A Cry For Justice

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

You Cannot Drive Abuse Out of the Abuser

Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him. (Proverbs 27:22)

The fool in Proverbs is not merely some simple-minded person. Nope. This fool is a wicked individual. You can check this out for yourself if you want by simply reading the occurrences of “fool” in this book of Holy Scripture. And many of the descriptions of this fool given us by Solomon describe the abuser we know so well perfectly.

So, look at this verse cited above. What does it tell us about the fool/abuser? It says that you can sooner grind him up in a flour-making machine (a mortar and pestle in those days) and get his blood out than you can use even the most severe methods on him to “bleed him” dry of his abuse. Which is all to say this: you can’t fix an abuser. Not the abuser we know so well here at ACFJ. Not this guy who so often claims to be a Christian, but whose very essence of personhood is a profound sense of entitlement to power and control and who feels quite justified in using whatever evil tactics he needs to employ to get what he wants. You can’t fix him. That is what these divinely inspired and inerrant words are telling us.

To many people, this fact seems disturbing. I mean, can’t Christ change anyone? Aren’t we as Christians supposed to “have faith” in the Lord’s ability to give anyone a new heart and do whatever we can to lead such people to salvation in Christ? Christ gives a new heart to anyone who calls upon Him in real faith and repentance. But abusers don’t do so. For all their common claims that they have changed, that they have really repented, for all the crocodile tears they shed, they do not humbly come to Christ in genuine faith, exercising real repentance. Crush them, winnow them, sift them all you like, their folly is not going to depart from them.

This seems disturbing to many people, but I find it a source of the very beginning of freedom from abuse. When an abuse victim comes to clearly understand that not only is her abuser an abuser, but that there is nothing she can do to change him by driving his abusive mentality out of him, then she can begin to take steps to get free.

And this is why I choose to devote my energies to helping victims of abuse, not spending my time and resources on efforts to “fix” abusers. There are others who choose to do so and who claim that they have some measure of success. I don’t criticize them, but I remain highly skeptical. What do they mean by “success”? Do they mean that the abuser has been so remarkably changed by their program that he is no longer an abuser? Do they mean that he is a “new man”? Or do they mean that for his own selfish motives, he has simply learned to modify his outward behaviors? In which case, his folly (as Proverbs says) is still in him.

We Christians must come to a clear understanding of a fact that is repeated in Scripture. There are wicked, evil individuals in this world who are never going to change. Whom the Lord is done with. And for whom we are not even required to pray. And I cannot think of a better candidate for this category than the counterfeit who claims to be a Christian but who in reality abuses his wife and insists that he is entitled to have “the power.”

71 Comments

  1. standingfirm

    Amen and amen Pastor Crippen! Every word you spoke is so true. The Lord impressed upon my heart so many scriptures through the years regarding the abusive behavior, many of which are in proverbs. All are dated and highlighted for my future reference whenever the “crazymaking” rears its ugly head! I have told people, the reason a abuser “can’t” be saved is because they will not give up their “control” to God. After three decades of this so called marriage I have become wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. The abuser will never be able to gain access into my heart ever again! Keep up the great work for the Lord here at ACFJ.

  2. Song of Joy

    “There are wicked, evil individuals in this world who are never going to change”

    Amen to that. Jesus was careful to explain that to us, yet for some reason it’s easier to think only of those Pharisees in long flowing robes and beards, and not apply it to the abusers in shirts and trousers in our own lives.

    Matthew 13:13,15-16 (KJV)
    Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand….For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

  3. Moving Forward

    This is so true. Life has not gone well for the stbx, yet the abuse via email and visitation continues unchanged. After spending a meeting with lawyers blaming me for everything, he was asked if he might not perhaps have had some part to play in the problems and breakdown of relationship with myself and the older children, but it did not even register, much less cause him to think on that possibility for even one second. In his mind, that is not even an option. Why should it be, when I can be conveniently blamed for everything that has gone wrong for the entirety of our long marriage?

    • Seeing The Light

      Moving Forward, I can completely relate. My anti-husband blames me for everything, especially the increasing alienation in his relationships with our minor children. He accuses me of slandering him to them and causing the division that is driving them from him. I asked him if it couldn’t be possible that his words and actions in his relationships with them were perhaps even half the issue. His response was no and that it wasn’t biblical. That doesn’t even make sense! Even when he (very rarely) verbalizes a slight failure on his part in some matter so he can look like the humble Christian, he manages to throw in how my sin set up the environment for his temptation and failure. It doesn’t matter what line of thinking he has to take, however distorted, as long as I can be made to be the scapegoat for everything.

  4. They cloak themselves in fine words.
    They hold their high position in deception.
    They overpower weak women.
    They use guilt and shame as their covering.
    They isolate themselves in a high position.
    They hate Christ in a true follower.
    They inprision the victim with false promises.
    Oh! how evil this man is.

    I went through my home this morning.
    Opened doors where he would isolate himself.
    I stated out loud.
    You don’t live here anymore.

    • I like what you did in speaking into those rooms. I’ve done similar things in my recovery journey.

      • Speaking Affirmation out loud.
        There are days when it’s necessary to talk reality to yourself.
        It’s like a healing balm.

      • And when we speak ‘to’ the abuser after he is out of our house, it is a form of resistance to the abuse. It wasn’t safe to say those things in his hearing, but it is safe to say them when he is gone. We carefully held in so much of what we wanted to say to our abuser. Now when it’s safe to speak it, it is indeed healing to the soul to say those things. We hear ourselves saying them and that generates a good feedback loop.

        These days when I read the Bible in my flat (I live alone) I usually read it out loud. It seems to help me a lot more that way.

  5. amen amen amen Abusers have a long history of abusing people & are very adept at lying, manipulating & deception; that it is their norm.

  6. Amy

    What a great post! And I absolutely loved this paragraph:

    To many people, this fact seems disturbing. I mean, can’t Christ change anyone? Aren’t we as Christians supposed to “have faith” in the Lord’s ability to give anyone a new heart and do whatever we can to lead such people to salvation in Christ? Christ gives a new heart to anyone who calls upon Him in real faith and repentance. But abusers don’t do so.

    Yes, yes, yes!!! God can change anyone and any situation, BUT first there needs to be true repentance and they have to want to be changed and as you said — most abusers do not truly want to change.

    I was often looked upon as not having enough faith because I chose divorce after finally opening my eyes to the fact that I was not responsible for my abusive ex and nothing I did was going to change him. People get it so wrong…just because a marriage disintegrates does not mean God was not working in and through that marriage. God can do anything, but He will not force someone to change. And I believe in my case when my abusive ex refused to truly change God did a miracle by rescuing me — He set free His child who was crying out to Him for help. Perhaps if my ex had done the same, maybe, just maybe, that marriage would not have ended, but he didn’t and God didn’t try to force him…he let my ex go and instead brought me out of that destruction.

    • anonymous

      Amy, your “rescue” is very similar to mine.

      And for abusers to genuinely repent they would need to relinquish “power” and to acknowledge God is in control, not them; they would implode. So, in search of control and power they continue to dehumanize, diminish and destroy the person-hood of their prey. Give such a man a wife, he will abuse her. Give such a man a church, he will abuse many. Give such a man a nation, he will be a Hitler.

    • bright sunshinin' day

      Well said, Amy! Especially this: “And I believe in my case when my abusive ex refused to truly change God did a miracle by rescuing me — He set free His child who was crying out to Him for help. Perhaps if my ex had done the same, maybe, just maybe, that marriage would not have ended, but he didn’t and God didn’t try to force him…he let my ex go and instead brought me out of that destruction.”

  7. Anonymous

    You can’t fix him. That is what these divinely inspired and inerrant words are telling us.

    This is also the biggest reason evil ones hate when those of us with a conscience wake up to the truth. People with the ability to care about others will go to great lengths to help those in need. But when God shows us through his Word and in our lives that these people don’t “need” Him in the sense that they don’t WANT to change or want to give credit, thanks, or praise to any but themselves (and that they actually want to be worshiped), we will stop trying to help them and turn our Holy Spirit-centered hearts toward those who God has chosen and boy do they get mad! You see, we are fun to play with. To evil ones we are wind up toys who put on a great show when we are wound up so tightly that we are spinning in circles making all kinds of sounds and going in all directions. Those without a conscience have no core of truth (John 8:44) so they are always so BORED! When they can get us screaming and yelling and rushing around or when we are so terrified of making a mistake or tied up with fears they’ve induced in us, we are great entertainment. But once we no longer react in these ways to them, we are useless. That doesn’t mean they won’t still try to get that reaction out of us, (as a cat will do to the nearly dead mouse it’s played with) but we become less intriguing to them. Notice that it is always about how THEY perceive things and it’s not about truth, what’s best for anyone else or anything that matters except to their immediate desires.

    Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin the Bible tells us. Nobody seems to know what this is or what it takes to reach this point. Have you ever been so mad at God that you’ve tried to blasphemy the Holy Spirit? Tried to get God to release you from his grip so that you could get some relief from the oppression of this world? I have. It doesn’t work. Once you belong to the Lord you are wholly his. You have a new nature. He knows our heart and he knows that when we’re so broken that we feel that our only hope is to completely destroy ourselves and become ostracized from Him, he still keeps us tightly in his hand.

    We know through science and the many studies that have been done in the past few decades that people without a conscience are born with this predisposition, and that the only thing that has been found to work with them is to praise them constantly (to lie to them and tell them what they want to hear in order for them to react positively). So this means that we will have to spend the rest of our lives catering to them if we want them to behave. This is our only hope for living with these people. (By the way, this is abuse and it’s impossible yet this is exactly what the experts prescribe as a fix.) What if the very nature of a person who would blasphemy the Holy Spirit is so entrenched that it was this way at birth? What if God didn’t “inflict” this nature on a person (those born with the predisposition to have no conscience) but allowed them to be what they truly are? This goes against what most of us have been taught but it doesn’t go against what is written in his word. John 8:44 “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 6:70 “Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!”

    The Bible never states that Satan or Judas were ever loved by him or that they were ever good, in fact it says the opposite. That from the beginning the devil was evil and from the beginning Jesus knew Judas was evil and that there was never the hope that this would change. (The word for “beginning” as it is used in John 8:44 is “arché:” and means beginning, origin; used absolutely, of the beginning of all things.”) And the meaning of the word for “not holding” (to the truth) means “his nature abhors, is utterly estranged from, the truth.”

    “You can’t fix him. That is what these divinely inspired and inerrant words are telling us.” But we can tell the truth about them and we can stop being easy prey for them by putting on the armor of God’s word and helping those who God desires to help with the love he’s put in our heart that is meant to glorify himself and give us life to the fullest.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Right on target, Anonymous!!

      • Anonymous

        Anonymous, you nailed it with heart-pin-to-the-heart accuracy!!

    • standsfortruth

      Thank you anomonous for sharing that.
      This same truth marries right along with the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.
      It is sobering to embrace when it comes to realizing this same evil can exist within close family members.
      Accepting this truth can make the difference for a believer between living a life of bondage, or choosing freedom from what otherwise would be a neverending toxic relationship.

  8. But you can label the victim as the abuser and drive her out of the church, that’s easy. And then the problem has gone away and everyone can relax.The fact that she has been left too frightened to go to any church at all means she wasn’t a real Christian. Now everyone can get around and support the poor hurting man who’s been so shamefully treated by his wife.
    I’m being sarcastic.

    • Shari

      Isn’t it just beyond stunning how that all happens?? Some days I am just left speechless.

      • If I hadn’t experienced it for myself and seen it happen to others, then I wouldn’t have believed it could happen.

  9. bright sunshinin' day

    Jeff said:

    Christ gives a new heart to anyone who calls upon Him in real faith and repentance. But abusers don’t do so. For all their common claims that they have changed, that they have really repented, for all the crocodile tears they shed, they do not humbly come to Christ in genuine faith, exercising real repentance. Crush them, winnow them, sift them all you like, their folly is not going to depart from them.

    This seems disturbing to many people, but I find it a source of the very beginning of freedom from abuse. When an abuse victim comes to clearly understand that not only is her abuser an abuser, but that there is nothing she can do to change him by driving his abusive mentality out of him, then she can begin to take steps to get free.

    It is so true, “…you can’t fix an abuser.” Only Christ can! He’s the only One who can transform and give someone a new heart! Paul, a former Christian-killer whose name was once Saul, is a great example of what a transformed life looks like when Christ gives someone a heart of flesh. Paul said to those he once tried to kill: “…we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). This is repentance! This same transformed Paul showed his anger toward those who dared to lead others into error: “I wish those who unsettle you [believers] would emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12).

    The truth will truly set one free. Jeff said,

    When an abuse victim comes to clearly understand that not only is her abuser an abuser, but that there is nothing she can do to change him by driving his abusive mentality out of him, then she can begin to take steps to get free.

    Again, Paul, who is mentioned above, said this: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). If an abuser refuses to repent and chooses to remain in his folly, it is good and right to seek the freedom that Christ provides.

  10. Cherie

    Right on point!

  11. Valerie

    Well said! It is so true that people mistake wickedness for simpleness to the point they use a great deal of energy trying to make him wiser when ignorance is never the issue for an abusive person.

    I also love what you said about realizing this bringing freedom. Yes! There is much freedom in no longer feeling the burden we carried that we were never meant to. We were not meant to carry the burden of consequence for the abuser’s actions and the burden of saving him from himself. There is much freedom in no longer trying to educate an unteachable spirit.

    I don’t think people often stop to pray about what involvement they should have with a person like this. It’s too easy to just assume God would have us give every resource we possibly can to try to enlighten this person. But our energy is not infinite- whatever energy is spent on an unteachable spirit is time taken away from someone who is ready and willing to hear truth and be fruitful for Christ.

    • Innoscent

      Valerie, your last sentence is spot on! I was just reading in a devotional book this morning about this very point. Endeavoring to recover abusers — crushing the fool with the pestle in a mortar — is a red herring from Satan. Time, means, influence, etc., all that is wasted, stolen from those in real need, first of all the victim.

      Most of Israel refused to listen to their own Messiah, and once their probation time was over, God turned all efforts to minister to the Gentiles.

      I am grateful to God for His deliverance from abusive H, and now my energy is spent for the right cause and no longer for fixing the fool.

  12. kaycee

    Valarie, “There is much freedom in no longer trying to educate an unteachable spirit.” I love these words. I’ve spent many years trying to help an unteachable person understand and do what is right. I’m not the only one by far as I can see on this website.

    Jeff’s words,

    This seems disturbing to many people, but I find it a source of the very beginning of freedom from abuse. When an abuse victim comes to clearly understand that not only is her abuser an abuser, but that there is nothing she can do to change him by driving his abusive mentality out of him, then she can begin to take steps to get free.

    Oh, what truth. I have friends that are stepping out of abusive marriages but still do not understand that nothing will change no matter what they do. How does one encourage one to keep walking into freedom when they still feel the need to give it another try? These women are trapped by doctrine, or finances, or seasons of life (young kids, no job) and I want to help them but I think only the Holy Spirit can draw them to the truth that an abuser doesn’t change. That being said, I still struggle with just wanting my own “abuser” to be changed and that I would have that “Christian marriage” I thought I was getting into many years ago. It is by trusting Jesus that he has more for me and that he does really love me for me that I can navigate new territory in

  13. surviving freedom

    I have never commented here before, but this site has been such a comfort to me. I lived with the abuser in my life for 25 years, the last 3 1/2 of those during which he was going to counseling and finding “Christian” support. And I always knew (since he’d often keep it a secret for a while) when he’d find new “help.” His entitlement, lying and blame would get so much worse as soon as he’d find support.

    During our time together, I would receive so much advice or counsel that, instead of helping me recognize the abuse for what it was, usually condemned me for taking a stand against it..

    He has been out of the home now for several months and it has been so difficult to find support, especially from other Christians. I am deemed unforgiving, bitter, and judgmental for not trusting (in God) every time my husband suddenly claims to have found God again.

    Your articles have been a beacon of light when I seem to be blamed from every side. Sometimes when I read them, I can’t help crying. To have another Christian confirm that I am doing the right thing has helped me stay strong against all his accusations and the comments I’ve received from so many Christians about my sins, while they make excuses for his. It is lonely, I’ve attempted to direct people to this site, I’ve attempted to explain how I am standing firm in God’s Word, and then I get accused of twisting Scripture to find a reason to hang onto my bitterness. I’ve actually given up trying, mostly I just keep to myself.

    I’m told that I just need to have more faith and trust in God… I have heard so many statements (since the abuser is out of the home, during his 3 years in the home “changing” and even at crisis times even before I knew that the problem was abuse) …
    “To many people, this fact seems disturbing. I mean, can’t Christ change anyone? Aren’t we as Christians supposed to “have faith” in the Lord’s ability to give anyone a new heart and do whatever we can to lead such people to salvation in Christ? Christ gives a new heart to anyone who calls upon Him in real faith and repentance.”

