A Cry For Justice

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

Right Back At Ya! The Abuser’s Tactic of Reflective Blaming

Recently I had a refresher course in abuser tactics. Not in a classroom, but in real life. I need these reminders to help me continue to learn how to put into practice what I have learned about abuse. Necessary, because we all so easily revert to our old errors we used to be bound by when we were still “in the fog.” In this case my reminder was that I must not yield to accusations or to suggestions by the cowardly. We all have to learn to dig in our heels, stand firm, and say “no, I am right and you are wrong.” Many times distortions of our Christian faith that we have been confused by tell us that such an attitude evidences a lack of humility, that surely we are all sinners, that we need to look at ourselves carefully, that we need to acknowledge our own sin…blah, blah, blah. Yes, these things can be true, but they can also be perversions of Scripture that the wicked use against us.  In dealing with the wicked, as someone has recently said, we must be shrewd. We must be wise as serpents. “No, I am right and you are wrong and I am not going to listen to you.”

In this case, myself and our elders and really our entire church membership confronted evil that has crept into the association of churches that we used to be members of. It’s the same old story you all would recognize. Power and control seekers bullying and lording it over others. They will not listen to anyone. They will not admit any wrong doing. They are never wrong. YOU are the problem. And furthermore, the very idea that YOU would dare act in such an un-Christian manner by saying such things to them…well, you should be ashamed of yourself!  Sound familiar?  I bet it does.

In this case, we determined that we were going to openly air our decision to resign as members of this association. We wanted the entire membership to know what our reasons were for resigning, rather than just having the Controllers shove our resignation letter in some file where no one would see. Oh,  you should have heard the howlings, the caustic remarks of the power brokers, the accusations fired back at us. You would recognize it all as what we call “abuserese.”

Now, something interesting happened. Though our online exchange through “reply all” was witnessed then by most every member of the association, no one stepped forward in that thread to stand with us. What did happen, and we are thankful in part for some of this, is that numbers of pastors and churches contacted us privately and thanked us profusely, telling us that they shared our observations completely. What was interesting however is that they would add at the close of their letter…”please don’t tell anyone we said these things to you.” A spirit of fear reigns in that association. Why? Fear of what? Martin Luther could have been burned at the stake when he said “here I stand.” But what’s to fear here? That one of these “eminent pillars” of the association, these Diotrephes who have loved and enjoyed being “first” might rail against you? Christ has not called us to be invertebrates, brothers and sisters! Show some backbone!

But to our main point. In one of the replies from an ally of the power brokers, we saw a tactic that surely is very commonly used by abusers. I suspect you all have seen it in action. There may be a technical name for it, but I will just call it “reflective blaming,” and this is how it works. We confronted these bullies and told them that their abusive spirit is what we see and reject. We listed examples of this ungodly spirit. We knew they wouldn’t listen, but no matter. Abusers need to be confronted. They should have been called out a long, long time ago but their tactics were kept secret, that secrecy aided by the wrong-headed notion that “Christians must never speak negatively of a brother.”

Now, what do we mean by “reflective blaming.” This ally of the wicked told us, “Here is the irony. The very same ungodly spirit that you are saying we are guilty of is what you yourselves are guilty of.” See what he is saying?  “Well, you say that we are abusers, but you are abusing us by saying so.” It’s like addressing a mirror that has the capability of reflecting everything you say back at and upon you. We even see this in children. “Well you do it too!”  And of course the goal of the abuser in using this tactic is to remove at least 50% of the blame from himself and put it back on you.

When this reflective blaming hits you, how do you respond? If we aren’t careful, we will let it do its intended damage by accepting this blame. Hey, that’s the humble Christian thing to do, right? No! As soon as we catch ourselves starting to think and feel that, “whoa. I’m guilty. I have sinned by confronting my abuser. I should have been more kind and humble and….” – STOP!! No, I am not guilty of the same thing that the abuser is doing. I reject that charge. We must look the abuser in the eye and say “I reject everything you are saying. Don’t try to remove guilt from yourself by deflecting it to me. I am not guilty of abuse. You are.”

Then listen to the wicked howl some more. “No one has EVER spoken to me this way!” No, they probably haven’t and that is a huge part of the problem.

73 Comments

  1. joepote01

    Yes…a common tactic, indeed.

    They speak as though ‘harmony’ and ‘unity’ is the sole distinguishing trademark of all Christians, when what they really mean by ‘harmony’ and ‘unity’ is “You are required to do things my way…otherwise you’re sinning by walking in disunity and disharmony.”

    Thank you, Jeff, for continuing to expose these evil tactics!

  2. This is SO good to hear periodically – to say it anyway, even though the listeners will not be understanding. This is a weary war when you’ve been in it for a long time and (adult) children are involved who still don’t believe that their father was abusive to me. It would be such a great lesson in “what you think you see might not be reality” if those children finally allowed their brains to entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, Mom is/was right. After all these years of Mom in therapy and still saying (only rarely now) that their dad was abusive and that HIS major last action caused a breakdown, maybe, just maybe, Mom is/was right. Having others in the church tell you that your kitchen just wasn’t clean enough (that was many pastors and many, many years ago) is quite different than your flesh and blood still keeping their father on a pedestal and refusing to believe that those subtle actions that they DID see were part of the overall, long term abusive relationship.

    It’s been easier to just let people and leadership and some churches go, but you want to be accepted by your children and you want the unconditional love of the grandchildren to not end. I HOPE often now that the day will not come that my child starts talking to my grandchildren about what she THINKS really happened way back then (in the neverending endeavor to save the good name of her father).

    Thanks, again, Jeff for continually working on the behalf of churched women who have been victims of abuse. We are SO weary and SO grateful for your help and that of Barbara’s.

