lies without distinguishing between them so that I subtly cast aspersions on all that everyone has accused me of. I am going to talk about “the number of accusations” increasing which makes the issues external to me, rather than about my own choices and hurtful actions. I am going to reinforce my criticism of people holding me to account publicly, but will use it neutral language like “public nature” to hide that. I am going to mention that we haven’t addressed the issues, acknowledge that is problematic but continue doing it.

“In other cases, some have publicly brought up issues that were long ago addressed and resolved, adding to the understandable confusion many of you may be experiencing recently. For example, nearly 15 years ago I wrote some things on a Mars Hill discussion board on our website using a pseudonym. I quickly realized what I wrote and how I did it was wrong. We removed the entire section of the website a few months later and I addressed it publicly in a book I wrote six years later—calling it what it was: wrong.”

The only accusation I am going to address during my announcement is the one that relates to historical actions. I am going to manipulate the facts to suggest that a book I wrote six years later dealt with what I had done, when in actual fact, that book mentioned that I thought it was funny how I had a man turn up at my house to challenge me; that I talk of things “going crazy”. I’m not going to mention that at no point in the book do I actually own or apologise for my misogynistic, homophobic behaviours and attitudes. I am also not going to mention that for the past almost 15 years I have continued to use similar language and ideology in my preaching and writing. I am going to use language that distances me from my actions by saying “what I wrote and how I did it was wrong” rather than saying “I was wrong and I have hurt people”.

“I have taken full responsibility for those actions and will forever be ashamed by what I did, even as a 29 year-old preacher. What I did in this case back in 2000 is indefensible. It is also forgiven; and thank God, I’m not the man I was back then. I have learned hard lessons from this situation, as I have from other situations where I have done wrong things and God has had to deal with me.”

I am going to talk of taking full responsibility for something while still using language that distances me from my choices and actions. When talking about what I did I will mention the age I was in order to justify it as related to being young (like I did earlier in my announcement). Although at 29 years old I had been an adult for over ten years, I will suggest my age made me immature, though I was a married father entrusted with the leadership of a church. I will remind everyone that this happened in 2000, keeping people focused on the historical accusations and not the current ones. I will talk about learning hard lessons which will allow me to suggest I have changed, when the way I have behaved and the choices I have made since then have continued to hurt many people.

“Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church. (In fact, it would not be healthy for any church.)”

I will again talk about the consequences of my actions using language which distances me from any responsibility by talking of what “storm clouds seems to be” doing. I will talk of how unhealthy this would be and subtly place myself as a victim. I will then restart talking of Mars Hill Church as the main victim of the issues, keeping my audience feeling like they are the centre of this and their interests and hurts are cared about while continuing to completely ignore the hurt and pain of the people I have hurt throughout my ministry.

“Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am sorry for. In recent years, I have sought to apologize to people I have knowingly offended in any way. I’m grateful that God has honored many of these encounters and granted true reconciliation and restoration.”

I will start addressing criticisms by saying that some have been unfair. I will not use language which states that my critics are right, but will instead say “I am deserving of” some criticisms. This sounds like I’m taking responsibility, but subtly avoids doing so. I will use the term “past actions” to suggest that this isn’t related to my ongoing behaviour, thereby subtly connecting it to my previous comments on my actions in 2000. I talk of seeking to apologise to people even though those who have been hurt report being shunned and destroyed by me. I will talk about God honouring these encounters without specifics

“But I’m particularly sorry that any of my past actions or decisions have brought distraction to the mission of Mars Hill Church, and therefore, to those who call this their church home. Part of this is no doubt a function of the media age we live in—anyone can write anything, anywhere, anytime. As a public figure, I recognize and accept this, even if I don’t like it; for this is one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in a media age—the same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the globe can also be used by anyone around the globe to criticize, attack or slander.”

The first time that I start a sentence with “I am sorry” it is related to the impact on the church community which yet again reinforces to the audience that their feelings are validated, but the actual victims of my offences are not mentioned. I make my sorry focused on the mission of Mars Hill, reminding everyone that is the priority, not the reality of the people who have been hurt. I will then yet again criticise people who have publicly challenged me and place myself as the victim by talking of myself as a “public figure”. This makes the situation more about my position than my choices and actions. That I have used media channels to criticise and attack is irrelevant, and I will suggest my detractors are “criticizing, attacking and slandering” without actually stating that is what those who challenge me are doing.

“However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent I have any control over it.”

