Love believes all things
Love believes all things. That comes from verse seven of 1 Corinthians 13.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV)
Often victims of domestic abuse are instructed in the following way: “The Bible says love believes all things so you need to believe that your spouse can change and your marriage will be healed. If you are not holding onto that belief in faith, you are not trusting God enough.” The hidden implication in this message is: if your spouse fails to change, it must be because your belief was weak.
This teaching is erroneous. It dumps responsibility on the victim when the responsibility belongs to the abuser. It also ignores the reality that many abusers don’t change and and those who do change usually only do so when they are made fully accountable and given tough-love-education and firm boundaries by all the various people who have influence in their lives: their spouse, police, courts, church leaders, counselors, etc. The teaching is also wrong because it encourages the victim to stay and suffer indefinitely, which can be very dangerous indeed.
“If your spouse fails to change, it must be because your belief was weak,” is typical of Word-Faith teaching (also known as Word of Faith). Word-Faith Theology was imported into Christianity by a man named E. W. Kenyon who got it from Christian Science, the cult started by Mary Baker Eddy. It has been recycled around the Pentecostal and Charismatic scene for many decades since then. By the way, I’m not against Pentecostalism per se — some of my own Christian practice includes some of what the Pentecostals practice — but to the extent that they embrace Word-Faith teaching, their theology has problems in my opinion.
I’d like to show you another way love believes all things can apply to victims of domestic abuse.
When we were being abused, many of us, I think, learned to receive actions that were not loving, and in our heads turn them into loving. We learned to “read into” words and actions that hurt, and make them not hurt. This was not necessarily a completely conscious process. It may have been the default that many of us grew up with, if we had parents or teachers who told us “I love and care about you” but in fact said or did hurtful things to us. We were trained to ignore the “ouch, that hurts!” feeling, and go instead with the “this is love” message that powerful others were giving us to define reality.
Here’s a quote from an email a survivor sent me recently (Jeff S).
I’ve always kind of considered the “well that doesn’t feel right, but I’ll believe it because the Scripture says it” moments to be what faith is all about. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. We can’t see Scripture clearly for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the Fall. However, at some point we just cannot let “oppression” and “love” be redefined for us to something totally antithetical to what those words mean. In a lot of ways I feel that’s what I did.
I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book 1984 [by George Orwell], but it’s the whole idea behind how the dystopian government in that book controls people. They manipulate them and break them down until they can accept two opposite things as true, with the book culminating in a character “loving” the government even as he is executed. This very much can feel like how Scripture is presented to us by the church: “God loves you and so do we, so when He / we demand your suffering it must be loving”.
My struggle is to find balance, knowing that my conscience can lead me astray and the Word is the ultimate authority, but I cannot ignore stuff that doesn’t sit right. When something doesn’t sit right, it demands more thought and speculation. [Emphasis added.]
When we ignore stuff that doesn’t sit right, we think things like “God is loving and the Bible doesn’t condone abuse, therefore what I’m experiencing in following God’s precepts for marriage must not really be abuse.” By denying our actual pain and being unaware of our disconnection from our real feelings, by re-interpreting the abuse as ‘not abuse’ and seeing our emotions as our own weakness and sin, we can live in denial. This superficial life is bearable because we mostly don’t know we are doing it. We are so accustomed to it that it feels normal and right. And it’s congruent with what we’ve been taught by church authorities, therefore, while we are living from that place, we have fellowship with others who are living at that place. We can smile and nod and be friendly and chat with them over coffee.
And we can be happy and loving with our spouses because we don’t see what they are doing as abuse. We read everything they do to us as ‘loving’. And if we can’t interpret their conduct as ‘loving’, we make endless excuses for them. We don’t have to rack our brains thinking up compassionate excuses because our spouses have offered plenty of plausible excuses for themselves already. It’s like walking into an exclusive clothing store where the tailored garments are on the racks, every size available, and the sales assistants hovering around ready to assist in every way. “This garment (this excuse) is a perfect fit for my darling spouse. The color, the cut, the fabric: it’s all just right.”
