Tag Archives: boundaries

Child sexual abuse rampant during the holidays

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go.”  We all know the song but have we ever stopped to think about the implications attached to family gatherings?

It’s rare I hear of a healthy functioning family so if you are from one…congrats and may it ever be so! Most families have a lineage of dysfunction somewhere in their background or in current relationships.

For people looking to offend; holiday gatherings provide a bountiful, unsuspecting selection.

Please don’t ever think you know a person well enough to know they would NEVER harm a child. I lived with a man who was a senior pastor/evangelist and I had NO idea he was a pedophilic offender.

If you think: “My son…My husband… My brother… or…My friend would never do that.” You don’t know it! Not unless you live inside their mind or are with them every second of their entire life. (For the record there are female offenders, but the majority are male).

During this season we are busy with shopping, food preparations, and packing. Once the family gatherings commence we enjoy spending time catching up with loved ones while the kids play. Are we remembering that the children still need us to look out for them and protect them? I’m including children from infant to 18 years old because we have no way of knowing what age or sex a molester or a pedophilic offender prefers.

Definitions:

Child molester –an individual who sexually molests children.

Pedophile  – has a sexual preference for children and fantasizes about having sex with them, but if he does not act on that preference or those fantasies with a child, he is not a child molester.

Pedophilic offender – has a sexual preference for children and acts on his preferences and fantasies by victimizing children.

I don’t mean to be negative. I mean to be helpful. I want you and your children to have a safe and happy holiday celebration. My background and studying reminds me that children are targets for molesters and pedophilic offenders. I’ve taken the approach, when in a crowd; regardless of size, that there is likely an abuser in our midst and unfortunately, statistics our on my side. Depending on which stats were looking at; 1 out of 4 girls are sexually abused and 1 out of 6 boys are sexually abused. These stats are from reported abuse. Most abuse doesn’t get reported which likely makes the rates higher. With the rise of internet pornography I believe we are only beginning to see the tip of the sexual abuse iceberg.


With over 90% of abuse being perpetrated by someone the child knows, it is often a family member or close family friend. And surprisingly as much as 40% of abuse is perpetrated by juveniles – yes, often siblings and cousins. A family gathering can and does create opportunity for abuse – while we’re thinking of what’s in the oven or keeping heated family debates to a simmer, we’re often not thinking of what our children are up to. A house full of family and friends should be the safest place for our children, but in reality that is not always the case. ~The Mama Bear Effect

Are you aware that children can be ‘groomed’ or molested right in front of your eyes without you being wise to it?

  • Abusers can be touching a young child’s genitalia while the child sits on their lap at the dining table (you can’t see what’s taking place under the table-top), or while snuggling under a blanket next to them on the sofa.
  • I knew a man who, every time he picked up a 4 or 5 year old, would hold the child in his arms with his hand under/on the child’s crotch. What preschooler needs to be held that way? I later learned, he was doing it to clearly show what he was doing to the child when the parent wasn’t around.
  • Bathroom stalls are a favorite place for abusers to target children in public; including in church restrooms.
  • Relatives who insist all the kids bathe together (boys & girls), or dress in front of all the relatives. This can be seen as different perspectives in parenting, but I’ve spoken to Focus on the Family about this and they encourage these practices to stop around age 2 to 3.
  • Playing tag or other games. Parents have to be vigilant to see this take place. Often kids don’t know what took place and it can take them years, into adulthood, to realize what happened. Touching that takes place on the genitals, butt, or breasts is exhilarating to a sexual abuser who enjoys a sick and twisted thrill of touching kids and not getting caught by anyone.

The Larry Nassar case has been in the news for months. He was molesting hundreds of gymnasts, including Olympic gold medalists.  He abused children in the confines of a small room in front of the parents and the parents didn’t know. The couple of parents who wondered if he was doing something inappropriate thought there was no way this nice guy could be doing what they thought perhaps they saw. It was what they saw…and more.

Is there anything we can do to prepare our kids to stand against abuse?

Yes.

Have conversations before the gathering takes place. Several short conversations will help cement the safety precautions in their mind.

  • They can respect and be kind to everyone without compromising their boundaries. 
  • Don’t force them to be affectionate with extended family members if they aren’t comfortable with it. Allow kids to set their own body boundaries.
  • No closed doors while playing; not even if an adult is in the room with them. Any adult should know better than to do this with children who are not their own. If an adult discreetly wonders off while everyone else is talking, playing a game, or watching T.V.  and closes the door to hang out with the children; kindly open the door and explain your no closed door policy. (This can be a textbook clue of a child predator).
  • You cannot make any one respect your open door policy. If they won’t respect it, you can politely remove yourself and your children from the gathering. You are not being rude. You are being thoughtful and protective while teaching your kids how to set boundaries.
  • Explain to your kids no touching or showing body parts, or showing pictures of people’s nakedness. Name the parts. They are a fact of life and we need not be embarrassed about it. The more comfortable we are talking to them about sex and anatomy, the easier it will be for our kids to approach us with concerns and questions. It’s our responsibility and privilege to teach our children and answer their questions.
  • If cell phones become a problem at a family gathering you can request that children use technology at the kitchen table (not during the meal) while an adult is present. Cell phones with internet access, apps, and/ or stored photographs/videos are almost guaranteed to have inappropriate content on them. You don’t want children having opportunities to act out what they’ve inadvertently seen on the internet.
  • After the day, or weekend, is over ask open ended questions to give your kids an opportunity to process their answers. Examples: Did you have fun? Did anything make you uncomfortable? Did anyone try to do anything inappropriate to you or to someone else? Is there anything else you want me to know about?


Those who may sexually abuse children often try to break down a child’s personal boundaries regarding touch, and they’ll do this in front of other people. A family member that touches, tickles, or wrestles children even when they don’t like it. A teen or adult that is way more interested in spending time with younger kids than their peers should send up a few red flags that we need to pay more attention, not less.  If we witness someone that is not respecting a child’s bodily autonomy we have a right to speak up for that child and tell the person in question to stop. Everyone has a right to not be touched in a way that makes them uncomfortable. That’s not to say that we can’t have tickle fights or become a human jungle gym, but set an example for proper consent, ask permission before picking a child up and checking to make sure they’re still having fun, especially if they’re not talking.

