A Cry For Justice

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

Don’t be Duped by the Nice One

What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. Matthew 21:28-31

I have had experience with a number of what I suppose psychologists like Dr George Simon would call the covert-aggressive personality. That is what we have here in this parable. One brother overtly and openly refuses to do his father’s bidding. What a jerk! we would say as we write him off as a wicked son. But then, he turns round and does it! Then you have this other brother. You know, the nice one. As soon as dad asks him to go work in the vineyard he is compliant. “You bet!” But then he doesn’t do it.  His rebellion is covert, hidden, unseen. We think him the nice guy, the wonderful son, the fellow ready and willing to obey. But in reality he is wicked. The niceness is a facade. He has no intention at all of doing what his father asked, though he mouths the words and smiles the smile that makes him look obedient. We like him. He’s nice.

Wrong. He is a liar. He has an evil heart given to deception. He is hard and without conscience. And he is more dangerous by far than the open, overt aggressor.

I have known these covert-aggressives. I have told myself and others that I like them in spite of their failures. But I am done fooling myself about them and I am done being fooled. I am finished with liking them. I now see behind the niceness, the smiles, the quick willingness to do whatever they are asked, and I see the wickedness that lurks there. I see a person who not only has no intention of doing what they say, but who, behind that smile, is a liar and a deceiver and a person who cares nothing for me. This is rank aggression. It is abuse.

And perhaps it is a worse form of abuse than that which is openly and plainly hostile.

 

39 Comments

  1. Sarah

    “I am done with these people”
    Thank you! when is the church going to be done with them?

  2. Iris G

    It’s almost like you know my life…. is so scary. Every single time I read your posts… they are describing my life!!

  3. I LOVE this post!

  4. Teresa

    Thank you for drawing clear pictures, through the Word, that help me to see truth

  5. Not Too Late

    The first one talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. The trouble is, the Christian church loves confessions and testimonies. We are infatuated with them. And don’t the Covert Aggressors know it!

    • Jeff Crippen

      NTL – You make a very good observation here. “The church loves confessions and testimonies.” I grew up in churches that had “testimony time” at every evening service. The pastor would open the floor up for “sharing” and “testimony.” In most cases what this did was to open the floor to performers. Often we would see the very same people standing up each week. We had one in the church I presently pastor years ago. This person craved the attention and loved performing. When we put a stop to it, this individual ceased coming. I have had numbers of reports from victims that their abuser would really turn on the tears and performance in these testimony times, convincing everyone even more that he was truly a godly, saintly, wonderful person who though struggling, loved Jesus. Bleh!!

      • Not Too Late

        What is confusing is the different standards they apply to the acceptance of the verbal testimony. While a confession of repentance is taken at face value, verbal claims of abuse in the marriage aren’t. They require extensive proof. I wouldn’t mind it as much if we Christians are consistent in our inconsistencies!

      • good observation, NTL!

      • healingInHIm

        NotTooLate – I’m so glad you mentioned the ‘different standards’ … that is what has really hampered my healing or even wanting to trust the church with helping me. My spouse’s crocodile tears and ‘words of remorse’ were seen as repentance and embraced by many. I have felt stripped of any integrity as I have had to endure gazes of disbelief when relating my story … and then they wonder why I don’t want to “worship?” with them?? Is it truly a house of worship? Yeah, they worship man but not the Saviour that saved me.

      • Happy2bHere

        That is a great way to put it, a performance. Sounds a lot like my father, he was one of the easier ones to spot because he often put a selfish heroic twist in his so called testimonies. Almost comical. My husband wont openly air his business but would write the checks, volunteer, and has an outgoing personality, so people like him. With someone so kind and giving, how would someone believe any different?? The very place I want to fall to, is the one I want to stay away from to avoid more stress. Sadly, I know there are probably others there going through the same, but it’s the “helpful” people and certain sermons without disclaimers that hurt. Hope you are able to speak in more churches to educate

  6. I’m confused: They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” It sounds to me like Jesus rebuked them for saying “the first”. Where is my thinking wrong on this??? Help.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Celest – The first son of the two, the one who said he wouldn’t go, but then repented and went, is the “first” that they are talking about – the one who did the will of the father. What Jesus then means regarding the tax collectors and prostitutes is that they were outcasts among the Jews. They are people who overtly said “I will not do God’s will.” But when Jesus came, these are the kinds of people who repented. The Jews that Jesus was speaking to (go back up to about verse 21 and see the context for exactly who Jesus is speaking to) are people who outwardly said “we obey God” because they outwardly “did” the rules of the Jews. But in fact, and in reality, they did not obey God. They rejected Christ. They said they would obey God, but then they did not. So they gave Jesus the right answer, but in His irony, they condemned themselves.

