God Does Not Demand Toughness; He Provides Overcoming and Enduring Grace

I never had anything approaching a conversation with Rex Humbard during the time that I worked in his ministry during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He might have recognized my face as someone among the dozens that worked there, but I doubt that he knew my name or anything about me. But there was something that has stated with me all these years which I overheard when I walked by him once when he was talking with several other people in the mailroom.

Rex was talking about the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. He said something to the effect that he didn’t think that he personally could have lived through the kind of conditions under which Jeremiah had his prophetic ministry, during the years from about 605 to 586 B.C.E. Rex’s point was that Jeremiah saw practically no response from anyone to his ministry; perhaps Baruch, maybe a few others, but there were very few, if any – and there was a lot of personal rejection, hardship, persecution, ostracism and imprisonment.

One thing that I can see from the ministry of Jeremiah was that his personal toughness had nothing to do with his ability to endure to the end in his prophetic ministry. In fact, Jeremiah is widely regarded as one of the most sensitive men in the Bible. He didn’t react with bluster and defiance to all that he went through; rather he often reacted with lament and tears. It’s not for nothing that he’s been called The Weeping Prophet. Yet God didn’t taunt him with his weakness; rather, he commanded him to be faithful and deliver his word, and he would make Jeremiah able to stand in the face of that would come against him:

“Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee:  be not dismayed at their faces, let I confound thee before them. For, behold I have made thee a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee: but they shall not prevail against thee, for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.” (Jeremiah 1:17-19).

These promises came to Jeremiah when he wasn’t much more than a teenager (Jeremiah 1:7-8), but God promised that he would give his word to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah would be his messenger (Jeremiah 1:9). Moreover, God pretty much repeated the same kinds of promises of enduring grace in the face of opposition and adversity during the renewal of his call to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:20-21).

So, the man that God chose and used during this time was a sensitive, weepy man – maybe someone that some today would call a wimp or a wussy – someone who reacted to the apostasy of the people of God and his constant persecution with tears and laments — but God gave the enduring grace and strength to make him the iron pillar in the midst of a difficult, defiant and apostate nation. Jeremiah wasn’t a tough talker, standing up to them, facing them down, not letting them get away with anything and making sure that they knew who was boss. And I think in the face of all this, anyone who uses Jeremiah 12:5 as a taunt of personal weakness against anyone going through a hard time with other people (“If thou has run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?”) is misusing this verse. Rather, in the light of God’s dealings with Jeremiah, it can rather be seen properly as a call to find the strength of God to endure.

Pretty much same can be said of the warrior king and poet David. Throughout the Psalms you can find someone who reacted to ridicule, slander, rejection and betrayal with tears, lament and prayer. Yet he has been well regarded as the best king of Israel, a proven ruler and warrior as well as a poet. But even his prowess with the bow and spear he attributed to God:

“It is God that girdeth me with strength,
and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet,
and setteth me upon my high places.
He teacheth my hands to war,
so that a bow of steel is broken
[bent] by mine arms”
(Psalm 18:32-34).

Just as much could be said about Jesus. He wept over the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35-36) and over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He endured the crucifixion endured not out of a hard bitten and defiant toughness ethic, but with obedience to the will of the Father. Even so, he received strength through the ministry of an angel (Luke 22:43) and offered himself up through the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).

At times the apostle Paul has been cited as an example of toughness. But he could also weep and pray over the needs of the churches and express his relief at Ephaphoditus’s  recovery from a near fatal illness (Philippians 2:27). And he did not ascribe one bit of all that he did to his own ability, strength or toughness, but rather to the grace of God. “For I am what I am by the grace of God, and his grace to me did not become empty, but rather I labored more than all of them, but not I, but the grace of God with me” (I Corinthians 15:10). “And he [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, because my power comes to its completion in weakness.’ Therefore I will most gladly take joy in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may overshadow me. Moreover, I will take contentment in weaknesses, in insults, in difficulties, in persecutions and deprivations, on behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10). It’s noteworthy that the apostle did not respond with trash talk (“Is that the best you can do?” “Bring it on!”) or denial of his limitations and weaknesses, but rather, sought for the power of Christ through the grace of God to overshadow his weaknesses and difficulties.

So here’s the thing. The kingdom of God is not just for the tough guys among us. God’s purpose in no one’s life, man or man, is not to make a tough guy or gal out of us; rather, his eternal purpose is to make us like Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Even more, God does not call us just to tough out our hardships and afflictions in this fallen world and in the face of spiritual evil through the power of our own broken and fallen human nature.  For instance, no human being, no one made of flesh and blood, has the power and strength to endure in this world against the principalities, the powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, the spiritual wickedness in high places. The kingdom of God does not advance by, “Only the strong survive,” or “When things get tough, the tough get going,” but by “ . . . be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10).

So then, in the light of scripture, the toughness ethic can be easily seen to be often both overrated and overemphasized. Scripture is notable in its absence of Marine Corp pep talks or taunting and browbeating to those undergoing affliction. Rather, the idea of persistence and toughness is most appropriate in some cases to physical and military training, but  it is horribly inappropriate to apply it to many or most situations in church ministry and business and family life. For example, I’ve had a number of friendships with physical trainers and coaches – some of whom are fine Christian men and women — and the most ineffective ones are those who have no other tactic in their repertoire than to taunt and browbeat people to perform to a standard. Rather, they instruct and encourage first. And in military training, it’s insane to attempt to taunt and browbeat someone until they have actually been instructed how to do what they are intended to do.

Over the years I’ve sensed that especially among Christian men, there is too much reliance in the different circumstances of their lives upon a ‘toughness’ ethic which often turns out to be simply ‘pretending to be tougher than you are.’ This ‘pretending to be tougher than you really are’ is what scripture calls hypocrisy and living a lie. Most Christian wives eventually come to realize that this is simply empty bluster. I’ve found that it’s very like something that Stephen Ambrose recounted in his books on the United States Army in World War II: some of those who talk toughness to others and give the greatest bluster in fold like cheap umbrellas in the time of minor adversity and opposition. And sometimes this reliance on ‘toughness’ is characteristic of Christian men who have served in the military. But there needs to be the realization among them that most of their fellow believers, men, women and children, have not served in the military, have not gone through boot camp, and cannot be regarded with contempt or disdain if they do not react to their hardships, afflictions and opposition with the toughness demanded from a Marine drill sergeant of a recruit in boot camp.

