A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The Old Man Fallacy as an Excuse for Abuse in Independent Fundamental Baptist Theology

The following lines are taken from the doctrinal statement [Internet Archive link]2 that appears at the Sword of the Lord website. Sword of the Lord is a publication that has been around for decades, promoting KJV only, separatist, soul-winning fundamentalism. In the same statement, the Sword of the Lord insists that:

….the Bible, the Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New Testament, preserved for us in the Masoretic text (Old Testament) Textus Receptus (New Testament) and in the King James Bible, is verbally and plenarily inspired of God. It is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and altogether authentic, accurate and authoritative Word of God, therefore the supreme and final authority in all things (II Tim 3:16-17; II Peter 1:21; Rev 22:18-19).

Hmmm…. I can’t find anywhere in those Scriptures they cite that make any mention of the KJV. But on to our main point in this article. Listen to this statement:

The Believer’s Two Natures
WE BELIEVE every truly regenerated, born again Christian is saved by the grace of God through faith placed in Jesus Christ and is thereby awarded a new and spiritual nature which he did not previously possess.

WE BELIEVE the old nature which we possess from birth is not eradicated but lingers yet within us.

WE BELIEVE it is for this reason that true Christians are not perfect people and they can still sin.

WE BELIEVE the new nature, if nourished properly, should begin to dominate the Christian’s life, and the old nature should be less and less prominent.  [Emphasis original.]

If you have ever read David Needham’s book, Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? [*Affiliate link], you will note that this idea that the Christian still has a very much alive “old man” is the very point that held Needham in bondage for so many years and which he wrote his book to refute. It has its roots in the footnotes of the Scofield Bible, though it may have been taught by others before that. I am not sure.

Here is my thesis:

This teaching that the Old Man is still alive in the Christian and only “positionally” dead (decreed dead but not really dead – go figure), is often used by those who teach it to promote legalism and to justify sin. When a prominent preacher “falls,” for example, his grievous sin is easily chalked up to “well, it is sad. Brother Jones’ Old Man just rose up and got the best of him. And well, we must not be too judgmental. Any of us could do the same thing. We are still evil and we have to be sure we don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cuss, don’t miss church….or else the New Man will get defeated by the Old Man.”

The New Testament knows nothing of this spiritual schizophrenia dual personality. Listen to the Apostle Paul:

(Romans 6:1-7  ESV)  (1) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  (2) By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  (3) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  (4) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  (6) We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  (7) For one who has died has been set free from sin.

The “Old Man is still alive” theology justifies sin, it confuses Christians, it permits unsaved people to parade as believers, and it holds Christ’s people in bondage. Who are you, Christian? Who are you? Are you still that old man you were before Christ regenerated you, put you to death in Christ, buried you with Him, and raised you up as a brand new creation upon whose heart is written His Word? When you are tempted to sin, what is it that YOU really want? Yes, the New Testament says that our sarx (flesh) remains, but that is not the same as the Old Man. We still live in fallen, corruptible bodies and that is why there is going to be a literal bodily resurrection one day. These mortal bodies cannot inherit immortality. But YOU, in Christ, are not your flesh. You are a child of God, a saint, an heir, God’s beloved, new creations having died to sin.

(1 Cor 6:9-11  ESV)  (9) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Such WERE some of you. But not any more. That old man is dead. Really dead. Crucified with Christ.

Once more, in contrast to this biblical truth, listen to this description of IFB theology from a brother who has seen it all personally from the “inside.” He points us to another article in the Sword of the Lord doctrinal statement:

WE BELIEVE that the command to get the Gospel to the world is a clear and unmistakable mandate, that this command is therefore, the commission of God to all of us who are saved. (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:13-15).  [Sword of the Lord]

Our friend examines this for us:

Now read a few of the words alone; “clear and unmistakable mandate….to all of us who are saved.” This is the first psychological trap in the IFB movement, i.e. you’ll be told “You’re not saved if you’re not out soul winning for this church!” You think, “Oh crap, I want to be saved and it is a mandate! I better go!”

Here’s how the ‘standards’ get into the congregation. You can’t go soul winning if you’re providing a bad public witness. So, no soul winning for you if you’re going to movies or into bars, smoking, gambling, or even watching television. But, “Wait a minute!,” the sheep declare “I can’t be saved if I’m not soul winning!,” and consequently “I better not do those bad things in public,” the sheep continues “that will make me feel better – whew!”

What’s the problem with this, you might ask? It all started with no sincere personal repentance of answer in faith to the Gospel call, so the unregenerate man simply remained unregenerate. They declare the old man lives right beside the new man, and all sorts of insidious sin dwells privately in the congregation. As long as it doesn’t interfere with public witness or soul winning, then we just whisper about it together. People just quietly mourn the loss of another church member to “the old man.”

The theology of the Independent Fundamental Baptists is cultivating and protecting abusers with this “Old Man / New Man” doctrine. It is part of a false Gospel that cannot save. All an abusive, wicked man need do is credit his very much alive Old Man with his abusive deeds. And he still gets to remain a Christian! According to this doctrine, professing Christians can virtually walk in sin, yet be confident that they are saved. After all, it is just the Old Man rising up when we get careless and fail to apply the prescribed remedies to keep him weak. And those prescribed remedies are often nothing more than legalistic, man-created rules and traditions that, in fact, only feed the sinful flesh. The law, after all, is the power of sin.