      • “but in His irony, they condemned themselves” — now it makes sense, thank you.

  7. soldiergirl

    I had to look this up and copied an excerpt of it, It may help with why Jesus rebuked them.

    Jesus next asks the religious leaders, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (vs. 31). Here we see the great value of the parable, for the answer to Jesus’ question is so obvious. Men are much more ready to point out the faults of others, before they see their own. “He compels them to realize and even to declare their own guilt” [Thomas, 309].

    “‘The first,’ they answered.” ( exposing their hypocrisy) Knowing what is right, and yet practicing what is wrong)

    Jesus shows frankness and honesty in telling the interpretation of the parable:

    “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him’” (vss. 31b–32).

    Jesus begins His interpretation of the parable with a statement that He is to say something important and, of course, true: “I tell you the truth.” Jesus pulls no punches. He makes it quite clear that the religious leaders of the day are the rebellious second son in the parable. “Here for the first time our Lord makes an open, personal application of a parable to the Jewish authorities (also in vs. 43ff). The time has come for speaking out unreservedly to them, and also to the people concerning them, as He will do later in the day (see Matt 23)” [Broadus, 439].

    Then also, much (I’m sure) to the chagrin of the chief priests and elders, he declares that the repentant “tax collectors and prostitutes” (proverbial for all evil of the time) are the obedient first son, who do the will of the Father.

    So, this parable becomes a warning to all those who show lip-service to the Father—they may be regular churchgoers, they may even be pastors — but do not in the end obey His Word and serve Him.

    • Thank you Soldiergirl.

    • healingInHIm

      “So, this parable becomes a warning to all those who show lip-service to the Father—they may be regular churchgoers, they may even be pastors—but do not in the end obey His Word and serve Him”
      I have been shunned and rebuked by lay people for stating this. All I’ve desired is to ‘go to the Scriptures; let us study what true repentance and salvation is’. Recently, I’ve attempted to talk with a couple of ‘popular’ local pastors and ask questions as to what they really believe? There were excuses as to how they see the church is to function, etc. I would press them on what the Scriptures say. Well, now,they too, when meeting me just politely nod or smile but will not stop to converse. I get the message!

      • Not Too Late

        Hih, Looks to me that they preferred you when you were invisible. Why did you have to start having an opinion?!

  8. Id much rather have the upfront honesty than the smile to your face and stab you in the back person any day

    • Katy2

      Well said my friend Nessa3, very well said. In total agreement with your wise words.

      God Bless you.

  9. newcreation

    I, too, feel as if everything you are saying, Jeff, is my life. Over and over again, everyday, living in a false marriage for what? I am really seeing through your book and posts that I am living with an evil man and am struggling because the very Spirit living inside testifies to the lies and perceptions I am around.

    I have a friend who is a counselor and is not “duped” by my HB who confronted him years ago. He told my HB the truth about his life and defended me. My HB dropped him and his mutual friendship like a hot potato and will have nothing to do with him. My friend recently shared with me a hard truth that I would love your comment on. He told me as long as I stay in this pseudo marriage, I am responsible for any damage I know is going on now that I have truth of abuse and that they will never experience true healing from all they have seen until I get out. I know he is right. My son doesn’t like coming home from college bc of everything he senses when he is home. Our pastor is currently meeting with spouse to no avail…NO change, NO true accountability and NO repentance. I agree that pastoral counseling is useless.

    • My friend recently shared with me a hard truth that I would love your comment on. He told me as long as I stay in this pseudo marriage, I am responsible for any damage I know is going on now that I have truth of abuse and that they will never experience true healing from all they have seen until I get out.

      I think your friend’s comment has some truth in it but not the whole truth. With abuse, truth often needs to be nuanced so carefully.

      I don’t think you (the primary target/victim of the abuser) are ever the primary person responsible for the damage that abuse causes. We must never lose sight of or fail to mention that the absuer is the one who CHOOSES to abuse — and thus to harm his target(s). However, by remaining with or ‘in shooting distance of’ the abuser, the target may be said to be enabling the abuse to continue at least to some extent.

      The extent to which the target may be said to be enabling the abuse (and therefore partly responsible) depends on MANY things, and this is where nuancing and knowing the whole backstory and circumstances is important, otherwise it is all too easy for the victim and bystanders and supporters to overly or unfairly blame the victim.