~The Mama Bear Effect

Many child molesters use tactics like those above to break down the defenses of their victims. After all, when they invade a child’s personal space to touch, tickle, or wrestle in front of the parents, they are showing the victim that the parents know they are touching their child. This works to the abusers advantage when they have the child behind closed doors. This conveys to the kids that the parents already know the adult oversteps boundaries by annoyingly touching their body. This can cause the child to believe there is nothing wrong with the annoying sexual touching taking place behind closed doors.

How to respond if something bad did happen:

  • Don’t get upset, cry, or ask you child questions about why they allowed that to happen to them. This causes the child (regardless of age) to feel responsible for what happened to them and for your reaction.
  • Sit down and write out what you child told you after you finish the conversation with them.
  • DO NOT CALL OR TALK TO THE PERSON. They WILL explain their way out of it and you WILL believe them.
  • Do not call the host home, church, or event location where it happened and do not call other parents to compare accounts or to ask questions. This can cause major problems for law enforcement’s investigation.
  • CALL LAW ENFORCMENT. (Even if it’s your relative or spouse). Allow the authorities to investigate. Do not worry about someone’s reputation. If they are innocent the investigators will come to that conclusion. It’s extremely difficult to prove allegations, but worth the time to pursue it. You may save your child or another child from future victimization.

And…for the relative who says, “How can you call yourself a Christian?” when you dare to set a difficult boundary. Don’t buy into it. It’s nothing more than emotional manipulation. The Bible is full of examples of boundary setting. We can speak gently, firmly, and kindly while being protective and proactive. Even Jesus set boundaries while on earth.

Jesus Said No to Inappropriate Behavior


“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6

More tips on “Understanding Abusers”

Abuse Resource List

Need resources for your church or organization regarding domestic abuse response? Are you aware there are many free resources on the internet?

  • Free Christ-centered counseling from two of the best counselors who understand domestic abuse, toxic relationships, and boundaries.
  • Free assessments to determine safety, and abuse.
  • Quick guide for reviewing types of abuse.
  • Websites and hotlines dedicated to these topics.
  • Recommended reading list for leaders, abuse survivors; and books to keep in your church library.
  • Support and training for pastors, leaders, and helpers.

 

 

is here to help. FREE PDF link provided for printing a resource list.

 

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Kyle J HowardRacial trauma is a new field in which Kyle Howard is seeking to pioneer help, hope and healing from a biblical perspective. You may check out his website at: . He has a patreon that goes toward supporting his endeavor of creating said content. https://www.patreon.com/kylejhoward

 

 

Here is the link to the resource page which you can print off and hand out to pastors, staff, leaders, and people helpers. Abuse Resource-page

 

Toxic Tuesday: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

3 Ways To Spot A Wolf In Sheep ‘s Clothing 

Leslie Vernick 

“One of the ways bank tellers and merchants learn to distinguish real money from counterfeit is by examining genuine $100 bills over and over again so that they are more wolf 4likely to spot the counterfeit bills when they see them. In the same way we can learn to recognize destructive people by knowing what to look for.

Some may object to any attempt to identify wolves among us because it sounds uncharitable and judgmental to call someone a wolf. Only Jesus knows a person’s heart so who are we to judge? Yet, Jesus himself warns us that there are those who claim to be believers, they may even be leaders in the church, but they are vicious or ravenous wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).

The apostle Paul warns Timothy that there will be people who act religious, but are puffed up with pride, who are unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, and cruel (2 Timothy 3:2-9). Part of spiritual maturity is gaining the ability to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Why is this necessary? Because Paul reminds us that even Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Evil pretends to be good.

wolf 3Sometimes we make a naive assumption and it gets us into terrible trouble. We assume that if someone claims to be a Christian and talks like a Christian, that means he or she is a Christian. That’s not true.

Just like there are counterfeit $100 bills that attempt to pass for the real thing, there are those among us who attempt to pass for Christians but underneath they are ravenous wolves. How do we tell the difference?

Jesus said by their fruit you will know them. A wolf can be an expert at talking like a Christian but when you observe his or her behaviors over time, they look more wolfish (aggressive). As the saying goes, the sweetest tongue often has the sharpest tooth. Here are three things to watch out for.

1. Wolves live for the love of power rather than the power of love. Wolves refuse accountability and resist submission to authority. You’ve heard the phrase lone wolf? Wolves in sheep’s clothing have themselves as their highest point of reference. They often use charisma and charm to “win” people over but they do not have mutual or reciprocal relationships. People are to be used, possessed, exploited or controlled rather than loved.

2. Wolves look like sheep and talk like sheep but they bite like wolves, especially when the sheep are disagreeing or dissenting. Winning and being right are their highest values and they do whatever they need to in order to stay “on top”. wolf

When operating in church or religious settings their methods are often underhanded and cunning to seem less obvious or aggressive. They don’t want to look like wolves, that’s why they pretend to be sheep.

3. Wolves are experts at deceit. That’s why they are so successful at making us think they are true sheep. Jesus tells us that Satan, too, is an expert at deceit. That’s why he doesn’t go around with horns and a tail but as an angel of light.

Wolves pretend to be good and to care about the sheep but those closest to them (especially their family) know the truth. They’ve been bitten again and again and again.

But the wolf’s ability to maintain his cover is one reason why it’s so difficult for church people to believe the person who has been wounded by the wolf. They fail to see him as a wolf and assume that the problem is two sheep biting one another.

That’s not true. Wolves have much sharper teeth and stronger jaws than sheep do. A sheep cannot harm a wolf. A wolf kills sheep.

It’s interesting that God chose a wolf as a word picture to portray this type of problem person. A wolf is a predator. It has a strong jaw and 42 sharp teeth designed to stab its prey to death.