So where does love believes all things fit into this? When the abuser’s pattern of coercive control pushes us into some kind of crisis, when our pain becomes so strong that it leaks through the superficial veneer, when the lightbulbs begin to ignite and we think “I am being abused here,” we come face to face with reality: My spouse does not love me; my spouse does not care about me; my spouse does not even see me; my spouse is entirely self-focused; my spouse hates me. (There can be variations of wording here, but the essence of it is the same for each survivor.)
And then we have to wrap our minds around the reality that evil of this kind exists and has actually been applying its blow torch directly to our souls. This is where love believes all things acquires a new meaning. God never requires us to believe in lies. He only wants us to believe things that are true. This is the truth: my spouse has not loved me. My spouse has hated me. My spouse has tried to destroy me and unpick my personality bit by bit. My spouse has lied to me and slandered me and undermined me and intentionally been selfish and disrespectful towards me and….(finish the sentence yourself). God knows this: he (abusive spouse) knew it all along. And God, our loving dear God, can help us bear and believe this truth.
[July 1, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 1, 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 July 1, 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 July 1, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 1, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Similarities between the Word of Faith Movement and Christian Hedonism
The Difficulty and Necessity of Accepting the Unlove
- Posted in: Victims
- Tagged: Barbara Roberts, Christian maturity, Corinthians, courage, deception, emotional abuse, evil, false guilt, false teachers, getting free, interpreting Scripture, Jeff S, mind control, recovery, unconditional love
Wow….feels like “D-DAY” all over again!….Nailed it, Barbara…! It’s a shocker to come face-to-face with this….and something else…. It seems as I have been trying to understand this that it is the abuser who is SO kind and wonderful but has lived a double life or a compartmentalized life that has a very hard time “getting” what they have done to all those who are hurt by them. They seem to SAY they are sorry and understand but really have no experience being on the “receiving” end of this kind of duplicity. A sad face over it but a refusal to make the effort it takes to change.
People think a wife “knows” when her husband is unfaithful….not always….not until afterward do you look back and realize all the red flags that should have been glowing like flares!
Marriage to a charming, handsome, intelligent ambitious man is no joy if he does not care to learn from the Lord what marriage IS and what it involves and HOW to protect his love for his wife….and how to avoid damaging other women as well. The world will eat him alive and spit out the bones….and he will deny it was HIS doing! His neglect….”can’t a married man have female friends?”
Not at the expense of his godly priorities….God first….wife….and family….extra female “friends” drain away his focus and appreciation for his wife….and soon comparisons are bound to pile up while his criticisms mount up to help him “justify” his infidelity….
It used to be that duels were fought in defense of a young woman’s honor….just for a man who violated her EMOTIONS….why? Because emotions are one of the KEYS to open a woman’s heart and her self to a man…. Today’s young women are not protected….and young men see them as prey….and even now young women think that a man’s lust is “flattering”….it is a very sad and dangerous world to be in…. Thank God for His continued offering of His wisdom….we need it more than ever.
Do abusers have a very hard time “getting” what they have done to all those who are hurt by them? I don’t think so. Putting it that way makes it sound like they are the victims of their own unfortunate incapacity to comprehend cause and effect. The fact is, they believe they are entitled to use and abuse other people. They have defective consciences. They believe what they do is okay. Another way of saying this is that they choose to be abusive and they choose not to admit to being abusive. They will feign being sorry because that gets them off the hook or buys them time, but they don’t believe for a moment that they have actually done anything wrong. It’s not that they “have a hard time” getting it: they CHOOSE not to get it. This is so hard for the conscience-bound person to wrap their mind around. But it’s true.
Like my ex saying, “I’m sorry”, then “What do you want ME to do about it? How many times do I have to say I’m sorry? You need to forgive me or God won’t forgive you for your sins….DO you forgive me? I have changed….ask brother so-and-so or brother such-and-such (names of men known to be righteous men(?)), they saw me cry, they think I’ve changed. Why can’t you just trust me?” Then, “You will ALWAYS be my wife, we will ALWAYS be married, even if we don’t live together.” All this instead of respect, which was what I was looking for. This instead of remorse for causing life-long damage to our bodies by his behavior which I saw as abuse and he saw as a correction that I needed (which means the door is open to that one, it will come again whenever he feels I need that kind of correction again.)