Now, add into this whole mix other doctrines which are claimed to be biblical (but which are merely the traditions of men) and you have an environment which cruelly oppresses the weak and oppressed. For example, think carefully about the following typical doctrinal points which we have taken from the doctrinal statement of a large IFB church. How do these teachings enslave people? Let us know in your comments (bold is mine) —

Lawsuits Between Believers: We believe that Christians are prohibited from bringing civil lawsuits against other Christians or the church to resolve personal disputes. We believe the church possesses all the resources necessary to resolve personal disputes between members. We do believe, however, that a Christian may seek compensation for injuries from another Christian’s insurance company as long as the claim is pursued without malice or slander. (I Corinthians 6:1-8; Ephesians 4:31-32)

Giving: We believe that every Christian, as a steward of that portion of God’s wealth entrusted to him, is obligated to support his local church financially. We believe that God has established the tithe as a basis for giving, but that every Christian should also give other offerings sacrificially and cheerfully to the support of the church, the relief of those in need, and the spread of the Gospel. We believe that a Christian relinquishes all rights to direct the use of the tithe or offering once the gift has been made. (Genesis 14:20; Proverbs 3:9-10; Acts 4:34-37; I Corinthians 16:2; II Corinthians 9:6-7; Galatians 6:6; Ephesians 4:28; I Timothy 5:17-18; I John 3:17)

Divorce and Remarriage: We believe that God hates divorce and intends marriage to last until one of the spouses dies. Although divorced and remarried persons or divorced persons may hold positions of service in a church and be greatly used of God for Christian service, they may not be considered for the offices of pastor or deacon of a church. (Malachi 2:14-17; Matthew 19:3-12; Romans 7:1-3; I Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6)

To protest against these kinds of things in a “church” where such doctrines abound and you had better be ready to duck and run. But the fact is, these are the things that are believed. And if pressed closely enough, one will find once again an example of how the IFB doctrine moves quite close to that of Rome.

One man to rule them all, and in the darkness, bind them.1

Ducking and running now.

1[September 13, 2022: Note: This line is a misquote of the Ring verse [Internet Archive link], written by J. R. R. Tolkien. Editors.]

2[September 13, 2022: We added the link the Sword of the Lord’s doctrinal statement. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that doctrinal statement. Editors.]

Added by Barb Roberts a few days later: There is a sub-discussion in the comments thread of this post about co-dependency. It starts here if you are looking for it. Usually where there is a new topic worthy of much discussion, we make it into a new post, but for this case I don’t think it’s necessary.

[September 13, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to September 13, 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 September 13, 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 September 13, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 13, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


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.

* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link


  1. Jodi

    This is a very meaningful post, as it’s not just Fundamentalist Baptists who teach this. I had a Reformed Presbyterian pastor who said all the time that our sin nature wasn’t getting any better — implication, we weren’t getting any better — we were always stuck in Romans 7. This teaching can make for a very depressed Christian who can never expect any kind of victory over sin, or growing in grace.

    • Martin

      L.S. Chafer should be credited as one of the earliest theological proponents of living in the old “natural” man. You will find his 1918 article titled He That Is Spiritual [Internet Archive link]1 from Bibliotheca Sacra on several IFB websites. His discussion of carnal Christians is central to the development of their theology. As Jodi suggests, this has crept into many, many realms of Christianity today.

      1[December 26, 2022: We added the link to a PDF of L.S. Chafer’s article He That Is Spiritual. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that PDF. Editors.]

      • Jeff Crippen

        Martin – and that is also what gave rise to the anti-“Lordship Salvation” position that was promulgated, mostly by people at L.S. Chafer’s Dallas Theological Seminary. People like Zane Hodges and so forth. To his credit, John MacArthur took them on in his book “The Gospel According to Jesus”, and again in “Faith Works”. The proponents of non-“Lordship Salvation” said that to require repentance is to add works to the Gospel. Thus, while a Christian SHOULD obey Christ as Lord, to do so was not necessary to be saved, salvation being all of grace. If you are an abuser, you gotta love this stuff!

      • Martin

        Jeff – you are right about DTS. To Jodi’s point, it is alarming that DTS graduates are leaders in over 70 denominations today. If I was to show you the staff of the only “Bible-Based” churches in our area, excluding Southern Baptist, they are all headed by DTS grads. Anyone who suggests that Christ is not their Lord, whether they are saved or not, has simply not read the Bible (cf. Acts 2:36 and 10:36). We do not accept Lordship. It just is. I also enjoy MacArthur’s work on this issue.

  2. Just Me

    Love the ducking and running comment! I dated a guy for a while who went to a very tiny IFB church. Some of the rules seemed to make sense to me, but some were absurd. Most specifically, the rule about not being allowed to see a movie in the movie theater, yet you could rent the same exact movie and watch it in your home. How does that make sense? Why is the problem the movie theater, and not the movie with the homosexual sex scene? They even had all their rules on the church website for a while and I would read it when I wanted a good chuckle. They have since taken it off the website. Too bad. It would have been fun to link!

