A Cry For Justice

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

You Must Listen to Me! (says the abuser)

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. (3 John 1:9)

Abusers, as most all of you know through years of grievous experience, possess a mentality of incredible entitlement. One of the typical displays of this is their insistence that everyone listen to them. Hear what they say. Do what they command, and so on. No doubt Diotrephes was one of these wicked ones. Everyone was to listen to him, not to the apostles. I sure would have liked to have been present when John arrived and took care of this guy for all to see!

I remember dealing with such a person who evidenced this very kind of presumption. “If you had only listened to me.” “Look what has happened because you didn’t listen to me.” “I told my wife that she must obey me.”  It didn’t matter that a whole group of people disagreed with this fellow and considered what he said to be wrong. Nope. They all should have listened to him.

Whether a person like this is operating in a family or in a church, his expectation is the same — everyone must listen to him for true wisdom and anyone who does not is an idiot or rebel. It doesn’t really matter what the topic is, HE is to be listened to and obeyed. His lust for power and control is rabid, and like a rabid dog he will attack viciously anyone who fails to hear him.

You can see how this demand that he be listened to and obeyed plays right along with the abuser’s insistence that he is never wrong.

It still amazes me to think back to the times when I have seen this evil play itself out right in front of me. Here sits a man, clearly and plainly in the wrong, in sin, being confronted by a group of people who have finally caught on to his devious tactics. Yet he will not admit wrong. He will look up at everyone, often playing the poor wronged victim, and tell them all, “you should have listened to me.”

Well, we did listen to him. For many years we listened to him. But no more. Now we know who and what he is.



  1. Rebecca

    This definitely speaks to me. I have been told the same thing for years.

    I wanted to share this, see what you think of it if you will, ACFJ staff.
    I’ve had the experience lately of Jesus saying a Hebrew word to me in my spirit. Then when I’d go to look it up, it would have something to do with what was going on in my life at the time. Last week I believed I heard Him say, “Teshuva escape.” I had No idea what this meant. I looked up teshuva, which as you may already know, means repentance.

    Yesterday the h. abused my cat. I basically caught him in the act. He denied what he was doing….I told him I knew he’d been hurting her because she had scratched him. He denied having been scratched. Then I noticed blood on his arm which I pointed out to him. Still no admittance to anything. This upset me even more because he literally had just come home from a couple of hours of counselling with his pastor.

    Last night I decided to look up the two words I’d heard together, teshuva escape. I did not expect to find anything but I found this. It shook me and also gave me clarity from Him which I have been asking Him for.
    [Note from Eds, we have omitted the link, not because we thought it was necessarily bad, but because it was a talk from a Jewish rabbi who used a lot of Hebrew and for most of our readers we think it would have been quite hard to follow.]

    Thank you for this website Jeff and Barbara and all!!!! It is a huge help and blessing and ‘fog lifter.’

  2. Sarah

    We went to counseling so of course he told the counselor that I needed to just listen to him so he would “feel heard”. It sounded so healthy. Years later you look back on his rantings, sometimes lasting 3 hours long. It was all about him and he wanting to be in charge of my thoughts and actions. Years later he hasn’t changed and still expects the world to listen to him pontificate. Glad I am no longer married

    • jmclever

      Like you, I’m glad I’m no longer married. He divorced me, thinking he would teach me a lesson no doubt.

    • Endurance

      My abusive spouse says to me, “Let me finish my thought,” if I interject or try to squeeze in a sentence between his lengthy rants or monologues. Other people seem to take the hint, we change subjects of conversation and they follow along. My H returns to the exact spot of his previous monologue and disregards my input. Again I am told, “let me finish my thought”.

      [My reply:] “No; I think we have heard quite enough of ‘your thought’. Can you listen to anyone else’s thought? What did I say?”
      [He gives me] a blank stare and inability to repeat what I said in return.

      One of the things I have done is silently count the “I” and “me” in his lengthy monologues. I use my fingers and count in my head how frequently they occur and tune out everything else. He says people need to be informed on a particular subject. The problem is, he is the one and only expert!

      We talk and he says “No”. I say, “I was giving my opinion not challenging yours. You can have your opinion, I think differently than you.” He says “No, that is not what I was saying.” I say, “I know, it was my turn to speak.”