Yup, Barbara, it’s just like you said.
Laurie – that sort of statement is SO Satanic! This sense of owning you and you never having the ability to escape.
This is the sort of mentality that Pharaoh had toward Israel before God REDEEMED them from that covenant of bondage!
And it is the same sort of accusation that Satan, “the accuser of the brethren”, makes against us.
Thank God, our Redeemer lives….and He redeems us from covenants of abusive bondage!
By His redemptive work, those covenants of abusive bondage are completely dissolved. They are not merely altered….they cease to exist!
Based on my experience, it can take years to uncover the lies and deception.
It’s not a matter of stupidity. It’s a matter of loving, trusting people are not looking for or expecting such intentionally hurtful violations of covenant vows by the person they thought they could trust the most.
I WAS married to an abusive and adulterous man. The marriage was more of a love triangle to say the least. The whole marriage he had the luxury of having “female friends”, one he poured out his heart to about our marriage. I felt like my job as a “wife” was to throw them off of him. My pastor at the time tried get him to see that having female friends can cause a wife to be insecure. He wanted to start a business with one woman who later became his mistress. When we seperated, I found out that he slept with another woman. I only knew of one. Anyway I confronted him over the phone and his response was, “whether I slept with 5, 10, or 50 women. It doesn’t matter we’re not together anymore.” So it would have mattered if we were living under the same room. Abusers just don’t make sense and the level of emotional shallowness is unbearable.
Anon, you are so right. Abusers make no sense, and the emotional shallowness is unbearable.
Your story points to the ‘two realities’ that Patricia Adams talks about in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship [*Affiliate link]. The abuser is in one reality, his partner is in another reality. In the partner’s reality, she wants emotional intimacy and care. That’s healthy and normal. In the abuser’s reality he is not interested in intimacy, only power-over. And the lying nonsense abusers can spew out, only makes sense in their reality: it gives them power-over (by bamboozling the mind of their victim) and it ‘exonerates’ them from any responsibility for the hurt they cause others.
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
Barbara, it is interesting you go to 1 Cor 13 because, though I didn’t mention it in our correspondence, this was one of the passages I ended up realizing I’d misapplied. I remember sitting down one day and thinking “I don’t understand 1 Cor 13 AT ALL. Whatever I’ve been doing with that passage, clearly I’ve been doing it wrong.” This of course following on the heels of being told that I did not love with agape love because “agape love never fails”. And yes, the expectation was that if I had loved properly, it would have changed her. Again there’s that application that we have the power to change our partners, which throws everything back on us.
It is also interesting you bring up the excuses bit, because I remember talking to an Elder about the fact that my wife hadn’t been regularly in church in 4 years while I sat alone in the worship service. I was trying to point out that the church should not have been ignorant that there were problems. He responded that I’d always made excuses for her and they’d believed me – what else were they supposed to do? And you know, I did. I made all the excuses because I believed them myself. There was always a valid reason she wasn’t in church, and even if I didn’t believe it deep down, I sold the lie well.
Oh yes. I made all the excuses too and believed them myself. I think a few bystanders had their suspicions, but many ‘bought’ my rendition of reality. I think this goes to show how we need people in our churches who are awake and astute to the dynamics of abuse BEFORE it hits the fan in a particular family in the church body. If for example that Elder of yours had been wise to abuse, he might have had his doubts about all the excuses you proffered for your wife, and he might have actually sought to probe a little deeper into what was going on in your marriage, and maybe helped you come out of the fog sooner. If only….we can all think that, in retrospect!
I’ve read before about how one of the reasons victims find it hard to be believed when they DO tell, is that they’ve been covering up the abuse for so long that everyone around them believes the marriage is reasonably okay.
I’ve had that post title “Love believes all things” in my head for months, but never knew what would go in the body of the post until you sent me that email.