Even more, this toughness ethic can become for a man in our culture a  counterfeit of the fruit of endurance which turns out simply to be a reliance on the power of fallen human nature. I’ve noticed that this counterfeit tends to result in harsh, stubborn, hypocritical Christian men very unlike Jesus Christ. Those who try follow this kind of ethic actually tend to be quite prejudiced toward others who don’t live up to their self styled façade of toughness and tend to label others with cruel labels of weakness simply for not acting hard and impassive when undergoing hardship, rejection and opposition. In fact, this false toughness ethic sometimes goes along with abusive family relationships. For example,  someone who is in the habit of attempting to prove or display his or her personal toughness may often tend to do so through cruelty to other family members – sometimes the youngest and most helpless. And it does happen that abusers do try to whitewash for personal abuse of others with the excuse, “It’s for their own good, since I’m trying to toughen them.” So, if this results in bullying and abusive behavior, it is leading a person to behave directly contrary to the command of God, and into conduct for which that person will answer to God directly. And finally, this counterfeit ethic tends to produce men who are not suitable for church leadership nor qualified for eldership within the church.

I have also seen those who adhere to the counterfeit toughness ethic in times of persecution. A person habitually set to prove and display his or her toughness in the face of personal opposition will often react with retaliation and defiance in situations of persecution, directly contrary to the command of Jesus. Rather scripture repeatedly calls for a reliance on the Holy Spirit to give words to reply in times of persecution (Luke 21:12-15) and to demonstrate utter Christlikeness in the face of persecution (Luke 6:27-36).

Next, it may also feed a tendency among some men to label some things as unmanly because they do not fit the toughness façade, and this may lead to an inability to appreciate the beauty and kindness of a godly woman (see the Song of Solomon) and to function as a caring and compassionate father, as a loyal and honest friend and to appreciate beauty of God’s creation in nature and man’s work in areas such as art, architecture and music.

Finally, it is certainly true that Holy Spirit produces endurance, and over the course of our Christian life God will seek to grow us in endurance. But the responsibility for that is from God himself, not from any human being and certainly no malicious or abusive conduct toward any other human being made in the image of God can be excused by saying that it’s to toughen that person. Rather, let God bring about those circumstances that produce the fruit of endurance, and every other fruit of the Spirit. The production of the fruit of the Spirit is not the responsibility of anyone in leadership or any fellow Christian in the life of another believer. Rather, the need is simply to take care to produce a strong, loving, compassionate, faithful and obedient fellowship of believers growing in faith in and obedience to Christ through his Word. And even more, there needs to be a recognition that endurance is only one of the fruits of the Spirit (one of the aspects of scriptural patience), and that there needs to be balance of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the Spirit: love and gentleness as well as patience and endurance, for example. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control; against these kinds of things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

So we need to see that the call to endurance in the scriptures is not the same as demand for toughness. Rather, we need to put the call to endurance in the proper perspective:

  • Never, ever lead with a demand for toughness to a fellow believer undergoing any kind of affliction. The call to toughness to someone in affliction can be putting a heavy burden like the Pharisees – “They tie down heavy and practically unbearable burdens on the shoulders of other people, but they themselves are not willing to lift one finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4) . Rather, scripture more often calls us to, “Bear each others’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
  • Never presume that you know or any other human being knows what God’s will is for a person in affliction. Rather, stand with that person in prayer to receive the wisdom of God about what to do (James 1:5, Philippians 4:6-7), and for the strength to endure and show the fruit of the Spirit until God provides his conclusion to that situation.
  • Understand that for someone in an abusive situation, the demand for toughness may well amount to aiding and abetting a abusive, malicious person, and that an abusive and malicious person often wants the target of their abuse and hatred to remain in hardship – which, incidentally, falsifies any claims of having ‘good intentions’ toward the target of their abuse and malice. I personally would never, ever advise ‘suck it up and tough it out’ to any wife or child in a physically abusive situation – certainly civil laws are being broken in those situations.
  • Understand that God does not necessarily intend for any kind of affliction to be perpetual in this life (I Peter 5:10). Rather, this is more often the pattern which is his intention:

“For thou, O God, has proved us:
thou has tried us, as silver is tried.
Thou broughtest us into the net:
thou laidst affliction upon our loins.
Thou has caused men to ride over our heads:
we went through fire and through water:
but thou broughtest us our into a wealthy place”

(Psalm 66:10-12).

  • Understand that God does not always intend for us to enter or continue in any kind of affliction. God’s wisdom often means avoiding dangerous and perilous situations which stubborn naiveté may seek to plod through to unnecessary suffering (Proverbs 22:3,27:12). It may often mean removing oneself ethically and legally from that situation, such as in a workplace situation with an abusive boss or coworker, and recognizing that the situation is not worth one’s life, health and sanity, and that  the abusive person is finally responsible to God. For example, for someone in slavery, the apostle Paul advised, “By all means, gain your freedom if you can,” (I Corinthians 7:21), and did not counsel that person to remain in that situation with any kind of idiocy like, “You don’t know what lessons God has yet to teach you through your slavery,” or, “You might eventually lead your master to Christ.”  And some situations God simply calls us to use common sense to remove ourselves from the situation. For example, if someone comes into a church with a gun and starts shooting people, there’s no need to pray about what to do or to stand there stiffly to prove your toughness in the face of affliction. God’s will for you is simply to take cover, do what you can to protect others, and work within the law to have the shooter apprehended or stopped from shooting.
  • Understand that the scriptural call to endurance is more than undergirded by God’s promises of power to endure, and that Jesus’s statement “ . . . apart from me you can do nothing . . .” (John 15:5) applies to these situations also, where we are called to produce the fruit of the Spirit through abiding in him.
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The Social Behavior of the Abuser

Updated!

Over and over I have seen documented several behavioral patterns in the abusive person. The truth is that these kinds of obsessively controlling and vindictive people act in some common ways, and yet others cooperate with them a lot because they do not recognize the kind of wicked web in which they are participating. These kinds of abusers can be men or women, and their targets can be men or women. They may be family members or not. These patterns of behavior can take place when the targets are marital partners, family members, or people with whom there is some kind of workplace or social contact or interaction. The target may be well aware of the abuser’s malicious and aggressive intentions, and be avoiding them as much as possible, even to such actions as changing jobs, changing churches, changing contact information such as telephone numbers or email addresses, moving away. It’s also entirely possible that the abuser is so well practiced and so devious and downright sneaky that the target may not have seen any of the red flags which others have seen, so that the target may be unaware of the other person’s malicious and destructive agenda and may not have discerned these intentions yet.

Here are the patterns I’ve seen documented in the literature and in real life:

RED FLAG # 1: The abusive person talks about his or her targets behind their backs a lot.

