A Cry For Justice

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

Diane Langberg is advocating for abuse victims, but… (pt 3 of series on SBC’s ChurchCares program)

[May 15, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

I know many victims and victim-advocates have found Diane Langberg’s work valuable. In her counseling, public speaking and writing she is raising awareness about abuse. She is reaching conservative leaders and she’s trained many counselors and church-goers about how to identify and respond to abuse, trauma and narcissistic leadership.

Diane is one of the training team for ChurchCares which is the video training the SBC will be putting out soon. (See part 1 of this series for a description of ChurchCares.)

I am grateful for the positive influence Diane is having. At the same time, I do see some things about her work that I believe she could change to make it even better.

Last year I briefly tweeted some of my concerns about the ways Diane sometimes words things. I got instant heavy push-back from other advocates and victims. It was like I’d poked an ‘untouchable’. People told me I was wrong. They told me I was arrogant. Some of them told me I should take my concern to Diane privately; so I did. I wrote Diane an email, telling her, with example quotes from her published materials, what I thought was good about her work, and what I thought was problematic but could easily be improved by her changing her wording a bit.

I have had occasional email contact with Diane over the years, so I sent her a brief email first, checking to see if she was willing for me to send her my feedback and asking her which email address of hers was the best one to use. She replied promptly saying she was willing for me to send my feedback and told me which email address to use.

So I sent her my long email with the feedback. She never responded. She did not even acknowledge that she had received it.

So much for me giving her my feedback privately.

I decided to sit with my disappointment and do nothing. But when I saw Diane had been appointed to the ChurchCares team and then I saw Phil Monroe (a colleague of Diane’s) recommending her blog post Recommendations for Churches Dealing with Abuse, I decided to read her post.

And what I saw in that post of hers was what I’d seen before: quite a lot of good points, but some language and phraseology concerned me. So I submitted two comments to her post. Diane has not (yet) published my comments at her blog. Shall I conclude that she is blocking her ears to me? It certainly seems so. This is disappointing since I only want to help her improve what she is doing so she can be an even more effective advocate.

You may take the view that I’m arrogant and conceited to think I can see faults in Diane’s work and suggest how she could improve it. But is there some kind of elite class of advocates who are untouchable and others who are ‘lesser’ and can be disregarded?  (Especially when they’ve touched the untouchables?)

I can only ask you to keep an open mind. Please read Diane’s blog post, then read the two comments I submitted to it which are in the screen shots below. Evaluate the evidence for yourself and see if you think my concerns are valid.

To help you evaluate the evidence, I’ll give you again the table which I’ve been using in the series.

Read Diane’s post here:  Recommendations for Churches Dealing with Abuse

Then read my two comments. The initial two screen shots show my first comment. The last two screen shots show my second comment. —

[May 15, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to May 15, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to May 15, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to May 15, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (May 15, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


For more on Don Hennessy see my Don Hennessy Digest.

Posts in this 5-part series  

Part 1: Churchcares.com – the SBC’s plan to equip churches to respond to abuse (focuses on Chris Moles)

Part 2: Darby Strickland is raising awareness about domestic abuse, but…

Part 3: Is this post

Part 4: Why I publish my concerns about various abuse advocates

Part 5: Leslie Vernick: various responses that domestic abuse victims have to her work.


  1. Finding Answers

    I followed the link to Diane’s article and had the same concerns as Barb.

    I found the wording inconsistent in referencing abuse, sometimes naming one type of abuse, then omitting it in another place where it would also be relevant.

    I was PARTICULARLY concerned with the idea abusers deceive themselves about their actions.

    Was my “dad” deceiving himself when he sexually violated me from the day I was born?

    Were my siblings who sexually abused me as a child deceiving themselves?

    Was the sibling who tried to kill me TWICE, deceiving himself?

    Was my abusive family of origin deceiving themselves when they abused me in a myriad of – mostly – non-physical ways?

    Was my anti-x deceiving himself when he used coercive control throughout an almost two decade long “marriage”?

    Were others throughout my personal and professional life deceiving themselves when they chose to abuse me?

    My fog has lifted enough to recognize the only one who was deceived was me.

    And I am learning, one step at a time, to understand the impact of a lifetime of abuse.

  2. emmellkaycee

    What I earnestly pray will happen regarding the proliferation of relational abuse (in all its forms) within Christendom, is that God will raise up the true leaders (yourself among them) who fully understand that their only job is to care for the targets / victims / survivors of abuse, and leave the evil perpetrators to GOD and the legal systems.

    The emphasis of “help” from far too many within “Christian leadership” is one of primary focus on the evil-doers, and not those whom evil has harmed. I believe it is so because satan comes as the Angel of Light — he not only has the evil-doers in hand, he blinds those in “spiritual authority” who have practiced decades of spiritual arrogance, mostly without interference. This is so because far too many pew / chair / bench sitters have never eschewed milk sucking for meat chewing, and have NO discernment. Without discernment, there is no wisdom.

  3. April

    I am thankful for your feedback to her, whether or not she responded. Unfortunately, it seems all of this will happen at glacier pace, if it happens at all. Only now is the church (because things have blown sky high) even starting to deal with physical and sexual abuse. I have found that they turn a completely deaf ear and a closed heart to mental, emotional, and verbal abuse.

    I lost my own church over this issue — they were willing to help when they thought I was in physical danger, but I was dropped with a bang for filing for divorce for emotional and verbal abuse (though there was physical abuse of one of my children also). I was told “choose to sin, choose to suffer” and that “no trial had overtaken me that was not common to man.”

    I know people (and am related to some) who believe there is no reason EVER for divorce, the more abuse you soak up, whatever form it comes in, the more Christ-like you are — mental / emotional / verbal abuse aren’t even in their vocabulary. Though I’ve been a Christian for decades, I am now questioning much of what the church teaches about, well, really anything and particularly abuse / marriage / divorce. All that to say, I’m grateful for your voice….don’t give up.

    • Helovesme

      Hi April, I just read your last paragraph. I am so sorry you lost your church and that you were fed a lot of terrible things.

      I was physically and verbally abused by my dad, but he never left any bruises. So that might have left the impression that nothing “that bad” had really happened.

      So it’s strange that physical abuse is held up as the only real and serious form of abuse. Does that mean bruises have to be present for a victim to be believed, and action can be taken to protect him or her? Or, if no bruises are left, do there have to be witnesses to the abuse in order to be taken seriously? That is very unlikely.

      My personal thought is that the presence of bruises will not necessarily convince anyone. It might go to: well, it’s only one bruise. That’s not too bad.

      So, how many is “enough” proof of abuse? Two, three, twenty?

      Even if there is more than one bruise, the next response might be: “well, the abuser didn’t mean to hurt you. He or she went too far and got carried away. You were arguing, right? It just got out of hand; out of control.”

      I am of the personal opinion that the verbal, emotional abuse I suffered was somewhat worse than the physical (the latter was no picnic, let me be clear!).

      The Bible does not mince words when it speaks to the power of words. They can bring a blessing or a curse. They can be used for good or evil. They can build up or tear down. They can ruin lives, or they can help to restore them. They MATTER.

      Of ALL people, Christians should be 100% aware of this. And there are no excuses that I will accept for hardened ignorance in this area. The Bible is peppered with verses that make it clear that how we speak to each other is one of the highest forms of power we have.

      Yet we still choose to dismiss these forms of abuse that you mentioned. When we dismiss the validity and intensity of those abuses, we are dismissing the very Word of God. Now it’s man-made commandments that trump His?

      I once watched a secular show where the main character said there are no more highly charged, highly emotional words as “I love you.” When the Lord says He loves us, and when we believe Him—-there is nothing more wonderful than knowing you are loved.

      Verbal abuse does the exact opposite. It conveys hate, indifference, and an utter disregard for our humanity. We are nothing but metaphorical “punching bags” for the abuser. They throw words at us, and they HURT just as much as being punched—-if not more-so.

      Again, this is just my personal opinion, but I think sexual abuse is also somewhat minimized as to its enormous impact and the damage it does. And again, of ALL people, Christians should know how precious and powerful sexual intimacy is. The Bible is also 100% clear on this.

      When it’s warped and twisted and used for evil, and the victims are treated so cheaply—-it should shock and sadden us like nothing else. But so often, the church shrugs it off or tries to shame and silence the victims.

      Why? Either sexual intimacy is sacred and special (how the Lord designed and perceives is) or it’s nothing but a form of cheap thrills and selfish pleasure. Choose the right one, and stick to it. The church cannot have it both ways, and “switch” narratives, depending on their agendas.

      I hope it’s okay to share one of ACFJ’s links about “suffering for Christ” when we are abused. Soaking up that suffering in order to be come more like Him (I think) is a popular, but evil way to counsel victims: Suffering is ‘blessed’ – so should I just put up with being abused?

      • Gany T.

        Helovesme – excellent points on verbal and sexual abuse, expressing so clearly how serious both are, AND giving unlearned or apathetic professing believers NO excuse for minimizing them.

        On verbal abuse, you said:

        The Bible does not mince words when it speaks to the power of words. They can bring a blessing or a curse. They can be used for good or evil. They can build up or tear down. They can ruin lives, or they can help to restore them. They MATTER.

        Of ALL people, Christians should be 100% aware of this. And there are no excuses that I will accept for hardened ignorance in this area. The Bible is peppered with verses that make it clear that how we speak to each other is one of the highest forms of power we have.

        Yet we still choose to dismiss these forms of abuse that you mentioned. When we dismiss the validity and intensity of those abuses, we are dismissing the very Word of God….

        On sexual abuse – your sense of it being minimized among professing Christians is so accurate, as seen by the recent surge of exposes of many churches’ handling of sexual abuse of children. However, I think you probably were thinking specifically of sexual abuse within marriage here; you’re even more spot on there, as so many in the visible church aren’t aware or don’t even acknowledge sexual abuse as possible within marriage.

        Furthermore, you are so right in pointing out the abominable pattern of talking out of both sides of one’s mouth on this issue.
        You say,

        ….Either sexual intimacy is sacred and special (how the Lord designed and perceives is) or it’s nothing but a form of cheap thrills and selfish pleasure. Choose the right one, and stick to it. The church cannot have it both ways, and “switch” narratives, depending on their agendas.

        Very illuminating way of explaining in Christian ‘lingo’ and culture the gravity of these so-often dismissed or minimized evils. Thanks.

      • April

        Helovesme, thank you for your words. Your story with your dad could be echoed by my children. I hurt so much for them and what they endured for all the time I “stayed and prayed.” It took them asking me for help to push me into action. I tried to tell my church the words from James about the tongue being set on fire from the fire of hell, and how, in essence, my home and family was engulfed in flames, and my children and I were burn victims. I was told those verses didn’t have anything to do with divorce (yet other cherry-picked verses by them somehow did?). I hated the physical abuse, but I know a torn and amputated spirit is far harder to mend than outer bruises or broken bones. My children and I are in the long process of healing from verbal / mental / psychological abuse. This site has been a glimmer of hope for me. Your comment below about abusers being tended to while the sufferers of their abuse sit in the waiting room for their turn that never seems to happen really resonated with me.