And that is a tricky place to be….helping a victim out of the fog: how much to “push” at what increments and how passionately (especially having been there oneself). How much to back off. How to let her make her own choice. How to ride the crests of her fog — because she is still in it. She senses the abuse yet is afraid to see it for what it is. We’ve been there. We’ve been in the doubt. It is THICK. One moment it is acknowledged and the next it is dismissed with a tremulous wave of the hand, “oh, it’s nothing….he’s just tired, I’m probably just a poor communicator….but he gets SO angry!” The foggy bottom rollercoaster we have ALL been on.
Yet there is a sense that if one pushes too much….it will go very, very poorly. And there is a sense that if one backs off completely then she will either feel abandoned or be fully enveloped in the fog (smothered, really) and never gain knowledge, peace, clarity, freedom, sanity or safety. Of course, that’s probably putting too much on me when this is HER life and HER choice.
Or does one simply wait until it all goes terribly wrong….and be there to help her pick up the pieces. But what if it could have been avoided or prevented? Should one tarry? Should one keep “checking in?”
There is definitely a balance to be walked and I’m not sure I’m doing such a fantastic job. Help?
Hi, Charis, you put this very well. 🙂
I don’t want to sound super-spiritual, but when interacting with victims who I think are still quite fairly much in the fog, up on the crests one day, and then down in the foggy bottom the next day, as you so well put it, I try to always keep in mind that God is orchestrating the fog-dispelling enterprise over time, in His perfect way, and I am only His handmaiden. That means I am not the only one responsible for helping the victim get liberated of the fog. I let the Spirit guide me and quite often I feel that the Spirit is saying ‘that’s enough for now’.
At the same time I don’t want to just leave you with that, it is probably too vague to give you much to grasp and get your teeth into.
Here is a post that might also be of some help: Converting statements into questions – a skill for bystanders who want to help victims of abuse.
This line….so very true, and lightbulb!
I, too, had made excuses for many years. I had actually stopped making excuses at church about six months before my ex left us (he immediately wanted to come back but I said “no”, my first boundary with him). Maybe that is why my pastor was more understanding. I’m not sure. I do know that he believed me and supported my kids and I right away. He didn’t and is still not quite grasping the concept of emotional abuse. He is repeatedly surprised that my ex just “doesn’t get it” and will be “so harsh and try to get digs in”. I think one of the issues for people around us, helping us, that they can’t get is that the abuser won’t change. When we start talking about abuse, talking about it is NEW to us, but the abuse isn’t and we’ve tried every strategy out there and seen it not work, so why should it work now? The counselors and such think that because we just started talking about it we never did anything about it before so setting boundaries and pointing out the issue and being forgiving is going to make a change and get upset when we are not willing to “give it time”. I already gave him 17 years….yeah, more time is not going to make a difference! Especially when he doesn’t admit he is an addict and power and control is his drug of choice.
This post brings back a lot of memories of changes in thinking that I had to learn and / or unlearn.
The mindset that “if your spouse fails to change, it must be because your belief was weak”, puts us squarely in the position of feeling responsible for our spouse’s behavior and choices.
If that were true, what does it say about God? How did God allow Adam and Eve to sin? How does God allow millions of people, today, to choose an eternity in Hell over a relationship with Him? Does He lack faith? Does He lack love?
Obviously not! God is love!
Clearly, God holds human free will as sacred. Though He will woo us and warn us, He does to over-ride our free will to choose. Even when we break His heart by choosing destruction, He still respects our free will.
Which means, love respects free will.
While in an abusive relationship, we tend to fall into this thinking that, “It is all up to me. I must love deeply enough, have enough faith, pray sincerely enough, sacrifice enough, to make it all work.” By “make it all work” what we really mean is “change my spouse’s heart”.
Not even God will do that, unless invited to.
Why would we put ourselves in the position of feeling responsible for something that not even God will do? Worse, why would we advise someone else to?
Sometimes, the most loving thing we can do is allow a spouse to make their own choices….even when those choices lead to the necessity of divorce.
That is godly. That is love.
Nail on the head, Joe. Exactly!
Thank you, Joe, for this godly wisdom and insight.
This stands out to me, because this is the move I need to make now….like soon, now, like this week kinda now.
