A Simple Prayer

“Lord, lead me out of the crazy place.”

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The Modern Evangelical Church and Mental Illness

I think that for a long time it’s been a hard sell to say much about mental illness in the modern evangelical church. Mental illness has a way of challenging some of our evangelical tropes and the exaggerated conclusions we may draw form them:

  • “Jesus brings us joy”; therefore we should not feel sadness or grief, and if we do, something is wrong with us. Even more, whatever that is that may be wrong with us, I cannot speak truthfully about it because, my fellow believers will neither understand nor accept me because of it.
  • “Jesus brings us peace”; therefore we should not feel anxiety or fear, even though Jesus told us that in the world you will have tribulation.
  • “Jesus brings us love”; therefore if we are rejected and experience heartbreak, there’s something wrong with us – even though Jesus said that the world would hate us because of him.
  • “Jesus changes our lives”; therefore there is something wrong with us if something goes wrong with our thinking processes, even though Jesus told us that we will enter into the kingdom of heaven through many afflictions.

Over the years pastors and churches themselves have often followed the trends of the psychiatric and psychological community, and pastors have often seen themselves as or acted like a kind of junior varsity mental health worker. So they have often enough followed the trend of the psychiatric and psychological community in pathologizing problems of the ‘worried well’  — which we could easily call life adjustment problems –as in the same category as true brain and cognitive disabilities such as the many varieties of schizophrenia and manic depressive illness. Then, too, the casual use of much psychological terminology among proud, intrusive and ignorant people in our churches has often led to real travesties of those who try to play medical doctor or psychiatrist with second hand bits of knowledge and labels. Then again, there has often been real ignorance and actual cooperation of well meaning and compassionate believers with abusive people in the abusive practice of gaslighting.  Then again, any ministry to the poor and homeless will come to an awareness of the role of mental illness in poverty and homelessness – estimates are that in the USA 1/3 of the homeless have severe mental illness and that many of those in our prisons and jails have treatable mental illnesses, and much of this has been attributed to the desinstitutionalization of the mentally ill that took place since the 1960s. Even more, the causes of the kinds of brain diseases and cognitive impairments which are now called mental illness are not certainly known, but much of the current medical community believes that many of those who currently have twill be found to have either an environmental, bacterial, viral or other physiological origin.

I think that the first thing to do is for many to get a handle on where the current state of research is. It is now generally conceded that Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers, among others who dealt in talk therapy and investigating what they thought was happening in the subconscious or as a result of a person’s past were wrong. And it’s unfortunate that many, many pastors, who may not have had much in the way of counseling courses since the 1970s or 1980s, may be attempting to minister with now discredited or superseded theories and understanding of mental illness.In addition, the consensus is growing that there are a number of problems which cause people deep grief, sadness and anguish which are not related to brain dysfunction. Furthermore, when I consider the experience of Jesus himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, I can only think that our understanding of the prevalence of the experience of sorrow and grief in a godly and holy person in our sinful and broken world has been sadly underestimated and often misdiagnosed. So, I offer the following links only as a starting point to get information.

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On a personal note, I’ve had contact over the past decade with many others who qualify as intellectually gifted in terms of IQ. One common theme in the stories of so many is the misdiagnosis of giftedness as a mental disorder even with trained medical professionals. Here’s some more information about this tendency.

Some Things for Consideration

My generation was told that there were no long term consequences to smoking marijuana. Here is something that recently appeared that says otherwise:

Samuel T. Wilkinson: Pot-Smoking And the Schizophrenia Connection: Medical research shows a clear link between marijuana use and mental illness.

In other words, the movie Reefer Madness was partially right. The consequences would be neither immediate nor inevitable, but any activity that has a possible long term consequence that 10% of smokers would develop mental illnesses as serious as schizophrenia is definitely to be avoided.

Another common but not inevitable consequence is amotivational syndrome: “Amotivational syndrome is common amongst long term marijuana smokers. Some symptoms include: increased levels of apathy, difficulty in starting new tasks, not accomplishing or not setting goals, decreased concentration, and a tendency toward introversion.” (http://karen-stephenson.suite101.com/weed-out-marijuana-use-a6461, http://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.com/drugs/marijuana.html) So for those who may manage to avoid schizophrenia may find themselves checked out and unable to cope with life anymore. Again, it is quite reasonable to avoid any activity that may result in this kind of life.

