A Cry For Justice

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

Putting the “Gossip” Accusation to Rest Once and For All

1Co 1:11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

If you have had the misfortune of being targeted by the religious abuser, there is little doubt that the subject of this post is familiar to you. “Pious” abusers love to use the gossip tactic to silence the victim saying anything negative about them to anyone else. I have experienced this very thing many times, and like most of you, I let it trip me up for quite a while until I came to my senses and realized what was really going on.

Abusers work hard to maintain a code of silence in their homes. This is one reason that you never really know what happens inside their walls. They don’t like their victims getting close to anyone and they work at isolating them. Should their victim ever say anything negative (or sometimes even positive) about them to anyone else, or even share with others in normal conversation what they did the previous day at home, etc., the abuser will come unglued. And very typically what he will do is make this gossip accusation, citing Scripture as his support. “Gossip is evil. Slander is a sin. As my wife you have disrespected me by talking about me.” Guilting. Accusing. You know the drill.

The single verse cited above fully and finally devastates this gossip accusation tactic. “Chloe’s people” had come to the Apostle Paul and reported to him what was going on in the church at Corinth. Bad stuff. Division. Arrogance. Sin being tolerated in the church and even some members suing one another! Chloe’s people (the church who met in Chloe’s house?) “gossiped” big time to Paul! What did Paul do? He listened to the report, he believed it, and he sat down and wrote this letter calling the guilty ones to repentance. Oh yeah. He did just that.

I remember once many years ago telling one of our church board members (long since out of our church for sin) about an obvious, ongoing sin that was evident in the life of one of the other members. My motive was good. It was for calling the guilty person to accounts and to repentance, and for the protection of the church and for the glory of Christ. What did this board member do? Pulled the gossip card. “Pastor, are you sure it is really ethical for you to be telling me this?”  I was taken aback. I felt guilty. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. This proved to be a pattern in this board member’s life. Narcissism, control, craving power. He was characterized by secrecy and silence, so much so that his own immediate family members very often knew nothing about what other members of their own family were doing. An atmosphere of paranoia reigned in that home. Never, never, never talk. Never, never, never tell. That would be gossip.

So don’t fall for this line. In fact, why don’t we all memorize 1 Cor 1:11 and quote it the next time one of these characters pulls the gossip gun on us?

NOT!!

 

 

48 Comments

  1. thepersistentwidow

    Jeff, this is a great post. It brought to remembrance how my ex would become upset if I brought him up in casual conversation to my family-even if was not even bad. He didn’t want anyone “talking” about him.

    About 15 years ago in a PCA church, I had another experience like what you describe here. I had volunteered to clean the church weekly and was given a key. More and more, the pastor would show up while I was working and would posture himself to look scholarly and important. He would be in his office reading impressive theological works and then would follow me around the church making strange comments. He said that he had marriage issues and he stated that he was “turned on” by women who hang drywall (which is something I did). My oldest daughter was there and heard some of these comments.

    Meanwhile his preaching concerned me. It became subjective and narcissistic. On one occasion he said that his mind had become a party house. I looked across the room when he said that and no one flinched, one guy was actually sleeping! Later, I approached one of the elders and told them that I was concerned about the pastor’s spiritual wellbeing. I mentioned the sermon and the pastor’s behavior hoping that they would help him get a proper pastoral focus. That is all that I was asking for. I thought that I was handling this problem properly by bringing it to the elder.

    The elders called me and said that there would be a meeting about this on a certain Sunday after church. When I entered the office, there were the elders and the pastor with his face covered around the table. The elder said that he listened to the sermon tapes, and they were indeed disturbing but the main issue here was would I submit or not? I had no idea of what they were talking about as I had been submissive to the church and been an active member since my arrival. Again he asked if I would be able to submit to the church session and seeing how insane the whole ordeal had become, I said that I would not. I left there crying and wound up in another PCA church where I had even worse problems when I brought the domestic abuse issues up. I would love to order one of those monkey signs and send it to that place. It would look great in their office.

    • I would love to order one of those monkey signs and send it to that place. It would look great in their office.

      Would that be great!

  2. Suzanne

    It’s so ironic that abusers, who do not want their victims to speak about the abuse, are the biggest gossips. The abuser in my life used gossip to harm me both emotionally and economically.

    • Yes indeed, Suzanne. Frequently that kind of badmouthing the abusers do of their victims is not so much ‘gossip’ as out-and-out slander. Gossip can be the self-serving dissemination of embarrassing truths about someone to third parties who have no right to know and no duty of care for the individuals involved. But slander is not the statement of facts but the crafting and dissemination of lies and half-truths in order to denigrate a person’s character.

      • John

        As a father of a current victim, we are being accused of “malicious gossip” for surfacing the abuse. Boy, does this post hit home!

