A Cry For Justice

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

I’m No Good, and Doggone it, People Hate Me

I spent  years thinking something was wrong with me because it seemed that so many people just hated my guts. Seriously. I’ve had horrible enemies for as long as I can recall and few friends. The friends I had usually ended up turning. So, I got this idea that eventually people would recognize that something was wrong with me if they hung around for long and pulled back even more.  (Long time abuse survivor)

We all know that abusers (wish I could think of a more descriptive name for them – “abuser” just isn’t evil enough) — that abusers use the tactic of telling their victims how evil they are, how bad they are, how they hurt other people, how it is no wonder that no one likes them. And the victim’s experience, as described in the quote above, often confirms those accusations.  Abuse victims find themselves failing at relationships frequently.  They see people turn against them.  Just about the time they think they have a friend — boom!  Another one gone.  And so here comes a huge load of shame, self-doubt, withdrawal, and a general “I am a bad person.  I am evil.  I do wrong to people sooner or later. I’m no good, and doggone it, people hate me.”  (a tweak of the famous line from Stuart Saves His Family).

Victims of abuse very often conclude that they are quite flawed.  That is what we call shame.  But I think there is more.  Victims come to feel dirty, evil, and just plain bad.  After all, why else are they unable to maintain relationships like everyone else?  Why, in the end, do other people turn on them, accuse them, and throw them off?  This thing happened to me, and I know what it feels like.  I came to believe this line after nearly 30 years of being targeted by abusers.

I believed it, that is, until about three years ago when the Lord opened my eyes to this thing called abuse.

You see, abuse traumatizes people.  And trauma has some pretty deep and far-reaching effects on anyone.  Trauma victims become hyper-vigilant.  You would too if you kept getting punched in the face.  Trauma victims experience what is called intrusion.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s just call this flashbacks.  Those nasty buried emotions come flying out of somewhere and they never show up at a real convenient time.  And then trauma victims often end up withdrawing from relationships.  Why wouldn’t they, if you think about it?

And now get this.

Victims can then come to believe (and others as well) that THIS person who evidences all of these symptoms, IS the person they now appear to be.  “Who is Jeff?  Jeff is that guy who just can’t take criticism.”  Who is Jeff?  Well, Jeff is just not a very sociable person. I just don’t think he likes people very much at all.”  Who do you say Jeff is?  “Jeff is always worried about things.  He can’t just relax and laugh.”  That’s who Jeff is.

No it isn’t.  These are the symptoms of years of abuse.  They are the symptoms of trauma from experiencing things like:

  • Sitting in a church building watching and listening to some 75 people arguing over your salary, one particular loud critic exclaiming that “if this church is going to use our money to pay for maintenance on the parsonage, then I am not going to give another penny.  We have to all fix our own houses.”  Your wife and children are sitting right there with you.
  • Being called to meet with a “concerned” group of 12 people, lured in by an invitation to dinner, and finding yourself sitting with all eyes on you, and hearing one accusation after another  leveled – you aren’t available to us enough, you didn’t come to see me when I had a cold….
  • In all of these situations knowing that you could be thrown out in a second and wondering how you would provide for your family.
  • Being told by church members that the electric bill at the parsonage was way too high this month (it was -20F for a week).
  • Driving 80 miles one way (at your own expense)  in the snow to visit a cancer patient, then being shouted at in the hospital room by a church elder and accused of not caring enough.  (This elder later abandoned his wife and took off with another man’s wife).
  • Having 3 people march into your office at the church building with a long list of criticisms, then being told you should have been a seminary professor instead of a pastor.
  • Seeing your church board refuse to confront one of the deacons for being drunk in public, then at the very next board meeting having that very same offending deacon announce that the church board’s job is to make sure the pastor is preaching sermons that all the people like, and seeing your board once again cower and refuse to stand up to this wicked man.  Then eventually seeing him remain in power there while you had to resign and uproot your family.  You planted that church.  You named that church.  And now you are gone.
  • Being accused of being a poor excuse for a pastor by a raging “church father” at the conclusion of a worship service in front of 150 people, including your wife and children.  Then receiving a call that afternoon that a group of church members were calling around trying to get you fired for offending this saint.

