‘Hurting People Hurt People’
How often is that one thrown at targets of abuse? Once a target has mustered the courage to share the truth of what’s happening, people are reluctant to believe that the problems are serious. There are many reasons for this. But in an effort to minimize the danger, the target’s advisers often tell her that hurting people hurt people. So the solution in their minds is to find out WHY the abuser is abusing and solve that problem. Often, they pressure the target of abuse into trying to research the “cause” of the abuse. Is she being disrespectful? Is he insecure and has something she said or done triggered that feeling of hurt and made him lash out, out of his hurt? This is a pity play and according to Dr Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door [affiliate link*], it is THE biggest indicator of a sociopath. Abusers and sociopaths know that we normals want to help people and they play us.
They will tell us sad stories. Consider Heath Ledger’s Joker telling the very very sad stories of how his face got scarred; (trigger warning) scar story 1, scar story 2. The audience would feel sorry for him except that the director has him quickly revert back to his true maniacal self. In addition to the insecurity and feeling disrespected mentioned above, some suggest daddy issues might be to blame. Did he have a bad childhood? These days some suggest nutritional issues. Is he gluten intolerant? Gluten can make people mean, you know.
Here’s another movie reference clip. In this clip, the fish-aholics are pleading with Marlin and Dory to accept Bruce. “He’s really a nice guy!…He never knew his father!” What does that have to do with his desire to eat them? Nothing!
I don’t care why hurting people hurt people (I really do, but I’ll get to that). You know why wolves try to eat sheep? Because they are wolves. Taking them to 12 step programs and asking the sheep to find them good counselors who can help them cope with the fact that their daddy was made a pelt when he was a pup will NOT protect the sheep. Only being made a new creation will protect the sheep (and that’s what I care about, their being made a new creation – by the Holy Spirit, not their targets). Their wolfish behavior alerts us to their need of Christ, not their need of pity.
It isn’t the targets’ responsibility to get the abusers to help. It’s not our responsibility to understand WHY they abuse except in cases where it’ll help us to make better boundaries and protect those in our care. It is the ABUSER’S responsibility to get help. If he sees that he’s wrong and wants to change, there are people who can help him. Those people are not the ones he’s harmed. Is it gluten? He should see a Dr. about that. Right and wrong don’t change if you had a whole wheat muffin. Ultimately, abusers abuse because they are abusers. God can give them a new heart but we don’t have to subject ourselves to their cruelty in an effort to be understanding of their insecurity/daddy/gluten issues. If they want to change, they must seek God.
Many Christians put pressure on targets of abuse to accept responsibility for issues that are not theirs. Marlin and Dory had a mission. They needed to find Nemo, not help Bruce with his daddy issues. In order to complete that mission, they had to escape Bruce and leave him to seek his own help, or more likely, other fish to devour.
The church can be a part of that help. But dangerous people need help from pros, not small group leaders who went to a conference and played Trivia Crack on their phones while the speaker told about how his books and DVDs will solve the world’s problems. This isn’t CPR. You don’t learn to deal with manipulators by watching it on TV. Well, House MD had some great examples of how a narcissist thinks but (spoiler alert) we never do see him actually change. We just see him realize that he could change.
There are Christian people who phrase things bluntly who don’t realize that they are being unkind. When confronted, those people respond in humility and they seek God’s help to have more honoring communication. God might show them that they are responding like their mean father did and He will lead them to repentance. I don’t mean to assert that all people who do things wrong are Bruces. I am talking about the ones whose patterns are those of Bruce and who ask us, their victims/targets to endure it because they had a muffin or their fathers weren’t good examples.
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Related post: Crocodile Tears by MeganC