A Cry For Justice

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

Abusers Tell us What our Thoughts and Motives Are – But They Don’t Know

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.


For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11)

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. (Proverbs 14:10)

I can still hear it.  “Pastor, I know why you did that.”  “Jeff, you always do that because….”.  Every single one of the abusers who have targeted me over the years have used this kind of tactic. And for a long time I believed them at least to some degree. “Yes, maybe my motive was bad? Maybe that was what I was thinking? Or was it?”

Abusers come to this evil tactic naturally. As children of the devil, they are accusers. One very effective means of controlling people is to announce to them that you are able to read their minds, to see into the very recesses of their hearts. That you know better than they themselves do what they are thinking and what their intentions are. Of course the thing is preposterous as the Scriptures above say. No matter how well we know someone, we are not capable of fully discerning their inner being.

Now, when abuser claims to read your mind and your motives, he is making this claim in order to accuse you. Notice he never uses this “ability” to compliment, but to destroy. What he allegedly sees in your mind and heart, he insists, is not good. “You did this for selfish reasons.” “You were only thinking of yourself.” “You were lying.” “You were lusting.” “You weren’t even thinking.”  “You wanted the glory for yourself…” and on it goes.

This has become a very clear red flag sign of an abuser to me. Whenever I hear someone using this kind of tactic, I know I am at minimum dealing with an unsafe person.

When we are targeted with this kind of attack often enough, we begin to doubt our ability to even perceive and trust our own conclusions. This then is all designed to force us back under the power of the wicked because, they claim, they DO KNOW the truth. They say they can read us like a book. They say they want to “help us understand” what our thoughts and motives really are.

God’s Word says the thing is a big scam. NO ONE knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of the person. Furthermore, even my own inner self person doesn’t fully know myself! It takes the Spirit of the Lord in me to show me what is in me, whether good or bad. And it is to Him alone we look:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalms 139:23-24)


  1. fiftyandfree

    I am grateful that the Lord knows my heart! Yes, the abuser constantly accused me; usually of the things he himself was guilty of. He accused me incessantly of lying, and of cheating on him. He constantly challenged my sanity and my integrity. After the divorce he told people I bankrupted him and “took all the money,” when in fact the opposite is true. He’s no longer my husband and we have only minimal contact, but still I feel a sinking despair wash over me when I am reminded of what I endured with this man. And three years post-divorce I am learning that the reason he chose me as his wife / victim was that I am trusting to a fault, and I tend to give everyone the benefit of doubt. I could have very easily fallen victim again had it not been for the education I’ve gotten on abuse and abusers from this site and from the books I’ve read (namely Barbara Roberts’ and Jeff Crippen’s books along with David Instone-Brewster’s book). Sometimes I find that I cannot read this blog daily because it triggers so much pain, but I also know that it is this blog which has helped me to escape and to heal and I am very grateful. Understanding the abuser and the abuser’s tactics is invaluable. Without that understanding I think most victims would continue to blame themselves and stay in the abusive relationship.

  2. Anonymous

    WOW!! This is profound insight into the tactics of an abuser. I am nearly speechless as I read this because it perfectly describes with heart -pin-to-the-heart accuracy what I lived with 24 / 7. I actually thought I was going out of my mind. And you nailed it, “He never uses this “ability” to compliment, only to destroy”. Unbelievable evil!!

  3. Alone on the Range

    So true. I have been SO mentally invaded and violated by this tactic, done so subtly and insidiously, that I struggle to discern my own sins. And then I am accused of self-righteousness because of it, when it is often just the scars that leave me in a fog.

    • Jeff Crippen

      It is indeed that – mental invasion and violation. My experience with this kind of terrorist (that is what they are) has been in the church as such people play the role of “Christian.” Seeing what I see now and knowing what I know now about this evil, I would immediately confront (not advising that all abuse victims do this, it may not be safe for them) the perpetrator. I would announce his sin loudly to all, describing and identifying it and if it became apparent that the person is in fact characterized by this wickedness, I would call for him to be put out of the church. It IS that serious and evil. “Now, I know why you really did that. You lied to everyone. Your real motive was….”. That is the language of these demons. It is from hell.

    • KayJay

      Yes! The self-righteous accusation! How well I know that one. It was the most effective for shutting me down. Notice I say “was” because after being a long time reader here and elsewhere, the gig is up. I still don’t know how it will all play out ultimately, but at least I now know I no longer have to accept the accusations and horrible behavior.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, you are right, struggling to discern our own sins…. I was called a vicious self-righteous pig; nice language from an ordained minister / husband. This is part of the reason he would never go to counseling, the dreaded fear of having to sit there and listen to me repeat the evil names he has hurled in my face. Most of them are too horrible to repeat and as I do, it takes me right back into the pit. We already know the evil that is played out in these fake Christians but what blows me away, is the cold calculated cruel cunning and planning needed to get the results they seek. Psalm 10 nails it! “His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. He lies in wait like a lion and cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed they collapse; they fall under his strength. he says to himself, “God has forgotten he covers his face and never sees.” Of course we know, God will NOT be mocked!

