A Cry For Justice

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

He is Just the Nicest Man I’ve Ever Met — Beware the Abuser’s Charm

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden. (1 Timothy 5:24-25)

One of the important things we do here at ACFJ is to keep saying certain fundamentals over and over. Repetition is vital for all of us, and that is exactly what I am doing in this post.

Recently I was talking to someone who has regular contact with an abuser. I do not know the person I was speaking with well at all, but I do know the abuser through and through. This lady said to me, “Isn’t he just the nicest person you have ever met?”  I did not respond. People like this never listen anyway.

Most all of us can look back into the past and think of a time when we met a person who seemed “like the nicest person” you could ever ask for. The finest example of a Christian. We just knew it was so.

But it wasn’t.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy to be on guard. He said that there are people whose sins are right out there and easy to see. We get that part. What we don’t get hold of is the second category Paul warned of — “the sins of others appear later.” And Paul told Timothy this right after he said —

Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5:22)

As I look back on my own life, I realize that I used to be way, way too trusting. Especially when it came to meeting people who claimed to be Christians. Oh, I understood and firmly believed that no one could be a Christian and yet live an unchanged life, habitually and characteristically walking in sin as they always had. But what I did not understand was that second category. Those evil ones whose sins “appear later.” And I certainly did not understand that there are many of these kind working their abusive quest for power and control in virtually every single local church.

As we grow in wisdom, this naivete changes. We understand that someone can appear strikingly “holy” and yet be incredibly evil. But as we grow in the Lord, we put away childish things. Childhood is a dangerous state to remain in.

So slow down. When you meet someone who seems soooo “Christian” and sooooo “warm” and “kind,” remind yourself that the verdict is still out on what they really are. Don’t let yourself get swept off your feet by someone’s charm, no matter how good it might feel to do so. If you permit yourself to be “charmed” and come under their spell, it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to be able to warn you, and you will have to learn the hard, hard way as most all of us have had to. In the same way as time will show the genuineness of a real Christian’s heart, so, in time, the wicked deceptive person will be revealed for what they really are.

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Further Reading

Thursday Thought — Charm: A Red Flag

 

33 Comments

  1. Amy

    I’ve always been way too nice and accepting of people, perhaps that’s why 28 years ago I married an abusive man because he was one of the “nicest people you could ever meet”.

    Fortunately, the Lord set me free from that marriage in 2011 and even in the time of separation and divorce I found it difficult some days to really call my ex out for being an evil man. Nowadays is different, I know the truth and do not let anyone try to tell me different.

    And the other day at the store, I ran into a man in an electric wheelchair (something my ex used to use) as I came around a corner. He smiled at me and there was a woman massaging his neck, and I actually felt the hair on my arms stand up. He was acting all sickly sweet and I found myself just not buying into it like this other person was. I actually saw my ex for split second sitting in that chair and it made me sick. He smiled at me, said ‘excuse me’ and then very loudly was oh-ing and ah-ing over this woman massaging his neck. I just turned away and muttered something under my breath as I quickly got out of there.

    Some would say I’m hard and uncaring, but I believe I’m discerning. Big difference.

  2. Anon.

    I’ve been so thoroughly victimized, re-victimized, preyed upon, setup, duped, manipulated, conned, abused, thieved, destroyed and obliterated by so very, very many people, that I’ve pretty much given up on people. I want nothing to do with others because I cannot handle further victimization, more trauma, more predation.

    When I read this post, I think of the Bible verse that even the angel of darkness masquerades as an angel of light. So many abusers and predators make a point to cultivate a non-threatening, ‘good guy’ images, when nothing could be further from the truth.

    And once people have had pastors and church elders seek to further setup, manipulate, con, abuse, and victimize themselves, all in service to known criminals, predatory, dangerous, abusive persons (like one’s attempted murderer, rapist, wife-beater ‘husband’ and his allies)… there’s no coming back from that point. While acting in their professional capacity towards them, too! Wolves in Shepherds’ clothing.

    This site has been such a tremendous blessing. To God, be the glory!

    • DyingStar

      I feel exactly the way you do, Anon. I seldom want much to do with other people. I have shut out so many “friends” and even “biological” family members due to trauma. I moved away, transferred my job, and started a new life. However, I trust no one. I have been trampled by so many. I remember one “friend” told me when I left my last abuser that if I didn’t “milk him for every dime” she wouldn’t feel bad for me “if I ended up on the street.” Needless to say, I have blocked this person from my life completely. I ended up giving my abuser almost every material possession we had, just to get away from him. These people just don’t get it. The old saying goes if you can count your friends on more than one hand, count again. I find this to be overwhelmingly true.

      • Anon.