    I used to go to Wednesday night prayer meetings at his church with his family, but on Sundays I would go to my church with my family. Eventually, boyfriend ‘fessed up that there was grumbling in the church because I was attending the prayer meetings. People felt that because my family didn’t go to their church, that I shouldn’t be welcome at the prayer meeting. It shocked me! And I was about as conservative as they came. I was even more conservative than the guy I was dating. Although I did go to the movies. Maybe someone spotted me, hence the shunning! Boyfriend’s solution to this was to ask me to start attending on Sundays, by myself, while he was away at college (at BJU, of course). Seriously? At a church where I’m not welcome? To be fair, the pastor and his wife welcomed me. It was some of the parishioners who were complaining. I don’t know which ones to know if they were deacons or Elders or just gossipy old ladies.

    I would occasionally go on Sunday mornings when he was home from college. During the service, they would regularly pray for God to bring new people into the church (funny considering how I wasn’t welcome). They would also always pray for “the Drs. Bob” (also funny). But if a new family attended, after they left, the gossip would be flying about what they were wearing, what they were saying, etc.. You pray for new people to come and then gossip about them after they leave? It was terrible!

    I finally realized it was time to cut ties after a conversation with the assistant pastor’s wife. She was telling me about submitting to her husband and how he would tell her when to go to bed, and sometimes she wouldn’t be tired yet, but she would go to bed anyway, because he’s her husband. I didn’t want to be married to a man who scheduled a bed time for me, like I was a child.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Really weird environments, aren’t they? Those kind of churches I mean. Moving on from that guy was, what shall we call it – a very good “pre-marriage divorce”. I wonder why that assistant pastor told his wife to go to bed? Probably so he could stay up and….what? Or maybe just another typical way to say “You are my property and you will do what I tell you.” I hope the effects of the Kool-Aid she drank eventually wore off and she went out the bedroom window one night never to return!

    • memphis rayne

      I try to be friends with one of the pastor’s wife, she was for lack of a better word so well-behaved, thought I could learn some tricks from her.

      You know things like: How to look stoek at all times.
      How to afford all those matching outfits for the entire family?
      How to appear to be in the flesh without an actual pulse?
      How exactly do they appear so darn Christian-like?
      Are my kids REALLY going to hell because they play imagination and they like to pretend they are fairies? Is Santa REALLY satan??
      How to look rested when you have a one and three year old at home?

      I for one, had alot of questions. Even on a good morning I never had the look of effortless hair, and I did not have five kids under 8!!?? Sometimes for us, a home-cooked meal was a box of fruity pebbles, and we were ok with that.

      One time I offered to come by and clean house, just to lighten the load. That only drove this women into DOING more, she took it like a personal attack on her perfectness.

      She made me tired, I tell myself it was because she was twenty-something, and I was like sooo much older….thirty something. I admired her flawlessness. She though, seem to prefer I not hang around and remind her of what she was trying so desperately NOT to be.

      Not perfect.

      When she looked at me, it was with a condescending pity, with this weird air of utter jealousy. Her and her posse reminded me of being in Jr. High, new kid at school, hanging outside my next class, praying the bell would ring, so I could just blend in, instead of being out there alone!

      I thought on different turf, perhaps when the audience was gone, I could somehow connect with her….I was wrong. It was as if I were being tolerated, and the fear was, because I chose NOT to live with my husband’s behavior, my rebellion might just harm someone or alter God’s presence at prayer meetings. I was the home-wrecker. My serious rebellion against NOT returning to abuse, was unkept and messy and ugly.

      I sucked in alot of dirt, so my kids could fit into her small world, be friends with her little ones, unfortunately she did not treat my kids much better, as if they were now damaged goods like their mother, so I removed us all from the church completely.

      WE WERE BEING VICTIMIZED by my spouse and then shunned by the church! I was gaining my freedom back, through Christ in my spirit and flesh.

      They seemed so NOT free, no time to laugh and relax….maybe that was all done at home? Not in the presence of God’s people NO!!!! That would be a disgrace to the uniformity, it would be like….having poopy diapers in church, or your child NOT remembering the entire Old Testament.

      I would even try to volunteer with the kids ministries BUT when I did they were so put out by my presence, I am really surprised I stuck it out as long as I did. Judged at church, stalked at home!!! Not really sure where my place was to be? My kids and I left man’s church, for good….but God is still with us, and for us.

      The question is WHY does a pastor’s wife HAVE to be one step above all us other women with children, and families, even if our family is not conventional in their eyes. I know there is alot of pressure, where does the pressure come from? It is not from God because I am certain He does not care if my kids clothes come from the Jamboree or if my hair is frizzy when it rains….so where?

      • memphis rayne

        Haha I think that was Gymboree?

      • As someone who pulled off the “perfect church wife” act for an extended period of time I’ll say that it takes a tremendous amount of energy. And when you’re living a Pharisaical lifestyle, others feel condemned whether that’s your intention or not because everything you do just screams, “Look at me! I’m keeping the Law! Aren’t I just the goodest girl ever?”

