Thursday Thought — The Deception of Twisting Things into Their Opposites

The abusive man, at home or in his church, rewrites facts and history to suit his own purposes. At Corinth, the false apostles made themselves out to be “truth-tellers” and convinced the Corinthians to disbelieve Paul, a true Apostle. They took Paul’s delay in coming and twisted it into a supposed example of the untrustworthiness of his word. They took Paul’ s genuine humility (working to support himself, for example) and twisted it into a sign of inferiority.

The abusive man re-writes truth to his benefit, and then he believes it. He tells these perversions of fact with all sincerity. Listen to Bancroft:

“The abuser’ s highly entitled perceptual system causes him to mentally reverse aggression and self- defense. When his victim attempts to defend herself against the abuser’ s attack, he defines her actions as violence toward him. When he then injures her further, he claimed he was merely defending himself against her abuse.

When I challenge my clients to stop bullying their partners, they twist my words around just as they do their partners. They accuse me of having said things that have little connection to my actual words. An abuser says, ‘You’re saying I should lie down and let her walk all over me’ because I told him that intimidating his partner is unacceptable no matter how angry he is. He then says, ‘So you’re telling us that our partners can do anything they want to us, and we aren’t allowed to lift a finger to defend ourselves’ because…I told her he has no excuse for calling her a disgusting name. He says, ‘Your approach is that whatever she does is okay, because she’s a woman, but because I’ m the man, there’ s much stricter rules for me’ because I pointed out his double standards and insisted that he should live by the same rules he applies to her.”  (Why Does He DO That? [Affiliate link])

These are the kinds of deceptive tactics abusive men, either in the home, in the workplace, in the church — use to maintain their façade. To keep us wondering and deceived. To prevent us from coming to see them for who they really are — servants of unrighteousness, evil angels of darkness.

(Excerpt from Ps Crippen’s domestic violence sermon series, “The Abusive Man as a Servant of Righteousness — Exposing the Deceptions of Abuse” (sermon 9 of 21).  Complete sermon and PDF can be found here.)

***IMPORTANT NOTE:  While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the “healing retreats” Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his “Peak Living Network”. See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.


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.


28 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — The Deception of Twisting Things into Their Opposites”

  1. This one really resonates. As my abuser abused and I tried to reason with him to find a speck of empathy, I was begging him to at least admit that what he did was awful and hurtful. So I can be heard. So we can solve the issue for everyone’s benefit. He would often yell at me: “So now I’m supposed to lick you feet?!” I was befuddled….I never said or implied that….I just wanted him to come to the table to uncover the problem and fix it so we can live better. But by these off handed exagerated remarks, he had me immediately on the defensive. (I did not see that at the time). Now we were no longer talking about what he did. I was twisting myself into a pretzel frantically explaining how I was not trying to be mean, arrogant, disrespectful…whatever he implied at the moment. It was extremely frustrating. It was like trying to catch and hold a jelly.

    I often commented that fighting him was like ‘fighting the windmills’. You got exactly nowhere. But you were lying in the bed, crying, exhausted, angry, and he was soundly sleeping beside you as if nothing happened. How could he do that? No feelings no emotional response…just hollow emptiness. He did not care. The only emotion was rage or ridicule. Nothing got ever resolved. You feel like you are dying inside. It was intense distress.

    I knew that he was a psychopath about five years into it. After reading George Simon I told him (unwisely) that he does not seem to have a conscience. He looked at me with an empty stare and said: “I don’t have a conscience. I don’t feel any conscience.” Just like that. I was shocked. That was the day it hit home. I stayed another six years. The cognitive disonance and spiritual abuse did me in. So glad I’m out since Nov 2014. Just started the divorce and very happy. Rebuilding life with my children.

