“Sacred Influence: What a Man Needs from His Wife to Be the Husband She Wants” — a review by Avid Reader
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This book is hopelessly stacked against women. Reading through it feels like you’re wandering in the desert, desperate for water, but each time you finally reach what looks like an oasis, it’s nothing more than a mirage.
According to Gary Thomas, he specifically wrote this book to help women facing difficult marriages. Yet this book still sounds so totally clueless towards understanding exactly that!
In the book, Sacred Influence, Gary’s main points are:
I want you to think about something — what if your husband’s faults are God’s tools to shape you? What if the very thing that most bugs you about your man constitutes God’s plan to teach you something new? (p. 37-38)
Let’s agree to keep this perspective in mind throughout the book…….How is God using your marriage to an irritable man to teach you how to love angry people? (p. 40)
Maybe you even married a violent man. Perhaps you saw signs of this rage or violence before you married but in your eagerness to become a bride you chose to look past it or excuse it as a onetime occurrence. Maybe you thought marriage would make everything better. But now you’re stuck in a frightening situation. (p. 133)
Wait a minute — what about willful sin? Gary doesn’t seem to understand the difference between setting boundaries to protect yourself from the willful sin of others and genuine trials of faith. Keep reading and you’ll see how he tries to turn someone else’s willful sin into God’s plan for your life when God NEVER wants anyone else to sin just to teach us something. Don’t get me started on all the Scriptures about anger being a work of the flesh.
Reading more quotes that follow you can see how Gary keeps trying to shift the burden of responsibility for behavior away from the perpetrator and onto the victim. He’s literally trying to make the victim feel responsible for not being patient enough with the perpetrator. And he wants you to learn from someone else’s behavior when the perpetrator is the one who needs to learn the lesson from their own behavior!
Gary continues —
Sometimes your husband would have to be in deep denial or less than human NOT to be angry with you. If you act as though anger is always illegitimate you’ll merely confuse him, because asking him not to feel angry is like his asking you to never feel hurt. (p. 148)
You can’t control your husband’s anger but you can provoke it by being disrespectful. (p. 149)
Women—in general—simply don’t understand how offensive and annoying it can feel to a man to be constantly challenged and corrected, especially in a disrespectful manner. (p. 150)
Maybe your side of the argument is that you don’t want to put up with an angry man! Maybe what you want but don’t get — referring to James 4:2 — is a peaceful relationship and so you are tempted to lash out with the same attitude of pride and expression of anger. (p. 152)
The time to obsess over your husband’s character is before you get married not after. Once you exchange vows, you should focus only on your obligation to love. (p. 222)
Jesus couldn’t have said it any clearer. [Gary quotes “love your enemies” verse.] If you manage to love only an easy-to-love husband why do you need God? Even non-Christian women can love a thoughtful, caring, unselfish and mature man. What credit is that to you? If you serve your husband expecting to be served in return what spiritual rewards can you hope to gain? In that case you’re merely trading personal favors. But when you give and don’t receive—when you love those who don’t know how to love or who refuse to love; when indeed you can love even the wicked and the ungrateful [husbands]……you exhibit the same love that God showed to us when he loved us in our sin and rebellion. And Jesus promises that he will richly reward you.” (p. 221)
But I don’t believe any wife should tolerate physical abuse. (p. 95)
Some women spiritualize domestic violence. They assume it’s their duty to bear up under the assault and certainly not to report it to anyone, lest their husbands get in trouble. I want to be as clear and as honest here as I can — if your husband hits you — both of you need help…..you must speak to someone — a trusted pastor, wise counselor or maybe a dear friend. (p. 152)
Gary is so focused on blaming women that even when telling women to seek help — he still criticizes them!
Then to justify blaming women Gary quotes some highly questionable “science.”
When a woman doesn’t understand the way a male brain works, she risks fostering an extremely destructive male response. (p. 107)
It’s a biological fact that emotional conversation can feel very stressful for a man and actually increase his anger, particularly if that conversation gets pushed on him. If you married a man whose anger and rage seem to build the more you talk, STOP TALKING! Let your husband’s brain process the stress as you wait for him to come back to you. Just because conversation calms you down doesn’t mean it will have the same effect on your husband. (p. 148)
Who says that conversation automatically calms down women? And if conversation is biologically stressful for men then why do men easily handle that “stress” at work?