      • It is always okay to share a link to something else at this blog. 🙂

      • Helovesme

        Hi Gany T., thanks for your kind words. You mentioned I may have been thinking of sexual abuse within a marriage, but actually I was not—though it absolutely applies. I was thinking of sexual abuse in any way, shape or form.

        I always knew “in theory” that sexual abuse could very well occur within a marriage, or a committed relationship. But it was not until I started to read testimonies of such women that I realized how wide spread it was. It horrified me and still does. Your partner is the very person who should treat you with the utmost respect and honor, in and out of the bedroom. Instead of treating that vulnerability with humility, they choose to do the exact opposite.

        I did not grow up in the church. So when I’ve read about the “purity culture” that young persons within the church were exposed to, it was truly interesting to me.

        Sex is portrayed as something like a “disease” when you are not married—don’t get near it, don’t get involved in it, and don’t dare to touch it. Don’t get near others who are don’t feel that way, because it’s “contagious.”

        The pressures and expectations about purity were harder on the girls, not so much the boys. There was so much control and conformity inflicted on them—-I cannot imagine how boxed in they must have felt. If a boy lusted or inflicted harm on them, it was somehow automatically their fault. They had “ruined” their purity and were now “damaged goods” that no one would ever want.

        It was believed that if you stayed so pure and unblemished, your marriage would be incredibly blessed and beautiful—-sexual intimacy will be worth the wait, and very rewarding because you did so.

        But within a marriage, the narratives about sex seemed to drastically change. It wasn’t about purity and intimacy. Now it was treated as an obligation, an expectation, a way to “serve his needs.” Now it was all about being a “yes” person. Now it wasn’t about mutual respect and honor and glorifying the Lord—-it was about satisfying your partner’s needs and possibly curbing his lust. If you did not submit and serve in these ways, your marriage will NOT be blessed, will NOT be rewarded, and you will (again) have no one to blame but yourself.

        So sex is treated just as much as a “disease” in and out of marriage, IMO. Before marriage, don’t get near it. After marriage, engage in it as a duty or your marriage will become “diseased.”

        Where is the pleasure, the enjoyment, the delight in experiencing the deepest form of intimacy with your spouse—-the one who you trust to treat your body AND soul as true treasures?

        Well, it’s touted this way before marriage in order to control the young and unmarried. Put them in bondage in order to keep them pure. After marriage, it’s touted a whole different way in order to control and keep them locked in another form of bondage.

        Marriage is no solution for lust. I have no clue where the Bible even hints at something so insidious and deceptive. David had multiple wives and concubines. But he still chose to lust after and exploit a woman that he had no right to.

    • April, you are right that change is happening at a glacial pace, when it comes to how the church responds to abuse. (I mean the visible church: the institutions, denominations, congregations, para-church orgs, etc.)

      And as I think I’ve said before somewhere on this blog, domestic abuse — especially the non-physical kind — is a Cinderella (stuck in the scullery) compared to child exploitation abuse.

      Whenever this blog publishes a new post, it is automatically posted on Twitter and Facebook. When the tweet went out for this post, some Twitterites who are advocates denounced me….again. I was told it was ‘not cool’ to publish this post. Some people said they appreciated my post, but several of them told me I was wrong for critiquing Diane or wrong for critiquing the ChurchCares team. Twitter is not a good place for respectful debate, because of the word length restriction. I eventually (maybe belatedly) decided to not respond any more to those who were pushing back at me on Twitter.

      Some people seem to very easily assume I am slurring Diane’s character, but I am only critiquing some of her phraseology and ideas.

      • Helovesme

        Barb, I thought you were incredibly respectful, not to mention constructive in this post—-and in trying to communicate with Diane.

        The reason I can say this with all honesty (and no partiality) is because I have experienced much of the exact opposite. A respectful rebuke is meant to encourage. A condemning, overly critical attitude is meant to invoke defeat and discouragement.

        There truly are real and valid differences between the two. I have experienced much of the latter, and you did not fit the bill of someone like that.

        You confronted her directly, and made it clear that you weren’t trying to tear her down. And that she was doing some good work and had good things to say.

        You would also have no problem with a back and forth discussion with her. In fact, you’d more than likely welcome that.

        Perhaps some people are just so glad that something is being done to address a very serious but very “swept under the rug” issue such as abuse—-and don’t want anything to possibly hinder this long-awaited awakening.

        As you said, there is big difference between maligning someone’s character and their work! But so often those two are intertwined, so anyone that we feel affection or admiration for—-it’s taken personally if someone even dares to question them. The attitude is: “hey, this person is good and kind and loving. So you’re wrong that they might need to be corrected, or confronted in any way.”

        This sort of thinking can fast lead to idolatry. No matter how well-intentioned or well-staffed the ChurchCares team is—it’s fair to carefully scrutinize what is going on.

        These are mere people. They can certainly help with restructuring the systemic cover ups and lies concerning abuse—but if their help is not from the Lord, sourced in the Lord’s wisdom and discernment, and very much directed by the Lord (step by step)—the church might find ourselves in a worse position than previously so.

        We would do well to learn from the Word, and our own lives, too. Whenever anyone separated themselves from the Lord’s ways and will (even with the best and most sincere of intentions)—-it was disastrous.

        A good example is Abraham and Sarah. They decided to do things “their way” and Abraham conceived a child through another woman. We can easily look at them now and scoff and scorn them for their foolishness, but we would do well to look at our own lives—-and see where we too thought we knew better than the Lord Himself.

  4. Kind of Anonymous

    I think that your concern about Diane using wording that leaves the impression that abuse must be physical is valid and hardly a minor point. That is one of the biggest problems we have in figuring out if we are truly being abused or just whiners who aren’t willing to suffer for Christ or do the hard work of obeying as we are often told. When I was a teenager divorce for extreme physical abuse was only reluctantly and occasionally accepted in Christian circles.

    It’s hard enough to figure where that boundary line is, between dealing with occasional jerkdom that requires bearing with and loving confrontation, and patterned, unrepentant entitled behaviour. Diane’s wording unfortunately does actually reinforce the idea that one needs to be being beaten regularly to even consider divorce. I can just hear some pastors sighing with relief, when they think that the problem will be fairly obvious and easy to identify and that they don’t have to support women who are routinely walked over and treated with contempt, etc.

    The question of whether abusers deceive themselves or not; I would say that yes, they do. Diane ought to clarify that this doesn’t mean they don’t know they are doing something wicked and it doesn’t make them victims. No one hides what they are doing if they truly believe it is right, so obviously an abuser retains some knowledge of wrong doing. I remember a pedophile school principal, last name of Noyes I think. He said at some point that he thought he was having a relationship that society didn’t understand. That’s a clear cut case of self-deception. This is what he told himself so he could justify to himself something that was abnormal and predatory. I think scripture speaks of self-deception not as something we are victimized by, but as something that we choose in order to suppress truth so we can continue doing something we want to do.

    If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, KoA. And perhaps I ought to have worded my comment to Diane more carefully. Thanks for sharpening me. 🙂 I hear what you’ve said here:

      The question of whether abusers deceive themselves or not; I would say that yes, they do. Diane ought to clarify that this doesn’t mean they don’t know they are doing something wicked and it doesn’t make them victims….scripture speaks of self-deception not as something we are victimized by, but as something that we choose in order to suppress truth so we can continue doing something we want to do.

      If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

      I have a post in Drafts that I have yet to complete. It will take some work to polish it. It deals with what the Bible says about blindness, not physical blindness but spiritual / moral blindness.

      • Kind of Anonymous

        Hi Barb, thank you for your kind words and graciousness. I look forward to your post.

    • Helovesme

      I too really liked that phrase:

      I think scripture speaks of self-deception not as something we are victimized by, but as something that we choose in order to suppress truth so we can continue doing something we want to do.

      Really spot on. This describes my abuser very well (my father). And he is not a professing Christian, by the way. I think that worked in his favor, to be honest—-because the titles of “unsaved AND self-deceived” gave him more and more leeway. Not only is he not saved, but he is a prisoner of his own deception. How sad—-doubly so (bit of sarcasm attached there!).

      It’s hard enough to figure where that boundary line is, between dealing with occasional jerkdom that requires bearing with and loving confrontation, and patterned unrepentant entitled behaviour.

      Thank you for that. I was speaking to my spouse last night about that—-regarding his father. I made it clear that his dad may have been “difficult” to be married to, but that does not necessarily mean we can label him as an abuser.

      And I also tried to reiterate what you spoke of so well—we’d have to see a real pattern and consistency. We can’t go carelessly and capriciously putting very serious, very strong labels on people without careful and accurate discernment from the Lord.

      Someone commented that without discernment, there is no wisdom. While I applauded some of Diane’s work in the link I read, there were holes that (again, as you said) could cause pastors to breathe a sigh of relief. “Oh, good, we don’t have to get “involved” and get our hands dirty with this very uncomfortable, very sensitive area called abuse!”

      Some churches may be hungry for knowledge and really want to minister to their congregation. So they will gladly gobble up any sound, Biblical guidance in order to spot and stop abuse.

      Others may inwardly groan and wish for this to all go away: “we have enough problems to deal with! This is just another “load” to add to the huge pile we are already trying to deal with!”

      Diane did seem to give some practical guidelines in some of her writing. It’s too easy to tell the church to get a clue, get a grip and get moving when it comes to dealing with abuse and abusers within the church. So I did appreciate that she tried to offer assistance in those ways.

  5. daughterofgod

    God bless you for speaking up Barb. I admire your courage.

    I always welcome respectful criticism on my blog and Facebook because I like to know when I’m wrong, so I can improve. It never ceases to amaze me how people get upset when they are respectfully criticized and it is a big red flag of narcissism. It takes humility and wisdom to accept criticism.

    I saw a quote yesterday that I am reminded of:

    To know who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.

    Abuse victims are used to this and deserve better. That whole mentality supports abusers and it’s not ok. God bless.

    • To know who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.

      I love ^ this. Talk about nailing a gem of truth!

    • Helovesme

      That was brilliant. I am going to try to keep that close to my heart for sure.

      I’ve had many people in my life who seemed to think they had authority over me. Now, bear in mind that they may have been “well-meaning” and (here’s the kicker)—-it MAY have been that they were offering sound, godly wisdom.

      But, IMO—that is irrelevant. Anyone who claims to have authority over you, but does not—does not have any right to tell you what to do or not do. That doesn’t mean you disregard any Biblical insights they have—-but they have no right to tell you to obey them.

      I now caution any and all Christians to be very aware of who does AND does not have authority over you. If you don’t quite know, or don’t quite know what the Bible does and doesn’t say about this all-important area—-find out.

      I’ll use myself as an example. We’ve had family members and professing Christians who really seemed to think they had the right to tell us what to do. It took me a long time to realize that they had no right to expect to obeyed. And that it was NOT sinful for us to push back and make it clear that we are not owned by them.

