A Cry For Justice

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

Anger Management is Not the Answer

A reader recently wrote and said that her ex, and abusive man for over two decades, insists that his only problem is anger.  He claims to be a Christian and is verbally repentant about his anger.  The only problem is that in the same breath that he “confesses” his anger, he lays blame upon her for leaving him.  She can fully expect him to continue his other various abusive tactics as he has opportunity.  Nothing has changed.

Those of you who have read Bancroft know that anger is not the abuser’s real issue, and therefore anger management strategies are like water off a duck’s back.  In fact, they can even give an abuser another excuse — his anger, and whatever it is that supposedly made him an angry man.

When we are dealing with a person who battles with anger, it is possible that we are dealing with a Christian.  It is a question of sanctification.  We will still expect to see improvement and genuine repentance however, and if that repentance is absent then the individual is not a Christian no matter how loudly he insists that he is.

But when we are dealing with an abuser, we are dealing with issues of justification. That is to say, salvation.  A person who is convinced that they are entitled to power and control over others and who has no regret about using whatever means he deems necessary to obtain that control, is simply not a regenerate individual.  It cannot be.  Just read through I John and you will understand why.

I mistakenly dealt with a person once from the assumption that he was a Christian who just needed help in his sanctification to over come his abusive ways.  And I dealt with him for — I am ashamed to say it – years.  Yep, it took Jeff that long to get a clue.  But I finally did.  The reason nothing changed is because there was no repentance.  And where there is no repentance, there is no Christian.

Our reader who asked about this subject would be interested in your comments and experiences regarding mis-diagnoses of anger as the cause of abuse.

18 Comments

  1. Maree

    “if that repentance is absent then the individual is not a Christian no matter how loudly he insists that he is.” and “I dealt with him for — I am ashamed to say it – years. Yep, it took Jeff that long to get a clue. But I finally did. The reason nothing changed is because there was no repentance. And where there is no repentance, there is no Christian.”

    I’m also beginning to “get it”.

    After leaving home and committing adultery, I allowed my former husband to return. He said “sorry” and got on with his life as though nothing had happened, leaving me absolutely devastated. I was even told by his friend, an elder, that yes he was a Christian. I LIVED WITH HIM, THE ELDER DID NOT, but I didn’t see any evidence of him being born again. After saying “sorry” he blamed coming off his powerful medication suddenly (he forgot to take it with him when he left me for the other woman) and his doctor for prescribing the medication. Later he told me that “I drove him to it.” So, no repentance at all. I’m sure that I am made to look like I am in the wrong for leaving a “repentant Christian”. For those who believe that I had no right to leave and then divorce him for adultery “only”, I would like to add that he was also a cruel, abusive man. His abuse spanned almost 20 years.

    • Here’s a past blog of mine that might help you realize that there was nothing you could have ever done to change him or the situation, but leave. You are not crazy; your world was crazy. http://morvensblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/charmers-and-con-artists/

      • Jeff Crippen

        Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus. Oh, and Virginia — while we are at it — there really ARE evil people in this world who do not think like you and I do. They too dress up like Santa and come bearing gifts, but you must never trust them.

  2. Maree

    I forgot to say that he told people that he had repented, referring to his apology.

  3. Maree

    An apology IS NOT repentance.

  4. Mary Gemmill

    I wrote to you about my story which fits this exactly, but maybe it is someone else to whom you are referring. Our Pastor tried for 3 years and sent my ex on 3 different anger management courses but indeed it was water off a duck’s back, and after 3 years the Pastor came to me and confessed he couldn’t budge the issue; it was too deep seated. Actually, his rage likely stemmed from having to pick his father up out of the gutter every night from age 12 when his older siblings went off to university.
    As far as being a christian goes- h’es convinced he is one, and may God be the judge. However, the Word clearly states ” By their fruit you shall know them”, and we see a little fruit in his reaching out to others beyond the family, but it hasn’t ever been evident within the family. He will help out financially at times but then uses this as leverage to control- so the family [ adults] have all decided never to borrow from him again.
    I have found your posts enlightening, affirming and reassuring, and am glad to be a subscriber to such helpful articles that i now share with friends.
    God Bless.
    Marygems

    • Jeff Crippen

      Mary – no, it was from a different reader, but the pattern is sooooo common, isn’t it? The root issue in the abuser is that he is unsaved. Of course, when I say “abuser,” I mean someone whose very mentality is defined by entitlement to power and control over others and a virtually conscienceless use of whatever tactics are necessary to get and maintain that control. The reason we don’t make progress with such people when we deal with them as if they are Christians is because, they aren’t. They need to be squarely confronted with their sin, with their lost condition, and called to repentance. If the church would back the victim up in all of this, abusers would depart from us, and maybe even once in a great while one might even come to real faith and repentance in Christ. I know from firsthand experience how convincing these people can be as they play the Christian role, but their continuing and habitual abusive patterns and mentality betray what they really are. Wonderful that you are here at the blog and we are glad to be able to know you.

