Abuse Victims Must Take Care Lest They Become Abusive

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


[June 28, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

(Ephesians 4:26-27  ESV)  (26) Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  (27) and give no opportunity to the devil.

Each one of us have important choices to make. Only we can make them — no one can do it for us. Whether we will follow Christ, or the devil. Will I submit my will to the Lord or remain autonomous and thus a law unto myself? Choices, you see.

One of the choices we all must make concerns how we are going to respond to evil perpetrated upon us. Will we respond as Christ would, or will we turn bitter and vengeful? No one can make that choice for us. But if we take the wrong road here, we can become increasingly like our abuser in a frighteningly short time. Someone put it this way — shamed people shame people.  If we are not careful, shame very quickly morphs into anger and launches abuse “right back at ’em.” If you have been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that we are not talking here about insisting upon some unbiblical form of “forgiveness” that says we must reconcile or we aren’t forgiving, or that demands we not stick to consequences for the abuser if he says he is sorry. That is nonsense and we know it. But with all of that confusion swept aside, we all still need to decide. Will we let the sun go down on our anger and thus give the devil an opportunity to recruit us to his team, or not?

Listen to this quote from by a man named Erich Fromm who is quoted in M. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie (remember, I don’t totally endorse Peck, but he still has some really good stuff in this book) —

Our capacity to choose changes constantly with our practice of life. The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions, the more our heart hardens; the more often we make the right decisions, the more our heart softens — or better perhaps, comes alive. Each step in life which increases my self-confidence, my integrity, my courage, my conviction also increases my capacity to choose the desirable alternative, until eventually it becomes more difficult for me to choose the undesirable rather than the desirable action. On the other hand, each act of surrender and cowardice weakens me, opens the path for more acts of surrender, and eventually freedom is lost….  Most people fail in the art of living….because they do not wake up and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide. They are not aware when life asks them a question, and when they still have alternative answers. Then with each step along the wrong road it becomes increasingly difficult for them to admit that they are on the wrong road, often only because they have to admit that they must go back to the first wrong turn, and must accept the fact that they have wasted energy and time.

Peck goes on to say:

There are only two states of being: submission to God and goodness or the refusal to submit to anything beyond one’s own will — which refusal automatically enslaves one to the forces of evil. We must ultimately belong either to God or the devil.

So, let us all take great care. When evil happens to us, we find ourselves at that fork in the road. The one way is the path to settled anger and bitterness which seeks personal revenge and strikes out at others. Call it, perhaps, Broadway. And then there is that other way, a bit narrow and bumpy, but it ends in healing and life. Whichever way we go, we will surely find that we become increasingly like the road we travel upon.

[June 28, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to June28, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to June 28, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to June 28, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 28, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

14 thoughts on “Abuse Victims Must Take Care Lest They Become Abusive”

  1. I have a book titled “God and the Victim: Traumatic Intrusions on Grace and Freedom” by Jennifer Erin Beste. It is Catholic theology, but may apply to many Protestants as well. The author is saying many abuse victims may not have the free will to accept grace. It’s heavy going but may be of relevance to readers here.

    1. Thanks, Jim. Scripture tells us that no human being has free will, and yet all human beings do! What this means is simply this:

      1) We are all born into this world in a fallen, sinful state because we are in Adam. When he sinned, we sinned in him (just as when Christ obeyed the Law and went to the cross, all who are in Him by faith obeyed the Law and died on the cross in Him). In this sense, we do not have free will: we cannot choose God. We are hostile to Him and to His Law (Romans 3; Romans 8). 2) At the same time, we choose to sin freely.

      The crux of this matter is to understand what free will is. It is the ability to choose what we want. Can human beings choose what they want? Yes. The problem is with our “wants.” In our fallen condition, apart from Christ, we do not desire God. Think about it — it is impossible for anyone to choose what they do not desire. In the end, we all make every choice in keeping with our desire. Apart from Christ, we do not desire God, we do not desire to obey His Word. Therefore, we freely choose not to.

      What we do not possess then, apart from Christ, is a will that is free in the sense of having the ability to choose Christ, and the problem is with our heart — with our desire. Only when Christ changes our heart can we then choose Him out of the new love for Him and His Word that comes with being born again as a new creation. Therefore, if an abuse victim is truly a Christian, they can indeed choose to reject evil and accept the grace of God, i.e., God’s love for them. It may not happen instantly as they heal from the trauma, but it will happen. Consider, for example the abuse the Apostle Paul received at the hands of his enemies, and yet he did not seek personal vengeance upon them and desired their salvation.