      Here are some things (not an exhaustive list) that may be said to lessen the responsibility of the victim for “enabling” the abuse:

      — the degree to which the abuser intimidates her and threatens dire consequences if she leaves. (e.g. threatens to stalk and kill her; threatens to take the kids off her; threatens to disclose her embarrasing private information to the world; threatens to make her lose her job or livelihood)

      — the degree to which his past patterns of conduct make her believe that his threats of future behaviour need to be taken seriously

      — the state of her health and level of energy (often much debilitated by years of abuse)

      — any disabilities she may have that make it harder for her to obtain the special supports she may need to leave

      — the financial situation she will probably face if she leaves (and that can be a big unknown. . . with unexpected pitfalls)

      — the amount of support her community and jurisdiction offers for victims of domestic abuse who are choosing to leave their abusers. This varies greatly, laws and welfare systems differ a lot around the world, but what is universal is that there is never enough funding for support services for domestic abuse victims. Shelters may be full and women and kids are being put in hotels when the shelters are full. Waiting lists are common for obtaining support from Domestic Violence services. Etcetera.

      — the net that holds perpetrators accountable (police, laws, courts, probation officers, pastors (haha), counselors, etc, may have many holes in it. Some areas and some countries are better at this than others. Victims who live in areas where the net of accountablity for perpetrators is weak, have a lot more difficulty leaving and staying free and SAFE.

      — the degree the victim herself has come out of the fog. And we all know that fog does not burn off in one go. It is an iterative process, and there are times when the fog rolls in again for a while. . . this is especially so for Christian victims who have the extra load of all those scriptural ‘shoulds’ which are laid on them by ignorant Christians or by ‘c’hristians who are allies with abusers.

      — the situation, ages and attitudes of the children. . . if they have disabilities that makes it harder, if they are in the pocket of the abuser, that makes it harder. . .

      I never tell a victim that if she stays she is responsible for the abuse. But if she herself comes to the realization herself that by staying, she is partly responsible — and if she uses that kind of language herself —I will not contradict her. All I do is encourage her to think through her options for the future, and make her own decisions in her own time.

      And I try to build her up by pointing out all the factors that may have contributed to her deciding (until now) to stay with the abuser. I try to help her see that most if not all of her reasons for staying have been reasons that, at the time, seemed right and godly because she was trying to do her best to care for the wellbeing of everyone. And I may point out that in caring so much, she may have lost sight of the need to care for her own safety and wellbeing. But I don’t do this in a judgmental way. I do it in a way the praises her an honors her responses to the abuse.

      I usually find that by honoring the woman’s responses, she herself starts to feel more confident and more empowered, and thus she becomes more able to make decisions that will lead to increasing her chances of safety and wellbeing in the long term (and the kids’ safety and wellbeing too. . . though that in itself is a whole other saga, what with the ways family courts can sometimes be manipulated by abusers. . . sigh.)

      Here is a little story that one lady told me:
      She had been with her abuser for years. She’d left him and gone back several times. A some point, God spoke to her and told her to leave the abuser. By her account, it was a definite directive from God (she often hears from God, this lady, and I’ve seen that happen and can verify that she does hear correctly, she’s not just hallucinating or imagining things. . . )

      She disobeyed that directive. She did not leave the abuser. And several months later the abuser did something really horrendous to her (major crime). She knew then that if she did not leave and stay away for good, she would be complicit with the abuse.

      For me that story rings true and I felt no need to contradict her sense that she would have been complicit if she had stayed after that.

      And she still to this day recognizes that she was wrong to disobey that first directive from God.

      But God brought her to safety even though she had disobeyed Him. The way she finally left and got free and covered her tracks so the abuser could not stalk her — that was all God’s work and prompting and miraculous provisions at every turn . . .

      I hope that is an encouragement to you all 🙂

      • Anonymous

        Very encouraging reply/comment, Barbara. Thank you and bless you.

  10. Suzanne

    A family member is famous for agreeing to do favors, accept invitations, contribute financially, etc., but only follows through if it benefits her. Her word means little to nothing. But everyone falls for the saintly mother act, including her pastor. Typical narcissistic abuser.

    • Anonymous

      Suzanne. I couldn’t resist paraphrasing your comment:
      There are many family members who are famous for agreeing to do favors, accept invitations, contribute financially, etc., but only follow through if it benefits them. Their words mean little to nothing. But everyone falls for the saintly outward appearance, including pastor/priests. NOW, I know that they are to be considered narcissistic abusers.