Need I go on?  I could.  Oh believe me, I could.  And guess what?  After 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 YEARS of this, you change from the person you were.  Yes, you are hypervigilant.  Yes, you have flashbacks and snap awake in the middle of the night, not able to go back to sleep.  Yes, you withdraw.  Yes, you go to church every week wondering when the next hammer is going to fall.  Christ used all of this to train me for this present ministry to abuse victims.  I didn’t know it then.  I didn’t want it.  But He did it.  And at just the right time about three years ago, when I picked up my first book on abuse, lights began to flash.  I knew this thing.  And now it had a name.

To come full circle then, yes, you conclude that YOU are bad.  YOU are evil.  YOU are deficient. After all, could all of these people be wrong?  Why else do your relationships fall apart?

They fall apart because abusers sabotage them, making their rounds to gather allies, undermining us behind our backs. They fall apart because of the damage that abuse does to our minds and emotions and health.  They fall apart because the damaged goods that abuse has made us is perceived by others as the real person that we are.  Uncaring.  Short.  Defensive.  They forget that we used to be someone else.

By the way, the abuse survivor who we quoted at the beginning of this article is getting freer and freer from her abuser.  She is in a new circle of acquaintances, and guess what?  She is finding that they like her!  They really like her.  Her.  They seek her out.  They want to be with her.  They want to be her friends.  I know exactly what she means.

Today my wife and I ate lunch in a Thai restaurant.  The place was quiet and our waitress was a cute little Thai woman with a big smile.  When she came to our table after we had eaten, I asked her where she grew up and how she learned English.  That was all it took.  She smiled at us and told us her story, obviously glad that someone had taken an interest in her.  I asked her about her religion (Buddhist) and if she had a Bible and, well, one thing led to another and she told us that in her hometown when people converted to Christianity she could see a real difference for the better in them.  I promised her a Bible on our next visit.  Her name is Ped.

Ped liked us.  She liked us.  And I (Jeff) liked her!  I reached out to her.  And I did it because I wanted to.  I wanted her to know Christ.  She was a total stranger to me, but I talked to her about her soul  This lie of the enemy that we who have been abused are no good and people hate us and that we don’t like people,  is a lie.  It’s a lie from the pit.  It is a tactic that we can expect the enemy of our souls to use on us, just as his representatives used it on Christ:

John 8:48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

No.  No you aren’t right.  He is the Son of God.

Jeff was no good.  But in Christ that has all changed.  And doggone it, Jesus loves me!

62 Comments

  1. Anna

    This breaks my heart. I’m thinking about the abuser my loved ones who are ministers have endured. I’m so sorry that people did this to you and your family Jeff. You did a great job applying the information you’ve gathered to how abusers operate in a church setting.

  2. Jim

    Jeff, I’m sorry that all this happened to you. From what you write here you have a big heart, a fine mind and a special care for the abused. Unfortunately those people were more interested in being religious big shots than listening to God.

  3. Such painful stories Jeff- I’m glad you were able to see through the fog. And WE like you too :)

  4. And this is why Jeff Crippen understands us domestic abuse victims so well.
    Thank you, Jeff, this post tells it like it is, raw and painful.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you, all. Yes, 25 or so years in the wilderness being prepared! When I finally sat down and wrote the book, A Cry for Justice, I primarily just had to take what I had learned from the many books I had read on abuse, and watch them come to life in front of me as I remembered the past 25 years. Other illustrations came from abuse victims who I came to know. I went to seminary late in my career, after having 12 years or so of pastoral experience. When I would relate these kinds of wicked scenarios to fellow students (much younger than I in most cases) they looked at me like I was some kind of crazy man. What I was telling them just did not square with their idea of pastoral ministry. In other words, they did not yet know evil. I learned something else in seminary. Most of the professors did not like me telling the stories. They were there to pump up the students so they could all launch out into Christendom and “grow” churches. I wonder how many of them are still in the ministry today?

      If you refuse to play politics (ie, show favoritism to the rich and famous), if you do the best you can at preaching God’s truth, if you call people to genuine repentance and reject easy-believism, you will be hated. And you will be hated in particular by power and control hungry abusers hiding behind the facade of saintliness. When the smoke clears, either you will be gone, or the wolves will.

      How much easier it would have been if seminary would have truly prepared me. Alas, we simply don’t learn the really important things in seminary.

  5. Now Free

    Jeff, I’m sickened about the treatment these abusive perpetrators gave you. How well you know the abusers’ character.