    • Angie

      This breaks my heart for you. My children are pre-teens and their dad has successfully infiltrated their thinking about me completely destroying our relationship. I keep having hope for when they are adults. I’m so sorry this is something you’re dealing with. No one can really understand the depth of pain felt when it’s your children. Know that I’m praying for you.

    • cindy burrell

      Dear Friend.

      I have been where you are. May I only encourage you by saying that time reveals truth. It may seem impossible, but I firmly believe that, in time, your abuser’s lies will be exposed, and he will not be able to maintain the facade he has worked to construct.

      I can offer my experience in this regard, if ACFJ will allow me to recommend Seven Long Years, a piece I wrote regarding my estrangement from my eldest son for reasons similar to those you described.

      Don’t give up. Stay the course. God will honor your faithfulness.

      I truly believe that.

      • yes, we recommend that piece by Cindy Burrell. I think we have mentioned it more than once on this blog, and we have a link to it on the ‘Children of Domestic Violence’ section of our Resources.

  3. Lisa

    My experience with A-N/husband is exactly this! It is one of his “button pushers”, he knows it will lead to me explain/defend my side in detail. Your article has served to encourage me that I need only calmly state *once* that I don’t and won’t accept his deflecting; that he has and continues to abuse me. Then walk away immediately!

  4. Angie

    This was good for me to read this morning. I needed this reminder. My ex accuses me of being exactly who he is. He has ruined my name and my relationship with my children. It’s so hard to keep being strong but I know I have to. And have to keep deflecting the darts and standing up for truth.

    • The only time I look my abuser in the eye is when I am correcting, or countering his lies, and sometimes it is helpful to hold my palm raised up in the air, as I am correcting the lies.
      (Like when Jesus did when he calmed the raging sea!)
      Otherwise i only give my abuser my perephiel vision. (Non direct eye contact)
      This approach is double effective to weaken my abusers ability to control me, because I am not giving him my eye contact /or audience when he desires it, “to block his ability to manipulate me”.

      And when he is spinning a lie, I am spot on confronting him and setting the record straight with my words, and direct eye contact.
      I am becoming stronger using this method of dealing with my abuser, as he hates his lies exposed, and cant manipulte me anymore.

      My son use to play a video game with a charactor named Mario. Sometimes durring the game he was confronted with a large evil looking character named Bowser. In order to defeat Bowser, he had to attack Bowser in a certain place, and at a certain time, and continue with repetition. Only then could he defeat Bowser.
      Our weapons of warfare are “truth and being willing to confront the lies”, where needed, and setting the record straight.

  5. Round*Two

    Some how I felt whatever I said to stbx that I was the one doing the ‘mirroring’. I think because my stbx would say things to me like ‘well, you never take the blame for anything’ whenever he was confronted about any given situation, or he would say ‘you never say your sorry’…oh man, I just realized how many times I cried to him I was ‘sorry’. And when I was upset and I would say something, and he would ‘repeat’ the things I have said, sarcarstically! Any movement I made while I was upset he would repeat as well.
    😦

    • Still Reforming

      Round*Two –

      I had that too – just like your abuser saying you “never take the blame” I heard the words accusing me of always having to have my own way or that I’m the one controlling him. It took me ages to figure out that what he was accusing me of were the very things he was doing. And I never accused him of anything; To the contrary, I had suggested to him that when we’d have disagreements we could just stick to the facts. I came up with that idea only after years of having myself be accused of being “judgmental” or “unforgiving” or any other qualifying adjective that he could find in Scripture to throw at me. So I tried to define a way to have disagreements by only sticking to facts. Never happened. I’m glad yours (like mine) is a stbx. Can’t be soon enough for me.

    • Angie

      Anything you say can and will be twisted and used against you. We have to learn to disengage when these tactics are pushed. To engage is like a drug addict getting that high he is seeking for.

  6. Trying To Understand

    Such a good point. I tried to tell my pastors that my husband needed to be confronted. That all his life, people had capitulated to him out of fear or intimidation or deflected guilt, and because of that he was used to getting away scot free with being abusive. But their stance is that you should not challenge authority, that you should just pray for them if they are in the wrong. I’m still trying to sort out why my church only seems wrong in the area of abuse, and asking God to show me if I should stay and pray for them to see the light or actively look for another church. I know a perfect church doesn’t exist.

    Thanks for all the work you do for the oppressed..I read your posts every day and share your insights when I have opportunity. I know personally what a difference it can make in the life of someone who is isolated in abuse.

  7. Round*Two

    Angie,
    That is what abusers do. I, too, have had my name smeared, and my first ex husband got involved and put his two cents (not)worth in (he was manipulated by stbx), but still he should not have gotten involved. Stbx had twisted everything and made it look like he was JUSTIFIED in divorcing me.
    We understand what you are going through and we encourage you to keep strong! I, too, have to keep reminding myself this daily!
    Blessings!

    • Angie

      Thank you so much

  8. LH

    Love your comeback answer!

  9. Still Reforming

    The irony is that by their saying, “Well, you do it too!,” it’s not only an admissions of their own wrong (by use of the word “too”), it’s also an admission that whatever the sin or fault was, it’s wrong! Because if it were a right or true behavior, there would be no problem. In essence, they’re throwing a boomerang and hitting themselves back on the head. Twice.

    The observations made in this post are very astute. There is much Godly wisdom to be gained here, not least of which how easily we can slip back into old fog-surrounded behaviors. Thank you for this encouragement to have a backbone. We need these reminders and examples. How very few do what you, your elders, and your congregation have done: to stand up publicly and be accounted. How very many prefer to whisper their support in secret, but is that real support? If push came to shove and lives were on the line, well – it is not for us to answer for others and their choices, only our own. May God give His children the strength to stand.