As Christian counselors and leaders, let’s not naively close our eyes and think that there are no wolves among us. They are everywhere and we must learn to recognize and stop them from wounding and killing the sheep.”

“The Church has been rather slow to acknowledge the validity of emotional abuse, especially in marriage – and real change can only start if pastors, lay leaders and other counselors start to see the reality that many people face.” ~Leslie Vernick

Counselor Leslie Vernick has made it her “mission to bravely stand up for those who suffer in the shadows.” Her “heart is more and more heavy to help churches know how to competently and compassionately help those in destructive marriages.”

I believe Leslie to be the best of the best in the field of ministering to spouses in abusive marriages. She recognizes abusers and helps the person on the receiving end of the abuse set boundaries, maintain safety, stay committed to truth, remain open to the Holy Spirit, be responsible for their self and respectful toward others without dishonoring their self, and practice empathy and compassion while setting boundaries.

With this in mind Leslie has started a web-based ministry to counselors, pastors, and church leaders. This makes the task of learning about marital abuse/domestic violence reachable for anyone who wants to learn. Because…there are wolves in every congregation.  Almost all counseling centers on communication issues between two people; when in some cases the problem is abuse. Abuse is not a marriage problem. Abuse is an abuse problem—a character problem, and the abuser needs individual help; not marriage counseling. (This applies for marriage, extended family relationships, or non-family relationships. Abuse is abuse; not a communication problem.)

Leslie has numerous free articles and video resources available; as well as, the opportunity to sign up for more resources. If you are in ministry this is a must have area of continued education you should consider. I highly recommend in today’s culture that anyone who works in church leadership should have training in this area.  Click here to check out Leslie’s web-site: Leslie Vernick: Training Church Leaders and Counselors in Abuse.

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Toxic Tuesday: Do You Have Biblical Permission to Leave a Toxic Spouse?

Today I’m sharing the blog post that has daily, for 3 1/2 years, remained the most read article I’ve written. I’m not an expert in the field, but rather a survivor of a student field trip. I’m passing on lessons learned that took me years of relational toil, prayer, counseling, Bible study and research. Later in the article, and in the margin, I link to Leslie Vernick who is a godly professional on this topic. I cannot say enough good about Leslie. I wish she had been around 19 years ago when I was in the middle of dealing with my toxic husband who was a n angry and controlling pastor, abuser, and pedophile who suffered from mental illness and had a personality disorder.

(*Disclaimer: Mental illness does not make one an abuser, pedophile or criminal, nor does is diagnose one with a personality disorder. Most sufferers of mental illness live a normal, productive and fulfilling life with the help of therapy, dietary lifestyle changes, and/or medications.)

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Do You Have Biblical Permission to Leave a Toxic Spouse?

 

No matter how they treat me; I will choose agape love.

No matter what they do; I will forgive. Over and over.

No matter how messed up they are; I will be their helpmate.

No matter the mental illness or personality disorder; I will love in sickness and in health.

No matter the inability to parent; I’ll keep the children safe and sheltered.

No matter the addictions; I will pray for healing and restoration to come.

No matter the anger; I’ll wait for the therapy to work. I know they will get better with the help of a godly professional.

No matter the grounds for divorce; I will pray for forgiveness, restoration and family unity. After all, as Christians with God on our side, we can do the hard thing and make it through.

But what happens when you are the only one practicing these principles and actions?

Have you been to counseling, done the homework, practiced the applications, prayed and fasted but you are the only person in the equation who participated in all the above? This is the point where putting all the marriage and Christian help books away is beneficial. These books are for people in a relationship with a mentally healthy spouse. We all have issues. We all sin. But living with a toxic person is not the subject of these books. They are terrific books—wrong subject.

Did you attempt an intervention with the goal of leading your spouse to repentance, restoring the relationship, and providing emotional healing only to be told, “It’s all you. You’re the one with the problems. There’s nothing wrong with what I do or how I treat you”?

Did you serve them therapeutic separation papers to show how serious you were about saving your marriage and saving your family? Have they shown no serious action to remedy the situation? Or have they shown minimal—surface only, “Is this enough to satisfy you?” action. Yet there is no change in heart, attitude, addictions, words or actions.

If you feel led by God through much prayer; keep going: Agape, forgive, help, remain true to the covenant, protect, seek professional help, pray, fast and pray some more. Over and over. If this is your decision I highly recommend you visit Leslie Vernick’s website.

 Here is where the strategy must change:

Are you concerned for your safety and/or and the safety of your children due to abuse?

I want you to hear this in the sweetest most tender voice as I envelope you in a hug and gently declare, “God does not expect you to live like this.”

Are you concerned you will not be alive come tomorrow morning due to an angry and/or violent spouse?

Imagine I have my hands on your shoulders, as we look at each other tear-stained face to tear-stained face, “God does not want or require you to live under such conditions.”

Many theologians, pastors and Christians with the best intentions have written on this subject.  I am in no way an expert or professional and this is why I always reiterate the importance of praying, fasting and seeking godly professional counsel.

I grew up believing divorce was wrong. Period. Christians work it out.

It took years of experience and additional years of biblical counsel, Bible study, prayer and fasting to realize there were biblical grounds to leave a toxic relationship.

For more background information on toxic relationships, toxic people, boundaries, intervention, and therapeutic separation please read past ‘Toxic Tuesday’ posts.

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God states that He hates divorce; not the divorced. God has experienced what it feels like to have someone leave Him. He knows the heartbreak His loved ones will endure and He understands the generational stronghold Satan will attempt to wield over the family members. He desires to protect us from the hurt, pain, consequences and future oppression of divorce.

Scripture does not clearly address divorce due to  the circumstance of being married to an abusive; toxic spouse but we know, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16.  If we have a question about life we know we can find applicable help in God’s word.  Here are some verses to consider when in an abusive relationship:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.” Ephesians 5: 25-29

 “The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.” I Peter 3:7

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” I Corinthians 5:11

 “Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.” Proverbs 23:9

 “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” Proverbs 26:11

“Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.” Proverbs 27:3

“Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.” Proverbs 27:22

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6

 “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” Philippians 3:2 

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

 “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” Titus 3:10

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18: 15-17

 “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11

Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.” Proverbs 14:7

Our nation and our individual states have laws regarding abuse. If  something below is taking place in your home it needs to be reported to a law official immediately and you need to take safety.

