Logic and Authority in the Church
We have expressions and sayings in our language that contain rare wisdom otherwise known as Common Sense. “Too many chiefs and not enough indians”, in explanation of why the project fell apart (assuming it ever got started) is one. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is another – it expresses the failure of a project that, indeed, reached completion but was a waste of time and resources.
One is a case of too many people doing the thinking and planning. The other is a case of too many people doing the doing, as it were.
Our culture recognises that to bring a joint enterprise to successful completion requires different skills and abilities.
Teachers and leaders in particular, require skills that are above the average by quite a margin. They require character development and intellectual development. Intellectual development suitable for leadership requires an IQ in the top 20% of the population. Required is an ability to employ logic to situations as well as an ability to hold multiple variables in mind to arrive at creative solutions to problems.
Leaders and teachers below this intellectual level tend to compensate or hide these inadequacies by reducing complex problems to a single variable and indulging in character flaws such as bullying and deceit of various kinds. This essay will pursue these crucial issues.
We, as a species, were designed by God to live best as groups which were big enough to encompass a range of abilities and groups that were yet small enough whereby we knew everyone and their abilities. This allows everyone to know who is good or even best at what tasks. People worked together making the best of their individual abilities.
It is also why we automatically trust those around us. Exploiters do not survive well in these lifelong groups where everyone’s history is known to all. Everyone realises that their individual and group survival depends on everyone else. So, trust is a very efficient way to survive as a group and is part of the way Jesus designed us (to live in tribes).
In Hawaiian culture, for instance, the master canoe maker, the master masseur/healer and the master warrior-general are all known as Kahunas. Competence was the qualification and people chose whom they would go to for what. People voted with their feet, as it were. You don’t want a canoe that floats most of the time or steers only on a good day. Similarly, the canoe builder does not want to lose his relatives in something that he built. So, he is given authority and he accepts the responsibility. These two things – authority and responsibility – must always be equal.
If you watch a group of children organising themselves, such as boys organising for a game of cricket (OK, I’m a bloke AND I’m from Australia so I’m using my own experience!), you will see this ancient dynamic playing out. The boys will quickly nominate a captain and he will organise the players from there. The captain will invariably be the best player (usually) as well as the best strategist i.e. the smartest (usually) in their terms. This is natural. The captain will be the boys ‘Kahuna’ (while playing cricket).
The captain cannot operate successfully as the Kahuna unless he has the willing support of the team. He has to have the players enthusiastically follow his directions without coercion. So in effect, it is much more true to see the captain as the servant of the team. Now we have something like Jesus said in terms of leaders – leaders, be ye first servants.
Authority and Responsibility need to be freely given and taken because coercion kills enthusiasm and enthusiasm is needed to win, to succeed in the joint enterprise. This applies to ALL relationships.
Our civilisations where millions of people are dependent on each other forsake this natural ‘election’ and we get people whom we don’t know directing our nation – engaging in diplomacy with other nations, setting defence force budgets, etc. Then they start directing our daily lives which we are quite capable of directing for ourselves, thank you! This attitude of entitlement and coercion instead of service then seeps down into and through the behaviour of state governments, municipal governments and also into churches.
Instead of a position of authority (freely given) following a history of competence, we have a history of competence assumed from the appointment to authority (imposed). It is this sort of authority or power that corrupts (when a high level of competence is lacking – and it usually is) because it is not earned and not freely given by those under that authority. So our leaders these days see themselves as having power over those ‘below’ them. We are so used to this situation of dominance that Jesus’ words to the would-be leaders, telling them to be servants, sound quite strange.
Now how does this long introduction relate to logic and variables? Well, the boys will nominate the one amongst them that will (i) best serve them as a model to emulate for their individual performances and (ii) best do what they can’t – see the overall picture and shape a game strategy so that they all can win, i.e. he will best serve their purpose of winning the game. To achieve a winning strategy, the captain will need to be able to juggle a large number of variables. As just one instance, he has to match the best qualities of his bowlers and fielders to the weaknesses he perceives in his opposition team. He has to be the smartest, from amongst them, at the game overall. He has to be able to constantly react to new information.
He has to be a thinker and an astute observer. The higher the intelligence, the higher the number of variables that can be handled. He has to be able to think logically to arrange all the variables into something without contradictions and that will work and win. Thinking logically is all about eliminating all contradictions. If there are contradictions present, the plan, the game, the program, the bridge, the empire, the relationship, whatever it is, will crash.
The team give their ‘Kahuna’ all the authority to direct them during the game and he bears all the responsibility to serve them in terms of organising the game (and hopefully the win!)
Is your pastor a ‘Kahuna’? You doubtless did not appoint him but has he filled the shoes that the office requires? Has he served the congregation? Has he counselled and comforted the afflicted using not only his heart but his head? Can he think and act logically? Can he think and act without contradiction?
Logic is the art of identifying and removing contradictions. There are no contradictions in reality. If you are faced with a contradiction, know that there are only two reasons for this. Either you have false information or you have missing information (or both).
Logic is what we use to establish what is reality; what is the truth. In a Court of Law, logic and evidence is what (should be) used to establish what really happened – reality. The evidence is the facts, and the logic is how they are arranged in a non-contradictory manner. The jury then uses this to arrive at a conclusion which follows from the logic and should therefore reflect what the reality (truth) is and was.
Logic was essential for survival in tribal days in a hostile environment. Humans had to deal with reality otherwise reality would certainly deal with them. Instead of having lunch, you would become lunch!
Logic is just as essential to survive our present environment: this ‘World’ that has the Prince of Darkness presiding over it; this ‘World’ that constantly seeks to creep into our churches.
Church-going Christians look to their pastors and priests to be their captains but if a captain is not skilled in the use of logic, then error, bluff and wishful thinking will replace reality and a good number of his flock are in for a world of hurt and confusion.
If you do not have a good grasp of logic, you cannot identify or use first principles. An example of a first principle is the existence of free will in each of us. By “free will” I mean the sole responsibility for our actions and therefore sole the authority over ourselves to take those actions. From this flows all our ‘God-given rights’. We have the right to choose God or not. No one can choose for us.
Equally, we are responsible for our choices. If some law or policy (such as a teaching on marriage) seeks to take away our ability to choose for ourselves through coercion (physical or psychological) to hold to a contract that has been well and truly broken by the other party, it will be a teaching that goes against God’s will for us and it will eventually fail. We are equal in the sight of God. Each person has their own individual agency. And their own conscience.
If you think God teaches us to take away a gift (freedom and responsibility to choose) he designed into every being, you have a contradiction right there. Either you have wrong information (perhaps wrong interpretation) or there is missing information. Failing marriages caused by abuse are direct evidence of this.
Empires fail because of contradictions particularly surrounding free will which leads to freedom of action and movement. Sometimes they fail within a short span of decades (Soviet empire) or centuries (Chinese, Egyptian empires). Nations are collapsing today. Many churches lurch from one crisis to the next due to contradictions where the teachings are confused or the actions do not follow the words. The sexual abuse of children is the most glaring example.
An ability to think logically can be measured. This is largely what IQ testing measures. The tests look for what psychologists call ‘G’. The G stands for General Intelligence which is ‘generally’ present across the range of mental abilities. A person described as, “Oh, she can do anything”, will be a person with very high ‘G’ intelligence; high IQ, in other words. The level at which logic kicks in and is used across all abilities starts around 115 IQ points.
