I keep writing about abusers because once you know one, live with one, survive one…you can see patterns of abusive personalities in society.
Understanding abuse is like understanding a football playbook. Abusers have a built in playbook and if you know the signs you understand the lurking danger.
Abusers can be found in different settings: domestic, clergy, spiritual leadership, athletics, educational, family court, or anywhere in society. They follow the same playbook/guidelines regardless of where you witness them.
Today I’m comparing what I know to what I saw in
Gayle King’s CBS interview with R.Kelly last night. Singer/songwriter Robert Kelly (R.Kelly) is charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, with children and underage girls, dating back to 1998. He is also accused of holding women against their will in a so called sex-cult. Court documents show three of the victims were between the ages of 13 and 17. At the time of the alleged crimes, Kelly was at least five years older than these victims and there are other allegations that include a child.
R. Kelly’s reactions are typical among abusers, regardless of their background.
Play #1: It begins with denial, repeatedly reaffirms denial, and ends with…denial.
R. Kelly was explosive in his denial but denial can look different from abuser to abuser.
Here are some acts of denial I’ve seen:
These are all forms of denial even though many do it with an air of believability.
Please understand that any emotion mixed with tears IS NOT because the abuser is sorry for what they did. It is from their frustration of their specialness being called into question; their sin or crime being brought into the light of truth. They believe they are above moral code and law and shouldn’t have to answer to anyone. (This is especially true of individuals with narcissistic personality disorder). The tears are not for the victim and not from remorse of doing wrong.
“When we do not understand an abuser’s capacity for deceit we make it is easy for the offender to continue in deception and sadly, often call it ‘grace’. If it lacks truth then it is not grace.” ~Diane Langberg
Here is a detailed list of denial from an abusers’ playbook:
How do we know if an abuser is rehabilitated? Conviction, repentance and change all have to take place. This is the only way you will know if your abuser is sincere.
Don Hennessey, relationship counselor and former director of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency, refers to abusers as psychephiles and lumps them in the same category as pedophiles when it comes to recovery. Statistics agree that abusers stand little to no chance of recovery because they don’t believe they have a problem, and “I’m sorry” isn’t in their vocabulary.
“We all know that pedophiles target children for sexualized abuse.” Don Hennessy coined the word psychephile for the man who abuses his intimate female partner. “A psychephile targets the psyche of the woman he has selected as his target for a long term intimate relationship.”
In How Do We Respond: Part 2 I worked off the premise that, “Domestic violence and abuse of any type is not a marital issue; it is an abuse issue.”
“The abuser needs healing.”
Now on to my reasoning for having the abuser obtain counseling without the presence or help of the spouse: The victim shares no responsibility in the abuser’s character, attitude or actions.
Let’s consider Nabal and Abigail from I Samuel 25. Abagail was living in an abusive nightmare. And let’s make one thing clear: No woman deserves to be abused. Education, social standing, beauty, or lack thereof…nothing gives cause for a human to be treated with abuse yet we read of Nabal, an abusive husband to, Abigail, “an intelligent and beautiful woman.” The Bible describes Nabal as harsh and evil in his dealings. I Samuel 25:3. I understand a good deal about narcissistic personality disorder and will restate what I have read numerous times from Christian psychologists; Nabal was a narcissist. He was utterly selfish, ungrateful, mean, sarcastic, arrogant, and lacked any amount of empathy.
An extremely wealthy Nabal refused David’s request to feed David’s 600 men. That was the hospitable custom of the day for travelers; especially since David and his men had been protecting Nabal’s workers from theft and harm during their stay in the desert. Thereafter, when David went to kill Nabal and the males who belonged to Nabal, he met Abigail riding her donkey on the road. She was a wise woman and was on her way to intercede with food and drinks, and to ask for forgiveness. I imagine she was thinking of her innocent family members; not Nabal. Abigail, “got off her donkey” and pleaded, “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent.” After David listened to Abigail’s appeal, he was impressed by her and thanked her for keeping him from bloodshed that day.
Abigail showed immense courage; plus she was sensible, capable and persuasive. Being an abused woman DOES NOT mean you are weak, incapable, stupid, unattractive, boring in the bedroom, or insensible. Most likely you are strong. How else could you survive the abuse? Nabal could have severely punished Abigail for her independent actions that went against the rules of marriage in those days. David and his men could have taken her life and continued on to massacre Nabal’s household. Yes, Abigail, was strong and courageous.