  6. Michelle Connell

    Hi Jeff,
    My goodness people can be cruel in church, cant they. I so understand where you are coming from. I was doing some meditating on the scripture, If a man hates his brother he is a liar and doesnt have the spirit of God in him, (my paraphrase) relating to people who hate. I was thinking how many churches are actually synagogues of satan, where Jezebel was queen. it seems to be such a power fight out there in the church world . I want to get to know the real deal (Jesus) and have a lot more to do with God, as a loving, kind, generous Father, so that I can spot the counterfeit. God amazes me with the intimacy that He has to pour out into us and how He can turn our ashes into beauty, and pray for those who need His mercy. Thank you for not giving into the bullies and the intimidators, we need people like you who can have actual compassion and understanding, for those who have been abuse, broken and bruised.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Michelle. Yes, what we always need to keep in mind is that just because someone professes to be a Christian, is a church member, or even a “pillar” of a local church, that in no way means they are truly one of Christ’s own. After over 25 years since some of these incidents occurred, others over 20 and most all of them over 7-10 years, not a single one of these have ever come back and asked for forgiveness. What most of them have done is 1) stop any profession of obeying Christ at all, or 2) move on to another church and dupe another group of people, rising to power once again. I have little doubt that Christians who are victims of abuse in a domestic setting are actually victims of persecution for their faith by an evil person who only parades as a Christian. There are no doubt many, many reasons why our churches are so full of false Christians, but the fact is that they are. This is also a fundamental reason why abuse victims do not receive justice when they ask their churches for help.

      • It is so true what you say Jeff, about the abuser persecuting us for our faith. There came a time in my marriage when I fell on my knees to Christ and pleaded for His forgiveness and help. I was truly a changed person after that (and I thought I had been a Christian for years already). After that the abuse got worse. At one point I mentioned that to the ex- I said ” I feel like things really got worse after my true conversion>” and I saw him nod his head. So, there definitely is a connection there.

  7. MeganC

    I hate all that you have been through, Jeff. :( What is WRONG with people? They truly thought they owned you. Unbelievable.

    Your post (as you know) brought tears to my eyes and was a balm to my soul. I know this feeling of believing that people don’t like me. In fact, I have (in the past) started from a foundation that people probably won’t like me because of what others have said about me. It is an awful feeling. And I hate that you have endured this . . . I cannot imagine anyone not liking you. :) We are all so grateful for your ministry. It has altered my life forever. God is doing wonders through you, Pastor.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Megan! You are a good Sister!

  8. Saved By Grace

    Thank you Jeff for sharing your story, hard as it may be to share. I have quit attending church because I feel rejected by the “church”.

    I had come to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me as the same cycle has happened in several religious “churchy” communities. I would start attending a new church; be welcomed and meet the pastor and other parishioners; I would then get involved: teach children’s Sunday School, help in the nursery, help out with small groups, all-in-all get to know people. Yet after a couple weeks, I would feel ignored by the people who knew me. I would no longer be greeted, I would stand by an individual I knew who was deep in conversation with another waiting for the conversation to end, so I could greet that person….but to now avail. I would be ignored, and the individual would walk away. I would go to church feeling down, and even depressed, with the hope to be uplifted, but I would feel ignored and go home feeling just as, if not more, depressed.

    I have felt rejected, neglected, ignored, under-valued, unappreciated, unwanted by the “church”. I would finally quit attending “church”, then a couple months later try church again at another “church”….but the story would repeat itself. I have finally decided not to attend “church” to avoid the inevitable. I still think that there may be something wrong with me. I’m not sure how to change this. God help me.

    I long to be valued, to be appreciated, to feel wanted, but I have not experienced this in my local “church” or religious community.

    Thank you Jeff for sharing your story. It makes me aware that there are more of me out there. I am not alone. God bless.

    • SBG, I want to (((hug))) you. And I’m so glad you are coming to our blog-church. :)

      • Saved By Grace

        Thank you Barbara. Your words warm my heart.

  9. Katy

    Oh Jeff, I hope that here you receive confirmation that you are not what any of those people claimed, and particularly the statement “You should have been a seminary professor instead of a pastor” – can you see the forked tongue that came up with that one? So very very clever. I forget sometimes how clever Satan is.
    I must say you are the wisest pastor I know who has brought me more comfort and peace than all of my past teachers and pastors combined – and I only know you online!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you for the encouragement Katy. As hard as it has all been, the fact is that those years of abuse are the only reason I even have a clue about the plight of abuse victims now. So for that I am thankful and I know the Lord was orchestrating it all. The famous line of Joseph to his brothers, remember? “You meant it to me for evil, but God….”.

