Right Back At Ya! The Abuser’s Tactic of Reflective Blaming
Recently I had a refresher course in abuser tactics. Not in a classroom, but in real life. I need these reminders to help me continue to learn how to put into practice what I have learned about abuse. Necessary, because we all so easily revert to our old errors we used to be bound by when we were still “in the fog.” In this case my reminder was that I must not yield to accusations or to suggestions by the cowardly. We all have to learn to dig in our heels, stand firm, and say “no, I am right and you are wrong.” Many times distortions of our Christian faith that we have been confused by tell us that such an attitude evidences a lack of humility, that surely we are all sinners, that we need to look at ourselves carefully, that we need to acknowledge our own sin…blah, blah, blah. Yes, these things can be true, but they can also be perversions of Scripture that the wicked use against us. In dealing with the wicked, as someone has recently said, we must be shrewd. We must be wise as serpents. “No, I am right and you are wrong and I am not going to listen to you.”
In this case, myself and our elders and really our entire church membership confronted evil that has crept into the association of churches that we used to be members of. It’s the same old story you all would recognize. Power and control seekers bullying and lording it over others. They will not listen to anyone. They will not admit any wrong doing. They are never wrong. YOU are the problem. And furthermore, the very idea that YOU would dare act in such an un-Christian manner by saying such things to them…well, you should be ashamed of yourself! Sound familiar? I bet it does.
In this case, we determined that we were going to openly air our decision to resign as members of this association. We wanted the entire membership to know what our reasons were for resigning, rather than just having the Controllers shove our resignation letter in some file where no one would see. Oh, you should have heard the howlings, the caustic remarks of the power brokers, the accusations fired back at us. You would recognize it all as what we call “abuserese.”
Now, something interesting happened. Though our online exchange through “reply all” was witnessed then by most every member of the association, no one stepped forward in that thread to stand with us. What did happen, and we are thankful in part for some of this, is that numbers of pastors and churches contacted us privately and thanked us profusely, telling us that they shared our observations completely. What was interesting however is that they would add at the close of their letter…”please don’t tell anyone we said these things to you.” A spirit of fear reigns in that association. Why? Fear of what? Martin Luther could have been burned at the stake when he said “here I stand.” But what’s to fear here? That one of these “eminent pillars” of the association, these Diotrephes who have loved and enjoyed being “first” might rail against you? Christ has not called us to be invertebrates, brothers and sisters! Show some backbone!
But to our main point. In one of the replies from an ally of the power brokers, we saw a tactic that surely is very commonly used by abusers. I suspect you all have seen it in action. There may be a technical name for it, but I will just call it “reflective blaming,” and this is how it works. We confronted these bullies and told them that their abusive spirit is what we see and reject. We listed examples of this ungodly spirit. We knew they wouldn’t listen, but no matter. Abusers need to be confronted. They should have been called out a long, long time ago but their tactics were kept secret, that secrecy aided by the wrong-headed notion that “Christians must never speak negatively of a brother.”
Now, what do we mean by “reflective blaming.” This ally of the wicked told us, “Here is the irony. The very same ungodly spirit that you are saying we are guilty of is what you yourselves are guilty of.” See what he is saying? “Well, you say that we are abusers, but you are abusing us by saying so.” It’s like addressing a mirror that has the capability of reflecting everything you say back at and upon you. We even see this in children. “Well you do it too!” And of course the goal of the abuser in using this tactic is to remove at least 50% of the blame from himself and put it back on you.
When this reflective blaming hits you, how do you respond? If we aren’t careful, we will let it do its intended damage by accepting this blame. Hey, that’s the humble Christian thing to do, right? No! As soon as we catch ourselves starting to think and feel that, “whoa. I’m guilty. I have sinned by confronting my abuser. I should have been more kind and humble and….” – STOP!! No, I am not guilty of the same thing that the abuser is doing. I reject that charge. We must look the abuser in the eye and say “I reject everything you are saying. Don’t try to remove guilt from yourself by deflecting it to me. I am not guilty of abuse. You are.”
Then listen to the wicked howl some more. “No one has EVER spoken to me this way!” No, they probably haven’t and that is a huge part of the problem.