The amount of talking about someone who is not there is one of the easiest markers to discern. It’s no exaggeration that one of the abusive person’s favorite topics of conversation is the target, when the target is not there or within earshot. The abusive person may have no visible closeness to the target – perhaps no ongoing relationship at all — and yet claim good and wonderful intentions and a special closeness and relationship with the targets. Moreover, the abusive person mixes a grain of truth with a gallon of falsehood and exaggeration about the targets, and, when these are exposed as lies, tries to justify it by loudly drawing attention to ‘the grain of truth.’ And what goes for the grain of truth may simply have been offhand remarks, small talk twisted to vicious and belittling extremes, and isolated incidents of things said and done far in the past.

This kind of backbiting and backstabbing is often tolerated because the abuser puts on his or her charm, and tries to make it entertaining by mixing it with mockery, ridicule and counterfeit compassion. The purpose is to isolate the target socially and to make the target a recipient of ridicule and contempt.

It only takes several reminders from scripture to show the wickedness of this subtle but pernicious behavior:

  • “Whoever conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.” (Proverbs 10:18).
  • When words are many, sin is not absent . . . “ (Proverbs 10:19)
  • “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends . . .” (Proverbs 16:28).
  • “A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue.” (Proverbs 17:4).
  • “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19)

Several extremely reasonable questions can usually bring this to a stop. I’ve adapted these from Neil Anderson and Charles Mylander, Setting Your Church Free: A Biblical Plan to Help Your Church.

  1. What is your reason for telling anyone/ me this?
  2. Where did I / you get your information?
  3. Have you gone directly to the source?
  4. Have you personally checked out all the facts?
  5. Will you allow yourself to be quoted on this?

It’s also reasonable to ask, on any past incidents or statements asserted as having come from the target, about when and where it happened. Information about other people has an extremely short shelf life, and it may be found to have long past the ‘expiration date’ of having any reasonable validity.

RED FLAG # 2: The abusive person recruits others to spy on his or her targets.

It’s amazing how naive and gullible people can be when the abuser seeks to get information on his or her targets. The abuser seduces them into being his spies and informants. This often accelerates when the targets start to distance themselves from the abuser. The spies, which become known as the dupes and henchmen of the abuser, apparently do not make the connection that the reason the targets distance themselves from the abusers is because they find the abusers to be dishonest, untrustworthy, envious, and cruel.

It’s noteworthy that no one in scripture who is wearing a ‘white hat’ – Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Paul, and especially Jesus – ever did anything like this. Rather, it is the ones with ‘black hats’ – Saul (I Samuel 22:8) and Tobiah (Nehemiah 6:19) especially – who do this. Moreover, one of the common complaints against the unrighteous in the Psalms is that they engage in this kind of spying and gossiping on others. This kind of behavior therefore cannot be justified as having any scriptural basis in either precept or example.

RED FLAG # 3: The abuser stalks the target from place to place and sometimes for years.

This is a particularly strong red flag, and it can in fact be a felony in many US states. Here is the Ohio definition of ‘Menacing by Stalking’ (Ohio Revised Code 2901.211):

No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person . . . .

The pattern of conduct includes . . . a threat of physical harm to or against the victim . . . and thus would include repeated attempts of deliberate physical intimidation.

“Mental distress” means any of the following:

Any mental illness or condition that involves some temporary substantial incapacity;

Any mental illness or condition that would normally require psychiatric treatment, psychological treatment, or other mental health services, whether or not any person requested or received psychiatric treatment, psychological treatment, or other mental health services.

There is much more to the statute, of course. This kind of behavior is often is characteristic of the obsessive controller or person who will not let go of a grudge. This kind of person will often continue to try to ‘get at’ the target even if the target tries to put some distance between himself and herself and the abuser. Any believer should therefore beware of anyone that tries to get  a group in a church fellowship or in any kind of ministry situation to play tormenting games against someone else as  kind of vicious entertainment, to ‘mess with his or her mind’, and understand that the other person may well be trying to incite others to conduct which is not only unChristlike and unscriptural, but also probably illegal and may potentially rise to the level of  felonious conduct.

RED FLAG # 4: The abuser makes insinuations against the mental stability of the targets.

False accusations of mental illness and instability by abusers are one of the most common markers that the abuser is pursuing some malicious and vindictive agenda. It’s amazing how so few note how eminently unqualified the abusers are to make any such allegations and amateur diagnoses. They often throw out labels in a pretense of a sophisticated understanding of mental illness. This works for a little while because they know that others may not understand and will not take the trouble to verify what the abuser is actually saying.

There are two possible bases for the insinuations that may be evident. The first is that the target may actually be going through some life crisis, and may actually be suffering in some way. Or the abuser has heard of a previous life crisis of the target, and is presenting to others the past suffering of the target as an ongoing and present reality. It’s actually normal, though, for a person to be sad and hurt over a lost relationship, sudden unemployment, the death of a relative or some other life crisis for a period of time. It’s extremely cruel and callous for anyone to insinuate this kind of normal reaction is any kind of mental illness or evidence of any kind of mental instability. Rather, it fits into the abuser’s campaign to isolate and torment the target, to exploit their times of suffering to deepen the misery that they want to inflict on the target.

The second possible justification is that the alleged mental illness and instability of the target is actually the sadness, hurt and avoidance from the prolonged suffering caused by the abuser. Over the past few years some psychiatrists have come to the conclusion that some sufferers of depression, for example, are simply in prolonged abusive relationships, and that medicating them for depression amounts to anesthetizing the victim of abuse to the effects of the abuse – which is exactly what the abuser wants. The person who actually is demonstrating mental instability is the abuser. One of the signs that this is true is that after a period of separation from the abuser the target starts to show less evidence of sadness and hurt and starts to get back to getting closer to others. This time of separation, when the target is visibly more ‘normal,’ sometimes alerts others, then, that the behavior of the abuser is the real problem.

It’s logical to inquire very pointedly about the qualifications and reasoning of anyone who makes any insinuations about the mental stability of any adult who has not been professionally diagnosed and is not under professional care. Upon honest examination many times these will be found to be slander. Moreover, it is reasonable for anyone who hears any gossip about anyone who actually is undergoing any kind of professional care to put a stop to it, since such gossip and insinuations are practically never the business of the recipients of the gossip. Moreover, this kind of slander often seems to be an effort to undermine legitimate efforts by the targets to overcome past difficulties and suffering, to put and keep them having to deal with isolated incidents far in the past, and to grow and go deeper in the Lord. And again, this kind of behavior can have severe legal consequences for the abuser, with consequences spelled out in slander, libel and stalking statutes.

RED FLAG # 5: The abuser exercises assumed and legitimate authority in a Satanic, not a Christ like, manner.