    • Amen.
      And that was a good pick-up, Katy, about the seminary professor comment. Forked tongue indeed. And what would Jeff have gone off thinking after that? Maybe I’m too academic for these guys? Maybe I need to simplify my sermons, give them milk not meat? Maybe I just don’t have a ‘pastoral heart’? Maybe I haven’t really heard God’s call rightly? Maybe I should have applied for that lecturing position at Bible College, even though I probably wouldn’t have got the job because I don’t play their academic games and haven’t been published in any journals. And how will my wife feel when she runs into this guy in the supermarket? Maybe I’d better not tell her what he said even though it hurt me so much, so she doesn’t have to have that discomfort?

  10. Saved By Grace

    And praise God that you have you are using your experiences for the good of those who read this blog. I too have been ministered through your words. I have been encouraged while also learning more about abuse. I pray that what I have learned from this forum better equips me to sympathize and minister to those enduring abuse.

    God bless you Jeff.

  11. KayE

    Wow Jeff, that just reminds me so much of my childhood, growing up as a pastor’s kid. I was completely aware of how hypocritical and mean some of those church people were.Some of them were wealthy, but they didn’t seem to care if the minister got paid late. Once our house burnt down in the middle of the night. We all escaped but were really traumatised. The only thing the church people seemed to care about was getting the insurance.They didn’t help us move into a new house and they didn’t help my parents clean up.The people who helped us were mostly people from the community who had nothing at all to do with church.My dad was so disillusioned he started looking for a new job. Soon afterwards we moved to a new town, and I remember my parents being really surprised and grateful that the church people in the new town actually cared about them.
    So many churches seem to be full of evil people . I am so very, very grateful for pastors like you, who continue on despite being mistreated.

    • Katy

      WOW KayE! that is so awful!! You know, reading these stories reminds me of how God didn’t seem to have much good to say to those 7 churches in Revelation – I always wondered why none of the churches were doing well in those chapters…. has nothing ever changed? Has the church always been this way and will it continue … if so then truly. there is just a small remnant. :(

  12. Barnabasintraining

    Jeff,

    This is very painful to read. I have read so much and am so concerned about abusive controlling pastors that it’s easy to forget the good ones get hammered and abuse goes both directions. I think what was done to you is awful. :(

    • Just Me

      BIT, That’s exactly what I was thinking as I read this! You have these Bill Gothards and Bob Jones-ians who no one can ever say no to, and if you do, you are excommunicated. And then, on the other side, you have a good and godly pastor who is treated so horribly! Abuse goes so much deeper than I ever realized.

      We love you, Jeff. And we are so grateful for you and for your willingness to be a voice for us. Maybe we should all move to Tillamook, go to your church and post a big sign on the door that says “Abusers Not Welcome.” Jeff S can sing, Megan can play the piano, SBG can teach Sunday School, Barbara can run a victims recovery group, Memphis can do a Friday night coffee/comedy hour. I’m happy to help wherever. It would be great!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Come on! We need backup! Of course the job market in Tillamook is dismal. And I have thought many times of putting that very sign on the church door! I worded it a bit differently – “Hey, Abuser! We’ve got your number. Don’t bother.”

        And yes, I have often dreamt of a great exodus of our blog friends to Tillamook. In reality, I suspect all of our situations are something more like this –

        Acts 8:1-4 ESV
        (1) And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (2) Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
        (3) But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (4) Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.

        But if I every come into a pile of money, the first thing I am going to do is put on a big conference and pay for everyone’s costs to get there!

      • Barnabasintraining

        JM,

        That would be huge fun!

      • Just Me

        No problem. If Tillamook doesn’t work, we can just relocate the whole thing to Maui. I’m not picky!!

      • Oh boy do I love that idea, JM. :) and I bet there are lots of other readers who would have their special things to contribute to.
        And guess what, mothers day and fathers day would not be the same as they are in most churches!

      • Little Miss Me

        That’s a church I’d feel comfortable going to! No worrying if anyone had my back or was just faking it. Especially if we did it in Maui. Though if there were enough of us we could start our own economic upturn in Tillamook… :)

      • Jeff Crippen

        LMM – maybe everyone could get jobs at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It’s exciting. A great product, but you watch and watch the cheese go by on the conveyor.

  13. Saved By Grace

    Count me in. Maui, Hawaii is on my bucket list of places I would like to visit. Living there would be even more wonderful!

