Wednesday Thought — What does repentance look like?

We are publishing our Thursday Thought on Wednesday, because Thursday is Christmas Day.

It is important to be wise in discerning counterfeit repentance because some abusers are good at feigning repentance. Words do not offer a sufficient guide to whether repentance is genuine or not. There should be evidence that the offender feels grief and hatred for his sin, not just grief at being found out, or fear of loss of privileges. He should be willing to make proper reparation to anyone injured by his conduct. This would include being willing to tell the truth to persons he has lied to. It would also include paying reasonable child support if the children are not living with the perpetrator  (1 Tim. 5:8; Isa. 58:7)….

(Excerpt from Barbara Roberts’ book, Not Under Bondage [Affiliate link], p 43.)

[April 10, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to April 10, 2023 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 April 10, 2023 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 April 10, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 10, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

14 thoughts on “Wednesday Thought — What does repentance look like?”

  1. this would include being willing to tell the truth to persons he has lied to

    A lightbulb moment!! Thank you to everyone whose supporting and enlightening posts and comments have helped me survive this tough year! God bless you all for your love and courage. Sending encouragement to all who find Christmas an extra-challenging time of the year. (((hugs)))

    1. Spousal support: in the current world, laws providing for spousal support may or may not exist, depending on which jurisdiction you live in. If you live in a place where the courts grant spousal support, and a court has ordered your ex to pay you spousal support (a.k.a. alimony or maintenance) then most definitely, the abuser should pay it without any game playing, and not use his payments as leverage for his evil schemes.

      If secular courts cannot or have not made an order for spousal support, there may still be a moral obligation on the abusive ex, to pay such support to his victim, at least until she gets back on her feet financially after the withering years of the abuse. But of course, abusers don’t believe they have this moral obligation.

      If a victim has left the marriage and her abuser becomes TRULY repentant, one mark of this true repentance would be that he would see his duty to pay spousal support and pay it without any game playing.

  2. Oh yes….this is so helpful for those of us stuck in the fog / abuse or just coming out of it.

    This website has been so instrumental for me this past year. As I found out more and more about my narcissistic H, the lightbulb moments became more frequent.

    Part of what allowed me to move forward in splitting from my H was the fact that, despite giving him much more time and many more chances, the Lord showed me that my H hadn’t changed. Reading through notes I had showed me a pattern of repeated lies, manipulation and selfishness.

    Thank you for your ministry here at ACFJ. I am taking steps to remove myself from this situation. It will be a sad and difficult Christmas, sharing the children, but I am so hopeful for healing in the new year.

  3. It’s not this from n-husband: (said while pounding fist into other hand) “if I go to abuse counseling, do you PROMISE to stay with me?!”

    1. Exactly. That’s transactional behavior; not repentance. If he acknowledged his true condition and his NEED for change, he’d get help. He’s trying to buy his power back and make you promise something. Pass.

      1. Yes. I’ve never heard the phrase “I need to change” from him.

        My response: “I can’t promise you anything.”

        His response: Taking control of all the money.

  4. Speaking of true repentance, there’s a need for it not only from abusers, but from the social systems (including many churches) which have enabled abusers to continue their wicked deeds.
    I was reading Isaiah this morning, the passage about what the New Earth will be like after the second coming, the New Earth in which all sin and cruelty will be absent.

    The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
    and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
    and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
    and a little child shall lead them.
    The cow and the bear shall graze;
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
    The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
    and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
    They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain;
    for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
    as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9 ESV)

    It seems to me that many family court systems and church leaders take the view that it’s quite safe to send the nursing child to play over the hole of the cobra, and to allow the weaned child to put his hand on the adder’s den — as if cobras and adders are no longer dangerous.

    This is foolishness. Culpable, wicked foolishness.

    And these court practitioners and church leaders need to repent.

  5. 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.


    I’m pasting here a comment that Jeff C wrote on this post on our FB page:

    True repentance is rare, and it is beautiful when we see it. Scott Johnson says (though he doesn’t use the word repentance) that repentance consists of 3 things.
    1) “Cognitive assent that I have done something that is wrong” (many abusers don’t get past this first step!).
    2) Empathy — “acknowledging and feeling the pain and grief I have caused to the victim”.
    3) BEHAVIORAL CHANGE — in other words, fruits of repentance. Not continuing to abuse.

  6. Thank you, Barbara, for alarming [alerting?] us about the danger of counterfeit repentance and how to beware of it. Since abusers lack a conscience, repentance is virtually impossible for them. Being expert actors, they will know exactly how to play the repentant part. I’ve heard my husband say to me a couple times a few years back “I’m the chief of sinners”, only to continue his abuse….

    To me a most beautiful man is a man who can genuinely say “I was wrong” and makes whatever subsequent change and reparation. This is true bravery. The Prodigal Son [Luke 15] went 2 steps further when 1) he said he was no more worthy to be called his father’s son and 2) he was even willing to be one of his hired servants. Wow! I am yet to see an abuser get to that depth of awareness and humility!

      1. Thanks, Barbara, I’m so glad I finally joined your community and look forward to interacting with you all. 🙂 You and Jeff have helped me so much in my journey to reclaim myself. I’m so grateful to God for Christians like you.

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