  •          It is against the law to abuse another person.
  •          Physical and sexual abuse against children is against the law.

Also report it to the social welfare/department of family or child services office, a doctor of psychology, a local child advocacy center and possibly the Victim Witness Advocate at your local District Attorney’s office. You can call the Victim Witness Advocate at the state Attorney General’s office if you need help locating an advocate in your area.

Yes, your spouse may be arrested, but maybe this will make him/her realize the seriousness of how out-of-control they have become; possibly leading to real help, true repentance and possible restoration; although statistics backing this up are slim. You have every legal right to defend and protect your children and yourself. God does not expect you or want you to endure such abuse.

To say your abusive husband cannot change would be to deny the power of Christ. The flip side of praying, waiting and hoping for an abusive or severely mentally ill husband, or a husband with a personality disorder, to change is this: They have free choice and God will not make them do what they do not ask for or want.

The Bible gives two reasons for divorce; adultery and abandonment. Theologically many argue abandonment strictly means the physical state. I submit, in the case of abuse they have  emotionally and physically abandoned you through; abdication, blocked intimacy, isolation, loneliness, neglect, rejection and lack of protection. They have also; most likely, physically abandoned  a sexually monogamous relationship with you. I mention infidelity because I am yet to hear of abuse that did not include unfaithfulness; it’s possible but rare. They have left you with permanent psychological scars, often financially restricted or stranded you, verbally destroyed you (at this point many women wish they had the bruises and broken bones to prove the abuse) or; physical and/or sexual abuse of you and/or your children.

I view abuse as abandonment for these reasons: When the marriage covenant is made on your wedding day your husband promises, (the wife’s covenant is the same to her husband) “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor, cherish and protect her, forsaking all others for as long as we both shall live.” When a husband is verbally and emotionally assaulting, beating/abusing his wife and/or children (I am not talking about thoughtful and lovingly administered spankings to teach your children right from wrong and to keep them safe from danger) he abandons the vows he made to his bride on their wedding day. Women who have suffered through a sexually unfaithful husband and an abusive husband can testify that the abuse is worse than the sexual infidelity. When her husband beats her, verbally shreds her, emotionally rejects her, or sexually assaults her, he has abandoned their vows and his relationship with her.

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Do you feel trapped, despairing, brokenhearted, hopeless, devastated, betrayed, frightened or dead due to abuse?

Christ came to set the captive free as prophesied in Isaiah 61.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.  Isaiah 61:1-3

Freedom is found in Jesus.

Boundaries are necessary.

Safety is essential.

Healing is possible.

Tomorrow will come with ‘the oil of joy instead of mourning.’ It takes time; time does not heal. God heals—in time—even though scars remain.

Toxic Tuesday: Flashing Billboards On My Forehead

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“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

Philip Yancey

Conflicts: Dysfunctional. Abusive. Boundaryless. They can happen to anyone including Jesus followers who daily spend purposeful time with God through reading the scriptures, in-depth Bible study and consistent prayer. You may be a godly person and a good neighbor, boss, employee, co-worker, parent, spouse, child, sibling, relative or friend finding yourself in an unwanted and uncalled for difficult relationship or circumstance.

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I have had relationships in which I interceded for the other person through prayer by asking Jesus to heal them of their dysfunction, mental illness or sin. Most scriptural records of Jesus healing a person were instant, complete and permanent. Even though the person I prayed for had not asked for the help or healing and I could not physically take them to Jesus; I could spiritually bring them before Jesus.

I previously witnessed Jesus provide in ways that seemed impossible to me relationally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and even legally. He is so like that. When I have been at my wit’s end believing there was no possible way, no hope, no healing, no relief, no safety to overcome an obstacle; Jesus did the impossible. My mind had not previously conceived what He chose to do on my behalf. It was so out of the box that only He could have done it. There lies the beauty; Jesus has no box and I cannot put Him in one. Whoop — whoop!

That being exclaimed, I must also add that I have known Jesus long enough to realize not all prayers are fulfilled the way I wish, in my timing, or sometimes they may not be answered in my lifetime and I know I’ll have to wait until heaven to see how it is eventually answered. My heart may sometimes doubt Jesus heard my prayer but my mind always knows better. He hears, remembers and acts. Always.

If you use Pinterest, the online bulletin/pin board, you have likely read quotes about trusting your heart: “There is no instinct like that of the heart.”

“Trust your heart. What is true feels good. What is false causes doubt.” – Monica De Liz.

“Always listen to your heart.”

“When you can’t believe your eyes you can always trust your heart.”

“Trust your heart and you will be with the one you love” -Aunt Wu.

Here is what trumps all these quotes: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV). Our hearts need to be established in Christ first and then scripture tells us not to trust in our heart, but with all of our heart, trust in God. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5 (NIV).

I knew Jesus was capable of healing the person I was praying for. Scripture told me of His great power and; moreover, scripture states the power is for us. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 1:18-20 (NIV). I have longed for this kind of power to be exerted into the heart, soul, mind and strength of someone I knew on multiple occasions. The bottom line was they had to want it and believe Him for it. When they did not —I was not quick to give up on them. I’m stubborn like that.

Often when I sense God has released me from relationally reaching out to someone and has shown me the exit door from a dysfunctional, abusive or boundaryless relationship; I usually look for a detour and go back for the person. I find myself wondering, “Have I done everything I can?” I do not want to question if there was possibly something else that would have worked. I continue to pray and ask if there is please, another way. I must know I did everything I could and when I look back; have no regrets. If I am going to error I can live with erring in faith but I could not live with erring in what was convenient. I am capable of missing the proverbial boat when it comes to discerning the voice or the will of God and I want to make certain I clearly understand His heart and will for the present concern.