  4. Moving Forward

    It is rather selective mind reading! If an abuser is so good at knowing what we are thinking, surely there must be a good thought once in a while that he can discern and tell us about! Not that it would fit his agenda, so fitly mentioned, which is to destroy, not build up.

  5. Anonymous

    Yes, Mr. Crippen, terrorist, that’s exactly what they are! They spread terror to intimidate and hold hostage their prey.

  6. Anthea

    Oh, this nasty tactic is a favorite of my abuser. I have put it together with his love of projection and realized that the terrible thoughts and motives he accuses ME of are the ones that are really in his own heart.

  7. Kandyce Brothers

    I have a family & some so-called friends who think they know me, my thoughts, motives and heart…they do NOT & I am happy to tell them…oh wait they are sooo toxic and abusive I removed them from my life! Only God knows my heart; He made me & He loves me

  8. Valerie

    I believe Jeff is certainly correct in his observations yet interestingly this concept was actually used against me. A “Christian” counselor told me in a joint session that it was not biblical and very wrong for me to draw conclusions as to my husband’s motives for things. If I said he was doing ____ due to a negative motive this counselor said I was judging his heart and that was very wrong of me. Boy did my ex enjoy those sessions! The counselor wasn’t satisfied unless I recanted and said I was sure he had good intentions even if the results were destructive, which I was not willing to do so I was labeled unresponsive and uncooperative. Then the sessions would turn to how I needed to examine myself for being so harsh in my observations of my ex. Sigh. So glad to be out of that torment dressed up and disguised as “counseling”.

    • surviving freedom

      Valerie, I can really relate. This was used on me as well by counselors, pastor, and the abusive man … especially these last few years when he was professing “change.” Whenever I wouldn’t just accept his excuse, his claims of some “good intention, but just went about it the wrong way,” or his claims of love or repentance. Then I was told that I am judging what’s in his heart and was un-Christ-like of me. And I would then start giving the abuser the benefit of the doubt and trusting his word as I was instructed to do. Basically if I wasn’t accepting his “non-apology,” or “non-confession,” then these Scripture verses were used against me.

      I guess this is where God’s discernment is essential. If the abuser talks the talk, but isn’t walking the walk, then we do need to use the discernment that God gives us in His Word, and not accept the abusers word. Although I can see it’s a fine line, and we do need to question ourselves if we are wrongly assuming a person’s intentions in order to wrongly accuse, control, or avoid taking responsibility for our own behaviors.

      The abuser in my life would “know” that the reason for a boundary was because I was unforgiving or angry. He “knew” I would object to a job change, or purchase of a new vehicle … that’s why he didn’t bother me with the details, etc.

      So, I do need to ask myself…am I using God’s Word to discern if the abusers over-all consistent behavior matches his spoken intentions…or am I only assuming a person’s intentions in order to evade taking responsibility for my own actions.

      When I first read this post, I thought to myself …”yes, I am guilty of doing that to my abuser,” So I’m not even sure if what I wrote above is accurate or just a way for me to justify questioning or not believing the abuser’s claims.

    • kind of anonymous

      I think I know what you mean. Assessing motives can be an attempt at confronting the root reasons for behaviour on the part of someone who is doing jerk things and playing games and getting away with it too or even confronting sin you know about. After we’ve lived with someone for a while we get to know their stuff and think we might have a reasonable bead on what’s behind it all. It’s pretty human when you are fed up with asinine behaviour to make some angry comments about what you think might be behind it. I’ve certainly flung some retaliatory comments at my husband as to his motives for some of the hurtful things he has said to me and done in our marriage as well as some choice screaming insults and unflattering body part related epithets; usually while being majorly jerked around, falsely blamed and subjected to hurtful accusations that are grossly unfair and one sided.

      Sometimes in reaction to someone else’s ongoing pattern of wrong behaviour we can certainly sin in response or even justify to ourselves fighting fire with fire. I’d say my reactions probably constituted retaliatory sin, though after ten years of this bs who wouldn’t be getting to the point where they are angry, provoked beyond measure, and ready to go head to head. Its easy to fall into too, if you’ve grown up in an abusive environment and then married someone from such an environment. Bullies almost seem to force nice people into relating to them on those terms since they see niceness as weakness. But I would still think that the abuser is the one who wants power and control without responsibility and thoughtfulness and who refuses to consider, admit and get help for sin patterns and wounds. He thinks others have to submit to him but he will not submit to God. These folks feel free to speak into your life and they do it in a way that is arrogant and unkind; try to share any insight into them or a word of correction and they are above you and will shut down whatever you are trying to say. they have it all together and YOU are the one who needs the help, not them.

    • Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

      Oh, yes. I was told the same thing. That I was wrong to not believe his words of repentance. That I was “judging” his motives. They did not believe I had heard the words too many times to believe them without actual action changes. I did regularly check my heart but gradually ignored bad counsel when this was brought up.

  9. Saved By Grace

    Oh my goodness, Pastor Jeff. This is SO SUPER helpful. I’ve written down the I Corinthian verse down on a recipe card so I can put it to memory. This tactic of knowing what someone else is thinking has been told to me. I’ve tried to tell the person that one cannot know what another person is thinking, but I know my words were not heard or taken to heart. BUT God’s words will now be taken to heart for me so I can be ready for when these lies are used against me.