I’ve often said that drug abuse – chemical dependency — needs to be recognized as a work of the flesh similar to alcoholism but which is not specifically named in Galatians 5:19-21. The language clearly leaves open that there are other unnamed activities which are similar to the other works of the flesh which can be included: “ . . . drunkenness, partying and other such similar things, which I warn you in advance just as I already warned you that those who continue to participate in such activities will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Marijuana use was known in the ancient world, since Herodotus mentions its use among the Scythians, but it does not appear to have been an issue among the Jews or the parts of the Roman empire in which Paul ministered. So was opium, but it seems to have been used more for medicine. The religious and ritual use of marijuana and opium would seem to be covered under the word translated ‘sorcery,’ (Greek pharmakeia). It seems that the apostle Paul would have mentioned them more explicitly, though, if they were issues that he had encountered alongside the sexual immorality, drunkenness and partying that was endemic throughout all classes of society in the eastern Roman empire in which he ministered. But this does provide more hope for the chemically dependent: that Jesus Christ can set them free and enable them to live a life of victory in sobriety.

For more information:

Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them

The Lighthouse Network

Teen Challenge USA

The National Association for Christian Recovery

Offical Alcoholics Victorious Headquarters Website

‘Weird’ People, Christlike Love And Pastoral Care

Updated AGAIN!!!

Corrie ten Boom once told a story about an elderly couple who attended her meetings in post World War II Germany. They were from an isolated rural area of Germany, and their unkempt appearance and lack of physical hygiene put off some of the people at the meetings. The more spiritually mature Christians who attended the meetings encouraged the group to accept them and demonstrate the love of Christ to them. Before long, they both made professions of faith in Christ, and without anyone saying anything to them, they began to make use of the washing facilities, laundered their clothes and combed their hair.

The more spiritually mature Christians at those meetings got it exactly right. One of the most difficult human tendencies to deal with is the tendency to label people as ‘weird’ because of the ways that they may differ from others. And most certainly it can be extremely difficult for a person to deal with the dehumanization that may take place once others have given that person the ‘weird’ label. But the question then comes for the fellowship of believers: what are you doing to demonstrate the love of Christ to that person? And the question comes to those in leadership, as pastors and elders: what are you doing to lead the others in the fellowship of believers to show the love of Christ to that person?

The label of ‘weird’ can arise in several different ways. Sometimes it can come from the false expectations, stereotypes, prejudices, and preconceptions of others. For instance, one of my favorite coworkers told me that one of her friends called her, ‘weird,’ because she had minored in art history in college. I advised her that I found that to be quite the opposite of weird. This may well be from mere minor differences in upbringing, educational background, or region of origin. In addition, many times there can be highly exaggerated understandings of what ‘normal’ is, based on looks, popularity or athleticism. A person is not ‘weird’ if he or she is not the best looking person, most accomplished athlete, etc.  Just as much, this can even come from highly exaggerated and misunderstood observations on one time incidents and off hand remarks. For instance, if one encounters someone who has been up all night or who has just experienced the loss of a family member, it should go almost without saying not to make any snap judgments about that person, since one is not encountering that person in normal circumstances. And in all these situations the question remains: what are you doing to demonstrate the love of Christ in that situation?

I venture that the applicable passage of scripture in those more minor situations is Ephesians 4:1-3: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Even more, if there is an inclination to label a person as ‘weird’ because of these minor personal differences, preconceptions and expectations, there are two further questions to consider: what did you expect from that person? And what right do you have to put those expectations upon that person? So in this case, James 4:11-12 applies: “Speak not evil of one another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”

Another way that someone may receive that label is because of social backwardness due to personal immaturity or having come from an addictive, neglectful or abusive family, or even a family with one or more members suffering from a mental illness such as depression. The truth is that neither of these situations is either permanent or spiritually crippling in themselves, and people who are in this situation may have received little more than avoidance, ridicule scorn or angry demands for change from others, and very little of the love of Christ. For instance, there was an episode of the TV series Wonder Years where there was a classmate who was trying desperately to be the friend of Kevin Arnold, the main character. She was socially inept, had a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and had a quirky hairdo, to say the least. The narrator said that his reaction was, “Why did she have to be so weird?” And at the end of the episode, he learned that she was part of a military family which had moved around the country several times a year, so that she never really had much of a chance to develop strong, lasting friendships.