Gary quotes much of this “biology” from the book What Could He Be Thinking? by Michael Gurian. Researching this book on Amazon I found this review:
Amazon Reviews of Gurian book:
“I have been a practicing neurologist for seventeen years, and relating behavioral disorders to neurological conditions is my field of expertise. I know enough about the topics addressed by the author to recognize that he is a quack.”
“While there are grains of truth in this book, most of the supposed “science” is either badly misinterpreted or intentionally twisted to fit the author’s social outlook. Most of the claimed “biological” reasons for male behavior have no basis in reality…….Now to venture out of my field as a scientist – allow me to speak as a man to women thinking of buying this book — If a guy acts like a pig, it’s because he is a pig. Dump him. You should hold men to high standards and they should hold you to high standards.”
Back to Sacred Influence
Reading through this book — what really got under my skin was that after blaming wives repeatedly for supposedly being the problem — Gary turns around and praises mistresses.
You read that correctly. On pages 115-128 this book takes a really weird detour where Gary tells wives that they aren’t good enough because they haven’t tried to be mistresses. Using the example of how Jeanne-Antoinette (1721-1764) rose from poverty to wealth by seducing King Louis XV, Gary writes, “The narcissistic tendencies of an eighteenth-century French king appear in men today. How can a woman handle such a man — not so that she reinforces the narcissism — but so that she earns the right to offer positive influence?” (p. 116)
That’s insulting on so many levels. First of all, wives don’t have to “earn” the rights granted by marriage. Wives set boundaries. Mistresses cross boundaries. It’s impossible to be both. And Gary is teaching us to follow the example of a woman willing to do anything to obtain wealth and power. That’s the polar opposite of how we’ve chosen to follow Christ by dying to the “lust of the flesh, lust of the world and the pride of life.” (1John 2:15-16 & Galatians 5:16). Besides, we resent the assumption that the mistress is automatically better at pleasing the husband than the wife. The Bible actually warns against believing that lie in Proverbs 9:17-18.
Gary tries to deny that he’s saying that — then he turns around and blames women readers by saying they might “seriously misconstrue” his point. (p. 124)
Gary’s trying to have it both ways when this was a completely inappropriate example to begin with. Why didn’t he use the example of Queen Esther? Abigail is another great example of how a godly woman’s influence saved hundreds of lives.
Think about this for a moment — Gary is giving the benefit of the doubt to mistresses but he won’t give that to wives! That’s when you realize that this book is hopelessly stacked against women.
Read further through this book and once again you see Scripture being taken out of context. In chapter 13 Gary tries to make the point that women are more interested in relationships than careers and thus don’t understand their husband’s drive to have a career.
If you were to study the brains of a man and a woman while they gazed into the eyes of a child or grandchild, you would see that the typical female gets more out of such an encounter — physically than does the male. Relationships simply reward you more than they tend to reward your husband. (p. 175)
Then on page 177 — he quotes Matthew 10:37-38 which says we must love Christ more than our families.
From a biological point of view, this a very “male” statement that must seem abhorrent to many females—until they realize that Jesus himself spoke those words. (p. 177)
Then he accuses women of having
a female view of the world, though not necessarily a biblical one. (p. 177)
Wait a minute — in Matthew 10:37-38 — Jesus was talking directly to BOTH women AND men when He told us to follow Him. That’s not a male perspective. That’s a Christian perspective.
Why would Gary insult all the ladies by assuming we automatically care more about our families than taking up our cross and following Christ?
There’s so many other deeply troubling quotes in this book that we could discuss but by now — Gary Thomas’s attitude towards women is pretty obvious and very troubling.
Life in the Kingdom of Men
by Ps Sam Powell
Ecclesiastes 4 (KJV)
Chapter 4 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.
6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.
8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13 Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.
14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.
15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.
16 There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Listen to the sermon by clicking on the link above.
And here is a hymn about how Jesus comforts the oppressed. The first version is massed congregational singing with lyrics. The second is very sensitively played on the piano with the score and lyrics.
Let not those rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause. For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit. (Psalm 35:19-20)
As we have written in other posts, it is very characteristic of evil people to use non-verbal means to communicate their abuse on others. One of these dastardly dark tricks is the evil man saying “I must not say anymore. I don’t want to gossip.” His intent with this false saintliness is to cover up, to hide truth, and to pressure others into being silent about evil as well. There is absolutely nothing saintly about such a person. He is a child of the darkness.