On the other hand, I have a history of allowing anger (toxicity) to be taken out on me so when it comes up in a relationship it feels natural but I know God is calling me to recognize and respond to it in a biblical way. This is anything but easy for me.

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Sometimes I imagine I have a flashing sign on my forehead that reads, “Easy to Manipulate: Free Test Try” or perchance “Boundaryless: Trespass without caution.” God keeps the lessons in these areas coming at a steady pace and He is determined to teach me how to soar by handling the issue without becoming nervous, shaky, lightheaded, heart pounding out of my chest or; as in my most recent lesson, feeling like Icy Hot was rubbed on my chest. I never experienced this sensation during a difficult confrontation and fortunately was able to laugh at myself when the conversation had finished. Icy Hot — seriously — I never knew!

NPD 7

Thankfully, God is a patient teacher who does not give me a failing grade. He just keeps teaching me new applications and giving me new situations in which to work them out. God has also given me a godly and humorous private tutor who happens to be an Ace when it comes to practical application. God is very serious about me learning this lesson and passing on to you what I learn. I must add that these lessons are not easy and are sometimes painful. To quote Beth Moore from a lesson in Daniel: Lives of Integrity, “You want to learn this lesson in the classroom and not on a field trip.” I imagine I have more field trips logged than the average student.

NPD 5

See previous Toxic Tuesday posts on toxic relationships, or what the Bible refers to as relationships with fools. Until then; if you, like me, have a flashing billboard on your forehead — turn it off! And keep clear of Icy Hot.

NPD 9

A Gone Wrong Relationship: To Do or Not To Do

TOXIC TUESDAY warning

Please understand I am simply passing on lessons I learned and they are examples of experiences I rarely understood the first time. Sometimes I process slowly. I do not like to disappoint people or offend anyone so this attributed to failure of setting healthy boundaries; however, I had motivation, determination and resolve to seek the Lord.

God never leaves me behind in my messiness or failings when I cry out to Him; acknowledge Him, admit my mistakes and ask Him for help.

Below are a few ramblings of what being a peacemaker or negotiator/problem solver does and does not mean.

It does not necessitate keeping a person you find difficult happy so their bad attitude is not found out by others; or so it does not spill out on someone else. You are not responsible for their attitude; positive or negative.

Do not make excuses for them; this includes excuses to your children or your extended family. You do not need to draw attention to the poor behavior but you do not try to explain in away either. It is what it is. As many psychologists have recommended: “Do not sit in your living room staring at a big pink elephant while pretending it isn’t there.” Nor do you want your children to learn by example and believe the dysfunctional attitude is pleasing to God or worthy of replicating. In healthy relationships with normal disagreements or arguments you always shield the children. This can prove impossible in a toxic relationship.

Do not cover for their irresponsibility; emotionally, relationally or financially. Allow them to face the consequences of poor planning, deceit or overspending.

For the lonely of heart who feel abandoned, frightened or craving intimacy while in a marriage covenant; you must spend time reading the Bible and praying it back to God conversationally. Only God can apply a healing balm to your heart and mind.

In normal marriages you never talk about marital problems to friends or family but in a toxic relationship you may need one confidant or a close-knit network to pray for you, encourage you and care for you. Pray about this and ask God if He has such a person, or persons, for you. Do not compromise your values and belief system in who you seek for friends. You do not need to add any other difficult dimension to your life. You need godly friendships with people of the same sex. Finding friendship in the opposite sex is a recipe for rumors, temptation and additional problems.

“Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed.” Psalm 37:3(AMP) “We live by faith, not by sight.” II Corinthians 5:7 (NIV) “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (KJV)

Most importantly: Love. This is a tall order for someone in a one-sided love relationship. You want what you cannot have because the other person does not allow access. This may be due to unresolved past emotional wounds, infidelity, addiction to pornography or other reasons. If you were recruited (see earlier posts about Narcissistic Personality Disorder) into this relationship you now realize the bond was based on a ‘Once Upon a Time’ false reality. Whatever the reason; your heart must feel like it cannot endure much more. Love may be a feeling so far removed you can’t remember when it stopped being a feeling. That is okay. Love is not meant to always be a feeling, in fact, it is more often an action.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9 (NIV)

Love them for Christ; here and now with what you have and what you have not. This kind of love is called, agape, and part of agape is action. Agape is the type of love revealed in Jesus, seen as spiritual and selfless and a model for humanity; not sexual in its nature. To agape means agreeing with God about the person you find difficult. God loves that person so you sacrifice your self-will for God’s will. Love. God called us to agape our enemies, Luke 6:27 so you can be sure He has called you to love the person you find difficult. Since God is love, it is His very essence; we can be certain He wants us to love.

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus,’“is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’ Mark 12:28-31(NIV)

A few examples of practical application:

When treated with contempt, hatred, anger or deceit; you may state, “I will not allow myself to be treated this way” with firmness but not anger.

When you are being told how you should think about a subject; don’t argue. Simply state, “That is your opinion.”

When the same conversation is brought up again because they want you to change your mind, remind them, “I am not discussing this.”

Always be kind and always say, “I love you” even if they won’t. Put on self-control in a confrontation, and do not repay insult with unkind words or accusations. Remember: Asking questions, reminding them of an answer already given or stating your opinion is not wrong even if they treat you as if you are sinning by doing so.

When you mess up, admit it, ask for forgiveness from the person and from God and think of how you can better handle the same situation next time; because most likely there will be a next time. (It is likely you might be the example setter for apologizing because the person you are having difficulties with may not have, “I’m sorry,” in their vocabulary.)

Loving  with an action that is beyond your comprehension may seem undo-able to you. You are not alone. Seek God and ask Him what His heart and will is for you in this situation. “…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NIV)

What Would Jesus Do in a Toxic Relationship?

TOXIC TUESDAY warning

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.

The Boundary of Self-SufficiencyFriends art

 If you are attempting to ride out a storm of difficult circumstances self-sufficiency is one boundary that needs to come down.