    To this I now wonder … if a person has been shown God’s Word in many ways, through many people … if a person has many times claimed a changed heart in Christ … but continues to deceive, lie, and lie about his target … what makes this other Christian think that they can be the one to lead them to God. If God has repeatedly made Himself known to the abuser … and that wasn’t enough to do it … what makes this other person think they can. As well, if the abuser is going to have a change of heart and choose to do the long work of repentance, the ONLY way that could happen (and I now realize after 3 years of living with the “changed” abuser … that’s a big IF) … is God’s way. The abuser needs to truly live with the consequences that God states are necessary. We need to “love” the abuser in the exact way God instructs us to … and to me I’m beginning to understand that we could explain the Gospel to an abuser 1000 times, and he’ll still live according to his own understanding but still expect to be given all of God’s blessings. But what he truly needs, is to be cast away from God’s people. Maybe that would be enough to hit bottom and truly seek God, maybe it won’t. But, at least, he would not be given the chance to deceive and lead others away from God.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Surviving – THANK YOU for sharing this with us. This is one of the best insights into how Christians enabling abusers increases the oppression of the victim that I have read. Your question, “What makes this other Christian think that they can be the one to lead them to God?” The answer is in 1 Cor 5 – arrogance. Rank pride. Paul called the Corinthians on the carpet for being puffed up while they were enabling and permitting evil in the church. The thing is wicked and Christ despises this. Blessings on you as you press on in the truth and journey to freedom.

      • Anonymous

        Surviving, the very fact that you are reaching out is proof positive you are and will be a survivor. I would like to encourage you to peel your eyes off your abuser, literally, peel your eyes off your abuser and think about yourself. Look to your Lord. Cry out to Him and I promise you He will indeed hear the cries of your heart. I can tell that you’re hurting deeply but as you put your eyes on Jesus, he will bring forth the healing balm you need and will draw you closer to himself. I will be praying for you. Never, ever lose hope. Our Lord sees our afflictions and promises deliverance. Let Him wrap you in His loving arms and therein find comfort and the path forward. He loves you and knows your pain and will deliver you. Smile and rest in this truth.

    • Moving Forward

      I’m so glad you found help here and have commented. Your story is quite similar to mine. The worst years were the last four when he, after two decades of claiming to be a Christian, “found Christ”. I am more shunned by other Christians than criticized (thanks to how quickly he spread his “story” and gained allies), but those years with him were very, very dark. Soon, one of my children and myself will be celebrating the first anniversary of the day he left and we gained our freedom, and we look forward to many anniversaries to come. I just wish the younger children could enjoy the same freedom. Thanks to their age, arranging visitation opens the door all too often to the continuation of the abuse. Your last paragraph is so my heart’s thoughts and desire, as well. People’s blindness to wolves is astounding.

      • Surviving Freedom

        Wow one year, sometimes that seems so far away. I agree with the children, mine are older, be he still seems to find a way to create chaos and confusion. He still seems to find a way to get to me through them. He is also playing games and holding me hostage trying to settle finances. It seems like I have a few peaceful days and then he pulls the rug out from under my feet. Also, whenever we do have contact, I still get hooked back in so easily. When he starts to blame me for the break down of the marriage, etc. I still get caught up in this circle of needing to defend myself. I know I need to just let it go, but I’m still trying to crawl out from under all the years of guilt, and he still makes comments about how I’m failing as a wife, mother, and Christian. Then I get caught up in these circle conversations. I do know it only does me more harm, but sometimes all I think is “no, I’ve had enough…I will not be blamed for yet another thing. I do look forward to the day that things are settled, no more contact. It is a very hard struggle to move forward when someone is working so hard to pull me back in, right now it’s just baby steps. Even doing the smallest thing, like finally having the courage to take my wedding rings off.

        And I can really relate to the days being dark. There always seemed to be a darkness settle in, and so much chaos and confusion. And that’s a big thing I noticed since he’s gone from the home, no matter what kind of chaos is happening with the kids and settling finances, no matter how much he’s pressuring me or playing the god card … The darkness is gone from the home.

      • When he starts to blame me for the break down of the marriage, etc. I still get caught up in this circle of needing to defend myself. I know I need to just let it go, but I’m still trying to crawl out from under all the years of guilt, and he still makes comments about how I’m failing as a wife, mother, and Christian. Then I get caught up in these circle conversations.

        When he launches into blaming you or telling you how you’ve failed as a wife, mother and Christin, here are some possible comebacks you might like to say to him.

        “That’s your opinion. It’s not mine.”
        “So you say.” (This one is best conveyed with a touch of sarcasm.)
        “Stop it!”
        “Stop abusing me.”
        “Cut it out!”

        And of course, not replying at all. I used to use that quite a lot when my ex started trying to verbally attack me at handover times. I avoided all eye contact with him. I did not say anything to him or reply to anything he said unless it was strictly about the wefare of our daughter, like if she was taking antibiotics for an infection and he needed to be told the medication routine.

    • Hi Surviving Freedom, I love your screen name, and welcome to the blog 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your experience.

      if a person has been shown God’s Word in many ways, through many people … if a person has many times claimed a changed heart in Christ … but continues to deceive, lie, and lie about his target … what makes this other Christian think that they can be the one to lead them to God. If God has repeatedly made Himself known to the abuser … and that wasn’t enough to do it … what makes this other person think they can.

      This is spot on! It is massive hubris for Christians think they can lead such a person to Christ. But the ‘c’hurch doesn’t teach that it’s hubris. The ‘c’hurch positively encourages that kind of silly thinking and hands out brownie points for it. “What a great Christian that person is: they are spreading the gospel!”

      And thanks for sharing this:

      I always knew (since he’d often keep it a secret for a while) when he’d find new “help.” His entitlement, lying and blame would get so much worse as soon as he’d find support.

      I’ve never heard that from a survivor before, but it makes total sense.

      I’m glad you have found the blog so helpful. Thank you for encouraging us. 🙂

      • surviving freedom

        Thank You, another thing I noticed … it was just a sense at first. If he’d find secular support, the manipulation and lying would grow, but I could soon even tell if he was getting “help” from a secular source or if he was speaking with Christians. The subtle abuse would be even worse, I can’t even explain, it was just a feeling. Until one day, not long before he was out of the house, I was caught up in what the difference was, I could tell he had found a new person to talk to by the way he was behaving, and something inside me also could tell it was a Christian. I couldn’t figure out how I could tell (and as it turns out my intuition was correct) whether it was secular support or Christian support, and then a thought came to me, ‘when it’s Christian support, it’s not only the the abuse increases, he somehow just carries a presence that’s more powerful.’ I kind of thought that odd at first, like maybe it was just something I was misinterpreting. Then I did some Scripture study and praying … just putting it out there, could be wrong … but … secular people may enable and support him, but if he can convince one of God’s people to minister to him (and me) according to his understanding, but do it in a way that deceives them enough to think they are ministering according to God’s understanding … well then, power!

    • . . . if a person has been shown God’s Word in many ways, through many people … if a person has many times claimed a changed heart in Christ … but continues to deceive, lie, and lie about his target . . .

      Here is what God got Hosea to prophesy to Israel (the Northern Kingdom, also called Ephraim) because of its habitual rejection of His precepts:

      When Israel was a child, I loved him,
      and out of Egypt I called my son.
      The more they were called,
      the more they went away;
      they kept sacrificing to the Baals
      and burning offerings to idols.

      Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
      I took them up by their arms,
      but they did not know that I healed them.
      I led them with cords of kindness,
      with the bands of love,
      and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
      and I bent down to them and fed them.

      They shall not return to the land of Egypt,
      but Assyria shall be their king,
      because they have refused to return to me.
      The sword shall rage against their cities,
      consume the bars of their gates,
      and devour them because of their own counsels.
      My people are bent on turning away from me,
      and though they call out to the Most High,
      he shall not raise them up at all. (Hosea 11:1-7 ESV)

  14. surviving freedom

    Not sure what happened when I left the last comment, when I click the comment it redirects back to my blog, how can I fix this? I removed my website from the details area.

    • I don’t think I can explain what happened there and our assistant TWBTC is very busy at the moment so I won’t ask her. But you did the sensible thing by removing the link to your website in the details area.

      Since I have full access to the back of the blog as an administrator, my experience of submitting comments is not the same as the experience of ordinary commenters. Evern when I occasionally submit as comment at the front of the blog not the back (the admin side) I don’t recally having the experience you describe, but maybe that’s because I’m an Administrator not just a reader/commenter.

  15. LM

    “…then she can begin to take steps to get free.” 🙂

  16. H

    I have a question. I totally agree with what you are saying. When I first came out of my abusive marriage and began reading here, I found some of the articles here harsh and discouraging about the fate of the abuser, my husband whom I was still extremely confused about and still love. At that time it was not comforting at all to think that he was not a Christian and probably will not become one. I’m not sure why exactly, but it was very distressing to me.