  2. Jeff, this is such a pertinent topic, and I don’t know about other readers in this community, but it is certainly something I have mulled on for a while. I have gone from wondering if I am the abusive one in the marriage to coming to the conclusion that they are the wicked ones and that the abused have good hearts. What’s probably more true is something along the lines of Peck’s argument – that there is a continuum, and the reason why some are at the extreme ends of the continuum have something to do with how much they have practiced those things that further entrench them into such mindsets.

    Here’s where I’m at at the moment. I can’t do anything about his behaviour and thinking. I’m long past trying to figure him out and giving him solutions. But my horror and outrage at the effects of his behaviour mean that I DARE not find myself at the same end of the spectrum as him. Sin is so awful and so deceptive – what’s to say that I won’t fall into the same trap, inch by inch, thought by thought, act by act, if I am not careful? Indeed, when I find myself reacting in ways that I feel ashamed of, I am reminded of how easy it is to be selfish, entitled, graceless and brutal. Instead of putting my energy into wondering how I can help him “see” it, I need the energy to re-direct every part of my thinking that doesn’t submit to Christ so my children cannot only escape abuse and hell, but experience freedom and heaven on earth.

    Having said that, I am aware of how easy it is to fall into self-blame too, and the reality is that like a dog that is cornered and bites back, a victim often lashes out and it looks like abusive behaviour but in fact it is reaction from being abused. The trauma that is inflicted makes victims act in ways that are dysfunctional, but only for a time. Eventually, as they seek healing and recovery, most of them DO find much more balance in the way they react.

    Thanks, too, Jim, for that information. It would be interesting to see what the author is trying to say.

  3. My husband has used this on me for years to make me look bad to the point I thought maybe I was the abuser. Until I realized I was reacting to his treatment of me and defending myself. I was trying to survive. (I’d yell back.) But in order to not give him any more ammunition I shut down and rarely argue back anymore. I go quiet and just pray silently until he’s done yelling.

    1. Annie,

      I did the same (yell back), and stbx told me I was being abusive toward him. Your actions are exactly what I did as well! I shut down completely! Of course, I was being abusive because I had put up ‘walls’. 😦 I was beginning to believe I was being abusive toward him, however, my pastor would remind me my actions were reactions to how my stbx was treating me.

  4. The abuse I suffered was harder for me to spot and I still struggle with whether nor not I was the one abused, or the abuser as a result.

    For instance, I grew up with abuse including sexually intrusive behaviour from a parent, and quite possibly developed somewhat of a personality disorder, and had a lot of issues with trust, men, etc. So it’s quite possible that some of the inward reactions I had were indeed the out-workings of unforgiveness, lack of healing of trauma and unawareness of the ways I had learned to respond in a world that was crazy and where I expected no justice or compassion.

    My ex never hit me and rarely yelled. I suspect this is because he did not want to be like his obviously and definitely abusive father. In his mind, as long as he did not ever hit yell or call names, that meant he was a saintly man and had succeeded in not being like his dad. But he did inform me once on a date, when I attempted to confront him about some inconsiderate behaviour, that my role in his life was to make him feel good about himself and never tell him his faults. He said this as if he was imparting truth that was very reasonable and that anyone would understand. Anytime I got “uppity” which meant confronting something abusive and dysfunctional going on, towards me or him, he would use sharp anger and tell me to “settle down”, sort of slapping me down into place. He flipped out when I tried to end our dating relationship because I felt he had no real hunger for inward truth; one of the things he said to me was “Oh, that’s just GREAT, that’s just GREAT, God gives me this girl and then he takes her away, well if that’s the way it’s going to be, I don’t want to live alone anymore.” He was vehemently angry and ranting and it triggered a trauma-based reaction that had me experiencing what was likely a switch and becoming meekly submissive. I was horrified by the thought that he apparently thought I was a thing to be awarded to him between him and God and that somehow I myself had no right to have say in the matter.

    He patronized me all the time and attempted to give me little life lessons that I apparently needed, like how to operate the door on our van, even though I’d already used the darn thing many times with apparent success. If I tried to confront something or change anything in the relationship he’d get resentful and sullen and just refuse to acknowledge what I said. I’d resort to rather dramatic means of getting his attention. Once I left some ornaments he’d given me in pieces outside the door after a fight in which he refused to acknowledge my feelings. Probably childish and it’s stuff like that that made me wonder if I was the one who was whacked. But nothing regular seemed capable of breaking through his practiced ability to refuse to interact with me on things of concern to me.