Our culture tends to think of self-sufficiency as only a positive term but the bible teaches us what the desire of self-sufficiency led to for Satan. Satan did not want to depend on God or have to bend a knee to God and the result was being cast out of heaven; eternally separated from God (Isaiah 14:12-15). The tower of Babel was built out of the desire to be self-sufficient; “From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4-9. The Laodicean church claimed self-sufficiency and were rebuked for it. Revelation 3:17.

In the midst of problems, depression, or difficult relationships have you ever been told, “You must not have enough faith” or, “You must not be praying enough”? Do you look at other people and think they must not have any problems and are therefore more mature in their walk. Do you reason that the person who hides their problems or keeps problems to themselves is a shining example of self-control and wisdom?

Consider this, Luke 18:11-14, “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

We see here the messed up tax collector admitted to his messiness and went home justified while the Pharisee went home humbled (but not by his own will).

If you do not consider  yourself as fitting either the Pharisee or Tax Collector scenario and are living the good life in a good place with wonderful people; I have a challenge for you.

Do not judge

If a friend approaches you with a heavy heart please take the time to listen. Then go home and pray; ask God why He allowed you to hear your friend’s heart. You do not have to give them wise counsel, practical application or attempt to fix the problem. Just listen. Pray with them. Pray scripture over them. Write a note or send an email to let them know you care. Mourn with those who mourn. I believe this is one of the toughest assignments given in scripture. We think of mourning as an emotion we experience after a loved one’s death but it can also be the result of a lost relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, unmet expectations or living through difficult circumstances. You never know how long the storm in someone’s life is going to rage and you may become tired and weary of listening, but stay in there with them. Mourn with those who mourn.

When we think we have it all together and need no one; we forget that we are made to be in relationship with God and with other people. Do what you are designed to do; connect with other people.

Being self-sufficient, as in personally responsible for yourself, is part of self-government and is biblically supported. That’s different. What I’m talking about is people who do not connect with others, have no  need for others and do not bond with others sometimes for the purpose of keeping their problems a secret or keeping safe from ever being hurt by others.

Come to terms with your needs. God allows them in your life so you will have need for Him and need for others.

Tear down your wall of self-sufficiency. Allow friends to enter. Pray to God for one trust-worthy godly friend who will have the ability to hang in there with you, to celebrate with you, to mourn with you, to pray with you, to listen and with whom you can experience close relationship.

If you do not trust yourself to find healthy people to be in relationship with I recommend the book, Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good For You and Avoid Those That Aren’t  by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I also encourage you to find a local church home and plug into a class, study or support group through the church.

You need at least one God-given friend to walk your lonely, difficult, heart-aching road with you.

God wants us to be dependent on Him for our needs and He also wants us to be interdependent on others through close relationships.

Toxic Tuesday: Boundaries

keep-calm-and-have-boundaries

“She dresses herself with strength.” Proverbs 31:17

There is a way to remain strong and to thrive despite interacting with a difficult person. It isn’t easy because when you are in the middle of relational turmoil or are receiving a verbal lashing it can be challenging to keep your thoughts straight.  Thinking quickly typically does not happen. If you are like me, you have to think about and pray about the situation before acting, speaking or setting a boundary. Having a plan of action in advance will safeguard you and will be beneficial to the other person. Often the difficult person has a tough time with self-control and your boundary can actually help them keep an emotional or verbally abusive outburst from erupting.

Does your D.P. (difficult person) keep asking the same questions over and over? Do they refuse your answer and creatively find another avenue to demand the response or resolution they desire? Do you continually hope for an agreement? Do you long to be rationally understood?

Disagreements abound. There may be several answers or opinions to a subject but not to your D.P. To them it is black and white and their way or opinion is the only correct one. Do not waste your time arguing. Perhaps using, “That is your opinion” repetitively will soon keep your D.P. from attempting to overtake you on the matter again. It isn’t that your D.P. forgets the previous conversation you had on the topic. It is that your D.P. is attempting to wear you down. “That is your opinion,” used consistently will remind your D.P. the ‘wear them down’ tactic is no longer a working strategy to be used against you. I’m not saying they will not continue to try, I’m saying, “That is your opinion,” is a gentle reminder to them that this conversation is going nowhere. This also shows them that you are keeping your opinion and your dignity.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) Although your reply will not be received as gentle it is working in a gentler way than arguing words which are being fired at you from a flaming tongue.

Is the topic to which you have already given an answer being approached—again?  Think about this response, “I am not discussing this with you.” Any time your D.P. brings up the topic in hopes of receiving a different answer from you; remember this easy phrase. You will most likely have to say it several times as long as this person stays in your life.

“Say just a simple ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough.”  Matthew 5:37 (Living Bible)

If your D.P. likes to make decisions for you or give you orders but they are not an authority figure, “That’s not what I was thinking” or “That’s not what I had in mind,” are examples of good phrases to learn. After your D.P. has heard the same phrase multiple times they will remember the boundary before trying to cross it again.

If your life is in danger or you think these responses could place your life in danger use your good judgment and refrain from possibly making the situation worse. If you are in danger 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.

If you are dealing with an individual suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder they will never tire of attempting to wear you down. They are not able to see your point of view; they are not capable of empathizing, loving or bonding. They are users who recruit people for close relationship who can be used for a specific purpose to improve their existence, provide a cover for something they don’t want others to find out about them or meet an unhealthy desire.  Maybe you have recently come to this realization about someone in your life. Although you may see this and know this, the most maddening part of it is that no one on the outside sees it. That is because a narcissist lives their life on a stage acting out the role they think the other person wants to see. They are the grandest actors you could ever have the disadvantage of being in any type of relationship with. Here is a very important character trait to remember when dealing with a narcissist: Self-control. Although telling them how you feel or giving them a verbal reprimand may feel good to you; when it is all said and done you will soon realize it was wasted time, emotion, words, energy and thoughts because not one word of it will be taken seriously or to heart. In the end this will further frustrate you. A narcissist has no other point of reference other than themselves.