The immature or socially backward person may actually find huge benefit in the stable environment of loving patience in Christ –a church which is living in Ephesians 4:11-16 rather than in I Corinthians 3:3. And for someone who is in the place of immaturity, the need is for growing in knowledge of, faith in and obedience to the Word of God, which “ . . . is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). So the questions then become, “What right do you have to treat that person with contempt or disdain for whom Christ has died due to an unloving, malicious, childish, prejudicial or pejorative label or stereotype? And if you have spread ridicule and tried to involved others in contempt for that person, shouldn’t you rather repent and seek to correct the false and disdainful impressions of another person you’re encouraging? Are you rather willing to sit back, pray, love and let that person grow in Christ?” In these cases the applicable scripture is I Thessalonians 5:14: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”

Finally, someone may receive this label due to demonstrations of irrational and immoral thinking patterns, words and behavior. Here I’m referring to persistent patterns which are markedly deceptive, malicious or even unimaginable for a person in touch with reality, and which cannot be charitably attributed to any of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. These may in fact be signs of an accelerating degenerative addiction or abusive lifestyle, mental illness or even demonic influence. I would counsel against any kind of snap judgment or superficial diagnosis by anyone in these areas, and attribution of any kind of addiction, abuse, mental illness or demonic without due consideration for the alternatives. This is one area where spiritual leaders need to stand strong in firmly rebuking what may turn out to be hateful and slanderous attributions by others and making extremely serious scriptural and sensible assessments if these kinds of patterns are evident. While I don’t have a great deal of experience in making these assessments, here are some things which I’ve learned from others and some situations.

First, do not be determined to find something wrong with someone, to find a label or diagnosis for a person, and, even more, be extremely diligent and cautious to protect each and every confidentiality in these cases. There can be strong legal sanctions in these cases where confidences are breached, particularly if there are violations of HIPPAA regulations in the United States. A spouse, an elder or a fellow pastor is not qualified to be a confidant in such a case, even if someone tries to justify breaking the confidence to request prayer. In addition, no referrals should ever be made without the explicit knowledge and probably written permission of the person being referred, and that person should always be aware of anyone attempting to refer him or her to any professional for anything.

Second, be ready and willing to consider that there may be physical problems which are contributing to the person’s behavior. D. Martyn LLoyd-Jones, whose background as a physician included assisting the leading diagnostician of his day (the Dr. Gregory House of Great Britain), counseled this in his book on healing, and he named some of the problems which could contribute to irrational and eccentric behaviors which might otherwise be labeled as mental illness. With this he agreed with Jay Adams, the originator of the nouthetic branch of pastoral counseling. It may take a thorough physical exam to find a physical cause, but it would certainly be in the path of Christian love and pastoral care to advise a physical exam. A pastor and a church could easily join together to pay doctor’s bills or to refer to a Christian doctor who might perform an exam pro bono for someone who might be in need of such an exam. For more on how physical ailments can be confused with ailments labeled as mental illness, see the Wall Street Journal blog entry on Confusing Medical Ailments With Mental Illness. In addition, an examination specifically for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be in order for people who have come through moderate to severe and protracted physical abuse, particularly if they show signs of heightened vigilance—a kind of unusual caution and jumpiness.

Third, where physical or organic causes, syndromes or illnesses are known, prayer for physical healing is easily an act of Christian compassion and love. Jesus healed those who were, as the King James Version put it, ‘lunatick’, or, in a more contemporary sense, suffering from physical afflictions that caused seizures and other abnormal behaviors. Compassion and faith in Christ to heal out of his own compassion for the physically afflicted are in order here, not fear, mere pity and avoidance.

