A Cry For Justice

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

Thursday Thought — He’s just insecure.

We often hear statements like this about abusers:  “Well, you know, he grew up in an abusive environment” or “He is insecure, so you just need to love him more and be patient.”  These statements and similar statements can come from friends, family members, church leaders, victims, authors, and even professional counselors.  The beliefs behind such statements are very common, but are they true?

Dr. George Simon cautions us about assuming why abusers abuse:

Traditional theories on personality development have always presumed that disturbed individuals, who need to control and have power over others, have deep-seated feelings of inferiority or their behavior is a reaction to being themselves severely abused or demeaned as children.  While it sometimes turns out that such things may be factors, there is no evidence to suggest that all such personalities have such characteristics in their background; although many will lie about it to engender the sympathy of others.  Rather, it seems that the majority of these individuals simply consider themselves as superior to those whom they perceived as weak and take particular delight in controlling others. 

[from Dr. Simon’s book, How Did We End Up Here?: Surviving and Thriving in a Character-Disordered World*  p94

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

30 Comments

  1. Stronger Now

    Yes. This is what I was told over and over, and yet there was absolutely NOTHING I could do to make him “secure.”

    But somehow that was still my responsibility, and when I failed to “make him feel more secure,” of course the resulting escalation in the abuse was my fault. Even though his “insecurity” was not my fault and it was impossible for me to cure it.

    When I realized that the anger and abuse were coming from inside of him and nothing I did was causing it, nothing I did or didn’t do could prevent it, and the responsibility was entirely his, I started to come out of the fog.

  2. The abuser will use as many excuses as they can garner to keep their “Its not my fault” game going…

    Isnt it intresting how they decieve so many people along the way to ally with them as they drag their victim though the miry clay of continuing THE LIE.

    Until the target finally draws the line and says Thats enough- to ALL, they will continue to come up with endless reasons to justify why they do what they do.

    And those reasons will always point to someone else.

  3. Amy

    I thought this for a long time about my ex. I tried extra hard to love him due to his difficult childhood. Lundy Bancroft’s book was healing in many ways. One was that he destroyed the myth I believed that my ex was how he was due to his family of origin. No, my ex is how he is because he is a narcissist and makes destructive choices.

    • Amy can I suggest to you and our other readers that it may be better to just say that abusers are abusers, rather than call them ‘narcissists’ ?

      I know I seem to be in a minority here, but what do we gain by using the term ‘narcissist’? We may ring bells with those who read pop-psychology. But what do we lose? We loose credibility with many who accredited to diagnose mental health issues. The term narcissist is bandied about; but because ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ is a mental health diagnosis under the DSM, if we use the term ‘narcissist’ we risk being perceived if we have presumptuously deemed ourselves competent to diagnose personality disorders.

      Can we just say character disordered (as Dr George Simon does), or abuser (as Bancroft does) ?

      And if we do use the term ‘narcissist’ it might be better if we say narcissistic traits or traits of malignant narcissism.

      I sound like a stickler who is resisting the morphing of the definition of the word, I know. Sigh. It’s probably a losing cause, just like retaining the possessive apostrophe is a losing cause… 😦

      • Content

        I see what you’re saying here, Barbara. I know for me, even though I am well on the road to really grasping that I have been in an emotionally abusive relationship, it is just so hard to say my “abuser”. It just sounds so….awful. And, I know it is….but I am early on in this journey, I guess. Narcissist just doesn’t sound as “ugly” and I can swallow it better.

      • Thanks for explaining that, Content. I needed that pointed out to me as being a reason why some people use the term ‘narcissist’ rather than ‘abuser’.

        That’s part of being well and truly out and safe from my abusers for years…. I can forget what it was like in the early days…

      • IamMyBeloved's

        I understand that it is difficult sometimes to use the term “abuser”. But in reality, Barb, I agree with you that the term “narcissist” is often bantered carelessly around. Lots of people use the term loosely, but I lived with a diagnosed NPD person and I can tell you, that they are in a league all their own. NPD is actually the only mental health disorder labeled as non-treatable. (Not saying here that abusers can be rehabilitated) There are only approximately three or four psychologists in this entire country that are equipped to counsel true narcissists and even they have to go through de-programming after they counsel one.