    My God, Father, Saviour, Redeemer IS my strength and protector. Praise be to God.

  10. bananarama

    evil; pure evil

  11. a prodigal daughter returns

    Abusers make you feel diminished as a human and less loved by God. What is sad is when we internalize the condemning voice and constantly look for sin in ourselves. I grew up with it, getting in trouble for things I was accused of thinking, motives I was accused of having until I had no idea anymore what I thought or what my motives were. It sounded normal and spiritual then to marry someone that was constantly correcting my depraved heart, something I was conditioned to believe was bad. I’d cringe if someone said “your heart is good” that sounded like a lie.

    To this day I tend to find fault with myself and there is plenty to be found. But then, what is the purpose of the blood of Christ if it does not impart to us the righteousness of Christ? Where is the faith in believing in your total depravity at all times, is not the imputed righteousness of Christ greater than our faults? Doesn’t God’s word say there is NO condemnation to those who are in Christ?

    I’ve noticed about condemners they never question their own motives. Their motives are always pure, they can be the “thought police” for everyone else, but they are only a victim in their own minds. They will not acknowledge their role as a perpetrator.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, abusers do seek to make us feel diminished as a human and less loved by God. My abuser told me on a regular basis I was useless, I was no good, worth nothing, I was going to burn in hell, I was not one of God’s little ones, I was as bad as Judas, and the list goes on and on… That would be all week long including Saturday night, and then on Sunday morning driving to church he would threaten me that I had better smile and put my arm around him as we sit in the pew because after all, people are watching and we have a testimony to keep. And depending on what church we were in he as an ordained minister may have even been preaching in the pulpit. I would sit there Often times afraid to move, choking back tears, and many times nearly fainting. And once we returned home you can bet, it started all over again. That’s why I refer to it as a torture chamber.

      • So often judges and bystanders misrepresent a pattern of abuse as ‘an isolated incident’.

        Your abuser had ‘isolated incidents’ of showing his nice mask to the church. (Not ‘isolated incidents’ of being abusive.)

    • HisBannerOverMeIsLove

      Abusers make you feel diminished as a human and less loved by God.

      I feel diminished by the negative things my h said to me. F this and that. He felt I made him look stupid or like an idiot. So he unleashed the hate. Said I changed the plan, I was in my own little world, he didn’t know how much $ we had, or what my plans were, that I could get a job and pay for it myself, he was out of it, I could go it alone, figure it out myself, he’s done. Along with cussing. I apologized for making him look like an idiot. He lamely said sorry I cussed so much BUT……

      I didn’t consider that a real apology. I found myself especially hurt by the comments. I feel like skipping church to avoid the Lords Supper because I’m so offended and can’t see how it will resolve. I spoke to him about being hurt days later and I mentioned being tired of it. (The verbal treatment) he answered me too.
      ???????? I’m missing something. I can’t figure this out.

      • Dear HisBanner, I relate to your comment. My first husband swore a lot. Even if he wasn’t swearing directly at me, I felt diminished, defiled, contaminated by his foul language.

        He would also falsely accuse and blame me. Rather than admit that his own behaviour had made him look stupid, he would claim —or infer —that I had made him look that way.

        This is typical of an abuser’s blame-shifting. They are intransigent in refusing to take responsibility for their immature and defective characters. They determinedly insist (despite the facts, the truth) that they are not to blame and anyone / everyone else IS to blame. They FIGHT against having to take responsibility for their bad attitudes and behaviour and for the hurt they inflict on others,

        They know that if they admitted fault and took responsibility for their wrongdoing, they would then have to WORK HARD at CHANGING themselves. And they hate hard work. So they shove it off onto everyone else.

        Have you read Lundy Bancroft and George Simon Jr? Their books, which you can find on our Resources tab, are very helpful. If you read their books, I think you will find that you can figure things out a lot more easily.

        It is not your fault. You are not to blame. You are being abused by an abuser.

  12. Anewanon

    He said that I knew him better than he knew himself, so I started doing this all the time, calling him on the carpet…. with … “You did this for selfish reasons.” “You were only thinking of yourself.” “You were lying.” “You were lusting.” “You weren’t even thinking.” “You wanted the glory for yourself…” and on it goes.

    So maybe I WAS the abuser?

    • No no no; you were not the abuser. You were rightly and righteously calling him on his bad behavior. I am confident that you had clear EVIDENCE (from his pattern of conduct over time) that he lied. That he was lusting. That he wanted glory for himself. So your accusations of him were founded on truth and fact, whereas his claims about your motives and your inner thoughts all sprang from his selfishly distorted and deceptive belief system, not from facts and clear evidence and not from your pattern of conduct. He intentionally created misconstructions and misrepresentations of your behaviour and your attitudes. He did this to try to squash and debilitate you. To try to keep you ‘down’ and him ‘up’.

      Here are some posts that help untangle this:
      My abuser says I am the abuser!
      Thursday Thought — “Am I the One Mistreating Him?”
      Right Back At Ya! The Abuser’s Tactic of Reflective Blaming

      • Anonymous

        Anewonan, Barbara Roberts hit the nail on the head! DO NOT play the hand of cards he is dealing you. It’s more of the same, intimidation, lies straight from the pit of hell.