      I’ll use an illustration from one of my favorite comics strips: “Peanuts.” The little boy, Linus, famously dragged a security blanket around. His older sister AND his blanket-hating grandmother would constantly bully and berate him into giving it up. I think they thought they were trying to help him break a “bad habit,” but I sensed that they were just embarrassed by him. Also, I think they had control issues—not to mention self-righteous! They seemed to think they had the right to criticize and that those around them should listen and obey—-because they were so right!

      A story line emerged where Linus finally stood up to his sister:” Who are you to tell me what to do? Who is Grandma to tell me what to do?”

      When MOM tells me to give up this blanket, then I will—-but until then, you BOTH have no right to tell me what to do.

      Bear in mind that this is not easy to do—to stand up and tell someone who THINKS they have the power over you (and possibly or seemingly very sincere)—-that they do not.

      I have so many people try to tell me what to do, and it DOES cloud the mind. It causes a lot of confusion. I finally determined to “adopt” the attitude of little Linus. I will do my best to hear people out, but only the Lord has the final say, the final call—the final judgment.

      I am not advocating for anarchy, by the way. If your spouse asks you to bring him or her a drink of water, it’s not right to snap back that “you have no right to tell me what to do!” It doesn’t work that way—it means using our brains and carefully considering who is speaking to you, and what they are telling you to do (or not do)—-and knowing who does and doesn’t have rights over you.

      • fostymom

        In the context of “who we should obey implicitly”, I was reminded of a study I did many years ago.

        I used the following reference tools in a study of the original documents of scripture: 1. KJV Bible, 2. the Strong’s Concordance & 3. Tyndale’s Word Study New Testament. And I discovered that the word “obey” used in the context of obedience to God is a completely different word than the word “obey” used when referring to obeying any earthly authority.

        I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, but I think that Genesis 3:16 is descriptive and not prescriptive. The parallelism is that 1. sorrow & pain in childbirth, 2. desire shall be to your husband, and 3. he shall rule over thee are all BAD results of the Fall (descriptive). They are not what God wants or intended (not prescriptive).

        Yet, don’t a lot of Christian religions use this verse as justification for authoritarian behavior of men within marriage?

        I appreciate the constructive dialogue here and enjoy reading responses of those who can express it better than I can.

      • Helovesme

        Fostymom, yes, I agree with you! Especially about the consequences of the Fall of mankind. My very personal insight into the Lord’s words was that there would be now be “tension” between a husband and wife. He was not saying it as a commandment, but stating the consequences of the Fall. This is never how He intended for things to be.

        And remember that Jesus came to undo the curse—-and He made it clear that from the beginning, a husband and wife were meant to be “one.”

        This is hard for me to navigate through, because as you said the word “obey” as used in the Word may or may not translate into something different than how we think of that word. I think of the word “obey” as doing what you are told and not asking any questions. I have a very strong feeling that that is NOT always what the Lord intends.

        A brother of ours dug deeper into the word “helper” or “helpmate” from Genesis and wrote a very good blog about it. Our idea of “helper” may be more along the lines of a secretary or a “Gal Friday.” That is NOT what our brother believes that the Lord had in mind when using that word! And I agree with that.

        My personal thoughts on the whole “man gives the orders and woman obeys” stems from my childhood. And bear in mind that my father is also my abuser.

        When I was a child, I depended on my father to take care of me. That is how it works! I was not able to feed and clothe myself without his help. Sadly, he also chose to use my helplessness to abuse me, but that is not how it was supposed to work. He was supposed to look out for my well being until I grew up, but he did nothing but stunt my growth and reduce me to a puddle of shame.

        I remember years ago, a pastor telling us to NOT look for a “father figure” in a husband. More precisely, I think he was warning us that marriage is not going to solve your “Daddy issues.” I never heard anything like that before or since, but it stayed with me.

        It stayed with me because I certainly would have loved it if I could find a husband that was everything that my father was NOT. So that warning gave me a lot of pause.

        At that time, I was a new believer—-so I didn’t understand a lot of things. But I fancied the idea that instead of a father using his authority to hurt me, I would someday find a husband who used his authority to love me.

        A husband would not exactly replace my father, but he would more than make up for everything my father had done to me. He would be my authority figure, but he would love me as my father did NOT—so I would be “freed” from my father’s use of power and control over me to hurt me. I would finally experience what it’s like to be loved the way God intended, because only someone that loved me would use his God-given authority over me to bless, not burden.

        My father abused his authority, but my husband would never do that.

        The so-called Biblical narrative of “husband is the authority, wife obeys” is dangerous—-because I fear that is resorting to something more along the lines of a father / daughter relationship instead of a husband / wife relationship. It also is burdening the husbands to be more of a father figure to their spouses, as well as their husbands, and that is simply NOT Biblical.

        If the point of Biblical marriage is to become “one” with your spouse, admonishing that the husband is in charge and the wife is NOT—makes that oneness impossible. With any authority figure, there is and should be a measure of healthy and respectful separation. It’s vital that those lines don’t get crossed, because abuse of power is a big deal (even in the secular realm, by the way).

        Marriage is where all the barriers should come down. You cannot be or become “one” with your spouse if there is anything blocking that. And portraying him as an authority figure puts distance between the two—it does not encourage closeness.

        Why in the world are we advocating for or encouraging any sort of barriers between a husband and wife, and calling that Biblical?

        By the way, I already HAVE a Father in Heaven. I don’t want nor need anyone to “make up” for what my dad did to me. That’s not possible, anyway, but the Lord has more than filled that role for me.

        All of the BEST earthly fathers in the world cannot even begin to equal one iota of His perfection in that area. It is because our Father in Heaven exists in a completely separate arena from the rest of them. They cannot even begin to compete with Him, because they aren’t even in His league to begin with.

        Since abusers have no interest in “oneness” with anyone, being married to them and trying to call it “Biblical” is simply not possible.

        Since my memory is a bit blurred, I am unsure when or who may have spoken about this topic. Jesus made it clear that He submitted to and obeyed His Father, so that may have been touted to endorse how a wife and husband interact. And Jesus also claimed His Father loved Him, that would have added to the strength of that argument. Since He knew He was loved, He gladly and freely obeyed (much in the way that your husband loves you, so you should obey).

        However that is utterly blasphemous. Jesus and the Father are one and the same. They are separate, but 100% equal in every way. Jesus added humanity to His deity, but His deity was never compromised in doing so. He made many statements to this effect throughout the Gospels, as does the rest of the New Testament.

        Either Jesus was a megalomaniac, or He was (and is) who He said He was (and is). When professing Christians try to twist the narrative of “Jesus obeyed and so should you,” they are maligning who He is—and not giving Him the full honor and worship He fully deserves. They are also cherry-picking what He said, without putting everything in its proper context. Never fall for such things. Anything that takes away from who He is and who He presented Himself to be is to be thrown away like trash.

  6. Helovesme

    Great work as always Barbara. I think your message to her was full of food for thought. I sincerely hope she takes it seriously. I have no idea why you experienced such a push back from others. All you did was offer some real, honest constructive feedback.

    [Diane wrote]

    Such deception is very entrenched and slow to change. An abusive person can eventually lose the capacity to discern truth from lies. Because of that, we must not just be concerned with protecting the vulnerable from the offender but also with protecting the offender from himself.

    When I first read her statements about self-deceived deceivers, I had mixed reactions.

    April’s comment above ran through my mind:

    The question of whether abusers deceive themselves or not; I would say that yes, they do. Diane ought to clarify that this doesn’t mean they don’t know they are doing something wicked and it doesn’t make them victims.

    I agree with April in that that is a POSSIBILITY. I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s 100% impossible that abusers are not, and never are—-self-deceived. But the Bible never, ever even implies that that makes the sinner any less accountable for their sins. She should have made that 100% clear so there is no confusion.

    But on the whole, I stand with Barbara’s response. Abusers know exactly what they are doing. They use their lies like weapons of war. To hurt others. They choose their lies carefully in order to do the most damage, and what will ultimately achieve their goal: control, domination and absolute power over their victims.

    I was abused by my father, physically and verbally, for a long time. Yet I would still consider myself to be very much in the learning phase about the ins and outs of abuse. It is a very difficult issue to process, even if you have had experience in it.

    I personally think that we as Christians might have a strong tendency to feel some form of pity or compassion towards abusers, because in our minds, we see their sins as a form of a “sickness.”

    This is not as outlandish as it sounds. Sin is often described as a disease. It kills us from the inside out, and Jesus came as an “antidote” to cure us from what is slowly destroying us. We were slaves to sin, and He came to set us free in Him.

    When you go to an emergency room, it is usually the sickest person who gets ahead of others. They have the most pressing needs, so that is why the doctors need to see them first.

    Apply that “logic” (in quotes for obvious reasons) to abusers, and that MIGHT explain why they are given so much attention. They seem so “sick” because the “symptoms” (their sins of abuse) are so serious!

    The doctors are feverishly trying to diagnose them, trying to cure whatever ails them, trying to figure out why they are so sick in the first place.

    Apply this to abusers: “you must be mentally ill.” “You must be self-deceived (and didn’t know what you were doing so you aren’t really responsible).” “You must have a genetic disorder.” (Abusers might try to claim that they too were abused, so it’s really not their fault. Abuse was “passed down” to them somehow.) “You must be really insecure, so you push away those that are trying to love you. You don’t think you deserve their love.” “You’re stressed, miserable, and can’t stop what you’re doing even if you wanted to—-you are a victim of your own undoing.” “Oh, I see that you’re hurting. You’re crying. That too is a symptom of sin.” (Doing bad things makes you feel bad, right?)

    Meanwhile the victims are often left in the waiting room to wait their turn—-which almost never comes. They are the real patients that need tending to, yet so often the abuser is the one who gets all the attention.

    I was physically and verbally abused by my father. He too was given a lot of excuses and I was often blamed for the abuse. But I’ve had a chance to study my father a bit from a distance. Here is what I now see about him:

    If I can’t make anyone understand that what my dad did to me was evil, and no accident, and he was not careless—-fine. If those around me really want to believe he’s a “sick” man, then fine. Why don’t I take on that popular thinking, because obviously you won’t let it go.

    And then I will SHOW you how you’re wrong.

    Let’s say my dad (or abusers in general) is sick from a “spiritual cancer.” His sin is reaping the wages of death, so he is spiritually “killing” himself. Those who have cancer in the physical sense, we tend to feel sorry for them, right? We don’t toss them away and tell them to take care of themselves, right? No, we give the best care and treatment we can give, because we care. Because life is precious, and his person is precious to God.

    Here is the twist that almost everyone misses. Those that have cancer (in the bodily sense) do NOT have the right to “harvest” the healthy bodies of others—-in order to heal their own bodies and live. There is no justification for them to hurt and harm and destroy others around them and then claim that they did it to save themselves. Or, claim they did it because they are sick themselves and were desperate to be whole and healthy again.