        So, while narcissist is used loosely, it really should not be. There is no hell on earth like living with a true narcissist and what they can and will do to you. Having narcissistic traits is an entirely different ballgame. I do not believe that all abusers are true narcissists, but I am not trying to demean the abuse others have gone through, at all.

      • Lea

        I think the confusion comes in that someone can be a narcissist in the classic sense without having full blow npd.

        And sometimes it is helpful to put a label on something. What if you dated someone who wasn’t abusive but fit much of the checklist? It has helped me to think in these terms a bit dx or not.

      • Amy

        Point taken. I know my ex is an abuser and it scares me because I have an 8 year old daughter with him and we share custody. My daughter lives half of her life with an abuser! My ex has two older children from a previous marriage and I watched him abuse them throughout their childhood, so I know what he’s capable of.

        I don’t know what it would take to even get someone to diagnose him as NPD. He is resolutely opposed to mental health treatment and he seems to believe that he is ALWAYS right about everything.

      • Amy, you’re not alone in having a child who lives half the time with the abuser and half with the protective parent. I didn’t ever suffer that, my daughter only had fortnightly access with her dad ( and that was damaging enough!) so I can barely imagine how much worse it would be to have 50/50 shared parenting. But I know that some of our readers at this blog are in that very position. And some have very little or no contact with their kids, because they abuser has the lion’s share.

        And even IF an abuser were diagnosed as NPD, there is no guarantee a court would see that as making him unfit to parent his kids!

        The family courts are responsible for a lot of injustice.

      • NN

        On the other hand Barbara, The Term narcissist was very helpful for me to understand the nature of my ex-wife. I was a good christian man and would put up with endless abuse. It wasn’t until I started learning about Narcissism that I started understanding that my ex was an abuser and masqueraded as a pious Christian was really a mask for a really mean person who was not capable of living in a mutual loving relationship. It also helped me to understand the character some of the people in my church, when I was a pastor who were abusive. If I had, that tool in my tool box when I got married and was a young minister things may have gone much differently.

      • Thanks NN. I appreciate you saying that the term ‘narcissist’ was helpful for you to understand the nature of your ex-wife. This kind of feedback is helping me be more accepting of the value and usefulness of that term.

  4. Scared momma

    Many prayers needed. Gal [guardian ad litem] has order to increase ex h custody. Finds him harmless even though in her own report speaks that all the kids and me have PTSD or other trauma related mental health problem that have worsened significantly since he got extra custody.
    Speaking to gal in desperate pleas for her to reconsider her report but expect will fall on deaf ears.

    Prayers need for the strength to confront her, for the words to convince her and that she be receptive to hearing and act in manner that will protect me and the kids

    • Praying for Strength and Wisdom to state your case Scared Momma.
      And that your requests be recieved with favor in her eyes.

    • Seeing the Light

      I am praying for you and your children, Scared Momma.

    • praying

    • Anonymous

      Praying…

    • Scared momma

      Plead and plead but fell totally on deaf ears. What now? Since custody increased 4 hr – yes just 4 hour has caused so much grief . Kids hospitalized, not going to school. How do you fight a gal who thinks all dads should have same amount of time with kids. Her report is ridiculous. It lists all the problem but her conclusion is no problem, standard custody. Though about trying to speak to him but realize that is pretty useless. Thought about speaking to one of his friend or family, but not sure about that. There are few friends that I may have enough information to convience. Also, he wants custody only to impress these people. Just worried it will be seen as black mail and agitate him even more. Just out of options, the courts just don’t care about anything but physical abuse. Many, many prayer need that I find an answer to this. I just feel no more option.

  5. anonymous

    Statements we hear that you have described still ring in my ears, verbatim! And when I did fall in to that trap with my abuser and express that sympathy, give that patience and pour out that unconditional love, all in the midst of ongoing abuse, he took even further advantage of my desire and yearning to truly be there for him and love him. And as is common in a day of life with an abuser, once again I was crushed, confused, battered and beaten down.

    So, Dr. Simon, Bravo, you positively nailed it!!

  6. Just think of how many people come out of horrific backgrounds and go on to become some of the kindest, most loving and protective people around. The abused don’t necessarily become abusers.