      • Hi John, glad to hear you found it helpful.

        We love to hear comments like this, especially from fathers of victims. So many victims have little or no support from their family of origin when they disclose the abuse. Those who lack that family support read comments like yours and may feel a little indirect encouragement that at least one father (even if not their own father) cares enough to support his adult child who is a victim of domestic abuse. So thank you.

    • Not Too Late

      Yup, Suzanne, that’s called projection, when they accuse you of doing the very things they do.

  3. Brenda R

    Oh, yes! I remember it well. Not only did I hear that I was not to speak of him from the X, but you didn’t speak about your husband to anyone else. I have had more support from people in my church since the divorce than I did while I was still married. If anyone can explain that to me, I’d really love to hear it. I don’t understand it whatsoever.

    If I am guilty of anything, I hope someone tells me about it. Although, it might hurt, perhaps I don’t recognize it and need it pointed out. I want to grow in strength and knowledge in my Lord. Those who use the gossip card want to wallow in their sin, avoid any unpleasantness, or perhaps stay away from consequences. The the way you describe the individual in your post there was serious heart change needed.

    Never, never, never talk. Never, never, never tell.

    That was the rule of the house I grew up in with my evil stepfather. My heart is heavy knowing there are children experiencing this very thing right now and many who do tell are not believed.

    • There are some secrets that should NOT be kept secret. Those the abuser pressures you to keep so he can continue to have you under his thumb.

      Cindy Burrell has a great line that she says to victims who are starting to wake up: ‘Tell your secrets’. For a victim of abuse, that kind of advice is often very helpful.

      • Brenda R

        Barb,
        Cindy’s advice is right on. Beth Moore will only say that she was sexually assaulted as a small child. When you are a small child it is easy to be convinced not to talk. It woud be good if she would come out with that a little more, not necessarily giving details but making a stand against it. I have done several Bible studies that Beth has written. In one from her earlier years she makes sure to say that abuse is not a part of marriage–get out. In one written within the past few years she says that if you have marriage problems go home and work on your marriage–leaving out the part about abuse. I’m not sure if that was an oversite, but could have been damaging to those in her audiance. I do realize that the SBC (John Piper) seems to have strapped on the no divorce for any reason thing. I think I will work on a letter to her today and see if I get any input back.

  4. Joyce

    Oh. Now I understand what the first major incidence in my marriage was all about. I have been utterly confused about it all this time. We had been married about 9 months and mostly everything had been wonderful. X’s birthday was coming up and I told one of our mutual friends. When X found out I had told someone about his birthday, he stopped speaking to me. Total silence ensued for 10 days! I was devastated. But how dare I tell anyone about his birthday? I was such a blabber-mouth and not to be trusted. After reading your post I now see he was trying to silence me early on.

    • Brenda R

      Joyce,
      That is insane. Not that any abuser is sane. I was not to talk about X, but being that everything was about him, he’d have been happy that people knew it was his birthday. That would have given him attention. I just wasn’t allowed to say anything else. That had to be a very rude awakening for you and over something so trivial.

  5. There are other tactics aswell…one used in the church I left was we dont gossip. Leaders are appointed by God and its not your job to critisize, question….you just let Him deal with it. One good line always used was you just have authority issues, thats why you see this as abusive, its because your view has been messed up.

    • Brenda R

      nessa3,
      As with any leader: pastor, elder, president, congressman; I have respect for the office, but that does not mean that we are to blindly obey any of them. Someone that tells an adult that they have authority issues, I question their leadership ability and their reasons for being in that position. It is for control? We should always be able to at the very least ask questions of our leaders and get an answer beyond you have authority issues.

  6. Lori

    This kind of abuser scares the target into doubting their own intelligence and relationship with God in order to get what they want. This does real damage to God’s people.

  7. I covered an almost identical topic just last week. There’s another verse in 1 Cor. 5 that demolishes this notion of gossip too, and in the exact same way.

    http://scarletlettersblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/gossip-the-plague-of-the-church-tbb/

  8. LorenHaas

    I helped start a small group for men in blended families at our previous church with just four guys. We would meet every other week to talk, study and pray. It was a very sweet fellowship and we saw some of our prayers answered over time. One of the guy’s marriage had been very rocky, especially regarding the step-kids. After some months, one of the assistant pastor’s told me that we should stop meeting because we were “dealing in gossip.” She had gotten to this pastor and convinced him that this was not OK, when in reality she did not want her crazy-making behavior to be known outside her four walls.

    • Brenda R

      That is terribly sad and so inappropriate for the pastor to make a judgement like that without getting all of the facts first. Under no circumstances do I think a pastor has a right to tell you who you can meet with in your own home.