    No one in their right minds would say that this was justifiable.

    I know that might not sound like a direct parallel to abuse. But when my dad was abusing me, sometimes I got that strong sense: he was “gorging” himself on my sense of worth and dignity to make himself feel more powerful. To make him feel good and strong and healthy. It did not matter that he was “bleeding” me dry of my own personal sense of humanity. It did not matter to him that he was taking out his troubles on me (stress was usually the excuse given for his abuse) so that he would feel unburdened. Light as air. Free as a bird, but it came at a high price—- putting me in a cage.

    He was never good at admitting his weaknesses, but I often got the sense that he really did feel insecure about himself. Unsure, lacking confidence, wondering if he really was successful in life. Blaming, shaming and basically reducing me to a puddle—-that was his way of making himself feel better by tearing me down—-and then assuring himself that at least he was far and away better than his loser of a daughter.

    My abuser acted like he hated me. And he did. To be fair, sometimes I wondered if he hated himself the most, and that was why he was incapable of loving me. Those that are full of hatred have no room or ability to give love to others. But instead of working on himself, he chose to work on ME instead—-taking away anything good in my life, good in my heart, any good feelings I ever had—-so he could feel fantastic about his own life. At my expense.

    Since I don’t really know if we can ever, ever stop making the church believe that abusers need “recovery” of some kind—-that is my answer to them. If you want to believe they are “sick,” fine. Go ahead. I have never been able to convince anyone otherwise, even if I have dared to share some of the worst memories I have. They may shock people, but they don’t necessarily make a difference in their thinking.

    But even with the premise that they are sick (or self-deceived or whatever), that does not mean it’s okay for them to target and prey on the healthy so that they may be “healed.” And that is what abuse does to its victims. To the abusers, they are expendable. Disposable. They bleed them dry, and then throw them away like trash.

    Interesting that Diane sort of alludes to this:

    We are not called to protect our institutions nor do we protect the name of the God of truth by covering up sin and / or a crime. To do so is to “protect” the cancer – and cancer kills.

    Yes, the CRIME (and sin) of abuse is a cancer. But never forget who is spreading and causing the cancer. It’s the abusers—-their sins of abuse are the cause. And for crying out loud—they have CAUSED it. They are making others sick around them with their sins.

    Bodily cancer can sadly come out of nowhere and there is not always a direct or discernible cause for it—-but this is different. There IS a cause, a person directly responsible for it.

    Get rid of them, and the cancer will (hopefully) be healed. At least, there is chance for healing. Cancer in bodily form is serious. As with abuse, recovery can be long and slow. And painful. And in the end, we are never quite the same.

    Again, even if you insist on calling THEM the “sick ones,” they still need to be be told to go away, and stop murdering the innocent. Stop pampering the abusers. Stop babying them. Stop insisting that they just need the “right” doctor or the “right” diagnoses and they will be on the road to recovery. That’s not how it works.

    Tend to the victims. Tend to the hurting. Tend to the ones who were told they were worthless, unlovable and disgusting. Tell them they are loved. Tell them they are not better off dead, or better off if they’d never existed. Tell them it wasn’t their fault. Tell them you are not going to leave them to wither and die in that ER waiting room, waiting and hoping that someone will call their name soon.

    • Believer

      I share much of your understanding of the pathology of abusers. Your comment reminded me of two blogs (besides this amazing one and a few others that have been of precious help to me) that have helped me understand how evildoers operate. I meant to share them before with you, Barbara, in case you have not come across them before and would be interested.

      [Note from Barb: I will check out the two sites Believer pointed me to but I don’t have time to do that right now. Please remember commenters: if you recommend other sites in your comment, your comment will remain in moderation for some time. See our Publishing Policy for further particulars.]

      I also think your comments in this post are excellent, Barbara, I really agree with you. Abusers know when they are doing evil. They don’t care; they even like to do it.

      The Bible does talk about people becoming blind as a judgment from God but I am thinking that it’s not that they’re blind to basic wrong and right (which is common sense, rules even the youngest children know). My thought is that due to their love and practice of sin they become blind to the reality of the impending judgment of God, and the Gospel.

      I think their common sense also does become perverted; but I don’t think they no longer know God’s decree of what is right and wrong. I think they are fully aware of the actual, right, true rules of justice and kindness. They just hate and oppose those rules. And I think they know very well they are standing in opposition to what God says. They just ardently, perversely hold to their self-sovereign “right” to define reality because they love their sin.

      This is my understanding, anyway, from my years of living-nightmare experiences plus all I have read.

      • I really appreciate what you said here, Believer:

        The Bible does talk about people becoming blind as a judgment from God but I am thinking that it’s not that they’re blind to basic wrong and right (which is common sense, rules even the youngest children know). My thought is that due to their love and practice of sin they become blind to the reality of the impending judgment of God, and the gospel.

        Your words help me. They squirrel into the cracks and crevices of what the God means when He talks out the “blindness” of sin.

    • Wow, Helovesme, I’ve just read your comment. It is brilliant.

      Thank you so much for articulating so beautifully where the cancer analogy breaks down.

      Here is my condensation of what you said. Abuse is like a cancer in the body of Christ. But unlike the organic disease of cancer, abuse is being caused by individuals who have souls —— individuals who are choosing to target and prey on others, who are treating their prey as expendable and bleeding them dry and throwing them away like trash.

      Furthermore, abuse is being enabled and condoned by the witting or unwitting allies of the individuals who choose to prey on others. Many of those people are unthinkingly following suit with the “triage” protocols in the waiting room.

      Most of our readers know I used to be a nurse. I worked in a provincial hospital and I worked on many different wards. Occasionally I did a shift in the Emergency Dept. When I worked in ED I was run off my feet and barely had time to view the people sitting in the waiting room.

      But sometimes at the end of my shift I left the hospital by walking through the ED waiting room. Sometimes I left by that route deliberately, to discreetly drop some Christian literature onto one of the seats or to put items about domestic abuse secular support services into the brochure racks that were on the walls. I well remember seeing the people sitting in that waiting area….and how tired they often were, how despairing they often looked.

      And it was easy to detect the people in the waiting room who had an air of entitlement — and how different they were from the people who were not swollen with their own entitlement but were just tired and sad and despondent because the triage system had been keeping them waiting for so long….

      • Helovesme

        Barb, you condensed it extremely well. Way better than how I said it for sure! And yes, NOW I recall you were a nurse—-so you absolutely saw things up close and personal as many of us probably have not.

        I have read complaints on Facebook (mostly?) about the comments being moderated. I may be one of the few that honestly does not mind that. I had to work very hard to type out that analogy, and find just the right words, because I didn’t want to convey anything that might be slanted or not straight forward. So I was glad that it would be dissected and carefully screened.

        Every story about abuse is unique. As is with bodily cancer—-there is no “one size fits all,” because there are different factors involved. Treatment may differ as well, because again, it all depends on the kind of cancer you have, your medical history, and how far your cancer is or isn’t advanced.

        Cancer is so awful because it has one goal in mind: to destroy anything healthy and functional within. It can attack different parts of the body, but the goal is still the same. It aims to take away, to kill and it’s very hard to get rid of.

        I once read a very interesting statement. The body of Christ is all about giving and serving. Any sort of “disease” like cancer that is present is NOT going to add anything good to a church body. It is only going to seek out and destroy to satisfy its own needs. And it only gets worse as it grows and gorges itself.

        While the victim might try to fight back and “beat” cancer, it’s a hard battle. Cancer is incredibly powerful, and relentless. Anyone who has had this disease will tell you that they relied on the love and support from those around them. I can’t imagine trying to fight something so serious all by yourself. The temptation would be to just give up and let the cancer have its way.

        So when we try to describe abuse, abusers and its victims—-we would do well to keep in mind that every situation will have its unique flavors. Every abuser has the same goal in mind—-to steal, kill and destroy—-but that doesn’t mean there is a “one size fits all” in how they operate.

        And the reactions of the victims too may be wide and diverse. I never turned to drugs, alcohol or sex to numb my pain. Others have, but I chose other ways to cope. But I can certainly relate (I hope) to all sorts of different survival techniques or coping mechanisms, even if I did not choose them myself. In the end, we were just trying to process the unimaginable.

        Victims also may not report or speak of their abuse for many different reasons. It may not have been based on fear or financial reasons—–it may be because they didn’t even know they were being abused! Or, they truly believed their abusers loved them, and deep denial and constant deception kept them anchored to their abusers.

        Think of Larry Nassar’s victims. Some of them DID try to tell the adults around them, but the adults failed them. So the abuse kept going as he victimized more and more innocent persons. Some of those girls were NOT silent or fearful—-they were brave and bold. And they tried to sound the alarm.

        I didn’t speak of my experiences because I was embarrassed. With my physical body, I really dislike going to doctors, even when I know I need to. So, imagine that I had a “cancer” eating me up inside, but I was too scared or ashamed to actually get some help. Or admit that I was “sick.” Since doctors don’t always have the best bedside manners, I was also afraid they’d mock or ridicule or minimize my pain somehow.

        Like so many real life cancer patients, they didn’t know they were sick until something showed up on their bodies, or in their routine blood work. That would be more along the lines of what I went through.

        I noticed real life consequences for not dealing with my trauma. I noticed that others around me were getting hurt, because I would get triggered and then senselessly lash out. I noticed that others were treating me much in the same ways my dad treated me, and as with him—-I had no idea how to deal with such things. I would try to be comforting and compassionate to others, but I did not know how to ask for those same things for myself. I was born again in Him, but I was missing out the “abundance” of life He promised in the Word.

        It takes a lot to admit you are sick, inside OR out. But the consequences of remaining silent and “submissive” (that too was my problem. I had no idea how to be submissive as the Bible truly intended it.) in letting this “cancer” called abuse destroy me—-was not what He intended for me.

    • Annie

      Abusers ARE self-deceived. The non-“C”hristian ones, I mean. They’re deceived, in that, they think there will be no consequences. They’re deceived in thinking that they won’t get caught. If they have the evil pre-meditated schemes, they ARE deceived in their thinking that what they are doing is OK. They are deceived in their thinking that if they “look” like the wheat, no one will detect that they are tares, etc. The are deceived when they think (believe the lie) that they are not to blame for their actions (read Lundy Bancroft for all the excuses they make for themselves). I think that Diane is OK in using the general terms like she does, in the context of her message. Satan is a schemer, but he is also deceived.

      • Helovesme

        Hi, Annie, I read your comment yesterday and gave it some thought.

        I still stand with Barb’s words about the danger of labeling abusers as self-deceived, without more context and clarity added.

        The reason why is because the label “self-deceived” is a serious one, and it basically means that we know the workings of an abuser’s mind. But we are not mind readers. So we assume that he or she is suppressing the reality of whatever he or is doing—-and is self-deceived.