    But over time, it has become… Not comforting at all, but it just sounds right. I am hearing the truth in these statements. I read them in my Bible and the truth is plain as day. And the truth may not be all happy sunshine and flowers, but it’s a lot better than delusions and lies.

    But one question remains. You still leave the possibility that an abuser COULD repent and change, and God would forgive him, and he could become a new creation, etc. It just doesn’t seem to happen, but it could happen.

    What about Paul? Could he be construed as an abuser before he was knocked onto the ground by Jesus? Does his persecution of Christians and past history as the Pharisee of Pharisees line up with the definition of an abusive person?

    I guess I’m just wondering if there is any example in scripture of an abuser repenting fully and being saved.

    The question is certainly not, how can we bring this abusive person to repent, or can God bring this person to repent. The question is, DOES God do this kind of thing in the world? Is he in the business of bringing abusers to repent?

    I believe that I personally was unable to repent until Christ came to me and gave me the gift of repentance and I was born again. Fully dead, and unable to help myself until God came to me and resurrected me. Isn’t this the exact same process that would need to happen to an abuser?

    • Jeff Crippen

      H – My advice is always, always, always assume and make our decisions based on one premise: abusers never change. Could it happen? I suppose, but there are some things the Lord cannot do. Not even Him. One of these impossibilities is saving someone who refused to repent. So what I do is treat abusers as if they are the person described in Hebrews 6:4ff. The Esau for whom repentance is impossible. They have soooooo often tasted of the Lord, even experienced the work of His Spirit, been in the midst of God’s true people, been showered by the Lord’s rain, and yet have only brought forth thorns and thistles. Most all the abusers we deal with in our ministry here are people who have LONG claimed to be Christians and yet for DECADES have cruelly abused their victims. These are the hidden reefs that come in among us without shame for whom eternal darkness is reserved (see Jude and 2 Peter on this). So in my opinion the question “could God save an abuser” is somewhat akin to the question “could God make a rock so big that even He cannot lift it?” (No criticism of you for asking by the way. Your thoughts on this are good issues to discuss).

      As for the Apostle Paul before he was saved. Was he an abuser? No. Not as we define the abuser. Paul was zealous for the Lord even as Saul the Pharisee. He truly believed he was serving the Lord in persecuting the church. He says of himself, though he was the chief of sinners, “but I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.” Abusers on the other hand act KNOWINGLY in their evil, with intentionality to abuse. And they don’t do it for the Lord’s glory. They do it for their own glory.

      Does God ever save an abuser? Not if there is no repentance. And if the abuser has persisted in his hypocrisy, claiming the name of Christ for himself for decades, there is no reason we should even think about the possibility he will repent. We do well to assume it will never happen and then look to our own welfare and that of our loved ones.

    • I guess I’m just wondering if there is any example in scripture of an abuser repenting fully and being saved.

      Great thing to wonder, H. We’ve canvassed this before on various threads, but it’s always worth revisiting.

      When Paul was writing his first epistle to the Corinthians, he alluded to how wicked some members of that church had been before they were converted: they’d been sexually immoral, idolators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers and swindlers.

      …do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)

      Quite a few items in that list of wicked characteristics are things we often find in domestic abusers. All domestic abusers are revilers: they verbally abuse their targets. All domestic abusers are idolators: they put themselves above God and above other people, and they expect their targets to treat them as Lord. All domestic abusers are greedy in one way or another, and all of them swindle their partners. They swindle by charming their target to entrap her in a relationship then coercively controlling and eroding her personhood and agency so that she feels too afraid and depleted to leave. (as always, we acknowledged that sometimes the genders are reversed). And of course, swindling can be financial with the abuser controlling all the money. Many domestic abusers are into porn and/or skin to skin adultery. Some are secretly practising homosexuality. Some are child molesters. Some are drunkards or drug addicts.

      This means that some of the converts Paul was writing to might have been domestic abusers before their conversion. But we don’t know for sure: the converts Paul was writing to might have been common and garden petty criminals, con men, adulterers, worshippers of pagan idols, alcoholics, rabble rousers and riotous anarchists. All those types would fit the descriptors Paul gave in his list, without any of them being domestic abusers by our definition. A person can be an alcoholic but not abuse his or her partner with the intentional pattern of malice and coercive control that we see as the key feature of domestic abuse. Likewise, a person can be an adulterer but not a abuser of their spouse. Abuse often overlaps or co-occcurs with adultery or alcohol abuse, but not all alcoholics or adulterers are abusers. And the same goes for criminals and followers of pagan religions.

      So 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 does not definitively confirm that any domestic abusers became converted to Christ and ceased to abuse their partners.

      What about Paul? Could he be construed as an abuser before he was knocked onto the ground by Jesus? Does his persecution of Christians and past history as the Pharisee of Pharisees line up with the definition of an abusive person?

      Before his conversion, Paul was a spiritual abuser: he fiercely lorded it over, like a hard-hearted Elder or Pastor or Big Shot from CBMW or TGC who lords it over those who come under his religious authority. Paul punished and persecuted and killed (with the authority of the chief priests) any Jews who had converted to the Way. There is no suggestion that Paul had ever been a wife abuser. He was almost certainly just a dedicated religious adherent who, because he had a good Pharisaic education and good standing in the religious establishment, was not only willing but able and empowered to wreak havoc on the early church and he had no idea he was doing wrong. In fact, he thought he was serving God by snuffing out the heretical Jews who were following the Way.

      I’m trying to think of another modern-day analogy to this. Maybe Paul is akin to the Nazis who worked in the death camps but went home every night and were reasonably ok husbands and fathers to their families. They believed they were doing the right thing by exterminating the Jews who they had been convinced were evil.

    • Also, think about Nebuchadnezzar. We are not told he was abusive to his wife, but we know for sure he was a ruthless narcissistic tyrant to his people and to all the nations he conquered. IF he ever truly repented, it was only after God took away his reason and made him graze like an ox in the fields for seven years. When God restored his reason, he uttered these famous words:

      At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth;and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan 4:34-35)

      But we don’t know how Nebuchadnezzar behaved from then on, because the Bible gives us no further info.

      What we do know is that even after he’d been humiliated to live like an animal and God had restored his reason, he didn’t return the sacred vessels to the Jews that he’d taken from their temple. We know this because his son Belshazzar was drinking out of those vessels at the feast where the writing appeared on the wall (Dan 5).

  17. H

    Thank you for your thoughtful responses. I believe God caused me to repent, so he can cause anyone to repent. I think his will is greater than ours. I don’t believe in free will. But it’s one of those things that is a mystery beyond our current comprehension! And I’m so thankful that I am able to begin walking away from the idea that I must stick around and see my husband change, or suffer under him to in some way merit his salvation.

  18. Anewanon

    > Abuse often overlaps or co-occurs with adultery or alcohol abuse, but not all alcoholics or adulterers are abusers. And the same goes for criminals and followers of pagan religions.<

    IMHO, adulterers, alcohols, and idolaters are ALL abusive.

    From your definition of abuse: …has a profound mentality of entitlement…This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control…

    Adultery, alcohol abuse, idolatry, and all other forms of evil told time and time again in the Bible are, in my opinion ALL abusive when unrepented of. Sin HURTS God and it HURTS other people. And, if and WHEN someone commits adultery, abuses alcohol, puts other things above God and family with FULL KNOWLEDGE that they are hurting the ones they love and they STILL choose to do it, then in my opinion, that is selfish, and thus, abusive. Putting self first is NOT love. Wives and children are meant to be protected. Per James 4:17, when you know what you ought to be doing and you still choose not to do it, it is a sin (paraphrased). Passive aggressive behavior HURTS loved ones. It stems from a mindset of disobedience to God and entitlement to do what they darn well please regardless of WHO it hurts. To me, repeated, unrepented of sin IS ABUSIVE. Thus alcoholism and adultery and idolatry ARE abusive behaviors towards a spouse who is to be in a one-flesh relationship with that unrepentant spouse.

    2 cor 6 (14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil[d]? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?)

    I maintain that adulterers and alcoholics ARE abusers … they still want what they want WHEN they want it with no consideration for those in their wake. They are NOT surrendered to Christ, so how can they love their bride as God intended? They can't and they won't. She's on her own….

    I believe that any man unsurrendered to Christ is still under the fall curse to want to rule over her. Alcohol, idols, and adultery are mere "symptoms" of the state of his entitled heart due his lack of surrender.

    • Free

      Anewanon,

      I, for one, agree. Unrepentant sin is abusive.

      You said: “I believe that any man unsurrendered to Christ is still under the fall curse to want to rule over her. Alcohol, idols, and adultery are mere “symptoms” of the state of his entitled heart due his lack of surrender.”