Praying for you, this morning, Laurie, that God will give you courage, strength, wisdom, and discernment, as you make these critical decisions and actions.
Praying that He will be your Protector, Provider, Redeemer and Deliverer, as you walk out of the bondage of abuse, into liberty in Christ!
I’m praying for you too, Laurie. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” may be your watch-word this week. Bless you. We are here for you.
Word of Faith teaching does great harm to people who are suffering as victims of abuse (or who are poor or sick). It’s always your fault because you “don’t pray enough”, “don’t believe enough”, “don’t claim enough”. Maybe you are even “under a curse” and it’s your job to break that curse. Or maybe God is punishing you for some kind of disobedience. It is your duty to be happy.
I’m really familiar with that style of thinking because I was involved in a Pentecostal church for 14 or 15 years. In that deceptive environment there was no way in the world I could have understood what was happening to me as a victim of an abuser. One of the worst things these churches do is deny the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, replacing it with subjective experiences and imagination. The Bible gives clear pictures of abusers, and tells us how to deal with them. But the Pentecostal Movement left me confused and almost unable to understand the Bible, because of all their Scripture twisting. By the grace of God my eyes became opened to the many false teachings in the Pentecostal Movement and I walked away. Once their deceptive influence was gone, I was able to study the Bible again and as my faith got stronger I started to see through the abuser’s deceit.
I really can’t find words to describe the awfulness of being an abuse victim in a Word of Faith church.
[Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]
KayE, could you give me some examples of biblical abusers, or any other of you out there in blog-reply land? I need to back up my feelings about abuse is wrong with Scriptures just as surely as those who use the Word of God use Scriptures to trap others in abusive situations. Fighting fire with fire — but within my own soul. I am aware that the Gospel itself as Jesus read it in the sanctuary of a synagogue from Isaiah declares that the captives are free and the hurting are healed.
Laurie, I have a big list of those Scriptures that I compiled years ago, when researching for my book. I’ll put it up as a post later today.
Laurie – two biblical examples that come immediately to mind are Pharaoh’s abuse of his covenant with Israel, and King Saul’s abuse of his covenant with David. There are many more examples, but these two are very clear.
Here are a couple of posts I have done on the topic of these two examples, with links to Scripture references:
The Great Divorce [Internet Archive link]
Forgiveness with Boundaries [Internet Archive link]
God bless! I’m praying for you!
I agree….if all things in your life are because of your “believing” then when things are going well….pride surfaces….when they are going poorly then “where is YOUR believing”.
I recall hearing “any two believers can have a great marriage”….that idea alone left me in a place where I “believed” the statement of my husband that he too believed “just as I do”…. That was a LIE….he “walked” for a season but he was not devoted to learning and following the Lord….I just did not have truth….I had doctrines of men and did not realize it
Many new young believers accepted what was taught because of it being “Bible” and “in Jesus name”….so the hungry for fellowship and “like-minded” fellowship made this kind of venue attractive.
I have since learned through study of the word that the most deceptive “workers of iniquity” will attach the name of Jesus Christ to their “ministry” to lend authority to what they offer.
It was totally bogus….lots of error and Eastern religion sown within and intertwined with Bible….yet STRESSING that the the Bible was the only basis for what was taught.
Now looking back I see that though it was a false teacher and false ministry that used so many unlearned and eager young believers, sucking them into a “great work” for the outreach of God….I have had some lessons through all of that to learn more and more what God actually has for us to learn….I have had to look at it as “learning the hard way”….and it has caused me to ask the Lord as I reentered my own study “What has happened to the church?”
Nothing has happened to HIS church….but the false teachings and those who have profited from their deceiving many who are new or have not made the Word their teacher….are deceived and sucked into trusting those things which “sounded good” but were vile and ended in captivity
Thankfully the Good Shepherd of our souls will make every effort to get us out of “ditches” and set us upon the way of truth through study of the Word and turning our hearts toward Him. It takes willingness and hunger for us to hear Him….especially the more affection we have invested in those we have walked along in error with who hold to it.