        I’m an American. In our court system, there are varying degrees of murder that an accused can be charged with. The highest and more serious charge—is murder with intent to kill. It carries a very high penalty, because it’s cold-blooded, calculated murder. Such a person is extremely dangerous to the public, and needs to be treated as such.

        Intent to kill is VERY hard to prove. You would have to display how the mind of the accused was working, and present evidence that would prove your claims. It even goes beyond proving a motive for murder. Motivation to murder is not the same as an intention to murder.

        Applying this narrative to abusers, their intent to deceive others for the cold-blooded purpose of harming them might be hard to prove. It may be presented that the abuser has a warped and twisted mind, and needs therapy to undo all the knots in their head.

        That may be more palatable to prove—-and it might even give the victim (if it’s the spouse) false hope that their marriage can be salvaged. If my abuser was self-deceived, maybe he or she will have an “a-ha” moment and come back home all fixed up.

        We would be more willing to help those we feel are self-deceived. We would probably NOT say the same thing about someone who is a cold-blooded killer.

        No doubt that abusers ARE guilty of having a warped and twisted mind. But I am of the personal belief that abusers simply don’t care. They are so focused on having power over others—-that nothing else matters to them. I highly doubt they even care about all the people they have hurt. The word “consequences” is not in their vocabulary.

        That may not spell out “intent to kill,” but I also don’t think that spells out “self-deceived,” either. A seared conscience is not self-deception. There IS no conscience to work with, in order to “save him or her from himself.”

        And the church is all about preaching the message of salvation. It is one of the reasons why I believe the church is so drawn to trying to help abusers. God said He came to save even the worst of humanity—-and here is an opportunity to prove that He really can reach even the unreachable. It makes a great testimony, a great encouragement to the church and Christians in general, and it makes for a great way to “glorify God.”

        I personally do not like the self-deception argument (applied so liberally) because victims too may be self-deceived. They may truly believe that their abuser is not evil, or that harm is being inflicted on them.

        But what “works” for the abuser is often turned around on the victim: “your abuser was self-deceived and wasn’t fully aware of the harm he or she was doing. However, you were the one being harmed—why couldn’t you see that?

        You chose to stay, so you must have thought he or she was a safe person to be with. But your abuser was hurting you constantly. How can you claim you were self-deceived and really believed the lies—that he or she would change, that you are loved, that it was all your fault anyway, etc. etc.”

        One of my fears when we (hopefully) start believing victims, is that we will simply use their stories to berate them. It will turn into: “we believe you, but you have no one but yourself to blame for not leaving sooner, or at all. You chose to be deceived by a master manipulator who sincerely believed his or her own lies (again, giving the abuser a “break”)—-so we can’t give you much comfort or compassion.”

        My analogy below, speaking of emergency rooms and the waiting area—-has another element to it that I realized:

        Often it’s not the sickest and most wounded persons that get seen. It might be the ones who are screaming the loudest. Making the the most noise and loudly declaring that they are in so much pain, they need attention right away. No one else deserves to go before them—they must be tended to. It is easy to assume that if they are so vocal, they must be in real pain.

        Picture a person with a knife wound who is sitting in a chair as this person is yelling their heads off. That person is quietly applying pressure to their wound, and even though they are in dire pain—they don’t choose to scream about it—-or if they tried, they are being out-screamed by this other person!

        So the docs take the screamer to the back room. Turns out he only has a small cut on his hand. How did he get it? Well, he is the husband of the stabbed woman still sitting out there. He was the one who stabbed her. He cut his hand while handling the knife, so he believes he is the victim and must get all the attention.

        When the docs try to explain that that is horrible, wrong and frankly—insane—-he just sits there. The docs even go further, like trying to speak to a child—“that it’s wrong to hurt others and even wronger to believe you are the victim in all this.”

        The docs might believe that he just needs more time and more explaining to undo how he is thinking (he really believes he is the victim!) So the docs try to explain things to him for hours. HOURS. They will call in other docs, psychologists, experts in the field.

        Not for a second realizing that they are playing right into his hands. Abusers love undeserved attention. They love being the center of things. They love everyone surrounding them, pitying and pandering to them.

        Meanwhile, it’s unlikely the victim will get even one tenth of that sort of attention. And bear in mind—once she IS seen—it too might take a panel of persons to explain to her that her husband is dangerous. He is evil. He is not a safe person to be around. She might try to protest that he didn’t mean it, or that it was her fault somehow, or that he is a sick man who needs all the attention (more than what he is already getting?).

        My abuser (my dad) is a complicated person. I spent WAY too long trying to dissect why he did what he did to me—-time better focused on HEALING from what he had done to me.

        To be fair, it has helped to get SOME small insights into why he abused me—-but I am not a judge, jury or lawyer trying to prove intent or lack thereof. Or, trying to get him the highest penalty possible so that he will pay for what he’s done. I’m not qualified or able to get into my dad’s mind and prove to everyone that he is or isn’t cold-blooded.

        Sometimes court cases drag out for a LONG time, for various reasons. I have no interest in camping out in a “courtroom” for all that time, trying to have my day in court.

        Frankly, I highly doubt anyone will take my testimony seriously, because more than likely—-my dad’s excuses or sob stories or self-pitying gestures will take up all the attention AND sympathy available.

        Because my dad is a parent, any parents in that courtroom will likely empathize, even in a small part, as to the very real difficulties of raising children. Most of the people in that room won’t deny that they too have “lost their cool” when dealing with their unruly kids. It may not occur to them that that is NOT necessarily what abuse is all about, but that is not how the case will be presented.

        Also, even if intent to hurt me was proven—arguments might come up about my dad’s own difficult upbringing, that he too was abused, or he never felt loved so he had no idea how to give love. Or, that he is just following how his own parents raised him so it was no big deal to abuse me. So he is now a “product” of his own environment, or that his own childhood created a monster. A monster who simply did what was taught to him. It will again deflect to HIS so-called trauma, so it’s not that he is in prison via self-deceptions—-he was imprisoned by lies from those who came before him.

        So that is why I am still standing with Barb and her comments. Self-deception is hard to diagnose, hard to prove and even harder to cure, if that is even a possibility.

        One more thing about the victim possibly being self-deceived as well. Bear in mind that any sort of deception means you are living in some form of darkness. The deeper it goes, the darker it gets. It is not impossible for the Lord to pull such victims out and rescue them, but it does get more and more difficult as the victim descends deeper and deeper into whatever lies they are buying into. And an abuser NEVER runs out of ways to entangle those they are victimizing.

        Whenever the Lord DOES shine His light and brings out what has been hiding for so long to the victims—it should be a time of rejoicing. Even though it is very hard and humbling to realize you were IN that darkness for so long. It is a real miracle that the Lord was able to rescue them before things got even worse.

        Often it is NOT a time of gladness. We put the victim on trial instead of the abuser. More than likely the abuser will rant and rave about the injustice and unfairness of it all. The victim might try to tell her side, but it is often drowned in the spotlight-stealing arrogance of the abuser. And sadly, again—-we often give all the attention to the one is the loudest, not the most wounded.

        Diane said something about “loving the abuser,” and I have no problem with that. If we love the abuser, we will STOP feeding into their sense of entitlement or claims that THEY are the victims in all of this. It is not love to endorse or enable them or even pity them to a certain point.

        The furthest I would go is to say to a “weeping” abuser: “I’m sorry you feel that way, but you have no one to blame but yourself. If you think you need real, professional help then by all means, do so. If you can’t see or know or understand that what you did was evil, it’s not my job to convince you. I don’t even know if I can. But we’re focused on the victim’s needs, the family and whatever support and encouragement is needed.”

      • Thank you for this superb comment, Helovesme. I wish I could find more words to honour what you’ve taken the time and trouble to write, but at the moment I am still just sitting in respect for your comment, how articulate and well-nuanced it was.

      • Helovesme

        Thank you. That means a great deal to me. Frankly I find your attention to detail and articulation is rubbing off on me, so thank you!

      • I am so heartened to hear this, Helovesme.

      • I believe that attention to detail and articulation are pretty important qualities for advocates to have.

        There are down-sides in being a writer who shows attention to detail and seeks to articulate things carefully. Such writing takes time, and it often requires more words to get one’s message across. Readers who don’t want to or don’t have the time to read and think things though carefully, tend to tune out. Or, if they tune in, they do so erratically and they may form quick judgements (negative judgements) on one’s words.

        Some can’t be bothered to stretch their brains. Some don’t have time because they’re attending to their family responsibilities or health and safety issues. Some have been so traumatised that they can easily read a word or a phrase that the writer used and get reminded (consciously or subconsciously) of traumatic memories and find a cloud of emotions coming up so they can’t apply their (otherwise good) capacities for comprehension and analysis to the carefully articulated words of the writer.

      • Annie


        Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
        This is SO helpful.
        I couldn’t say it better than Barbara, so here’s my quote from her:

        Thank you for this superb comment, Helovesme. I wish I could find more words to honour what you’ve taken the time and trouble to write, but at the moment I am still just sitting in respect for your comment, how articulate and well-nuanced it was.

  7. Sister


    Thank you for this post and all you do for victims. I’m glad you point out where wording sometimes has unintended consequences. I appreciate both you and the community of victims / survivors who comment here / share their experiences. I am moved / encouraged by you all! Thanks!

  8. Kind of Anonymous

    I was thinking about that line between problematic behaviour and when it crosses over into abuse, and how hard it can be to decide which “treatment option” is the appropriate one. I remembered a story I heard on a Christian program. It seems a believing lady had a hateful mean man for a neighbor. He was always cranky, and complaining about her kids, her chickens getting into his yard, etc.

    One day he found her chickens had gotten out and were in his garden. Never mind that they were likely doing his garden good by eating all the bugs. So he decided to wring their necks and throw them back over the fence into her yard. She found them and was understandably upset. She took them into the house, dressed them and turned them into chicken pot pies. She then took one of them over to her miserable neighbor and gave him one for supper. He was humbled and responded to the gospel because of her choice to return good instead of evil. Her kindness softened his heart.

    We are bombarded with stories like this one but they are always told for certain reasons. They are told to make a point the speaker wishes to make to get people to behave a certain way that he or she deems in line with the gospel. They are often told in isolation and without further instruction as if following Jesus is always a wonderful experience and the true obedient Christian is always well-received and gains a good outcome in every interaction. Which is a steaming pile of manure and hardly scriptural.

    I could imagine that if the neighbor had NOT responded to her act of kindness in the face of his unnecessarily cruel act but continued to be abusive and evil and to reject the gospel witness she was giving him, she could “wipe the dust off her feet” [Paraphrase of Matthew 10:14.] and accept that his “no” meant “no”. I remember noticing once that it says in the Bible that when Jesus entered a town that would not receive Him, He went on His way. It struck me as having a different thrust to it than what I was usually hearing in church circles.

    The happily ever after stories we are told in church would have us endlessly trying to make silk purses out of sow’s ears no matter how much the sow might protest out of the fear that if we don’t we have disobeyed Jesus and failed to be like Him! Jesus clearly did not feel He had to stick around trying to convince people He was worth their time and response though He was certainly willing to receive all who came to Him.