  14. Saved By Grace

    Isn’t it wonderful to dream? I would enjoy spending any amount of time with each of you.

  15. Anonymous

    You have helped so many, many people, who could not get help in the “c”hurch. God used you, after all you had endured, to raise the standard of what the truth looks like. It amazes me, that they expected you to lay down your life, which in fact you did, only to be used and abused by the so called “brethren”. But some pastors today, would not even dream of doing what you did. In fact, they would immediately excommunicate anyone who even dared asked them for help, even if they asked them nicely.

    I know, for a fact, that you have tried to help other pastors see the light, even if they refused to see it. You are a guide to those who truly want to see the truth and a light to the blind. May God bless all you have done for all of us and may you never have to endure the abuses you have endured in the past. God has graciously used your pain, to heal others, and I am very thankful, though very sorry, that you had to endure all you did.

  16. Kathy seldon

    Wow Jeff, that was very powerful and very uplifting. I see the horror of abuse you endured, and to see the power and victory you’ve won from it is an amazing testimony

  17. Heather

    Jeff, my heart broke as I began reading your post. The first paragraph could have been my own feelings from my past. Three years ago I was shown that my mother had been abusing me all along. Neglect, verbal abuse, some physical abuse….The divorce of my parents and my mother’s strong Roman Catholic background caused me endless doubts and questions about myself. I believed the lies, whether she criticized my physical traits, or compared me to my hated dad. I was bullied at school. I thought God had made a mistake. I felt as though I was a bad person. When I married I thought I had married into a wonderful family, the most wonderful husband. We were married for over three decades. I forgave the adultery, the emotional unavailability. I overlooked so many things because I thought I was lucky to have married him. I still believed the lies about myself. My mother had prepared me well for a lifetime with a passive man who treated me with reward and punishment, depending….Of course, it was all so subtle and he was such a “nice guy.” Meanwhile, I, being outspoken and strong willed, was thought to be the terrible person, the bad parent, etc. He quietly undermined who I was. I thought it was all my fault. Every time I lost a friend I blamed myself, continuing to believe that God had made a mistake in creating me. Unfortunately, I looked really good and together on the outside. No one could have known the pain I carried, or the lies we were living.

    I left my husband after I began to have my eyes opened. I went back on several occasions to try again. Typical victim. Finally, my children told me that not to go back. Their eyes were now opening. They saw my plight…They saw that their father was a selfish man, one who very carefully hid his true nature from others and would throw us all under the bus to protect his image.

    I am now remarried to the most wonderful, godly man. He bears my burden as I seek to find comfort and healing. He tells me how worthy I am. And he shows me. His words are backed up by his actions. But trust is hard for me. I haven’t made the best choices along the way. But I am realizing that not all choices are dependent upon one person, especially in relationships.

    When I am down, which can be very often, I am beginning to remind myself of this truth:

    “Jesus loves me, this I know.
    For the Bible tells me so.
    Little ones to Him belong.
    They are weak, but he is strong.”

    I have read much about abuse these past three years, much like yourself. Slowly, the Lord has shown me and taught me. It has been extremely painful at times. There were moments when I didn’t want to live. Finding your site has meant so much to me because we are all believers who have suffered these atrocities. We are family.

    Like others, I left my church. A woman who leaves is branded in so many ways. But I have a new life far away now. I may never find complete healing in this life but I trust my God to supply all my needs in His riches and glory. God does not make mistakes. I am not a mistake. I may not understand all of it at the moment, but I choose to remember,

    “Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”

    Blessings always.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Heather – And that is what it is all about! People like all of us finding out the lies were lies and that Christ has made us His own. Your comments here are exactly what I was trying to say and hoped everyone would see in their own lives as well. If God is for us, who can be against us? The Supreme Court of the Universe has spoken, and the Judge of all has declared us righteous. Then He decided to adopt us on top of that!

    • MeganC

      Thank you so much for that, Heather. I feel like I could have written all you said up there. I always assumed it was me . . . that there was something wrong with ME. And my sisters and their recruits still keep trying to press that into me. :( But, if I hold on to those truths . . . they seems so simple but are so foundational, if I let them sink into the very deepest veins of the darkest parts of my being, I stand on something firm: He has chosen me; I am not a mistake; He loves me; He said so; He has adopted me . . . No one is perfect but the condemnation is gone! It is a battle in the mind but I am determined to have victory in this area.