Fourth, while the pastor, elders and other spiritual leaders need to avoid trying to play the part of amateur psychiatrists, the insights of psychiatrists can be quite helpful, especially when dealing with illnesses that carry perceptual and cognitive distortions such as schizophrenia. While I myself would prefer to offer prayer for healing as well as medication for people who have these kinds of afflictions, in these cases medication may in fact be the plan of God.

Finally, there may be demonic influence in some lives, and in some cases there may be an intertwining of the demonic, the psychological and the physical problems. These kind of problems are pretty rare, although Jesus dealt with cases, such as in Matthew 17:18, where he both took authority over the demonic and healed the person at the same time. Certainly none of those problems are necessarily mutually exclusive. But in the diagnosis of these kinds of problems, both Drs. Kurt Koch and Martyn Lloyd-Jones agree that someone who is truly under demonic influence will have a sense of spiritual darkness and show rejection and avoidance of the Word of God and the name of Jesus and resist prayer in the name of Jesus, sometimes with awful blasphemies and maybe even physical violence. It’s true that a rare few will believe that they are inhabited by demons and perhaps identify real physical symptoms that they are experiencing as demonic, yet remain calm while people are praying for them and honor the name of Jesus and his sovereignty and Lordship. This is most likely confused thinking that comes from an organic cause, and the only people that I’ve encountered like this had been institutionalized. In these cases the pastor may need to team with elders, medical doctors and mental health personnel to deliver wise, scriptural and compassionate treatment.

The Non-Using Alcoholic Or Addict

Updated!

Today I came across an article in my files on, “The Dry Drunk”, the alcoholic who has stopped drinking for the moment. The non-using alcoholic (or addict) tends to retain a set of habits, attitudes and behaviors that persist even when not using the drug of choice. It’s noted that these habits often precede a relapse into using again.

Here is the list:

  • Exaggerated self importance: alternating between “having all the answers” and playing “poor me.”
  • Harsh judgments of both the addict and of others.
  • Impatience.
  • Pursuing whims and impulses rather than clear, ethical, sensible and attainable goals.
  • Fantasizing, daydreaming, wishful thinking, self delusions.
  • Blame-shifting and projection: blaming others for one’s own shortcomings, either real or suspected.
  • Dishonesty in little things proceeding to dishonesty in big things.
  • Impulsive behavior which ignores what is genuinely good for the addict and especially for others.
  • Inability to make decisions.
  • Mood swings.
  • Trouble recognizing and expressing emotions, good or bad.
  • Detachment, self absorption, boredom, distraction, disorganization.
  • Nostalgia for the life under the influence.

Here’s what this means for pastoral ministry: these behaviors, characteristic of early adolescence as well, will most likely remain even in those whom God has granted deliverance from the addictive substance (alcohol or drugs) or behavior (anger, power). For some this may mean being a part of a Christ centered recovery group, such as Recovery in Christ – and I would encourage any pastor to be willing to lead such a group confidentially and to be familiar with a book like Jeff VanVonderen’s on addiction and recovery from a scriptural perspective.  Moreover, these kinds of habits of thought, word and action often creep into the lives of the family and friends of the addict – the ‘dysfunctional behaviors’ of the ‘dysfunctional family.’ I don’t find any New Testament authority that coming to Christ will automatically free anyone from all of these at once. Rather, these are the kinds of attitudes, habits and behaviors which are purified from a believer in the process of sanctification and discipleship – the lifetime of faith in Christ as Lord and Savior and following him as Lord and experiencing him as Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit – the process of “putting off the Old Man”, “being renewed in the spirit of your mind,” and “putting on the New Man” (Ephesians 4:17-24). For pastoral ministry, this will mean praise and thanking God for his deliverance from the substance or behavior, and guiding people into the path of sanctification to spiritual maturity.

Even more, in some ways these kinds of behaviors can creep into the lives of those who are not addicts or who have not come from what could be a ‘severely dysfunctional’ family.* Jesus said, “That which comes out of a man or woman defiles a man or woman; for from inside out of the hearts of men and women come evil thoughts, all sorts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, malic, wickedness, deceit, depravity, the envious and begrudging disposition, slanders against God and man, pride and foolishness. All these things come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). There is nothing in an addict or a person who has grown up in a dysfunctional family which does not already exist in the heart and fallen human nature of the finest Christian or the most esteemed and godly Christian from the finest Christian family in the world, since ultimately, apart from the salvation of Jesus Christ, we all are from the same dysfunctional family – the human race descended from Adam (Romans 5:12-14). Ultimately, the reality that “. . . we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .” (Romans 3:23) and that “. . . all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags . . .” (Isaiah 64:6) means that we all are ‘damaged goods’ as far as having any righteousness of our own, any ability to save ourselves from our sins and to live a life or righteousness, and any ability to bear fruit in Christian ministry and service apart from Christ.