After spending time being negative about my detractors I will now talk about my fault. Yet I won’t take responsibility for any of it, I will just accept partial fault, which essentially means the other people involved are also at fault. Essentially I am blaming everyone else while using the language of responsibility. I will talk of God redeeming me to remind everyone that God is okay with me, having previously implied that others have dishonoured God by challenging me. I will use the term “avoid such conflict” which essentially distances me from fault and focuses the issues as conflict based rather than founded in power and abuse.

“There is a well-documented list of past actions and decisions I have admitted were wrong, sought forgiveness, and apologized for to those I hurt or offended. I will not review them here, as it is my prayer we can, together as a church, move on as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13—But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

I will talk about admitting I am wrong when what I have done previously is apologise but continue to do the same things over and over. I quote Philippians and use the word “forget”; this implies that forgetting is the option for the church community. That forgiveness and forgetting are not in any way related and that forgetting is impossible when we have been hurt badly is something I want to avoid people being aware of.

“These are serious times we are living in and people all around us are dying every hour without Jesus. It is this reality that drives me and motivates me to keep learning God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to His people so that together, we can continue to reach people with the saving grace and love and mercy of Jesus. I hope that regardless of whatever else is swirling around us, we never lose this perspective on why Mars Hill exists in the first place – Jesus loves people and people need Jesus.”

I will now spend time explaining how people’s souls are at risk of burning in hell and that in comparison these issues that have been raised are really not a big deal. I will talk about my purpose and call and will talk of the current issues that have resulted from my actions and choices as “swirling around us” yet again distancing myself from being the instigator of the issues.

“I realize the vast majority of you just want to come to church and hear God’s Word taught. You want to feed your families spiritually just as you feed them physically, and Mars Hill should be a safe place to do just that. As your pastor, I want that for you more than anything. All of our lead pastors want that for those under their care as well.”

I will keep the audience supportive of me by yet again talking about them as the primary victims in the situation. I will talk about the consequences of my choices and actions in a way that acknowledges the struggles of people are going through without taking responsibility for them.

“I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.”

I will not mention that one of the accusations against me relate to changing the bylaws of the church to make it very difficult for the church to hold me to account. I will talk of inviting the process even though it has taken enormous public pressure to essentially force me to take action. Book shops are withdrawing my books from sale, I am being removed from church networks and others and although there have been issues throughout my entire ministry, I have shut down all criticism to the point of changing church bylaws and sacking employees, yet I will state that this is a process that I have invited. I will again reinforce that challenging me publicly is wrong. I mention that a report will be presented, but I haven’t mentioned who that report will be presented to, and I have called it a “report on the process” not implying whether the outcomes will be made public.

As a general rule, I will respond to little if any criticism of me in the media, on social media, blogs, open letters, etc. Conducting church business and biblical conflict resolution through media channels is not healthy and is more likely to prove unproductive at best, and destructive and dishonoring to the Lord at worst.

I will now categorically state that media channels are unproductive, destructive and dishonouring to God. That without these media channels I would be able to continue behaving in hurtful and damaging ways without any accountability or negative consequences. This places anyone who comments publicly about what I have said as unproductive, destructive and dishonouring God. The hurt I have caused people should be compounded further by me attempting to silence and denigrate their attempts to heal.

“I have asked our Board of Advisors and Accountability to strengthen our board by adding members to it, and they are in the process of doing so with local members being our first choice.”

We will strengthen the board of advisors and accountability by inviting people who are still in the church and have stood by me throughout all that I have done. Anyone who has had the courage to challenge me has talked of how they were sacked or abused by me. By saying this I yet again focus on my audience, enabling them to feel they are being given power to change things and trusted with that.

“I have agreed to postpone the publication of my next book until a future season, to be determined.”

Bookshops have removed my books from sale and due to the current climate I would probably not sell many books if I did publish my book, plus I am no longer able to pay a PR company to unethically get my books onto bestseller lists.

“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men. I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing.”

I will talk of meeting with a professional team of mature Christians but will not mention any of their names. The fact I haven’t taken an extended break in 18 years will be used as an opportunity to be applauded for my commitment rather than concern that I have not had a healthy work life balance.

“As I look forward to the future—and I do look forward to it—I believe the Lord has shown me I am to do two things with the rest of my life: love my family, and teach the Bible. I deeply love my family and our church family and am seeking the Lord for how to have a godly and loving future that is not just sustainable but fruitful.”