  13. Anonymous

    I think of all the children raised with this. Parents who tell them over and over that they can read their mind. They tell the child that they (the child) have a certain personality or a certain disposition or some other lie that ends up creating a dichotomy in the child. This child may grow up REALLY believing that they have this “flaw” when in fact it was never true and the child was never even able to know themselves. It makes it so very hard to grow emotionally and spiritually when you are starting with such a core belief that is actually a lie about yourself. It took the Holy Spirit to show me the truth about myself; that I am so very tender-hearted and sensitive towards others and that I love the Lord and had no desire for the things of this world. My family loved success and loved being well-known by everyone. My husband is the same way but they DO have a flaw. They have no conscience and so they often ruin relationships before they have a chance to implement their control and dominance. They used me as bait. I genuinely cared about others and people liked me so they were able to gain access to others, and because of my nature and hatred of strife or controversy, they would then use me to be against so that they looked good or normal. I never wanted to cause a scene and I also didn’t realize that some people were evil. I figured that it was because of the “flaw” in me.

    Luke 22:24-25 Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. But He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called Benefactors.

    The word here for “Benefactor” is used only once in the Bible and it means “a doer of good; it was also a title of honor, conferred on such as had done their country service, and upon princes; equivalent to Sorer, Pater Patriae.” These abusive people are just like this verse says. The dominate us and then they believe themselves to be our gracious benefactors. They [seem to] REALLY BELIEVE [or they make out that they REALLY BELIEVE} that they have bestowed benevolence on us by gracing us with their very presence and proceeding to “care” enough about us by helping us see where we need their help to overcome our shortcomings. Hey thanks, but I’m good. I’ve seen the error of my ways and that error was that I was blind but now I see — evil that is; I see evil and I turn away. As I turn I lift the evil person up to the Lord and ask that His will be done in their lives and that He protects me and shows me His truth through His word and in my life. God CAN read my mind and my heart and my life and he has a beautiful plan for me that includes loving me today, tomorrow and for all eternity. So thanks again dominant benefactor, but I’m good!

    [material in square brackets added by blog admins]

    • imsetfree

      I relate……….except I know I did have some of the flaws my parents said I had….I couldnt see it at the time though,…..I didnt think I was conceited or rude or spoiled…I just felt humiliated and worthless and like they didnt really see me, so I acted up…..now looking back I realise I WAS conceited and proud and pushy..I just never realised it because I always felt I hated myself and was never good enough…so with the Holy Spirit I have to ask Him to help me see myself as I really was- conceited and proud….which is hard for me to swallow….my feelings of self hate were so real (eating issues, self harm, social phobia etc) that I couldnt see the pride in me….so I think [at least for my case, I can only speak for myself] its not black and white…. I was a brat, but because I believed in psychology and new age I believed I had a mental illness and that it wasnt my fault….I now know it was bad behaviour and demons.

      • Hi Imsetfree, you will notice that I added a little bit in square brackets into the text of your comment. I am pretty sure you won’t mind that I added it, but let me know by email if you do.

        The reason I added is is to make it crystal clear to other readers that you are speaking about yourself, not other survivors. As I’m sure you can appreciate, many of our readers at this blog have had other people telling them what they are like. And very often (as happened with you, from various folks telling you about yourself) these ascriptions and labels and character analyses are not accurate, not fair and quite hurtful to the victim / survivor of abuse.

        I added the stuff in square brackets in order to minimise the risk of other readers of this blog interpreting what you said about yourself having been conceited and proud, by thinking those adjectives might apply to them too.

        I hope this makes sense. 🙂
        Bless you

        And in regards to whether you had demons influencing you to bad behaviour before you became a Christian, I don’t want to confirm or disconfirm that you were to some extent demonised — that’s not my call. But I can tell you that in my own life prior to my conversion I had explored quite a lot in the occult and committed serious sexual sins over quite a long time, plus I had been sinned against when I was raped as a child — which really screwed me up — and after I was converted and finally got to church I had several experiences of being delivered of something demonic that had been either inside me or pretty attached to me for a long time (or so it seemed to me).

        Those deliverances happened quite spontaneously, they never happened by going to see a prayer-ministry ‘specialist’ or ‘deliverance expert’ or anything like that. God simply did them — at the right time. And once I’d been delivered, I was much more clear, more able to walk the walk of discipleship, and less driven by impulsive behaviours.

        However, some of my impulsive behaviors (esp bulimia) did not go away fully after those deliverances. I’ve had to work hard at all the normal disciplines of the Christian life in order to reduce and pretty much atrophy that deeply entrenched habit of bulimia, to the point where I am now where it almost never tempts me any more.

        I have also experienced demonic attacks from the outside on many occasions as a Christian. These attacks were terrifying, until I learned that I could command any demon in Jesus’ name and it HAD to obey because I am in Christ and He in me — and when I order a demon to stop attacking me and leave me, the power I am expressing is the power of Christ. Demons have to obey Christ’s orders.

        Most of those demonic attacks happened in the first few years of my Christian walk, after I’d started attending church and doing regular Bible reading and prayer. They rarely happen these days. I think the demons realise that I am not an easy target any more.