The abuser often assumes authority over others that he or she has not earned, or may seek some legitimate authority. The abuser’s exercise of authority is most definitely not in a Christ like way. Moreover, it is indicated in scripture and throughout the experience of Christians around the world and throughout history, that these kinds of leaders are often under demonic deception. At times they become troubled over their behavior, but the deep and stubborn pride that goes along with the deception often precludes facing the truth and coming the depth of repentance needed to escape the net of deception.

  • The abuser sees authority as authority over other people for self aggrandizement. For him or her, authority is not a place of responsibility before God to glorify God and a place to serve others in a Christ like fashion (Luke 24:24-27, I Peter 5:2, II Corinthians 1:24).
  • The abuser does not serve as an example of his or her own expectations, but demonstrates incredible hypocrisy in the conduct of his or her office (I Peter 5:3).
  • The abuser is incredibly dishonest, vindictive and cruel in the exercise of authority. The abuser uses a lie at every opportunity to cover his or her mistakes and misconduct and to make life miserable for his or her targets. This demonstrates his affinity to ‘the father of lies.’ Sometimes this issues in false prophecy as well (cf. the false prophet Shemaiah and the prophetess Noadiah in Nehemiah 6:10,14).
  • The abuser believes and demonstrates that he or she can and will use any means, malicious and wicked as it may prove to be, to get others to follow his or her wishes, even when these wishes are clearly unscriptural and malicious. Sometimes the abuser, under demonic deception, even believes and says that God has given him or her special permission to inflict hardship, difficulty, suffering and ‘discipline’ upon the target. Legitimate scriptural authority is authority to build up, not to tear down (II Corinthians 10:8).
  • The abuser attempts to conduct and pursues virtual murder against his targets from the position of authority. This is not an attempt to extinguish the physical life of the target but rather to extinguish the God given individuality of the target where it differs from the abuser’s likes and dislikes. Often it seems to be an incredibly arrogant attempt by the abuser to remake the target in his or her image. Those in abusive relationships often attest to the torment of this attempted slow, insidious personality murder. The goal of scriptural authority, rather, is the Christlikeness of the person who has been made in the image of God, and sanctifies the God given individuality of the person that he has created (Romans 8:28-30).

The leaders and members of the body of Christ must understand their responsibility before God to recognize, to refuse to assist, to rebuke, and to place these abusers under church discipline if there is no repentance (Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, Ephesians 5:11). They must recognize that these actions cannot be whitewashed with claims of love or good intentions. These red flags mentioned above are not intended to serve as license for either undue suspicion or intrusiveness, but for discernment of problems which are often camouflaged underneath counterfeit spirituality.

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Characteristics of the Addict, the Codependent and the Addictive Relationship System

The following list was compiled from a number of sources and embellished with personal observations.

Codependent: Addict:
Uses others’ problems to avoid facing own problems Uses substance as self medication to avoid facing own problems
Protects addict from consequences of behavior Relies on codependent for cover for behavior
Emotionally manipulated Emotionally manipulative
Enmeshed with addict in exploitative relationship Enmeshes others and exploits them
Denial of abnormal situation Denial of own abnormality
Self centered perspective Self centered perspective
False agreement/cooperation Extreme dishonesty and deceit
Perfectionism Perfectionism
Illusion of control over self and others Illusion of control over self and others
Life centered on problems and crises Life centered around problems and crises which are often deliberately instigated
Dualistic evaluation of self and others as all good or all bad Dualistic evaluation of self and others as all good or all bad
Fabricates and instigates personality conflicts Fabricates and instigates personality conflicts to keep others off balance
Difficulty, often extreme,in listening to others and communication with others Forgetfulness and memory loss: does not learn from own mistakes or from others
Fearful Self centered fear of loss
Externalization of problems on others; the ‘selfless victim’ of abuse Externalization of problems on others: projection, scapegoating, blameshifting, isolation/abuse paradigm
Emotionally stifled Emotionally frozen when sober
Prefers excited misery to calm, growing, collaborative relationship of equals Instigates conflicts through triangulation, covert aggression
Unsure of and guesses at normal behavior Whitewashes own character flaws as being actual virtues and not harmful to others; claims of ‘good intentions’ justifies anything

Interpersonal Rules of the Addictive System

  1. Do not talk about problems; deny that they exist.
  2. Do not express feelings openly; do not feel pain, sadness or joy.
  3. Communication must be indirect, through third parties (go betweens and buffers). Technical term: triangulation.
  4. Show no weakness; nothing must threaten the image of being good, right and perfect.
  5. Appease and make those in control look good at all costs.
  6. Those in control have the right to be selfish but no one else does.
  7. Do as I say but not as I do; follow the words but ignore the example.
  8. Do not play or be playful; spontaneity and humor is childish.
  9. Do not attempt to change the status quo.
  10. Those in control follow no rules and are responsible to no one.
  11. Everyone must anticipate, follow and cater to the moods of those in control.
  12. What matters the most is personal relationships is control. Might and position makes all things right.
  13. Those in control know it all; those not in control know nothing.

Seven Characteristics of Addictive Relationships

I do not know the source for the following list. It is in my personal notes. Its relationship to the above is obvious.

  • Magical and Unrealistic Expectations

    The fantasy is primarily that the relationship with the right person will fix me and my problems. It is not companionship with someone to share mutually satisfying activities.

  • Desire for Instant Gratification

    The relationship with another person is treated pretty much as a drug to escape one’s own problems rather than as sharing love and companionship.

  • Consistent and Pervasive Dishonesty

    Key character flaws are kept under wraps rather than gradually and honestly disclosed as part of mutual understanding.

  • Compulsive Overcontrol and Coercion

    Personal cooperation and free choice are rejected even when freely given because personal control is all that matters.

  • Lack of Trust in the Other Person in the Relationship

    There is no rational trust in someone who has proven love and trustworthiness.

  • Social Isolation

    Outsiders are a threat to the special and forcibly exclusive relationship.

  • Recurring Cycle of Intense Pain and Intense Pleasure

    The cyle is described as:
    Intense pleasure in a very charming, seductive relationship ->
    Intensifying pain and anger from differences and disagreements ->
    Intense verbal abuse and physical violence ->
    Disillusionment with the other person and complete blameshifting for the conflict ->
    Fear of abandonment by the other person leading to desperate attempts to make up for the abuse and violence ->
    Intense pleasure again.

    The repeating cycle reinforces itself through the periods of painfree pleasure to where the periods of pain become bridges to more perceived pleasure and pseudo-intimacy.


Characteristics of Adult Children

I do not know the source for the following list either. Again, its relationship to the above is obvious. It lists the characteristics of adult children. Adult children are people whose maturation has been arrested, stymied or sabotaged through growing up in an addictive family system.

  • Alienation: no sense of belonging

  • Inadequate sense of appropriate public and social behavior.

  • Fear of abandonment from unreliable childhood familial connections.