Below this point (bearing in mind these are averages and not particular individuals), logic can be taught and grasped in most fields of study or employment but often won’t translate across one area of life to another. For instance, some engineers can be very good at their jobs but cannot become business managers with its larger number of variables to deal with, while others can and may choose to do so. Some teachers are able to teach in their specialised field, but are not good at the administration skills required to lead a whole department or school. Some chefs are brilliant at running a commercial kitchen, but when they own their own restaurant and have to oversee not only the kitchen but the front of house, the wine list and the accounts for the whole business, they do not do so well.
So if a person seeks to lead others, particularly in spiritual matters such as a pastor or teacher through guiding people or writing books dealing with spiritual matters, it is best for themselves and others if they have an IQ at or higher than 115. They should be able to demonstrate a proficiency in using and applying logic. Their words and behaviour should not contain contradictions.
To lead a church or to presume to teach spirituality, you need a love for God and for people. That is what Jesus commanded us to do. But just as a love for people is not enough fix someone’s car, it is not enough to lead others successfully. You, first of all, need to be able to perceive the reality of a complex problem and that takes an ability to use logic.
How can you tell if a teacher or leader can or cannot think logically?
Contradictions – it is worth repeating! Look for contradictions in any teaching or explanation. Contradictions are solid evidence of bad or missing logic. You can’t have logic and a contradiction together at the same time – that is a contradiction!
Reality is all that God made. God is consistent. Therefore Reality is consistent. Teachings and explanations that are not consistent, are not reality. If you follow something that is not real, it will bring harm. It is no different to trying to cross a minefield with a faulty map.
A minefield is no place for wishful thinking, good intentions or saying you know something when you are actually guessing. This fallen world is a minefield…and anyone who has lived any time at all at the sharp end of it, knows that. Churches are part of the world.
Contradictions will bring confusion but not all confusion is the result of contradictions. Confusion can be the result of the ‘listener’ failing to understand the concept or story being related. BUT, a sufficiently intelligent leader or teacher should be able to discern the difficulty and find other ways to convey the understanding. Unfortunately, too many teachers and leaders are not sufficiently intelligent to do this and leave the enquirer in their mental fog. Or, worse, blame the listener/enquirer for their non-understanding.
Mind you, sometimes people do not want to understand because they fear the consequences that will flow from the new understanding. This can apply to teachers, as well!
Now if you approach a teacher for an explanation of something that you do not understand or to point out a contradiction, you might then be subjected to a personal attack. When this happens, you can be reasonably sure that the teacher you are talking to cannot or will not think logically.
If a pastor or teacher oversimplifies a problem that you bring to them by dismissing an aspect that you feel is crucial to a solution, you are probably dealing with a person who cannot handle multiple variables. As such, they have risen past their level of competence. All is not lost though if the pastor, for instance, recognises that the problem is beyond their knowledge or competence and says to you, “I don’t know but I will find out for you and come back to you”. But this response, though music to my ears, is rare in my experience.
If the teacher or leader chooses to attack you, it is out of punishment for raising what they can’t or don’t want to talk about. This indicates that they are well aware of the contradiction or their own limitations and are unable to deal with it. It may involve corruption but more likely it is simply that they cannot address it logically because they don’t have the skills.
A personal attack is known as an Ad Hominem (Latin for ‘against the man’) attack and is a logical fallacy. An effective way to deal with this sort of personal attack is to name it up. For instance, “I notice that you dodged my question and choose to attack me instead. Is that because you don’t have an answer?” – and then say nothing and watch. If the reply is a question to you in return, do not answer it and simply repeat your question. If still the answer is another question, walk away; you have your answer!
If a teacher doesn’t know his or her stuff and/or doesn’t know how to convey it to others, they have no business presuming to teach others. They inevitably cause harm because they are teaching for their own ego’s sake. These teachers are serving themselves and not serving others. THIS is why James (James 3:1) cautioned against others being teachers because they will be doubly judged by God. With increased authority comes an equally increased responsibility.
Jesus taught us that when we do something “for the least of mine, you did it for me”. Those with power that comes from position, are usually the first to forget that. This is a common example of how power corrupts.
Those with high IQ and the desire to teach had best take this responsibility to serve Jesus to heart and do the best they can with humility.
Those that do not have sufficiently high IQ had best find another way to serve – and there will be other ways.
Those that don’t have the ability to serve in this way, or do not take the responsibility to serve seriously, end up not following their own words and become hypocrites. Jesus was scathing of hypocrites. Not only do hypocrites cause harm directly but they stifle the teachers and leaders who could bring peace and harmony to the community. They play ‘dog-in-the-manger’ criticising, belittling and ostracising those who could serve far better than they.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Peacemakers are problem solvers. To solve problems, you need to be able to juggle a large number of variables to find a solution that suits all those of goodwill. You need high intelligence. Is your teacher or leader a creative problem solver?
In summary, if your teacher or leader is not able to talk and act without contradiction and is not able to bring about peaceful solutions to knotty problems, your teacher or leader is in the wrong position and would be better off seeking some other way to serve.
Of course, pastors and others need to have a heart for God but that is not enough to lead…and it is hard to know peoples’ hearts. We can discern much, though, from listening closely to their words and closely observing their behaviour. And seeing if their behaviour matches with their words.
Look, on the one hand, for respect, compassion; for peacemaking, creative problem solving, and for humility. And on the other hand, for simplistic answers; for contradictions, hypocritical behaviour and personal attacks.
By their fruits, ye shall know them.
This post is written by James, one of our readers. He began commenting on this blog recently and his comments have been insightful and helpful. If you want to review his comments go to these links:
one, two, three, four,
five — here James talks about Dr Hervey Cleckley’s book The Mask Of Sanity
seven — here James talks about the Dunning-Kruger Effect
eight — how people of high IQ can doubt themselves, and how this relates to the Dunning-Kruger Effect
nine — James explains a technique for looking steadfastly, without speaking a word, at a person who you don’t trust, when that person is trying to tangle you into saying something you will later regret saying.
Proverbs 8:1-21 talks about common sense and how we need to develop shrewdness. Click the link to read it in the CSB version.
- Posted in: Christianity
- Tagged: false teachers, guest post, James, leadership, pastors
Really enjoyed this post.
Sorry for the delay in responding, Anabel. I’m in a different time zone. Glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed your feedback. 🙂
You have given me lots to think about / re-evaluate, James, and a deeper appreciation of some points we discussed in the comments made on earlier posts.
Thank you for writing this Guest post, and thank you to Barb for publishing it.
It’s a pleasure, Finding Answers. Well, actually, writing is never exactly a pleasure for me but I think you know what I mean. I am sure you will look into it deeply.
I have read each comment generated by the original post, constantly re-evaluating / educating myself with each new comment.
I have realized the pictures in my mind increase in complexity with each comment I read.
And I still need to hijack other people’s words to describe the pictures in my mind.
Thank you, James, for this guest post. Much for me to think about, too.
Gany T.! Thank you for commenting and your support. I hope it proves useful.
This is an excellent, much needed post.
I have experienced bullying inside and outside of the church. (This includes a “deliverance” that was forced on me by a nasty, bellicose deliverance minister because a leader did not like what I said; that deliverance failed.) Thanks for exposing the real cause of bullying, which is not the victim / survivor. Many people react badly in ways that do not rise to bullying due to the same issues, I think. I have had enough people scream or get upset at me due to differences of religious stands to have this opinion. I have been bullied (sometimes directly) by the church due to being an older, single lady, which is allowed by the Bible in 1 Cor 7 and not by Protestant church tradition. That is really too bad (for them!). This is part of why some churches are dying and must change their ways.