    He regularly negated my viewpoint unless his mom agreed with me as she did during a discussion about not running to parents to borrow money. A lot of what he did seemed to be about dominance. He fully expected, even though he got me as a wife through a form of coercion by frightening the hell out of me, that I should respect him, like him, trust him and be sexually attracted to him. I wasn’t. But I couldn’t figure out why because my mind disappeared into an amnesiac kind of fog. I couldn’t admit that he had frightened me that badly that I had submitted. When I told him that I didn’t feel what I should for someone I had married (truly not intending to be cruel but honest), he was really angry and and seething with resentment as if this was my fault and he was being dealt dirt despite what he did. He would twist words and jerk me around, playing dishonest games, which after a few years resulted in my yelling and screaming at him and calling him the worst names. In front of others he maintained an aura of saintliness. He did do a lot of things for me. I think he figured the end justified the means and that if he made up for it by serving me in some ways I would come around. But any attempt to discuss his fit of rage by which he got control of when I tried to end our dating relationship would always be met by a flat denial: “THAT never happened”. End of discussion.

    Some of the things he did were outright emotional abuse and torment. If I tried to confront him about how he was treating me, he would act cold and snotty and punish me with silence, even making a point of interacting with anyone else in the room in a cheery way as if to say “We’re okay but she’s a nut job”. One day he did this to me when I was very upset and trying to talk to him about how I felt he was treating me and he pulled one of his ignorant arrogant cold mocking things and I lost it and climbed right up one side of him and slapped him. I was horrified later but still outraged and hurt, and feeling powerless and humiliated, something he no doubt intended.

    Another time, after being subjected to the meanest and most awful treatment by his family, we had a fight in the car on the way home. I was attempting to talk to him about how hurt and upset I was over what had happened and how I did not want to go back there and receive more of this and he refused to acknowledge that it was a problem and kept twisting it around onto me and making it my fault.

    I was so beside myself with anger and torment that I wound up punching him in the head a couple of times; just frantic with pain and upset over how he was treating me and the deliberate denial he was using about what had happened, a thing that would be repeated many times before he finally came around somewhat and admitted his family was pretty abusive. Later on, I felt horrified; what a crazy lady I had been. I am sure if a cop had seen me slugging him while he was driving I would have been handcuffed and carted off. Not wise or mature (I was in my very early twenties and had a lot of unhealed trauma); all I could focus on at that moment was the wild hurt and pain of the injustice he was inflicting on me. He had told me of numerous times his father had pulled the same kind of emotional abuse on him. That deliberate negating of another person that is intended to make them feel small, powerless and ridiculed. Not nice. I had the distinct impression that some of his behaviour was actually intended to make me lose it because in some way he then felt he had put me down and scored a moral victory of some sort over me.

    Towards the end of our marriage, my disrespect of this man knew no bounds. I mean despite the fact that I did not want to really marry him and had hugely ambivalent feelings about him, I still made some heroic efforts to make it work with him and his arrogant, controlling and manipulative family. I showed them hospitality and allowed them back into my life on the condition that abusive behaviour cease. Even after there was more boundary-violating stuff, I still reached out to them and did acts of kindness to them. And to him. Once during an argument I chucked something at his head. Another time, playing with the idea that perhaps I needed him to hold me in place when I tried to leave the room, I wound up biting him when he refused to let go even after I insisted several times even though initially I had wanted him to hang on to me. Don’t know what I was doing there. He seemed to play games with any games I played if that makes sense.

    It’s stuff like that made me wonder if I was the abuser, because I yelled and called him “an F-ing bastard”, “an a*****hole”, “a jerk”, “a coward”, etc. Most of the time it was in reaction to being jerked around and even emotionally tormented and bullied and blatantly lied to and falsely blamed. I hated the word-twisting dishonesty. If I said I felt as if things were THIS way, he would never come at it from a place of maturity and ask “Why do you feel that way? That concerns me. Tell me some examples of where that happened.”