    • Amy

      Beautifully written, Heather! I too am remarried after twenty years in an abusive marriage and I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to be a good wife because I was told so often by my ex of all the things “wrong” with me. My husband says I’m wonderful, beautiful and he is so glad that God brought us together.
      Blessings!

      • Heather

        Hugs, Amy. I’m very happy that you now have a soft spot.

    • Heather, I think we were married to the exact same man. Every word you said applies to my experience-except going back to him several times. Once I was gone, I was gone. Of course he never once asked me back-I too believed I was a terrible person and lucky that he put up with me. Oh the lies we believe!

  18. Little Miss Me

    And here’s how deep it runs: I read Heather’s comment and when she said she is now married to a wonderful man (congrats, by the way), I thought “Gee, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be a wife again – I don’t think I know how to be good to someone like that.” UGH!

    • Jeff Crippen

      LMM- Deep indeed. Yes, I had times when I thought I should resign (I wanted to in fact) and one of the reasons was that I was believing the lies that I was just “not a pastor type.” Of course now I understand that what was really going on is that I was and am not the “type” of pastor who wicked people want to keep around. That scenario all changes though as genuine believers start filling the ranks in the local church. And I suspect, LMM, that you would find that you would do quite well at being a godly wife. In fact, if you think about it, the fact that you were NOT a “good” wife in the abuser’s estimation tells you a lot. Such a man would not like a genuinely godly wife.

    • Amy

      LMM,
      I never thought I’d marry again. I felt too broken and honestly, after being away from the abuse that occurred for over two decades of my life, I just didn’t feel like I wanted to try to be the perfect wife ever again.
      Fortunately, the Lord brought a wonderful man into my life and guess what? I’m not a perfect wife, but my husband takes me for me and never, ever points out my faults. He loves me unconditionally and does not have to break me down to build himself up.

      Abuse destroys how we see ourselves and after my ex left I threw myself into the Psalms so I could see who I truly am. I am loved, I am wonderfully made, I am a child of a King, among many other ways that God sees me.
      I meditated on who I was in God and made a conscious effort to stop the negative talk in my head. When I’d start to tell myself how stupid I was, I’d turn it around to how smart I was. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing ugliness, I’d tell myself how beautiful I was.
      That was a turning point for me. I actually started to see the value in myself and I gained the courage to stand up against what was not right.

      Blessings!

      • Jeff S

        Thank you for sharing Amy. I am conflicted about remarriage because in my head I believe what I experienced was not a normal marriage, but when that’s all you’ve known the heart sometimes finds it difficult to accept that things could be different.

    • Heather

      Little Miss Me,
      Thank you. It isn’t always easy. Because I have huge fears and trust issues there are times when I even mistrust my wonderful husband. It’s paranoia, I know. It gets triggered. But he lovingly speaks with me and once I come out of it and am “normal” again, I see what has happened. My desire is to catch it before I ride the wave. It will take work and trusting God. I am blessed that he was placed in my life when he was. The Lord knew whom I would need.

    • Little Miss Me

      Thanks, all. Jeff C. brought a tear to my eye. Amy, I’ll look more into Psalms and I really like your positive self-talk. You and Heather give me hope. And Jeff S., you are not alone.

      I think one of my things is that I’m not sure I can be totally accepting of anyone the way I know a spouse should, the way I want to be accepted. I feel forever like I’m waiting for the ‘real’ person to come out from anyone new I meet. I’m suspicious and picture the ways they could turn on me or wonder how they really treat their friends and families. I’m overly sensitive to casual joking – even from myself (sometimes I make a joke about someone and wonder if they thing I’m cruel for saying something that could be mean if I were serious.)

      I realize it’s way too soon to be seeking out a new partner and plan to give myself plenty of healing time, but I fear for my friendships in the meantime and for the possibility that I will never remarry.

      • Katy

        LMM – I do the same thing. I’ve been out for years and relatively recovered – but when I meet new men I always think to myself “I wonder what he does to his wife when no one is watching” – so I think this must just be normal for us. It’s okay. I guess as long as we don’t show everyone our suspicious/paranoid nature all the time we come off as healed. ha. (little joke)

    • Cindy Burrell’s recent post talks about this very thing.
      http://cindyburrell.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/maybe-i-was-married-to-an-abuser/

      Here’s a quote from the middle of the post:

      I only know that I am pretty much the same woman now that I was then, but with one major difference. Now I am married to a man who wants me to know that I am loved, cherished and appreciated. I know that my love will go to any lengths to make sure I am safe and happy. I had wondered whether it was possible, had almost ceased imagining that I might be worthy of such love.