      All conversations are not about him. If I do anything other than agree and ask for more of a lecture, he feels challenged. Today he said, “When I say no, I never mean no to you, it means no, that is now what I was saying.” Around and around it goes. I know what he was saying, now I want to give my perspective. He can’t even consider another person or mind would have an intelligent comment….It’s all about him…Ugh..

      • … Can you listen to anyone else’s thought? What did I say?”
        [He gives me] a blank stare and inability to repeat what I said in return.

        I had the same thing from my second husband. Towards the end, he was so illogical and so completly self-referenced that he could not (scratch that: make it WOULD NOT) listen to what I said and comprehendingly restate it back to me.

        Me — “I feel hurt by what you just said.” (pause) “Now, what did I just tell you?”
        Him — “I feel hurt.”
        Me — “Let’s try that again. ….. I feel hurt by what you just said. …. Now, what did I just tell you about how I feel?”
        Him — “I feel hurt by you.”
        Me (absolutely flumoxed; can’t he even transpose the pronouns to show he understands what I just told him about my feeling hurt? — “I feel hurt by you. Now, please say back to me how I feel.”
        Him — incoherent mumbling then silence

        I give up.

      • Endurance

        Thank you for replying Barbara. It would seem to me that dialogue such as you and I describe would be characteristic of narcissism. It seems incomprehensible to me that H doesn’t hear or understand what I say. Could it be all a rue toward manipulation. After such conversations I struggle with sanity. This would indicate to me, I was being manipulated.

        Yet, maybe such circular conversation is a result of a self absorbed narcissist. What do you think.

        Presently, I continue to be surprised that when I introduce even the most light, non threatening topic, I listen to an earful of lecture about his perspective. The goal of which is correct or contradict what I just said. When called out on it he says it didn’t happen. Is that gas lighting?

      • when I introduce even the most light, non threatening topic, I listen to an earful of lecture about his perspective. The goal of which is correct or contradict what I just said. When called out on it he says it didn’t happen. Is that gas lighting?

        It is a deliberate denial of reality, a re-writing of history. In gaslighting, the abuser deliberately and with strategy and forethought does things or says things that make the victim feel afraid and make her doubt her sanity, while at the same time hiding from her that he has in fact acted maliciously to make her feel this way. Gaslighting is designed to make the victim think she is going crazy.

        The strategy you have described is not quite as sophisticated as full-blown gaslighting, because he openly contradicts and lectures you. In gaslighting, the abuser hides all his nastiness under such a velvet glove that the victim doesn’t realise he is the author of it all.

        If you watch the old move Gaslight you will see what I mean. That’s where the term came from.

        It would seem to me that dialogue such as you and I describe would be characteristic of narcissism. It seems incomprehensible to me that H doesn’t hear or understand what I say. Could it be all a rue toward manipulation. After such conversations I struggle with sanity. This would indicate to me, I was being manipulated.

        Yet, maybe such circular conversation is a result of a self absorbed narcissist. What do you think.

        I would say it is part of his MALIGNANT narcissism. I prefer to use the term “malignant narcissism” because there are some people who have narcissistic traits but are not malignant. They are what I call benign narcissists; my dad had some features of benign narcissism: he was fairly self-absorbed, but never ever malignant to anyone.

        And yes, your husband is using a ruse. He KNOWS that the way he lectures you and constantly picks on you is wrong. He KNOWS that he is wrong to disrespect your right to have your own point of view. He simple doesn’t care! He fights hard against his moral obligation to listen to you and respect you. And he feigns ignorance and stupidity, as one of his fighting tactics. He is fighting against having to take responsibility for his bad behaviour.

        I would suggest to you that it is pointless trying to get him to ‘understand’. He already sees that what he is doing is unacceptable. He just chooses to do it regardless.

  3. Stronger Now

    Sadly, we just had one of these wicked people attempt to destroy our church. The pastors stood strong, but many people left because of the strife and division he stirred up. He had no accusations of wrongdoing or sin against the pastors or their families, and yet so often we heard from those who were leaving, “Something must be very wrong (in the leadership).”

    Yes, something was very wrong. This evil man, with his hyper-patriarchal views, was trying to tell the pastors what to preach and how to preach it. He was insisting on having HIS way, creating chaos at board meetings, and refusing to listen to others. He has a large family, and his adult sons were on the boards of trustees and deacons. As his nastiness was causing division throughout the church family, our congregation was shrinking. When board members left, he wanted his sons and his allies to take their places, which would have given him a stranglehold in decision making. The pastors instead decided to leave the positions empty, which infuriated him even more.