      I believe someone who has been faced with God’s heavy law and serious consequence of Hell for breaking His law, who has repented/ turned from his evil ways and trusted in Christ for his salvation, will desire to do what is right and no longer have the evil lust for power and control and perversion. IMO This repentant person will HATE their old life of sin and how they lived in it and agreed with it (even in silence- they agreed to it) and I believe the repentan man WILL be able to love his wife very well as he would be as loving to her as he is to himself. And I believe he’ll refuse to have the desire to control and abuse and had power over her and he’ll refuse to use her desire to be loved and respected by him for his gain. I believe he’ll hate being drunk, hate lying, hate cheating, hate hurting, hate idolatry, hate false teaching, and hate abuse, etc etc.

      Someone tell me how can there be so many Christians out there who say “it doesn’t matter how you live! That’s legalism! Christ paid it all! We’re under His grace alone! Our sins are forever blotted out!” Yet they deny sin in the first place! There is no need for repentance when everyone’s given heaping doses of false grace “for
      whatever they’ve done”. IMO “The whatever” matters! Christians are saying “here is grace, just worship God bc He wants to be with you and all your sins are forgotten.” There’s no accountability there! That’s why is idolaters love “jesus”. IMO They made up their own version! IMO if Jesus Christ was their LORD then they would forsake their evil ways like abuse, alcoholism, drug use/addictions, other religions/worldly teachings, lying, perversion in any way, lust, etc etc. And IMO they wouldn’t want fellowship with anyone who does that either.

      This is how it’s been for me and frankly I don’t know any other way. Yet the abusers I know love to claim Christ for themselves but aren’t any different in their life and thy boast in His grace all the more! in fact they HATE that I didn’t want to live in sin and they try to convince me and capture me and out me under them.

      Jesus Christ does not “need” me to be in “relationship” with him. He doesn’t wait for me as in pine for me and knock at my door just waiting for me to invite Him and accept Him. I need Him- repentance and to be born again and to consequently follow Him.

      What does it mean to be born again? I have never heard any church actually answer this before. I can say that I am not who I once was. Finally. Not in theory. In actual real life. I think this is the mark of true believer. I am totally different now in that I stand for what is right since I now know the truth about sin which is evil and abuse which is sin. I’m no longer a slave to people altough I see many try desperately to make it so. I think that is what being born again looks like. There is no other way but repent and be born again in Christ who is LORD and Saviour. The only way for salvation.

      I heard a “christian” say “they could only protect their daughter as much as they would and if she got raped on an overnight at a friend’s house there’s nothing they could have done to stop it.” As if to say “God could have stopped it so there must be a reason it happened and it’ll be use for His Glory.”

      What?!?! This infuriated me. How about only letting her on overnight that you completely and absolutely trust. And teach her that others mut respect her (and what respect looks like) and if they don’t respect her that it is right for her to speak up and refuse to be near them until they do respect her and consistently at that.

      Or how about do no overnights at friend’s house at all if you can’t be totally CERTAIN. What’s so limiting and depriving about that? I would rather be cautious than let my child stay somewhere I wasn’t CERTAIN was safe for her!

      And how about if this EVIL thing were to ever happen to your child that you’d FIGHT to the end for justice. And that you’d NEVER blame her. NEVER. and that you’d speak up for the the truth on her behalf and on the behalf of all those abused.

      That to me sounds like a follower of Christ. That to me is who I can say I am today. I REFUSE to follow the world. I thank God for the truth about sin/evil, His law and Jesus and grace, Him, divorce, marriage, submission, how He sees women/ those afflicted and abused, justice, repentance, abuse, etc etc. I’m armed with the truth now and that means IMO that im alive in Him and unstoppable.

      I’m proud to do what’s right (I know God is good and does what is right and I desire to follow Him) and that doesn’t make me “legalistic. But preachers are saying that! They say it’s only Christ on the cross- not what you do. (It’s about a “relationship with Him and about pursuing Him.” This makes me gag.) I disagree! It’s IS only Christ and IF you’re in Him (born again) then the “what you do” changes entirely! I follow rules gladly. I enjoy doing what is right and good. I have a clear consience now and sleep well.

      Someone please tell me why didn’t I have a clear consience in church and in countless bible studies for years before?! I had no truth.

      • standsfortruth

        Thank you Free and Anewanon — everything you both said makes perfect sense to me..

        It seems like there are two different types of professing christians walking the face of the earth. Those who follow The Lord with their heart as their guide, and those who follow their impuses and carnal desires , making up the rules as they go, covering it all under grace. This must be the abusers, and the enablers recipe on how to follow Christ.

        This way the past, present, and future abuse is already mapped out under the doctrine of grace.

        So why should the abuser stop? It’s all an entertaining game for him, and he’s convinced everybody from the pastor to the elders and the church that hes just another christian struggling with sin.He’s got them all duped and he thinks they are stupid, because he can fool them so well. He doesn’t respect them, but they have all become a “useful tool” in his game of control. So the abuser continues his game of fooling the masses, because of the pay off of keeping his target under his influence via the church. (Only until she quits listening to them) Such wickedness should never have happened within the church, and it has become doubled like leaven.

        It occurred to me, Free, that we are “Far more Useful to the Lord, and far more dangerous to the devils work”, now that We Are FREE from our abusers. This must be because he can no longer negatively taint and influence “Our testamony for Christ.”

        Perhaps this is why abusers work so hard to keep their targets subject to them.
        As far as your question about having a clear concience, once away from the church, I do believe it is because those in the church that stood in silence need to make those now walking in the liberty of Christ feel accountable for some sort of sin. They aren’t happy unless they can lay some sort of sin apon the one in liberty. The sin of unforgiveness, the sin of bitterness, the sin of denying sin, the sin of pride… the list goes on and on.

        I recently had a member from my old church (who I once thought was a friend,) come out of the woodwork to “see how I was doing.” I decided to see if she was sincere, so I took a chance on her call, but made sure I did not tell her any critical information that she could use against me. Finally at the end of our call, out came an attempted venomous strike to lay false guilt and sin on my heart that did not apply.

        I soon learned that these professing christians “do not want us to walk around with a clean concience”, because maybe they dont want to believe that they’ve done anything wrong by not supporting or helping us durring our trying times, and ” They want to deny us the liberty in which we can now walk, that enables us to so effectively serve our Lord, and well as call out evil for what it is.” Perhaps seeing us like this, gnaws at their minds, reminding them that while they stood idle by the wayside, doing nothing to help us, God’s hand was not short during that time in delivering us from our abusers.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anewanon – while we would certainly agree with you that the unrepentant, unsaved person will certainly act abusively on occasion toward others, perhaps even often, and that sin abuses people, we would not agree that every unregenerate person is an abuser. We would not even agree that every alcoholic, idolater, or adulterer is an abuser as we define abuser here at ACFJ. There is a big difference between what we might call the normal sinner (and every unregenerate sinner is in the end an idolater) and what we call an abuser or a sociopath or narcissist. Not every woman, for example, who is married to an unsaved husband is an abuse victim. Not every unsaved person crazy-makes, guilts, lusts for power and control, re-writes history, and so on.

      And the main reason I point this out is that I believe it is not helpful for us to define abuse and abusers so broadly that every unsaved person or at least every idolater, every alcoholic, every adulterer falls under our brush. Why? Because this is the very thing that many ignorant people, or even abusers themselves, claim that we are doing. They protest “everything is abuse to you guys. The slightest wrong done by a husband to his wife and you start yelling ‘abuse!’ and telling the wife she can divorce the guy.”

      Yes, all sin abuses others in the sense that it wrongs them. Sin always has a victim of some sort. But not all sinners are abusers and it is very important that we keep that distinction clear.

      • Kimberly

        Endurance, one important truth I learned is that one can not “cast out” the flesh. The Bible makes it clear that we “die to self” or die to our fleshly or carnal nature. This is the process of sanctification. Before one can even enter the “Way” or walk out their Salvation with fear and trembling, one must REPENT, having a complete heart change. God wants to take out a heart of stone in these men and replace it with a heart of flesh to do His will but they refuse His grace and love. This is not in any way the fault of the abused.

        Yes, the enemy will oppress and torment but we have been given free will to choose to resist the enemy, to flee sin and overcome it. The “devil doesn’t make him do it”.

        God helped me to understand He permitted divorce to rescue those oppressed by abuse and injustice. I did not want a divorce. I did not want to face the death of my dreams and my children’s broken hearts. Yet, “how can two walk together unless they agree?” We must agree with God and not fall victim to making a marriage work when from God’s perspective the entrance of abuse has nullified the marriage covenant.