  • Easily infatuated with the emotionally unavailable.

  • Continues in familiar cycle of emotional abuse and physical violence as perpetrator or victim.

  • Defiance of authority

  • Hypersensivity: takes innocuous remarks personally very easily.

  • Overcontrolled and fearful of spontaneity.

JESUS AND THE ABUSED: HIS HELP

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18.

  • Recognize Christ alone can be the Savior from sin for both yourself and the abuser.

A sinful life pattern which often emerges is a compulsion to try to “help” the abuser out of his pattern. This pattern becomes more pronounced often if the abuser is also an addict to drugs or alcohol or sexually promiscuous. This pattern of compulsive attempts to “help” likewise is a sinful reaction to the abuse, that of presumption. No human being has either the capacity or responsibility to “help” another person out of his sinful life patterns in an unscriptural fashion.

  • Receive his forgiveness and power to overcome sinful emotional reactions to abuse.

An abused person is a victim, of course, but still remains a human being under the power of fallen human nature. A perfect victim would not react to suffering by falling into sinful reactions; unfortunately, victims who themselves have the tendencies of fallen human nature often do.

The Apostle Peter wrote the description of Jesus’s example of the proper reaction to suffering for those who suffer:

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

He committed no sin,

and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we, having died to sins, should live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like seep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”(I Peter 2:21-25).

Peter’s description of the Christlike reaction to suffering originally was meant for Christian slaves who were undergoing abuse by cruel masters. It is, though, applicable to anyone who has undergone physical and verbal abuse.

The essence of the reaction of Jesus was that the sin of his abusers did not mean for him to react with sin.

  • First, he refused the aggressive reaction to verbal and physical abuse; he did not retaliate with insults to the verbal abuse offered to him, nor did he react with threats of violence to the violence inflicted upon him.
  • Next, he refused the passive reaction of fear to the verbal and physical abuse inflicted upon himself, by the strength of his trust in the justice of God the Father. His suffering of the cross was by no means because of any personal weakness and helplessness. Jesus was not a “wimp”; in fact, he could have avoided the cross entirely and could have left the cross at any time if he were not totally surrendered to the will of the Father to suffer and die for the sins of the world.

The suffering of Jesus was, moreover, a constructive, purposeful suffering. The whole purpose of the crucifixion was, from the intention of Satan, to destroy him. In the purpose of God, though, he turned it into good for those that he loved by making it the sacrifice for the sins of the world and the payment for eternal life for his followers. His suffering then meant freedom for his followers from the power of sin, so that they could live in the power of righteousness in eternal life. Even more, his suffering provided healing for his people; reading this passage, Christian slaves might think of their healing from the marks of their beatings by his being beaten and whipped for them.

Apart from a scriptural understanding of and Christlike reaction to suffering, an abused person can generally fall into one of two sinful life patterns in reaction to his or her abuse.

1. The reaction of fear: This can become a life-dominating fear of others that will mean further sins of unbelief and disobedience:

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare (a stumblingblock to many sins),

but whoever trusts in the Lord will be kept safe”

(Proverbs 29:25).

2. The reaction of anger: This can lead to an aggressive life pattern in which the abused becomes the abuser, through having seen and imitated his relations to others:

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man,

do not associate with one easily angered,

or you may learn his ways,

and get yourself ensnared”

(Proverbs 22:24-25).

  • Receive the comfort of Jesus for the pain and anguish of your suffering.

The comfort of Jesus means his promise and offer of healing for a broken heart: II Corinthians 1:3-5; comfort for those who have suffered; the abused can be comforters to those who suffer, sympathetic and the avenues of the comfort of Christ to others, avoid becoming abusive, because you know how it feels

  • Allow Jesus to mold a new respect in dealing with earthly authority.

Sometimes the abused have problems with trust and dealing with earthly authorities. They may reject earthly authority and become fiercely independent. But this means becoming like sheep going astray, each one turning to his own way. Jesus is the authority who understands and who cares above all others. Trusting Jesus and his will is the first step back to a right relationship with earthly authorities.

  • Allow Jesus to guide, strengthen and fill you for a new life of loving others as he has loved you.

The abused often have problems with love and vulnerability. But caring for others will mean learning to become vulnerable to others again. This means coming close enough and trusting enough to be hurt again. Note that Jesus puts his heart on the line every moment in his relationship with us!

  • Learn how valuable you and others are to God as human beings as the basis of a proper self respect and respect for others.

Learning your personal value to God means learning also the value of others as well. This means unlearning any habits of denigration of others: James 3:9: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”

  • Live in the new reality of who you are in Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

JESUS AND THE ABUSED: HIS SYMPATHY

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus understands suffering. The course of his trial and crucifixion shows that he knows by personal experience the depths of physical and verbal abuse by other human beings. Though he is the almighty Son of God, the reality of his human nature means that it was not any less painful for him. His pain and suffering not only paid the price for the sin of the world, though; his suffering also provides perfect insight into the nature, endurance and purpose of suffering.

Death by crucifixion was especially feared and disdained because death came only at the end of an extended process that was not only physically painful but also the ultimate violation of a person’s humanity and identity. This is why the crucifixion could be called the ultimate abuse. Because he endured all that without a single sinful thought or word, Jesus demonstrates to the believer the godly way to understand, accept and transcend his own suffering, since he is the ultimate example of a totally innocent person who suffered.

Those who have undergone abuse in some way — physical, verbal and emotional, even sexual — often have a hard time facing, understanding and transcending their experience of abuse. The believer in Christ, though, has someone who understands and has experienced the ultimate abuse himself, and can stand beside and help the believer to understand his or her experience, through his own experience on the cross. Moreover, the Lord Jesus can give more than the understanding of that experience; he can give perfect sympathy, comfort, a new life and meaning to that suffering which will mean good for others out of what may have seemed pointless pain.

Considering one’s suffering may be extremely difficult. Sometimes the memories can be very deeply buried, and even when the memories can more easily come to mind, they may provoke reactions such as denial which hinder the process of proper understanding and conquest. Sometimes well meaning fellow believers influenced by teachings on “healing of memories” or “healing of emotions” will take one through semi mystical or magical sessions of visualization or prayer aimed at emotional relief, and indeed there is some temporary relief, but the deep underlying patterns are not altered. Consideration of one’s suffering in the light of the suffering of Jesus, though, may enable one to face honestly and openly what one has suffered from others. It also would provide something more than mere emottional relief, but definite answers on the proper reactions to suffering as well as the sympathy of someone who has also suffered.