But it certainly must be strongly asserted that there is nothing about one’s past as an addict or background in a dysfunctional family which ultimately means that a person is ‘damaged goods’ as far as serving Christ, being in a church fellowship or even serving in pastoral ministry or missionary service, since we can “ . . . have such a confidence through Christ toward God – not that we are considered to be sufficient in anything fro ourselves – but our sufficiency is from God, and he has made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit – for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (II Corinthians 3:4-6).

So, these kinds of questions need to be asked of anyone who would try to bring up someone else’s past as an addict or as being from a dysfunctional family as being ‘damaged goods’ and precluded from any kind of Christian service.

  • How do you know this? Is this personal knowledge of the person in depth and over a long period of time or it is something which you have heard from someone else? If it’s something you’ve heard from someone else, why isn’t that person taking responsibility for sharing it openly and forthrightly?
  • Are you breaking any confidences in sharing this? My plan is to ask this person directly if you have permission to share this with me, and to bring up your name directly; would you wish to withdraw or retract anything you are now saying or about to say on that basis?
  • Are you willing for this person to know that you are sharing this about him or her? If so, would you have any hesitation for me to contact him or her right now and bring him or her into the discussion with you present?
  • Are you giving due credit to God’s ability to cleanse someone else’s life through the power of his Word and through his Spirit? If these things that you are saying are things that happened in the past, what gives you the right to say that this person has not or is not being saved from them by Christ through the power of his Word and through his Spirit?

I cannot say what a tragedy and deep injustice it would be if anyone were ever blackballed from Christian ministry and an honored position in a church as a brother or sister in Christ because of whisperings about problems which God may have resolved or is resolving. Some years ago I heard a denominational leader who made a public pronouncement about people from dysfunctional families not being ready for preparation for pastoral ministry – and he himself was from a home broken from divorce. In all of this there must be extreme care to give God his due credit and glory for what he can do through anyone’s life through his saving grace in Jesus Christ.

* Some years ago I took the quiz in a book on dysfunctional families on determining whether you are from a dysfunctional family. It was part of my pastoral ministry after I found myself in a long term problem church where 2/3 of the Governing Board members admitted to having grown up in homes where at least one parent was an alcoholic. My family counted as ‘mildly dysfunctional’ on that scale that was in that book. As it turned out, the scale was weighted too heavily on the side of dysfunctionality, and pretty much 60% of those who took it would find that they were from a ‘dysfunctional family’. I don’t doubt that many, many of those from fine Christian families would be surprised to find themselves in that category if they took the same test, since I noticed that the scale would categorize a family as ‘dysfunctional’ if the family had someone who had been the proverbial ‘prodigal’ in the past four generations. The scale was later revised, according to a magazine article I came across several years later, to concentrate on those who came up in the scale as ‘moderately’ to ‘severely’ dysfunctional. A good part of the reason for this was that the scale was resulting in a number of people seeking or being encouraged to seek treatment who didn’t really need it nearly as much as those whose scores came up in the ‘moderately’ to ‘severely’ dysfunctional’ range. I shared this with maybe three or four people, and primarily in a context where I would be trying to encourage someone else not to let his or her background stand in the way of seeking to be as useful as possible to Christ. I definitely would have avoided sharing this in a context or situation to avoid an unnecessary besmirching of my own family’s reputation. But I’ve had some indication that this went through someone else’s malicious editing to where it became a creepy rumor that ‘Poor Dale is from a dysfunctional family.’ So this is the whole story, and not the edited version.

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.

Controlling Others As Counterfeit Love

Some years ago I heard Barbara Cook share the following material. I copied much of it down on the spot, since I was then the pastor of a congregation where most had come from an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family. Much of the following material is  also contained in her book, Love and Its Counterfeits.