        For those of us raised in ministry, it’s as normal as breathing. We don’t recognize that we’re pulling a heavy burden in the wrong yoke. Being real means confronting ugly truth and repenting, out loud, to others who we may have offended along the way.

        So on behalf of well-meaning, but misguided church folk everywhere, may I offer my apology, Memphis? Because I see myself more in the description of your former pastor’s wife than in your story. (Although I certainly felt the sting once I broke ranks and left the creep.)

      • memphis rayne

        Your apology is accepted on behalf of all.

        But I still need to understand this “Stepford Wife Syndrome”?

        I want to believe that not all their husbands were dictators!!! So was there some sort of program, or seminar they had to attend monthly?

        Not that many people in one place could possibly have that good of hair? Lol.

        Seriously, do you get a script with your pre-marital counseling on how to be? Do most [of] these people have the discussion before they choose their mates? t seems so unspoken yet if I married a pastor, all hell would break loose because I just do not have that good of luck always finding the mates to the children’s socks, or getting everyone out the door on time!! This is not like one of those things where the MAN invented the bra!!! You the need to keep up with it all! At what ever pain it causes.

        My analogy was a little weird, but you get the direction I am going here. How can there be the unspoken need for perfection, and how can the church ignore all the casualties involved in that quest Especially the wives and children? I dunno, I was in love once with a pastor-to-be, I knew I was not up for the job. So I have sadness and admiration for all these women.

        Please do not take offense by any statements….alot of the secondary abuse comes from the church infrastructure, the leaders as a whole.

      • 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.


        Memphis, this is only a guess but it sounds to me like that pastor’s wife and the others at that church were so desperate to keep their own masks on that they couldn’t stand someone who was not wearing a mask. I know. It’s awful. Been there, done that. Feeling like a leper just because I have feelings. Wanting to break through to them but they just prickle and prickle harder the more I attempt it.
        Dust off feet shaking is the only way to handle it, I find, or else relate very loosely and tangentially to the church.
        Let you in on a secret: sometimes I attend a church service for the first three hymns so I can praise God in song, then walk out before the sermon starts. I sit in the back row so I don’t get noticed much. Best done in a church one has not been embedded in, where one is virtually a stranger. Then I go and sit by the lake in my car and listen to Ps Crippen’s sermons.

  3. Hitting the subscribe button to see comments. 🙂

  4. Oh, and I do appreciate you tackling this one head-on. It’s an oldie but, foundationally speaking, it’s brought forward several generations of decay in the congregation and lack of strength in the personal lives of believers.

    When will the children of God get the idea that salvation takes more than saying the magic words and shaking the preacher’s hand? Takes a rebirth and it’s just as earth-shaking and dramatic as the first time around.


    • memphis rayne

      I saw my spouse dunked more times than the NYPD’s breakfast.

      He was born again, then again, then again….the problem was he kept trying to be re-born when he really needed to die first.

      Of course I meant that in a biblical sense.

      His favorite Bible quotes were “A dog always returns to his vomit”. That’s true my dog loves to eat his vomit.

      And something about the contentious wife, being like a drip, drip, drip….the sounds of the pool, the lake, the puddle of choice, I’m pretty sure he had water in his ears.

      Honestly I never understood it? In front of hundreds of witnesses this guy was re-birthed to the point of senselessness? Not to make fun, but I am going to. At what point does God just say “enough is enough!” Or does He? There was never true repentance, I am sure I would know what that looked like after ten years, so what point would god take offense to his re-birthing?

      He stopped after awhile. I think it irritated him to get his hair wet. But communion was something he stopped altogether, I used to feel protected by it when he took it….but soon realized it made him worse!!!! So he would stop. Then when I asked why? He would just snarl and say “Because I do not want to regret it later, it just makes me a hypocrite!”

      Yikes!!! Huh?

      • Yes. Yikes indeed. The twistedness of these people….seems to know no bounds.

      • Jodi

        My experience exactly. My STBX got saved so many times as well — and yet, amazingly enough — no change whatsoever. Though he never got baptized while I knew him anyway. He would refuse communion as well sporadically and then blame it on me. Because I didn’t think he was saved, or we were having problems — or whatever. It was always my responsibility that he didn’t do it. If he ever came close to admitting he wasn’t a real Christian, he would backtrack the next day and deny what he said and be mad at me because I didn’t believe him. His favorite was the one about the man looking in a mirror and then forgetting what he saw.

      • His favorite was the one about the man looking in a mirror and then forgetting what he saw.

        It still amazes me how abusers can utter truth and nonsense all together in a few pithy words! He claimed that Scripture as an excuse, but it was supposed to rebuke him!

        ….twisting….twisting….twisting….they remind me of those fine corkscrew tendrils that my passionfruit vine puts out. They twist so tightly round whatever they are grasping that you will never be able to disentangle the vine from what it’s grabbing onto without cutting the vine.

      • Memphis Rayne

        I have heard that too, also he used the NOT taking of communion thing to put me on notice, his way of saying “nobody has got your back” or “Who is going to save you now” This guy could quote anything from the Bible from memory, he liked to show off, to prove to others and himself HE was the Christian NOT me!

