A Cry For Justice

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

Count on it — Abusers Will Always Violate a Boundary

Abusers will ALWAYS chafe at boundaries. They may abide by those limits for a time, but only because they have no choice. And the first time they see some kind of opening that, in their thinking, justifies them crossing the line, off they go.

Here is a narrative from the Old Testament which illustrates this. The story is about how King Solomon set boundaries on Shimei. Shimei was a man from the house of Saul who had repeatedly cursed (verbally abused) and thrown stones at King David when David was fleeing Jerusalem after Absalom’s mutiny (2 Samuel 16:5-8).

We’ll pick up the story from where Solomon, David’s son, has been made king. Solomon knew how Shimei had cursed and abused King David, and he set very clear boundaries on Shimei’s conduct. The boundaries Solomon set were merciful and generous: they would have allowed Shimei to live and prosper, so long as he kept within the rules.

1 Kings 2:36-46  Then the king [Solomon] sent and summoned Shimei and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and do not go out from there to any place whatever. For on the day you go out and cross the brook Kidron, know for certain that you shall die. Your blood shall be on your own head.” And Shimei said to the king, “What you say is good; as my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” So Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days.

But it happened at the end of three years that two of Shimei’s servants ran away to Achish, son of Maacah, king of Gath. And when it was told Shimei, “Behold, your servants are in Gath,” Shimei arose and saddled a donkey and went to Gath to Achish to seek his servants. Shimei went and brought his servants from Gath.

And when Solomon was told that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and returned, the king sent and summoned Shimei and said to him, “Did I not make you swear by the LORD and solemnly warn you, saying, ‘Know for certain that on the day you go out and go to any place whatever, you shall die’? And you said to me, ‘What you say is good; I will obey.’ Why then have you not kept your oath to the LORD and the commandment with which I commanded you?”

The king also said to Shimei, “You know in your own heart all the harm that you did to David my father. So the LORD will bring back your harm on your own head. But King Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD forever.”

Then the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck him down, and he died. So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon. 

We do not know all of the nuances and details of this account. We are not told specifically what was in Shimei’s mind when he disobeyed the king and left Jerusalem. But we can, I conclude, safely imply that this evil man craved power and control for himself. Was he only going to Gath to retrieve his runaway servants? Or could he have had it in his mind to make some political contacts there to his advantage and to the detriment of Solomon’s kingdom? You can be sure he was up to no good.

Solomon and King David had been more than gracious to this wicked man. David did not put him to death, as he had every right to do. Solomon gave him a kind of ‘city of refuge’ in limiting him to Jerusalem (keep your enemies close?). A clear boundary was set. He could live and prosper — but only within the confines of Jerusalem. If he broke that boundary, he did so to his own death and he would have no one to blame but himself.

“Many days” elapse. Boundaries are kept. But sure enough the day came when the typical mindset of this kind of wicked man kicked in. His servants took off for Gath. Surely he had every right to go retrieve what was his. No one could deny him that. Not even the king. So off he goes.

You can count on the fact that abusers will ALWAYS chafe at boundaries. They may abide by those limits for a time, but only because they have no choice. And the first time they see some kind of opening that, in their thinking, justifies them crossing the line, off they go. So it was with Shimei and so it is with his kind.

An example of this in the local church (a composite of cases Jeff Crippen has witnessed)

Jack was an elder in a local church. Jack secretly chafed at any hint of acclaim for someone besides himself. So Jack was always at work behind the scenes alienating people from others and working to win their hearts for himself. He rarely missed an opportunity to drop a critical word, or to run to meet some “need” a person had, or to “disciple” someone. Over a long period of time, the pastor and other elders recognized what was happening (and it took a long time to see it). Jack was more than just “a brother who can be rather difficult at times to deal with.” No, Jack in fact was by nature a man who craved power and control for himself.

Jack was removed from his office as elder. Boundaries were drawn. He was not expelled from the church, but he was told that he was no longer to function as an elder. Everyone hoped for a humbling, but it was not to be.

Now, most people in such circumstances would either repent of their sin or they would depart from the church and seek new territory to work their evil. Not Jack. Jack stayed. And eventually, after some time passed, Jack resumed his evil — for a time unknown to the other elders. Jack defied the boundaries and resumed his pattern of working to win people to himself, much like Absalom at the gates of the city.

This time, Jack was expelled from the church. Shimei, you see.

Abusers violate boundaries. That’s what they do. That’s who they are.

Abusers will always violate boundaries. Abusers hate the word “no.” Limits are odious to them. This is one of the chief reasons we must set boundaries — very clear boundaries — with them. Because it is inevitable that they will cross the line and have some “logical” reason for doing so. Under his breath Shimei was saying:  “Solomon, you were unreasonable with me. It’s your fault. How can anyone be expected to stay in one place? Besides, it wasn’t my fault that my servants ran off. The law gives me the right to go after what is mine.”

You, dear reader, have heard these lines before. “Not my fault. Your fault.”