“Come out from among them” is a strong warning to heed the Word no matter how long it may take for us to unravel the things we thought were truth as we fill up on the study of the Word and allow the Lord to BE Lord instead of our fleshly appetite to “fit in” or learn from man’s traditions.
The Lord is faithful….even when we are deceived….if we are willing to learn and be corrected then I believe He has proven in my life and walk that He will not allow us to be kept “in the dark” forever….
I have many aspects of my walk that have now become clear that I misunderstood or misapplied what GOD had to say….some because I was looking through the lens of the “veil” that is to say “flesh”.
It has been a long trek through the errors without and within and I see it being a learning throughout this lifespan while here in this world….
So sorry for all who have tried so hard to be correct while having to apply error….but as you have been caused to see….it has given us lessons that no one can take away….I see GOD did not intend for us to have to endure infidelity or abuse but as we have….He has made better use of what we have learned….at least that is something….
Many are still sucked into false understandings either through ignorance or their fleshly understanding….the paradigm of needing an “expert” has led to respect of persons who claim some special knowledge (Gnosticism).
Healing from abuse comes in layers. Over the months that I have been reading the posts and comments on this blog, several subjects have been introduced that I needed to think about and take to God’s truth and heal. The teachings in 1 Corinthians 13 have LONG plagued me: I thought I was “loving him”, I thought if I “loved him and was kind, patient, LONG-SUFFERING (KJV [Paraphrased.])”, etc. he would love me too. I convinced myself that there was something wrong with MY faith, my actions. Even after 3 years of not being with my ex-abuser-husband, I periodically have thought about these verses and how they relate to my broken marriage. The question has remained — could I have been different in a way that would have helped his abuse stop?
Thank you sooooo much for posting these thoughts.
That needs to be repeated.
It has been acknowledged (and experienced) by most on this blog that the abuser rarely (if at all?) truly repents and changes. Even after “tough love”, losing their family, counseling, prayer, etc.. Any thoughts as to WHY this is? Or thoughts on how to talk with someone who is waiting and hoping their abuser will one day repent?
Hi, Robin. Some of our older posts would address this stuff. I can’t list them off the top of my head right now but if you use our categories search bar, you would find stuff. Also Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [*Affiliate link] explains the entitlement mindset of the abuser which explains why most abusers don’t change. And Bancroft’s book Should I Stay Or Should I Go? [Affiliate link] would help a woman who is waiting and hoping that their abuser might one day repent.
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
Robin, some thoughts as to WHY this is: It is in the altered brain wiring, affecting brain regions, circuitry and chemistry. Due to structural and functional issues related to some brain regions, their ability to learn from their mistakes, to feel right from wrong, to apply brakes to impulsive behavior, to control aggression, to feel empathy, to have emotional depth, etc., etc., are severely impaired. Some studies have shown that 64% of violent men have abnormal frontal lobes, 50% have brain atrophy, and 40% have abnormal EEG. Since their ability to gain insight is damaged, it is very unlikely that they will do so. This is only from a neurological point of view, but the evidence is nonetheless compelling.
I find the neurological approach very interesting and do not doubt the studies. I have researched my own diagnosed learning disability extensively and find the neurological explanations fascinating, informative, and helpful. However, if we are going to ask “Why does the abuser rarely repent / change” we need to balance the neurological approach with “something” or else it may seem that the abuser can’t help what he does (i.e. his brain is wired that way) and therefore he cannot be held accountable for his actions or lack thereof. I think few of us would disagree that some people are born with mental disabilities that affect them in such a way that they cannot be held accountable for their actions, but I don’t believe we can place the abuser in this category regardless of how his brain functions. If we did then that would open the door for others to tell victims, “See, he can’t help it. You must forgive him.”
I would be interested in knowing how Pastor Crippen or Barbara would balance the neurological point of view with Scripture.
Anonymous – I have zero expertise on the neurological side of things. But I do know this – abusers know what they are doing. They are not psychotic or insane. So whether their brain is wired wrong or not (I have read that some studies on psychopaths show that their brains are just different) I do know that the Lord holds all of us accountable for our actions. From what I have read in Bancroft, his emphasis is upon the willful, knowing mentality of abusers. They are not crazy.
