5. Chris Moles sometimes endorses the abuser’s narrative
Chris Moles uses some wording that can endorse the abuser’s narrative. I will give three examples of this.
Chris’s language permits the abuser to evade responsibility for his wrong choices.
Chris wrote a blog post aimed at abusive men – ‘Telling The Truth To Yourself’ (T*). In that post he used some language that in my view permits the abuser to hold himself at arm’s length from his wrong choices. It is subtle; see if you can pick up the three places where Chris did this in the following paragraph:
Our pride convinces us that wicked behavior is sometimes necessary to maintain control or that malicious intent is justified when we feel wronged. This attitude may have led you to physically harm your partner or to call her ugly names. Perhaps you’ve thrown things across the room or punched holes in the walls to communicate you’re not pleased with her choices. If any of this is true than you may also find it necessary to hide certain details, bend certain truths to minimize your behavior while emphasizing the ways in which you’ve been wronged. (T*)
Number one, Chris used a passive verbal structure here: “our pride convinces us”. In that syntax, “pride” is the subject and “us” is the object. Pride (an abstract entity) convinces “us” (the abusive men). So the abusive men are the ones who are somehow convinced by the entity called pride. Chris would be better to have said: “Abusive men are prideful and they usually justify their wicked behaviour because they do not want to humble themselves.” That would make the abusive men the subject of the verbs and the authors of the wickedness.
Number two, when addressing abusive men Chris talks about “us” – thereby aligning himself with the abusive men. I don’t think for a moment that Chris is a wife abuser, but his language there leaves it vague. Why does he talk about “us” when addressing abusive men? By doing that, he is implying or suggesting to abusive men that he, Chris, is like them, the men who abuse their wives and partners. So Chris’s language indicates that he comes over into the abusive man’s camp. Presumably Chris thinks his approach will help the abusive man feel less shamed, less singled out, and therefore make the abuser less unwilling to admit, confess and repent. But Chris is unwise and mistaken. Abusive men love being given the sense that they are ‘just like other blokes’. In that blog post, Chris was not hard enough, not firm enough, not direct enough with abusive men.
Number three, Chris endorses the abuser’s narrative when he writes to the abusive man: “you may also find it necessary to hide certain details, bend certain truths”. By writing that, Chris colluded with the abusive man’s narrative. When pressed, the abusive man will say or imply that he “found it necessary” to tell falsehoods to save face. Chris would have been better to use this wording when speaking to the abusive man: “If you are denying and wrongfully justifying your wicked behaviour, you are probably also hiding certain details, bending certain truths…” That would be direct and truthful, hitting the abuser between the eyes, giving him no excuses. Calling him to repentance, and tolerating no weasel words from the abuser.
So I have to wonder: if Chris is going softly-softly on abusive men in a generalized blog post, how much is he going softly-softly on abusive men he works with face to face? Maybe less… maybe more.
Chris did not correct Darby Strickland when she used language that endorsed the abuser’s narrative.
Darby is a counselor with CCEF (Christian Counseling & Education Foundation). She is working with abusers and their victims, and she is training other biblical counselors how to counsel in cases of domestic abuse.
In a podcast interview (R) that Chris did with Darby Strickland, Darby said to Chris that abusers “lack insight” into the harm they are doing.
She then recounted an example of how she prompts/urges an abuser to change. In this example she said to the abuser, “It’s hard for you, given that your wife is nagging… how can you serve her better?”
Darby then said to Chris: “I don’t even want to have a debate whether she’s nagging or not. That’s their [the abuser’s] reality.”
Chris did not seem to have any concern about the way Darby spoke to that abuser. He didn’t pull Darby up for repeating back to the abuser’s the derogatory (& false) accusation that the abuser’s wife was ‘nagging’.
Let me ask you, dear reader, to take a breath and zoom out for a moment. I want to talk about a common problem in the counseling field when it comes to abuse.
When people are trained to be counselors, they are taught to be reflective listeners. One skill in reflective listening is to repeat back to the client some of the words the client has used. That assures the client that the counselor has listened carefully to the client. In counseling, it is usually a good technique because it builds empathy in the therapeutic relationship.
But if the counselor repeats back to an abuser the derogatory language he used about his victim without calling him out on it, that counselor is endorsing the abuser’s narrative! The counselor is going along with the abuser’s distorted thinking and beliefs. The abuser gets the message: This counselor agrees with me that my wife is a nag! Now I can go and tell my wife that the counselor says she is a nag!
Chris did not pull up Darby on her use of language. He just responded by telling Darby:
That’s very helpful. I was thinking about guys [I have worked with] over the years, and such a common conversation is the frustration that men in particular who have had power – the frustration of letting go of that power, not abusing that power, as if it’s an impossibility [to let go of their power]. They say, “It’s so hard.” And I will reply with, “Hard is not impossible. Hard is the reality; that’s the expectation. The good news for us is the gospel, and in particular the New Testament, is so rich with instruction for how to do that. And the necessity of it. Hey, if you want to save your life you’ve got to lose it; if you want to lead well you’ve got to serve; if you want to be first you’ve got to be last.”
If you think I’m assuming too much about Darby Strickland buying in to the abuser’s narrative, let me share with you another thing about her. Jason Meyer, the senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, also endorses Darby Strickland. Here is what he said about her in Nov 2017.
I love her God-centered approach to addressing abusive marriages. She says that the goal of such counseling is “redeeming worshippers from oppression.” She says that when God’s people were oppressed in Egypt, God’s word was “Let my people go so they may worship me.” In abusive marriages, one is an oppressor who is “enslaved to the desire to be served, instead of serving the Lord.” The other person is the “oppressed who is trying to serve and follow the rules of the oppressor.” She believes that both spouses need to be set free so they can worship the Lord.
To believe that the abuser is oppressed by being “enslaved to the desire to be served” is to buy in to the abuser’s narrative. It helps the abusers play the poor-me card. Abusers can easily win allies if people see them that way.
And there is every indication Chris Moles thinks the same way that Darby does on this.
Chris excuses leaders who are too afraid to admit they gave bad advice.
When talking about the poor teaching Paige Patterson gave about domestic abuse (S), Chris said:
It’s unfortunate that we continue to hold our leaders in such high regard that they’re not able to look at us and say “I don’t know,” or “I really messed that one up.” Now certainly, I think Dr Patterson and others could be more humble in this regard, but that’s between them and God, not me. (3:40)
So Chris blamed the people in the pews for holding church leaders in such high regard that the leaders are not able to admit they were wrong! Chris exonerated the bad leaders and handed them an excuse on a platter.
Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter.
The Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.