  14. Anonymous

    Just found this post and haven’t had a chance to read all the comments … I have been accused of being the abuser. As long as I don’t speak; everything is fine; otherwise it is considered confrontational, abusive, etc.

    • Is there anyone among us (survivors of abuse) whose abuser has NOT accused us of being the abuser?

      I would think it is the universal experience of victims of domestic abuse.

      From what I have gathered and observed from hearing hundreds if not thousands of accounts from victims, it is a universal experience we all share: all domestic abusers accuse their victims of being abusers.

      This is one of the reasons why we hesistate to make TRUE accusations of abuse —- we know that our abusers make FALSE accusations of abuse all the time. . .

    • imsetfree

      my pastor’s wife said I was abusing her when I got upset on the phone. was trying to tell her what was happening- she wanted to contact my parents about something to do with my mental health and I blurted out that I was scared of them…I was hysterical and she told me I was being manipulative and just throwing a hissy fit….turns out it was actually a kind of breakdown, but she just saw me as a spoiled brat.

      • healinginhim

        imsetfree — Many of us at the ACFJ blog know what you mean about being judged as the one with a “mental problem” … Any emotional outbreak as we deal with our lives are always seen negative for us, however, I have witnessed when my abuser(s) show emotional outbreaks there are excuses and much sympathy given for their actions.
        It’s a double standard and the more I think of ‘c’hurch and the recent reactions I have received I am sickened — and yet, I know that God is faithful and the very few ‘true Christians’ care and reach out in ways that we know they ‘get it’.

      • oh how awful that must have been for you!

        That pastor’s wife needs to learn a LOT about abuse, trauma and the tactics of evildoers. She was very wrong to label you as manipulative when you were simply displaying intense fear!

  15. Abby

    I have a question. What would be the proper response to someone who accused me of having an underlying motivation that wasn’t there?

    • It might depend on the accusation, but here is a ‘one size fits all’ response: “I deny that!” I learned to use that in the court during my custody battle.

      Another option which fits many situations: “Stop accusing me!”

      Here is an article I’ve written which may also help you
      Unhelpful Comments by Well-Meaning People — A Coaching Clinic

      • Abby

        That article, Barbara, made me sad.The victim of abuse is abused further. Why have so many turned from the truth? Those questions and statements from Christian counselors and well meaning friends are just an attempt to put their head in the sand, but we all know what’s left up in the air.

  16. Starlight

    This was a key tactic my husband used against me. He would always ascribe an evil motive to me about everything I did. It was usually something I had never considered, and I would call him on it. I would tell him “Who do you think you are that you can decide you know what I am thinking, you are wrong, and you have no clue what is in my mind.” I finally started telling him, ‘this must be your motive because it sure isn’t mine.’

    It was like he was trying to make me feel guilty when there was nothing to feel guilty about!!

    I later found that Patricia Evans identifies this in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship.
    It is so helpful to have these tactics identified and defined, it gives clarity to the truth. I came across another one this week in Lundy Bancroft’s book and found it to be helpful and validating!

    Women who are in unhealthy relationships struggle with the question “Is my partner’s behaviour normal?” You may wonder whether the problem is that you are just too sensitive, or that your expectations are unrealistic. One way to get clear on the nature of your partner’s problem is to notice when he gets you back for doing something he doesn’t like. Payback is not normal in a couple. People in healthy relationships get upset with each other, of course, but they don’t get revenge. Each time he uses verbal abuse toward you, or the silent treatment, or intimidation or emotional cruelty, ask yourself, “Is there something he is punishing me for?” You will find the answer is actually yes. He!s getting you back for:
    The way you stood up to him,
    The way you didn’t cater to him as if he were a master and you were his servant
    The way you tried to have your own life,
    The way you didn’t live up to some absurd ideal he has.

    The attachment to payback toward his partner is one of the central reasons why an abusive or controlling man has the problem that he does. The more you can recognize the times when he is getting you back for things, the easier it will be for you to avoid getting sucked into believing that something is wrong with you. His vengeful acts show that he is the one with the problem.
    In normal relationships, people don’t get each other back for things.

    BTW I am separated since last spring and rejoicing in my new found freedom from the craziness of living with an abuser and con artist! The Lord has been my strength, the lifter of heaviness and oppression and he has put a song in my heart and my feet in a firm place, on the solid rock!

    • fiftyandfree

      This is so true. My ex used to practice “tit for tat” constantly, like a little kid on the playground. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, most of the times when he lashed out in revenge it was for something he falsely perceived that I did, or said, or implied. So he’d punish me for something that was a figment of his imagination! And to further add to the madness, he constantly accused me of “tit for tat” behavior. That was the phrase he used, “tit for tat.” I’d never once in my entire adult life used that phrase or even heard it spoken by an adult until I married my abusive ex husband. It was one of his favorite phrases and he was a master of it, but I was the one in his mind who was guilty of it. Ugh… the fog, the vicious circle, the madness…. the longer I am out of it the more it amazes me that I managed to survive intact. Starlight, I am so happy that you are free!!