    Thank you for your faithful service pastor Jeff and Barb…I read every day and I’m strenghtened by your ministry and other’s experiences and advice. Barb, also thank you for your book, just reading it and what a perfect timing. 🙂

  2. Thank you for [to?] all on this website for the wonderful work you are doing. Can you please give me some wise advise. My daughter is now married to a controlling man, the pastor’s son. Before she met this male she was very happy with her family. He convinced her to get out of the family home and disconnect with our family. Now she wont speak to me or her siblings. I have tried to contact the church elders none will speak to me. The male involved, parents and church are all colluding together. A lot of the behaviours you discuss on this website are all going on. Her siblings are all intelligent and stable. She is intelligent but was convinced with his flattery, lots of presents, constant surveillance and lies. He hooked her emotions and naivety. (He was 8 years older.) Can you recommend anything to send to her to read or do you think another approach is better? I am very worried about her well being as this is completely out of character and he has her isolated with himself and his family and church -Baptist. (I don’t know where she lives.)

    1. 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.


      Hi Carolyn,
      Here are some links which we have on the Supporting Victims of Domestic Abuse section of our Resources.

      Respecting and Listening to Victims of Violence [Internet Archive link] (btw, even if your daughter’s abuser is not using violence of the physical kind against her, this booklet will still help you. All abusers use psychological and emotional violence and coercive control…)

      Helping A Loved One Who Isn’t Ready to Leave [Internet Archive link]

      Converting statements into questions – a skill for bystanders who want to help victims of abuse

      Unhelpful Comments by Well-Meaning People — A Coaching Clinic for Victims of Domestic Abuse and their Supporters or Bystanders

      You might also find it helpful to read Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? And after reading it, consider whether it would be safe for you to give a copy of it to your daughter. The abuser would escalate if he sees her reading it, so you would have to check with her whether she wants to read it and whether she can read it without her abuser knowing.

      Also, you will probably find it helpful to read Jeff Crippen’s book Unholy Charade (see it in our sidebar).

      You could also look at the posts in our category called Supporting Victims – but there are 197 posts in that category at the moment, so you’d probably want to skim them to see which might help you. 🙂

  3. This is something they do – my ex had a pornography addiction and left me and our 3 small children for another woman 15 years ago. Just a few months ago we were having lunch out and my oldest son who is now 23 made the comment that his dad is a man of strong moral character!
    I almost fell off my chair. I just said that maybe he didn’t know the events surrounding our separation or the intense stalking and repeated court cases that were brought against me for 8 years following the separation!
    It turned out well for me in that he does pay his court ordered support so maybe that is the practical out working if this new strong moral character! Our 3 kids think highly of him inspite of the devastation and havoc he wreaked on our family. He is a self proclaimed knight in shining armour now!

  4. Yes this fits in with my husband’s behavior. I liken it to dealing with an undisciplined child. Say one word to him about his behavior and he always comes back with some ridiculous comment like “you do it too!” or how he has a right to defend himself against me. Sometimes I’d like to ask him don’t you aspire to be more than a child? Or not to be my enemy? But I know that wouldn’t be a fruitful discussion.

    1. It seems like a favorite tool of the abuser is the switcheroo tool.
      “Topic switcheroo” happens when you are getting close to uncovering a truth about something the abuser said or did.
      Suddenly they will bring up an unrelated incident to “sidetrack” you and before you know it, theyve got you defending yourself on that issue, and in doing so they have sucessfully hijacked the conversation away from themselves, while you are left wondering why you fell for it.

      But if you anticipate this topic switcheroo tactic beforehand, and refuse to fall for it, then you will be ready to initiate “topic redirect” when it happens.

      1. I love this: “But if you anticipate this topic switcheroo tactic beforehand, and refuse to fall for it, then you will be ready to initiate “topic redirect” when it happens.” Topic redirect! That’s good. I shall be singing that in my head at the next encounter with husband! LOL

        Recently, I’ve made a concerted effort to really stay on topic with my husband. He doesn’t like it one bit! I will say (as he tries to distract me) that’s interesting but can we finish this discussion first? If he continues I walk off. I’m training myself to be silent when he goes off on a rant. He tries to entice me into arguing but if I stay silent he gives up. It’s hard to let all those accusations hang in the air like that (because he takes that as proof he’s right–that I don’t fight it) but that’s about the only way to shut him up. I wouldn’t do that if it made him madder or violent.