Other than a number of the sermons of Erwin Lutzer, I cannot remember ever hearing any pastor call trying to control another person and its attendant deception and emotional, verbal, physical and often spiritual abuse, as sin. Yet Christ is the actual Lord of any believer, and each believer is actually responsible to him completely and eternally (Romans 14:4-12, Ephesians 1:21-23). Pastor Lutzer additionally called it a sign of demonic influence, and I would agree. It’s a sign of someone listening to a deceiving voice telling that person, ‘ . . . you will be like God . . .’ (Genesis 3:5). The unbelievably low cunning and determination which a controlling person can manifest beyond all reason can definitely point to the malicious and deceptive instigation of spiritual wickedness behind the controller. I would challenge all pastors to point out these sins in their preaching in the future.


Obsessions of the Controller

Biblical, Christlike love is servanthood, not control:. . . serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:14). It is seeking the highest good of another person according to the standards of the Word of God. Attempts to control others pollute love, sabotage their God given responsibility for their own lives, and may eventually destroy the relationship. Here are some of the self deceptions of the person who attempts to control others in their lives.

1. Self Deception: “I believe that a person who changes to my specifications will be a better person.”

Reality: This is a dangerous arrogance of personal authority and presumption of personal knowledge of what is best for another person. Only God can be the real judge of what is best for another person.

2. Self Deception: “I am responsible to make another adult do what he should do.”

Reality: Each adult has his own responsibility before God to follow his will, and will answer personally to God for how he has fulfilled that responsibility.

3. Self Deception: “God has given me special insight and capability to help this person make necessary changes in his or her life.”

Reality: This is mistaking the voice of obsession for the voice of the Holy Spirit, and is a rationalization of attempts to play the Hoy Spirit in another person’s life. The real agenda of the Holy Spirit is different than that of another human being, and he does not originate nor stand behind obsessions.

4. Self Deception: “I would be happier if this other person changed.”

Reality: Happiness is dependent upon your personal choice of the will of God.

5. Self Deception: “I meet my emotional needs by exerting power over others.”

Reality: God wants you to find satisfaction in a humble walk with himself.

6. Self Deception: “I am overprotective of those whom I love.”

Reality: God alone is sufficient to protect and defend his people.


Biblical Truths for Rescuers

1. “Results in another person’s life are not my responsibility.”

2. “My preconceived notions of what the end result of my helping may be far from God’s actual intentions for another person.”

3. “I cannot change another person, no matter how much I care and want to help.”

4. “No strings of control are to be attached to my gift of love.”

5. “I am not needed in the role of Messiah.”

6. “I must never underestimate my own human vulnerability.”

7. “I must never overestimate my ability to know what is best for another adult.”

8. “I am not superior. I am just a friend, a person who has chosen to love.

9.”Only eternity will reveal the fruit of love I have sown in other’s lives.”

10. “When I love another person, I offer it as a gift to Christ.”


Counterfeit Love

1. You have given another person power over your emotions.

2. You have given away control of your identity to another person.

3. You have violated your moral standards and beliefs.

4. You have assisted another person in the continuance of a destructive behavior by allowing that person to escape the destructive consequences of that behavior.

5. You have been victimized, manipulated or used.

6. You have submitted to treatment that makes you feel worthless, treatment tht ignores your Godgiven human value and right to respect.

7. You have been refusing to take a serious look at reality.

8. You have repeatedly endangered your physical health and safety and endangered your life.


Guidelines for the Chronic Victim

1. Do something about your safety.

If you are suffering physical abuse or harassment, inform the authorities, and physically separate yourself from the situation.

2. If you are suffering physical abuse, insist that the abuser get help immediately.

Do not return to live with him until he has demonstrated radically changed character and actions through moral responsibility for his behavior. Accept no apologies or promises of change as sufficient without concrete steps to change and demonstrations of change.

3. Let others help you out of your situation.

Form a support system of concerned, trustworthy friends and relatives, especially among brothers and sisters in Christ.

4. Examine your attitudes about love and trust in regard to the scriptures.

5. Go through a life pattern inventory of how your situation has affected you.