A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

How the Wicked Use “Christian Servanthood” to Gain Control of People

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.


The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)

Recently TWBTC, our ACFJ team member who helps us soooo much behind the scenes on the blog, made the following observation in a comment:

May I note two observations that I took from your scenario? 1) The handyman initiated the contact and offered his assistance. DeBecker in his book, The Gift of Fear, would call this tactic — Loan Sharking. He explains that some men know that if they help you that will “place you in their debt, and the fact that you owe a person something makes it hard to ask him to leave you alone.”

I cannot tell you how vital this is for ALL of us to get a firm grip on. Our local churches almost always have these kinds of loan sharks circling about in their pews and quite often these sharks have become “pillars” of the church they are in. You know the drill. The most “godly saint” in the whole church. The go-to guy whenever there is a need. “Just look over there at the church building most anytime and there will be good old (insert name of demon here) working away for the Lord.” Yeah, right. In fact the guy is a shark circling.

And this is how it works.

Just as DeBecker says, many sociopaths, abusers, and wicked people know innately that they can enhance their control of people if they can get those people into their debt. They can also use this tactic to prevent anyone from confronting them – “Oh boy! We can’t accuse Jack of abusing his wife. Why, look at all the fine service for the Lord he has done here.”

In EVERY church I have served as pastor (four of them in 32 years) one or two loan sharks were well entrenched when I arrived. Someone once said to new pastors “Watch out for the guy who picks you up at the airport when you first arrive in town.” That person was right. In every single case in these scenarios the “most godly servant of the Lord we have ever known” turned out to be a loan shark. All of their “service” was designed with one thing in mind – control and power. They wanted people to be in their debt, especially the pastor. “Anything you need, pastor, just give me a call. I’m always glad to help.”

Many of you will connect with this because your abuser used the same tactic. Abuse victims tell us with some regularity that their abuser was “always ready to help” others. He wouldn’t lift a hand to help his wife at home, but watch him go when he spotted a chance to “help” others and thereby get them into his debt. That debt may be nothing more than simply giving him praise and being duped into disbelieving any possibility that the abuse his wife might report one day could be true.

Let’s call the worst loan shark I have ever known, GW (stands for Great White). GW lived to present himself to the world as the finest example of sainthood and humility ever given to this world by the Lord. And he was largely successful. “Hey, do you know GW?” “You bet! What a fine, Christian man!”

The first few times GW offered his help, I got one of those unsettled gut feelings that tells us “something is wrong here.” I of course thought that it was simply a matter of GW’s personality quirk. “He’s just a Christian brother with a couple of abnormalities, but his heart is in the right place.” But then, on multiple occasions, I observed GW blow a bit of a gasket. I mean, he was angry and that anger was completely out of place and unexpected. It flared up when the person GW had “helped” offered to give GW a gift or do something in return to thank him for his assistance. Normal reaction?  “No, no that is not necessary. I am glad to help.” GW’s reaction – “NO! NO! You will cause me to lose my reward with the Lord!!!” Spoken heatedly in anger. Now, that is not simply just plain weird. It is just plain evil and I will tell you why.

GW blew a fuse and used his anger to punish the one offering the gift because GW’s strategy of putting that person in debt so as to control them was being short-circuited. This really ticked him off, though he was able to throw in a Bible concept, use it to punish and demean the one offering a gift, and thereby remain “saintly.”

I understand now what GW was doing. But I will never comprehend it. What I mean is, I simply cannot comprehend the depth of wickedness in people like this. Nor can I fathom how that evil so fully and completely defines who such a person is that they can craft these schemes from the pit without even breaking a sweat.

Water is wet. Heat is hot. Abusers abuse. It is what they do. It is who they are.


  1. Still Reforming

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    And that is precisely one of the reasons why some people in the church do not “get it.” That kind of anger is – as you write – not only weird, but pure evil. Many church members may not get the ‘benefit’ of seeing that anger flash, but the red flags are there all the same. Sometimes even called out, but the church won’t hear it.

    It’s disconcerting to me how the church refuses to look at evil for what it is. It’s grossly naive and therefore dangerous – not just physically but spiritually. The evil that’s allowed to continue once seen is thereby condoned. I think the consequences of that permission have great ramifications, especially for church leaders, but also for the flock. It takes love to look at the ugliness of sin and evil perpetrated against a brother or sister in the Lord – and love to take a stand.

  2. healingInHim

    Thank you again for posting such a relevant topic. It’s not just a matter of anger being hidden; there are many sins being covered by this “servanthood façade”. Many of the elders and their wives remain in such roles because of their service to the church and keeping “those doors open.” They will trample on those who don’t see it their way and we are seen as the goats and must leave. Actually, I guess that’s a blessing in disguise. It’s not true Christ-honoring worship in such a ‘c’hurch.

