‘The Reason’ — another anthem for abusers
So I told you how I love the Way You Lie got to me the other day. Well yesterday I heard “The Reason” by Hoobastank when I was out and about. I like the tune and it’s catchy. But when I stop to consider the lyrics, I realize that this is the manipulative abusers’ theme song! Could you take a look at the lyrics and tell me if you see what I see?
Here is a YouTube video which shows the lyrics; but if you prefer not to listen to the song, you can just read the lyrics [Internet Archive link].
OK, here’s what I see in the first stanza. It’s basically, “Nobody’s perfect, and when I abused you it was an accident.” So sin leveling by pointing out that perfection is unattainable. Then the “I didn’t mean it” bit that minimizes his actions.
Now the chorus tells us that he’s found a motivator to change; it’s you! This is a dangerous and pervasive myth in our culture. Songs, TV shows, and movies tell us all the time that evil men change for the love of a good woman. Once they find this perfect woman, these bad men are motivated, they have a “reason” to change. The message victims hear is that their abusers haven’t changed because they (the victims) aren’t worth the effort. This myth affected my daily life when I was still with X. If we were happy, I tried to find out why and seek to duplicate whatever I had done to create a climate where happiness could thrive. If he was angry, I examined my actions to see what I had done to cause this otherwise wonderful man to be so horrible to me. You see, “The Reason” was me, not him, not Christ, but ME.
In the next stanza we see that he is sorry about causing pain and, oh this just chaps my hide, HE has to live with it. What? He hurt me and he’s sorry because his abuse is hard for HIM to live with? Yes. That’s what it says. And that’s what abusers say too. I remember how X would complain after his abuse that I knew what he was capable of and I should’ve ___ or ___ but because I didn’t he now has to live with the guilt of having abused me. In The Sociopath Next Door [*Affiliate link], Martha Stout calls this “the pity play” and she says it’s the tell-tale sign that you’re dealing with a sociopath. How did I not see the crazy? Well, apparently it’s pretty common because here it is in this hit song…
And we’re back to the chorus where I am supposed to be all happy that he’s going to change because I’m so wonderful.
Here’s the thing. I am NOT so wonderful that anyone should change FOR ME. No one is. I will fail and become undeserving of that change and then the changer will go right back to his old ways. There is only One who can change us. Christ changes us as we learn to love Him and embrace His redemptive work on the cross. When I finally heard what X was saying, that I needed to help him change, that I needed to be worth his efforts, it helped me break free. Don’t change for me. Change because you see that you were wrong and you want to be right. Change for Christ. Change because you’ve repented, because you love God and you hate and forsake sin, not because you think I’m worth it today.
Lundy Bancroft, whose books [Internet Archive link] we highly recommend, talks about how popular themes in culture affect abusers in this video. Here is the text of the part that relates to my thoughts today.
The effect of media images
There is so much to say about why media images are an important influence and I’m not going to remotely cover all the different issues. There was a study done about 15 years ago that looked at men’s beliefs about rape and then looked at what their own histories were based on their own self report of having committed rape and it found that men who accepted the key myths about rape were much more likely to have had histories of actually perpetuating rape. What people believe matters.
In all my years of work with abusers, who come in with their excuses and their justifications, we saw the reasons that they are giving and those reasons pointed to specific things.
- Well, that’s what my father did.
- That’s what it says in (whatever my religion’s key text — religious scriptures are).
- This is the way it’s always been.
- That’s just the way it’s done.
At Emerge where I was a counselor for years, we would notice specific acts of violence that would come through in waves. I can still remember the year when all our clients seemed to be throwing the toasters at the woman. Why did we keep getting these stories over and over? We started feeling like these batterers were like graduates of some “batterer academy” because of the way these behaviors would come in waves. And then eventually, and I remember this specifically, we tracked it down to the movie it came from, and we started to realize this was the media. When we got a specific behavior in waves it was from the media. The homicides would also come in waves in Massachusetts and, in general, I find that in all states. However, I didn’t observe that in the batterer’s program. We were fortunate enough to have in all my years only one client that committed homicide.
So abusers get energy from what other abusers do. I read a diary of an abuser who did kill his wife and the victim’s relatives got their hands on his diary. And you could watch him teeter on his decision whether to kill or not. It was horrible. You don’t know what the next thing is that might put him over the edge.
Abusers get inspired by what other abusers do and they get inspired by media images, and more and more the behaviors come to be considered not that bad. It’s another effect the media images have particularly when you see them over and over again — when you just get tons of them.
As you gain awareness of how you think, of what affects your thinking, of how society has influenced what you think is right or even possible, you will be like Kryptonite to abusers and their allies. These pop culture themes won’t enslave you anymore. You’ll know the truth, that only God can save a sinner’s heart, not the love of a good woman.