Scripture definitely enjoins consideration of one’s suffering alongside that of Jesus: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). Indeed, this may be one more reason why the gospels go into the account of Jesus’s suffering in more detail than any other period of his earthly life, so that suffering believers can find his sympathy and understanding of their suffering. This consideration of the suffering of Jesus with one’s own suffering, though, is not unwarranted psychologizing of scripture; it is an application of the scriptural pattern of the comparison of the sufferings of Jesus with those of his people.

The Lord Jesus has given the believer the promise of his spiritual companionship: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21). Before you begin the process of understanding your suffering by understanding his suffering first, reaffirm to the Lord your love for him and your commitment to demonstrate this through obedience to him. Ask him, as your best and closest friend, to be with you in this time, to speak to you through his Word, to guide, strengthen and comfort you as you share together in this time of special trust and spiritual intimacy. Jesus knows your experience, not just because he knows all things (John 20:17), but through his personal human experience in the time of his betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.


  • The suffering of Jesus came through the betrayal of a trusted friend:

The betrayal of the trust Jesus had placed in a friend led to his suffering. See Matthew 26:47-50, Mark 14:43-46, Luke 22:47-48, John 18:2-9. Judas Iscariot had lived with Jesus for three years as one of the trusted Twelve. Even during the Last Supper, when Jesus offered him a special morsel, it was an offer of lasting friendship and a silent appeal for him not to betray him. But when the betrayal came it was even through an act of false friendship — a kiss. Jesus thus knows what it is like to have been betrayed.

One of the characteristics of much abuse is that it comes often through those whom we had felt some reason to trust — a family member, a spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or some other friend or neighbor. Write down the names of those whom you trusted who brought suffering upon you.Ask the Lord to give you his strength to forgive each one completely, for the breach of trust first of all, and then each aspect of your suffering.

Note also that Judas acted under direct Satanic instigation (Luke 22:3, John 13:2, 27). What Judas’s real motive was in the betrayal of Jesus was is not revealed, but the fact that he accepted a bribe for the betrayal suggests that it was at least partially greed. As the treasurer of the group, Judas pilfered from their funds, and this secret sin of stealing seems to have been how Satan gained access to his heart. Often the abusive and instigators of abuse share this same characteristic, that their actions come through demonic instigation, especially if their attacks are directed against believers in Christ. Jesus knows what it means for us to face the fiercest attacks of the enemy through human agents.

Satan does not seem to gain access to the hearts of abusers through greed, though. He finds his foothold in the desires and emotions of the fallen human nature which scripture calls the flesh. There are two specific ways that this seems to come about:

1. Through anger: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). The abusive many times are holding in a great store of resentment. This seething anger may erupt in violence against the innocent or in response to mere annoyance and irritation.

2. Through a desire for power over another person: ” . . . if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts . . . Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, carnal, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:14-16). Abusers often have such a desire to control their circumstances that they will resort to extremes of deceit and violence even in their own families. Moreover, this explains why an abusive person can seem almost supernaturally cunning: his human nature furnishes the footholds for demonic influence. Like Judas, an abusive person can suffer severe pangs of conscience after the suffering of their victims becomes clear (Matthew 27:3-4). In the case of Judas, the remorse was so great as to drive him to suicide (Matthew 27:5). Abusers can go through suicidal depressions as well, but they may also seek to escape their consciences through drugs, alcohol, or sexual immorality. This is why an abuser can go through tremendous psychological and physical degeneration, and can become a confirmed addict, if he or she is not one already.

Another way an abuser may try to deal with his conscience is by attempting a reconciliation with his victims. The apologies and attempts to make it up can sometimes give their victims that they really are going to change, and arouse their compassion in a desire to “help” a person with such remorse. Unfortunately these change rarely last longer than the emotions which spawned the apologies. Genuine change shows itself in a deep repentance.


  • His closest friends abandoned Jesus during his time of suffering:

See Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50. All the disciples fled, although Peter and John later came to trail the mob who had apprehended Jesus. This then led to Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus when he was confronted with the fact. All those who had said they would not abandon him and even that they would die for him failed when put to the test.

Often in situations of abuse there are those with genuine affection but no courage or strength to stand alongside the abused. Many times those who fail us are also believers in Christ as well. Jesus’s friends failed him, too. He forgave them and later restored them to useful places of ministry. Write down the names of those friends who failed you. Tell Jesus that you want to forgive them as he forgave the apostles for their abandonment, and ask him for his strength to do so. Ask him also to work it out that the relationship can be restored to stronger, more affectionate and more mutually helpful than it was before.


  • Jesus’s suffering came through injustice from the authorities:

See John 18:13-24, where Jesus, in his preliminary hearing before Annas, the “retired” but probably de facto, high priest, was struck illegally for an allegedly disrespecful answer to a question probably meant to induce him to incriminate himself. Jesus then pointed out the injustice of this treatment.

In his actual trial before the Jewish ruling authorities, Jesus faced:

  • beatings and mockings before the trial and afterwards from the Jewish Temple guards
  • an trial held at an illegal time (before dawn)
  • the acceptance of false testimony by the authorities without any cross examination
  • condemnation to death upon a direct question from the high priest, who was to remain neutral as he presided

From his trial before the Jewish ruling council Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, for the confirmation of the death sentence. Here he faced:

  • further beating and mocking from Roman guards
  • further false accusations
  • the preference of a murderer to himself
  • three separate acquittals by the governor before the death sentence was imposed

Many times an abusive situation includes injustice from the civil and religious authorities, either in failure to enforce civil and spiritual sanctions or actual collusion with the abuser. Those who were to uphold the civil law and the Word of God do not always do so. This means that the victim of abuse often can have great difficulties in trust and cooperation with legitimate spiritual and civil authorities, even those who are genuinely trustworthy and ready to help, because the others have shown themselves untrustworthy, uncooperative or even hostile; in short, unjust.

Write down the times of injustice that you have experienced, and the names of those who were responsible. Tell Jesus that you forgive them, as you trust him for the strength to do so and to make it stick. Ask him also to enable you to have a scriptural view on the civil, spiritual and family authorities that God has established in this world, so that you will not be brought into sinful rebellion against the just and conscientious in reaction to the unjust, uncooperative and hostile. (Family authorities need to be included also, because sometimes abuse comes from them also, and general infiltration of an underlying attitude of rejection of authority can disrupt family life also.)


  • Jesus’s suffering meant intense physical pain and physical helplessness:

By the time Jesus had been sentenced to crucifixion, he had already endured beatings from the Jewish Temple guards, the guards of Herod Antipas, and the Roman guards of Pilate. There was normally also a preliminary whipping with a cat o’ nine tails (Matthew 27:26, John 19:1), after which Pilate still tried to have Jesus released. The purpose of the whipping was to weaken the condemned sufficiently that death would come more quickly on the cross.