  3. Letting Go

    So right on! Have lived this.

  4. Wisdomchaser

    I need to print this out and read it everyday. Especially when I want to ask my soon to ex for help or when he offers help.

  5. April Kelsey

    Short-circuit any abuser tactic and watch the abuser explode. It’s the quickest way to knowing who you’re dealing with. A guy once came to a forum to ask advice about his gf, who had a troubled past, suddenly left him, and threatened him with a lawyer if he tried to contact her. He went on and on about how long they had dated and how concerned he was. But when I and others advised him to respect her no-contact wishes, he started making excuses as to why he should contact her anyway. After several exchanges that became increasingly tense and convoluted, I pointed out his manipulative tactics. Boy, oh boy. Guy had a meltdown and started verbally attacking everyone on the forum. We were slammed for taking “her side,” not giving any consideration for his “needs” (which included having the last word with her), and refusing to see her as crazy and unreasonable. It was suddenly clear why he had come to that particular forum: to gain allies that would affirm his derogatory perceptions and offer sympathy. Unfortunately, he chose a forum with several abuse survivors. Not smart. 🙂

  6. Disguising My Identity

    Years ago, a classmate in my major became incensed that I had made banana bread and brought it to share during finals crunch time. He was excited about the banana bread until he asked who made it. When someone told him I had made it, he growled and huffed out of the room. He had previously acted possessive towards me, which morphed into silent treatment, anger, disgust, turning his back to me and growling when he had to speak to me. I always suspected that I had failed to do something he wanted, but never knew what. I spent a good portion of college rather baffled by his behavior. I couldn’t understand how a reserved introvert could annoy someone so much, so I didn’t bother him unless it couldn’t be avoided. I have recently come to the conclusion, that he may have been trying to get some sort of control over me. It was a weird relationship that started to make sense when I started researching abuse.

    But further more what this post has explained to me is that he may have thought that I was trying to in-debt our classmates to me by making and sharing the Banana Bread – which makes sense, because in our few interactions he acted like I was trying to control him over stupid stuff. He could turn “hey, have you seen so-and-so?” into a power struggle.

  7. Annie

    Many of you will connect with this because your abuser used the same tactic. Abuse victims tell us with some regularity that their abuser was “always ready to help” others. He wouldn’t lift a hand to help his wife at home, but watch him go when he spotted a chance to “help” others and thereby get them into his debt. That debt may be nothing more than simply giving him praise and being duped into disbelieving any possibility that the abuse his wife might report one day could be true.

    Yep. My husband can’t even offer a thank you to me for doing something much less actually help me to do it. BUT neighbor or someone else asks for help and he’s on it immediately. He’s devoted hours and hours to helping others even when he had other things he needed to do. I ask for help and he’ll say that he’ll let me know if he has time and then he goes back to his tv. Our house needs so many repairs but a neighbor needs something and he’s right there. Neighbors got a pet recently and he’s over there just loving it and offering all his wisdom on its care. Of course, when we had a pet he didn’t lift a finger for its care.

    • Still Reforming


      Your comment regarding not lifting a finger for care of your pet reminded me of the time my (now ex-) anti-husband asked me to purchase rat poison to put in some out-buildings we had. WIthin a week or so, our dachshund started exhibiting signs of being ill. The next Sunday after church, I came home to find the pet having labored breathing and swollen up around the neck. I thought he was on death’s door, so I asked my husband if I could take the pet to an emergency clinic (being Sunday). I got no answer, so I scooped up the pet and our then young child and flew out the door, since the clinic was an hour’s drive away. I was about to turn on the ignition to the vehicle when my husband suddenly appeared at the driver’s side window and merely said, “I hope this doesn’t break the bank.”

      As it turned out, our dog had ingested rat poison. I had him treated, but he was never the same and died two years later, living the rest of his life with neurological issues. I have since wondered why ex-h couldn’t have put the poison higher, knowing we had a dachshund. There were surely easy places to put poison where a dog with such short legs couldn’t have gotten to it.

      Ex-h was never sympathetic to our house pets, even exclaiming to me that I loved the dog more than I loved him (ex-h). I replied that he should feel comforted that I was taking such good care of the animal because if I went to such trouble for a dog, how much more would I care for him, but he never accepted that.

  8. Charis

    Yes. This defined my marriage. No good act was truly “freely” given. Even if I couldn’t have articulated it at the time – I sensed it. I felt it. It seemed as if my h was keeping a list of “Look at all I’ve done for you and others” and that I perpetually “owed” him.

    Also…his “Thank you’s” were odd and strangely insincere. “Thank you for going to dinner at my Dad’s tonight”, “Thank you” (after sex), “Thank you for going with me to the festival” – all things that are a normal part of married life and hardly worth mentioning.