Thanks for the neurological information, Anonymous.
Here’s how I’m thinking about it thus far:
(1) The neurological & brain research is helpful in as much as it can add an extra level of explanation to the victim who is having a hard time believing that her partner is most unlikely to change. (I could have written “won’t change” there, but I hesitate to dismiss the findings of those who run Men’s Behaviour Change Programs that a few of their clients DO change, and some of those reformed clients actually end up facilitating the programs years later, bringing the message of reform other men.)
A victim who is wistfully thinking “Surely my husband can change?” may be dissuaded from that rose-colored-glasses mentality when she is made aware of the brain research about violent men.
(2) The neurological and brain research does not reveal the element of choice, moral decision-making and personal will. Those ephemeral things cannot be captured in MRIs or EEGs.
Typically, abusers ARE aware that they are doing wrong, and here’s how we know. When they are ‘caught’ they come up with a scintillating collection of evasive excuses, lies, semi-repentance and….you know the menagerie. So they DO know they have done wrong and that their wrongdoing deserves a penalty. They understand cause and effect that much, at least. They know that normal society will administer a penalty for their wrongdoing. That’s why they scurry to cover up or switch to other abusive behaviours: in order to avoid the penalty.
Since they do indeed know right from wrong, whatever neurological impediments they have cannot fully excuse them from lacking insight into the consequences of their choices. Neurological differences may make it harder to unlearn bad patterns, but they are not a “get out of jail free” card.
I’d be interested in others’ views on this.
I’m just going to add my view that even if a person were to have no control over his or her abuse, the victim is still hurt when abuse happens.
In my case, while I’ve talked in the past about my ex making choices, there’s a part of me that will always wonder if what she was was the natural product of a lot of things that happened to her. Do I know that I would have made better choices if I were in her shoes? Many are quick to encourage me that I would and that she ultimately made those bad choices because of her nature. I still struggle to accept that – but in the end, when it hurts and causes damage, no matter what the cause I believe it is right to seek relief and protection.
Or to put it another way, in the end trying to figure out “why” wasn’t the answer I needed; what I needed to understand was that her actions were causing damage to me and our son, and when I was convinced those actions weren’t going to change the right thing was to leave the marriage.
Yes, I totally agree with both of your comments, Jeff S.
I watched the movie “Of Mice and Men” last night. The simpleton character was genuinely disabled with a very low IQ. He was not responsible morally for killing the woman. His low IQ meant he genuinely did not have any foreknowledge comprehension of the consequences of his actions. But he DID cause great harm to her, and his friend was not unreasonable or immoral in meting out a severe penalty.
I agree with you, Barb. Scriptures talk about people whose behavior is so entrenched because of bad choices that they have seared consciences. Every time a person chooses an ungodly way of thinking / doing, he or she establishes brain wiring in a certain way. If that is done enough times, it becomes like a well-worn path in the garden. It becomes very hard to choose another pathway, although not impossible. So while neurological patterns don’t determine choices, choices are reflected in the brain. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior but it does explain the futility of expecting a person to change when the capacity for gaining insight isn’t there.
Jeff S, I agree with you too. It doesn’t even matter why it happens, the damage is to be validated. Recovery doesn’t happen because the victim realizes why the perpetrator does it. It happens when abuse is recognized and fully validated.
Jeff S – I totally agree with you. The most important thing to understand is that the abuse is harmful and is not going to change.
As to the why….meaning no disrespect, I find it almost humorous that a group of Christians is discussing why unrepentant sinners continue to unrepentantly sin.
Sinners sin because it is their nature to do so.
The wonder is not that sinners continue to unrepentantly sin.
The wonder is that, by the grace and power of God, some of us have been called and empowered to escape that dark kingdom, to become children of God!
Yes, it does seem humorous.