  10. Annie

    This reminds me of my husband’s definition of team. Our family has been involved in children’s athletics for years so he knows that team and teamwork are buzzwords they understand. Well you know what they mean right? My husband definition is this I kid you not: I’m the manager and you do what I say.( I should say this is the definition he uses on his family. It’s incredible how wonderful he is to other people’s children!)

    This sentence of Jeff’s made me laugh: “We even see this in children. “Well you do it too!” ” My husband really says that! (My kids are starting to shake their heads when he acts that way because they’re recognizing it as childish.) Funny how he always wants to talk about himself except when I want to talk about him!

    He’s really, really good at deflecting. I’ve been teaching some of my kids how to spot it. They can’t really stop it (or they’re afraid to) but they can at least recognize it and learn not to fall for it. I finally learned what he was doing and learned to say that’s great but can we talk about my concern now because I came to you about so-and-so and that’s what I want to talk about now. It’s quite a thing to experience him trying to twist his way out of a conversation like that. He’s so true to type which is funny since he believes he’s so special. I have to admit that my attempts to stop his deflecting don’t always work because he often resorts to talking over me or just flat accusing me of starting an argument (as he’s yelling in a condescending tone)and I just walk away.

    My heart aches for the women whose kids don’t see it in their dads. I’m fortunate in that my kids do see it because they’ve experienced it and they know me. Honestly, they’ve always favored me over their dad. However, they still love their dad and at this point I couldn’t label it as abuse to them. They’re not ready for that.They see it as “dad’s got issues”. They still think they can pray dad into being better. They still think I can modify my behavior so he won’t act that way. (“Just don’t say that, Mom, and dad won’t act that way.” I reminded that child that was wrong. I should be able to have a thought and not be inviting WWIII on my head. Normal people have conversations that don’t always have the potential to go ballistic. Said child grudgingly admitted that was true but was not ready to condemn dad for that. Still wants me as “mom” to solve dad. I should be able to deal with it and make it better….somehow.)

    So I’ve been educating my children about their dad’s behavior and specifically his techniques*. I admit I feel terribly guilty about this because I feel like I’m talking about him behind his back in a gossipy way (he used to accuse me of that years ago when I wasn’t talking to the kids about him at all but they were naturally reacting to how he treated them) but I feel like I need to protect them by arming them with this information. So I’ve been emphasizing to them that they need to know these things so they can deal with him and anyone else they meet in life like him. Each child is receptive in various degrees. I can not label the behavior or they would shut down. One child even said “I don’t like to hear bad stuff about people.” My dream someday is to give them each Lundy’s book and say this is my life and please read all the way to the part about being a supporter of the abuse if you refuse to recognize It for what it is.”

    *For example, it was only a few months ago that I learned what gas lighting is. For the last several weeks I’ve had to talk to one of my kids about his gas lighting because my husband has been relentless in his gas lighting of this child. I also had to explain manipulation. I told said child you have a right to your feelings and do not let dad try to tell you your feelings are wrong.

    • marriedwithouthusband

      Oh, yes, “solving” dad’s problems! I’m worried that my adult children will tell me to do that when I tell them later this year that I’ll be filing for a divorce. Because I’m the mom; I’m expected to solve everyone’s problems, and often, it’s true, I want to and can help.

    • Naive

      What is gas lighting – I have never heard this term before.

      • Hi Naive,
        Excellent question – This post will help explain what gaslighting is and how abusers use it as a manipulative tactic. We also have a tag, Gaslighting, (see top menu bar) that will show other posts that reference gaslighting.

        Gaslighting

      • Naive

        Thank you for your answer eventhough it was very hard and very sad as I started to suddenly get clarity of what was my marriage. I lived under this from my husband for 30 years until I knew I had finally had a complete mental and physical breakdown and went to my Doctor for help and asked could he admit me to a mental hospital. This marvellous man said “you have not had a mental breakdown you have had an emotional awakening of what you have lived under all these years.” He advised me to leave which I did and have carried the guilt for destroying my family for 20 years UNTIL someone told me about A Cry For Justice 3 weeks ago and have started to understand what abuse in a marriage really means and the veil has started to lift. I know this sounds very foolish but I didn’t even think of him as an abuser all these years and have thought even after all this time that I could have done better.

      • Dear Naive
        I don’t think it sounds foolish. What do abusers do? They lie, they throw up smokescreen over smokescreen to stop us seeing the real problem.

        The real problem is that that they are abusing us, but they don’t want us to see that as that would mean we were more likely to get out from under their control. So, are we foolish to not see the abuse for what it is? Not at all. We are simply like an innocent insect that has been caught in a spider’s web and the spider has injected just enough of his venom into us so we are put into a kind of coma, and on top of that he has bound us in more strands of his web, round and round, tying us to the web so that even if we struggle we can’t get free. And the spider keeps us alive so he can continue to slake his thirst on our our juicy fluids, but not alive enough to be fully alert to what he is doing to us.

      • Still Reforming

        Naive,

        It doesn’t sound foolish to me and I daresay not to anyone else who reads this blog. The tactics of the abuser can be subtle indeed – and therefore extremely difficult to discern, especially for the Christian (often the wife) told by the church to continually forgive and do more to help the abuser, not herself.

        Please know that you are not alone and that many if not all of use here stand with you. Stay, drink of the fountain of life here, and learn and grow with us. I am glad you’re here.

        I’m so very sorry for all you’ve been through. It sounds like you’ve been very alone at times, and I know what that’s like. So many of us do here. As I’ve prayed in my trial this week, I was reminded of our Lord’s alone-ness in the heat of His trial. He knows the way we take, and He knows where you’ve been and what you’ve suffered. I’m glad He’s lead you here.