These lessons have been hard experiences I have lived through and learned from, but I only learned from them because I spent extensive time in prayer and Bible study, and had the loving support of family and some of the best friends a girl could ask for from God. If you make time for Jesus, through prayer and Bible study, and invite Him into all areas of your life; you will never regret it or think, “That was time wasted.”  Never.

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (NIV)

Most likely the issue with your D.P. is control. These personalities long to having power over other people but now that you are on to them, you can set up safe and healthy boundaries to protect yourself and your loved ones. You will recognize the behavior when you see it and not be caught off guard. I remember the feeling when I finally began to recognize it. Your, “Ah hah” moment is coming!

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31: 25-26 (NIV)

Most importantly, practice I Corinthians 13:2, “but (if I) have not love, I am nothing.”  (ESV)

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”         I Corinthians 13:13 (ESV)

Toxic Tuesday: Boundaries

Boundaries

TOXIC TUESDAY warning

Last week I shared a sampling of scriptures teaching about fools—common day toxic people. I’m not referring to nuisances or dealing with someone who appears to be in a bad mood today. I’m referring to the very character of a person who shows no regard for you, your heart, your needs or your boundaries. You know something is wrong; you just don’t know what.

First I need to acknowledge that I have been a fool of Biblical proportions on many occasions; especially as a youth. Without Christ, I cannot imagine where I would be emotionally, spiritually or even logistically. I know for certain I would be a toxic mess in every way; including contaminating those around me.

Second I need to acknowledge my gratefulness to my Savior, Jesus Christ, for living to intercede for me. For His sacrifice. His grace. His mercy. He saw me, a foolish—toxic person, who loved Him and wanted to be used by Him as redeemable and usable.

That being said, in my adult life, I have encountered numerous unhealthy people who were users, manipulators and who were abusive in nature.

How I easily fall prey…

I naturally trust people even though life experiences have taught me multiple times over that I should use caution.

I assume I am wrong when someone tells me I am wrong, that I am misinformed or that I am not remembering correctly. My insecurities leave me feeling wrong in almost any circumstance. This drives me crazy.

I want to be a peacemaker. I do not want to make someone angry or mad at me and I want to avoid problems at all cost.

I have to stay close to the Lord in prayer and in His word or I have the potential to continually make mistakes. I am capable of messing up even when staying close to Lord through prayer and through His word but I would rather make a mistake acting in faith than make a mistake because I did nothing at all.

You can understand how the above plays into my thought life when interacting with an abusive person.

Here are some controlling mechanisms I have encountered: If you want specific signs to look for and responses to use for the below topics; they may be found in: The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond By: Patricia Evans.

  • Withholding companionship and/or conversation
  • Not allowing you to have a different opinion which ends all possibility of a discussion
  • Your experiences and feelings mean nothing
  • Making jokes about you that actually cut to the bone but are disguised as ‘funny’
  • Withholds information from you so there cannot be a discussion, purposefully changes the subject or gives multiple answers to a question but never the answer to the original question
  • Diverts all accusations back at you (think of a mirror being held in front of the person reflecting all your comments back onto yourself)
  • Judgmental or condescending tones that criticize you; even when you are complimenting them it may not be a grand enough compliment and is therefore received with anger or resentment
  • Makes light of your significant words or actions as having little significance. This can be as matter-of-fact or subtle
  • Undermines you, your ideas, your experiences or your needs
  • Threatens  you emotionally or verbally
  • Calls you sarcastic, condescending or mean names
  • Everyone forgets once in a while; this forgetting is denial and manipulation to avoid taking responsibility or apologizing for something they have said or done; or regularly forgetting important commitments to the other person
  • A drill sergeant who orders you around instead of respectfully asking
  • Denies your reality – “I never said that.” “You are making that all up.” “We never had that conversation.” “I don’t know where you got that.”
  • Abusive anger

You can imagine how off balance I become when dealing with an abusive person.  Even when I begin to understand something is intrinsically wrong with the person, their ideas or perceptions it can be difficult for me to decide the healthy way to deal with it. My first concerns are usually, “Did I do something to cause this issue?” “I don’t want to make the situation worse than it all ready is.” “I want to reach them for Christ so how can I handle this in a positive way?”

Do not explain yourself or defend yourself. Do not get emotional. A word of caution when interacting with an abusive person: They often feed off of your reactions. Do not feed the monsters! And if you are in relationship with a narcissistic person; they feed off of positive or negative emotions. They may be nice to you, hoping for praise and accolades to feed their ego but when it does not work they will turn to negative behavior hoping for a negative reaction out of you; again, to feed their ego. This is called Narcissistic Supply. DO NOT BE THEIR SUPPLIER. Indifference is the key to keeping your sanity when dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Keep your emotions to yourself.

“Don’t spend a second trying to explain that you weren’t doing what you were accused of doing or guilty of what you were blamed for. Just say, ‘Stop it.’ Abusive statements are lies about you which are told to you. They violate your boundaries. The abuser in effect invades your mind, makes up a ‘story’ about your motives, and then tells it to you. No human being has the right to do that to another.

 Generally, accusing and blaming involve lies about the other person’s intentions, attitudes, and motives. They leave you feeling frustrated and misunderstood and, therefore, especially desirous of explaining yourself. If you do try to explain yourself, the abuse is perpetuated.

 One more word about ‘explaining.’ If you are encountering abuse and feel that if you could explain things the other person would understand, remember this: If someone started throwing rocks through your windows, you would be more inclined to tell them to stop than you would be to explain to them why they shouldn’t throw rocks. Verbal abuse is like a rock thrown through your window.” Patricia Evans (2010) The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond. Massachusetts: Adams Media. p. 141

Simplicity: “Stop it.”

Say it. “Stop it.” Keep practicing.

If you wonder, or know, that you may be dealing with a foolish, toxic, abusive person I highly recommend keeping a dated journal. Depending on the type of abuse; this may require keeping your journal in a safe place, password protecting your electronic journal or typing your journal as an email and sending it to yourself at your password protected email address.