      • Suzanne

        Anonymous, if you have more than one of these abusers in your family my heart goes out to you. One is more than enough for me.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Suzanne, More than one. It’s taken years for me to recognize or even admit to it. You keep giving ‘everyone’ the benefit of the doubt. Many times I was reminded to forgive and forget, not judge, etc …Each one knew how I was supposed to behave but I could not speak into their lives without ‘quite the reaction’. Of course, others never saw or heard this.

    • Anonymous

      Dr. Hervey Cleakley in his book, “The Mask of Sanity,” describes a psychopath similar to what you’ve described. This psychopath was institutionalized (Dr. Cleakley was his doc) and in the process of divorcing his wife. He wrote a BEAUTIFULLY worded letter that set out all the plans he had to do the right thing by her and the children by providing financially for them along with necessary insurance and medical needs. He stated in this letter that the first check would be arriving soon after she received this letter. Of course this psychopath had NO intention of following through on ANY of it, but BOY did it SOUND and LOOK good!

      You wrote, “But everyone falls for the saintly mother act…,” and then people like us end up doing the work that they were supposed to do, yet people still give them the credit for it. And if we complain, we are ostracized and called hard-hearted etc. It’s a great system they have in place….how can I get on the other side of it though? How can I be the one to do nothing and still get credit for it? I’ve never been able to figure that part out.

  11. Suzanne

    My favorite line is “be the bigger person”. Of course, what is meant is that I’m being told to be the smaller person, the one with no right to be treated with respect, the one who can be abused at will with no expectation that my abuser will ever admit that he/she hurt me and someone to whom it is never necessary to apologize. In short, a life-long emotional, verbal, and sometimes physical punching bag with no more rights than an inanimate object when I’m abused. I’m so grateful that God opened my eyes to the truth about abuse and abusers and for resources such as this site.

    • Anonymous

      Very well stated, Suzanne …. “no more rights than an inanimate object” … Mind you, I’ve seen objects treated with more tender-loving care than victims.
      I too, am very grateful for ACFJ and others. They are true disciples of the Gospel. They admit to being imperfect but that doesn’t stop them from pressing on for truth.

      • Mind you, I’ve seen objects treated with more tender-loving care than victims.

        ooooooh yeah!

        I’m thinking of some fancy-dancy car wheel rims that cost him a lot of money. And the car itself — which often get more TLC from the abuser than the the partner and the kids.

  12. minagelina

    I have a situation where the abusive spouse will agree to do something but only after being covertly aggressive about it. This is the MO around here. Make you feel guilty and complain, guilt whatever and then the next day or what have you, act as though he was fine with it the whole time. Makes me feel like I am going crazy.

    • minagelina

      Oh…..adding that he will follow through a majority of the time, but make you feel bad about it in some way.

      • and that is just part of his tactics — to make you feel bad and make you feel like you are going crazy, and make you feel like “It’s not really abuse because he DOES do what you asked him to do, in the end… so what are you complaining about?”

    • And that is exactly why he behaves the way he does: to make you feel guilty, and to make you feel like you are going crazy. It is very intentional. It is planned. It is strategic. It is wicked.

    • You are not crazy. You are not to blame. You are not at fault. You are being abused by your husband.

      • minagelina

        Is it abusive even if it is just like little smatterings of comments like “oh your eight hour workdays are killing me.” (Because he then has to watch the kids all by himself) Or is this just complaining and normal?

      • Yes it is. And the reason it is abusive is that all those ‘little comments’ add up to a pattern of conduct. One little commment like that might be said teasingly or even grumpily in the context of a non-abusive marriage where the husband was not displaying a pattern of conduct that demeaned, confused, blamed his wife for things that were not her fault, etc. But in your marriage you husband is undoubtedly displaying a pattern of conduct that is abusive. Remember our definition of abuse in the sidebar? I suggest you look at it often, it will help you come out of the fog.

        And bless you. You are not alone in asking all these questions. Most of us have gone thru or are going through a period where we were not at all sure whether our husbands were abusing us. Coming out of the fog is not a quick process, usually.

        (hugs) to you

    • Moving Forward

      This is what happened to me, as well. It also took me a long to time add it to everything else he did to see the abusiveness of it. As Barbara says, it is a pattern of conduct; it goes beyond the occasional complaint we might all make. He was also very good at making me feel bad about even the littlest request for help I might have. I basically learned not to ask, probably his ultimate goal, and do everything for myself. Then, of course, he complained that I’m taking over and won’t let him do anything. With a covert abuser, you can never win.

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