  11. Barnabasintraining

    Jeff!!!

    I cannot begin to tell you how infuriating that childish “I know you are but what am I?” treatment is!!! I had that done to me by the abuser vicariously through one of his important allies when every single complaint the victim had against her abuser, all of which were legitimate, was turned around against her to try to get me on board with The Program. 😡 Honestly, I felt like I was on a playground somewhere expecting the “I’m rubber you’re glue!” chant at any moment.

    Clearly we were not really having a discussion. It was pathetic.

    To this day I envision the leader who did this in a diaper fastened with one of those gigantic pins, holding a rattle in one hand and sucking on a bottle filled with John Piper’s Special Formula. It’s a disturbing image, let me tell you!

  12. Still Reforming

    This post keeps getting more timely by the minute. In a phone call with my attorney today in which he’s trying to get me to concede a few things, I alluded to Neville Chamberlain’s meeting with Hitler prior to WWII, essentially to agree to Hitler’s taking of the Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia) for “peace in our time.” My attorney’s response? “Do you know why Chamberlain did that? Do you know why he did?? He did that because he knew that Britain didn’t have the army to defeat Hitler!”

    My attorney and I disagree on so many points, but after that call ended it began to sink in: He wants to appease evil (stbx) for what he thinks will make me look good before a judge in the very few minutes I’ll have before him soon. Yet in my heart, my attorney’s counsel feels wrong. I’m fighting my attorney almost as much as I did stbx (except I’m paying the attorney – we even had words about that, as I pressed him that I am paying for advocacy and he replied, “But also legal advice. You’re paying for legal advice.”)

    I am praying for wisdom this week as a few events unfold before a court date soon. So many untenable choices, but I think I know in my heart the right path so no matter the outcome, I will stand right before my God. I’m praying toward that end, and in the end, that’s really all that matters anyway.

    • SR, when one engages a lawyer, yes, one does so for the legal advice the lawyer can give, but as the client it is your choice whether or not you follow the legal advice. Ulitimately, you call the shots, and the lawyer is professionally obliged to carry out your instructions.

      I’m sure you know this, but sometimes it helps to have it affirmed. 🙂

      • Still Reforming

        Barbara,

        I’m not sure if I knew it or not (that I can discount my attorneys’ legal advice). I have tried to stand up to my attorneys so many times and been either dissuaded or have things gone unanswered (like my repeated requests for child support, among other things).

        So I’m thankful that you wrote what you did. It has given me renewed strength to make some (what I hope are) good and sound decisions today and stand my ground in emails to my attorney – on many fronts.

        I also followed the wise counsel of another reader here at acfj, and I just placed a call to shelter that handles domestic abuse to get recommendations for a different attorney for my future, one who is familiar with domestic abuse and unafraid to stand up for targets of same.

    • standsfortruth

      Your final resolve is where I am at too Still Reforming…
      I would rather follow my convictions to the end, than go against my concience, and compromise with evil.

      • freeatlast8

        Good place to put a quote I have learned recently:

        I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence. – Frederick Douglass

      • That’s goin’ on our GEMS page too!

    • I know the feeling you speak of, and I am sorry you are experiencing it. 😦

      Until it got personal (his valid, supported argument losing to anti’s swiss cheese argument in court), my lawyer did not “see” the underhandedness at play. I used to be triggered by my atty’s call as much as any contact from anti because his advice felt wrong. He was advising me with a belief that anti was as he portrays himself to be. Now that he’s been “pushed around” he sees that what I’ve been saying has weight and gives advice that sits right when I receive it.

      I’ve prayed for your atty to have eyes that see and ears that hear. I prayed for you too. 🙂

  13. Moving Forward

    Just got to hear this again at mediation – “well you do it, too”. And if that doesn’t apply (like when he withholds money – kind of hard to claim I do it, too), then it is, “well, you deserved it”, or, “I was only trying to get you to talk”. Sorry, but doing mean or underhanded things to force someone to talk pretty much ends all chances of conversation, except in front of a mediator or lawyer. It seems reflective blaming is like sin-leveling.

  14. Round*Two

    Naive,

    I felt the same way about stbx. I didn’t think he was an abuser. Clarity came for me when I noticed I have CRIED so much in the so many years (very short years) than I have in my lifetime! And, I have never been manhandled and physically abused by anyone. I threatened to leave him many times but never was strong enough to do so, until one day… I left him, however he came back into my life and like you, I began to have a meltdown…breakdown, whatever you want to call it. I was on the verge of having myself committed. I was ready to walk into the closest clinic I could find, I believe the Lord intervened! Thank God for that! BUT, stbx used that against me. He has told the court several times that I felt I needed to be committed but he NEVER explained how I got to that point!
    I am so glad you, Naive, have clarity now! I am so glad you are out of this situation and you can start your new life! One day at a time… I still have questions and struggles but my days are becoming easier. So, be encouraged and know you have many friends here who understand exactly what you are going through…

  15. Anotheranon

    Just read this post today. I am fighting fear like I haven’t done for a long time. I’m in a situation where I know I’m right, but he argues (yells) on and on. Pray for strength for me. I have to correct a mistake I made and I think it will be ok but I have so little confidence in myself. Even as I type this I realize I am blaming myself! It was not really a mistake on my part, but miscommunication on both our parts and could have been avoided if he had listened to me in the first place. Father, help me this afternoon to do what is right in Your eyes, according to Your will.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Courage Anotheranon. You are growing stronger and wiser

    • praying

    • cindy burrell

      Anotheranon. I join Pastor Jeff in encouraging you to refuse to buy into the lies and half-truths and to try not to get hooked into the crazy-making. Say only what you must and let it go. Let the truth stand on its own, and do not attempt to try to reason with your abuser. As soon as he gets you spinning, you never know where you’ll end up – probably apologizing to him.