        Problem was words never translated from the brain to the heart…. You could actually hear the fact there was no life in the words.

        If I was ever caught praying at home it enraged him, he loved to ridicule and mock me over that. It will never cease to amaze me the lunacy he perpetrated in the church environment. I take comfort knowing God sees it all.

      • Still scared

        Memphis Rayne, exactly!

  5. AJ

    Speaking of critique, I’m wondering if any of you have looked at “A More Excellent Way”? Or any of the “Be In Health” material? Because the stress of my marriage has resulted in some health issues I was looking into it and appreciate some of the things Henry Wright has to say, I’d love to hear if you guys have comments positive or negative.
    He says “keeping God’s commandments is not legalism. Taking God’s commandments and forcing them down someone’s throat is legalism.” which I thought applied to today’s post a bit but he also addresses things that apply to the blog in general. He states co-dependency is “calling evil good in the name of love” and in regards to taking a stand against victimization “you cannot go back into a victimization situation in the name of love. It is co-dependent. It is further victimization. It is built-in guilt and you will not be able to have your peace. No one is spiritually strong enough to be a doormat for this type of thing and survive for long….marriage is sacramental union, or it is a fraud. God called us to truth, not to fraudulent relationships.”

    Not sure how I sit with all of his material but was surprised to find some support there.

    • Jeff Crippen

      AJ – I haven’t heard of that resource, but your summary of it makes it sound right on. That really is an excellent insight —

      co-dependency is calling evil good in the name of love.

      Right on!

    • Jeff Crippen

      AJ – I found a couple of critical reviews of Henry Wright’s book over on Amazon. Here is one of them and I think this is enough to give us some hesitancy in giving wholehearted recommendation of his work. Probably requires some more in-depth examination. The things you described that he says sound quite good, but a couple of reviewers had some real concerns. Here [Internet Archive link]1 is one —

      I’m a pastor, and this book is terrible. Some premises are good, but the underlying premise, that sickness is due to sin – that SPECIFIC sickness is caused by a SPECIFIC sin in the person who is sick, is heretical. It is akin to John 9, where the disciples asked Jesus, “Which person sinned, him or his parents?” Jesus’ response? “Neither, but so that the glory of God could be revealed.” There you have it. Not all sickness is sin related. In fact, that view would be very man centered, not Christ centered.

      1[December 27, 2022: We added the link to the Amazon review Jeff Crippen quoted in his comment. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that Amazon review. Editors.]

    • AJ, personally, I don’t like the expression co-dependency used in relation to abusive relationships, because it has a hint of blaming-the-victim.

      I think co-dependency was first coined in the field of substance abuse. If so, I believe it is best confined to that field, and not imported in the field of abusive relationships. I know others may differ, and some readers have found help from reading books about co-dependency. It’s just my personal preference to eschew that term.

      And I haven’t looked at “A More Excellent Way” or the Be In Health material, so I can’t comment on it.

      • memphis rayne

        I’m with you on that. Co-dependency is WAY out the realm of abuse situations. Traumatic bonding, if it has occurred has nothing to do with co-dependency. “Co-nothing.” Close that escape hatch!

      • Jeff S

        I’m going to offer a dissenting opinion, Barbara. I think it is useful to identify co-dependent behaviors as long as we understand they are not a cause of the abuse, but rather an effect. Co-dependency lashes victims to abusers and prevents them from setting the boundaries that protect them.

        When I attended lectures at the mental hospital, “co-dependency” was the word most discussed among family members of the patients (to be clear, I am not saying the patients were abusers – just this is where I got my education about co-dependency), but amazingly even the workers there had trouble giving a precise definition. The closest I got was “doing for someone else what they can do for themselves”, but that doesn’t sit right because often we serve those we love by doing for them what they can do for themselves. That makes any kind of gift sound unhealthy!

        In “Boundaries”, Cloud and Townsend talk about never acting out of fear. Thus, I think we are co-dependent when we do for others what they can do for themselves motivated by anything other than love. To me this does directly address the abuser-victim relationship because often the victim will serve the abuser in ways he can do for himself, but not out of love. In fact, the church and the abuser can join together in promoting this behavior, and this is [a] behavior that needs to be unlearned in order to set healthy boundaries.

        One really unhealthy thing I saw resulting from co-dependency in my own marriage was seeing that my joy and happiness was wrapped up in HER joy and happiness. If she wasn’t successful at something, I had to be angry and disappointed with myself. I needed to do more, to sacrifice more, to love more to make it all better. I was always afraid of the shoe dropping, and my motivation was fear, always fear. One day my sister sent my ex and I an email that was critical of something my ex had said to my mother. I left work early, rushed home, and deleted it from her phone before [she] should could read it, then called my sister and begged her to let it go. I had to fight her battle, even though my sister was right, because defending my ex was defending ME. Allowing my ex to be unhappy and do nothing to stop it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I spent a long time in shameful tears crying because I didn’t bring a piece of cake to her in bed.

        Just my point of view, but I think co-dependency does exist in abuse situations and is an abnormal, learned behavior that should be identified and dealt with. If it is not, it seems likely it will be carried into future relationships.

