A Cry For Justice

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

Thursday Thought — Charm: A Red Flag

He is so charming!  Oh, isn’t he charming!  How often have victims heard phrases like these used to describe their abuser?  Too often, far too often.

Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, [affiliate link*], Lundy Bancroft, and Dr. George Simon have some informative insight into this common abuser tactic.  Take a moment to read de Becker’s quote and the articles by Bancroft and Simon (links to the entire articles are included below) and then share with us how charm was part of your abuser’s facade.

Excerpt from Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, p57-8

Charm is an overrated ability.  Note that I called it an ability, not an inherent feature of one’s personality. Charm is almost always a directed instrument, which, like rapport building, has motive.  To charm is to compel, to control by allure or attraction.  Think of charm as a verb, not a trait.  If you consciously tell yourself, “This person is trying to charm me,” as opposed to “This person is charming,” you’ll be able to see around it.  Most often, when you see what’s behind charm, it won’t be sinister, but other times you’ll be glad you looked.

Excerpt from Lundy Bancroft’s article “Rethinking Charm”

It’s not our fault that we got hooked on charm, given our societal training, but we need to get past it. Abusers tend to be charming. Sociopaths tend to be charming. People with personality disorders tend to be charming. Con artists tend to be charming. Users tend to be charming.

Is every charming person exploitative? No. But charm is not a good sign. We need to do a 180 degree turn in how we think about charm. . .

Excerpt from George Simon’s article “Manipulators and Charm”

Some folks are charming in the most benign and appealing way.  They are not only sincerely well-mannered but also genuinely positively regarding of others. The very way in which they conduct themselves and the authentic respect they have for others is “attractive” in its own right.  But there are those characters whose display of charm is a farce, part of a calculated use of seduction to take advantage of others.  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s really hard to tell the difference between benign charm and malevolent seduction, but armed with sufficient information and with some careful scrutiny a person can distinguish the two. . .

Note: “Manipulators and Charm” is part one of a two-part series.  Part two: “Charm Offensive or Offensive Charm?”

 

 

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link 

15 Comments

  1. Pam

    Hi! I would like to use the amazon affiliate link…can’t find it online….can you send to me?Thanks! And you shall know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free. John 8:32

    • Hi Pam,
      Welcome to the blog! The link within the post is set up as an affiliate link so you don’t have to do anything after you click on the link. The link will take you to Amazon and Amazon will automatically put a small percentage of the order into the ACFJ affiliate account. And just so you and our readers know — anytime someone accesses Amazon [and purchases something] by way of an affiliate link found on our site, ACFJ will receive a small percentage. However, if you go straight to Amazon without going through our site, we will not receive an affiliate percentage. Thanks for asking.

      Also, you may have noticed that I eliminated some identifying information from your comment for your safety. May I suggest you read our New Users page. It gives suggestions on how to stay safe when commenting on the blog.

      Blessings,

  2. Goggie

    OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! He was the best of the best. With the ladies, he just shined.

  3. Valerie

    I have discussed this with other targets of abuse too…it is such an insidious act (not trait). My husband has an innocent school boy act that helps him get away with a lot…esp with women. He always gravitates toward women but doesn’t come on as charming but more like he’s looking for a mother figure that needs to be taken care of to some degree. Of course this melts most women who have a naturally nurturing side. “Could you help me with this? I was never good at _____. ” I wouldn’t call him charming per se because he is a shy, covert narcissist. His quiet demeanor hides his passive aggressive way of life. He seems harmless…until you find yourself trapped in his web and see that his seemingly benign behavior was actually strategic. 😦

    • Moving Forward

      Amen to the last sentence! Except he was charming, and always the expert with the answer to everyone’s problems; so sweet, and kind, and generous. Not so happy, though, when people didn’t consult him on his expertise, cars, but they never knew that. Also, he could never keep his hands off people, men or women, always putting it on their shoulder or back as he walks along saying his to everyone. I was always bothered by that.

    • And then when it’s over you get a glimpse of the monster inside of him if you dare ask for anything. Once he took the mask off, his inside and outside finally matched up.

    • SeeClearerNow (prev NotHeard)

      ‘I wouldn’t call him charming per se because he is a shy, covert narcissist. His quiet demeanor hides his passive aggressive way of life. He seems harmless…until you find yourself trapped in his web and see that his seemingly benign behavior was actually strategic.’

      Yes Valerie!! Thankyou for this very concise snapshot. My anti-husbands ‘charm’ is much closer to what you describe than EarthernVessel’s description of too-good-to-be-true seeming-perfection. For me, I’m trying to find another synonym to go with charm that explains it better for me, something like a loveable larrikin/country boy persona. I had difficulty seeing the charm until my psych pointed out that charm doesn’t always look like perfection (to those people that the abuser wants to hoodwink).

      • loveable larrikin — that was my second husband.