Maggie, I am so sorry to hear of your experiences. The older I get the more I find myself thinking, “If only people would just behave themselves, the world would be such a nice place for everybody!” But many people don’t and it is so often because people are given positions (or they just assume them) and they don’t have the skills or character to fill those shoes.
Those that abuse power are like teenagers who want the authority of an adult but the responsibility of a child and throw a tantrum when they don’t get their way. I find it makes it easier to deal with these people when I see them in this light.
Jesus reserved His scorn for those that had power / authority and abused their position. So I think that puts us on His team and not theirs.
No offence intended, James, but I would add a caveat. Some teenagers and children carry more responsibility than many adults, have little experience of childhood, and no opportunity to throw a tantrum.
Finding Answers, you are quite right and I agree with you. I thought I had made that distinction but not well enough. It would have been clearer to say:
I knew you would look into it closely. 🙂
Hi James and Finding Answers,
Bless you both for your input.
I have known a few of them ^ in my time. All of them haughty. One of them stupid and evil. I don’t use the word ‘stupid’ often to describe someone in a public forum, but I have no hesitation saying this man was stupid. I know one of the women he ‘did deliverance’ on. She was not a born again Christian and what he did to her turned her off Christianity for life.
I agree with you Maggie that many peoples’ reactions / responses, while not rising to the level of bullying, are bad in that they are disrespectful to others. And yes, James’s post explains why they do that. Thank you, James!
I have a lot more examples from my own experience which illustrate what James and you have said. But I will put them in a non-nested comment.
Some — many — churches are dying. They may not all look like they are dying because they are still pulling in the numbers and the tithes; but from God’s point of view, they are dying or dead already. They must change their ways, but they will not do so.
We see their obstinacy in so many ways. E.g. the false doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) is heresy. But, as Sam Powell said recently on Facebook in response to a post by Aimee Byrd, ESS appears to be unflushable. Three years ago ESS was thoroughly denounced and disproved, but the big shots at CMBW have never retracted it.
Hope it’s okay to respond to your readers, James. You offer wonderful feedback, so I hope you don’t think I’m trying to step on your toes!
I was bullied badly as a child and I’ve certainly had to deal with it among adults. It’s easy to blame the victim for being treated so harshly. Even though I was targeted, which implies no fault on my part—-in the next breath you are told that there is something about you that made you a target.
Your looks, your gender, your clothing choices, your insecurities, your lack of physical or intellectual prowess—-take your pick, it’s why they pick on you—-but it’s still your fault somehow. If you don’t want to be targeted, don’t make yourself out to be a target. Fix yourself or fix the problems that they seem to find in you, and the bullying will stop.
James broke it down very well. So often we got knotted up in blame deflection, blame shifting or even self-blaming—but really, all the contradictions and failure to apply logic is what causes pain and more pain. All of which is unnecessary.
If teachers and leaders would just stop dodging the obvious, perhaps there would not be so much conflict and chaos at schools, churches, workplaces, etc.
And it IS obvious, though I am not saying there are any easy or even obvious solutions. It’s not really that hard to figure it out, but figuring out a solution is a whole different matter.
No one should be allowed to humiliate or tease or ridicule another human being. I don’t care if you are 8 or 80 years old.
Yes, I understand that bullying is “disruptive.” Teachers sometimes blamed me for causing the problem, or removed me from the classroom because as a target, you are on an island of your own. Easier to remove one person, weak and wimpy—-than to punish the bully or bullies—who are strong and self-confident.
That is how their logic worked, but it was full of contradictions, as you can see.
Logic worked in my mind, too, as I tried to work out a solution. If I cried, that just made me more of a target. If I tried to get help from the adults, that also made me more of a target. If I told my parents, likely I would be humiliated for being so weak. If the parents of the bullies were confronted, that again might cause trouble for the teachers, who would be forced to take their job seriously and stand up for ALL students, not just the popular ones.
I couldn’t find any allies, either. No one wants to be seen with an outcast. People used to point at me and laugh. Logic dictates that you don’t want to be too closely associated with such a target.
The most I could ever hope for is for people who pitied me, who felt sorry for me and saw me as a chance to be charitable. And of course, charity is all I could ever hope for. However, this sort of “pity” is nothing more than contempt and condescension disguised as friendship or fellowship.
So, James, very, very well pointed out the need for strong logic, based on real intelligence—and a distaste for contradictions. Or at least such a distaste for them that would propel us to work them out, not ignore them and wish they would go away.
Certainly, Helovesme, now that you have acknowledged my property rights over my readers! 🙂
Sorry, Helovesme, it just struck me as funny and yet highlighted the topic of entitlement that underlies this whole problem with inadequate leaders and those that presume to be teachers. It is soooo easy to slip into given the cultural attitudes that surround us.
I write my stuff and then let it go. It is up to the Holy Spirit what happens to it after that. Of course, I remain responsible for what I have written and I am responsible for answering questions, but I try not think I can control things beyond that. So, have at it!
I am sure these things are obvious to you, Helovesme, but are you sure that they are obvious to the leaders and teachers you have in mind?
I am sorry to hear of all the bullying you received and, no doubt, the frustration at the ineptitude you saw all around you. There is something profoundly disorienting for a child when they realise (usually non-verbally) that they are the only adult in the situation.
You have the ability to think abstractly. Not everybody can do that – so many do not ‘see’ what you ‘see’. This is why we need leaders who can use and apply logic. Logic requires the ability to think abstractly – to draw out the principles at play in any conflict. Principles that are obvious to you. This is why, if you will forgive me, you would make a good leader or perhaps a consultant (i.e. a consultant to a good leader! A bad leader will not want you within a mile of them 🙂 ).
I shall enlarge on why leaders dodge what should be obvious in reply to your other comment.
Haha James, your opening remarks in this comment made me laugh! 🙂 🙂 🙂
A great question, and a very fair one to ask. Ironically, when I wrote that comment, my mind did wonder if I was being too hard on the adults. How to handle kids does not come with a one size fits all manual, for a parent or a teacher.
Pastor Sam wrote a post along the lines of how he can’t fix anything and everything. He has a lot to offer those that bring certain problems to him, but he cannot necessarily fix all of them.
I think that while we should hold our leaders to a certain standard, we better darn well not raise them to an impossible one.
This is partly why I think we either excuse or enable the bad behaviors of our leaders, even in church. We don’t want to put them on a pedestal (fair enough), but in that endeavor, I fear we are very much lowering what should be acceptable standards.
Leaders will often try to dodge accountability for themselves, but then expect to hold others around him or her accountable? That’s not logical.
Also, if a church leader is caught in a scandal of some kind, but no one wants to get rid of him because he is so good with people—-that makes no sense. How can someone who claims to love people, have chosen to INFLICT evil on people, and now we refuse to hold him accountable because he’s supposedly so good with people?
It’s taken me forever to make that statement. So believe me, logic is not always obvious! As James said, it should have been obvious to those teachers. Likely there were a lot of factors clouding over what was right in front of them.
When I was a child, it was the adults who were in charge. It was their world. They made the rules, they unmade the rules, and they could choose to enforce or not enforce the rules. The power of a child is rather limited.
I stick by my testimonies of what it was like to live in that world, but in lieu of James’s observations, I would venture to ask a few questions:
“Why did you become a teacher in the first place? If it’s because you love children and want to teach them and grow them, why did you not help me? You were the adult. You had all the authority to stand up to those bullies. It’s your classroom, so you make the rules.
You could have stopped the class when you saw it going on, and reprimanded those kids right away, in front of everyone so your position was made clear. ‘I’m in charge and I don’t like it when you bully others.’ Why did you not do that?