        I had never heard that saying before, Dying Star. I think a person is blessed in this life if they have two solid, trustworthy friends……even just one trustworthy, genuine friend is considered to be ‘rich’ these days (at least from my perspective). Thanks for commenting, Dying Star, as it’s helpful and validating to hear that someone else feels similarly.

        True, people don’t seem to get it, in regards to abusers. And who says they won’t care about another ending up on the street?! There’s such a hardness of heart exhibited in such mentalities, comments, and viewpoints.

        I’m glad you were able to get away and to value yourself enough to go. Good for you for not trusting others. If I was not in such a precarious, needy, vulnerable state, I’d hopefully not trust anyone either, but I seem to have that stupid, nutsy, hope that somehow it’ll be different, where someone won’t betray my leap of faith/trust/etc.

        Blessings to you, Dying Star.

  3. A

    So, so true. Happened to me with my now-ex husband. I was so charmed by his actions at church only to realize later the snake he truly is. I was deceived. This is why I take such caution and now have some pretty strict boundaries regarding relationships with men. I don’t want to be charmed or “swept off my feet.” I want to see what he’s really like. And, we need to teach our children healthy relationship boundaries as well, so they know how to steer clear of these snakes.

    • Raped By Evil

      A, you wrote, “And, we need to teach our children healthy relationship boundaries as well, so they know how to steer clear of these snakes.”

      It’s so true and for me I would have needed to be taught them in school or at church because at home they were not allowed. They teach so many things in school but like all of them, if they are taught by an abuser or predator, they will often be skewed; but there should still be education that addresses this so that people have SOME idea at least of what boundaries are…..I didn’t know about them until I was in my forties.

      I think of the many cults that don’t allow their children access to others, and like one commenter recently on this site who was raised in a cult that conditioned the girls to live at home until marriage and that their father was still the deciding authority on who and if they was allowed to marry, was totally traumatized by having all her boundaries invaded. Personal boundaries are SO IMPORTANT to feeling safe…..another fundamental human need that is stolen from us by evil people.

  4. Song of Joy

    Normal folks all have a wee bit of appropriate social anxiety… concern about meeting new people and behaving correctly, fear of being rejected for not having good manners or crossing personal boundaries, or stepping on toes, etc.

    Not so with character-disturbed people! They have no qualms about being aggressive and pushing the envelope, so to speak, in terms of their own self-interest. They will behave in a “cheeky” manner and take liberties with others; and that includes being energetically and aggressively nice, charming, solicitous, funny, intimate and generous… in order to gain an advantage.

    Since they have no fear of offending, they come across as having more confident personalities and open hearts than folks who have normal trepidation over pushing themselves on others.

    So the bottom line is normal people with integrity usually come across as more boring and less confident/sparkly, and the character-disturbed people come across as special, when in reality they are just successful predators.

    • Song of Joy

      I should have started my comment off with “In my own personal opinion and experience…” It’s just what I have observed in this lifetime, the over-the-top people who had a large following of admirers and contacts were the most abusive.

      • puritangirl

        Song Of Joy, your comment describes perfectly what my family has observed and concluded regarding the narcissistic church bully/clergy killer who cost my father (the pastor) his job and quite possibly his career. Super gregarious, always grinning and able to have a good time with everyone, and we thought he was one of our family’s best friends — until we saw his true colors. Then he used all those skills to get as many influential people as possible in his pocket, and for the most part, it worked. Oh how I wish we’d seen him for what he is.

        And in line with Amy’s comment above, I have this to say: one woman, not a member of our church, told my dad that this same man — whom she did not know — once walked near her and she felt very sick to her stomach. We think now that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness to her about his character, but at the time she brushed the concern aside because the guy was a friend of ours. Ugh. Again, how I wish my family had seen the narcissist for what he was before he and his groupies wreaked so much havoc on our lives.

      • DyingStar

        In response to Puritangirl…

        The man you describe sounds exactly like my ex father in law. I always felt sick to my stomach around him, and I always wondered why. Now I know. He was the head deacon in my old church, and he was one person in front of the congregation, and a totally different one outside those church walls. I remember a black woman came to our church for a while, and even joined. She was one of the sweetest people in the world! I loved her. She was the only black woman there but it did not matter to me. She was my friend and that was that. She brought home cooked meals every Sunday and even gave me a whole box of shoes. My ex husband’s father called her the “N” word behind closed doors, hollered about how she didn’t belong there and should stick with her “own kind” and all the while, he would get up in front of the church and cry and praise God and act holier than thou. I hated that man. And I still do. That poor woman eventually left the church, as did I, like a bat out of you know where.

    • notlongnow

      Song of Joy, I have found this to be very true also. My husband has no qualms about initiating conversations with complete strangers especially if he thinks they are influential people.