  17. silentnomore

    What is the difference between me saying he is doing something on purpose–giving me a modified silent treatment and looking through me like I’m invisible– and ascribing motives to him? I’ve been told he claims he is just giving me space. He gave me “space” before the counseling began and before he could claim he thought I wanted “space”.

    Am I wrong to expect a complete reversal of his behaviours and repentance seen over a period of time before I let him come back home? I can’t prevent him from showing up and just coming back. How can I know what real repentance is from him? How can I tell when I should let him come back, or how to know if it is safe for him to return?

    He always tells me what I’m doing or how I’m looking at him or why I do or say this or that. Always is a bit strong, he does it during the tension building phase, during arguments that are really his abuse getting in your face verbal versus the usual subtleness. He does it to the kids too, but usually when he talks to me about them. Maybe always isn’t so strong.

    I know what he does and I think I’ve figured out why. I don’t appear to be thinking through what he does or says, but only attacking and saying what he really means by what he does or says. It’s because I’ve seen it for so many years. He makes some changes to how it looks on the surface, so it looks like he has repented here and there, but in the places he has given up a severity of abuse for a lesser level, it just moved to other areas and those types of abuse increased in severity. I see these things as part of a pattern. Am I right in thinking that my pointing these things out is discernment and not ascribing motives?

    I don’t want to give him the benefit of the doubt or to give grace. I am willing to sit back and let him do some hard work in counseling on his own. I don’t know what to look for to know if he is genuine in his repentance (so far there is none). On some level I want him to really blow up so other people can see it. I want him to show what he is to someone besides me. I know what his usual fake repentance looks like. He does a pretty good job. I’d rather have him unrepentant and someone else knowing it was all true because they saw it, than him to repent and for us to reconcile. I think if he does that it will be because he was able to put on the all time best repentance act of his life. I’m afraid that if he “repents” good enough that I may be fooled into believing it at least partly, but yet months later pay for it again once the scrutiny is gone. Even his repentance and subsequent good behaviour is part of the cycle if everything coincides at the right time.

    Too many things are mixed up right now.

    • Anonymous

      May be a good time that we all stop and take a deep breath here. This blog defines accurately the definition of abuse. My abuser / terrorist is a covert narcissist and I am free of him, and God rescued me from him and as I remain no contact I’m getting healthier each new day. I did not imagine what happened. I did not create what happened. I did not exaggerate what happened. I lived with an evil doer of the worst kind and it was living in a torture chamber, slowly but surely being robbed of my dignity and personhood…dehumanized and destroyed at every level. God truly did hear the cries of my heart! And he removed me from that insane house.

    • Valerie

      Silentnomore, here is a link to a checklist Lundy Bancroft put out on how to assess if an abuser has really changed. Checklist for Assessing Change in Men Who Abuse Women [Internet Archive link]

      Switching tactics in how he is abusing you is a common ploy by abusers to keep people off their scent. Much like a rabbit who scurries away by zig zagging while he’s running. An abuser is not doing this out of fear like the rabbit does but out of strategy. Your husband is zig zagging. It is exhausting trying to keep up with him because you now have to assess his current behavior and try to come up with new boundaries or consequences for those new behaviors. Meanwhile he’s pulling the magicians trick of slight of hand, waving one wand and saying he doesn’t do these things any more but with his other hand he’s just pulling new tricks. If you’re feeling crazy and not comforted it’s a good indicator nothing has changed.

      You mentioned he will show surface level admission but never make real changes. The parable of the two sons comes to mind. One said he would work but didn’t actually go to the field while the other son said no but changed his mind and did work. Jesus said the one who did what was right in the end was the one who did his father’s will.

      You ask if it’s wrong to want to see evidence of repentance before he comes back and I think anyone who understands abuse will tell you that’s not only wise but necessary. We can’t have fellowship with God without repentance either. I think one simple question can answer the question of where he’s at if you’re looking for an immediate answer. I find that asking the abuser if he wants to be held accountable will spotlight the truth. He knows the only right answer to this is yes so he’s in a quandary. He may say he has so called accountability partners but these are people of HIS choosing who he’s not honest with or who hold a similar mindset to him. He may also turn it around and ask you if you’re willing to do the same as a diversion tactic rather than answering. Will he allow you to hold him accountable? Will he allow people of your choosing to be those people? Someone who wants to keep abusing will obviously have no interest in this.

      I remember well the confusion and turmoil I experienced while in a similar place you describe with my abuser. 😦 They are skilled manipulators so if you find yourself feeling you need to defend yourself or backed in a corner or even feeling crazy while you’re talking to him, I would suggest stepping away from the conversation and say you need a break to try to prevent him from hurting you further with his mind games.

      • Anewanon

        Yep, mind games, mind control, its all a game to them.

        In my opinion, this whole post is hard to swallow by some whose abusers would make untold promises and then switch bait. There is also plenty of scripture that tells us not to believe their “smooth words” or watch for the “fruit of their actions”. Guard your heart and when they whine and complain that you are being too mean, you’ll know. Cycling through this round and round gets more and more painful each time. And they wonder WHY we tell them we don’t believe them and that we are “pre-judging their minds, or motives”. Whatever.