David was wise. He listened. He took extra time and effort to understand Abigail’s predicament. He did not hold Abigail responsible for her husband’s actions or tell her she held a portion of responsibility for his actions. Neither did the Lord; in fact, when Abigail told Nabal what she had done, “He became like a stone.” Possibly he became so worked up that, “His heart failed him.” Ten days later the Lord took Nabal.
I can’t tell you how many abused women have hoped for such an ending. I would like to take a poll and find out for myself. That may sound terrible but I’m just being honest. The flip side of this is the numerous women who were in total despair, saw no hope, and imagined there was no way out; choosing instead to end their lives with suicide.
Now let us take a look at Lot and his wife in Genesis 19. This is the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; the city which archaeologists claim to have found in the last few years.
Sodom and Gomorrah is a stern, wise warning that indulgence, not restrained by the Holy Spirit in us, arouses lust and can leave us continually wanting more. Lot, his wife and their family were told to, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back.” Lot’s wife disobeyed the urgent command and looking back, turned into a pillar of salt. Did the Lord judge Lot by his wife’s actions? No. Lot’s wife made an independent decision and received the foretold consequence for her actions.
Now we will look at Joseph in Genesis 39. He acted honorably with truth yet Potiphar’s wife persuasively lied resulting in Joseph’s imprisonment. I believe Potiphar probably knew his wife was lying and that is why he, “Burned with anger” when he heard the accusation. Because Potiphar’s entire household, including slaves and servants, heard the charge; he was forced to take swift action. Potiphar chose not to have Joseph executed; in fact, Potiphar (Captain of the guard a.k.a.; prison warden) still trusted and respected Joseph and saw fit to place Joseph in charge of everyone, and responsible for everything done in the prison.
This is often what women go through in joint counseling when the husband spins a different story. They play the role of victim and the wife gets scolded; leaving her isolated, in despair and in an emotional prison because the professional they trusted to see through the grand acting is blind, deaf and dumb to his antics. Her husband looks great to others around them, and she hurts and grieves horrifically behind closed doors in her home. It is common for the wife to be disbelieved; leaving her beaten down. The wife may feel like the counselor just dug her grave so her husband could bury her alive.
Another problem women tend to have is that some male counselors refuse to call the husband on the carpet over his abuse in front of the wife due to the patriarchal system to which some Christians adhere. In such cases the counselor will reprimand the wife for her desperation or for showing emotional responses to her deep marital wounds. A patriarchal social system can be defined as a system where men are in authority over women in all aspects of society; a false sense of male entitlement. This system employed by an abuser can lead to further verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse in the home; silencing the victim. We need people who will hear and,
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8-9.
Many in our own American culture seem to hold a view of women as substandard beings. Case in point: Google all the revolting, insensitive, demeaning statements presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, says about women. We don’t need him standing at the top of that slippery slope encouraging other men to join him for the ride.
The church needs to educate itself on domestic abuse. There are women you see in church every Sunday who are sitting next to their abuser. She has done nothing wrong and yet most counselors would give her at least a gentle rebuke for saying anything negative about her husband when she desperately needs someone to hold the abuser accountable. A gentle rebuke for the abuser serves no purpose; in fact it is a nauseating jest for the woman, as nothing changes. Only strong accountability by the church and a counselor who specializes in rehabilitating abusers will help.
To read a chilling account of a husband and wife who both lacked integrity and who were equally paired in their deceptive ways, duly receiving the same consequence, read Acts 5:1-11. This lesson is not about marital abuse but rather marital co-conspiracy. Peter exposed their fraud of lying to the Holy Spirit and embezzlement. The punishment was proportionate to both; death.
Isaiah 1:17 reads, “Learn to do good; seek justice; reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.” Women in this situation are widows; sometimes they are married widows because their husbands have emotionally and spiritually divorced them.
When abuse revelations come forth from a woman in ministry, or she is married to a spouse in ministry, or is publicly well-known—few are interested in hearing the truth of her suffering, and fewer are willing to risk supporting her. It’s uncomfortable to hear. Unless you are living it, it is difficult to imagine such behavior is possible from someone who has been held in such high regard. Although the husband has emotionally and spiritually left the wife he pours on the charisma, charming smiles, spiritual talk, and engaging conversation to outsiders.