    I was pretty furious at how easily he charmed others. And confused that he did do a lot of things for me as far as driving me around to various appointments as I tried to figure out why I was so apparently nuts. Can you be a person from an abusive background, have behaviours that are immature and perhaps even a bit bad, have trust issues, unforgiveness issues, be needy demanding and selfish, react wildly with some of that reaction perhaps being due to past abuse, even occasionally act abusive yourself, and still be in an abusive relationship and it not be largely your fault? I mean my behaviour eventually became abusive as is mentioned in the post, as far as the yelling / name calling and the one or two incidents of slapping, one biting and one chucking something at him went. But it wasn’t me who acted all entitled and threw a rage-fit in the beginning over treating another person like some prize owed to me. Just struggling so hard to clear the fog. And really wondering. Sorry for the long post. Really wondering sometimes if it was me. It would be incredibly hard to face that at the end of it all, I was the one who had become abusive and was actually reacting to things from my past, not the present or mistakenly transferred it all onto him.

    1. Hi, Kind of Anonymous, no need to apologise for the length of your comment!

      Bless you and (((hugs)) and thank you for sharing. 🙂

      I am confident you are not an abuser. I am confident he is the abuser and you were doing many things to try to get him to stop mistreating you. I would agree with you that some of those things you did were unwise, immature, and inappropriate. Using violence against an abuser is seldom a good idea — it generally backfires back on the victim. And like you said, the abuser can then smugly assume the ‘moral high ground’ — sneering at you for having lost it…. And it gives him more fuel to portray you as ‘nuts’ to bystanders.

      Him driving you around to appointments to help you with your being so ‘nuts’ as he would have described it, was (I think) just fuel for that narrative of his. “See how sick and crazy my wife is? And see what a good husband I am trying to get help for her?” etc., etc. My first husband did that kind of thing too. And on the way back home from some of those appointments, he dug the knife into me really deep, because he’d heard from the mouth of the so-called expert who I’d just been to see, that I might be delusional, or making it all up, or attention-seeking or whatever….I remember once getting out of the car while it was actually travelling (slowly) because he said something so cutting to me after one of those appointments. And I walked to the women’s refuge that I’d been to before. But they only put me up for one night, and not in the mother and children’s refuge (because I’d left my baby in the car and was on my own that time).

      This thing you said here:

      it wasn’t me who acted all entitled and threw a rage-fit in the beginning over treating another person like some prize owed to me.

      I think that is 100 percent true. Read it. Read it again. And believe it. Here is is again, in bold font, for you to absorb.

      It wasn’t you who acted all entitled and threw a rage-fit in the beginning over treating another person like some prize owed to you. It was him who acted all entitled. Not you.

      And to the extent that you used violence and other strategies to try to get him to stop or at least take SOME responsibility for his wicked behaviour, you were not acting with any overblown entitlement at all. You were trying to reclaim the right to your personal dignity, personal integrity, and sheer personhood (rather than object-hood) — trying to reclaim it because he had stolen it from you with his incremental, fog-inducing, deceitful, selfish, malicious, crafty, double-dealing tactics. He had tried to systematically disassemble you, and your were valiantly trying to reclaim your self.

      Here are some more (((hugs))).

    2. Kind of Anonymous, your husband sounds incredibly like mine. Always acting self-righteous even while blatantly tearing at the heart of someone he has vowed to protect…. And then intentionally upsetting you with his gaslighting techniques, and lying in wait for your natural reaction, only to use it against you to further his smear campaign against you. He knows exactly what he is doing…. And he is trying to ally others to wittingly or unwittingly join in his undermining “game.”

      What you said below is a “disrespecting technique” that my ex-husband also did to me, not only [to] demean and silence me, but to also teach my children to do the same, as he would involve them in this game of cutting me off, me while talking to them, as if I did not matter. You said —

      If I tried to confront him about how he was treating me, he would act cold and snotty and punish me with silence, even making a point of interacting with anyone else in the room in a cheery way as if to say “We’re okay but she’s a nut job”.

      Thank you for describing this “undermining tactic”, as it reminded me of when I was forced to cope in my abusers “contrived belittling environment”. 

      There is a book called “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft, that you can get through this site (if you can’t afford it, email twbtc.acfj@gmail.com). This book as well as others that they offer will help explain how these types deliberately employ strategies while denying any culpability as they try to make their wives reaction to their behavior “work against them” so as to incriminate them. Once you read the book you will understand more about why your abuser is doing this, and it will help you see the “big picture” in their game and you will no longer wonder if you are to blame.

      After reading the book, I finally figured out that the many things he did and said was for the purpose of “setting up bait or traps” to try to make me react and look bad. I was finally able to clearly and calmly know in my spirit what I was up against, and create a personalized “counter-stradegy” that ultimately led to the return of my personhood, while God supplied the strength and ability to remove his evil influence from my life. Hoping and praying for you to do the same some day.