      • MeganC

        I LOVE that quote, Barb.

      • Now Free

        This is an excellent post for showing to those who would blame and shame us. The message will not transform everyone’s minds about abuse and “blame the victim” mentality, but it will awaken at least a few.

        Hey maybe even a pastor or 2! :)

  19. LorenHaas

    Jeff, your story leaves me so depressed I just want to crawl into bed with packages of cookies and stay there until they are all gone.
    To let the rest of you in on the reference that I hope Jeff is laughing about, my comment is based on the movie “Stuart Saves His Family”. For those of you who have not seen this little gem, you are missing a part to your recovery. Stuart’s family of origin is abusive, and the movie is about him coming to grips with his past and finding a new path. Unfortunately for him, he keeps relapsing in his recovery and has to struggle to stay free from his family legacy. The movie is funny in a bittersweet way, which is understood best by those in recovery from abuse and addiction. People who have not experienced what Stuart has usually do not “get” this movie. For those of us who thank God every day for opening our eyes and revealing a path to freedom, this movie can remind us how far we have come. I have recommended “Stuart Saves His Family” too many people who need to have their eyes opened or need a “daily affirmation”,
    This movie can be hard to find. You can watch it through streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, but it is no longer available in a DVD. You might find it used with some digging.
    And Jeff, your story has encouraged me to appreciate my pastor more and to be an agent for peace in my church. I am sorry that you have gone through this, but God has given you the courage to us it for good. You are blessing others with it.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks very much Loren. We both know Stuart! I think at one point in the movie, if I remember correctly, they play a song about co-dependency — “if you’re happy, then….” – or something like that. It’s classic. I can’t remember the actor’s name who plays Stuart, but he went on to become, I believe, a U.S. representative or senator.

      • Al Franken, right? He used to do that character on Saturday Night Live.

      • Jeff S

        Yes, I think that’s where Stuart Little got it from :)

  20. Lisa

    Thank You Jeff…….Very encouraging!

  21. Amy

    Wow, amazing how people can treat others! And perhaps more amazing to me is how those people see nothing wrong in how they treat others.
    My ex never showed any empathy. He verbally, mentally and emotionally abused me for twenty years and just could have cared less. Oh there would be times where he seemed caring, but usually that was when we were with other people. Most of the time he simply turned his back to me if I was upset or hurt, and would even give me the silent treatment for a day or two. He did.not.care. Period.
    And people that treat others abusively, whether in a marriage or church or whatever the relationship, do not know how to show love. And when someone cannot show love to another makes me highly doubt they are true believers.

    My ex proclaimed to be a Christian and did an excellent job after he walked out on me and our two sons four years ago in convincing others that he was holier-than-thou and because I only wanted a divorce what an un-Godly woman I was. He carried his bible everywhere he went and really played the poor me card because his wife was not acting like a Christian since she did not want anything to do with reconciliation. He really should have received an Academy Award for his performance. LOL

    “Why else do your relationships fall apart?
    They fall apart because abusers sabotage them, making their rounds to gather allies, undermining us behind our backs. They fall apart because of the damage that abuse does to our minds and emotions and health. They fall apart because the damaged goods that abuse has made us is perceived by others as the real person that we are. Uncaring. Short. Defensive. They forget that we used to be someone else.”

    Wow, just wow…what else is there to say to this statement. It is so true.
    I just recently discovered that a couple my ex and I had been good friends with for over 15 years has pretty much turned away from me. And there have been others too that have believed his lies and not just that, but had seen me as you described above: uncaring, short, defensive, and I would add unhappy, no fun.
    I remember one time years ago when my youngest son was about 8 or 9 years old and he was being silly while playing a game with me, he stopped and said to me, “mom, you never smile anymore.” I was stunned and realized that day that the abuse was draining the life from me.
    I read somewhere, possibly in one of the posts on this blog, that it’s not uncommon for the abused to start taking on some of the traits of the abuser. For me, I started feeling so much anger inside and although I never dared show that to my ex-husband, I would find myself taking it out on the kids by yelling at them and becoming overly impatient, just as my ex was. One day though something happened…after yelling and yelling at my youngest son over something stupid all because of the pent-up frustration I was feeling after my ex had just torn me apart with his tirade of words before leaving for work, I looked down at my son who had tears and hurt filling his eyes, and I crumpled in a heap. I realized at that moment how I was becoming like his dad and I knew I had to stop. I never, ever yelled at my kids after that day.