  7. Anonymous

    It never ceases to amaze me that what the BIBLE says about abusers and their motivation (an evil mind and heart that can’t rest until it’s done evil and that they belong to their father the devil) is completely ignored by most people in the church. Instead, the line used in the post, ” “Well, you know, he grew up in an abusive environment” or “He is insecure, so you just need to love him more and be patient.””

    I grew up in a family of psychopaths. The women are evil just like the men. They love to have sex with as many people as they can and they don’t care about their children but want them around because they “own” them (just to list a few of the many evil characteristics they display).

    And yet I am NOT a psychopath. I had the same exact upbringing, and in many ways they had more than me because they weren’t afraid to demand what they wanted cuz they loved to fight and argue as much as our psychopathic parents.

    Yet nobody stopped to note the difference between them and me. Others used to employ my empathy and tell me that I needed to pray harder for and do more for my abusive parents and siblings because I had more than they did because I cared. This is all lies and what’s more it’s DANGEROUS! It’s dangerous to go into a lions den, badger hole, shark infested waters without forewarning and protection and sending people with a conscience into the world without forewarning them what the bible says about these people is the spiritual and emotional equivalent of this. AND GOD IS KEEPING TRACK! Every preacher who fails to forewarn or to help a victim of abuse is held EVEN MORE RESPONSIBLE THAN OTHERS!

  8. jesusfollowingishard

    This doesn’t quite go with the article but I’ve been separated some months and my spiritually / emotionally abusive sometimes is civil and I feel confused and emotional when he is civil. Is this normal? It’s starting to wear off and I know he is not an emotionally/spiritually safe person. He was just being civil.

    • Hi
      Yes, it’s fairly common for the abuser to show civility, even be quite nice sometimes, after separation. It is only of the tactics abusers use to try to soften your resolve to remain away from them. They try to get you doubting your decision to leave them.
      And when they do that, the victims usually feel confused and emotional. After all, we longed to be treated with civility and respect all those years… and now he’s doing it!

      But as Bancroft says, all abusers can behave well for a time. But that doesn’t show they have really changed in their heart of hearts. True repentance can only be demonstrated by a long and consistently respectful conduct, even when under pressure, even when told NO.

      • jesusfollowingishard

        I appreciate your reply, my thoughts are there is a difference between acting civil and actual change.

      • there is a difference between acting civil and actual change.

        Yes, there sure is!

      • Still Struggling

        Barbara, your comment above is on point as always!

        The whole comment is great but what stands put for me at this time is this part…

        “True repentance can only be demonstrated by a long and consistently respectful conduct, even when under pressure, even when told NO”

        A good reminder that while my AH has been quite civil the last few years after we reconciled that it wears off quickly when I tell him no and he doesn’t get his way. (Especially in the bedroom or when I spend time with my most supportive family members)
        I sometimes doubt my perceptions just as I did before the fog lifted. Thanks for that comment!

    • I edited your comment a bit to disidentify it. Please read it to see how I edited it.

  9. kim

    My perspective on this was shaped by my experiences in my family of origin. I was the oldest of five children in an abusive, dysfunctional family. The next oldest sibling, a boy, was the family bully from a young age (probably before age 5). I was raised to be the selfless, compliant servant child, while he could do no wrong in my parent’s eyes. He was violent to both myself (I was older and could defend myself) and to a younger brother. The bully brother was my mother’s favorite (father seldom home), and he never experienced any consequences for his bullying or his selfishness. He grew up to be a selfish, lazy, entitled, bully, who didn’t work and still felt he was the center of the universe. […] I also believe the parenting he received reinforced his feeling of entitlement and his sense that there would never be any consequences for his wrong actions and lack of effort in school and at home. Myself and my other siblings are, in adulthood, non-abusive. […]

  10. Ng

    It is the same pattern with bullying children at school – the victims are often told to understand that their tormentors have a hard home life, are unhappy, are just jealous, etc etc etc… ad nauseam.. That is the official narrative that was repeated during my childhood and youth.. no one seemed to care about the victims, we were supposed to be the emotionally strong and mature ones.. no one cared about us.
    Every bullied child knew that bullies did what they did because of enjoyment and personal power – not because of some trauma at home. Why is it so hard for professional adults to understand?

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