        God does not hate divorce — He hates what CAUSES divorce. I thought I was standing for truth for over 22 years in my own marriage. I prayed and fasted for my marriage to be healed. God was gentle with me but He did have to open my eyes as I was “perishing for lack of knowledge.” This did not mean I was not His child but the choices I was making without an understanding of abuse (its nature, characteristics and tactics) was destroying me inwardly. The damage I allowed in my ignorance nearly destroyed my sons and myself. I had believed the lie there was something I could do to change who my husband was at his core. This is a choice they alone must make with God. I had to learn…learning is the operative word here because most abuse victims have been steeped in false teaching concerning Biblical marriage.

        I do understand your heart in wanting your marriage to work. It is heart-wrenching to have to face this anguish of heart God never wanted for His daughters.

        I pray the Lord opens your heart and mind to embrace a truth so profound you will never be the same again. The beautiful truth does set us free. Even though we go through so much heartache and suffering God does turn it for our good. Like Joseph, what -“Satan meant for evil, God will turn it for our good and save many people alive.” Bless you sweet child of God.

    • Anewanon, I agree with Jeff C’s reply to your comment.

      Consider a woman who has been terribly abused by her wicked husband. One of the things this husband did to her was compel her to do threesomes (her, himself, and another woman having sex together). He encouraged her to drink alcohol as part of these sessions. She became addicted to alcohol. She finally left him. But she is now a serious alcoholic. Yes, she bears guilt for continuing to practise alcoholism. She bears no guilt for having been abused by that man. And – my main point in telling you this story — she is not a domestic abuser herself in the sense we mean at this blog. She sometimes mistreats family members who try to support and love her –she lies to them about how much she is drinking. She manipulates good-hearted people and the system to get sympathy, and she uses up lots of taxpayers funds by going into treatment multiple times in hospital to detox and then relapsing, only to do it all again. But she is not a domestic abuser by our definition of the term.

      That is just one example to help you think about our proposition that not all alcoholics are domestic abusers.

      Alcoholism in one’s partner is certainly grounds for divorce. So is adultery. So is simple desertion by the other spouse. So, I think we could argue, is severe neglect of the other spouse (e.g. a person with intense OCD who is so focused on their obsessions that they never pay heed to the needs of the other spouse). All those things can be deal breakers in a marriage. The grounds for divorce are broader than just domestic abuse.

      The person married to an adulterer or an alcoholic or an OCD-sufferer may well feel deeply hurt and abused in some ways by their partner’s conduct. But they may not necessarily be experiencing domestic abuse in the way we define it. It’s tricky, because of course often there is overlap (or ‘multiple morbidities’ to use a nursing term) — sometimes the spouse is an alcoholic AND an abuser. But we remain convinced that our definition of domestic abuse is sound and appropriately limited.

    • Also, Anewanon, you mentioned “Passive aggressive behavior HURTS loved ones.”

      You may like to read our post Covert Aggression is not the same as Passive Aggression.

  19. Endurance

    I am living with an abusive husband for over 30 years who is intentional with treatment yet, slowly slides back into behaviors at various times, I have a question. I have read the materials mentioned, attended counseling myself, used restraining orders and periods of separation for safety and function marvelously on various levels.

    This is my question, can anyone identify for me the origin of comments by my abusive (in recovery) spouse which state, “You are telling me what I think” and also, “I have no say in this relationship.” I have seen the “You are telling me what I think” comment in Lundy’s book.

    My current struggle is wondering if my husband might be a narcissist. He admits to a lack of empathy, misogyny and to using every abuse on the power and control wheel at some point in our relationship. He thinks he might be narcissistic. I have noticed that all information has to be filtered through him. For example, I find myself saying “This is not about you.”

    I endure the difficulties of living with an extremely self centered man who functions in other aspects of our relationship very well. We work and travel well. This is of course if everything centers around him, I go along with his thoughts and suggestions. At times I questions his thinking or make a request to change our itinerary. I get one of three responses, a change to my request, silence and pretend I don’t hear her request or a long explanation about why we should do things his way. If I further pursue my desires I get a variety of responses, For example, the comment “Don’t tell me what I think.” can be expanded to, “Don’t criticize me.”

    My thought or opinions are tolerated and some of my suggestions are even entertained. There is no correcting him. He seems impervious to that. Our lifestyle choices are compatible so generally there is little reason for conflict. We have time apart for work etc.. so I regroup and address my interests. When we are together I am almost invisible to him as an equal partner. He listens to my life events and interests, yet doesn’t ask questions about my interests or get back with me another time like…”How did that project you started ever turn out?”

    His emotions, attitudes and choices reign. Oh, and did I mention he talks, and talks and talks and states, “I don’t let him finish his thought.” He says “I love my beautiful wife.” This makes me feel like a possession rather than a person. Thanks for any insight you can throw my way. Blessings.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Endurance – My conclusion from what you have said is that your abuser is consistently making what I call “pre-emptive” strikes. What I mean by this is that he goes to “recovery” (he isn’t recovering from anything by the way), he makes various admissions to you about his evil behavior, but those “confessions” are shown to be false because he doesn’t change (repent). So what he is most likely doing is throwing out these supposed confessions so that he can then say “I repented. You can’t bring this up again.” This tactic is quite common. The finger of accusation then turns from himself to you. Even his “I love my beautiful wife” is in the same category. He doesn’t mean it at all of course, but once he says that, hey, how can any woman actually be critical of a man who expresses his love for her and her beauty, right? That is his motive. Evil people (see Proverbs) love to use flattery as one of their manipulative tactics.

      You feel like a possession rather than a person because that is exactly how he sees you and your gut is telling you that he does.

  20. Endurance

    Thank you for your kind and prompt reply. Can you expand a bit on “pre emptive strikes” and “recovery”. Do you know where the motivation comes for the comments, “Don’t tell me how to think.” I find he becomes threatening after this sentence. He also says, “Don’t criticize me, that is abusive of you.” Is this the turning around on me that you explain?

    He fears rejection and if he ever gets to that point in which he verbalizes rejection, physical violence has followed. ( I separated from him at that time, got a PFA and our Pastor did an exorcism with him. My husband’s testimony of living with Satan’s voice is chilling. After the exorcism he stated God said to him “Walk humbly and Repent”.) Please note that it has been many years since physical violence occurred.

    Over time, he no longer thinks much about repentance, you are correct. Two days ago I implemented a contract we agreed to, which required him to removed himself from our home, if I felt he was being abusive. The initial agreement is for one month. I am safe now, yet not sure how to proceed. He goes to men’s group once a week. He is open to more counseling yet it is incredibly difficult to find someone who specializes in abuse. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars with various programs (Lifeskills Intl., etc)

    I am not interested in divorce. We have many shared financial assets and I would not like to hurt our adult children, they so admire our persistence in staying in a difficult marriage no matter what. Quite frankly, everyone is happy and getting exactly what they want but me. I endure and believe God is just and our life on earth is short. I seize what fun I can and look for joy in the little things.

    What do you advise?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Endurance – “Don’t tell me how to think” is a not-so-veiled accusation against you. That is why he says it. What do I advise?

      1) Abusers never change. Your husband is never going to change. Spending all the money is a waste. An exorcism is useless. Contracts with him are useless. Weekly meetings are useless. He has not changed and he is never going to change.

      2) A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended. The decision is yours to make, but in my opinion staying in abuse for reasons of shared financial assets and in order to keep the adult children happy is a foundation of sand. Your children’s admiration of you staying in the “marriage” is misguided. It is not based on truth. The truth is that abuse destroys and kills. These are the real issues that face you and which will bring you into freedom when and if you come to see the truth.

    • MarkQ

      I completely agree with Jeff. Another great blog is “Grace for my Heart” which is more specifically for dealing with narcissistic relationships.

      My whole life, my belief was that God wanted me to put my heart in a box and live a life that pleased everyone else. My parents punished us for being angry or yelling, even when we were protecting ourselves. My church was the same. Better to cover over sin than to break the peace. Just like you, everyone around me was happy, except for me. I was falling apart emotionally because I felt completely trapped. I actually considered walking away from everything – my wife, my kids, my church, but I think God put it in my heart to stand up rather than run.

      I found that my wife fully supported who I really was. My church, however, didn’t. I left an abusive church and joined a kindler, gentler abusive church. I finally left the denomination altogether and found a non-abusive church.

      All that to say… I don’t think God blessed me for letting others walk all over me. I think God blessed me when I said enough is enough and started defending myself. That doesn’t mean it’s true for you. If you listen and God is saying stay, then I think that’s different, but what I hear you saying is that you’re afraid that your children will reject you if you stand up for yourself. It’s definitely a real problem, but what I’ve gained from having a wife and church that accept the real me far surpasses the fake life I had before.