Did they not teach you how to handle disruptive students? If not, it’s fair to ask if you are qualified to teach. Why did you blame me for their actions? Did you not want to deal with disruption in a way that might make you look bad? If so, I again suggest that perhaps you are not qualified enough for this profession.”
Teaching is not about being popular or well-liked, but it is a profession. I can only imagine that if a bully was rebuked, and he or she went to their parents, and they called the school—-that teacher’s job might be in jeopardy.
So my sympathy does lie with the adults, but it goes only so far. I was scarred for life by what I endured. The teachers were not as powerless as they seemed to indicate. It takes great courage to stick up for the “loser,” but no self-respecting teacher should ever view such a child in that way. However, they confirmed over and over again that that is exactly how they saw me.
I do have to say, however, that it’s a good idea to firmly root down some foundational principles before going into teaching. Things like:
Bullying is wrong. It is NOT “something that all kids do,” and it’s not a phase they all go through, and it’s NOT right to tease or target certain kids.
Bullying CAN be dealt with. By the adults. “If kids are throwing food at this child, do you really expect them to throw the food back at them? Your maturity as an adult should not mirror the immaturity of children. It should be above and beyond them.”
If you don’t care for ALL children, regardless of looks or income or ethnicity (I am not white and that was one of the reasons I was singled out)—-something is not right. If you want to avoid conflict or confrontation but expect to teach, that too is not realistic.
I have had to do something like this for other similar situations. With family, church leaders, etc—-those that profess Christ and those that do not. Before I even start to try to relate to them or anyone else, I try to lay down rock solid principles that should never waver, or be adjusted because of who they are. Here are a few examples:
It is not right to mock or scoff at marginalized groups, period. It is not right to discard the righteousness of God in order to preserve family bonds or unity. It is not right to label evil as good, or good as evil—-NO MATTER WHAT. It is not right to apply one standard for others, and a different one to yourself, or those you favor.
If and when I see such things, I will take notice. My actions and reactions may differ, depending on the scenario, and how the Lord is moving on my heart—-but I will not dismiss or deny what I heard, or what I saw. I will take them seriously, even if you or others do not.
Why? Because Christ took me seriously, when no one else did, and still do not. I am mandated to do the same for others, because I don’t want others to go through what I went through, if I can help them.
This whole comment echoes my experience. You talked about trying to use logic to find a solution. Yes. I would say that I tried to strategize a solution. At one point I was crying every session almost non-stop in my counselor’s office. I had tried every strategy to find a solution, and they were good strategies. “Ok, they are not understanding what I am saying, but this co-worker / former friend is a veterinarian, so I need to explain it to her medically.” I would explain the situation I was in with our mutual boss in terms of medicine, “Would you think it right for a boss with no medical knowledge to diagnose a pet who was under your care and to demand that the owner of the pet follow his diagnosis and prescription rather than yours or be fired, especially when you knew what he recommended would injure the pet further?” My friend would not even say how she would respond in the hypothetical case, much less make any judgment about its parallel real case, in which I was living.
They had an answer for everything, why what was so clearly wrong was actually right.
(Here are examples of their answers:)
“My counselor says she is surprised you found a counselor willing to do this, because it is not ethical.”
“I don’t know why she would think that. You can’t do marriage counseling without both parties present. The team is present in this team counseling through the dialogue we have already had with the counselor.”
I talked with one teammate to explain why another teammate telling me he withdrew his invitation to lead prayer ministry and his statement that I didn’t belong on the team hurt me. (Why did I have to prove that?) I wrestled with how to word it. Finally, I compared it to his wife’s role. She stewarded team finances. All of us were required to contribute money to a common pot, and it would be distributed according to mutual agreement. I asked the teammate, “What if I said I did not believe in how this was being done and refused to contribute financially? Would you dismiss it like you dismiss this?” She replied, “He never said he would not be part. You are expecting too much maturity from him.” He said I didn’t belong on the team because of it. To me that is a pretty strong indication he won’t participate, especially when there is no way to evaluate participation, as there is with finances. First of all, she couldn’t see that telling a teammate she doesn’t belong is a problem, the problem is me being hurt by that. Then, she couldn’t see the implications of what he said.
It got so bad, I would come out of every conversation feeling like I had been pulled out and under in a rip tide and I had no way of knowing which way was up and back, no foundation for what is true. “You are feeling hurt because your perspective is not Godly. Change your perspective, and you will not feel hurt.” In what organization ever is it ok for someone to tell someone else they don’t belong? And then he has constant crucial conversations with people to explain why he said they did not belong. One teammate came out of such a meeting with shoulders slumped, “I guess he is right, but I wish he would have asked me how I would do my role first.” The meetings were not reconciliation meetings but propaganda meetings for his perspective. When I complained about not being heard, my boss’s assistant told me, “if people aren’t hearing you, try explaining a different way.” I had tried every way I could think of.
Everything they accused me of in firing me was clearly and obviously untrue. The evidence was even visible in what they themselves said, yet everyone believed them. This is what has raised my PTSD levels so high. I feel so powerless. At our exit interview and in a letter to us, my boss acknowledged I had been right all along in the one thing I had insisted upon, but he was still firing us because it was my fault the office didn’t see it. If they had followed policy, they would have seen it. They broke policy. I followed it, but still, most people think they were right and I was wrong. How?
Then as you said, Helovesme, my emotional responses to all of this proved me wrong in their eyes. “If you want us to see you as a valuable teammate, then stop being so emotional.” I don’t even think that way. When my children become suddenly emotionally reactive, I don’t assume they are the problem, I look for the stressor. Once it was an acquaintance’s mom who had just died. It took me a few weeks of loving them through it (rather than punishing them through it) to get to their question, “What happens to us if you and daddy die?” If I had just assumed they were the problem and punished them, I would never have heard the question, but God told me not to punish them. I was to love on them instead. I obeyed that quiet certainty.
I am venting, but I just want to cry from impotence. How can truth and justice not matter? Why am I punished so harshly for being right? And everyone is OK with it? Why does everyone ask me why I didn’t just submit? My dad called me coward until I agreed to sexual abuse as a child. It seems to me refusing to back down in the face of all this assault is healthier. And yet, people question my actions and assume I am prideful and unsubmissive rather than the actions of the org. I worked so hard to heal myself and to set my family on a stable foundation, and the org set off dynamite under that foundation and then wrote to all our supporters and told them I wasn’t stable enough to return to our work. And even most of those who are intellectually honest enough to admit the org was wrong still think I am the one to put under the microscope to find out what was wrong with me that I didn’t just submit. Even those who understand trauma have questioned me.
My fight or flight literally didn’t let me come anywhere near the thought of submitting. It saw the demand as sexual abuse and sent me into full flight mode.
Brilliant, I enjoyed this immensely, thank you.
I am so glad you enjoyed it, Believer. I used to go to the circus when I was a child and there would invariably be a Shooting Gallery complete with little cut-out ducks passively moving from one side of the booth to the other while under fire. I used to imagine one of the ducks turning around and shooting back. That would be so much fun to watch.
Do the unexpected and if you do it for fun, I don’t think you can go too far wrong. 🙂
I had never imagined or thought of those cut-out ducks turning around and shooting back at the punter who was levelling the gun at them, but now you’ve given me this thought James, I am delighting / pondering / revelling / freaking out about it. All those responses.
The abusers turn back and shoot the victims. Scary and re-traumatising for us, if we are victims of abuse.
But to imagine the cut-out duck at the circus side show turning around and shooting at me, the paying customer of the circus side show….that is funny, amusing, out-of-left-field, unexpected, and entertaining. So long as the duck’s pellets are just light scrim-shot and they do not penetrate my skin but just tickle it.