      When I first met him this used to amaze me and I was so blown away by how a person could have so much bravado. I could never do anything like that. Now the last couple of years, I am really starting to see it for what it is.

      • Hi nln, I edited and airbrushed your comment to disidentify you. 🙂 You might like to have a look and see how I changed it.

  5. RomansEightOne

    After almost two decades of experience with this type of ‘christian’ and gaining, what I didn’t fully recognize at the time was DISCERNMENT and wisdom, I then was told repeatedly in biblical counseling that the fact that I was not trusting of that person was proof that I was BITTER. Ugh. Please, people in ministry, Christian counseling, and leadership, PLEASE be teachable! Learn about this stuff and stop perpetuating evil!!!

    • Anon.

      Ah, yes! The BITTER accusation. Discernment, wariness, boundaries, or simply calling evil, EVIL, can all be ‘evidence’ of being bitter. I think it’s an accusation that is very rarely used against men, but almost always used against women. Horrible. I have every reason to be bitter, yet I am not, and I have been accused of this so very many times by men. Who are men to tell/label women as being BITTER?!

      • Oh yes! People in the church seldom accuse men of being bitter! But the bible specifically tells men not to be bitter.

        Paul instructed men: “Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them.” Col 3:19

        Paul rebuked Simon the sorcerer: “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” Acts 8:23

      • Brother Maynard

        You might be surprised but both my wife and I were called bitter and unforgiving when we called a whole family out on their treatment of us. Both the pastors called us unforgiving, bitter and not walking grace because we refused to allow them back around our family because of they way they were towards us. Depending on who you’re dealing with they will use that term on men too.

      • Yeah, the Pharisees are very ready to call all whistleblowers ‘bitter’. Thanks for sharing your story Brother Maynard. 🙂

      • DyingStar

        My biological mother has accused me of being bitter many times. She also told me I was not saved because of my apparent behavior, mainly toward my third abuser, who I left last year. She kept feeling sorry for him. Even after he took the camper I was living in when I was at work one day. Her response when I said I had no place to go? “You have a husband, go back to him.” Her sister posted on facebook that it was “pure evil” to “lie” about being abused. I DID NOT LIE. I AM NOT BITTER. I am just wise now, wise to how abusers think and act. I have a lot more to learn, but people like these “family members” of mine are apparently still snowed. Yet another reason I shut most people out. They take the abuser’s tears and believe them, and they turn on the one who “abandoned” them.

  6. cindy burrell

    The wisdom Paul relayed to his friend in his letter is powerful – and stunningly so. Thank you for expounding on this truth. We tend to hear, “love one another,” but this is the other side to that teaching.

  7. Lea

    I have always said I don’t trust charm. Then I got taken in by flattery. Whoops! Add it to the list.

  8. Sara

    Wow! This post is so true. My ex is very charming and duped me, all of our friends, and people at church. He even attempted to dupe our marriage counselor, who had become extremely scared for me and helped me to create a safety plan to leave the marriage. After all of the counselor’s words about safety and being careful, he finished with, “But I hope the two of you can work things out, because there is just something about him that I like.” The counselor never saw the incongruity of his words!

    I can tell people about all of my ex’s control, stalking, and abuse and they reply with “but he is just so broken and sad — we feel so sorry for him.” If I hear anyone refer to me as “bitter and angry,” I know he has been talking to them. I only sound bitter and angry around him or when I am told I should forgive him and give him another chance. NO way! I love being free and I love being alone. They can all have him and his constant whining about how he lost everything because of me.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, yes, the familiar accusations, directives, and labels — “Bitter and angry” …. “Forgive him and give him another chance” ……

      same with what Brother M. said above, about the pastors saying he and his wife were “unforgiving, bitter, and not walking in grace” for refusing to allow themselves to be further mistreated by a family……

      The cheap grace theory (did I learn that here on another posting by ACFJ?) and the endless labels that whistleblowers have applied to them. It never ends! And even if a person knows these things, it usually is no match for many abusers’ well-practiced, refined, sophisticated, polished cunning and craftiness. I also think repetition is great because how many times have we been lied to, deceived, duped, and taken in because we turned to the misbeliefs served up by so many of the ill-informed, and downright dangerous platitudes, cliches, etc. of the general society/popular culture?

      Again, I’m so very glad and thankful this website exists. It has saved me, my mind/sanity, and kept me alive many a times. 🙂

  9. Abby

    So what are we to learn from this post. We can’t run from others because they are friendly and charming. I have been duped so many times by the “nice people.” One thing that I have learned is the first sign of deception, the first lie, the first exaggeration, the first obfuscation, try to get to the truth with them. However they handle that, you will know if they are humble or not. If they never take responsibility for their wrongdoing…..RUN!

  10. NG

    This is so true. All the abusive manipulators I have come across were ‘super nice’, when they had to (it was to their advantage)..