  9. I dont know how this has ever happened in how home… how this air of secrecy and pretending every came to be. Only in recent months have I started to be brave enough to name it…if my husband found out it would not go well for me at all. In fact I hate to think what would happen if anyone ever betrayed me and he found out. This scares me senseless. Over recent months I have asked people for their discretion and I have felt to tell them to make them aware of what is going on. Some believe me some do not.
    It has been a very hard thing to come out with the secrets of my husbands behaviour. I think it is also me not wanting to speak badly of him, to respect him.
    I am going to see a psychologist next week. I will go then my husband will attend with me in the next session. I am scared. I am scared of speaking about him and I am prepared to take it all on myself. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I am not doing very well at the moment.
    I am scared of being labelled a gossip and I am scared of my husband nutting off at me after she confronts him on his behaviours. He may very well say I get it all wrong and make me look like the crazy one.
    And if this does not make sense to this post… sorry.. my brain is abit fuzzeled just now.

    • Brenda R

      loves 6,
      Ps 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God.
      I am not sure why you are going into joint counseling so quickly, but I believe reminding yourself of this scripture could help you. Abusers can come off very sheeplike when they are around other people making them believe that it is you that are the crazy one, but you are not crazy. There has been a lot of crazy making going on. Once I was away from the crazy maker, it didn’t take long to be made aware that I was not crazy. My ability to see things clearly started to come back and yours can too. Hold on to God’s hand. Don’t worry about what others believe and don’t believe. Remember who you are in Jesus. You know the truth and so does your Savior.

      • Thank you Brenda. I needed to hear this. I have two issues arise in the last few days. One has weakened me because i exploded and said things I regret. Also, I have a health issue that concerns me, my husbands reaction to things surrounding this, such as anger, scared me today… and I am the one with the health issue! how crazy is that.

      • I am concerned for you and your safety, Loves6.

        I gather both you and your husband have health issues. I may be misunderstanding you, but why do you need to go to the doctor for your husband’s health issue? Surely if he has an issue with his health, it is up to him to take action on it. I just hope you are not taking too much responsibility for him. And if the health issue is to do with YOUR health, why does your husband need to be part of the consultation with the doctor?

        Email me if this is getting too private to talk about on blog.

      • Many victims find that their health suffers greatly due to the stress of living with an abuser. So you are not crazy.

      • Brenda R

        loves6,
        When X had quad bypass surgery he was very scared, he even cried in the hospital room waiting for surgery, and I took care of him, made sure he ate right, got rid of the salt shaker. He didn’t have any pay while being sick so all we had was my income and there were 3 children at home at the time. He was not suppose to smoke. I caught him in my purse taking money to buy them and caught grief because I refused to make him fried chicken.

        A few years later and a lot of abuse gone by, I started getting sick a lot. I took care of myself and him still smoking like a chimney and the salt shaker was back in the kitchen. Then I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. You’d have thought it was the end of the world when the nurse came to the house to help me learn to do injections. He stormed out of the house refusing to learn anything about the disease. My daughter was with me and learned to do injections for the areas I couldn’t do myself. He later said it was because he was afraid he was going to loose me. Bull!!! My illness interfered with his life. The abuse only got worse from there. How dare we interfere with their lives by getting sick. One of the main things on my Dr.’s to do list after diagnosis was to stay away from stress. It is much easier to do now that the divorce is final.

        You are going to get through this. Close your eyes, take calming breaths and repeat :Be Still and Know I AM God.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Loves6,

      Why is your husband going with you to the second session?

      • My husband is going to the second session because there are issues going on that our doctor wants diagnosed. The only way I can do this is to go for both of us and get a diagnosis. He sure is abusive but he is also something else. It is becoming more evident every day… obssession about so many things. He is in fact weird, strange. He is becoming something that I have never known… it is like he fuze has burst.
        I need direction in dealing with my PTSD…. he needs a diagnosis for whatever it is. With my situation I feel once the doctor and I have this, then I have a trump card to play…. I guess its like being as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove… not that I am as gentle as a dove like I could be.

    • Not Too Late

      Sounds familiar, Loves6. I think many of us will say, BTDT! Thankfully, symptoms of PTSD don’t have to last forever. It seems scary now, but you will gather your strength and hope as you learn more about the truth of who he is (it’s not who he says) and who you are (its not who he says).

  10. Brenda R

    I got an immediate response from LivingProof Ministries which Beth Moore founded. They do not believe anyone (man woman or child) should stay in abusive situation. They should leave immediately and get counseling. I was very happy with that.

  11. thepersistentwidow

    Brenda, but did she say that divorce is acceptable in abuse cases or just separation and counseling?

    • Brenda R

      Widow, I got so excited about getting that much that it didn’t occur to me to ask. I did ask the question, “Does the Christian wife have fewer rights than the slave wife in Moses day?” That did not get answered. I have the email reply. I will ask the question again.