      • Endurance

        Thank you both, your wise counsel was a blessing today!

      • If we had the Like button on this blog I’d be hitting it a dozen times on this comment of yours, Mark.

        (We removed the Like button because we found that by not having it, our blog was safer for our readers who need to keep their identities hidden.)

      • Free

        Hi Mark, what do you mean when you say “who I really was?”

        This triggered something for me as the abuser would often say I wasn’t allowing them to be who they were. The abuser meant things like go out out to the bar, spend money on anything, not pay bills, talking trashy, watch trashy things, listen to trashy music, not go to church, not spend any time home, stay out very late, not respond to my calls or texts, not spend any time with me, ignore me when the abuser was home, sabotage my parenting bc the abuser’s “style” was the exact opposite of mine, by not allowing the abuser to be who they really were in bed (which meant disregarding my boundaries) etc etc

        It didn’t matter what I allowed or how much the abuser already was getting. It mattered that it was never enough. It’s seems the abuser always needed to demolish more of my boundaries. Than abuser always needed more of something.

        But really i wanted boundaries to protect myself from not doing things or having things done to me that are inappropriate, objectifying, disrespectful, not God honoring, not right, illegal, or that I didn’t want to do, etc etc. I was punished for having boundaries. And I think my boundaries were NEVER respected.

        The abuser’s take was… well you’re tying me down from “being who I really am.” And I’ll convince you these things are ok and covered under GRACE and if not, watch me do them anyway. Also the submission verse was the abuser’s focus. Even though I did submit to the abuser in most everything- there was usually a line within those things I just would not cross. (I guess I still had some slight dignity and self respect then!) often times I remember feeling guilty for not letting the abuser be “who they really were”. As if I was the controlling one! Thank you.

      • MarkQ

        Free, it honestly doesn’t seem like much from the outside. My wife still isn’t really sure when I started standing up for myself. There were two biggies for me. My wife is an extrovert, so she liked meeting with friends and liked “getting out”. I’m an introvert and I need time to recharge, but I wasn’t getting that. When my wife was home, she wanted me to be a part of the family, and when she was gone, I was taking care of the kids.

        When I stood up for myself, she realized that she could take the kids to the in-laws and they were happy to watch them while she hung out with friends and I got an evening alone to recharge.

        We also went to a weekly meeting at church. There was no childcare, so we had to try and pay attention, yet keep our kids under control. So, we decided that one of us would stay home and the other could go to the meeting.

        I wasn’t asking my wife to support me doing something immoral, at least I don’t think so :), like in your situation. So, being honest about who I was involved cutting out time for myself to emotionally recharge instead of burning myself out to please others. If you read “Boundaries”, what they generally mean by that is “I want to do all this stuff, and I want you to make excuses for me so people don’t realize how immoral I am.” The book’s recommendation is that you DO let them be who they are, but instead of trying to hide and repair the damage, you take steps to protect yourself and be honest – like, “Joe doesn’t want to talk to you right now… he’s busy watching his porn.”

    • Do you know where the motivation comes for the comments, “Don’t tell me how to think.” I find he becomes threatening after this sentence. He also says, “Don’t criticize me, that is abusive of you.” Is this the turning around on me that you explain?

      When he has told you how to think, you rightly respond to his ordering you around. One of the types of verbal abuse is “Ordering”.The abuser gives orders to the victim. He issues commands. He barks commands at her.

      When he does that, you have quite reasonably and rightly responded: “Don’t tell me how to think.” That is a totally fair and righteous attempt on your part to try to stop him verbally abusing you. You have rightly criticised his verbally abusive act. You have expressed a grievance about how he treated you. You have tried to correct him for his abusive behavior.

      And — as abusers typically do — he resists correction. He fights against being corrected. He fights against having to admit and take responsiblity for having just abused you. He fights by falsely accusing you. This false accusation that he flings back at you is one he has picked up from the ‘treatment’ programs he has been attending for men who abuse their partners. The facilitators of programs would have explained to the participants that Criticism is one of the tactics that abusers use against their targets. And that is true: one of the ways domestic abusers abuse their targets is by unjust, unfair, criticism.

      Now, pay attention. Abusers criticise their targets UNJUSTLY.

      But victims of abuse, when they dare to do so, criticise their abuser’s abusive conduct JUSTLY. Abusive conduct needs to be corrected, and corrected early, not overlooked or ‘let go’.

      But abusers who go to men’s behaviour change programs usually refuse to let their own conduct be corrected. They just pick up on the fact that ‘criticism’ can be abusive, and they then use that fact to FALSELY accuse their victims of being guilty of abuse when the victims rightly criticise their abusive conduct.

      Can you see how diabolical this is? They take what they have learned from the ‘treatment’ programs and use it to further abuse their victims!

      (Note, I’m speaking in generalities: what I’m saying may not apply to all men who attend treatment programs, but it sure applies to many of them!)

      That is why I think your abuser is not changing. He shows all the signs of using what he has learned at treatment programs as tools with which to further abuse you. These types can be very very dangerous, because they get so good at the therapy-speak. They can really make their victims feel like they are going crazy, because they know the lingo and they use it so cunningly for their own agendas: and their own agendas remain the same — keeping power and control over their targets.

    • He fears rejection

      I strongly encourage you to reconsider that thought. Abusers do not fear rejection nearly so much as they fear having their entitlement-mindset exposed and called to correction and giving up the perks they enjoy from being abusive. Perks? Having all the domestic and sexual services which their partner provides. . .

      Abusers always play the ‘pity me’ card if it works on their targets and bystanders.

      Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? If not, I urge you to read it. Also I urge you to read Dr George Simon’s work. We have links to his books on our Resources section.

      And here are some posts of ours which I think you will find helpful:

      Do not Pity the Wicked: Abusers Use Pity as a Snare

      Nor Shall Your Eye Pity Him

      Christians Need to Get “Pity” Right and Stop Pitying the Wicked While Refusing Pity to the Innocent

      … our Pastor did an exorcism with him. My husband’s testimony of living with Satan’s voice is chilling. After the exorcism he stated God said to him “Walk humbly and Repent”.

      Exorcism will not help a person unless they become a Christian. Otherwise seven more demons will just come back in where there had been only one before. (Matt 12:45)

      We have spent tens of thousands of dollars with various programs (Lifeskills Intl., etc)

      oh I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve spent all that money. We do not recommend or endorse Lifeskills International, or any of the look-alike programs which have cloned from it. In our view, Lifeskills International is a money making machine for its founder Paul Hegstrom, and it puts too much emphasis on what it calls the abuser’s ‘arrested development’ and ‘childhood wounds’. Those concepts give the abuser a kind of excuse to explain their abusiveness.

      I know that LSI would say ‘there is no excuse for abuse’ — but in reality, the arrested development concept gives abusers the idea that their thinking and beliefs are not the problem, but instead their emotions and ‘arrested development’ are the problem. We do NOT buy that notion.

      We believe that Lundy Bancroft and Dr George Simon are correct when they say that the abuser’s problem is his WRONG BELIEFS and his WRONG THINKING, not his emotions or feelings.

      • Endurance

        Once again, thank you for the love and excellent counsel! I am so shocked at the wise responses I have received on this site. Oh, how long I begged my church to care or show an interest and here, in just a few days people who obviously know domestic abuse have given wise counsel. Amazing!

        I would add that my husband is a Christian and that HE says, “Don’t tell me what I think.” As you clearing indicate, if I was to say such a comment I would get fire and brimstone back in a neat therapy style presentation.

        Regarding sexuality, we are older and I can rarely bring myself to engage in sexual things. He understands he violated me repeatedly in that area when we were younger and his knows his abusive behavior repels intimacy. The body remembers the pain and their are consequences. The mind can only force the body to obey so many times.

        Yes, Lifeskills was a waste of money, yet it was an emotional patch that helped at various times and enabled us to stay together longer and raise the children. I think it is remarkable that you are so well informed about the program! You speak the truth. For my part, I felt there was no help for women at Lifeskills and the men did not have accountability. I spent hours listening to my husband talk about himself at their elite one on one counseling program in Colorado, in addition to, the 10 week sessions in various locations.

        Yes, I have read Lundy’s work. It is wonderful. So has my husband, he says everything Lundy writes is absolutely the truth. I have most of the popular titles on this subject. At the moment I am stuck enduring for social reasons and being glad less abuse is better than being terrorized. We function well as a couple in daily life most of the time.

        I will read and re-read the comments, go to the recommended sites and let them soak in with great appreciation!

    • One more post I recommend you read. This one is about ‘treatment’ for abusers:

      God only did one counseling session with Cain

  21. MarkQ

    I’ll highlight a bit more of the Boundaries book. The difference between the spiritually abusive way of dealing with things and the Boundaries way of dealing with things is precisely “who I really am.”