Let me illustrate more clearly how this works. Let’s say you are discussing some evil that has come to light. Perhaps the case of a church leader or member for instance whose hidden sin has become known, at least to some. Now, wicked people share this in common — they all lead secret lives, they dwell in hidden sin, they wear a falsely pious mask. So when some other cohort in darkness is threatened with exposure, they become very uncomfortable. And often they launch attempts to shut down any discussion, any light-shining exposure of such a fellow’s wickedness. (I have known some cases when we would have to insert “she” for “he” in our discussion here).
I have seen a couple of common means by which evil ones turn off the light of exposure —
- “I just don’t think I should say anymore about this. I probably have already said too much.” This kind of serpent-like craftiness most typically comes right after the evil man has said something like, “I think you are guilty of unforgiveness.” Then, when asked to explain and expound on that accusation, the shutdown comes — “I just don’t think I can say anymore about this. I probably should not have said anything at all.” Having effectively sown seed of accusation, he now uses a sickening “holy saintliness” to let everyone know that further discussion of the subject would be sin.
- Another way I have seen this same tactic used over and over again is in what I will call “Agenda Control.” This happens at church meetings or at denominational general assemblies. Some evil has occurred. Perhaps some notable pastor has been arrested and charged with molesting children. And right at the start of the meeting, the power-broker(s) stands up and says something like this: “Now, we do not want our meeting to become gossiping. We want to keep things positive and edifying. Here specifically is what we are here to discuss and we must stick to the stated agenda. If anyone wanders from it they will forfeit the floor.” So darkness reigns you see. Any opportunity for open, up-front exposure of truth is shut down.
- Those in power in churches and other “Christian” organizations will use the same type of tactic to promote their own desires, to get the vote outcome they want, all the while making it appear like they have allowed everyone to have input. “No, we are not here tonight to discuss that issue. We are here to have this motion put before us and to vote.” Anyone who would attempt to point out how sinful use of power and control has been at work in the proceedings is immediately deemed ‘out of order’ and their right to be heard forfeited. “We must not say too much lest we slander a brother. You need to be silent.” That’s how the thing goes, you see.
Domestic abusers and their allies do these very things. They plant a seed of accusation against their victim, but when the victim or anyone else seeking justice begins to expose the evil, the wicked man works to shut down discussion. “Now, you are saying too much. You are gossiping. You don’t have enough facts to even bring these issues up. You need to follow my example and keep silent.”
The real problem among us is not so much GOSSIP, as it is NOT TALKING about evil working in our midst at all!
There have been many “Christian” books published on the evils of the tongue. Yes, the tongue can be set on fire by hell. But generally we have been taught wrongly about just what kind of person has such a tongue. We have been told that it is the victim who is bringing the crimes and evils of the abuser to light. Wrong! It is the abuser and power-lusting Diotrephes (see 3 John) who is speaking to shut down that victim.
In contrast to all of this hiding and darkness that is so typical of evil, we have the command of King Jesus given to us through His Apostle. Notice His rebuke of those who were keeping quiet about (tolerating the evil of) the wicked man:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Cor 5:1-7)
One final but very important point regarding all this. THERE COMES A TIME WHEN ANYONE HAVING KNOWLEDGE OF WICKEDNESS MUST SPEAK OUT. Even if that speaking out means standing up and speaking ‘out of order’ at a church meeting or other such setting. If denominational or church association leaders for instance will not provide an open platform at a general assembly or other such church meeting, then it is time to violate ‘rules of order’. Like the prophets and apostles of old, and like our Lord Himself, it is time to stand up in the temple and cry out “there is wickedness here!” And then spill the beans openly even while the ‘pillars’ are gnashing their teeth and trying to shout you down.
Oh, and one other final thing — take care that, if you should ever see such a person standing up to expose hidden evil — take care that you do not immediately regard them as some ‘troublemaker’. Many of the Lord’s chosen people have done some pretty strange things to call wickedness to account .
Our society is replete with philosophies that say that when something bad happens between two people, they have each played a part in why the injurious interaction occurred. Many self-help books teach readers to assume that they have “co-created” any emotional wound that happens to them. Therapists are fond of saying, “Let’s look at what you brought to that interaction,” after a client describes an experience where he or she was mistreated. And you’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “It takes two to tango.”
These philosophies do not apply when we’re talking about human cruelty. In the vast majority of cases where people are subjected to cruel treatment, they have done absolutely nothing wrong. And in the few remaining cases where they have done something bad, it’s still unacceptable to be cruel to them.