      1. Validating you, SFT and KOA, as I say “I believe you and I say yes the very SAME exact things happened for years here.” It’s evil. It’s wrong. It’s destructive. It’s calculated! It’s not at all ok!

  5. Thanks, Barb, for your patience with my struggles, and also, SFT, for your words of support and relating. I am really in the thick of battle right now over what is the truth and what is not. I do not want to fail to face sin that is really mine and the sin issues in my life at that time make it hard to figure out. I am also praying right now for God to dismantle some things in my life that I think make it hard for me to blame the other person when they deserve it. I mean, it is almost as if I would rather absorb all the blame than EVER say that the OTHER person is a manipulative you-know-what who knows what he is doing, or is the one who is refusing truth. It’s very weird but it’s as if the only way I can be righteous is to be wrong, or be to blame. The process of blaming myself began early in life. Kind of makes it hard to tell the difference between legit guilt and false guilt.

    I suspect it has at least something to do with my relationship with my dad; when my dad began to do evil things, I was horrified. I adored this man and loved him with all my heart. The sun rose and set on my wonderful daddy. So when he did things that amounted to betrayals, and then blamed them on me or refused to admit he’d done something seriously bad, it took years for that to even begin to sink in. I couldn’t accept it. With each new betrayal or act of evil perverted behaviour followed by blatant lying and gaslighting, acting as if nothing happened afterward, etc., I found myself coping in a weird way. My mind began to split; on the one hand, there is my daddy whom I love and who I believed to be a good man and on the other hand, my daddy just did something despicable and evil and is acting as if he did nothing wrong. Further compounding it was that I knew he had suffered some of the most sick, twisted, cruel abuse and that he didn’t wind up like that all by himself and so I was keenly aware of how injured he was and felt very sorry and protective of him. The thought of someone hurting either of my parents just tore at my heart in an intense way, as both my parents had suffered severe abuse. Even more so I felt responsible because dad had assaulted my mom, when I told on her for some sin of her own.

    I can’t help wonder if my reactions against the behaviour of my ex-husband would still properly be classed as retaliatory sin, and controlling behaviour on my part in terms of trying to force him to behave rightly, which only made him feel more justified to act that way. I initiated the relationship not him. And I was flattering and seductive, all ideas about how to behave with men that I had picked up through my damaging life. I would mindlessly follow stuff that just popped into my mind without questioning where it came from either. Never occurred to me that not everything that pops into your head is from a good source. I had quite a victim mindset too, felt sorry for myself and was very needy and resentful, hardly qualities which are healthy. I am really wondering about how much of it was transference and trauma-triggers and how much of it was really him, if you know what I mean. Like that old commercial for recording tapes “Is it live, or is it Memorex”? My past of abuse and struggles with depression, self-pity and victimhood were certainly used against me to affirm that since I had so many problems and was already screwed up, it had to be me. Because he was, you know, from a wonderful family and was totally together so it couldn’t be him. Don’t know why this is so hard to break free from but again, thank you for helping me think. That’s what I am having trouble doing.

      1. Hi Barb,

        I was fixing some comments from the back of the blog (the usual stuff, like fixing broken links, etc.), when I read your comment….

        Your description “It’s like trying to swim in a swimming pool of mucilaginous okra….” made me laugh. 🙂 (My laughter was (and still is) due solely to your description….I’ve cooked okra before. 🙂 My laughter is not intended to sound like I’m making light of the topic of the blog post or the comments on blog post.)

    1. Hi, Kind of Anonymous,
      I’ve been thinking about what you said about your father’s treatment of you. What he did to you was despicable, appalling, evil, cruel, heinous sin.

      You might find it helpful to read Steve Tracy’s book Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse [Affiliate link] (that’s an Amazon Affiliate link link, so ACFJ gets a small payment from Amazon if you purchase via that link).

      Also, you might find some of the links on our PTSD resources page helpful.

      And here are a few of our posts that may be helpful:

      Tear Down This Wall of Silence

      Diane Langberg interviewed about domestic and sexual abuse

      The Unique Nature of Sexual Intimacy Makes its Abuse Uniquely Destructive

      Addendum to “The Unique Nature of Sexual Intimacy Makes Its Abuse Uniquely Destructive” — from Steven Tracy

      The Evil Power of Secrecy — Comments from Anna C. Salter’s Book

      The Fallacy of “Don’t Take Candy From a Stranger”

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