    Yet, for many years I told myself – what a thoughtful man he is, look at how he says “thank you” for every little detail in life. Nope. Saying his “thank you’s” were a way to cut loose any weight that might remotely make him indebted to me (in some bizarrely twisted way).

    • Anonymous

      Yet, for many years I told myself – what a thoughtful man he is, look at how he says “thank you” for every little detail in life. Nope. Saying his “thank you’s” were a way to cut loose any weight that might remotely make him indebted to me (in some bizarrely twisted way).

      So beautifully put–describing the ugliness of evil. Good manners, yet another cover they use to hide themselves. I remember reading a story of a Nazi guard who was always so polite to the prisoners, saying, “Please” and “Thank you” until someone didn’t move quickly enough and he had to violently shoot them or abuse them. Yes, he blamed them for his abuse towards them, after all he was so POLITE, you OWED him! And yes, my husband is the same way, and he also wants credit for saying thank you. So he steals from you (sex, time doing things for him that make him look normal like the festival, all while you think he’s one person but it’s all a front) then he once again takes away any “obligation” you could claim from him by saying “thank you.” Amazingly, he really believes that you OWE him because he’s graced you with his presence because after all–he is god! John 10:10, “The thief comes ONLY to steal and kill and destroy…” ONLY to steal, ONLY to kill, and ONLY to destroy–it’s what they do and they are great at it and they delight in doing it.

    • healingInHim

      Charis – I can relate very much to the emptiness of the “thank you’s” … living this with family and friends, as well. There was a pattern of politeness as they stuck the knife in my heart. 😦

  9. Anonymous

    Control. Control. Control. They want to be in control. It never ceases to amaze me how this game they play always ends up with them in control–whichever way they perceive themselves as being in control. “You owe me” is one of the four signs of a sociopath noted by Martha Stout in her book. “Woe is me” (pity play),” You owe me”, “We’re the same” and “Keep my secrets” are all part of their mode of operation. It becomes more obvious as you realize what you’re dealing with but it never seems to get any easier–it still offends my soul when I’m dealing with them. It’s always so draining and their game playing never ends–they will never grow up or out of this phase. This is their end-game.

    It sounds like GW was peeved that anyone would be able to escape his trap, and by golly he would bring down the wrath of GOD (himself of course) if they tried to wrestle out of the snare he had set. Wisdom, it don’t come cheap.

    • Remedy

      It sounds like GW was peeved that anyone would be able to escape his trap and by golly he would bring down the wrath of GOD (himself of course) if they tried to wrestle out of the snare he had set. Wisdom, it don’t come cheap.

      Profound insight here and I add my ‘Amen’ to it. These types are ruthless in their manipulations. Once you get that someone functions this way, and it seems so normal to them, I don’t see how you can ever have a real relationship with them again. The grid of ‘ ‘normal’ functioning is missing here and lots of conflict, confusion and heartache is inevitable.

    • 7stelle

      My husband is a pity me player for sure. And he has said the words to me, “we are the same”. Could you explain Martha Stout’s writing this?

      • Anonymous

        If you search her name, you can find her book but a good place to start is to read some of the reviews about this book on-line. “We’re the same” is one of the gimmicks used by those without a conscience to deceive others into believing that they have the same ideals, values, hopes and fears as the person they’re trying to gain control over. “Mirroring” is another term used to describe this behavior. In reality they are what the Bible calls “mockers” because they never actually LIKE the people they’re targeting and they HATE that they can’t be worshiped for being the god they believe themselves to be so when they are forced to mimic kindness, love and reciprocity they resent it and hold it against the person and humanity at large.

      • 7stelle

        Thank you Anonymous.

        Before being married my husband:

        –showed an interest in an organization I belonged to, but after a couple of years of marriage he declared, “I hate that stuff”.

        —asked what I thought of families leaving their children behind while they went on vacation and I said I would never do that. He said he didn’t like it. Then just 2 months after the birth of our first child he wanted to leave our baby with a family member and take me to an island.

        —asked me if I liked to wear the kind of outfits (it was an excercise outfit from the ’80’s) a girl was wearing who passed in front of the car we were in

      • 7stelle

        —asked me if I liked to wear the kind of outfits in public (it was an exercise outfit from the ’80’s) a girl was wearing who passed in front of the car. I said I would only wear something like that at home or in an exercise class with women only. He said he didn’t like to see a girl dress like that; it was immodest. Then years later he admits he did like it, just didn’t want me dressing that way.

        When he said, “We are the same”, he was saying I sin the same way as him.

  10. Struggling

    Last week I told my counselor that I feel like a dog chained to a doghouse (with a short chain) because of a benefit I am receiving (in small bits) even though my husband received the same benefit during our marriage. I am made to feel like I am indebted to him. If I don’t give him what he wants in payment, it’s the seething silent treatment for me for days and weeks. I have been betrayed by my church. This is so painful.