    Finally, he and his family and their allies suddenly left the church one Wednesday after our family night activities. This created even more chaos, as they were deeply involved in positions of leadership throughout the church. In that one move, we lost at least 25% of our attendance, between their family and their allies. They knew it would leave the church family scrambling to fill those teaching and serving positions, and it was no doubt a deliberate attempt to kill the church or cause us to fire the pastors so he and his allies could swoop back in and save the day.

    Instead the church stood strong, even though a few more families have left. We now have unity where there was division and strife. The entire atmosphere has changed for the better. New people are coming and those who didn’t serve before have stepped up to serve. Some programs have gone by the wayside. The youth group has shrunk to a small number, but the kids who are coming are getting into the Word, asking questions, and growing in ways that weren’t happening before.

    The evil man and his allies decided to start another church a few blocks away. Oddly enough, though, he doesn’t attend there. It seems one of his allies realized he wanted to run the new church, even though he wasn’t going to be the pastor, and they said no. However, his sons are in the leadership positions, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he is running things from behind the scenes. I can’t help but wonder if the man who is the pastor has had his eyes opened to how he was manipulated and used. I pray that he will see the light and repent.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Same story different names at our church. This is another reason pastors need to study abuse. These same kinds of evil men are everywhere.

    • Thanks for sharing this story, Stronger Now!

      Is the pastor at your church aware of ACFJ? I think he would find a lot in common with Jeff Crippen. 🙂

  4. LauraGrace

    I am fortunate to have escaped from the abuser but my poor kids have to see him because he has parental “rights” and he is “entitled” to parental visits, not because he actually loves them. They are afraid to talk to him about anything because his attitude is, ‘I am your father, do as I say’ and ‘I am your father, I can do what I want and say what I want.’ What he asks of them is unfair, and often inappropriate, but yes, he feels entitled to do, say, and demand whatever he wants. I am trying to teach them to be assertive and to stand up for themselves, but I know in a way that only the victim of a psychopathic abuser would know, that there really isn’t much you can do except pray for his death, and I do.

    • LauraGrace, maybe your kids would be inspired to hear about Gavin De Becker (author of The Gift of Fear). In that book he talks a bit about how he grew up in a very abusive home, where one of his parents actually pointed a gun at him. He grew up to become a valiant supporter of victims; he chose NOT to model himself on his abusive and neglectful parents.

      The nobility of stories like that can be very inspiring for kids, teens and young adults, when they are trying to work out how to deal with the abusive adults in their lives. Maybe they can’t, as you say, do much now except pray for deliverance from the abuser, but they can start shaping a vision of what they want to do when they are adults. 🙂

      • LauraGrace

        Thanks for the suggestion Barbara. I will get it and read it first.

  5. jmclever

    When a person insists that he is always right, by default that means that you are always wrong.

    I served under pastoral leadership like this. At the time, I was also going through it with my ex, so I didn’t really recognize it for what it was. In the course of about two years, the congregation dwindled away to nearly nothing and many of the staff retired or felt called to other ministries. I stayed, just like I faithfully stayed in my marriage, wondering what the problem was. Now, thanks to your blogs and other voices speaking out on narcissistic abuse, I see it for what it really was. The sad thing is that this person really does think he is right and everyone else is wrong (isn’t that the source for the blame shifting?), so he left that church and went somewhere else. IDK what has happened there, but it will probably end up the same way.

    Many thanks to Pastor Jeff and Crew 🙂

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes. Sometimes the narcissist is a church leader. Sometimes a member. But their evil will play itself out in these same ways. Power. Control. LISTEN TO ME! Do what I say!!

  6. E

    Some of the slicker abusers learn to pretend to listen, only to gather information and twist it to use it “logically” against you, for their purposes and schemes. They see everything you say as an objective to overcome. There comes a time when they forfeit the privilege to get to listen to you at all any more.

  7. Misti

    It’s the distinction between demanding or insisting the other person do what you think best and suggesting or requesting the other person do what you think best.