I think the difficulty is accepting them as unrepentant sinners. After all, my non-believing relatives are very kind and non-abusive to their spouses. Without being repentant toward Christ. On the other hand, my “believing” ex-husband, who was a Bible study leader, an evangelist (he has brought others to the Lord), someone who professed to really want to change his abusive ways and in fact put into practice whatever was advised to him (which was why a pastor once quipped that you “could not advise him, because he would do it”), still could not change. If someone had said to him, “just repent and you will change” (as some did), he just tried harder to confess, pray, read the Bible and get close to God, but it still didn’t change him. All his attempts at repentance (turning toward God) were futile.
This is exactly what made me so sympathetic toward him early in our relationship — that he would try so hard, but nothing would work. After living with him for a long time, I can say that his attempts were sincere (and my counselor who has spoken with him agrees), but sincerity wasn’t enough. His core beliefs, which couldn’t be uncovered without very insightful exploratory work, were too foundational. These are beneath his consciousness and do not get exposed without skill. Even individual therapy with a regular men’s abuse counselor, over a long period of time, with different organisations, didn’t help.
Which all goes to show that it is indeed a miracle that some of us do repent, get transformed and change! Well said, Joe!
Yes, sounds rather familiar, Anonymous.
I spent a lot of years encouraging her and praying for her, as we both attended counseling, as well as during times that she attended counseling on her own.
In some ways, I’m still not sure what to make of it all.
However, I eventually came to a few conclusions. That the abuse would never stop, and, in fact, would continue to escalate. That the relationship had become a very unsafe environment, and could not continue. And that she did not love me….because love does not repeatedly and intentionally inflict deep wounds on the person they love.
Thanks, Barbara – I’ll take a look at Lundy’s books. Anonymous – interesting neurological information – I had not heard that before.
Let me amend quickly that I think understanding the “why” can be very helpful, especially to a victim thinking the “why” is something inside of them, so I’m not saying not to ask it – just that the “why”, in my opinion, is not the critical factor in making a decision for self-preservation.
I agree the “why” is not critical. We have all been there hoping and praying for change & in the end it comes down to not only self-preservation, but preservation of the children. For me, I did not want to see the cycle of abuse passed on to my children. At the time I left, I had very few resources regarding DV. And, if I had come to the conclusion that he was most likely to never change I might have left sooner than I did. I feel I let the abuse and trauma to my children continue for too long before I realized this. (And, as you said Joe, it did escalate, and was unsafe.)
The pastor at my church gave a sermon on 1 Cor 13 this past Sunday – it was, after all, Valentine’s Day. Just a wee bit triggering. It helped tremendously that he referenced those of us who have experienced divorce in amongst other single adults (widowed and those who have never married). I was nervous about the chosen text as 1 Cor 13 has not been one of my favorites, especially since coming out of the fog – understanding that my ex-h never loved me and likely is incapable of truly loving his son (or anyone other than himself). Abuse and manipulation have taken their toll on me, 1 Cor 13 being the “love” chapter and over-accentuated for marriages and couples with the church, well – I have steered clear of it, mostly.
So, it was with a new “a-ha” moment of peace and rejuvenation that I gladly accepted the pastor’s suggestion during his sermon to read 1 Cor 13 and replace the word “love” with the word “God.” Doing so will paint a truer picture of the intent behind the text. There is no perfect love on earth, no perfect marriage, no human capable of fulfilling all of 1 Cor 13. His point being that only Christ can completely fulfill these characteristics. And if Jesus is Jesus in me….then that is the only way I will ever come close to being able to speak love into another person’s life. Ever.
When we were dating my husband told me that 1 Cor 13 was his favorite. I thought that was great! Imagine my confusion for years because I couldn’t understand how someone could claim it as a favorite yet treat me the way he did.
Pastor Jeff wrote:
I did not realize I had spent my entire life living in / with abusive relationships until my walls crumbled almost one year ago.
I discovered “love” had been redefined for me, discovered no one in any of my relationships actually loved me. That hurt.
I discovered God had been redefined for me, distorted beyond all recognition.
I discovered I had been redefined for me, taught I was a waste of life.
The hardest thing to believe is abusers know what they are doing….that needs redefinition.
Adding on to my own comment….
I STILL struggle with the points that were redefined for / about me.
Oddly enough, I am MUCH closer to believing abusers know what they are doing.