        I realized recently also that my husband has hijacked our entire marriage to fit his theme of how awful I am. Any conversation he tries to have with me fits within this theme. I’m then coming from a point of disadvantage. How can it be a fruitful conversation if the assumption is that it’s all me causing the problems when I complain about his treatment? Several years ago we were at a family event and he pulls me aside to have a conversation. Of course, everyone was looking at us wondering what was up. I know he did it because he thought he could control my reactions and make me listen as he informed me that I was the problem. I simply said I’m not interested in your excuses and refused to engage in a conversation. Of course, he then ripped into me about being hard-hearted. I’m hard-hearted because I won’t accept his lies and excuses.

  5. How true this is. And the fog it creates is thick, and hard to get out of. And harder still is explaining it to someone who is trying to understand why “Mr. Wonderful” is so hard to live with. So many thoughts, and so much pain over the twisting of words to me and to others.

  6. My abuser(s) have accused me of twisting their words … all I have done is quoted them “word for word” … They then state, “Well, that’s not what I meant.”
    That is one of the most popular responses I receive — I’ve told them to then ‘think’ before they speak.
    Last year the man that I married told me that I was misrepresenting him but would not give me an example of how when I asked him for proof. This comes after years of me covering up family sins and now being truthful about what went on behind closed doors.

      1. Thank you for all your support over this last year. Our prayer were answered and move went much smoother than I ever dreamed it would. Many times I could see God stepping in to help make things happen. Bless you all for this wonderful website.

    1. So happy to hear. There is nothing like freedom. I’ve been out over a year and I am just starting to feel the joy of being free. In response to other posts, I, too, heard so many times, “that’s not what I meant” (why after so many years do I suddenly not understand your plain words?), “you do it, too”, and all the twisting of my words to something negative that only reflected on poor, victim, him.

  7. This totally applies to abusive parents too. As a young adult, the day I confronted my father about his past abuse towards me, he mumbled something about being sorry I felt that way — followed by a tirade about how I was actually the bad person because I had ruined his weekend by bringing the topic up. Talk about entitlement!

  8. Some years ago, a church board member called me to ask me personally if I would consider having my name typed on the board ballot to be voted on by the congregation. With three small children at that time, I felt that I did not have the time nor the energy needed to fulfill the position, so I declined the invitation. The board member then asked if I could put my husband on the phone in which I did. He was then asked by the council member if they could add his name to the ballot for the vote. As he was listening, his face became a deep red, and he began to clear his throat; signs of wrath to come. Within minutes, after saying no to the offer, he began his yelling discipline at me, from the depths of his lungs.

    “I have been in this church longer than you, serving for years and years, so why didn’t they ask me FIRST to be on the church board? Who do you think you are waltzing into MY church and taking over everything? You must think that you are really something special? You sure have them fooled by your fake religiosity, don’t you? They must think that you have better leadership skills than I do, why, you can’t even run a business!!”

    For the next two weeks following, my life was pure hell living in the same house with this man and he was content to make it so. The silent treatment, which he pulls now and then, would have been far more welcome than his constant criticisms, put-downs, and blatant carelessness in not picking up after himself as he does when things go his way. The fact is, I did not flatter nor posture myself in any way in seeking a position of leadership, the call was a complete surprise to me as I did not feel worthy of being on a church board. I kept a low profile in that church for when I married into my husband’s family, my abusive mother in law was already at work complaining and criticizing me to her ‘lady vipers’ within their church; ironically, my husband came home and told me this news to my face what his mother was doing behind the scenes. I can tell you that this news really made my day; NOT. I do know for a fact now, long after my hurtful experiences of attending the same church as my in-laws, that this is not a good nor edifying to my faith, to participate in the same church as family, for the back biting, control and manipulation, and competition to be who is the greatest spiritual leader in the family, is far to great an evil to even begin handle on my own all alone. And my wicked husband was a part of their wicked triad in keeping the little wife/me in my place.