I will now talk about my family which reminds everyone I am a human being with good priorities. I will establish that I plan to continue teaching the Bible for the rest of my life which suggests I will continue be seeking to influence and lead people.

“Finally, I want to say to our Mars Hill family—past and present, I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for the times I have been angry, short, or insensitive. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”

Having spent over 15 minutes talking I will finally say that I am sorry, not to those I have direct hurt, but to my church family. I talk about inviting criticism rather than behaving abusively and focus on the actions of the commentators rather than my own actions.

“God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day. The gospel is powerfully at work in me, your pastor, thanks to the faithfulness of our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ, and the best thing for us each to do is look to Him and point others to Him. Thank you Mars Hill. I love you.”

I talk of “falling short” and doing things “I am not very proud of” yet still do not quantify that in terms of identifying what I have actually done. I make this last section about what God is doing in me and still do not mention anything about the people I have damaged who are no longer in Mars Hill church. After this I am given a standing ovation by the church and my wife and children all come onto the platform to embrace me. This reminds the audience that there are children involved in any decisions made about me. The image of them embracing me will be used on the Mars Hill website alongside my statement.

“A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships” by Paul E Miller — a review

The ladies at my church are going through A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships for a Bible study. I am participating and I will get good insight from this book I am sure. However, I see how this book could be used to condemn a person who is presently enduring abuse and the despair that accompanies being treated cruelly. So I have left this review at Amazon and I wanted to share it with our readers here.

I don’t think Miller has a clear understanding of abuse. Every mention of abuse so far has only taken physical abuse into consideration and is followed by an instruction to call police if that ever happens. That is ignorance gone to seed. Abuse is a lot more than physical violence. “Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.” [definition from A Cry For Justice].

Calling the police may or may not be sufficient. Victims of abuse, and those who wonder whether they are a being abused, should also be advised to call a hotline even if they are not in any imminent danger of being assaulted. It is also good practice to advise them to make contact with their local Women’s Center that specializes in supporting women who have experienced domestic abuse. Calling police can be part of a much broader safety plan. If Miller were to work with a Women’s Shelter, just to learn that much, it would be very helpful to victims listening to him. Miller’s cursory and dismissive instruction to call police if they are physically assaulted, is not sufficient. It shows great naivety about the complexities of domestic abuse. Miller says:

A bad marriage is one where neither spouse does the hard work of love. But as soon as one spouse begins to do hesed, the bad marriage disappears. (I’m not saying this marriage is easy; just that it isn’t somehow intrinsically flawed.) We are left with the challenge of loving a difficult spouse.

Well if I could make a bad marriage disappear with hesed love, it would’ve happened in the 20 years that I did all I could think of to serve and bless my abuser. He wasn’t won over because he believed he deserved all I gave him and more, oh, and that he could pay someone to do it all and better than me. And that paying someone would be easier because then he could at least fire them. He was stuck with me and my incompetence. I was his cross to bear.

Additionally, Miller takes huge leaps and liberties with Naomi’s side of the story. He paints her as someone who needed to repent for having gone to Moab in the first place, a bitter person because she’s mourning, someone who ignored Ruth, was too lazy to go out and glean, and so on. I feel that this is to emphasize the sacrifice that Ruth made and make it look like it was hard for her to do that. I think that’s ridiculous at worst and silly at best. I have NEVER thought Naomi was sitting around while Ruth was working hard. I figured they had a Kate and Allie thing going on and Ruth hunted and gathered while Naomi tended the house and did things like keeping the fire burning, fetching water, mending clothes, cleaning clothes, etc. I feel that Miller is being unfair to Naomi and he kind of sounds like Job’s friends.

Also, I have always figured that Naomi’s husband and sons had told stories about the good old days in Bethlehem; how the widows and aliens gleaned from the corners of the fields, and so on. I think Ruth’s commitment to Naomi was admirable, but I think she also was moved by faith and by the hope of better days, not an “I HAVE to go with this nasty old woman and care for her or no one will” kind of thought.

I also feel like Miller’s present day examples of people who love in difficult circumstances are not taking depravity into account. His examples are giving everyone good intentions; the nagging wife is critical because she thinks that if her husband conforms she can love him better. That’s selfishness, not love. Miller gives her credit for loving, but in the wrong way. The only person Mrs. Nag is loving is herself. This is a huge point to me. I feel like this is almost a Cinderella story where we’re supposed to love love love serve serve serve and never take precautions to mind our boundaries to stay safe. Perhaps one day Prince Boaz will give us some barley and marry us. Or not. And we’ll just have to suck it up and call it fellowshipping in Christ’s sufferings.