    • EmmKay

      This is so SPOT ON! Thank you for your response!

      Indeed, I believe that these kinds of “stories” are merely manufactured in order to drive emotions of those listening in a certain direction, which is nothing more than spiritual manipulation—a form of emotional abuse.

    • Helovesme

      EmmKay that response is right on. I read the previous comment by KofA but did not have time to comment, but that story stayed with me.

      Just wanted to second that response—-I was more shocked than anything at the story, so words were hard to find. But yours very much echo my sentiments!

  9. Artina

    I really appreciate these comments. I struggle with the concepts described here, forgiveness and how it relates to justice (not vengeance), setting boundaries, learning to beware of dangerous religious people posing as helpers.

    Two significant abusers (husband and father) in my life are no longer living, but I still struggle in processing the memories, what happened and what was “the best that could be done” response that I could’ve given?

    A huge step in my healing process, in regards to my husband, was gaining physical and emotional distance from him (he was not a physical abuser). I think that the “loyalty” part of my personality wants to find the good and honor that. I think I read a Christian author that suggested this [finding the good an honouring it] as the way forward, and my spirit is / was easy with this. I’ve tried to do that, I think, and I have memories of steps / words I spoke that seemed kind. (A lot of other times….not so kind, but rather reacting.) But in terms of telling the truth, the whole truth, the trauma, well, that’s not in that respected Christian author’s suggestion.

    I think that author’s suggestion is more fitting after a place of distance from the physical and emotional abuser is achieved. No one is entitled to have human “props” in their life helping them play out the false image that they want the world to see. And for church leaders to teach and facilitate community in such a way to maintain “props” for pervasively disingenuous spouses, and / or for their take on social order patriarchal norms or keeping a narcissistic supply of admiration and honor going for people who do not believe in the Golden Rule is….disturbing. I purposely chose not to be a cheerleader when I was in high school even though it had been a family tradition. The world had made progress and the offering of female sports had come on the scene and I chose the joy of playing the sports myself instead. It made so much more sense.

    I appreciate, Barb, your critique of the “experts” gathering to address abuse issues. I’ve watched a few of Diane’s videos and would not want to spend any more time leaning on her words if she does not include emotional abuse as a significant enough case to consider. A RC marriage counselor that worked with my husband and I, said to me during an individual session that emotional abuse is (can’t remember the exact word, may have been “worse”, but he was implying that it’s significant, I think) because it’s hidden but very damaging.

    With the rest of my days, I don’t want to waste time leaning into listening to leaders or the pew people who relish in telling false stories of difficult cases where the abuser was changed by a significant other enduring their abuse and modeling kindness and closeness with them forever. Thank you, KoA ,for calling those stories what they are, “manure and hardly scriptural!”

    • Hi Artina, thanks for your comment. We do have some of Diane’s videos in our Resources list. But only some. What I find so frustrating / disappointing about her work is that she teaches some things really well (e.g. the phenomenon of narcissistic leaders in the church). But for me, the shortfalls in some of her phraseology and ideas are like flies in the ointment that detract from the otherwise good things she says. And it would be relatively simple for her to make corrections on those things.

  10. Annie

    Hi Barbara,

    Your (only) question to Diane about whether she would like to have feedback, was indeed, answered. Subsequently, you presumed (perhaps wrongly) that she would respond to your forthcoming emails. It seems like a normal presumption; however, I think this blog may provide the answer to the reasons that Diane is not responding to your email/s. Therefore, I would be careful to (not) presume that her lack of response is due to arrogance or any similar reason.

    A Letter to My Twitter Followers [Internet Archive link]

    • Hi Annie, I am aware of the letter Diane wrote to her Twitter followers. I read it when it first came out. Here is the time line:

      I tweeted a few times, maybe two or three, in response to tweets Diane had initiated. I questioned / challenged her wording. She had used the word “we” as if it applied universally to all of us, but what she said “we” all did / thought did not apply to me. So I challenged her on that wording. People pushed back at me instantly on Twitter, it was like I’d poked a sacred cow. Some of them suggested to me that I contact Diane privately with my feedback. So I decided to follow their advice.

      While I was carefully drafting my email to Diane in which I would give her my feedback, she published A Letter to My Twitter Followers [Internet Archive link]. It took me quite some time to draft my email. I was very careful to give quotes from her work to illustrate each of my points. Many of the quotes I gave as screen shots, with hyperlinks to the original words she has published on the web. Some of the quotes I gave were from her book “Suffering and the Heart of God”. I praised her for what I saw as good points she was making. I praised her for some good video presentations she has done. And I gave her constructively critical feedback on what I thought were problematic things she had said.

      After drafting my email, I sent her a brief email asking if I could email her my feedback, and if so, which was the best address to use. She replied promptly, saying I could email her my feedback, and advising me which address to send it to.

      So I emailed her my carefully written feedback, and never heard back.

      I recognise that she was under no obligation to read my feedback or reply to me. Just because she told me I could send it to her, didn’t mean she was promising to read it or reply to it.

    • And Annie, I appreciate you pointing to Diane’s letter to her Twitter followers, because some of our other readers may have also been thinking about it. 🙂

  11. Finding Answers

    I am SO enjoying reading and learning from the comments Barb’s original post generated.

    Thank you, everyone, for your contributions. 🙂

    • Gany T.

      I feel the same way, Finding Answers.

      I specifically want to second Barb’s appreciation for Helovesme’s comment on 9th March, 12:03 pm which I think knocks it out of the park – about another perspective on labeling abusers as self-deceived; the difficulty of proving intent; further points on the analogy of ERs and the waiting room, specifically with [the] knife incident of the screamer and the true victim. Excellent!

      (I wish I could have nested it under the comment for clarity, but can’t.)

      • Helovesme

        Gany T., thank you and yes, sometimes I have to make sure I click on the right “reply” button, or if there is not one—then to go from there.

        Barb really does set a good example for us in terms of her careful work and attention to detail. I fall into the “guilty as charged” when she spoke of the need to carefully read and think things through, rather than try to “speed read!”

        She was also very kind in recognizing the time limits we may or may not have.

        My memory, sense of focus and concentration have suffered badly over the last few years. So that too plays into my life and obviously impacts how I read and break things down.

        In America, the discussion about abuse is about as uncomfortable (and often unwanted) as the issue of race (aka skin color and ethnicity). There tends to be a LOT of strong emotions, rampant divisiveness and utter ignorance AND arrogance. It is not too dissimilar from the discussion and even the definitions of abuse.

        To this day I’m not sure if we know how to define “racism,” but you would think by this time in modern history, we would be further along? Especially since we have a lot of history we can study from and learn from, lest we be doomed to repeat it.

        I am not Caucasian, so I’ve always stood out in a country where the majority of people are white. I’ve also survived a childhood of abuse. Neither of my experiences have made me an expert in either of those areas.

        In fact, I cringe at much of my OWN ignorance and lack of education. Of all people, you would think I know better—-but I honestly had and still have a lot of growing to do. Though I was sincere, I was truly senseless.

        So the discussions about race and abuse really do run parallel. If we try to remember what Barb brought up (attention to detail is vital when dealing with such significant and sensitive issues)—-perhaps things will improve.

        You can’t take a hammer and a bunch of nails and expect a whole house to be built in one day. You put one nail in at a time, and slowly but surely the house will be built. It’s painstaking work, but worth it, if you care about the overall quality and structure of that house.

        It works the same way when you are trying to dismantle a condemned house that needs to come down. You use a hammer and pull out each nail, one a time—-and it’s slow and frustrating. But eventually, that dilapidated pile of boards will come apart.

        If someone DID try to ask me about race and / or abuse—I would do my best to express myself, but very carefully choose my words. And, I would hopefully now set very clear lines in the sand that I am very limited in my knowledge. One slip of the tongue and I fear the damage it might understandably cause.

        A very good example is when Jules Woodson came forth about what her former pastor did to her, sexually. She told the higher ups what had happened, and the pastor suggested that she had been complicit.

        Now, I was mortified by that. I wonder if he truly had no clue as to the MAJOR error in word choice, not to mention that he was effectively blaming her for something that was 100% not her fault.

        I’m also very shocked at how churches so easily disregard secular laws. Either they really don’t know what the law says, or they really seem to think that they are above the “laws of man.” In America, each state differs in how their laws are set up—-but it’s fairly across the board what is and is not a sex crime. And if by chance, you do not know what the law says, then you don’t have the right to a congregation until you find out.

      • Artina

        I am continuing to go over the comments on this post with appreciation. Also, I agree that Helovesme’s comment on 3/9 12:03 pm is excellent!

  12. Jenny Lynn Hubbard

    It seems that the issue is a theological one, as well as a practical one. Practically speaking, we do not want to use any language that tells the victim, “Poor thing. He can not help it. We do not want to slander him or assume we know his motive. We do not know what he has been through.”

    That puts the victim in the position of being a sacrificial lamb. We have not needed any more of those since Jesus laid down His life for us. It also elevates the “suffering” of the abuser above the real suffering of the victim, while excusing his behavior. Where is the justice in that? Yes, grace and mercy are foundational to the Christian faith, but there must first be justice before there can be mercy.

    How did Jesus speak to those who deliberately harmed others? How has scripture instructed us to handle relational wrongdoing? Where do we see Jesus rebuking someone, listening to their excuses, explaining all the “whys” the dude is doing what he is doing, and telling the victim to be patient while we wait for grace to do its work and bring the dude around? No, He used some really hard language with those who whitewashed themselves and put heavy burdens on others. Yes, they were deceiving themselves, but He still called them a bunch of snakes, and He holds them accountable.

    In church discipline, when carried out to its completion, the person who does not repent is sent out from the body of the church. It takes a couple of years to tell whether an abuser has actually repented. I have yet to hear the story of a person who professed to be a Christian, was a controlling abuser, went through church discipline, genuinely repented, and is now living at peace with and loving his wife. If there are testimonies such as that, I want to hear them….from the wives. I have no delusions that the dude’s life turned around because he figured out why he had been lying to himself all those years.

    It seems to me that wolves in sheep’s clothing are to be dealt with differently than lost sheep. In our enthusiasm for evangelism, we think we can counsel the heart of a wolf until it throws off the fleece and grows its own. That looks nothing like the warnings Paul gives the church about wolves.

    I am glad that we have the observations from the counseling field that have given us terms such as sociopathic narcissist and psychopath. However, I am concerned that the church has allowed false doctrine to creep into our midst. Instead of clinging to the doctrine of the depravity of man, we have accepted the Rogerian theory that we are not all flawed. Rather than dealing with the sin in our heart, we are tempted to find the “good” in everybody (after all, we don’t want to judge). That is not how we come to Jesus. We come to Him when we are brought face to face with our wicked sin and recognize that we are sinning against a holy, righteous, merciful, loving, and redeeming God.

  13. Charis

    I will acknowledge up front that my comment here may not be well-liked. I apologize.