And thinking about the cut-out ducks. They are cut outs. They are clones. They are images created and shaped by people who knew that those images of ducks moving from right to left would entrance the eye and entice the punter (Aussie slang for gambler) to pay up and show off their supposed skills and maybe win a prize.
The people who cut out the ducks and teach / program / brainwash the ducks to shoot back at the punters….who are those people? They must be people of higher intelligence and more evil-hearted than the ducks. They must be people who do not want to be convicted and found guilty in a court of law for shooting the punters. They are people who don’t want to get their hands dirty and be exposed and convicted for the evil they are doing to the ducks and the punters. So they program and brainwash the ducks to shoot at the punters. And they get of scot free and untouchable and invisible….
But God will bring the people who cut out the ducks and make the ducks go from right to left at the circus sideshow, God WILL BRING them to account at the Day of Judgement. Amen!
May the ducks and the punters wake up and be saved by believing in the gospel. The gospel is good news. Good news, in this ghastly fallen horrible messed up world.
God is offering salvation and eternal life and forgiveness to all who believe. Believe that Jesus Christ is God, very God, true and only Saviour. He died for your and my sins, taking all your and my sins on Himself. Believe on Jesus. He has taken the sin of the world. Jesus is not only or merely the Son (as if He is somehow less than God). Jesus is God. God is one God, but (truth trumps logic here) God is three Persons and yet simultaneously ONE. The three Persons of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are One.
God loves you. Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit calls you and points you to Jesus. Why does God – the three in one – point you to Jesus? Because God took on the nature of man and became a man in the flesh — Jesus — and He, as man and as God, suffered the whole wrath of God for your and my sin, when He died on the Cross.
God did that so that you and I do not have to suffer that wrath for ourselves in eternity. God has provide a Saviour.
The message is: admit and confess that you have broken God’s Law and you cannot save yourself. Your sin is real. But God has given Himself – in the person of Jesus – as your Saviour. This promise is to all who will repent and cease to trust in themselves and their own shreds of ‘righteousness’ and will simply, like a little child, have faith in Jesus as God and Lord and Saviour.
Barbara Roberts commented 10TH MAY 2019 – 5:21 AM (including the date and time in case I get my nesting incorrect):
You would NOT believe the number of pictures in my mind, generated by your reply to James.
In one comment, you have assembled an intricate masterpiece for me to contemplate.
I’ve never been to a circus, and only rarely to a local fair, but I remember one of the games in vivid detail.
James’ original post, followed by his reference to a game at the circus brought the picture to my mind. I omit the name of the game because the name itself could trigger someone who has been traumatized, even though they may be unfamiliar with the actual game itself.
It does, however, provide an apt description of my life anytime I stood up to help. I did not stand long before being metaphorically stuffed back into my hole.
I’m afraid to stand up to help now, afraid of being stuffed back into my metaphorical hole. And although I state I’m afraid, it’s hard to change a fear I cannot feel outside the vivid picture in my mind.
Thinking in pictures does not eliminate the need to heal the issue at hand, it merely alters the way I need to find an answer to healing.
I find this to be an amazing post. It is overwhelming at this moment. I wish I had been able to process people, in this manner, decades ago.
I must re-read many more times, filtering my own experiences through the words, to grasp this matter of “logic”.
Better late than never, Seeing Clearly! 🙂
I have often expressed the same sentiment but sometimes it is best that I didn’t know things earlier in my life. For one thing, I now have many more experiences with which to go over now with different eyes. So I’ll learn more now than I would have earlier in my life. Often I wouldn’t have had the maturity to handle the knowledge, anyway.
Often regrets will drive the lesson home (and the wisdom learnt) in a way that getting everything right never can.
If you have any questions, Seeing Clearly, I would be pleased to answer them as best I can.
I just got a chance to read this finally and I too am pretty blown away. There is a lot to chew on and a lot to contemplate. I highly doubt any of us have fully dissected it.
James brought up something I wrote about concerning how we pick our leaders in politics.
Even though I certainly want to put people in power that have my interests and needs in mind, I don’t want others who live in my nation to be stepped over or stepped on all in the name of “progress,” or in the name of “what is best for me and me alone.” This is a tricky, minefield sort of area. Step carefully, because real people are involved, and you have to be aware of that. Too many of us live in a bubble and forget what a big nation, or a big world we live in—and you are not more or less important than your fellow human beings.
Ask questions. Lots of them. That is something that will take some real work, and a sort of finesse, if you will. Be tactful, but be direct. Barb put it great when she noticed the distinction between bullying and disrespect. There IS a difference, but both are unacceptable.
Believe me, I’ve seen what being inquisitive (NOT interrogative) can provoke. I’ve seen people get more and more frustrated and worked up, because they don’t like the questions, they don’t want to answer them (not truthfully, at least), or they don’t even have an answer.
There is no other way to learn and grow and get to know someone, if you don’t ask questions. No one is born with all the answers, or any answers for that matter. And the best students are the ones who are curious and eager to be taught. Why that is discouraged among adults is questionable (pun intended!).
The Lord Himself is very inquisitive: “What are you doing?” “Why are you here?” “Why did you do that?” “What can I do for you?” “Do you want Me to heal you?”
This is how He starts a conversation. He knows all the answers, but He wants to talk to you, and wants to hear what you have to say. This is a quality His believers should share.
Ask the relevant questions. James brought up a lack of logic and a fair amount of contradictions when it comes to church leaders.
If a young girl comes to a pastor and makes a claim that she was abused, don’t ask what she was wearing, if she was drinking, or if she participated in the act or acts, or why she didn’t run or scream, or if she’d been flirting, etc. You don’t ask if she wanted it. You don’t even imply that she deserved it with your questioning.
Why? Because they have nothing to do with the act or acts of abuse. This person is not qualified to be in a leadership position, IMO, or he or she needs major training and a huge transformation of his or her thinking by the Lord Himself.
You don’t assume she is lying, because then you’ve assumed that the accused is innocent. You don’t even entertain that she is lying, because you have no reason to believe she is lying. You take her seriously, and you listen to her. Zip the lip until she is done. Bear in mind the courage it took for her to come to you.
You ask the accused: “what gave you the right to prey on her?” “Who told you that it’s okay to objectify another human being?” “What were YOU doing, looking for someone to abuse?” “Who dared to teach you that if a woman dresses or drinks or acts a certain way—she is asking for it, so you’re not to blame?”
Then, you have to know how to answer the potential answers. “No, raging hormones do not cause a person to victimize another.” “No, a glimpse of her breasts or legs does not mean she is asking for it.” “No, your lust is not her fault—own up to it yourself.” “No, you’re not superior because you’re a male.” “And no, you’re not favored by God, as a male.” “No, I’m not going to “cover” for you, just because we are both males.” “No, I’m not going to believe your tears means that ‘you’re sorry so please don’t turn me in’.” “No, I’m not going to eject her from the church because now everyone will know what you did.” “No, I’m not going to publicly stand up for you, in church or otherwise, and humiliate her that way.”
“I’m going to do what Jesus said to do, and the more you question that, the more I’m starting to logically conclude that you don’t care much about Christ yourself.”
All the inadequate and harmful responses of leaders that you mention, Helovesme, can be attributed to leaders who are out of their depth in their job or to leaders who are psychopaths themselves.
The two sure signs of this are contradictions in their answers and personal attacks. To these two, I will add ‘lies’. You should not be lied to. These are glaring signals and as an adult you can walk away when confronted with any of these from a leader. A child is caught, unfortunately.