        Somewhat shy, bit of a loner, inconspicuously polite, with no obvious vices — that was my first.

      • Mine was like your first; had a “nice guy” reputation, but…he was also cold. The entire sham marriage (save the first six months) was like living through years of winter. The more I submitted, the colder he became.

  4. Outofdarkness

    What about the appearance of rock solid integrity that commands everyone’s respect? My husband seemed to be the most holy, smartest, and put together person I have ever met. Everyone who meets him thinks he is exceptional. Is this a form of charm? He wasn’t trying to lure me — he just projected an admirable character. Looking back, it seems he was “too perfect”

    • Valerie

      From Merriam’s—Charm:a quality that causes someone or something to be very likeable : an attractive quality
      I’ve always thought of charm to be something noted with the opposite sex. I wondered if charisma might be another word to describe what you’re saying “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”. I know the kind of person you’re talking about though. How their outward vibe contrasts sharply with their inner motivation is downright creepy with narcissists/sociopaths/psychopaths.

      I also found this secondary definition of charm quite eerie: “something that is believed to have magic powers and especially to prevent bad luck”. In a sense this is how I saw my husband when we met. He seemed to be so put together as well and I, on the other hand, felt so….not put together. Subconsciously I thought that somehow his seemingly positive, confident traits would rub off on me. I thought he would be….gulp…a good influence. 😦

      I also came across this and found it to be eerie as well. This particular site lists 5 personality traits that “promote team building”:
      Openness: Those who score high for this trait tend to enjoy adventure and be open to new experiences. Check…he was always portraying himself to be up for anything new. I now know, however, that chronic boredom is a narcissistic trait.
      Conscientiousness: High scorers for conscientiousness are generally organized and dependable Check…he was constantly putting others down (to me) who he deemed unreliable and/or thoughtless in their work.
      Extraversion: Those who are high on this scale draw their energy from being around others, so they tend to be more sociable (not to be confused with outgoing!)—read more about this trait in my previous post. Check…while he was shy he definitely got his “energy” from being around others (shudder).
      Agreeableness: High scorers for this trait are often trusting, helpful and compassionate. Check…quick to open doors for ladies (including me- if someone was watching). He was a team player and would also tell others what good ideas they had in group settings (but put them down to me behind their backs).
      Emotional stability: People with high scores for this trait are usually confident and don’t tend to worry often (this may be tested as neuroticism, in which case high scorers would be prone to worrying and anxiety). Check…I mistook his arrogance and lack of empathy for emotional stability.

      And I wondered how it is he could get our church and friends as his “team” to be against me and instead align themselves with him. 😦

      • Faith

        Valerie I agree. Mine had a way with words. He loved to talk and people felt comfortable around him. Charmer? Yes he was a charmer. It was 2 months after I left a family member got a message from him. When I read it I got sick. He poured all the charm he could. The message went something like this:

        I want you to know that as Priest of my Family, I have taken full responsibility for the action my “Precious Princess” had to take in order to preserve our “little kingdom” (our family), for I was not—at the moment—acting my part as Her “Charming Prince.” Therefore I have come to the realization that She had to take serious measures in order to protect our realm and our “little kingdom”. My “Precious Princess” has my utmost admiration and will be thrilled to know that Her “Handsome Prince” is once again restored to his proper focus and to his former nobility of purpose and aim.

        A narcissist charmer will say what it takes to try to win you back, even if it sounds ridiculous. When you don’t respond they will tell others, “See how nice I was to her. She just wants to be stubborn and cruel. She won’t work with me. She has a problem.

  5. joepote01

    Reminds me of another Tolkien quote from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring” when the hobbits first met up with Strider, Frodo said of Strider, “I think one of his spies would – well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.”

    It’s an interesting observation. Tolkien’s opposing example, of course, was the traitor Saruman who had the gift of charm.

  6. I did a study on this scripture last year:
    Charm is deceitful beauty is passing but a women that fears the Lord shall be praised.

    Charm is indeed deceitful… a cover up. My husband has a problem with being ever so charming and polite to all that know him, but at home he is cynical, critical, controlling among many others things.
    At the moment he is being so charming and sweet to me
    His charming ways make me sick to the gut. When I see him in action I know it is totally insincere. He sounds so syrupy and over polite, especially with our older kids and friends. So very insincere

  7. Psalm 37

    An excellent, awesome post! I showed it to my teenage daughter and find it a very good tool to assess those around us. My son plays sports, and I have to sit at each game and watch the degenerate sociopath ex “charm” all my son’s teammates’ parents and coaches. Just knowing what an evil person he is, I find I wish for a vomit bag every time I have to watch the charade. I often think of serial killer Ted Bundy who used to use his “charm” to fool unsuspecting women into helping him with his perceived physical limitations. Cold blooded calculating evil.

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