After the whipping the actual crucifixion began (Matthew 27:33-35, Mark 15:22-24, Luke 23:33 John 19:17-18). Jesus was then fixed to the cross, in a place of utter physical helplessness, by large iron nails, as big and thick as a railroad spike, through his hands and his feet. His reaction was the prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”(Luke 23:34).

Those who have endured physical abuse not only have the painful awareness of the violence upon them but often a sense of shame at their physical powerlessness to retaliate. Jesus also knows what it means to have violent blows assail his body. He knows the sense of physical helplessness before those who are inflicting such pain upon him. His reaction was not retaliation, though, but forgiveness from the heart.


  • Jesus’s suffering included sexual shame:

Jesus was forcibly stripped of all his clothes and nailed to the cross entirely naked before the crowds of onlookers (Matthew 27:35, Mark 16:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23-24). The depictions of the crucifixion have usually left this out by portraying him with a loincloth, and the gospels respectfully do not dwell on this, because it was a well known part of crucifixion. This would have been a tremendous violation of Jesus’s modesty: a Jewish man would have felt an unspeakable shame at this exposure before the crowds.

Many times abuse also includes the violation of sexual modesty and sexual consent. Jesus has a sense of what you have felt in his own human experience, if you have been abused in this manner. Often this violation can lead to unscriptural and dysfunctional attitudes toward sex and marriage itself, as a reaction to the shame and revulsion of this experience. The sexually abused can become either unscripturally immoral or unscripturally inhibited. The solution will then be found in careful understanding and acceptance of the scriptural teaching on romantic love, sex and marriage as the path to sexual sanity.


  • Jesus’ suffering included intense verbal abuse:

Verbal abuse was a constant part of the suffering of Jesus. All that he knew to be true of himself was constantly held up to derision (See Matthew 27:38-43, Mark 15:27-32, Luke 23:35-38, for the verbal abuse that occure while he was on the cross itself). His emotional reaction to all the verbal abuse that he suffered is not recorded, but it is clear that he did not return one hostile or derisive word to all that was offered to him. Jesus knows how it feels to be treated with such disdain, ridicule, and scorn.

In modern America there is a children’s saying that is manifestly untrue:

“Stick and stones may break my bones,
But words will never hurt me!”

Sometimes those who suffer verbal abuse are heaped with an additional shame and derision for the pain that they suffer, as if it means that they are somehow weak people. There is such a thing as oversensitivity, but it often is more on the part of the verbally abusive than the victim. The verbally abusive often blame their victims in this way for the pain that they inflict, as part of the whole pattern of disdain for another human being that underlies their form of abuse.

The Scriptures recognize the real pain that scorn, mocking, and insults inflict upon a person. In the Psalms the effects are often described:

1. Emotionally: shame, heartbreak, loneliness and discouragement:

“You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.”
(Psalm 69:19-20, a Messianic Psalm)

2. Physically: loss of energy, loss of appetite, loss of weight, insomnia: Psalm 31:10, 102:4-9

3. Shyness:

“I said, ‘ . . . I will put a muzzle on my mouth
as long as the wicked are in my presence'”
But when I was silent and still,
not even saying anything good,
my anguish increased.
(Psalm 39:1).

Shyness has been called a reactive sin; it is a pattern of learned silence and lack of assertion in response to the stifling verbal abuse of others. It can be termed a sin inasmuch as it masks resentment and hinders Christlike love and assertive righteousness.

Chronically shy people are often those who have been in an atmosphere of constant ridicule and verbal hostility. Shyness is neither a lasting nor uncommon characteristic; almost everyone is shy at some point in their adolescent or adult lives, and most do grow out of it, though it may be suspected that the most severely verbally and emotionally abused remain the most shy througout their adult lives. Unfortunately, some of the shy become verbally abusive themselves because they have never learned to express themselves courteously and respectfully to others

Often the chronically shy have been treated in such a way that they have little experience in receiving and giving positive, upbuilding communication such as in Ephesians 4:15 ( “. . . speaking the truth in love . . . “) and 4:29. There is a real ministry of the body of Christian modelling and encouraging Christlike assertion and loving communication from the shy.

One of the reasons why the verbal abuse could not have affected Jesus deeply was that it was contrary to the truth about himself that he knew from the Word of God. Likewise you can find strength against verbal abuse in what the Word of God says about you. Write down some of the ways in which you have been verbally abused. Contrast what God’s Word says to be true of you in Christ to the denigration you have received from others. Read through the book of Ephesians and write down what God says that you are in Christ.


  • Jesus had to make arrangements for the care of his family members because of his suffering:

During his suffering Jesus took care to entrust his family responsibility as the eldest son to someone else when he assigned the care of his mother to the apostle John (John 19: 26-27). He knew that he would no longer be able to carry out his human family responsibilities any longer; first, because of his suffering and imminent death, but later because of his resurrection and ascension. He knows what that physical separation from family feels like.

Sometimes an abusive situation requires separation from family members for one reason or another. Write down those from whom you have been separated. Commit each one to the care of God first of all. Write down what measures you can take to ask others in the body of Christ to care for them.


  • Jesus experienced the ultimate loneliness during his suffering:

Jesus faced the abandonment or helplessness of all his friends in the course of his trial and crucifixion, and finally even God the Father seemed far away: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). Thus Jesus knows how it feels not to have a sense of the presence of God in the moment of deepest suffering.

Jesus’s sense of separation from God the Father was due to his bearing the wrath of God for the sins of the world, but even so he knew that he was not truly abandoned by the Father. As he anticipated his suffering the next day, he told the apostles, “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32). In his last breaths, in his expression of trust in the Father despite this sense of separation, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). This demonstrates that the feelings of separation or abandonment may not reflect a true breach of fellowship with God.

Many believers have testified to an unusual sense of the presence of God during suffering; others have also said that they have felt abandoned by God during that time. Sometimes believers develop a bitterness against God because of this sense of emotional abandonment. The truth is that God is there and that he cares regardless of the emotional sense of his presence during that time of suffering. ” . . . God has said,

‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

(Hebrews 13:5)

The reality of God’s presence and care cannot be restricted to a human emotional phenomenon nor to the vicissitudes of human circumstances, but comes from the declaration of his Word of his care and presence regardless of human emotion or circumstances. Realize that God was there during the time of your deepest suffering, and that he cared when you experienced your most difficult pain. Thank him for that, and for the truth that he will always be there for you in the present and the future, because he has promised just that.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Dealing with the Tactics of Emotional Abuse

These guidelines were distilled from a number of sources. The tactics of the manipulator are often found in the Bible in the behavior of characters such as Laban, Tobiah, Sanballat, Saul and others who certainly weren’t the ones wearing the ‘white hats.’