Congregations are not taught this, though, are they? We are not supposed to judge others. But “judging” can mean different things in different contexts. The distinction between using discrimination and condemnation when talking about judging is never made clear.
So, too often, someone uses discrimination and wants to warn the pastor about some suspicious behaviour and then is condemned for ‘judging’ the suspected or confirmed abuser. The irony is as thick as it is tragic. 5% of the adult population are psychopaths of one sort or another. That’s a lot of demons out there (or in here)!
So the average Christian is kept naive as to how the world of power works (including within the church) and then when faced with a contradiction and they seek guidance or help from their pastor, they run smack bang into condemnation and abuse. Why is this?
Inadequate leaders and con-men, is the short answer. Their job is to answer questions and to solve problems. But that is a problem to a leader who can’t solve problems of more than one variable. So what do they do? They turn you into the problem! Problem solved!
The longer term strategy is to appoint assistants to help. The inadequate leader will attract the obsequious and the power-hungry; the con-men that flatter them. The inadequate leader will avoid those who could do the job of assistant well, because they fear for their own job.
However, their time might be limited in any case. So often the power hungry will cause divisions in the church with the aim of ousting the pastor and replacing him.
The con-man will have capable people, but not assertive people, around him and he will delegate. Delegate the responsibility, that is, while retaining all the authority. You know, just in case one of his friends is accused of a sexual crime, for instance.
With time and growing arrogance, though, the con-man will move his corrupt friends or family into the subordinate positions and then the slide really gets under way.
So it is a mess and all because no one wants to teach the flock about the realities of power and those that seek power and, importantly, how to recognise them. And for all too obvious reasons!
Bravo, James. You have a gift for summing up lots of truth and distilling it so others can recognise and grasp it.
Thank you, Barb, for your kind words and encouragement. Thanks also for all the gracious comments here and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and consider what I have written. Cheers. 🙂
Barb summed it up great. James, you have a knack for breaking it down and summing it up well. All your responses have added a great deal of richness to these topics, as well as the comments by others.
I also appreciate that you point out that not everyone is fit for leadership. It’s serious business, so take it seriously. If you think leadership is all about getting your way and having your way and insisting on your way—-get such a person out of leadership, FAST!
The ones that are fit for leadership, I wonder, are the ones who DON’T seek it for themselves. They are more interested in having a heart for the Lord and His people, and leadership may or may not fit into that.
IF a leadership opportunity comes up, they will likely not jump on it right away. The appeal of power might be attractive at first, but that wears off as they consider the entire scenario. They might ask a lot of questions first, of what the position entails and expects from them, and most importantly—-they will ask the Lord if they should lead. And they might turn it down. I highly doubt that is the norm, but that is maybe how it should unfold.
My two rules of thumb when it comes to authority figures in the church are from my own mishaps, so it might not apply to everyone:
Never believe someone who claims they are a Christian. Don’t be or become paranoid and overly suspicious. Don’t assume they are lying, but don’t rule it out, either.
A person who claims they have been a believer for a long amount of time is NOT necessarily a mature believer, or a believer at all. This goes for chronological age as well. Someone who is full of years may be very full of themselves.
Age does not equal maturity. The fruit of the Lord is the indicator of spiritual maturity (and that they are truly a believer). And wisdom is another true mark of maturity. James mentioned something like that. He learned over time; it didn’t all happen at once. But the point is—-he learned. He never remained stuck in one place.
We might be tempted to believe the words or emulate the views of those we believe are Christians, or we believe they are mature—-far too quickly if we don’t exercise caution. The results can be disastrous, and they have been.
I don’t care if you’ve been a believer for 8 or 80 years. It’s the same Holy Spirit in each of us. You have just as much access to Him as anyone else. The Lord doesn’t give more of Himself to those He likes more, or favors more. So if you are confused (James mentioned some great examples of how leaders can mess with our minds)—-you have an ally in Him. Ask, and He will honor that. A godly fear of deception is a good thing.
Also, if something doesn’t sit right with you, don’t dismiss it. You may or may not be onto something, but let Him decide. I recall hearing plenty of what I call “one-liners.” You might not be able to make a sure conclusion with so few words, but no doubt it was indicative that something was wrong. They stuck with me, but I largely dismissed them, and I wish I hadn’t.
James’s post was so good that it really got my brain going. Logic can be a funny thing. When it’s not applied right, it goes terribly wrong. When it IS applied right, it can right a lot of wrongs.
A lot of testimonies I’ve heard about abuse focused on denial, by the victim or by those around the victim. I thought back to my own experiences, because I surely understand that:
My mind is like a puzzle. All the pieces should fit in a certain way, to fit what I do and don’t believe. Or, fit the way I understand things, or try to.
My mind, sadly, seemed to insist on the ideals I wanted to believe in, not necessarily on the reality of the world I lived in.
I was given puzzle pieces that did not fit, and would not fit in what my mind wanted to believe. Things like: parental abuse. Cruel teasing and taunting by my peers. Evil people doing evil things, even to children.
I tried very hard to twist or bite off or fold over those pieces to make them fit, but I think I eventually just threw them out or refused to deal with them. But they remained outside of my mind, looking for an opening. If only my mind would make room for these awful, but truth-based puzzle pieces. Until then, I rejected them. I refused to let them in.
This is what I think happens when a testimony comes out about spousal or parental abuse, women and children being preyed upon by wolves in sheep’s clothing, even horrors like marital rape or sex trafficking.
Our minds say: “that is not the ideal. Parents should love their kids. Spouses should protect their families. Churches should root out evil. Christians should not condone evil.”
That is all well and good (and true, by the way), but it’s not the reality we live in. If the response is: “this can’t be true because it shouldn’t be true”—-you shouldn’t speak at all, and I would advise reading the Word a lot more carefully. A lot more intensely.
It didn’t take long after the fall of man for a brother to murder, in cold blood, his own flesh and blood. Adam and Eve had barely eaten the fruit, and Adam turned on his own wife, blaming her for his actions.
You have to make room in your mind for the existence and reality of evil. It’s just logical to do so, because if you don’t, you will be sorely lacking in the 2nd commandment. And it’s a commandment, not a suggestion, so make sure to make room for THAT unlovely truth in your mind, too!
James’s encouragement about asking questions should be taken very seriously. Ask questions. They reveal the heart of a person in how they answer (or don’t answer).
And for those who THINK they have all the answers, I would advise us to all sit around that person on Sundays, instead of going to church. Apparently they have a lot to offer, more than the Lord Himself, it seems. IMO, such an answer says a lot about that person. They will have a lot to answer to when they meet the Lord face to face.
Hi Helovesme, this is a great comment you made; it contains lots of truths and wisdom. But I’m not sure I understand what you meant in your last paragraph, so could you please try explaining that again? Thanks!
Sure, I’m sorry for any confusion.
It was absolutely not directed at you! I never think of you as that way (as if you have all the answers).
I sort of blasted that last part out, now that I look back on it. I should have been more careful. Something must have hit a nerve in me (aka triggered).
If anyone misinterpreted something or thought it was directed at them—it most certainly was not!
I get worked up about professing Christians who seem to have an answer for everything. Any problem, any issue or any conflict within or with another person. They act like they have all the answers, when really I don’t think they do. And most of the time, I didn’t even ask.
I don’t like sarcasm, and I only pull it out when I’m pushed too far. So the sarcasm sort of spilled out: “why don’t we sit around you on Sundays, since you seem to know everything?”