      • silentnomore

        They are skilled manipulators so if you find yourself feeling you need to defend yourself or backed in a corner or even feeling crazy while you’re talking to him, I would suggest stepping away from the conversation and say you need a break to try to prevent him from hurting you further with his mind games.

        This is it exactly. He is not the bumbling, affable persona he puts out to others. He is as you described, but only to me behind closed doors. Rarely does it leak out so others see it.

    • twbtc


      In addition to the checklist from Lundy’s website that Valerie mentions, Barbara has a checklist for Repentance which is adapted from Lundy’s list: Checklist for Repentance (via Not Under Bondage)

      Also we have a tag for Repentance (see top menu TAGS). There are about 70 posts related to repentance.

    • surviving freedom

      Silentnomore, It is exhausting trying to work through the abuser’s claims of change. While the abuser I lived with was getting “help” for three years, he became much more educated on how to fake change, his verbal convincing had no end, yet the actions were still the same … they just got far more subtle, I learned to listen closely to his “non-confessions,” and “non-apologies,” and I can see how self-serving they are to him. I had to really learn to counteract what he said, basically I don’t believe anything he claims anymore even when he seems to be telling the truth, there’s still so many excuses, justifications, and minimization. What I really started to notice, also, that so much of his surface confessions were all based on past wrongs that he had no way of hiding anymore, any current wrongs he was still denying, acting like it was a mistake, or “innocently” confused as to how I could be accusing him of anything since he’s vowed he’s changed, or he’s adamant that he had some kind of good intention and that he just went about it the wrong way or I’m misreading the situation.
      This is what it came down to for me: (1) if he’s really changed he would not be doing any of the above things; (2) when confronted about a behavior, he’s still “defending” the abusive behavior, (3) he would not be pressuring me to believe his words and ignore his actions, and getting angry when I would keep returning to discussing the action; (4) I was still discovering that he was still lying to me and about me; (5) he was still blaming “my feelings” about what he’s doing as the problem, not his actual behavior, and the biggest sign to me (6) he was frustrated / angry / feeling sorry for himself / blaming me for the consequences of his abusive mindset.

      It doesn’t feel good to have to be vigilant concerning them, I also typically give a person the benefit of the doubt and a chance; but for me he has used up all his chances and I give him no more benefit of the doubt. I know for a long time I was desperate to see any small change, but I learned that any small token change eventually came at a greater cost. It is difficult, but reading sites like this one really helps me stay grounded. It also helps to really learn the subtle psychological tactics of abuse, as well.

      • Thanks Surviving Freedom, it sounds like you you have a clear understanding of this dynamic. 🙂

        BTW, I removed the link you gave at the end of your comment. On our New Users Info page we have a section explaining our policy on this. It says:
        Including Links or Resources in your Comments

        If you want to recommend a resource, a book or a link, please do so by emailing TWBTC at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com. This is the only way we will consider them.

        With some frequency many of you, our readers, include links or books titles or other resources that you have found to be helpful to you. These suggestions are appreciated in that we know you are trying to share with everyone the things that have aided you in your journey out of abuse.

        However it has simply been taking us too much time to check out the links and books that have been recommended in comments. And it was tricky for us as moderators because we have usually wanted to publish the rest of the comment but couldn’t do so until we had checked out the link in the comment text.

        At the same time, please remember that we already have an extensive compilation of Resources which you can always access from our top menu, and that while we are prepared to add excellent new resources to that list, we suspect that our Resources are being under-utilized by readers. For example, quite often when a reader asks a question, there are already items in our list of Resources which would help answer their question — Please don’t feel that we hare rapping any of you over the knuckles here! We know that many of our readers are more than exhausted and are battling on so many fronts that they don’t necessarily have time to look through the material on our site. But we do encourage readers to check out our resources more thoroughly, as you are able.

      • The only exception to our policy about links in comments is if the link is to a page or a site which we already endorse in our Resources or our blogroll. 🙂

      • silentnomore

        Surviving Freedom, You described my own experiences with my husband to a T. It helps to see from someone else the confirmation that what he is doing is still wrong. I second guess myself too much. Thank you.

  18. kim

    I’d like to thank Pastor Crippen and Barbara for this blog. I am not a victim of domestic abuse, but I was abused as a child, and I believe the underlying dynamics of the abuser are the same in all abuse. I have benefitted greatly from the insights of the community and the scriptural references and explanation. To me, God’s word is irrefutable, so this blog has provided me with great peace of mind, and enabled me to place the responsibility for abuse where it begins- with the abuser. This blog has been a great education about the nature of sin and I feel solidarity with the sisters who share here, and also with those who feel it is not safe for them to post.

    • Thank you Kim 🙂

      I altered your screen name a bit (just in case). Since you’re familiar with this blog you have probably read our New Users page but if not, we suggest you read it for its tips on safety while commenting.