    Here are my observations:
    The title of Diane’s article is “Recommendations for Churches Dealing with Abuse.” When I read that title the first thing that springs to mind is clergy abuse to minors and / or perpetrators discovered on the premises. Perhaps also, clergy abuse to women. As I read her article, indeed, it seemed to be written specifically from that frame of reference.

    To be honest, when I first read the article – I missed the title completely and as I was reading I kept thinking….this feels slanted toward churches dealing with potential scandal or those where a victim has stepped forward (parents of a child abused in [a] nursery or a teen molested at camp). Indeed, the themes and words of child, children, family, clergy were repeatedly used whereas I cannot recall a mention of spouse, wife, marriage or intimate partner. “Adult” was used only one time. I think this is telling.

    Even Diane’s 13 recommendations are all specifically geared toward such a crisis of child abuse within the church. When I scrolled back to the top I saw the title and nodded. Yes, she has developed a piece geared for these types of incidents.

    This all fits with the bulk of Diane’s professional line of work: trauma and specifically childhood trauma as it relates to impact over the lifespan. I’m not saying that Diane doesn’t have valuable insight into intimate partner abuse and the trauma impact from those relationships. I just think this specific article had a different focus.

    As it pertains to your question regarding types of abuse, Diane mentions:
    General Principal #3:

    ….with rape, domestic violence, verbal abuse and with clergy or counselor sexual abuse….

    Recommendation #2:

    ….any form of neglect or abuse (sexual, verbal or emotional)….

    I can have a tendency to read a title and infer a particular meaning – such as this one. Many of us on this blog have been part of the church, abused by our partner and sought assistance, advice and safety from our church leaders only to be further victimized and shunned. I can see where such a title (like this one) might inspire hope that finally a reputable source has written something we can stand behind. However, I think this particular title is directed toward a slightly different audience. Perhaps she will write an article in the future addressing partner abuse?

    And, I don’t think I would read too much into Diane’s silence toward you. I imagine she is extraordinarily busy and wouldn’t want to hazard a guess at how many emails she gets a day (much less a week!) nor how many she is able to effectively read and respond to in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

    Thank you for your continued efforts on the blog.

    • Yes, Charis, you may well be right that Diane’s article “Recommendations for Churches Dealing with Abuse” was primarily written from the frame of reference of clergy abuse to minors and / or perpetrators discovered on the premises, and, perhaps also, clergy abuse to women.

      If that is so, I still have a problem with her lack of clarity about which frame of reference (which types of abuse) she was talking about.

      As it was, she mentioned domestic violence and verbal abuse in passing, so her focus was a bit broader. I can understand that she might have felt it was appropriate to mention domestic violence and verbal abuse, but the way she mentioned those things left the victims of those things in partial shadow and helped perpetuate the myth that it’s only REAL domestic abuse if there is physical violence.

      I agree with you that Diane is probably extraordinarily busy. I reminded myself of that many many times, in the months after I sent her my feedback email. She may indeed have not read my email, and I won’t hold it against her if time constraints and overload of work is the reason she has not read it. At the same time, I thought it was reasonable for me to remind her about my email and ask her why she had not responded to it. But I recognise that she is under no obligation to answer that question either!

      At the moment, she is probably very busy working with the ChurchCares team to put together the video series they are preparing. 🙂

      This series of mine about ChurchCares and the comments the series is generating will, I hope, be an additional resource for those who watch the ChurchCares videos. Victims / survivors of abuse may find my series particularly helpful. If they watch the ChurchCares videos and have a little niggling sense that something one of the presenters said is NQR (not quite right), they can check out my series to see if my insights help them understand what that niggle was all about.

      And of course, some people will disagree with my insights — and that’s okay! I have really appreciated the comments on this particular post that have challenged me on whether and in what way abusers are or are not self-deceived.

  14. Charis

    Diane’s video “Power, Deception and the Church” is a much larger expansion of her article. I think it reveals more of her heart and her expertise. She further expands upon the types of abuse and power and describes in depth what she means by the abuser being self-deceived.

    She does reference intimate partner abuse; however, her focus is still largely church abuse – clergy abuse and sexual abuse within the church which is her primary area of professional expertise in trauma.

    The video is 35 min. Power, Deception, and the Church

    • Thanks for contributing this to the discussion, Charis. 🙂

    • Artina

      This video does seem like good information to me. I also appreciate Charis’ comment about her thoughts on Diane’s area of focus. That is helpful to consider in order to not get confused and read into the information hope that all types of pervasive, unrepentant abuse will be acknowledged and efforts made to correct the bad ideas and teaching regarding marriage and parenting that creates a friendly environment for abuse.

    • Artina

      Since quotes of Elie Wiesel are used in the video I just want to mention a couple that are notable to me that are not in the video.

      Here’s my favorite [Internet Archive link] Ellie Wiesel quote:

      Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.

      Also at an earlier time on my journey I noticed [Internet Archive link] his quote:

      Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.

      [May 15 2022: We added the links to the Elie Wiesel quotes quoted by Artina. The Internet Archive links are copies of those links. Editors.]

      • Helovesme

        Those are wonderful quotes, Artina. Both of them have a lot to chew on!

        In the Word, the relationship between two human beings that I most want to emulate in my own life is NOT a married couple, and not the fictional romance as portrayed in Song of Solomon. The latter is quite lovely, by the way—I don’t mean to minimize it.

        It’s the relationship between David and Jonathan that sets the best example for me, personally, about Biblical love and what it means to love and be loved by someone (again, completely non-romantic or sexual).

        They were best friends, brothers in law, fellow warriors—and both of them could arguably claim to be the “rightful” heir to be king.

        They easily could have chosen to become fierce rivals and engage in intense competition for that choice spot.

        Jonathan was the son of the current king and could easily claim that the power was “his” to have, but David had been anointed and chosen by the Lord to be the future king.

        However, out of love for the Lord AND each other—this never happened. Instead, they fought FOR each other, not against one another.

        I am of the personal belief that Biblical marriages are being portrayed more as a competition versus closeness. It’s about who has the power over the other, and who does or doesn’t have more or less “rightful” claim, one over the other.

        Instead of building one other up in Him, it is about clipping his or her wings—making sure your partner stays “grounded” for good. Supposedly it is in the only way to maintain order and control in a marriage, but the Lord would completely disagree. His desire is that married or not—we are meant to soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31).

        If marriage is all about becoming and being “one” with one another, the narrative I described will do nothing but defeat that Biblical purpose. If your partner is not your friend (the Bible indicates that friendship is the greatest form of love), then becoming “one” with such a person is not only going to be difficult, but virtually impossible.

        David and Jonathan, if one or both were alive today—-and we asked them why they weren’t rivals for the position of such power and authority—I imagine that they would have been shocked at such a question.

        When you love someone, competing with that person is not an option. It is completely off the table. Neither of them seemed to even have an inkling that they should hate one another, and do everything possible to push one another out of the way.

        For them, the so-called need and greed power was not in the picture. They seemed to understand that sacrificing their closeness was not worth such a goal.

        By the way, this is David BEFORE he committed those terrible crimes. Not drawing those episodes into this picture, since they occurred later on in his life.

        I often wish Jonathan had lived to become a part of David’s court. I have often wondered if things might have gone differently for David once he ascended to the throne—-had Jonathan been by his side. We’ll never know of course, but now and then I wonder.

      • Artina

        Thank you, Helovesme, for your insights on the relationship / friendship of Jonathan and David and your thoughts on church teaching on marriage missing the mark. Your pointing out that David and Jonathan both had claims to the throne is not something I noticed before but strikes me as a significant point now. And wondering what it would have been like if Jonathan had lived and been a part of David’s court is a beautiful consideration, to have a friend always.

        In regards to what I’ve sometimes heard in church settings: married women saying “my husband completes me”. I find that disturbing, not that “one another” does not apply. But I relate better to Alan Johnson’s statements about marriage:

        It’s not that 1/2 + 1/2= 1 but rather 1+1=3.

    • Hi Charis,
      I watched Diane’s video Power, Deception and the Church. I was keen to know who her audience was, so I did a bit of digging and found she gave it as the plenary address to an AACC (The American Association of Christian Counselors) conference. Therefore most of her audience would have been Christian Counselors.

      I have transcribed 11:35–13:45 of the video. In that part, Diane said:

      The abuse of power involves three things: the deception of self, the deception of others, and then the coercion of others based on those deceptions. The person who abuses power is a deceived person. The abuse of power requires deadening our ability to discern good and evil. It’s very scary. Self-deception works in concert with temptation, and we convince ourselves of the rightness of actions that in fact are wrong. We use deception to say that external circumstances justify what we are doing, and of course a classic example is domestic violence – “I hit her because she….”

      Self-deception functions in human beings as a narcotic, numbing us to the damage and danger of our choices. And if we engage in such delusion long enough, we will over time, lose our taste for good and our power to hate evil. We silence the power of God in our lives, but the problem of course, is that sin will hurt us. And once we begin removing our taste for good and our power to hate evil, we only habituate what causes deadness to our souls. As deception become a way of life then evil can be easily practised by an increasingly dead soul that then becomes presumptuous and planning and actively participating.

      Listen to this quote from a novel called The Thicket by Joe Lansdale: “To some extent,” he says, “I find sin like coffee. When I was young and had my first taste of it I found it bitter and nasty. But later on I learned to like it by pouring a little milk in it. And then I learned to like it black. Sin is like that. You sweeten it a little with lies, and then you get so you can take it straight.”

      For me, the key points she makes about self-deception are these:

      The abuse of power requires deadening our ability to discern good and evil….And if we engage in such delusion long enough, we will over time, lose our taste for the good and our power to hate evil….As deception become a way of life then evil can be easily practised by an increasingly dead soul that then becomes presumptuous and planning and actively participating.

      My thoughts:

      She does in the end mention the abuser’s intentionality, but she depicts this as coming only after the abuser has been deceiving himself for some time. This is contrary to what Don Hennessy says about men who abuse their partners being intentional from day one.

      She seems to be assuming a bit too much about the abuser having originally had the ability to discern good from evil. Admittedly there is some biblical basis for this: God created each human being with a conscience. However, ever since the Fall every human being (not counting Jesus) is born with original sin, so their conscience is not going to be perfectly able to discern good from evil because of the bias towards sin. My question is, how much is Diane assuming that those who end up becoming abusers had a good conscience at the beginning? How much is she assuming that those who end up becoming abusers did not chose evil very early on in their lives?

      To my mind, Diane seems to be assuming too much that the self-justification scripts which abusers use when justifying their misbehaviour to others, are scripts that the abusers themselves believe. This is where I differ from Diane. I suspect, nay, I believe, that in the majority of cases the self-justification scripts that abusers use are simply LIES they tell to others to fight against having to take responsibility for their evildoing. I am not persuaded by Diane’s notion that the abusers believe their own self-justifying lies — that abusers are self-deceived.