I backslid from the Lord about fifteen years ago? Part of why that happened was that I felt like I had no one to turn to, that wouldn’t immediately try to tell me what to do or how to fix it or how to get over it or whatever.
I’ve tried over and over again, to have conversations with people in which I am treated as an equal. But more and more, I feel like I’m being condescended to, or they try to command or control me.
I’m not always as teachable and reachable as I should be (this is apart from Ruth’s wonderful comment regarding being teachable). But at the same time, if I don’t agree with you, or want you to try to fix my problems or want to hear all your supposed answers—-that doesn’t mean that I’m trying to be difficult.
So I get angry, because it’s like they are on par with Him, or above Him, and therefore something is wrong with me if I don’t adhere to them. It’s a form of self-idolatry, and I do hope I hold myself just as accountable when I see it in myself, as well as others.
I should not have made that last comment about facing Him and having to answer to Him. Ironically, that is NOT the answer, and I do apologize. Hopefully these persons from my past have learned and grown, just as I hope I have as well.
Ah, that makes sense now – you were being sarcastic in your last paragraph. Nothing wrong with a bit of sarcasm on occasion. Black humour can be a way of coping with pain. 🙂
Thank you James. Great article! I knew this stuff in my heart but struggled to put into words. You’ve explained it really well. God bless you.
Thank you, Daughterofgod. I am very pleased. And God bless you, too.
Hi daughterofgod, thank you for going to the trouble of submitting a comment. I know James has been encouraged by your comment, and I have too.
What jumped out at me was that authority and responsibility must be equal. Growing up in an abusive family and even in my most recent ministry position, I was given responsibility but no authority. Trying to get younger siblings to obey when you are left in charge is impossible without authority. I would be punished for not fulfilling my responsibility, but I had no authority to accomplish it, and those who did have authority did not back me up. I have a huge fear of responsibility now, though I also long for responsibility together with authority.
I realized only lately that I have a natural ability to pull people together into functional teams, but the trauma has undermined this ability. As I began to realize I had this gift, I recognized that my frustration with our dysfunctional team came in part because I knew how to pull it together and yet was supposed to sit under an enabler who repeatedly stated she felt she should not lead, leaving a vacuum for a couple of passive-aggressive men to lead through her. I told my boss’s assistant that I thought I could pull us into a functional team if they would allow me.
The chauvinistic ministry I was part of went after me. They told me to write up how I would pull our dysfunctional, at-war team together and let someone else implement my suggestions, that I should lead from behind. We already had a couple of people pulling reins from behind and not in the same direction. I refused to join in the fray. I would lead with backing from the org or nothing. They fired my husband and I. I had already done more than anyone else toward healing old wounds on the team.
I am so sorry your church and your family of origin treated you like that, DaughterIAm.
That helps me understand a bit about my own family of origin. I am the second of four children. My parents were not out and out abusive, so it was not as bad as your family. But they did sometimes tell my older sister to make sure we younger kids behaved.
I know that many parents ask the oldest sibling to keep an eye on the younger siblings, and there is some sense in that. The older a child is, the more likely they are to be aware of risks and dangers and to be perhaps able to intervene to stop fights between the younger siblings. But the effect it has on the oldest child is not often all that good. The oldest sibling can turn out in adulthood to be a good ‘manager’ of others, but they might also be the most ‘bossy’ type of person.
My older sister has become a very skilled manager/ administrator in her career. She is honoured and valued for that. But she still has a tendency to over-manage the interactions and attitudes of family members, particularly me — which may be because I am the sibling who was just a bit younger than her when we were kids. I wonder whether she has that slightly bossy tendency because my parents gave her responsibility but no effective means of authority (other than her being a bit older and more mature than the rest of us kids).
The bugbears of being the oldest child? The bugbears of being the second oldest or middle child?
I know that in the days when the USA and Russia were competing to be the first nation to land a man on the moon, NASA preferred to select as astronauts people (men) who were the oldest child in their family. NASA now selects female as well as male astronauts, but they may still prefer oldest siblings, for all I know.
Barb and DaughterIAm the comments about siblings and the structure surrounding the family unit resonated with me for sure.
But more concerning my husband’s family. He has two older brothers, and in watching and observing some of the dynamics there, coupled with these comments, and ALSO with James’s post in mind—-I hope this might edify or encourage others:
I’ve noticed a pattern when I’ve dealt with people in authority, or those that THINK they are my authority—it is a bad sign when such persons want power, but do not want to be responsible with that power. They want control. Now, inject into that they fully believed they had those rights, or were in the right. That adds more and more contradictions to already very complicated situations!
My two brothers-in-law and a few other male members (all of whom profess Christ), have tried to and seemed to believe that they exercise authority, power and control over my spouse and myself. It has taken me a long time to realize that no, older siblings, parental figures or not—-you don’t have those rights over us.
You have to know who does and doesn’t have the right to tell you what to do. To command and (as James warned)—coerce. Who does and doesn’t have authority over you might not be obvious. It took me a long time to figure out what should have been obvious, but because of the complicated nature of family and family dynamics, it took me a long time to untangle those contradictions.
James spoke of false or missing information. Spot on. I can now fill some of those holes where information was lacking, and correct information where it was false.
Bottom line: you are not in charge of my husband anymore, because he’s not a young child anymore (and hasn’t been for years). Stop treating him like he is still a child. If you love him, you will let him go and let him be his own person, separate from you. If you refuse, you don’t really love him. You just loved to control him, or you loved him as long as he let you control him. And that is not love. That is abusive.
I have the same issues with females in that family, again who are professing Christians. They don’t seem to realize that you’re dealing with grown ups. But in their eyes, they operate on all sorts of false premises. As a result, the word “consequences” is not a valid or applicable word to them, and the results are disastrous.
When I look back, I can see how the Lord was doing just as this post indicated. Something is not right when things aren’t adding up. Through the Holy Spirit, you can step back and say—wait a second.
There is full-on hypocrisy going on here. I can see all these contradictions: one standard is applied to this person, but a whole different one applied to another. And again, the results are disastrous. People get hurt when this happens.
James pointed out free will. No, you don’t HAVE to be this way. You choose to be this way:
People have turned on me because they did not want to create conflict. They sided with their relational family members, simply out of loyalty and a desire for family unity. That was very hard on me. Those I trusted chose to abuse that trust.
At first I thought: fair enough. I didn’t want to be a wedge or a divider—-whether I was right or wrong seemed inconsequential. As time went on, I started to see contradictions:
If you’re so close to these family members, if there is such a solid love and trust there, what are you so afraid of? Can your relationship not deal with conflict, or differing opinions, or possible challenges? And you have no room to deliver a Biblical rebuke, out of fear of hurt feelings?
Or, do you just not want to deal with anything that might cause ripples? Is that the only way you can function as a family unit? Then something is very wrong.
I had to ask myself if I was really in the wrong and measure myself against Scripture, NOT against their version of Scripture, or their own sense of right and wrong. I thought I had married into a Christian family, but I felt like an oddball and a misfit.
This is where another contradiction might come up. Just because people are hurt, does not necessarily mean that you did anything wrong. Just because someone SAYS you have been disobedient, does not mean that you have been. Just because you think and act different, and that seems to make people uncomfortable, does not mean that there really is anything wrong with you.
I got into a lot of trouble by trying to ask questions. James’s hypothetical responses were right on. If the person ignores you, or dodges you, or gets upset when you ask certain questions (or make certain observations)—-that is telling.