      • Happy to hear a different opinion, Jeff S. It sounds like those mental health professionals gave you some good clues, and you thought it through on your own from there.

        I think there is wisdom in your statement that —

        we are co-dependent when we do for others what they can do for themselves motivated by anything other than love.

        What I like about it is the distinction of —

        doing for others when they can do for themselves when our motivation is anything other than love.

        Distinguishing the “love” motivation from the “fear” motivation is very good. However, I wonder if your sentence could work just as well without using the term “co-dependency”. E.g. “When we do for others what they can do for themselves, with a motivation other than love, we are inappropriately rescuing them and enabling their irresponsible behaviour.”

        I guess what I don’t like with the term “co-dependency” is the word “dependency”. I know some of us have indeed been to various degrees dependent on our abusers for our identity and self-esteem when we were suffering in the thick of the abuse (as you describe so well with your tears over the cake). But to my mind that dependency is a byproduct induced by the manipulative way that the abuser redefines reality and combines cruelty with occasional kindness (a.k.a. “Stockholm Syndrome”). I don’t think we generally enter into the relationship looking for someone to depend on in an unhealthy way.

        I guess when I hear the term “co-dependency” applied to victims of abuse, I resent it because I feel it is derogatory to victims, I feel it is inferring that I have a dependent personality, and therefore I need to fix that deep seated personality problem in myself. Some of us don’t seem to feel denigrated by the term “co-dependency”. Others do. We just have to tolerate each other, eh? (Speaking to myself just as much as anyone else here.) It’s obviously a hot button for some of us, me included.
        Thanks for your comment, because you’ve helped me think this through a little more.

      • memphis rayne

        Not that I am any expert: Co-dependency, pertaining to abuse, you have to wonder IS that going to change the victim’s ability to get out? Or produce a positive change in their current storm? I am only saying there is alot of psychology involved in what a victim goes through, BUT the whole point of talking about abuse is to eradicate the victim blaming mentality. That while somebody is being abused, at the time of entrapment can FEEL like this co-dependency is part of the problem, associating them with co-dependency just gives the victim ONE more thing to “fix” about themselves.

        I’m with Barb, it’s best not to mirk-up the waters, and blur the lines of who is accountable in abuse situations….but I kinda agree with you that it’s good to bring understanding to ALL effects we have to deal with as a person on the receiving end….lol. I think I agree that co-dependency is not something we need to associate with domestic violence, just gives the wrong connotation.

        [Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      • Jeff S

        MR, I think it depends on how co-dependency is viewed. If it is viewed as the victim somehow contributing to enabling the abuse, then that is going to be harmful. But that would be a false understanding of co-dependency. If it is seen as a symptom of an unhealthy relationship, then I think the victim will feel validated.

        Really I think it goes hand-in-hand with boundary setting. We can’t set boundaries if we have aligned our well-being with an abuser. Now for someone in a domestic violence situation where setting boundaries can be life threatening, the boundary that needs to be set is one of physically leaving. Others may be able [to] safely set other boundaries. But co-dependent people do not set boundaries – that is their core problem, really.

        When I learned about co-dependency there was no hint of “blaming”. It was all about “if you struggle to set boundaries, here are some tools to help you set them.” My reaction was not to feel blamed or shamed – my reaction was “wow, I can stop feeling this way!” I felt empowered and supported.

        But I do see your point that it can be easy to view co-dependency as a “problem” that the victim “deserves”. I guess I just wonder if the answer is avoiding the concept or better education about how it should be applied?

      • Just read your other comment, Jeff S. While you didn’t feel denigrated by the term when those professionals used it in talking with you, I think it’s interesting that they couldn’t give you a real definition of the term. Maybe that indicates that the term is being used in a variety of ways and contexts, and is too loosely defined. You heard it used without any implication of denigration. Memphis and I have heard it used with probably a somewhat different definition and an implication of denigration.

      • Jeff S

        Barbara, I agree, and that struck me too.

        This is one reason I really like the book “Boundaries”. I don’t know if they mentioned the term “co-dependency” in the book, but it is the issue they were addressing. And that book did a far better job than all of the classes I attended on teaching about boundaries or co-dependency.

        Perhaps the great lesson from this is that it is better to focus on the solution (boundaries) rather than the problem (co-dependency).

      • memphis rayne

        Jeff S, the abuser is the one with boundary issues, and people always assume they are just angry, I know alot of angry people who do not abuse others, likewise anger is a solid tool abusers have in their arsenal. Abusers do not have anger issues, they do not have ANY problem with their anger, they oppose YOU having a problem with it!!! Same with boundaries, they innately have boundary issues of every kind!! They have veryun healthy boundary issues, so for most of us in an abusive relationship, or recovering from one the focus HAS to remain on the source of the PROBLEM which is the ABUSER, it’s not boundary, co-dependency, anger, “daddy” issues….it’s an ABUSER issue.

