Abusers Attribute Evil Motives to Us in Front of Others in Order to Discredit Us
And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2)
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they [the Pharisees, scribes, cynical unbelievers and haughty arm-chair critics] say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:18-19)
This post has pretty long title, but I didn’t know how to say it in fewer words. Some of you probably can. Let me tell you some (just a little bit) of what happened to me at the hands of abusers over many years and I am sure it will resonate with you. Rather than trying to describe it, I will just give you some scenarios that actually happened in respect to this particular abuser tactic:
1. About 10 years ago, after many years of using the same keys for our church building, I had the locks changed when a particularly wicked person resigned and left. I didn’t go into detail with everyone except to simply tell them it was a good practice to occasionally re-key the building. The next Sunday when we provided the new keys, a group of about 8 people were standing near me when Mr. Accuser approaches. “You know, pastor,” he proceeded to say in the hearing of everyone, “we all know the REAL reason you changed the locks. It is wrong of you to not be completely honest with us.” What did I do? I APOLOGIZED! Stupid me, I still wasn’t awake to the tactics of the wicked. I had done nothing at all wrong. This guy presumed to tell me what my inner motives were, announce that they were evil motives, and did so in a setting designed to discredit me in the eyes of my flock. Abusers CREATE guilt that is non-existent. They twist perfectly normal and righteous actions into the product of some kind of supposed inner sinfulness. They CREATE grounds for accusation, just as the enemies of Jesus did against Him.
2. Another time my wife and I had purchased the home we still live in. It is about 16 miles from the church building. Everyone knew we had been looking at it and the only input we had from anyone was very positive. They were glad we were going to be able to own our own home. But at the very next church board meeting after we had moved, the very same culprit told me, in front of all the rest of the board members, “Well, pastor, now that you have distanced yourself far away from your congregation….and now that you are down there all by yourself with the internet and without any accountability from us…you will need to be very careful in guarding yourself against sin.” Isn’t it amazing how long it takes for us to wake up to this filth? I mean, I immediately FELT it in my gut, that this was all very, very wicked and wrong. But I am the pastor. I am a Christian. I am supposed to be kind and forbearing and….you know the routine. And no one else there said a word to this guy either. Once again his goal was to exercise power and control over me. He hated it that I had shown “independence” by not begging for his counsel and permission before doing something (buying my own home) that was absolutely NONE of his business. So, he used this tactic to work to further discredit me.
3. Still another time — same culprit again. I was taking some courses in accounting from a community college. I like math and I took the courses as a kind of hobby, but also because I wanted a tent-making skill backup. Duh, gee, I wonder why I felt the need? Because the wicked are always working to get a genuine, sincere pastor thrown out of his church. The setting this time — another church board meeting. In front of all the other board members, this same guy works in his statement, “well, pastor we all know why you are taking those courses. We know you might just resign from this church.” No one rebuked him. No one called him on it. And he was permitted to continue his evil for years and years and years.
I could go on giving many more of these very same kinds of illustrations. Notice how in each case, the wicked person is making the claim that he knows the thoughts and intentions of my heart. And he always announces that those intentions are BAD. Could it be that there are so MANY of these wicked ones among us in our churches that we have come to think that their evil devices are NORMAL? (Sorry for using all caps so much, but just imagine me smashing my desk with my fist for emphasis). His goal? To weaken my leadership with others, to strengthen his own control and power, and to exalt himself. He was, after all, entitled to it all you know.
Pastors who are ignorant of the nature and mentality of abuse, and who are clueless about the tactics of the abuser, are setting themselves up as targets for the very kinds of attacks I experienced. When a pastor chooses to remain ignorant of the abuser, he is choosing to remain ignorant of Satan’s devices by which the enemy is working to destroy the pastor’s ministry and church. I know about abuse because as a pastor I personally was targeted by abusers for years. What would I say to this culprit and his kind now? Well, if someone pulled this kind of thing on me again, I would stop everything immediately. Board meeting. Church potluck. Bible study. Doesn’t matter. I would stop it and call for everyone’s attention. I would then ask them,
“Did you all just hear what Mr. A here said to and about me?” (I would also do this if I heard Mr. A pull this with another victim). “I want all of us to think very hard now about what he is saying. He is saying that he has the ability to read my mind and my heart, and he is attributing evil motives to me in front of all of you. He is doing so in respect to a situation that is AMORAL (changing locks, buying a house, taking some classes) and which are within my right to decide for myself. What Mr. A has just done is evil and it is wicked. Do you see it? Now, let’s talk about what Mr. A is really trying to do to this church and ministry, and as we discuss this, Mr. A, YOU are going to be silent.”
Now, that’s my experience of this kind of filth and wickedness as a pastor.
The abuser types in Jesus’ day attacked John the Baptist for fasting and attacked Jesus for eating and drinking — and for doing it with sinners! The abusers claimed John and Jesus had wicked intent behind their choices. After all, they KNEW what was in the hearts of those men, didn’t they? [not!]
It is not wrong to fast, and it is not wrong to eat and drink. It is not wrong to eat with sinners per se. (While mixing with sinners we seek, under the Holy Spirit’s prompting, to declare to them the Word of God while guarding ourselves against the flesh.) It was not wrong for me to change the locks in the church, or to buy the house, or to take those classes in accountancy. And I had no nefarious agenda when I made those decisions. But the abuser sought to discredit me, so he asserted that I had wicked intent and my choices proved I was evil.
I know that all of you have lived through the exact kind of thing at the hands of your abuser many, many times too. And I bet that you have even apologized to Mr. Abuser like I used to when he launched these attacks. Well, no more. Mr. Culprit, if you ever read these words, let it be known, we take ALL such apologies back!
A final note. Perhaps some readers, like so many professing Christians and church members, are thinking “Jeff, you are just talking about personal clashes you had with some people. I am sure you are over-stating it. You and this Mr. Culprit should have been able to work it all out if you had tried harder.” And then off you go back to your relatively trouble-free life. On behalf of not only myself but on behalf of all abuse victims, I am announcing as LOUDLY as I can type, that these situations are most definitely not mere incompatibility or interpersonal clash issues!! I would never, ever be able to make peace with Mr. Culprit. Why? Because he doesn’t want peace. He wants power. He wants control. All I can say to anyone reading this who still thinks that “it was all just a clash between two guys who should have tried harder to get along with each other,” is that perhaps one day YOU will become the target of an abuser/sociopath/emotional terrorist, and then maybe (if you survive) you will finally have empathy for victims of this evil.