    My recent encounter was with a new neighbor, who turned out to be a psychopath: I felt very uneasy, when his family moved next door – and even having learned discernment, I brushed it off as prejudice.. A very successful looking young family (complete with a toddler and a sweet looking pet..)… They were such charmers, always smiling, friendly, he was so jovial and kind (I wished that single Christian men at church were that kind and sweet!)..

    It was clear he wanted to ‘win’ everyone over.

    This sweetness ended when suddenly there were weird incidents happening in the building, horrible noise several nights in a row, even garbage left behind my door… Complaining brought no help. this smooth talker explained to me that the noise was all coming from another person’s dwelling (!)..

    I refused to stay in that situation and moved out, the peace and rest were totally gone. I did not want to find out what he was capable of (there were weird things I don’t want to write down).. All this time, I had this sickening feeling in my stomach, knowing that this person intended evil.

    As shocking as it was, I am glad it was revealed relatively quick – only after a few months after they moved in.

  11. Sarah

    another Christian man wrote a letter at our divorce claiming my abusive ex was the most amazing man of character.. even after all he had done and gone to jail for.. sigh

    • DyingStar

      When I left my first abuser, I actually remember someone telling me that it would ruin his ministry. Looking back, how dare they say such a thing! The only thing that church cared about was how he looked, as he was a youth pastor and aspiring military chaplain. He won though. He’s now a pillar of the Christian community, a chaplain, looked up to by many, and I’m sure he’s run my name in the dirt for years. I wonder how the military would feel if they knew who he really was? If they knew the sadistic sexual abuse he put me through? If they knew how violent he was behind closed doors? Sad thing is, they never will.

      • But God knows. And He will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts at the Last Judgment. 1 Cor 4:5

        And I pray that God exposes your abuser before then! I pray He exposes your abuser’s wickedness and fills his face with shame before the whole visible church, while you are still alive. I pray that will happen for two reasons: 1) it would help restrain your abuser from hurting more people, and 2) it would vindicate you in the eyes of all the people you abuser has conned.

      • DyingStar

        Thank you, Barbara. I pray this happens too. I do worry a lot about his sweet new wife. They got married several years ago and from what I understand, she gave birth to their second child recently. From what I do know, that girl is sweet, soft spoken, kind hearted, and has a servant’s heart, and I do NOT want him trampling her. I can hope he’s changed and hope he won’t hurt her, but I don’t know what their marriage is like. She comes from a good family and I just wish she would have found someone, well, not like him.

  12. Nancy

    I agree with and understand everything written here with one exception. What about outgoing and super friendly people like me who are not abusers? I genuinely love people and their stories, and had to learn over time how to avoid being too forward too soon. I wouldn’t want anyone to run from me because they think I’m too nice.

    Aside from that, I agree the gift of discernment is key. I’ve been praying to have that for about a year now, and am beginning to see the difference. Perhaps especially when we have been abused and lied to most of our lives, understanding personal boundaries may be a later-in-life lesson.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that abusers can feel (and cry over) real regret when we leave. I mean, they just lost their favorite emotional punching bag, right? If we played our roles well, we helped shield them from the pain of their decisions. When abusers believe they are entitled to our loyalty, they perceive us saying “No more!” as a stab in their back. Boo Hoo.

    Discernment comes with recognizing the difference between regret, remorse, sorrow over a loss of image, self-pity, and true blue repentance.

    • Thanks for saying all that, Nancy. 🙂

    • DyingStar

      I’m glad you made this comment, Nancy. I used to be very outgoing and friendly, but for a while now, due to the abuse of course, I’ve sort of “imploded” and isolate myself from a lot of people. Also, my most recent abuser did cry when I left him, but I’m sure it was what you described – the lost punching bag. His true colors became evident after I left – he became angry and vindictive, doing all he could to slander my name and take away what little I did have left, which at the time, included the tiny old camper that was the only home I had. That made me realize his tears were not to be pitied. They were fake, and there was no real repentance.

  13. MarkQ

    Reminds me of Psalm 55: “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, Then I could bear it;
    Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my familiar friend; We who had sweet fellowship together Walked in the house of God in the throng. Let death come deceitfully upon them; Let them go down alive to Sheol, For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst.” (12-15)

    “He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; He has violated his covenant. His speech was smoother than butter,But his heart was war; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords.” (20-21)

  14. justkeepbreathing

    I have even heard this line from people who know what he did in private. The ones who know say it is so hard for them to comprehend. The ones who either don’t know or don’t want to know what their pastor is truly like just beam and talk about how gentle and pastoral he is and how much they love him.

    He uses his charm and soft spokenness to disarm people. Who would believe in the Jekyll and Hyde personality?

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