Are you aware that children can be ‘groomed’ or molested right in front of your eyes without you being wise to it? For people looking to offend; holiday gatherings provide a bountiful, unsuspecting selection. Learn some of the clues you can look for.
Need resources for your church or organization regarding domestic abuse response? Are you aware there are many free resources on
Even the most well trained counselor can have a difficult time discerning between the two; after all, wolves are experts at deceit. Here are 3 ways to spot a wolf. Disclaimer: Usually only family members know the truth.
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.)
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.
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Set boundaries with the intent of more relationship…not less. Then…let the other party/parties choose whether they want more too. That “1/2” is in their bucket…not ours 👍
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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. “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.
“Do not sit in your living room staring at a big pink elephant while pretending it isn’t there.”
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.
The tower of Babel was built out of the desire to be self-sufficient;
“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.
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.
… if you, like me, have a flashing billboard on your forehead — turn it off! And keep clear of Icy Hot.