  19. imsetfree

    If I made a mistake when I was growing up my abusive parent would scream at me that I was doing it on purpose to undermine them. It was never an honest mistake. It was always me deliberately trying to upset them. Ironically I was terrified of upsetting them. Because I didn’t know if they’d get mad and humiliate threaten or yell at me. This continued well into adulthood until I was able to leave, finally.
    I made a mistake once (was in my early teens) of stupidly blurting out someone had sexually assaulted me. To be fair it wasn’t a full blown rape. But it was very unpleasant and caused me to freeze up so it went on longer than it should have if I’d stopped it. A year later my parents mentioned about rape and how awful it is for the victims. And stupidly I blurted out what happened. And then I was told “you are poison. Trying to disrupt the conversation and wind us up like this with these lies.” They made me tell every detail of what happened. Yelling at me to tell them And then said “oh it wasn’t really that bad”. Now, looking back, I have since met other sex assault victims and I know that what happened to me isn’t a huge deal compared with much of their stuff. But somehow this response of my parents felt like an abandonment of sorts. And I still find myself hurt by it

  20. Anewanon

    They were obviously more concerned with how you were hurting them than they were about how they were hurting you or about how the incident hurt you. They were reacting to their own hurts which they never dealt with and so they are stuck. Does this validate or exonerate them for what they did to you? No. Does it help to provide understanding so that maybe you can find a way to forgive them? Hopefully, in God’s time. That is what I had to do when something similar happened to me – discounted and dismissed and shushed so that the dirty little family secret wouldn’t get out. They are too old to be changed and the more I spend time in God’s word and with God fearing sisters, the more I am able to see the non-God fearing abusers in a different light – a view that isn’t so easily affected or hurt by their immature and so very stuck ’emotional age’ ways. I can honor them without having to agree with them. And I pray for them. As a parent, I know that there is some level of sacrifice involved with raising a child – even when done imperfectly. I can honor that. I hope and pray that Godly sisters come alongside you to help love you and offer all the validation that your parents failed to do so that you can grow to understand the love Christ has for you in a deep way that overflows into love and forgiveness towards those that hurt you. Maybe they will want what you have in Him. God Bless you.

    • imsetfree

      Thanks so much. I guess I can see that they were reacting to their own hurt but the trouble is that this incident is one of many in a whole pattern of invalidation, belittling, blaming and accusing. The fact that my parents were Christians made it harder not easier. Because I believed God felt about me the way my dad did. It has taken me a long time to believe God doesn’t think I’m a waste of space.

      • dear imsetfree, you are NOT a waste of space. You — like all of us — are an absolutely unique creature created by God in His image.
        You are fallen, yes, but since you have come to faith you are redeemed and forgiven and justified in Christ.

        You say your parents were Christians, but if you Dad was a chronic verbal and emotional abuser to his wife and children, I doubt he was a real Christian. He may have said he was a Christian, but that doesn’t mean he was a Christian.

        You may find it helpful to read this post: An Abuser is Called a “Reviler” in Scripture, And the Reviler is no Christian

      • Anewanon

        Because I believed God felt about me the way my dad did.

        Yeah, that is a long hard road to repave in our minds. I did the same too, first with my Dad, then with my ex-husband. I believed their view of me (Discardable) because I held them in such high esteem – higher than myself, higher than God himself. Their view must be right. And even though in my head I knew that wasn’t right, my heart and spirit wouldn’t let it go and it would eat me alive. I always asked the question, “Why wasn’t I worth it?” And many times, I still do. But when I spend time with HIM in his Word, he whispers something different. It takes time and time spend with your heavenly Father. As much as you are able, keep seeking Him.

        It’s hard. I am praying for ya!

  21. imsetfree

    I guess for me the challenge is deciding where the blame really lies.

    I realise that I was being silly in expecting my parents to sympathise with or validate the sexual assault which was very minor really. I guess I was being a drama queen. But I was a needy child. Very neurotic and in need of a lot of praise. Now I’m a Christian I can see that I was being self pitying and self centered but at the time I really believed my hurts were important.

    I guess I’m trying to accept that I was in sin by trying to get my parents attention all the time. But I find that hard. Because deep inside me I do believe there was something in me driving this behaviour. I didn’t feel I existed without people validating me. My brain kept telling me I wasn’t real. Maybe it was a demon whispering lies in my ear telling me I was more hurt than I really was. I don’t know.

    I know that humanist psychologists and therapists tell me even mild abuse (like invalidation or verbal abuse from parents) can cause severe attachment issues in young children so they grow up personality disordered or with C-PTSD [Eds: complex post-traumatic stress disorder] . Mine told me that’s why I am like I am. But some Christians say don’t use psychology so I’m confused.

    • Dear imsetfree, I don’t think a child is ‘in sin’ by trying to get her parents’ attention all the time when she is hurting because she is being abused and oppressed and confused and invalidated!

      and from what you’ve written here and elsewhere on this blog, you father was a verbal and emotional abuser of you and all the family, and you mother abused you too in that she invalidated you and harshly criticised you when you reported that someone outside the family had molested you.

      As a child, you were right to be discontent with this abuse and invalidation. You were showing healthy responses by refusing to be content with mistreatment and disrespect and invalidation of your feelings and experiences.

      It sounds to me like the ‘c’hristians who have been making judements about you and been telling you how you were right or wrong, have a whole suitcase of mistaken doctrines and opinions about how Christians should think and feel and behave.

      Keep reading this blog and you’ll see that we have a LOT of critiques about the teachings that are widespread in the ‘c’hurch.

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