      • Mary Gemmill

        Thanks Jeff- it’s good to have found your site, for sure..You help many who live with abusers as I did for 28 years-who have this sense of entitlement to power and control over others and a virtually conscienceless use of whatever tactics are necessary to get and maintain that control..
        Journey to Beloved is a blog I closely follow that is for victims of spiritual abuse in churches who have this power mentality- it’s so good help is becoming available- there was nothing when I got out to save my life and my children’s 15 years ago.
        Praise God for WWW !!

  5. Jodi H.

    I can attest to this based on my most recent exposure to the abuser- during his tirade which he was saying things that left my head spinning- I stopped one moment to look at his face and it held virtually no expression- certainly not the anger he was presenting verbally-and I saw his eyes were smiling. That realization chilled me to the bone-I knew he was enjoying putting me through this and reducing me to this yet again. I actually said so to him and he spluttered that of course he wasnt enjoying this-but it was too late-I saw it in his eyes.
    Jodi

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, Jodi. That “smiling of the eyes” is the real difference between the abuser mentality and the truly angry person. When I get angry, often I am not thinking clearly — if I were, I would have controlled my anger. And afterward I feel terrible and know I need to repent. But what is so hard for “normal” people to grasp is that it is entirely different with the abuser’s “anger.” Recently I was at a local women’s resource center meeting which includes men who want to help expose domestic violence. One of the men, a respected professional, told how he is working with young men and how he sees so much anger in them. After he was finished, I asked him if he realized that angry men and abusers are not the same kind of person and cannot be dealt with in the same manner. He was unaware of that fact, even though he had been working in this field for quite some time. I suspect that perhaps we are even being too reserved in our description of the abuser by saying that not every abuser is a sociopath (conscienceless). Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that most of them are and… dare I say it? That any person who is absolutely justified in using whatever techniques they need to use to gain and maintain the power and control that they are totally certain they are entitled to, and who can then lay down and sleep at night — is necessarily a person with no conscience at all. If I am not mistaken, William Hare and others who know the sociopathic/psychopathic mind have concluded that there is no known therapeutic cure for such a person.

      • jodi

        In this case you are right on track. He has actually told me he believes he has no conscience. He fits like 20-25 of the descriptions on the sociopath list. That was a chilling and heartbreaking discovery.
        jodi

      • The percentages of sociopaths among us is enough to make your hair curl. You might want to re-read the blog I wrote a few weeks ago: http://morvensblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/what-not-to-read-before-bed/

  6. Maree

    Mary Gemmill –

    “However, the Word clearly states ” By their fruit you shall know them”, and we see a little fruit in his reaching out to others beyond the family, but it hasn’t ever been evident within the family.”

    This confused me and still does, but something I heard recently that may help is that it’s the WHOLE fruit of the Spirit, not just one piece that is evidence of a Christian. So, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It’s ALL of these that are evidence of a Christian, not kindness alone or joy alone or patience alone…

    I hope that helps.

    • Jeff Crippen

      That is a really insightful observation, Maree. Good job!

  7. Maree

    I can’t take the credit for that Jeff. I heard it in a sermon somewhere.

  8. Maree

    An unsaved person can have good morals and can do good in the community but that doesn’t make them a Christian.

  9. Anonymous

    There are articles on Christian websites like christianpost.com and crosswalk.com that focus on anger management for Christians. This is so misleading because bystanders tend to exhort the abuser to get help for his anger, and abusers mistakenly believe that all they have to do is ask God to transform their anger by His grace.

  10. Yes, anger is not the issue. It may be one of the things an abuser does, but it is not the core problem. The problem, no, let me rephrase that, the SIN, is that the abuser believes they are entitled to mistreat and abuse their target. I have heard of abusers who did anger management programs, learnt to control their anger, but just became even more abusive in other nasty ways like mind games and other psychological abuse. And that kind of abuse is harder for the victim to ‘see’ and ‘call out’ than plain old anger.
    I’ve also heard of abusers who loved their booze, then (because their partner said “It’s me or the booze”) they gave it up, but then became even nastier in their verbal, emotional and financial abuse.

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