Why journal? To show yourself that you are not the crazy person you are constantly told you are or feel like you are. This will help you decide how to set healthy boundaries for yourself or your family. You may even find that the traits or problems you are dealing with in the other person are listed as mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is available at your local library and you can find criteria for specific mental illnesses online.

If you are in a physically or sexually abusive relationship you need to report it to the police and/or seek help at your local Domestic Abuse Shelter. You need to begin a paper trail that could later be used for seeking help not only for you, but for the abuser, and a paper trail that would stand up in a court of law. In the right margin of my blog you will find a link under ‘Resources’ for Domestic Abuse/Domestic Violence with hotline numbers for abused women and men.

I am not saying we can avoid all difficult people or all difficult circumstances. Placing our faith in Christ  is not an insurance policy for avoiding pain and suffering. We need look no farther than Christ on the cross to put away that argument.

In Romans 8:35 Paul asks whether, “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” can separate us from the love of Christ. Since this was included in scripture we can be certain Paul knew of what he wrote. We will experience hardships.

So stay close to the Lord, nothing can separate us from His love. Pain, suffering and difficult relationships should not drive us away from God, but rather allow us to identify with Him and allow Him access to our hurts. Only then can He give us the complete healing we need.

Pray about it. If you need help on how to pray specifically for a difficult relationship, take a look at my blog post: DIY Prayer Box. It will give you numerous ideas for spending time with God.

Flashing Billboards on My Forehead

TOXIC TUESDAY warning

“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

Philip Yancey

Conflicts: Dysfunctional. Abusive. Boundaryless. They can happen to anyone including Jesus followers who daily spend purposeful time with God through reading the scriptures, in-depth Bible study and consistent prayer. You may be a godly person and a good neighbor, boss, employee, co-worker, parent, spouse, child, sibling, relative or friend finding yourself in an unwanted and uncalled for difficult relationship or circumstance.

I have had relationships in which I interceded for the other person through prayer by asking Jesus to heal them of their dysfunction, mental illness or sin. Most scriptural records of Jesus healing a person were instant, complete and permanent. Even though the person I prayed for had not asked for the help or healing and I could not physically take them to Jesus; I could spiritually bring them before Jesus.

I have previously witnessed Jesus provide in ways that seemed impossible to me relationally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and even legally. He is so like that. When I have been at my wit’s end believing there was no possible way, no hope, no healing, no relief, no safety to overcome an obstacle; Jesus did the impossible. My mind had not previously conceived what He chose to do on my behalf. It was so out of the box that only He could have done it. There lies the beauty; Jesus has no box and I cannot put Him in one. Whoop — whoop!

That being exclaimed, I must also add that I have known Jesus long enough to realize not all prayers are fulfilled the way I wish, in my timing, or sometimes they may not be answered in my lifetime and I know I’ll have to wait until heaven to see how it is eventually answered. My heart may sometimes doubt Jesus heard my prayer but my mind always knows better. He hears, remembers and acts. Always.

If you use Pinterest, the online bulletin/pin board, you have likely read quotes about trusting your heart: “There is no instinct like that of the heart.” “Trust your heart. What is true feels good. What is false causes doubt.” – Monica De Liz. “Always listen to your heart.” “When you can’t believe your eyes you can always trust your heart.”  “Trust your heart and you will be with the one you love” -Aunt Wu.

Here is what trumps all these quotes: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV). Our hearts need to be established in Christ first and even then scripture tells us not to trust in our heart, but with all of our heart, trust in God. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5 (NIV).

I knew Jesus was capable of healing the person I was praying for. Scripture told me of His great power and; moreover, scripture states the power is for us. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 1:18-20 (NIV). I have longed for this kind of power to be exerted in to the heart, soul, mind and strength of someone I knew on multiple occasions. The bottom line was they had to want it and believe Him for it. When they did not —I was not quick to give up on them. I’m stubborn like that.

Often when I sense God has released me from relationally reaching out to someone and has shown me the exit door from a dysfunctional, abusive or boundaryless relationship; I usually look for a detour and go back for the person. I find myself wondering, “Have I done everything I can?” I do not want to question if there was possibly something else that would have worked. I continue to pray and ask if there is please, another way. I must know I did everything I could and when I look back; have no regrets. If I am going to error I can live with erring in faith but I could not live with erring in what was convenient. I am capable of missing the proverbial boat when it comes to discerning the voice, the will, of God and I want to make certain I clearly understood his heart and will for this concern.

On the other hand, I have a history of allowing anger (toxicity) to be taken out on me so when it comes up in a relationship it feels natural but I know God is calling me to recognize and respond to it in a biblical way. This is anything but easy for me.

Sometime I imagine I have a flashing sign on my forehead that reads, “Easy to Manipulate: Free Test Try” or perchance “Bounaryless: Trespass without caution.” God keeps the lessons in these areas coming at a steady pace and He is determined to teach me how to soar by handling the issue without becoming nervous, shaky, lightheaded, heart pounding out of my chest or; as in my most recent lesson, feeling like Icy Hot was rubbed on my chest. I never before experienced this sensation during a difficult confrontation and fortunately was able to laugh at myself when the conversation had finished. Icy Hot — seriously — I never knew!

Thankfully, God is a patient teacher who does not give me a failing grade. He just keeps teaching me new applications and giving me new situations in which to work them out. God has also given me a godly, humorous private tutor who happens to be an Ace when it comes to practical application. God is very serious about me learning this lesson and passing on to you what I learn. I must add that these lessons are not easy and are sometimes painful. To quote Beth Moore from a lesson in Daniel: Lives of Integrity, “You want to learn this lesson in the classroom and not on a field trip.” I imagine I have more field trips logged than the average student.

In an upcoming post I will refer to toxic relationships, or what the Bible refers to as relationships with fools. Until then; if you, like me, have a flashing billboard on your forehead — turn it off! And keep clear of Icy Hot.