    I did not ask to be somebody within their church and yet, when asked to serve, or be in a position of leadership, I was verbally and emotionally abused by my husband and mother in law. I did not ask for this abuse, no, but they turned something that was meant for good, into a personal vengeance for destruction because of their competition and hatred for me. I was abused because I simply ‘existed,’ not because I did something wrong. And when I tried to discuss my husband’s angry behavior with him following the church board incident, he turned the whole situation around and blamed ME for the church board member asking me. I was the one taking over the church, I was the one trying to run every one else’s life, I was the one who thought I was so special and spiritual, craving that position of authority over others.

    Lies, lies, and more lies spewed from my husband’s mouth to justify his verbal and emotional abuse over me. Thirty years of spiritual competition and a continuous lifestyle of being put in my place has taken a toll on my emotional and physical health and I have divorced myself from sitting under his spiritual guidance long ago. He literally believes that he knows Jesus better than me, can pray better than me, and has more spiritual insight than me and ironically, is looked up to by certain charismatic women in his church. And what makes me want to cry to high heaven, is that when these women visit our home, his behavior changes like a light switch from treating me badly, to sweet and sappy syrup in helping them with their problems. And I observe his behavior, crying inside and asking myself, “Why doesn’t he treat me like that?”

  9. I’d like clarification on something. When you say that they believe their own lies, to me that sounds like they don’t know that they’re doing wrong, but other blog posts say they fully know that they are wrong. I’m not justifying them, but I’d like to make sense of the seeming contradiction. How do those 2 ideas fit together?

    1. I’ve heard it mentioned before here that the abuser fits under the biblical catagory of a “Double minded man”..
      One that is unstable in all his ways.

      Perhaps part of this double mindedness is evident when he trys to convinces himself through his role play, that his lies are truth, for the sole purpose of producing a more convincing deception to others.

    2. Here is what a wrote about this in another comment on another post (you can see my original comment here):

      I think that it’s sometimes hard to be sure what an abuser’s self identity and experience of himself is. The double minded man is unstable in all his ways. The word ‘ways’ suggests his behaviour, but I think it could also include his self-concept, self-identity, experience of himself.

      It’s like trying to solve a conundrum. Bancroft talks about how all abusers know what they are doing (that they’re abusing their partners intentionally). And / But sometimes they seem to believe their own lies — the false-identity lie: I’m Mr Nice Guy. They have often so habituated their lies and image-management that it seems like they do it automatically, so it seems like they believe they really are decent individuals.

      In my experience, it’s an endless labyrinth trying to figure out how much an abuser believes his own lies. And it’s a monumental waste of time.

    3. Here is what Lundy Bancroft says in Why Does He Do That? [Affiliate link]
      He’s speaking about abusers who deny and minimize their abuse:

      The partners of this style of abuser ask me: “After an incident, it seems like he really believes the abuse didn’t happen. Is he consciously lying?” The answer in most cases is yes. Most abusers do not have severe memory problems. He probably remembers exactly what he did, especially when only a short time has passed. He denies his actions to close off discussion because he doesn’t want to answer for what he did, and perhaps he even wants you to feel frustrated and crazy. However, a small percentage of abusers — perhaps one in twelve — may have psychological conditions such as narcissistic or borderline personality disorder, in which they literally block any bad behaviour from consciousness. One of the clues that your partner may have such a disturbance is if you notice him doing similar things to other people. If his denial and mind messing are restricted to you, or to situations related to you, he is probably simply abusive. (pp 72-3)

      He may lie because he has convinced himself of his own distortions. The narcissistic abuser, for example, considers his own fabrications real, which is one of the reasons why lie-detector tests are unreliable in cases of abuse (including child sexual abuse). (p 276)

      1. I find Lundy very helpful here. I particularly like how he says only a minority of domestic abusers have narcissistic personality disorder.