There are good points in the book, but if I had read this book when I was still living with my abuser, I would’ve doubled down on the hesed love and gone even farther into the pit of despair. This is not a book for abuse victims to read.

Putting off and putting on — change as it respectively applies to abusers and victims

The Gospel should be pronounced to ‘crushed’ sinners. The Law should be pronounced to ‘secure’ sinners. — C.F.W. Walther, Lutheran theologian. (link)

If only that wise principle was understood and practiced by more Christians today! Instead what commonly happens today is that the Law is pronounced to ‘crushed’ sinners such as victims of abuse — victims are hauled over the coals and told to repent and have faith; and the Gospel is pronounced to ‘secure’ sinners — those of hardened heart and little or no conscience who feel they are pretty okay, thank-you, about the way they are leading their lives, and they don’t really think there is anything wrong with the way they treat others.

Today I’m going to show how Walther’s principle (which is a Biblical principle) can be applied to a passage of scripture.

I firstly encourage you to read this passage from the Bible aloud to yourself, slowly, letting your heart and mind absorb and digest whatever light the passage sheds on your situation and your history.

Ephesians 4:17-32 ESV
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now let me show you what I noticed in this passage.

A.  It depicts the abuser’s character and some of his behaviors, but it does not stop there. It nails it back to the root of the abuser’s problem: his hardness of heart.  So it is a good passage to help us identify abusers and make a full diagnosis of their problem, not just a superficial diagnosis of some of their signs and symptoms.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

Notice Paul talks about their ignorance, but says it is due to their hardness of heart. Those who think the abuser is just ‘blind’ or who buy into the abuser’s claim that he is just ignorant and doesn’t know what to do to not be abusive, are going to miss the boat and be recruited into the abuser’s game plan. It is not just ignorance. There is ignorance there, but it is due to the abuser’s heart-set.

They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

B. It could be another good “list” (like 1 Corinthians 13) to give to the quasi-repentant abuser who ‘accepts’ (fingers crossed in the back-room of his heart) that he has been abusive and who now protests, “I don’t know how to behave! I don’t know how to treat you! I don’t know what you want me to do!”  

Okay, Abuser, here is how to behave. I’ve made it real easy for you by bolding the bits I think you most need to attend to.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

And Mr (or Mrs) Abuser, since you probably know these instructions if you have been a professed follower of Christ, and you certainly have heard similar requests/ pleas/ guidelines/ hints/ suggestions or anguished demands from the person you maliciously control, and you may have also heard them from your target’s supporters if they have bravely confronted your wickedness,  then you have heard this all before. And you don’t obey. You don’t listen. You look in the mirror and then forget what you’ve seen (James 1:23-24). You brush it off. You excuse yourself. You blame your victim.  You skedaddle down one of your rabbit burrows and come up in another place, all innocent and charming. You continue to harden your heart.

So if you claim that you have the Holy Spirit of God and have been sealed for the day of redemption, we do not credit your claim. We cast that claim of yours to the winds, for the hot air that it is:–  because unless you put your back to the wheel and steadfastly practice, in the here and now, giving NO opportunity to the Devil, we will not engage in debate with you on questions of your being sealed by the Spirit and indwelt by Christ.

Yes, we set the bar high! We set the bar high for your own good, because we know all too well how easily you slip back if you allow yourself a little margin, if you allow one little root of that poison ivy of power-lust and entitlement to remain, for that is the core of your hard heartedness and it will not be gone unless every little root of it is pulled out. Poison ivy is notorious for how it comes back. If you don’t have poison ivy in you country, think of oxalis, which you can pull out as much as you want but you will not be able to get every little corm out of the soil and it will come back from those corms. Your only hope is to remove all that soil and start again with new soil. Or sell that block of land and move to a new one.

Poison_Ivy_Leaves

Poison Ivy

oxalis weed

Oxalis

 

 

 

 

Yes, the demand is high, because the character distortion is severe. The treatment is very tough because malignant narcissism and covert-aggressive character disorder is similar to a virus that keeps finding new ways to reshape its chemical structure so that it can evade the treatment regimes that are being applied to it. Some people have been infected with the Hepatitis C virus  and then somehow, mysteriously, fully eradicated the virus from their bodies. The experts don’t fully understand how this happens, or why it only happens for these few individuals. No doubt God understands that medical mystery; and likewise, He knows how to eradicate the poison ivy of abuse from an abuser’s character, but the abuser has to be willing to comply with God’s treatment program.