    I live with a friend. We each have our own ideas about how certain things should be done, but we try to save the “PLEASE! Just do (or don’t do) X!” arguments for things that really, really bother us.

    You can suggest whatever you like to someone else. They have the right to refuse to heed you, no matter the relationship between you or the consequences that ensue.

    Abusers deny that right to say no, because they see themselves as your god, whether they consciously admit/realize that or not.

  8. Anonymous

    While watching one of the many zombie apocalypse shows recently, my adult daughter jokingly wondered out loud who she would follow in such perilous times. My husband (her dad) said, “ME! You’d follow me!” In the past my husband has tried to get us to commit suicide by using a barrage of abuse and suggestions so we thought it odd that he would want us to follow him rather than him just killing us as we’ve thought of when imagining different outcomes to his abuse.

    But this got me to thinking, evil ones often NEED others who will follow them, listen to them, worship them. As you pointed out Jeff, it doesn’t matter if they are right or that it may not be in the best interest of those who are forced to heed their advice; they just believe they should be the only voice others should hear. Can anyone see how dangerous this is and that the tyrannical teaching that we are to blindly worship the man as head and god puts everyone in the position to be harmed?

    I’ve read that some people believe psychopaths make good leaders. Look this up and you may be surprised how many people tote this insanity. But then I read the Bible and there it is – that many will follow the anti-Christ and heed his voice. No doubt those who follow him will think we are stupid, stubborn or selfish — as this is how those without a conscience view those of us who have one. If we’d just go along with those who have an air of authority or who are confident in themselves. Yes. This is what we’ve often done –followed the person who seemed so sure of himself and who was able to lead.

    How very different things look to me today. Now I go first to God’s word and when I see someone who desires to be in charge or a person who wants me or others to listen to their advice, I automatically start mentally and spiritually scanning and charting their behavior to see if they are just really concerned and thoughtful people or if they simply desire to be first /worshipped/ listened to. Knowing the truth –what is stated in 2 Tim 3– helps the filtering process considerably. Also knowing the damage that just one of these people, when placed in a position of authority can do, makes it easier to just say no. Thank you Jeff for another good post.

  9. Annie

    My husband only thinks I’ve listened to him if I do what he says or agree with him.
    It’s so tiring to be talked over and shouted down if I dare to make a peep when my husband is talking. To be reprimanded like I’m a child is frustrating. It’s soul-crushing . And then he can turn around and act like nothing happened and I’m emotionally trying to pick myself up off the floor!

    • Anne

      Oh Annie, yes!!! “Soul crushing” really describes it. And when you’ve been beaten down to the ground emotionally and/or verbally and then they turn around, all sweetness and light, and wonder why you won’t “play nice” and accept the activity or trip or gift or project finally done by showing your enthusiasm and smiles. 😦

  10. standingfirm

    The timing of this post is incredible! Just two days ago I was on the phone with the abuser and he started yelling at me because he thought I did not tell someone something he suggested! When I said “stop yelling at me” the abuser said “I am not yelling” when he was. He is so perfect that whenever he sins and someone calls him on the behavior, he without skipping a beat always denies what he is doing at the moment! Talk about extreme control and gaslighting. Do they not realize how incredibly childish they look when they deny something they are doing at the moment? The abuse tactics these men of the devil use make me sick to my stomach! It must be nice to go through life and be so perfect and never make a mistake as these deluded men think of themselves.

  11. Finding Answers

    From the original post “You can see how this demand that he be listened to and obeyed plays right along with the abuser’s insistence that he is never wrong.”


    What no one ever teaches are the long-term physical effects on someone who was brought up in an abusive family with this kind of thinking, then an almost-two decade long “marriage” and living daily with the same kind of tripe.

    With no way to express the pain incurred in abusive relationships, I have faced / face the truth of the saying “Pay now or pay later.” I have spent over a decade learning the meaning behind all my physical pain, yet the physical pain never seems to get better, only worse.

    Today, I have maxed out, my entire body feels like it is on fire. In a way, healing is like being burned / betrayed twice.

    (Omitting MANY pious platitudes for my protection.)

    • “Today, I have maxed out, my entire body feels like it is on fire. In a way, healing is like being burned / betrayed twice.”

      Oohhhhhh…. that is my groan in sympathy with your pain when I read that. I have no words, and I’m astonishing and admiring of you for finding those words in the furnace of all that pain.

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