      May God give you the wisdom and strength you seek.

      • Anotheranon

        Thank you all. Things are a little better today. I am staying overnight at my son’s house for a few nights till things “cool down.” But I still have some hard work to do. I know I will be lied to again and will have to figure out what’s true.
        I told my other son what was going on and he related how his dad tried to intimidate him over and over many years ago. It truly is passed down in my husband’s family from generation to generation (the learned abusive behavior), but was cleverly concealed.

      • Still Reforming

        Anotheranon,

        That’s the part that still amazes me to this day, no matter how long I’d lived with it. They know it’s lying, or it wouldn’t be concealed. I really don’t know how they can sleep at night knowing the extent and the depth of their lying. Likewise the hubris it takes to tell lies knowing how easily some of those lies could be exposed, as one biggy that my husband was trapped in, but… it didn’t stop him from telling it. As someone from my former church once remarked, “Some people would rather climb a ladder to tell a lie than just stand on the ground and tell the truth.”

      • Round*Two

        SR,
        I don’t understand it either! Stbx told lie after lie after lie! Yep, and his family believes/ed him. I don’t think he believed his own lies but enjoyed telling them?! I just don’t know, but I do know I have caught him in so many lies it isn’t funny! It just seems odd to me. I have NEVER known anyone who lies so much….

      • I don’t think he believed his own lies but enjoyed telling them?! I just don’t know…

        Round*Two, you have put in a nutshell exactly what most of us have thought when we tried to understand our abousers.
        Does he believe his own lies? Maybe yes. Maybe no. We corkscrew our minds till our brains are in acute pain, trying to plumb the answer to that question. And I have concluded that there is no sure and certain answer to that question and the best way to deal with it is to stop trying to plumb it.

        Bancroft says in Why Does He DO That that some abusers seem to believe their own lies some of the time… and some seem to know they are lying some of the time…and you can never put your finger on it and believe you’ve nailed it… and ultimately it doesn’t matter either way.

        What is going on in the contorted, tortuous depths of the abuser’s mind is his own tangled knotty labyrinth decorated with smoke and mirrors and inhabited by vipers. And from our point of view, what matters is that he is not a safe person to be in relationship with!

      • joepote01

        Bancroft says in Why Does He DO That that some abusers seem to believe their own lies some of the time… and some seem to know they are lying some of the time…and you can never put your finger on it and believe you’ve nailed it… and ultimately it doesn’t matter either way.

        In my past marriage to an abuser, I became convinced that truth simply never entered into her decision making process. There was never a conflict, for her, as to whether she believed her own lies or not…because truth was simply not of value to her. It was all about what story would best manipulate the situation to her advantage to achieve her latest goal. The fact that she said it was enough…the saying it made it her truth…and how that matched up with real truth was irrelevant.

      • truth simply never entered into her decision making process. There was never a conflict, for her, as to whether she believed her own lies or not…because truth was simply not of value to her.

        This made me reflect. Truth may only be of value to abusers in this way:

        They know that other people value truth and that other people assess folk according to how truthful they seem. Because of this, abusers see truth as one more tool in their arsenal of manipulative tactics that will help them win their own goals.
        They will knowingly tell ***some*** truth (selective portions of it) if they believe that by doing so they will be able to maintain the control over others that they wish to maintain.

        So they tell the truth (or some of the truth) to their target when they think it will soften the target and make him/her give ground. They tell the truth (or some of it) to a bystander if they think it will turn the bystander into more of an ally. And they very carefully select which truths to tell the kids, so the kids will form the picture that their protective parent is in fact an immoral and negligent parent.

      • joepote01

        Yes, that’s what I saw. Truthfulness was of no value to her, but believability was of value in manipulating situations and relationships to her advantage. Trustworthiness was of no value to her, but trust was of value.

        So truth was only of value to the extent that it made her more believable to those she was trying to manipulate. Her lies included enough truth for credibility.

        In fact one of her favorite tactics was to present actual facts in such a twisted manner as to intentionally draw the listener to a completely false conclusion. It made it very hard to refute what she was saying despite the fact that it was a lie…and made it very easy for her to act totally offended that anyone would dare disbelieve her.

      • Joe, I’m putting this comment of yours onto our GEMS page. 🙂

      • Still Reforming

        And in what you write, Barbara, lies what I think is the very great danger to the church. Because church family and leaders willingly accept that partial truth (not unlike that told by the serpent in the garden), they embrace and support the abuser over the target who really is telling the truth. It’s precisely because there is *some* truth in it that makes the versions all the more confusing to the hearer.

        To some extent, I can intellectually understand the wool being pulled over the eyes of those who are not in God’s family. It still hurts my heart, but they lack the benefit of Godly wisdom. However, with respect to those who are truly in God’s family (or purport to be), the onus is on them to discern truth from fiction. Shame on them for hearing victims’ testimonies alongside the partially true versions of the perpetrators of evil – and accepting lies over real truth. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.

      • They [the Gentiles] show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
        Romans 2:15-16

        Their conflicting thoughts: they go through life moment by moment see-sawing between self-accusing and self-excusing. This is the madness of sin, the insanity of the unregenerate person who is dead in sin.

        The abuser may even have self-accusing thoughts, but he has built a habitual response to those those thoughts whenever they arise in his mind: immediately he looks for how he can blame others rather than accuse himself. This is how a person sears his conscience.