There are, of course, some times when two people are equally responsible for why a hurtful exchange took place. But sometimes the responsibility is 70-30. And plenty of times one person did nothing whatsoever to contribute to what went wrong; the whole problem was created by the other person. Where did people come up with the ridiculous idea that responsibility is always 50-50? The assumption that responsibility in a relationship is always equal ends up doing particular harm to women who have abusive or controlling partners. You have 0 percent of the responsibility for why he mistreats you. You are responsible for your actions, not his. Don’t let anyone — including your partner — rope you into sharing the blame for his actions or his issues.
[entry from Lundy Bancroft’s book, Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?* pp67-68]
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Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. (Gen 24:6)
A “Hoover” is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim (trying to assert her own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship), gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior. It is a fairly new term and I think it is perfectly descriptive of one of the tenets of post-separation abuse philosophy. Yet another term to help us to be able to describe what often feels indescribable in the confusing moment of the abuse.
A lot of times, hoovering happens after a person sets firmer boundaries. I remember how I felt shortly after I left my ex husband five years ago. It had been three agonizing weeks since our departure. My return tickets to Europe were about to expire. I had received an email from trusted friends that my ex husband had changed. They encouraged me to go back home. My ex had also been confessing his short-comings as a husband and father. He had been (almost) begging and telling me that he simply could not live, anymore, without me. I felt torn . . . I was being sucked back in . . . I had a minuscule portion of hope that maybe he had changed. I was being hoovered.
I had been so lonely and sad. I was hungry for some sort of affirmation and just . . . to feel loved. My ex knew all of the right love-buttons to press and I was tempted. It started to feel easier to go back to him than face the other road of uncertainty. Just in time, however, a friend sent me an email he had received from my ex that day — an email that displayed all of my abusive ex’s worst qualities. He was verbally abusive to my friend and was writing about me as though I were a piece of property. I never went back and I never looked back. From that moment on, it was over for me. But being hoovered was what I knew in my relationship with him and with several others, in my life.
Hoovering feels fuzzy and warm so it draws us back in
It is familiar. And it is temporary, like so many other unhealthy behaviors that abusers exhibit. It is not our fault. But, when we succumb, it will not be long before he will take away the little bit of life that we were developing right out of us and leave us hurting and broken again, whether it is invalidating, giving the silent treatment or another favorite form of abuse. When this used to happen to me, I was bereft of my self-respect.
Other tactics include pretending like nothing happened, asking an “innocent” question or whatever it takes to break down your boundary.
Humbly, and recognizing that we are all different and all of our relationships are different, I want to share with you how I broke this cycle, in my own life.
1. I recognized the hoovering, as it was happening. That was half the battle. I decided I would rather be alone than allow myself to be treated the way I was being treated.
2. I responded to any emotionally charged texts or emails (extreme emotions, whether it be super lovey-dovey, hyper-spiritual or full of hate and blame) only when I had to and with a BIFF* response.
3. I realized that I had to work extra hard to seal my boundaries and I stuck to my guns.
4. As always, I stayed safe. If tempers were escalating, I got the heck outta’ Dodge or called a friend. Please do not be afraid to call the police.
5. I found a lot of support and I was not afraid to call someone if I was feeling weak.
I would also like to point out that I have noticed abusers can also “discard” a victim quickly, which may be a good thing but can be very painful. Chances are, the abuser has found another target, which is sad for her. She may not know what is coming.
In closing, please be at peace. The boundaries or separation or divorce that you instigated may actually be the most loving choice that you had, in your situation, for yourself and the one abusing you. I very much see it that way, in my life and experience. My ex husband and I had been through three years of counseling with a few different counselors. My ex was not going to change. If I had stayed and he would have genuinely consented to real and lasting change, it would have taken him a decade of intensive therapy. In one decade, my children would have been ruined. My leaving may have been the jolt that he needed to get himself together and stop using and taking from God’s children. I have no idea. But, the chance was there for him. As long as I stayed, he had me to hoover . . . he had his crutch and he had his supply. He would not have been able to resist because it was our way of life. And there was no one to fight for me and I had no fight left in me.
Setting boundaries is the real kind of healthy self-love that restored my dignity and self-respect. I became a different person when I began to love myself in a godly way. I’m praying for you tonight, dear reader, that the hoovering ends, once and for all, and that you press on and fill your empty cup again and feed your soul again. That soul, after all, is a beautiful God-breathed entity . . . that He cares about very much.
This is a guest post by our friend Megan Cox. Many thanks to her!
*What is a BIFF response? See this post: A Review of “BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People” by Bill Eddy