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!