      • Round*Two

        Barbara,
        I agree! Trying to figure out ‘what in the world’ he is saying had drained me of so much energy! I was believing the stories he made up because they seemed so ‘believable’, although, I did not verify his stories (lies) except one, I suddenly realized he was playing me again for the umpteenth time. I finally resigned to the fact he cannot tell the truth, period! At this point, I no longer have to deal with his lies and my energy is saved for more important things in life!

      • Still Reforming

        Round*Two,

        What I finally realized was that while not EVERYTHING my husband said was a lie, ANYTHING could be. So…. it’s hard to believe anything he says.

        I can’t help but recall who God tells us is the father of lies, and therefore the one my husband serves. But… I leave him in God’s hands. It’s God’s business to call him to account, not mine. I bear no ill will toward him, but I don’t know if I forgive him his many, many transgressions against me. I’ve just kind of shrugged him off (and continue to have to do so until our child is old enough that I don’t have to deal with him anymore). And yet, I don’t really know that my Lord demands that I forgive him. I don’t harbor a grudge. I just have no feelings at all toward him anymore. None. Neither good nor bad.

        But… a part of me pities him, I suppose, because he serves the wrong master. And… I don’t like him very much as a person, but I don’t particularly dislike him either. I try not to give him much thought. Perhaps all the annoying things he’s done and the lies have moved me to this point. He’s in the Lord’s hands and out of my heart.

      • freeatlast8

        Spinning…another term I am not familiar with, but I am pretty sure I know exactly what it means just by guessing. Sounds like when we would have a disagreement, and I would have a valid point and put it out there, he would dance all around it, avoiding the obvious “touche.” And somehow I would usually end up with the sword being thrust in me by the end of the round.

        I have apologized for many things I really didn’t feel especially sorry or responsible for just to get things back on track. I am reading a book about approval addiction right now that is VERY helpful. I was always seeking ex’s approval and would, therefore, lower myself to “win” his favor back. I hated the feelings of rejection, abandonment, and loneliness I felt when he would cold shoulder me for days, even locking the bedroom door so I couldn’t come in. I could not feel better until things were “okay” between us again. I had to have his approval to feel good about myself. Any sign of dissatisfaction with me made me feel I had to DO something to make things right again, even when I knew I was not always the reason things were “off” between us.

      • Round*Two

        I lost my original post, sorry! SR, I know exactly what you are feeling. I felt the same way about stbx. For myself,the constant lying is what really got to me, I loathed it!
        And i do pity him too. He truly believes i am the evil one, but no matter what he thinks of me, I will leave him in God’s hands. He is the only ONE who can change his heart…

      • Still Reforming

        Round*Two,
        Thanks for the validation and affirmation. In addition to what you wrote, I am finding that the best way for me to actually LIVE through each day without being caught up in the drama of it all and feeling pummeled (as I was in court), I am learning to roll with it. That is, stbx will still invent drama as he is doing now – going against something he himself made a HUGE issue of in motions and in judge’s chambers, then turned around and did exactly what he said he didn’t want me to do. Initially,I took the bait, and my emotions were caught up in it, but now, I’m learning how to work within the whirlwind to not let him control me or my life. I can’t stop his drama or his transgressions, but neither do I have to order my own life around them.

  16. cindy burrell

    I love this piece, because the truth is that, when you are dealing an abuser, there is no “winning.” In reading this, I wanted to think of a proper comeback, a trump card to silence the Christian leadership abuser-types. But there isn’t one. People who don’t want to know the truth will always find a way around it. There are times we can only speak the truth and walk away, when no measure of reason can touch a darkened heart.

    Our Lord called the religious elite of His day “white-washed tombs,” white on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones. Such counterfeit forms of faith the Pharisees exercised left them stubbornly self-righteous, yet bound. Tragically, we can see this dynamic still at work within the contemporary church.

    Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” John 9:41

  17. StandsWithAFist

    This was a timely word.
    My abuser just whined and protested about being “my punching bag” (in response to me pointing out a duplicitous comment.)
    To say it pushed my button is an understatement. I unleashed with decades of stories of being punched, poked, prodded, devalued, humiliated, scapegoated, blamed, smeared, slandered, criticized & destroyed. I was a woman possessed. It poured out me like a firehouse.
    As Jeff said, I looked the abuser in the eye and said “I reject everything you are saying. Don’t try to remove guilt from yourself by deflecting it to me. I am not guilty of abuse. You are.”
    For forty years no one defended me, everyone was content for me to be abused, excusing it as the norm, telling me to be loving, forgiving, tolerant, understanding, that it’s just the way it is, the abuser cannot change, etc.
    What is incredulous to me is that the abuse did not bother them, but now it is my resistance to abuse that bothers them. They just want me to shut up.
    I say No.

    • I remember my first major confrontation with my abuser SWAF.
      It hit him like a freight train, and Im sure it caught him off guard.
      At first he tried to act indignant as if I was way off base daring to accuse him of malicious consistant wrong doing.
      But just like you I locked eyes with him letting him know that I was fully aware of his consistent wrong treatment of me.
      Good for you.
      The cat is out of the bag now.
      The gig is up. The last 2 paragraphs you wrote resonates with my personal experience too.

    • Cheering you from over in Oz, SWIF 🙂

    • freeatlast8

      I am learning about standing up for myself (in Christ). Ever since childhood, I have had different “bullies” in my life. I have wanted someone to come and “save” me from them…fight my battles for me…because I have been too afraid to do it myself. I have felt powerless against them and have lived in a defeated place out of fear.

      But now God says to me, “You must not live your life on borrowed faith…using the faith and strength of others to empower you in your personal life. You must develop your OWN faith in me, your own trust. You must rely on me for all your battles. Your ability comes from me, not yourself. Have faith and confidence in the ME in you.”