    But I do know that others saw in me some of those traits that my ex had such as impatient, indifference perhaps and it made me appear to be the one with a problem because my ex was always so careful not to show any of those things in front of other people.

    Anyway, I’m rambling some, but this post and many others on your blog have spoken volumes to me. Sometimes it is like reliving the abuse and I experience these overwhelming feelings, but it’s all good. I believe God is finally allowing me to see more clearly all that occurred in my life so that I may now help others around me.

    Blessings on your ministry to the abused.

    • Anonymous

      “He stopped and said to me, ‘mom, you never smile anymore.’ I was stunned…”

      Amy, I have had the same stunning experience – when someone makes a statement and for the first time you recognize something that has been in front of you for so long, but you could not see it before.

      It happened to me when speaking with one of my college professors. (I recently graduated from college – started in my 40s). His comment – “I am not judging you.” That was when I realized that during my nearly 30 year marriage that my ex constantly judged me and I had come to assume that everyone judged me – my actions, my words, my abilities, etc. In fact, it was just recently that I realized that a reason I don’t like to comment publicly on this blog is because I fear being judged by the readers. Silly huh, fear being judged by people who don’t even know my real name.

      Yes, abuse does drain so much from us. I am so glad that you recognized it in your life! Recognition is the first step to recovery. Praying we all experience a full recovery!

      • Thank you, Anonymous that was a great vignette about you and your professor. Isn’t it so often the case? – when survivors tell little vignettes about their lives/thoughts/feelings, it rings true to the rest of us. So glad you’ve had that realisation about having been on a default ‘Afraid of being judged’ mode. I am looking forward to hearing more of your sharings. :)

  22. anna

    I was crying the other day.
    My 3 year old: Mommy, why you crying?
    Me: I’m sad.
    3 year old: You crying ’cause Daddy say bad things to you?
    Me: Does Daddy say bad things to me?
    3 year old: Yes.
    Me: I’m crying because I’m sad. I’ll feel better in a minute. Let’s read a book.

    • Katy

      girl, one of my little boys had just turned 4 when we got free from my ex. I remember one day we were taking a little ride on my dad’s golf cart, and my baby said “Mom am I gonna move away from you someday?” – and I said not until you’re grown. A long time from now. Maybe someday you’ll meet a nice girl and get married … and he says “Yeah. And then if I’m bad to my girl, I can get a new one. ?”
      Broke my heart! :( I guess he had really noticed what was going on around him.

  23. Annie

    Jeff, you said, “You see, abuse traumatizes people. And trauma has some pretty deep and far-reaching effects on anyone. Trauma victims become hyper-vigilant. You would too if you kept getting punched in the face. Trauma victims experience what is called intrusion. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just call this flashbacks. Those nasty buried emotions come flying out of somewhere and they never show up at a real convenient time. And then trauma victims often end up withdrawing from relationships. Why wouldn’t they, if you think about it?”

    This is what a lot of people don’t get. They may acknowledge that abuse happens, and that it is wrong, but they don’t understand what the effects are on the victims. A lot of the symptoms that show up are misattributed to character flaws or choices, or worse, a weak faith. They are nothing but symptoms, and don’t have to be permanent fixtures in the life of a victim.

    Thanks for sharing this :)

  24. Wendell G

    Jeff, I have seen this time and time again, and even experienced some of it. It has been one reason I have been reluctant to seek the pastorate again.

    Is it any wonder that so many people in the church abuse their spouses and children when they treat their pastors like this? It is almost as if church people think they own you when they give you a paycheck and expect you to “minister” to them! Same mentality as an abusive spouse who thinks that now the vows have been said, they “own” their mate and can expect them to bow, bend and kow-tow to their every whim and fancy….and like it!

    Sickening.

    • Thanks for that, Wendell. It’s interesting to hear that this culture of ‘It’s okay to control the pastor because we pay him’ is one of the things that deters you from seeking to be a pastor again. I bet you aren’t the only former pastor who feels like that.

      • Wendell G

        Yes. There are a lot of pastoral casualties in the wake of over controlling church members. I might also add that I have never taken a salary, as I have always been bi-vocational; however, the barbs and criticisms hurt just the same.

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