    • marriedtohyde

      I am sorry for your pain. There is freedom on the other side once ties are cut. Keep learning and praying for guidance–He certainly opened my eyes to the abuse that had put me in a deep fog and put resources like this site to help me understand the truth. You will get though this and you won’t be alone in your walk.

    • Hi Struggling. welcome to the blog! 🙂 I’m guessing from your comments that you are already familiar with our New Users Info page, but if you haven’t already checked it out I recommend you do so — you can find it in the top menu.
      Bless you.

  11. Struggling

    Thank you Marriedtohyde. I too am married to Mr. Hyde. This blog is helping me a lot. But it is so difficult to go to church. We still have a child at home. I’m torn between trying to keep things stable and trying to keep myself sane. It’s so hard.

  12. NoMoreTears

    Loan Sharking!
    This reminds me of an early date of my “to-be husband.” He had taken me to an office picnic. The location was beautiful … yet, shortly after we had arrived, I found myself alone with many strangers around me that I had never been introduced to. Several hours went by before he turned up explaining that some girl’s car did not start so he had to help …?

    I don’t know if the next story falls under the same subject … but I am sure there is a name for it. I had worked hard to start a home group of Christians to come to our bible study. We even had acquired a pastor to join us once a week. This went on for one year. It is then that I found some inconsistencies in the pastor’s and the elder’s behavior and judgment that I did not agree with. It had to do with an abused women in our group trying to separate herself from the abusive husband. I told the pastor in so many words that those were not my values and I would walk away from the church to help this woman. He must have been into power because this was the first thing that came out of his mouth: “Don’t you know that if you leave the whole group will fall apart. As a matter of fact, if you leave … I (the pastor) will leave too.”
    Since I could not convince the pastor of his poor decisions, I felt to leave was the best for me and leave it to God who is the only one to change the pastor. I did tell the pastor that he, the shepherd of this flock, had thrown one of his sheep under the bus!”

    • Still Reforming

      I am SO glad you wrote this. I was never able to successfully communicate to my ex- what it felt like to be left alone at work parties. I went to a few, but was always left alone at a picnic table or something and although I made an effort every now and then to talk with others, we had a young toddler at the time and it was never much fun for the child or for me to be stranded at a party alone with no one to talk to or play with.
      After a few parties, I stated how I didn’t want to go and for awhile, it wasn’t held against me, but then one year everything changed and he wanted us to start going again with him. I don’t quite know why, but after stating how I didn’t enjoy the parties and why, I said we would go. Then on the very day of the picnic party, I was sitting with our child all dressed, bags packed, and ready to go – waiting on him to get ready. So she and I sat at the kitchen table coloring while waiting. He came to the kitchen, looked at us, then suddenly shouted, “FINE! Just see what happens the next time YOU want to do something!” Then he stormed out and slammed the door, heading to the party alone. On the one hand, I was relieved. We didn’t have to go. On the other hand, what just happened? He made such a a fuss that he wanted us to go, and then…. I agreed, we were ready, and boom! Wouldn’t let us go.
      “Oh, what a tangled web he weaves when first he practices to deceive.”

  13. Anonymous

    Replying to 7stelle regarding, “When he said, “We are the same”, he was saying I sin the same way as him.”

    Yes. This is a good point. People without a conscience have zero empathy meaning they have absolutely no idea how other people perceive things. They are only capable of seeing things through their own eyes. They use Bible verses that seem to back up their insanity such as Romans 3:23, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…” and others. On top of being unable to see what others see, they don’t CARE about others except as tools to be manipulated in order to gratify their own needs and because they believe themselves to be the only true human alive (the rest of us are drones or sheep to be shepherded by the “one true god”-themselves) surely we too only look at things as they do since our only job here on earth (in their minds) is to please them. Worn out yet? I am.

    My husband too does this–tries to include me in his guilt and sin, and even after years of refusing to allow him access to my mind or body, and being absolutely disgusted by him, he thinks we are the same in this. He can never learn–but I can and so can you. You are nothing like him in any way and even though he REALLY believes that everyone is like him and only pretending to not be evil, you don’t have to play. Porn perpetuates this evil way of thinking (from what I know of porn which is very little), It seems to present “regular” human beings going about the business of everyday life until someone they recognize as a kindred soul–or who they realize really turns them on or some other inane thing, walks into their life and then they “really” show what they are–evil like the watcher of this garbage. They really believe that we are all only ACTING good and that we all secretly want to engage in filth. The classic story, “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne addresses this theme– that all are bad only pretending to be good, a very depressing story, but that’s what the life of a person without a conscience is–a very depressing story but one they wouldn’t trade for anything because “their soul delights in their abominations.” (Isaiah 66:3)

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