A Cry For Justice

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

The Person Who is Demanding Reconciliation is the Abuser

Isaiah 58:1-3   Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

I don’t know why, but when I get in the shower my brain starts working.  I need to get some kind of waterproof notepad so I can write down the ideas that start coming.  They are fleeting – you can forget them before you dry off.  At least at my age anyway.

Well, in today’s shower, the Scripture printed above came to my mind, in connection with a truth that I have learned the hard way about abuse.  That truth is this –

Abusers demand forgiveness and reconciliation.  Victims don’t.  Genuinely repentant people don’t.  In other words, the person who insists that people maintain a relationship with him is the guilty party.  He is the abuser.  When victims of abuse come to understand what is happening to them, they do not plead with their abuser to “please, please, please don’t leave.”  But abusers do.  They demand it.  They even get angry when the victim keeps her distance.

Let me describe how this has worked itself out in my experience.  An abusive, controlling man who was once a member of my congregation kept us all duped for a long time.  Finally our eyes began to open to who he really was.  We confronted him many times, calling on him to repent.  He would not.  His profession of faith in Christ was a  facade; because of that he wasn’t grieved over his sin, he wouldn’t be corrected and he never changed his ways.  However he did began to demand (in various ways) that myself and others continue to maintain the same relationship with him we had previously. We would not. He began to get angry. He confronted me and put all the guilt for the estrangement upon me. He reminded me how he had called me and invited me, but I had not responded.  He lectured me about how un-Christian my behavior was.  And he did this in front of others, trying to show how “forgiving and merciful” he was being to me.  When I told him that he had obviously not repented and was unchanged, he stormed away in anger.

And then, he went to work to win allies to his cause.  Soon the story was being spread that I had spurned him and refused to reconcile as all good Christians should.  I had people coming to me telling me how hurt this man was because of my cold, heartless treatment of him.  Of course, they were ignorant of who this man really was and knew nothing of the wicked things he had done.

But here is the point I am getting at – this man was guilty.  He was the one who abused others.  And that was revealed by his insistence that everyone embrace him and maintain an uninterrupted relationship with him, and his anger when we would not.  Innocent people do not act this way.  But guess what?  Churches, pastors, and Christians have it all backwards!  Falling prey to the lies of the abuser, they conclude that HE is the fine Christian who is working hard on forgiveness and reconciliation, and that the VICTIM is guilty because he or she refuses to play a sham of a game and “reconcile” with a person who has only grown more evil.

So let’s get it straight!  The insistence and demand for forgiveness and reconciliation is NOT the mark of an innocent person.  Israel was doing the very same thing with the Lord.  They went to church, fasted, offered their offerings, and then got all bent out of shape when the Lord refused to bless them.  In essence, His response to them was “Hogwash!  You make me sick.  Your religion is a sham.  Go home and stop polluting my temple.”

And that is not too bad of a line for us to use on such a person either.


10 Comments

  1. Lori

    I found your website today when I once again was searching for support for reasons to go back to my abuser, my husband. All the material that I find supports that abusers rarely change and that God does not intend this for a marriage. I have been physically, emotionally, financially, verbally abuse and infidelity by my husband for 6 years. I stayed and we have a 3 year old girl. I finanly left him because my 3 year old was telling others about the abuse. I am in constant battle with myself on going back….sometime I think it is the Christian thing to do….forgive and that everyone can change. How would you give Christian and Word centered advise in this manner

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lori- I believe we also have another post here that discusses what the Bible teaches about forgiveness. I also recommend that you get a copy of Steven Tracy’s book, Mending the Soul and reading chapter 10. Unlike many Christian authors who write about forgiveness, Tracy understands abuse and therefore he gets forgiveness right. You can forgive your husband – even if he doesn’t repent. But biblical forgiveness does not require you to be married to him. You are dealing with false guilt. Yes, there will be plenty of Christians who perhaps mean well, but if they tell you that true forgiveness requires you to go back to this marriage, which is really no marriage, then they simply do not know what they are talking about. Perhaps everyone can change – God offers salvation in Christ to all who believe in Christ and repent – but the reality is that not everyone does change, and abusers rarely do. Abusers say they are sorry, they can be very convincing, and yet it is simply unwise and dangerous to trust them again. My favorite verse for showing that forgiveness and loving our enemies does not require having a relationship with them is-

      2 Timothy 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

      Did Paul intend to reconcile with Alexander? No way. Paul even warned others about him, and told them what Alexander had done. Was Paul guilty of unforgiveness? Of course not. Or consider Christ and how He treated his enemies. Was He guilty of bitterness. No. Was he friends with them? Of course not.