      David, going up against Goliath, did not have what he would need physically to take that giant down. But with God, David did not have to match Goliath in any way. All David need was faith. God provided all the rest.

      It’s okay to enlist others to go into battle with you, but you have to be personally involved alongside the warriors, not just expecting them to fight front row while you position yourself in the back. Be a front row fighter and press on to the victory. And when you don’t have the luxury of reinforcements, those certain times when there is only you and God, that’s when you really need that individual, personal, strong faith to face people and situations that are as unrelenting as brick walls.

      I am still trying to understand this because I have been a “self”-defender for years. I haven’t wrapped my head around this completely yet to expound on it more, but maybe just putting the idea of it out there will help one of you who reads it. And if any of you have a deeper understanding of this revelation (which is very new to me as the fog lifts), please comment on it so I can get it solidly laid as a foundation and find out more about what God has for me in this truth.

      • I think all your ideas here are excellent, Freeatlast8, and it sounds like God has given you wisdom and revelation. I believe it will consolidate and embed in your spirit and character as time goes on. Don’t be surprised if you have little slips back. Backstitch is stronger than running stitch.

        And you might like to look at our tag for Courage, as the posts with that tag would probably speak to what you are learning here. We have 50 posts with that tag, so it could be a lot of reading!

      • And when you don’t have the luxury of reinforcements, those certain times when there is only you and God, that’s when you really need that individual, personal, strong faith to face people and situations that are as unrelenting as brick walls.

        Yes, I hear you Freeatlast8.
        There is a truth that if we can wrap our heads around it would benefit all of us .
        God does see our plight.
        God sees that it “seems” as if the deck is stacked in the favor of our abuser to pursuade many (including some, if not many- to sometimes all of those within our very household to side with him).
        But, if we just keep in mind what the abuser is doing is only managing “perception control.”
        -What others perceive to be true.-
        However we know the truth, and must never lose sight of it, and that the abuser is wrong.
        We dont have to go to church to get God’s blessing on what we do.
        We already have it!
        Or even read our bible everyday, for the Word of God is in us.
        It is in our hearts.
        We are God’s truth bearers on the face of the earth, and that is our weapon against evil.
        Bearing and Stating, and standing on the Truth causes the evil bearers to recede back into the shadows where they belong.
        Like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz getting the water thrown on her and she started melting..

        We are God’s Spokesperson for the truth.

        That is why the “truth” in his word is associated with carrying a sword.
        Just like David when he determined to stand against Goliath and challenged him, God did the rest as far as making sure he hit his target square.
        I think God is waiting for many of us to step out and stand our ground with the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.
        Take your Wonder Woman stance and speak the truth. God will do the rest.
        He can’t bless us with opening doors for our lives to change until we take a stand against evil.
        But we must believe that God is already within us, waiting for us to activate our faith by our words of truth refuting the lies.
        And surely with the blind condition of the majority of churches today, he doesn’t expect us to go to church to get his blessing, unless we found a safe one.
        We already have Gods blessing apon us!
        You all carry a mighty weapon within you, and all the abusers know it, and just hope you don’t realize it, because once you do, you can make their lives mighy uncomfortable, and then the tables will turn.
        They will fear you.

    • Round*Two

      Freeatlast,
      I had the same issues where stbx was constantly phoning me, texting me, emailing me, FB was another story! He was suffocating me! Every time i turned around he was there. not physically, but in all those aforementioned! If you can afford a second phone, and get another email address that will help alliviate some of the stress! Also, keep in mind, if your xh had access to your cell phone he possibly could have installed some kind of spyware app. I have had that happen to me as well! I had no idea what you can do with those apps…boy, did I find out! I had my third phone wiped clean, set back to factory setting, and a new sim card put in! It seems to be working fine now. Thank God!

      • thanks for sharing that, Round*two.

        Readers might like to know that we have a page for Cybersafety on our Resouces.

      • standsfortruth

        This is why it is helpful to have your own income coming in, to be able to afford to make necessary changes for your security and privacy
        ( try to get a car title in your name, and a part time job )
        When my phone was on the same account as his, he could go on line, and see, and know who I was talking to.
        He even seemed to know when i was trying to make a phone call to someone, somehow and could sabatoge my attempt.
        Then he started knowing about things that I talked about on this same cell phone as if he was tapped into the conversation somehow.
        So, I concluded he either installed something on my phone while I was not aware, or his knowledge of my gmail (email) address gave him access to stalking my phone, or it was because we were sharing phones on the same account.
        So because I wasent sure, I went to the phone provider, and opened a different account for my phone that had privacy passwords put on it, and was able to purchase a new I-Phone for installment payments of only 4.95 a month for only a year, and I had a new private g-mail address put on that phone.
        After that he could no longer covertly stalk me .

  18. Brenda R

    I finally answered my abuser and his accusations after many times of my saying “leave me alone”, at peace within myself and knowing I had not sinned, by changing my phone number. No more calls, no more texts. I hadn’t wanted to do that. Now I have to call numerous people and businesses of the change. Well worth the effort, I know, but when will this man realize that we are divorced and stop being a thorn in my side. Stop saying something outrageous and blaming me for what he is doing. I hadn’t responded to his craziness in a long time, but the blame shifting, name calling and ongoing accusations got the better of me during a family crisis this past weekend and I replied that I had family and friends dying, “LET ME BE”. His only other options now, after 2 years of separation and divorce, is to call me at work or show up at my apartment. Either of those things happening will result in my quietly heading for the Personal Protection office and filing for a PPO. Whether or not the judge will grant it, I don’t know.