1. Note the tactics that the manipulator is using:


  • Denial (whitewashing aggressive actions)

  • Selective inattention (playing dumb or acting oblivious)

  • Rationalization (excuses for inappropriate or harmful behavior)

  • Diversion (changing the subject, dodging the issue, bringing up long past issues)

  • Lying (withholding information, distorting the truth, exaggeration)

  • Covert intimidation (veiled threats to intimidate or silence)

  • Guilt tripping (trying to make the other person feel guilty, playing on that person’s conscience)

  • Shaming (subtle sarcasm and putdowns to induce fear, self doubt in others)

  • Playing the victim role (portraying oneself as the innocent victim of circumstance)

  • Vilifying the victim (putting the victim on the defensive by pretending to be responding to or defending against the aggression of the victim)

  • Playing the servant role (cloaking self serving agenda in the guise of service to a more noble cause)

  • Seduction (charming, praising, flattering or overly supporting others to elicit trust and loyalty)

  • Blameshifting and scapegoating

  • Blindsiding

  • Traps and something for nothing pseudo-exchanges

  • Exaggerations and grandiose self promoting stories

  • Minimization of the pain and hurt to others from his or her behavior


2. Redefine the terms of engagement.


  • Describe what you think that the aggressor wants in this situation and why it may be inappropriate.

  • Describe your own needs and wants in this situation.

  • Describe what personal limits are acceptable to you: what behavior to tolerate and when to take action.

  • List your direct requests (“I want you to . . . “, and “I don’t want you to . . . anymore”), and your requests for direct responses to these requests.

  • List any possible responses (stonewalling or outright refusal, yelling, etc) and counterattacks and your own responses that the aggressor might and could do to avoid perception of losing.

  • List your personal support system.

  • Describe an appropriate win/win solution.


3. Prepare for confrontation:


  • Note any previous body language which signals a deceitful, disdainful and aggressive intent: icy smile, intimidating gestures, invasion of personal space, unnecessarily strident or intense voice demonstrating repressed hostility and/or fear. Plan on responses to these if you understand what they signal.

  • Make the inappropriate behavior the issue.

  • Keep the weight of responsibility on the aggressor for behavioral change.

  • Keep the aggressor aware that aggressive tactics will not work.

  • Avoid threats, sarcasm, hostility and putdowns.

  • Use assertive “I” statements to state what you want and need.

  • Stay with the present issue and avoid past issues.

  • Make appropriate, reliable, verifiable and enforceable agreements (win-win if possible).

Church Detox Installment 4: Deal Forthrightly with the Hidden Abuse in the Modern Church

Over the years, I’ve become convinced that there is hidden violence and abuse among the men and women who attend our churches. Often we begin to hear about what takes place in counselling rooms, divorce proceedings, and sometimes even murder investigations. After September 11, as I was reading my Bible, what God actually had to say about violence and abuse seemed to leap out at me more. I was also surprised at how little I had heard about the sinfulness of verbal, emotional and physical abuse in the preaching and teaching ministry of the church over the many years I’ve been a part of the church. I also became ashamed of how many sermons I myself had preached that had not mentioned these kinds of sins. Here are the thoughts that came to me on what seem to be the scriptural responsibilities of the church to deal with this often hidden behavior.

  • Set forth the scriptural teaching about violence and abuse in the preaching and teaching ministry of the church, and call for clear repentance. The most powerful prevention of violence and abuse among professing Christians is for hearts to be cleansed of violent and abusive tendencies through the power of Christ.

  • Make it clear that abuse is not restricted to physical violence but also includes verbal and emotional abuse (ridicule and scorn), the denigration aimed to control or crush the intended victim totally.

  • Make the church a safe place for repentant abusers, and an uncomfortable place for the stubbornly unrepentant.

  • Make clear the resources of the church which are available to help repentant abusers.

  • Deal with bullying of others in the programs for children and youth; abusive adults often start out as bullying children and adolescents.

  • Make the danger signs of a potentially or actually abusive person clear, and incorporate them in youth, college and singles teaching and premarital counselling. The church can prevent many potentially or actually abusive relationships by making it clear what constitutes this kind of person and relationship in the earliest stages.

  • Make it clear that a workplace or other family situation can be an abusive situation as well as a marital or dating relationship.

  • Avoid anything that blames the victims or targets of abuse for their situation. Not all are always 100% innocent, but it is true that many, if not most, do absolutely nothing to bring the abuse upon themselves. Rather, they most often are dealing with an angry, hateful and violent person.

  • Avoid giving the expectation that it is the will of God for a person to remain in an abusive situation. God hates violence as well as divorce.

  • Develop a church policy with the board of elders for church discipline of unrepentant abusers and for the restoration of repentant abusers.

  • Develop a denominational policy for church discipline of unrepentant abusers and for the restoration of repentant abusers among pastors and other church leaders. Titus 1:7 makes it clear that violence, quick temper and domineering, aggressive ways of dealing with others are a disqualification for a position which involves elder authority.

Here are the steps that I would set forth for someone as the way to become a Former Bully and Abuser.

  • Understand that you will stand before God and answer for every word and action in your life.
  • Understand that no religious activity, claims of good intentions or temporary shows of nice and charming behavior will ever make up for your destructive behavior or stubborn, violent and unrepentant heart.

  • Understand that the profession of Jesus Christ as Savior carries with it the obligation to follow Christ as Lord in thought, intention and deed.

  • Abandon any obsessions that you can control yourself and others by your own cleverness, cunning, deceit, strength or persistence or any permissions you have given yourself or rights you have claimed for yourself to control others by deceit and violence.

  • Abandon your longstanding grudges, wicked schemes and personal vendettas against those who have avoided, resisted or exposed your attempts at control and personal sabotage, and release others from your unreasonable expectations.

  • Abandon verbal abuse and manipulation, emotional abuse and manipulation, and physical violence as any way to achieve your ambitions and desires.

  • Take personal responsibility for the pain and destruction you have caused to others through your wicked schemes, verbal abuse and manipulation, emotional abuse and manipulation, and physical violence.

  • Demonstrate truthfulness and trustworthiness rather than demanding trust and making false claims of truthfulness and good intentions.

  • Look at yourself with a new and scriptural view of yourself as a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God with no special privileges before God or man.

  • Take up a new way of Christlike humility and servanthood, and place no obstacles in the way of anyone else seeking to follow Christ.

  • Take up a new way of peacemaking rather than instigation.

  • Take up legitimate scriptural goals and ambitions.

  • Seek to fulfill your legitimate scriptural goals and ambitions through personal skill, diligence and effort with prayerful reliance on God.

“He who covers his sins shall not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them shall find forgiveness” (Proverbs 29:13).

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.