And as George Simon so consistently and patiently reminds us, change always involves changing in the here and now. And keeping at changing, not letting up.

No magic wand can do it. No superficial ‘list of behaviors to change’ can do it. No list from a pastor and elders telling the abuser what behaviors he should stop or start will do it. God goes for the heart. Scripture goes for the heart. The Apostles and prophets went for the heart.  And Paul had to remind even converted believers that they had to put off (and keep putting off) the old man and be renewed (keep being renewed) in the spirit of their minds, and they had to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God.  And Paul was writing that on the tentative assumption (v. 21) that his readers were actually believers in Christ and had come to saving faith. For if there is no regeneration, all the efforts will be pretty much in vain. You may shift the deck chairs on the Titanic, you may even get it to rise up out of the water a lot higher by dint of technological interventions like sealing some of the holes and pumping air back into some of the buoyancy chambers, but it’s still going down if you haven’t sealed all the holes. And the abuser does not like sealing his holes. He likes having them. They give him perks, services, power-over. They meet the desires of his flesh.

 . . . you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)

C. The list can also be applied to the victim who is in the early stages of waking up and coming out of the fog. Let me show you what I mean by repeating the passage, but this time bolding slightly different parts and giving some applications:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding They have been in the dark fog of the abuser’s brainwashing and manipulation and they are suffering trauma, which makes it hard for them to think as clearly as non-traumatized people can think.
alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart and more to the point, due to the hardness of heart of the abuser in having bamboozled them in his web of control, and the hard-heartedness of society and the church which commonly misreads abuse by calling it ‘marital issues’  — thus sharing the blame mutually between abuser and victim — and by according unmerited privilege and entitlements to men simply because of their gender, and making that so culturally normative that it’s hard to see it, let alone swim against it.

They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires the deceitful desires of the abuser who has taken power over his victim, and the deceitful desires of some victims’ own flesh, being caught out in youthful lust, falling pregnant to an abuser and so the die is cast for a long and appalling ‘anti-marriage’ to the abuser who she married because he was the father of her child, or because marrying him seemed better than living with her abusive family of origin. . . and all other such stories where the victim is easily entrapped by an abuser because of her vulnerability. . .   
and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Let rightly divided Scripture untangle your muddled heart and thinking, and let it dispel the false guilt and wrong judgements that so many of us have had, so that we may be wise as serpents to discern abusers, to protect our children, and to rebut false teaching; and harmless as doves, especially to ourselves and our true brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we share this journey of coming into the light of Truth and recovery from abuse and advocacy for other victims.

Therefore, having put away falsehood refuse to believe or comply with the lies of the abusers and the false teachers; stop hiding in your own denial and fear; take courage, come to the God who is rich in mercy and who will not crush a bruised reed   

Update—CAVEAT: People can only put away falsehood and not comply with the lies of abusers and false teachers, if they know they are abusers & false teachers. Many victims of abuse do not know that they are being abused; and they do not know that they have been taught to believe lies and false doctrines. Many people come from families and churches where abuse is the norm and everyone believes wrong teaching about headship and submission and other imbalanced or false doctrines. For victims whose lives have been like that, it is not a matter of them ‘hiding in denial or fear’. It is just that they are living in fog.  My people perish through lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6) 

let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor break the silence, tell your secrets to someone who is safe for we are members one of another.

Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, There is nothing wrong with feeling angry about what your abuser has done and what church leaders may have wrongly done to you, just take care you do not sin in the how you act upon your anger. And by all means be bold to pour out your imprecatory prayers to God, remembering that vengeance belongs to Him.

and give no opportunity to the devil. Don’t let your abuser wrap you back into his web by his superficial shows of remorse and feigned repentance which masquerade as real change. Keep the bar high. Have no hesitation to aim for no contact, as that is the thing which will most likely provoke him to really wake up to himself. Let him get down to the process of change, if he wishes to, but you don’t have to be around: it’s not your business, it’s his.
And if you are tempted to get into a sexually immoral relationship, flee! Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Don’t go there. It’s not worth it. 