      Maybe there are a few abusers who are self-deceived, who truly do believe their own lies, but I think they are rare. My gut feeling is that the typical abuser is FULLY aware of the fact that he is lying to others about what is really going on in his mind.

      I suspect that Diane has been somewhat deceived by abusers who have strategically given her the impression that they are self-deceived. If I am right, this would explain why Diane gives the impression to her audience that we should sort of ‘pity’ the abuser and we should protect him from himself.

      One last thought: in that video, Diane only tangentially alluded to the abusers ignoring the reality of the Final Judgement that awaits them if they do not repent.

  15. Finding Answers

    Barb commented:

    There are down-sides in being a writer who shows attention to detail and seeks to articulate things carefully….


    I am learning to live with myself as God created me, my attention to detail pervading many aspects of my life. I am learning the value of these traits, though the process takes time and requires refocusing the lens with which I view myself. The past ridicule. The past insults. The past names I was called. These things need to be removed from my vocabulary.

    Helovesme commented:

    I agree with April in that that is a POSSIBILITY. I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s 100% impossible that abusers are not, and never are–self-deceived. But the Bible never, ever even implies that that makes the sinner any less accountable for their sins. She should have made that 100% clear so there is no confusion.


    There are those who think an abuser deceives himself / herself with respect to facing consequences. On this side of eternity, NONE of my abusers have faced / will face consequences for their treatment of me. And SOME of my abusers don’t believe they will face any consequences when they come face-to-face with God – or if, indeed, they have considered coming face-to-face with Him.

    God creates with attention to detail.

    He is teaching me the details.

  16. Speaking of the cancer analogy, Jimmy Hinton published a post yesterday where he said some excellent things about the cancer analogy and how we should be applying it in the church. Here is an excerpt, but after reading this I suggest you read the whole of Jimmy’s post Abusers look for opportunities more than vulnerabilities [Internet Archive link]

    Cancer cells in the body are impostors. They are much like normal cells in the body, but the difference is that cancer cells continue to divide, masquerading as normal cells while wreaking havoc on the cells that actually are normal. I’m not a doctor and don’t pretend to be one but oncologists, to my knowledge, never attempt to rehabilitate cancer cells and turn them back into normal ones. Rather, oncologists know the imminent danger these impostor cells pose and the goal is to identify and remove them as quickly and completely as possible. Can you imagine an oncologist using the same philosophy as most churches today? “Let’s not judge. Forgive and move on. All cells are welcome in this body. Reconcile in Jesus’ name. Let’s all be together. Please don’t call them cancer cells; they’ve repented. We’ll allow these cells here in the main part of the body, we just won’t let them in the children’s corner. We’ll keep an eye on them.” Such a response would be embarrassingly ridiculous. Yet this has become the norm for how churches respond to abuse.

    Some may take issue with this analogy and think that if we take this approach with abusers there would be nothing to stop us from taking the same approach with all sinners. After all, we all sin and fall short of the glory, right? But we are not talking about sinners like you and me. We are talking about people who intentionally and serially deceive and masquerade as one of us when they are not. The Bible uses all kinds of terms to describe this class of sinner: wolves, false prophets, dogs, thorn bushes, thistles, animals, impostors, born for destruction, blots, blemishes, to name a few. The Bible not only identifies them as such, but it never recommends rehabilitation, reconciliation, or any kind of association once they’ve been identified. This is not a coincidence. It is essential for the life of the church to name the ones who are hell bent on destroying it by ruining innocent lives. A body cannot thrive when cancer is slowly eating its host away.

    And, like cancer cells, abusive impostors will find opportunity where they can best cloak themselves and do the most amount of damage. They don’t do this because they are “tempted by vulnerabilities.” They do it because it is what they do and who they are.

    Until we shift our thinking and begin studying and understanding deception, the church will continue to be light years behind the secular world while its impostors continue to destroy the innocence of every good, young, and healthy cell within the Body.

    • I put a comment on Jimmy’s post [Internet Archive link], saying —

      What you said about the cancer analogy is of vital importance. I’ve observed that quite a few advocates refer to the cancer analogy but do not take it to its proper conclusion. However, you are not one of them! You nailed it here:

      “Oncologists never attempt to rehabilitate cancer cells and turn them back into normal ones. Rather, oncologists know the imminent danger these impostor cells pose and the goal is to identify and remove them as quickly and completely as possible.”

      This parallels what it says in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13:

      But now I write to you not to keep company together with anyone called a brother who is a fornicator, or covetous, or a worshipper of images, or a railer, or a drunkard, or a swindler. With such a one, see that you do not eat. For what have I to do with judging those who are outside? Do you not judge those who are within? Those who are without, God will judge. Put away from among you that evil person. (NMB)

      I believe that unless the visible church brings out the scalpel and excises the perpetrators of abuse from the body, the body will continue to grow more and more diseased.

      In medicine, to excise means to cut out entirely. For example, a scalpel or laser beam may be used to excise a tumor. The terms excise and resect are not synonymous. Excise implies total removal, whereas resect does not.

      Source of that definition:
      MedicineNet [Internet Archive link]

      Perpetrators obtain hundreds more victims while advocates pussy foot round the edges suggesting we should feel sorry for them because they are ‘victims of their own self-deception’ and we must ‘protect them from themselves’ or we must ‘rehabilitate them’.

    • I keep thinking more things about the cancer analogy. Scientists have developed some extraordinary drug treatments for cancer in the last few years. I am not sure of the general term for these drugs, but what they do is they make the tumour shrink, but they do not eradicate the cancer cells altogether. The tumour will eventually regrow and end up killing the patient.

      My dad is now deceased, but one of the terminal illnesses he was diagnosed with toward the end of his life was cancer. It was skin cancer that had metastasised and was growing in his liver. The oncologist biopsied the cancer cells to find out if they had a particular genotype. The reason he did that was that one of these fancy new drugs could shrink tumours which were composed of skin cancer cells, but it only would work on the cells if they had a particular genotype. My dad was fortunate: his cancer had the right genotype. He took the medicine for some months and it did indeed shrink the tumour.

      That medicine, let me tell you, costs about AU$9000 per month. The cost was paid by the Australian tax payers, as part of our excellent health system here in Australia.

      That drug gave Dad some extra months of life. He would have kept taking it until the tumour grew back because the malignant cells had ‘learned’ how to overcome the effects of the drug. But when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as well, he chose to give up the cancer drug, so the cancer took him out first. He didn’t want to die the slow prolonged death that Alzheimer’s usually entails, and he had a choice which way he wanted to die. I think he made a sensible choice.

      I can see two points in this. The drug was VERY costly, rather like treating abusers is very costly. And the drug did not cure the cancer it only slowed it down for a while, which is similar to treating abusers. If abusers go into treatment programs, it seldom cures the abusers, though it may slow them down for a while. In the end the abusers who undergo treatment but do not reform long-term, tend to use the treatment program to help them figure out how better to use the lingo of treatment and reformation so they can better deceive people.

      • Helovesme

        There were three comments from Barbara I’m referring to, and they were all excellent. Regarding Diane’s video, Jimmy’s post, and then her own personal story about her Dad. All of them excellent and well said.

        By the way, I’m so sorry for what your dad went through. Those are two diseases that I particularly look forward to being gone for good, when the Lord comes back. Both of them are such slow and awful ways for a person to deteriorate.

        Diane really weaved the self-deception narrative in that video to another level. I 100% agree with Barb’s analysis. The twists and turns of an abuser’s mind are not always explainable, debatable, or curable—-and to define all abusers in such a cookie-cutter way is dangerous.

        I recall reading that the point of chemo is to kill off those cancer cells without killing the patient in the process. That is (one of the reasons) why chemo is painful beyond words. The patient is made to suffer so badly while undergoing a process that is meant to ultimately help them.

        And, I believe in the process of treatment, healthy cells can unfortunately be killed off as well—-because the methodology is not at the point where only the bad cells are successfully targeted. The hope is that those healthy cells will eventually grow back, while the cancer ones do not? I may be wrong on that part.

        All of that works with what Barb and Jimmy were speaking so well about. Jimmy especially did well in speaking of cancer cells as needing to be treated as they really are: dangerous and deadly.

        I recently had the horrible honor of saying good-bye to an absolute angel—a fur baby that I had the joy of meeting and forming a strong bond with—and then cancer took her away from her dog parents, and myself.

        I can’t even begin to describe, in words, what this disease did to that sweet, special baby.

        I understand why people want to look away from those that are suffering like that—or in this analogy—-away from the abused.

        Love drove me to see her as much as possible, and then one more time before they let her go. You must brave what you are going to see and deal with, and hopefully love will be the driver that gets you through that.

        Now, some or many may not have the stomach for this. I believe that is okay. It’s enough to acknowledge the pain of abuse, and that it exists. And support those with prayer, or other less invasive ways to help, if you can.

        But if you don’t have the stomach to face it—don’t be an advocate, and reconsider if you should be in church leadership. Because abuse is downright ugly, and horrible to deal with—-and whether you like it or not, more than likely it will be an issue at some point.

        There are doctors who specialize in treating cancer, and others who do not. I truly take my hats off to oncologists, or again—-anyone who has to deal with human suffering on such enormous levels. Such doctors have to find a way to be compassionate and supportive, yet remain clear-headed and practical in order to help their patients.

        This runs along the lines of how pastors and / or abuse advocates must work. And partially why it’s not for everyone! Not to get carried away emotionally, to the point where you forget that there is a real victim that should be focused on—and then staying calm and collected so you can offer any and all options to help them.

        Doctors, like advocates—-can forget that it’s about the abused, not the “disease” of abuse. There have been awful stories in history where people were treated as nothing more than experiments to supposedly “help” advance the medical profession and progress. There was no real acknowledgement of the pain being inflicted on them, because supposedly it was worth people being “sacrificed” for a greater cause. In order to help the human race in general.

        It’s worth asking how many people are “too many” to be sacrificed in order to help a larger group of people. A hundred? A million? And in depleting a certain amount of people, in order to help a higher number of people—what kind of people have we become—and what kind of example is being set FOR these future generations? That it is okay to hurt others, as long as it’s for a greater cause? What kind of people will they choose to be, cured and disease-free at a huge expense, and are now able to live longer—if they’re being encouraged to treat others in these ways?

        You just can’t play around with the lives of people like that. A theory may sound great on paper, but that doesn’t mean it should be put into real practice on real people. That is my personal take away from Diane’s argument, specifically. There was some food for thought in there, but nothing that I think should be fed to the masses.

      • CeeKay

        I am in agreement with your excellent commentary. Thank you for your voice.

  17. A reader who wishes to remain anonymous has asked me to post this comment on her behalf:

    Dianne’s response to victims / survivors is to ALWAYS have them focus on some piece of Scripture surrounding Christ’s crucifixion. Um, speaking from personal experience, I already had this form of “counselling” shoved down my throat. The Holy Spirit does NOT force feed believers, and ESPECIALLY when it would do greater harm to those who have already been Bible-thumped with man’s version of His Word.

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