        One of my personal little frustrations is how common it is for people who are not trained as clinical psychologists or psychiatrists to spread the idea that ‘all abusers are narcissists’. Many of these people seem to use ‘narcissist’ as the more preferred or better term, rather than calling these individuals ABUSERS. I think the overuse of the term narcissism can put off those who are properly qualified mental health clinicians, because they know the term being is used in pop-psychology in a different way from how they have been trained to use it.

        The word ‘narcissist’ can have such a wide range of meanings. And I personally have known some people who I think are benign narcissists; these people are self-focused to quite a degree, but they are quite different from what George Simon would call malignant narcissists.

        I guess this is a losing battle on my part. The language of pop-psychology seems to win the day, so often.

        But I encourage all our readers to the think about what Lundy says here, and consider not using the term ‘narcissist’ so loosely. Lundy’s words which I’ve quote above bring a more nuanced perspective.

      2. Lundy Bancroft’s book is a literal lifeline. Also, Barbara, I appreciate your clarification of the word “narcissist”. It does seem to be thrown around a lot (along with words like “psychopath” and “sociopath”). I’m beginning to understand more and more that abuse begins and ends with a choice — trying to “figure it out” can be intriguing, but it’s not going to help survivors much in the long run.

  10. Thanks for the information!! I think the 1 in 12 statistic and the why polygraphs don’t work was interesting. Sometimes I wonder if a person is really guilty if they don’t know what they are doing, but I also realize that even if they don’t know they still need accountability for the sake of protecting victims. If a genuinely insane person is a serial killer they still should be locked up to protect the rest of the people and then there’s plenty of criminals who know that they are wrong as well.

  11. Rewriting history, this is how we with a conscience word it but for those without one, their “foundation” is NOTHING but lies–so for them it’s NOT re-writing history but simply a state of BEING.

    According to Jesus’s words in John 8:44, “…. does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him…” referring to those who belong to their father the devil–those with no conscience.

    God reminded me of the truth written in this post recently. I had to spend a lot of time with my psychopathic husband (several days) in close quarters. In addition to this, my psychopathic son also was in contact, and I got a fresh reminder of the vast differences in them and those with a conscience.

    They have ABSOLUTELY NO MEMORY OF THE TRUTH OF THE PAST. NONE WHATSOEVER. Even what they DO remember, is nothing like the REALITY that took place. It is BREATHTAKINGLY AMAZING to witness from an outside perspective because what they remember is ONLY how it affected THEM, and NOT the true events that took place. And their remembrances change–not like those of us able to gain wisdom and perspective as we are able to see depth and truth with time–not so with p’s. They oftentimes morph other peoples stories into their own, and they really believe them too!

    Because they are unable to even fathom that other people are even in existence (no REALLY–to them we are nothing more than chess pieces that they can move around–we have no real value as separate-from-them beings…please don’t forget this aspect of their personality) they don’t even consider us.

    When we first got together my husband used say some of the most thoughtful and “deep” things to me. He APPEARED to really have a deep understanding into the hearts of others and that he was deep too. In time I realized it was only WORDS, as HE was exactly as the man in the post. Angry that he couldn’t verbally abuse others all the time and when he did they didn’t want to be around him. When I told him that the people that worked for him weren’t there for him to abuse he said that THEY WERE! He was very angry that I could even THINK they were there for ANY OTHER PURPOSE. Because this is ALL we are to them! And not only should we willingly endure their abuse (in their minds) we should THANK THEM THAT THEY BESTOWED IT ON US!

    Oh the TRUTHS about evil that I was NEVER taught at church OR by psychology!

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