“I fear many of us have confused Christendom with Christ. We equate Christian institutions and organizations with the Son of God. They are not the same. Christendom is not even the same as the true body of Christ. Jesus Himself told us that. He said there are tares among the wheat, wolves among the sheep, and whitewashed humans posing as believers — sometimes in leadership. We long to be comfortable somewhere, to fit in, to feel at home, and so we let ourselves think Christendom is safe and fail to see and assess and discern. Instead we listen and follow, or we remain silent. Many poor sheep have unknowingly followed a blind guide and landed in a pit. Christendom, like all institutions or organizations, tries to protect itself. If you doubt that, just expose a case of child sexual abuse by a leader and watch what happens. Christendom has used Scripture to support or hide slavery, racism, domestic violence, and other cruelties our God hates. I fear Christendom today has become less interested in truth and more interested in power and protecting that power. Many have acquired fame, money, status, reputation, and kingdoms. At the same time we are steeped in pornography, marriages are failing in large numbers, the next generation is turning away, and we tolerate leaders in our organizations and pulpits who feed off the sheep. We have had a lot of recent headlines about Christian leaders and Christian systems that look nothing like our Lord. Christendom is not Christ.”¹ – Diane Langberg
This reminds me of when leaders were waiting to see if Jesus would challenge Sabbath teachings by healing a man, (Mark 3) and a woman (Luke 13) on that day. Jesus did heal the needy man and woman, and he told the leaders that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. I believe the same applies to marriage.
The church must choose to love people more than they love things such as the institution of marriage. My commitment to my marriage covenant, and my false belief that divorce was wrong in all cases, kept me in a very sick and dangerous marriage for too long. You cannot make your husband love you, or reason with him to stop the abuse.
Wives in abusive relationships long for their abuser to be reasonable. This will not happen. He’ll justify every offensive word and action. His refusal is the headquarters of his control. Nothing is more frustrating, or more difficult, than living with an unfair, unreasonable, and self-centered abuser.
I have learned that the percentage of abusive men who actually change is close to nil. It usually only escalates. This is a sad fact. It isn’t hopeless if the husband wants to work through the dysfunction because he, “Can do all things through Christ who strengthens” him. We know our God is the God who makes impossibilities possible.
Regardless of an abuser’s cruelty, selfishness, deceit, unfaithfulness, addiction, and/or weakness,—it can’t trump God’s strength.
Prayer for Naghmeh is essential during this time. I hope many more choose to cover her in prayer.
Naghmeh is handling the marital separation with strength that comes only from God, and I admire how she is taking her stand quietly, working hopefully, not bashing her husband, and yet preserving her own dignity.
Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond? Part 1 March 1, 2016
Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond? Part 2 March 3, 2106
Naghmeh Abedini’s Leaked Letter December 8, 2015
She Said He Said: Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini February 2, 2016
This is my Toxic Tuesday post on Boundaries a day late. Illness, a migraine, Christmas planning and festivities and appointments left my house and Tuesday to-do lists flat and unchecked on the pages of my daily calendar.
I will be sharing over the next few week steps I took to make right a gone-wrong relationship and I will share the results of my undertaking. I believe God calls us to be the peacemaker, the negotiator—the problem solver. Why do I believe this? It is the theme of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Relationship gone wrong is the reason we need a Savior, Jesus Christ, the reconciler of toxic relationships. Compared to Him we are all toxic. Jesus had justification to leave us behind forever—to move on; to create a new world with sinless people but He didn’t. He remained faithful to His creation when we did not remain faithful to Him. When Christ could have left He instead came closer.
Believe me, the coming closer to my toxic person made me squirm. The what-ifs of my decision took over a portion of my thought life; which in hind sight was essential to keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-3, “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (The Message)
As I interacted in my toxic relationship I focused my eyes, mind and heart on Jesus and told my mountain to, MOVE in the name of Jesus. “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20. I knew it was the right thing to do and I wanted to stay the course; in fact, when I knew without a shadow of doubt God was releasing me from the relationship I refused to budge. I knew as a Christian God could and would see me through to the other side as I set my resolve toward Him through prayer, Bible study and wise godly counsel. I had faith my toxic person and I would come out on the other side to healing and reconciliation. At times I felt as though God held my hand as I skimmed the surface of hell begging and pleading with my person to leave their sin, make things right, do the hard thing, seek help, choose their family and their God; not their messed up life and their vocation.
I knew I would never regret staying close to God and doing everything I could through prayer, fasting, setting boundaries, receiving wise godly counsel and finding detours around obstacles.
That being said; if your life is in danger or you are being physically or sexually abused please leave immediately and seek help. In the right margin of my blog you will find links to articles on abusive relationships, resources for counseling services and referrals, and a link for those who are victims of domestic abuse. God does not expect you to endure abuse or live in danger.
More to come next Tuesday.