    The spiritually abusive church says, “submit to your husband”. What they really mean is “preserve the false peace in the church.” You see, the church doesn’t want to have to deal with an immoral, abusive husband – who he really is. They want you to put on a mask every week and act like your marriage is wonderful and that the reason your husband isn’t in church is that he was up until 2AM ministering to someone in need. That makes the leaders feel good about their leadership – that everything is wonderful.

    When you become who you are and you stop pretending about who your husband really is, then the church is forced to deal with it. Unfortunately, the church will often respond in anger, not to the REAL person who broke the peace – the abusive, immoral husband, but the person who APPEARED to break the peace. YOU. That’s why spiritually abusive churches almost always re-victimize the victim.

    This happened over and over in my old church. The elder maintained control through fear and intimidation. Everyone’s worth in the church was determined by the level of their agreement and submission to that elder. The other elders were afraid to stand up to him, so there was always mixed messaging. “Well, it probably wasn’t right that he told them to stop, but I don’t think it’s worth getting upset about.” In other words, he operated without any regard to the authority of the church leaders (whose permission was written in the minutes), but somehow his insubordination wasn’t worth being upset about. However, a few years later when people didn’t obey the leaders (i.e. HIM), they were kicked out for “insubordination”. So, it’s a double standard in order to keep the false peace, which is code for supporting the abuser.

    • Endurance

      When I went to the counseling leader of our mega church and told them about the abuse in my home. They responded that they did not offer counsel for people in my situation. This kept me trapped for years, silent and suffering. Many years later I asked one of the counselors about this response and she said that the church will not take on domestic abuse issues because of their insurance. They do not want people with anger issues on campus. If I told the church I attend you would be shocked by this response. At the time, I was so confused, because I thought the church services were for everyone, regardless of their sin.

      On a side note, I was not able to keep the 30 day contract. My adult child called and asked that I call a truce with Dad. That child is getting married next month and wants peace. So yesterday, I meet and talked with my husband. He is back home. The stand I took was useless and now the contract is an even weaker tool. My H is quiet and has contacted another counselor. I am living in peace, yet I remain invisible. It is as if I talk into the air.

      Thanks for your support and the opportunity to learn and grow from reading the various articles and blog comments.

      • Dear Endurance,
        first I want to apologise: — I’ve been meaning to respond to your previous comments for the last few days, but hadn’t got round to doing so. I’m going to respond by quoting bits of what you said, then giving you my thoughts.

        When I went to the counseling leader of our mega church and told them about the abuse in my home. They responded that they did not offer counsel for people in my situation.

        In my opinion, their policy is dreadful. And it could amount to criminal negligence on their part. Here is what I believe their policy should be:
        1. Refer a woman who reports that her husband is abusing her to the local Womens Centre which specialises in supporting victims of domestic abuse.
        2. Church leaders should liaise with the Women’s Centre, to support and enhance the woman’s safety (and safety planning) in whatever ways are most recommended by the professionals at that Centre who understand domestic abuse much better than most church staff do.
        3. Church leaders should NEVER offer couple counseling to marriages where domestic abuse is reported.
        4. Church leaders should not have depicted domestic abuse as an ‘anger problem’. Many abusers do not display overt anger, or obvious aggression in the form of violence or raging verbal outbursts. Some abusers never touch their victim in anger. Some abusers never raise their voice in anger. Instead, they control their victim(s) with cold, calculated, coercive control methods.

        The church you are in is clueless about domestic abuse. They need to realise they are illinformed, they need to realise they are believing many of the myths about domestic abuse.

        And above all, they need to stop putting the church organisation (and themselves) first, and start putting the victims of oppression first!

        I am concerned for you that you have allowed your husband back home. Many victims of abuse have done similar things (often under pressure from their kids), so please don’t feel I’m blaming your or telling you off. But I am concerned about your safety and wellbeing.

        I encourage you to stay in touch with your gut feelings and not blame yourself. I honour and validate you for doing the best you thought you could do under the circumstances.

        You said —

        I am living in peace, yet I remain invisible. It is as if I talk into the air.

        I understand this. I think you are right that your needs and preferences and feelings and personhood are not being heeded by your husband. I do not think he is changing.

        It sounds to me like all his ‘change’ is an extension of the web of his manipulative tactics: making you think he is being ‘intentional’ about getting treatment for his abusive character and mindset — but in fact he is not changing at the heart level, all he is doing is deploying tactics of power and control that are more covert, more psychologically sophisticated, more ‘politically correct’ by the lights of the behaviour change programs and books and counseling he has been to… He sounds like he could be well on the way to becoming a fully fledged example of what Lundy Bancroft calls the “Mr Sensitive” type of abuser (see pages 88-91 of Why Does He DO That?).

      • They do not want people with anger issues on campus. … I thought the church services were for everyone, regardless of their sin.

        Whaaaaat? They do not want people with anger issues on campus? How on earth could they vet people and weed out the ones who have ‘anger issues’ so they don’t get past the gate? Good grief, that is the most pompously silly thing I’ve heard for a long time!

        And after you told them your husband is abusing you — did they tell him he is not welcome to attend their church anymore? Did they stop him coming onto the campus? I bet they didn’t!

        I believe a regular church service should in general be open to anyone, even the most awful sinner. But — and this is where most churches fall down — a local church needs to protect those who attend their services. They ought to protect the flock (the genuine believers) from people who pose harm to them: false teachers, those who press their screwy doctrines onto others, child molesters, manipulative liars who creep into the church wearing sheep-coats but who in fact are wolves, etc. The church ought to be wise to evil and alert to the likelihood that all kinds of evil people will try to pass themselves off as christians in order to prey on genuine christians and the vulnerable people who may be attending the church — children, the disabled, the very naive, those who are or have been suffering abuse, etc.

        And if a regular attender or member of the church comes and tells the leadership “My spouse is abusing me” the leaders need to be open to the abused person’s wishes and needs, and be guided by the victim’s wishes and her need for safety. This ought to include the option that the leaders tell the abusive spouse: “We will not permit you to attend this church. You can attend another church if you wish, but not this one, because your victim, the spouse you are abusing, needs to know that when she comes to church it will be a safe place for her and she won’t have to be afraid that you will show up. And if you attend another church, we will be doing our best, as part of our duty of care, to pass on to that other church what we know about the risks you might pose to their flock.”

        The Bible has pretty clear guidelines for when to tell people who profess Christianity,”You are NOT part of this church. We are handing you over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” See 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.

  22. Endurance

    Barbara, Thank you so very much for reading my post and addressing key issues. The replies by all have been a balm to my heart. I appreciate the insights and agree. I find ways to cope and endure, at great cost, indeed.

    On a side note, I have donated a number of books on domestic violence issues to my massive mega- church library. It is encouraging to see the books I have purchased being taken out regularly. They have “The Journey” at our church, which is part of Open Heart Ministries. My husband found it helpful. It didn’t meet my needs.

    I like your Mr. Sensitive comment. Yes, he switches back and forth in a number of areas and Mr. Sensitive is one he hasn’t tried yet. You are right, decades of manipulation take interesting twists in turns, the ultimate goal is to keep one’s prey under their careful watch.

    Thanks again for your care. I’ll keep reading and being open to learning from the posts on this site. I have so many social and family obligations ahead of me in the near future, that I will fake it until I make it.

    [Note from Eds: We don’t normally publish comments that mention books unless we’ve vetted the book ourselves first; but in this case, the mention of “The Journey” is not an endorsement, so we are happy to leave it intact in this comment.]

    • MarkQ

      Endurance, you’re definitely in a hard situation. What helped for me was to be able to find others who didn’t discount my concerns and helped give me the strength to take action. For me, it was an online community and not my family, church or friends. My friends did help somewhat, but their response was pretty much, yes we are not happy with what is going on, but we are prioritizing our church’s doctrine over our happiness.

      I will pray that you are able to find that encouragement and strength. Your kids are asking you to preserve a false peace, and I don’t think that is helping. The marriage is already broken. Acknowledging that the marriage is broken is not breaking the marriage, but that’s what many focus on, like, who filed for divorce? Regrettably, that was my primary question when I was young and stupid. If you find it important to preserve the peace for you child’s sake, I don’t see why that is a failure of the 30-day contract, but it does seem to open the door to your husband using your children to break down your barriers. I think your kids have a legitimate concern for you and your marriage, but the actions come from the same misunderstanding I had – that the marriage isn’t broken until the brokenness is made public.

    • Endurance

      “The Journey” is not a book. It is an organization. It provides curriculum for support groups in various churches. Their headquarters is in Michigan and functions as Open Heart Ministries.

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