So…  set the boundaries, but don’t expect the abuser to keep them. Label the terms of the boundaries very, very clearly. Then, having done all of that, know for certain the boundary is going to be broken. And pre-determine in your own mind what action you will take if the boundaries are broken. Mentally rehearse (imagine yourself) taking the action you will take if the boundaries are broken. Prepare yourself, so that if and when it happens you can be confident that you are only doing what is just and right,  because the well-defined boundary has been violated.

***

Related Reading:

A Common Characteristic of an Abuser is Disrespect for Boundaries

 

16 Comments

  1. 3blossommom

    My soon to stbx made promises and created his own boundaries when he was going through church discipline and counseling. He promised he would not [do x, y and z details redacted by Eds] and would do [a].

    The first month there was no authority was over him he began to break those promises, starting with [promise x]. Here is how he broke me down to concession [details redacted].

    He broke every other boundary he gave himself as well. In much the same manner. Breaking me down slowly over time. By then end he did whatever he wanted and if I ever asked why he felt he could break his promises, he told me he had never made promises. It was all in my head. I was ridiculous and a nag. He is also typical of abusers in that the law means nothing to him. He kind of views it on a sliding scale depending on how useful breaking it is to him. But I saw that red flag before we even married. I just thought he was immature and would grow up. 😦

    • 3blossommom

      When I began to here about the other women he had taken up with, all the stories surrounded him meeting them in local bars. Likely for a quick happy hour before he came home at night. It all just cycled back around. They don’t change, because they don’t really want to for long enough to make it work.

  2. Seeing Clearly

    So true. We, who are not abusers, understand the word “No” to mean ” discontinue and never start again” . I used to assume the abuser interpreted it the same. Absolutely not! To an abuser, the word “No” is like a bouncing ball; send it back with just a little spin on it.

    Well, it appears like a harmless ball, in realty it is a deadly weapon that he intends to use for the destruction of another, for his pleasure and purposes.

    • Moving Forward

      I like how you worded this. To the abuser, “no” is definitely temporary. And if he can put a little “spin” on his breaking of the boundary, then he has not broken the boundary because he was never asked not to cross it in that way. It’s just like a toddler or teenager who always finds some way to cross the line. If he is told not to use the front door, he’ll sneak around to the back door. The abuser, in his own mind, is always above the law, even the laws of the land, as I have experienced. The divorce will be coming soon, but I know over the years he will break every part of the court order that he can.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Yes, be ready for continual resistance when the divorce process begins. When you tell an abuser, “No more marriage”, the challenge begins. My process took 1 1/2 yrs, not because there was a large estate or children (custody issues), but simply the word “No” . He fought for “no boundaries” in the divorce process. At one point, he sent my attorney a letter suggesting his attorney was costing him too much money. My ex’s suggestion was that he and I agree to share my attorney and split the cost. Ludicrous. Neither attorney had experienced the likes of him. His noncompliance to law cost us both financially.

        Be ready for this one: The judge determined the amount he would pay in spousal support. Of course, no judge is going to tell him what to do, so we returned to court 6 months later with his request to lower support. He hired a dishonest attorney who came to the hearing with no clear financial proof and managed to get a lowered monthly payment.

        It is criminal activity. Before it was finished, I had to repay him a certain amount. Of course, from his perspective, none of this dishonesty or noncooperation is his fault. He simply falls victim to those who expect him to operate within and obey boundaries.

  3. Lily

    Isn’t that the truth? You think you’ve set a boundary, and a while later something goes wrong, maybe not even related……and you think,”Where did that come from?” It comes from that inner game-playing voice that says, “I will always be on top, I will always win, and it’s even more fun if you don’t even know what it is that I am punishing you for.”

    Recently I was reading about how addictions work, and how many addictions there can be. And I’m thinking that he’s a gambler. In his head, he’s constantly playing win-lose games, see how far he can push me before I break, see how much pretending he can get me to do (and believe of his)…….if she does this, I’ll do that (x5), if she does something else, I’ll try another tack.

  4. under the waterfall

    Just thinking out loud here, figuring through. One thing that stands out to me is that Shimei could see that both King David and King Solomon were godly and merciful men. Why not trust them to deal justly with him in this matter? Unless what he sought was unjust. Deut. 23:14 may shed some light on that; the law forbade returning a runaway slave to his owner, who had sought refuge with you. Shimei was clearly willing to walk past that law and force the issue, which is probably why he did NOT ask the King. Being a respecter of God, the king would have upheld the law over Shimei`s notion that his servants were his property to do with as he pleased, without restrictions and therefore not allowed to resist his will. It is quite likely that being a man with an eagerness to punish and despise as he did with David, those servants ran away because he was cruel and without mercy.

    When you consider King David`s state [when fleeing Jerusalem after Absalom’s mutiny] exposed, naked and vulnerable, a lot of light is further shed on Shimei`s heart attitude. He thought that the king`s fallenness gave permission to further degrading him. He was eager to punish and shame.