      Whatever it is inside of you that is urging you to go back to your abuser, it is not the voice of God. It may have to do with some kind of toxic shame in your, or false guilt from being blamed and accused all those years. But it is not from the Lord. Abusers have a knack for luring victims back to them. Don’t yield.

      Blessings on you in Christ,
      Jeff

  2. Now Free

    Yes Jeff, abusers are the ones who demand reconciliation. Your abuser would lecture you in front of others yet abused his victim(s) in insidious, sneaky ways. This is how my to be ex-husband operated. He would present this facade of being a charming person in church and other public places, but at home he was truly abusive… physically, mentally and verbally. Abusers thrive on presenting their own special persona, a mask they wear in public to deceive others into thinking that they are sensitive and loving people. When that mask is challenged and ripped off, they don’t have anything that they can hide under.

    Note to Lori…Jeff is right. Don’t yield. I did for over 40 years, and he didn’t change. Only got worse.

  3. collums74

    It is amazing how you describe my abuser exactly. It is a shame how many Christians think I’m the bad one and my abuser needs to be forgiven. Please don’t be silent. Thank you for crying out for me.

    • Hi Collumns, welcome to the blog. 🙂 Be assured, we will keep crying out.

  4. Lost

    Abusers also leave for no reason and the survivors could be very bewildered and have no support and instead of being torn apart legally, poor, have no resources, no help, no relationship, etc they would rather the abuser come back and love them again and tell them what they did to make them leave! They could blame themselves for the abuser leaving and want the abuser to return and to love them again. The survivor not knowing this is all abuse of course and that it’s not their fault

    The survivor may insist on forgiveness (mercy!) on whatever it is they can’t figure out that they’re doing wrong! They may want the abuser to return because they left the survivor with nothing and the survivor doesn’t want to get punished even more than that.

    Idk maybe something’s wrong with me. I can’t focus. I also feel like I’m losing my mind. I can’t get the pain I feel under control. And my life is super tense. I can’t think clearly what to do moving forward. My children are fighting and screaming at each other and I can’t stand the noise so I yell at them and then they look at me to blame. Just like my x! They bully me around and I feel abused all over again. Like I can’t do anything right. I also feel evil again.

    • Dear Lost, I can see you are hurting!

      I have been working on a response to the comment you submitted earlier today, on the Patrick Doyle video post. I’ve taken time on it because I’ve actually been transcribing a fair bit of that video, in order to help me respond to your concerns meaningfully and I hope helpfully.

      I wish I could be with you and help you right now. Please accept a cyber hug from me….or many hugs, if you want….

      Would you consider ringing a DV hotline?

      Just being able to talk, to put it out there verbally, can be a great help (in my experience) when one is so close to the end of one’s tether. You are not crazy. You are not pathological. You have simply been triggered — on top of having been under a lot of stress and pressure for a long time.

    • standsfortruth

      Lost, my children, also learned also to apply much of my abusers tactics once they got older.
      It became very hard for me to go against all the subtle disrespect, and covert abuse, on a daily basis.
      I got to a point where I would start my day bracing myself for who knows what, only to look foward to the moment my head could hit the pillow, so I could try to forget about it all .
      This is a hard place to be in.
      My abuser had the older children to the place where they could abuse me and he would do nothing..
      If they dared to support me in any way he made sure they paid for it later in some way that was personally painful to them.
      I am praying that the Lord gives you understanding knowledge and wisdom in how to navigate your way through this, as I know its not easy.

  5. So true. My ex, who didn’t speak to me in the entire last year of our marriage unless it was to rage at me, put on a full-court press when I finally got a restraining order. He called our kids, my parents, and our pastors, (who knew about the abuse), begging them to get me to take him back. He wrote me (breaking the restraining order), telling me he had been “wrong,” and would change, and didn’t I know God hates divorce? Gag me.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Gagging with you.

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