      • thepersistentwidow

        Brenda, I used to get excited about getting a reply, too. Barb taught me to focus on whether they permit divorce or not, and now there isn’t as much to get excited about. Many of those we contact will not allow it. Let’s see what response you get. Thanks for working on this.

      • Brenda R

        Widow, I have already sent the request to respond to the original question and gave more detail as to what I was asking.

    • Yeah. As Jeff C often reminds us, the thing that reveals where they really stand is what they think about divorce for abuse. It’s kind of nice, for us as advocates and victim/survivors, that we have such a clear question that reveals the truth about where someone really stands.

      That vast majority of pastors and ministries will say that abuse is wrong and that the victim of abuse may/should leave and seek counseling. But probe below the surface and find out (1) how they define abuse (just physical violence?), (2) what they think about divorce for abuse, and (3) what kind of counseling (couple counseling?) and you will be able to tell how much they really get it — and therefore how much they will really stand with and support victims. And how easily they will be wrapped around the little finger of the canny abuser once he and his allies get busy spreading lies and slander. . .

      • Barnabasintraining

        Yep. It sounds good until you read the fine print.

  12. Brenda R

    This is the answer that I got back from Living Proof Ministries,

    Dear Brenda,

    Please forgive us for not having the answers to the questions you seek. We are simply not qualified or called to handle and give leadership in this area. These matters are so difficult and often devastating. They are also complicated, as God alone can look upon the heart and motive. We would be afraid to offer counsel with so little information, but we care so much. We are praying for you all.

    • LorenHaas

      Cowards

      • Brenda R

        I was very disappointed and told them so. Especially, being labeled a Women’s Ministry I thought they would have more of a stand.

      • LorenHaas

        “Follow the money.”
        Beth Moore is big business. Living Proof Co. grossed $4.1 million in 2010 according to one blog I read. She is NOT going to do or say anything that would upset the patriarchal good ole boys at Lifeway or the SBC. She makes her living being “safe” to the guys that run the show. Making abuse grounds for divorce would tip over the apple cart. She is not going to go there.
        Sorry if that lets the air out of the Beth Moore balloon. She is no worse than all the other celebrity Christians, buy don’t expect any thing else.

      • Brenda R

        Loren,
        That doesn’t surprise me. The first time I came across her at the church I attend when I first started there 4 years ago. I was watching the video and asking myself, “why is this woman preaching to me”. I haven’t found anything particularly wrong with what she has taught, but I am very concerned about what she is not teaching. I won’t give another $20 for one of her Bible study courses. Outside of Billy Graham, until I started attending this church I wasn’t familiar with any of the “celebs”. I’m not impressed.

      • It doesn’t surprise me, either. Well put, Loren.

  13. Innoscent

    The gossip tactic was one that had me trapped in a kind of paralysis of guilt and confusion for quite a while. Then I tried and approached on eggshells a few members to attempt to express myself about the psychological abuse at home, but again and again I was not heard because my attempt to say just some minor thing was perceived and looked down upon as talking negatively about my charming husband they ‘knew’.

    That’s until I came to reread the story of Abigail. When her servants reported to her of Naban’s insulting conduct towards David’s men, she didn’t treat it as gossip. Immediately she took measures and her plea to David was no gossip either. That’s how she talked about her husband right away ‘…this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him…’ (1 Sam 25.25).

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yep, the old gossip tactic used by the wicked in Christian disguise to keep their darkness quiet. We are done buying that nonsense. Thanks, Innoscent.

      • Ellie

        X and his allies’ biggest complaint (at first) was that I was gossiping. His abuse, his porn, his blasphemy, his adultery, etc. paled in comparison to my gossiping by asking friends and loved ones to pray and to call him to account.

    • Hi Innoscent, we have a tag for Abigail. Look in the Tags tab at the top of the blog if you want to locate it. 🙂

      • Innoscent

        Thanks Barb! I was thinking of that because your site is so well documented. I am digging and finding so many pearls! 🙂

  14. Innoscent

    Thanks Jeff for this topic. I had read it some time a couple years ago and it contributed to help me get out of the fog on this issue. Then I read your book last year after I had listened to your sermon series. I felt validated and that at last a pastor understood me and believed me. It was so liberating!!!!! I am thankful to God for your ministry, an oasis in the Christian wilderness.

    • Innoscent

      Ellie, that abusers can downplay their abominations and blow up one innocent action of the victim labelling it as sin and much worse than theirs, is what the Bible qualifies as ‘the mystery of iniquity’. We can be comforted that God sees the truth of the matter.

    • Jeff Crippen

      You’re welcome. And thank you for the encouragement!

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