  6. speakingtruthinlove
    • memphis rayne

      Jeff S, the problem lies with the unhealthy relationship, although their are many kinds of unhealthy relationships, including obviously ones that have an abuser. There are also many unhealthy relationships that do not have one abuser. Even labeling a relationship filled with abuse, like having somebody say “This is an unhealthy relationship” the thinking coincides with “mutual blame” which is harmful. I think co-dependency is important to learn about, perhaps not in the context of abuse, rather after, like you experienced AFTER you are out of the relationship. Nonetheless, knowing whether or not you are co-dependant or not, that in itself will not help people avoid abusers. Probably best applied to an unhealthy none-abusive relationship. Again, you sound like you know more about co-dependency. To err on the side of a victim of abuse, in my thinking it would be more useful NOT applied to the arena of the abusive mindset.

    • memphis rayne

      The point being. The word itself Co-….implies two, or mutual. Add that to the already frenzied mindset of an abusers justifications, and rationalizations….especially since like you said it’s not widely understood, so it could cause more problems than good regarding the issue of abuse.

      • Jeff S

        I see what you are saying, MR. And even though the word does not mean “mutual”, that implication could easily be drawn.

        In my case there were substance abuse and emotional issues, so the whole discussion may have been more applicable for me than for others, as well.

    • memphis rayne

      Jeff S….when you say things like “when we align ourselves with an abuser” that gives direct responsibility to the victims of abuse. Essentially that statement says “when you willfully chose an abuser as a partner”….see there is just no other way to misconstrue that under the guise of abuse. It boils down to the understanding of what an abuser would use to justify himself, and what a victim would hear that would damage and defeat them.

      Ok. Thanks for giving me this to think about.

      • memphis rayne

        Ahh! Gotcha!!! Well at least that got it all off my chest!! Lol.

      • Blaming the victim and mutualising the problem is one of the most hurtful ways people can respond to abuse, isn’t it, Memphis? And we get hyper-attuned to anything that hints at that. I don’t think Jeff S in any way blames victims (he’s been one himself) and for all of us victims the recovery journey is ongoing.

        Sometimes it’s hard trying to talk about how we respond to abuse. We don’t want to use language that blames or pathologizes the victim, because that would be unfair and would be helping abusers to avoid full responsibility for their abuse. So the language we use is VERY important.

        I believe victims always resist abuse in multiple and creative ways. (I learned this from Allan Wade, whose work is listed on our Resources page. We don’t always resist the abuser overtly, by walking out on the relationship, for example, or by trying to argue against the abuser’s illogic, or by verbally challenging the abuser’s lies and misinformation. But we nevertheless resist. Even choosing to say nothing can be a form of resistance / picking our battles carefully. All the things we do to walk on eggshells are forms of resistance: we are creatively finding ways to resist the corrosive effects of the abuse. We shield our kids from the worst of it. We hold our breath. We modify our tone of voice. We look away. We pretend to be doing something so we don’t get hooked in to the abuser’s latest game of trying to destabilise us….I’m going on and on.

        But here’s what I’m getting at. Some of the ways we resist the destructive effects of abuse are by mentally making allowances or accommodations to the abuser’s abnormal behavior. These adjustments can be helpful at the time, and they are often made from a motivation of kindness and empathy with the abuser’s “pain”. But those adjustments incrementally can lead to us giving up almost our very identity. For myself, I got lost in the fog of the abuse for years before I woke up. Once I started to wake up I began to set boundaries and reclaim my identity (or discover some parts of myself for the first time).

        Does that ring any bells with you?

      • Jeff S

        Jeff S….when you say things like “when we align ourselves with an abuser” that gives direct responsibility to the victims of abuse. Essentially that statement says ”when you willfully chose an abuser as a partner

        Yes, I didn’t phrase that correctly. What I meant was more along the lines of “when an abuser’s behavior forces us to be aligned with them” – I see the cause as being the abuser, not the victim.

        Believe me, I’ve gone around and around with the blame game. I didn’t need her to accuse me, I did it myself. And then my church did it – I didn’t love her with “agape” love because “agape love never fails”. If I just loved her more, somehow – was more sacrificial, tender, or a million other things, then the marriage would work out. They put her healing and repentance on my shoulders. I believed it for a while – I WANTED it to be my fault because then I could make it stop. But you and I both know that we cannot change them – we don’t have the right, power, or responsibility.

        Thanks for the discussion – you’ve given me much to think about in terms of how others might view some of the tools I found very helpful.

      • memphis rayne

        Yes and thank you. Personal boundaries are important, alot of times we are so fogged over to the abuse in front of us we forget the power we have within to protect ourselves in the smallest ways we can. So it’s good to give some power back to the individual by exploring what that means, and bringing awareness of our own power within. None of that seems realistic to grasp when you are in the midst of abuse though….delicate line. But yes when you are on the precipice of knowing it won’t change and the process of leaving, then healing, all good stuff.

        Thanks also, Jeff S, I know I was not letting anything get by in the abuse context. Thanks for letting me be a part! My sincere apology for my bad spelling!

      • memphis rayne

        Yes, Barb, I remember sneaking into my kids room to sleep every time I was able. I would lie in bed, frozen in fear, BUT pretend I was asleep so he would not know I heard him threaten me, or pretend I did not wake from the elbows and knees dug into my back. I do remember having EMPATHY for his hard life, which may or may not have happened, I remember spending alot of time cleaning, making sure the kids were loaded with activities, anything to stay away from the house.

        Years before I was able to leave, I put pictures that had not yet been destroyed, and important papers in a safety deposit box, something he couldn’t search, something that was mine!! Made me have a little hope, like I had a plan. I traded my car in for an SUV, deep beneath the children’s closet I started a travel tote with flashlights, kids toys, extra clothes, anything I thought may be useful to live in the car. Fantasizing about my escape plan helped me through tuning him out. I would physically stand up to his abuse of the kids, but he knew that, it was part of the plan, the one way he could get me to retaliate. Of course do not recommend that on any level, abusers use you defending yourself, or your kids against you.

        My spouse was / is the devil himself. He managed to sleep deprive me for years, he could nap for six / seven hours during the day, keep me up all night with name-calling, the kneeing, shoving, threats….his life was full of privileges we did not get. The basics like sleep, safe shelter. One time our entire relationship I chose out of shear exhaustion to go to bed before him, he broke the bedroom door down, ripped my son out of the crib and took off down the hall with him, I ran after, and he punched me, when I screamed for my son and started crying, he picked me up and threw me against the door jam, told me I was weak and pathetic….I managed to stop him from taking my son, he flew out of the house….so we waited in fear of him coming back, sometimes he would, sometimes he would not.

        Another time I accidentally fell asleep at the kitchen table woke up to him with my daughter lying across his lap as if he is going to spank her, he had one hand over her mouth and plugging her nose, when I tried to pry his hands off her he back handed me then started choking me from behind….she was safe, he always like to pull my hair when he finished trying to choke me. Neat guy. In court I explained, the situations that were in the restraint orders too, the worst was when he try to take both kids, locking me out of the car, when I tried to get kids out he slammed my body in the door, punched me in the head, tried to choke me, pinched the skin so hard under my arms they bled. He fled the parking lot left us stranded, a pastor came to pick us up dropped us back at home, asked me “well what made him so mad?”….I remember what an idiot I thought he was and told him “NOTHING” which was the truth but made me look like a liar. It was always over nothing….ugh if I had to say something, I guess I would say “he did not get the movie he wanted from the movie store???” I wonder how many women see abusers using parenting issues as an excuse for abuse, my spouse correlated that to he thought I should spank “the boy, and I was not discipling him properly?” Or something lame like that. Pastors always believed him when he told them I refuse to discipline my kids? Load of doody caca, just his way of minimizing his physical, mental abuse of them!

        OOPS! Did not mean to write all that BUT I am sure somebody can relate!

        [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      • It’s okay, Memphis, vent as much as you like. And yes, I’m sure others will relate.
        I related to quite a lot, but most especially to this bit:

        ”well what made him so mad?”….I remember what an idiot I thought he was and told him “NOTHING which was the truth but made me look like a liar. It was always over nothing….

        Yup. Know those bits really well!
        And btw, I don’t care about your spelling. 🙂 It’s cool.

  7. anewfreelife

    I love this blog and I love your sermons but every once in awhile one is just so absolutely amazing I am tempted to throw caution to the wind, up and leave everything, and move to Tillamook! This was one of those times. 🙂

    • Still scared

      Right there with you! This was out-of-the-ballpark amazing! 😀

    • Careful there — you’re liable to get Jeff’s “Old Man” all riled up and he will fall into the sin of pride. Oh, and furthermore, it will be your fault because you are female and everyone knows that when a great man of God falls, there’s always a women lurking about somewhere instigating things with her wiles and weak moral character. 🙂

      • Still scared


      • memphis rayne

        Haha! I actually remember my ex saying in church “Behind every good man there is a good woman!” as he snarled down at me. His blunt way of saying the only reason he abused us or had ever sinned is because I was not a good enough woman!!! Don’t remember anyone else reacting adversely to him saying that?? Every woman in ear-shot must of scrambled home to do more, to insure they did not end up with somebody like this guy!!!
        After each episode of abuse, his smear campaign started.
        A) I was keeping him from “his Godly right as a parent.” “She is keeping the kids from me.”
        B) I was somehow under lock and key, “having multiple affairs around town.” Because as we know, most mothers of three children and an abusive spouse have all this “FREE” time on our hands.
        C) I “stole our money”, and or “LIED” about taking money out of the bank.
        D) I stopped going to church!!! Therefore his abuse occurred due to his frustration over my “rebellious nature as woman / harlot!!”
        E) “She took MY money and then threw me out of the house!!” — which was the direct opposite of the truth.

        Can I just mention, I had one pastor tell my husband that I dressed “to be looked at!!!”
        The same pastor said, “Look man you have a beautiful wife just go home and be thankful!!”
        So the way I looked was used against me to justify his abuse, then to add insult to injury my husband then abused me over the last statement, in his mind I was flirting or cheating now with this pastor????
        Abuse creates so many disturbing ironies, double-binds and chaos!!!

      • memphis rayne

        Jezebel! Lol.

    • Go for it, ANFL! (Easy for me to say, isn’t it?)

  8. memphis rayne

    Really sorry for that.

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