    [That eagerness reminds me of the barely suppressed eagerness in the king`s attitude in this passage ]—

    2 Kings 6:21,22 And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?

    also this passage

    Luke 9:55 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” 55But Jesus turned and rebuked them and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of. .

    Even today I see this in the church, in how others have treated me when sin or weakness, woundedness or neediness is exposed in my life, whether real or imagined, how I become regarded as expendable human garbage that its therefore okay to use or marginalize and at times how I have returned the favor by treating others as if the exposure of their sin and failure, or the judgement of them being in the wrong somehow makes it okay to engage in attitudes and actions that ordinarily would be regarded as `heart murder`. If anything, wrestling with all of this is cause to question Jesus as to whether I really know Him or His heart. Perhaps Shimei also attacked David because he was afraid of his own sinfulness and was denying it to himself.

    • Actually, I don’t think the Deuteronomic law you refer to would have applied to Shimei. If the runaways described as ‘Shimei’s servants’ Shimei were in fact Shimei’s slaves, which is likely, Shimei was their owner. The law in Deut was forbidding others from forcefully taking the runaway slave back to the slave owner, it was not forbidding the slave owner himself from seeking to retrieve his runaway slave. Normally a slave owner would have the right to seek to retrieve his property.

      Shimei did wrong not by breaking that law in Deuteronomy, but by breaking the boundary Solomon had lawfully and justly imposed on him.

    • under the waterfall

      Barb, does scripture use the terms servant and slave in place of each other at times and would that make any difference to how that law was applied? I was kind of reasoning it similar to if the rights of a slave wife were to go free under abuse or neglect then so much more the rights of free wife`. What thinkest thou? And yes I agree the main boundary violated was the king`s edict.

      • As I understand it, the bible uses a word for slave which is often translated servant in our English translations. I don’t think it would make a different to how the law was applied.

        In regards to this part of your comment —

        I was kind of reasoning it similar to if the rights of a slave wife were to go free under abuse or neglect then so much more the rights of free wife`.

        In the OT, a slave-wife means a woman purchased like any slave is purchased but who is then treated as a wife by the purchaser or the purchaser’s son. By virtue of the fact that she is treated as a wife, she has more rights than if she had just been treated as a slave doing household work or the other kinds of labour that slaves did.

        In Deut. 23:14, the law which forbade returning a runaway slave to his owner who had sought refuge with you, the special rights of the slave wife are not in view. That verse is referring simply to the ordinary kind of slave, not the slave-wife.

        Bear in mind that in the OT and the Roman Empire, slavery was often not for life. A person would sell him or herself or sell their child as a slave, or a person could be born as a slave from slave parents.

        The OT required that slavery was only to last for 7 years (Deut 12:15), but the slave could chose to remain as a life-long slave in that household if they like serving that master. It may have been a way to avoid poverty, to remain as a lifelong slave if the master was kind and fair. (This link gives a good summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_slavery)

        In the secular Roman Empire slaves were sometimes freed by their masters after being slaves for a while, especially if the slave had shown meritorious service and the master was kind. Skilled or educated slaves were allowed to earn their own money, and might hope to save enough to buy their freedom. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_ancient_Rome)

        It’s important to understand that slavery worked pretty differently in the ancient world than it worked in more recent times.

  5. God Fearing Mom

    I remember when my mother-in-law moved out of our house. It was only because I took the children and went to my moms and wasn’t going to go back home until she moved out. I think she was gone about a year or maybe a little more and then she moved back into our house because she allegedly was getting less money from social security. My husband works too long to be able to look into things and so he gets duped and we suffer. Ugh!

    I recently set new boundaries the best way I know how by avoiding and not talking to her because she started her abuse again after I came home from having the baby. You can’t set boundaries verbally because she has a poisonous mouth and you never know when she’s going to use it or pretend to reason and covertly retaliate. Next time she starts abusing me I’m going to take the kids and leave to my mom’s or tell her to get out of my house. I hope and pray I have the courage.

    • Hi GFM, I published your comment un-edited but please read it again and if you think it might be too idendifying and might increase your risk of being abused if any of your abusers were to read it, please email me barbara@notunderbondage.com and tell me how to edit it.

  6. Thank you for renewed confirmation on setting boundaries. Sadly, there are many that work together to encroach on the boundaries. Some very cunning tactics are used. My refusals to engage are then seen by others as me being the cold, heartless one. Praying for truth to be exposed. I’m very tired of having to defend myself with no one to support me. Those who claim to empathize with me ‘will not’ stand up to my abusers.

  7. standsfortruth

    Yes Soloman was given great wisdom by God.
    And he clearly defined the boundary terms to the abuser Shimei.
    Did the abuser forget?
    Or perhaps suffer temporary memory loss?
    No, abusers defy and violate because they assume they are entitled to do so.
    And on and on it will go because they disrespect what is important to other.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: