Calling Evil Good: The Error of Couple Counseling for Abuse
Job 30:26 ESV But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came.
Psalms 52:3-4 ESV You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.
Barbara’s recent post reminded us all, as did the comments, that couple’s counseling (and I would add marriage intensives) is anathema when it comes to abuse. It goes wrong and works as a tool to further enable and empower the abuser. I won’t go into all of the reasons why this is the case, but it is true.
What I do want to discuss here is a very similar experience that I have had personally and which I have seen played out in the experience of others many times. It is the fallacy of calling evil, good, and good, evil. Here is how it works:
Sometimes when there is serious division in a local church, the suggestion is made that outside “help” be called upon. A denominational representative, an regional bishop, a presbytery, professional conflict resolution types, and so on. The idea is that what is needed is someone to facilitate two estranged parties by helping them deal with their fundamental issue – a lack of communication and understanding. Our own church’s confession of faith even addresses this:
In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; [London Confession of Faith]
This sounds all well and good. And so it should be, IF the people who are called upon for help are WISE. In the vast majority of cases that I have observed, this has not been the case. What has happened is that evil has been called good, and good has been called evil. The same dynamic works against the wronged party as in the couple’s counseling we are warning against. Let me explain further.
The typical goal of those called upon to “help,” is the preservation of unity, the reconciliation of relationships, the extending of forgiveness, and the attainment of true understanding of the other by each of the previously estranged parties. Peace. Harmony. Unity = Success. That is the mindset. For this reason, I would never recommend that a local church, for example, call upon some outside facilitator for help when division in that church is resulting from the actions of an evil person. Because the philosophy embraced by such “helpers” is not going to be one of doing justice for the wronged, calling evil for what it is, and justifying the good and righteous. Indeed, such people don’t really even acknowledge evil. They assume that everyone in the matter surely has a good intention, but there has merely been a breakdown in understanding. So the answer is to facilitate comuuuuuunicaaaaaaation (extended for emphasis of sarcasm). Blame will be put upon the good as well as upon the evil party. In fact, often MORE blame is put upon the innocent party! And when it is all over the evil person will be able to use the decree of these outside authorities to further enable his evil. I have NEVER seen a regional minister/district overseer in a denomination who was willing to stand firmly for the right and call evil for what it is. Never. I mean, think about it. You don’t get into one of those overseer of churches positions by standing firmly for truth. You get there by compromise. Apologies to the rare area minister who is just and right and good.
So that has been one of my primary experiences with this issue of “couple’s counseling,” although the “couple” involved in these cases were parties in a local church. The wicked end up being justified because no one is willing to stand for what is right and pay the price for doing so. Peace, peace, when there is no peace.
And so it is in couple’s counseling. The very starting premise is that there is evil on both sides (though it wouldn’t be called evil). “Everyone is a sinner.” So if the husband, for instance, has been raging and angry, well — the wife surely is at fault to some degree. She dare not say she is not to blame, for that would be rank arrogance. So she thinks, and so she has been told. She will be called evil, and the evil abuser will be called good. At least half and half. And that is all the justification the abuser needs to feel that he has been backed up by the pastor, counselor, or whoever.
Now, compare all of this mess with the clarity of God’s Word:
Isaiah 5:20 ESV Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Proverbs 17:15 ESV He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.
And our Lord Jesus’ own words to the abusers of His day:
Matthew 23:25-28 ESV “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Just imagine it. I mean, imagine a couple’s counseling session that is conducted like the one Jesus had with these Pharisees. Couple comes in, sits down, abuser begins weeping a bit perhaps when the victim rather haltingly begins to state her case. But instead of the counselor feeling sorry for him, when the victim is finished, the counselor stands up, points his finger at this poor, weeping, so-sorry fellow, and shouts – “Woe to you, hypocrite! You whitewashed tomb! You dare to pretend to be a Christian and behind closed doors you practice this evil! Go! Begone! Leave her and don’t come back until you’ve truly been in the prodigal’s pig pen! And don’t try to fake it. We are quite familiar with counterfeit pig poo.”
No, I’m not saying this should be exactly how it goes down, but well, why not? What is wrong with calling evil, evil? What is wrong with justifying the righteous and oppressed? What is wrong…with what Jesus did?
Don’t hold your breath however. It’s going to happen one day, on the Great Day when Jesus comes back. But most likely not in this life. So for now, forget couple’s counseling. It will only end in you being called evil, and the evil person declared to be good. And that is never a good thing.