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. If you are tempted to run down your abuser to your kids, don’t. Find good adults to vent to instead.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Watch that you don’t fall into that hole where you beat yourself up. The Holy Spirit does not beat us up. Be gentle on yourself and try to remind yourself of all the creative ways you resisted the abuse. Recognize when you are exhausted and cut yourself some slack in your daily routine if you can.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  This may apply particularly to those who have children who have been recruited by the abuser.

Let’s Put This “But he hasn’t physically abused you” Nonsense to Rest Once and For All

Listen to these far too common words from a pastor to an abused wife who has gone to him for help. The abuse has occurred for decades, habitually, without repentance:

From what I have been told, you have suggested that your husband’s looking at inappropriate images on the internet is adultery,  but he has not committed the physical act .  Could this not be more appropriately handled with counseling than divorce? From what I have been told your husband has not deserted you but conversely is willing to go to a counselor of your choice. You have intimated that your husband has not physically abused you, but has said mean things in the past and has been manipulative.  Again, could this not be more appropriately handled with counseling rather than with divorce?”

There it is. “He has not committed the physical act of adultery. He has not physically abused you. Therefore, tough it out and quit complaining. Why, your husband is even willing to come down here to the church building with you and let me counsel the two of you.”

Remember, now, this has been going on for decades. And yet this pastor sees himself as some kind of counseling superman who can leap the tall buildings of this abuser’s lifelong wickedness in a single bound, and quicker than a speeding bullet he just knows that he will be able to show the victim how she is really pretty much to blame herself. Go, Super Pastor!

 

Physical. Outward. Visible = Real.
Non-physical, inward, often invisible = not real.
Whoa!!

Doesn’t the Bible completely reverse these equations? Take 2 Corinthians 3 for instance. You know, where Paul teaches us how he is an apostle of a better covenant than the covenant Moses mediated. Why? Because the Old Covenant was an outward, physical covenant written on tablets of stone which resulted in a fading glory. In contrast, the New Covenant is of a greater, permanent glory because due to the atoning work of Jesus Christ the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and engraves it upon our hearts. Can’t see it, but in fact it is real and permanent. So this is simply to say to pastors and Christians who pull this “but he hasn’t ever physically….whatever” on us that God’s Word repeatedly emphasizes that just because something is not physical and external and visible in no way means that it is not real! In fact what is not seen (we walk by faith, not by sight) far surpasses in reality that which is fading away.

Want more? Ok. Here is God’s commentary, direct from the Holy Spirit, on verbal abuse:

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”  (Rom. 3:13-14)

Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually. They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s, and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah Guard me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have planned to trip up my feet. (Ps. 140:1-4)

Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. (Ps. 52:2)

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?” (Ps. 64:2-5)

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:6-8)

Alright then, we shall now ask Mr. Super Pastor/Christian/counselor:–

You say that this abuse is not real, or at the most it is really not so serious and dangerous as the victim seems to think, because it is not physical. It’s, well, it’s just words or looks, or non-contact behaviors that…well, you know…can’t really hurt anyone so seriously that they would justify that greatest of evils, divorce!? And yet, here is a curious thing. God says…hear that?  GOD says that the abuser’s words are:

  • Asp venom
  • Violence
  • A sharp razor
  • A sword
  • Arrows
  • Fire (and hellish fire at that)
  • Deadly poison

So let’s just see what we have here. This woman who has come to you for help is being bitten by an asp, is having violence effected against her, is being cut with a sharp razor and run through with a sword, she is being shot with arrows, burned with fire, and fed a deadly poison regularly.

And you say that this is not grounds for divorce because it is not “physical.” What you mean is, “what is being done to you, Mrs. Victim, isn’t real.”

 

Mr. Super Pastor, God disagrees with you. You are at odds with the Lord Jesus Christ! He has spoken on this over and over in His Word. He says that non-physical, verbal, emotional abuse is real. That it is deadly. It is murder. That’s what God says.

So please, take some advice. Listen carefully. Stop saying “but it isn’t physical abuse.” Stop it. You are only hurting the victim, showing yourself to be ignorant of the nature and tactics of abuse, and worst of all you are opposing the King whom you claim is your Lord.

One final note for the notorious “permanence view” crowd. Look closely at the list above. You teach that God does not permit the victim of such evil to divorce her poisoner, cutter, stabber, and burner. What shall we say to you? Nothing. Because if you can’t figure out that God permits divorce for the evils in this list, I know of nothing I can say to straighten you out.

 

 

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