    • freeatlast8

      My ex will not leave me alone either. We have several children, so I cannot change my phone number. He texts me and emails me junk all the time. He does not respond when I send him info on the kids. He only uses these means of communications to slam me and blame me. I don’t read all the crap anymore. I scan it and don’t let it penetrate my mind. But for a man who is so dissatisfied with me and hates me so much, I am like you in saying: JUST LET ME BE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Leave me alone. If you can’t stand me, then leave me alone. If you don’t like lemon in your tea, quit squeezing it in your glass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He stirs up his own wrath and frustration. I do not even talk to him unless it’s absolutely necessary, and when it is I stick to the facts and speak kindly. It’s like he can’t receive it.

      • Brenda R

        freeatlast8,
        That has to be very hard for you. I’m beyond kids and had none that didn’t have 4 paws with the xh. My kids are all adults and have no love loss for the stepfather. My daughters hated the way he treated me and them. He was much worse with them after I left, as if it were their fault. I will pray for you as you finish this journey. My girls father stopped coming around soon after he left us. He had much more interest in pursuing as many women as he possibly could than spending time with his children. I now see that was far better for them. It always bothered me that I couldn’t be both mother and father. I married someone who appeared to be a very good dad. The moment we got married, he stopped being that person and I ended up being the mother of more kids.

      • freeatlast8, if you find it stressful just opening up your phone and reading any messages on it, have you thought of getting another phone with another number for all the rest of your life? That way, your old phone would just be for him to contact you, and the other phone would be for everyone else. And when you answer the other phone, it wouldn’t be so stressful? Just an idea. . .

  19. Round*Two

    Good for you Brenda!

  20. freeatlast8

    What Jeff said rings true to me.

    No, I am not guilty of the same thing that the abuser is doing. I reject that charge. We must look the abuser in the eye and say “I reject everything you are saying. Don’t try to remove guilt from yourself by deflecting it to me. I am not guilty of abuse. You are.

    One day, in absolute strength and a sense of being DONE for good, I wrote my then husband a note telling him if he ever again spoke to the children and me the way he did that day, I would leave. I told him I would not be subjected to his caustic tongue any longer. I said my life is worth more than being subjected to his volcanic eruptions all the years ahead. I placed the responsibility squarely on his shoulders where it belonged.

    Surprisingly, he wrote a very short note back saying he would do better and even said he was sorry. RARE RARE RARE indeed. It helped a little, but I honestly didn’t believe his words.

    The next day, he was waiting for me when I got home from a morning errand. My stand the day before had obviously stirred something inside him. While I was celebrating my triumph of speaking my mind and confronting the REAL issue, he had been stewing over the audacity of my having called him on his behavior. Even though he had apologized in an email, he was now recanting that apology. He lined up the kids and opened up warfare. I hadn’t even brought a weapon with me (as usual–YOU’D THINK I would have learned to carry a flame thrower or had some grenades permanently mounted on my body somewhere). He obviously hadn’t slept well and he looked like a madman with his hair all messed up from bedhead. He proceeded to blast me in front of the kids (who knew nothing about my ultimatum or his apology), telling me if I left him, the kids would NOT be going with me. He angrily spewed out how I wrong I was to ever go up against him as the head of the home and threaten him in that way. The kids stood there in shock, crying, (from teen to young child) not knowing what the heck this was all about. He hit back HARD and knocked me back in retreat (at least for a little while). He did not know he was fueling the beginning of my covert mission to get out.

    When you confront your abuser, my advice is to have something to back it up with. My ex was like a concrete wall, thick and impenetrable. When I went up against him, I usually walked away damaged and wounded, while he just swept the dust off himself from the inconvenience of the encounter. You need to find strength and fortitude in Christ to stand against someone like this, have others standing with you, or have a safety or exit plan in place. Otherwise, your efforts are for nothing and you only hurt yourself. I could not fight my abuser in my own physical strength, my own intellectual reasoning, or my own will. I would lose every time.

    I am just now, after 25+ years, finding out who I am in Christ, even though I have been a Christian for that long. I was too busy trying to please my ex that I completely lost sight of who Christ made me to be and who he says I am. How freeing it is to walk in truth and freedom in him.

    • Amen!!!!

      bless you, freeatlast8, and many hugs coming your way across the internet from me 🙂

  21. Annie

    My husband knows I don’t believe him about most anything but he continues to expect me to believe him.

  22. Renewed Spirit

    I read somewhere once that it’s never a good idea to confront an abuser – thoughts?

    • Does the Bible say it’s never a good idea to confront an abuser? The Bible shows the OT Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles confronting wicked people who were oppressing the vulnerable. E.g. Paul confronted Simon the Sorcerer. And the NT commands us to have nothing to do with the works of darkness but rather expose them.

      But I think you were meaning “Is it ever a good idea for the victim of domestic abuse and/or spiritual abuse to confront her own abuser(s)?” I think there are several principles to bring to bear in answering that question.

      The Bible exhorts us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Being wise as serpents includes assessing the risks of confronting the abuser vv the long-term and short-term risks of not confronting the abuser. And it also includes being prudent in choosing when to confront and when to let something pass by without confronting it. And weighing up whether the game is worth the candle, whether its better to win a battle but risk losing the war, or better to lose a battle but still have a chance of winning the war.

      And then we factor all that in with respect to the potential effects on our children and the ones we love and have a resbonsibility to care for.

      So I don’t think it’s wise to make a blanket rule “Never confront an abuser,” and people who make sweeping statements like that are probably not wise teachers.

      • anonymous

        I’m pretty sure it was PS Crippen who said this elsewhere on this site that a person might want to approach talking with the abuser as though going to chit chat with the devil himself. I’m paraphrasing this but nonetheless it was really clarifying for me to begin looking at things in that regard. I think the Christian radio stations, the vast majority of Christian books and whatnot else really cheats the audience out of truth. We live in a fallen world.

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