Not only that, but don’t ignore or brush off those observations. I perceived things from day one with certain people, but I was too scared to say anything. I was onto something, but I was too scared to pursue it. People have a hard time taking me seriously, and that fed my false sense of inferiority. That is more misinformation right there: you are not inferior, and if you are afraid, that is significant. Ask yourself why?
Last point: women seem to have a tougher road; an uphill climb to be taken seriously as leaders, or authority figures, or in being treated as equals to men. I’ve noticed that they are burdened in ways that men are typically not.
For a woman to be a leader, she must be able to lead AND be likable. For a man to lead, the former may be true, but the latter might not be a huge factor.
In the church, why do we look for leaders that have more style than substance? The Bible clearly contradicts that away of thinking. Yet we tend to hire and follow leaders with a boatload of charisma, but a striking lack of love for the Lord and His people.
In particular, I have gotten very upset when I feel Barb is put under the microscope in an unfair way. She is very open to being questioned or even challenged, but watch your mouth and watch your manners. I have wondered if the fact she is female opens that door for fools to berate her in a way that they would not dare to do to a male, but I hope that is not the case.
Without a doubt, however, I HAVE noticed that a woman who stands up and stands for Him and stands up for others is NOT always going to win you any fans. It also may bring about punishment, and real consequences. It does not always go well with us when we dare to speak as Christ did: rebuking the oppressor and caring for the oppressed. I’ve lived this, so I know what I am talking about!
It’s a contradiction on a huge scale. My advice: point out those contradictions, and don’t compromise where Christ is concerned.
I have wondered that too. My gut feeling is that it MUST be so quite often. But it is hard to tell to what extent they are berating me because I am female.
Many factors play in to this. Many men do not like being taught by females or corrected by females. Many men – particularly clergy and academics in my experience – seem to assume that females don’t know as much as they do. And they automatically resist when a woman gives them critical / constructive feedback. Many men, particularly in the older generation, are not used to women intellectually challenging them. They can’t handle it. So they put up their hackles straight away.
But the expectation that women leaders should be likeable – that’s a great point, Helovesme. I think that when I have been berated by men AND women, this expectation is behind their dislike of me.
In addition, I think some of their dislike of me goes back to the fact that they felt hurt by something I said, or they felt hurt on behalf of another person who they assumed I had hurt. But I had not necessarily done anything wrong.
Sure, sometimes I had done something wrong, been unwise with the words I used or the manner in which I delivered them. Sometimes I have let my frustration out inappropriately — that’s for sure! But sometimes I sense that people have felt hurt by something I said because it reminded them of hurt they had suffered at the hands of their abuser(s).
This is where triggering can be confusing. The emotions of being triggered are VERY real. But the person or words or thing which triggered you, were not necessarily wrong in and of themselves.
A very simple example is how I get triggered when I hear loud sharp noises. I can be riding down the street on my bike, or walking along the footpath, and a sudden loud noise like a car horn or the bang of something on a building site can trigger me. I quite often blurt out “SHUT UP!” in a loud voice. Or my hands can fly up in the air in the startle response. These responses are outside my conscious control. They just happen – they happen immediately at loud noise.
The car horn tooting, or the bang on the building site is not in itself necessarily wrong. The driver might have had good reason to toot their horn. I know that some irresponsible car drivers toot their horns aggressively, not just to warn of danger, but I can’t assume that all toots are done by bad people.
However, when running a blog like this, there are LOTS of readers who are easily triggered — through no fault of their own. And I think that some of them have assumed that I am a bad person because something I said triggered them, when in fact I may not have said anything wrong / or wrongly. This is IMO part of the reason for people berating me.
And please note that I do recognise that sometimes I have said things unwisely. I’m not making a blanket excuse for myself.
Yes, I wanted to be careful in assuming that you got treated in certain ways ONLY because you are female. My strong hunch, however, is that it played a part, but to what extent I’m not so sure. Being sexist is a very strong charge and I don’t want to capriciously use such a label.
Whatever the case was or wasn’t, it still very much angers me. Believe me, I understand about getting carried away and being quick to anger, quick to speak. And issues that are discussed on this site and on social media are very hot button issues. It’s hard, but not impossible, to remain self-controlled and sober minded while trying to have real discussions about such serious topics.
But I do think you were owed some apologies. Your paragraph about how men handle dealing with women was so spot on; I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you so much for your words about triggering. I’m living it in a pretty serious way so it’s nice to hear from someone who “gets it.” It’s very confusing, not to mention frustrating. And the last thing I want to do is unfairly assign blame when it does not belong.
That is actually a mark of an abuser, IMO. Everything is someone else’s fault, and nothing is their fault. I don’t want that abusive quality to be present in me, so I try to be aware of how I react to being triggered. That is hard, because it can provoke a passionate reaction or response, but I don’t mean to hurt anyone.
So if you or I or someone else accidentally triggers someone, I would try to gently suggest that the person being triggered own up to that, and to also not unfairly take their anger out on anyone. I know that is hard, but try not to punish someone for something they said or did as if it was wrong, and likely it was not wrong at all.
The likable concept would be amusing to me if it wasn’t so serious. The hypocrisy is on full display, as I see it. A man can be a bully, aggressive, rude and ill-mannered—-and he’s lauded as a leader, or a potential leader. I’ve seen male pastors use harsh language and coarse words, act immature and very UN-likable—and it’s not taken seriously enough.
I do think women are unfairly painted as needing to be likable enough to lead, but NOT so assertive that she intimidates others. Warm and compassionate, but not so much to where you’re seen as overly emotional. Take a hard line and a hard stance, but don’t bruise any fragile egos (especially the males).
And above all, you have to keep proving yourself because many still carry around the assumption that you shouldn’t be in charge at all.
These crazy, insane standards do not tend to be applied to males.
Barb, it is not indicative of an incapacity to be in a charge when you get frustrated or say something that you later regret. I can’t imagine anyone who has ever been in leadership who can say that they had a perfectly tamed tongue. The Bible says that is impossible. Maturity is something to be pursued, but it will never be fully achieved on this side of eternity.
So that is why I get especially upset when your shortcomings are pointed out in a particularly harsh way. Perfectly fine to call you out, but don’t disparage her, and don’t try to make it seem as though she is unfit to do what God has put on her heart.
If you’re looking for a reason to have your suspicions confirmed that since she is not likable she should not be in leadership—-that’s not Biblical at all. For myself, it won’t take long to find something about me you don’t like, or approve of. So you’re not really fit to be around me if you’re just looking for ways to bring me down. It won’t be hard to do, but why do you feel the need to do that?
I would very carefully suggest that Christ was not what you would call “likable” as we might define it. He loved people without limit, but He certainly [did not] resort to flattery or insincerity in order to win people over. He worked hard at relationships, but He never minced words or minimized the seriousness of His message.
I recall the verse about “itching ears” in the Word. Those that look for a message that condones their views or lifestyle, saying things they want to hear, not what they need to hear. We’d all do very well to be careful that we don’t go down that road.
Once in a while I’ve read comments from those that say they were abused, and they come across as very harsh—but in a way that is utterly lacking in compassion. They will put others down or make claims that you should NOT make. Example: “I was abused and I left so if you stay, there is something wrong with you.”
That is NOT like you at all. And the distinction is very obvious between people like that and yourself.
I am curious, too.
My own reactions when I trigger tend to be non-verbal, oftentimes the cumulative effect of past memories / flashbacks, or triggers that unleash a barrage of the “not me” voices in my head, or simply freezing.
In my mind, I can picture Barb’s response to a trigger.
In my mind, I can picture the responses of other victims / survivors when triggered.
What I CANNOT picture in my mind is how someone else would recognize I am triggering.
DaughterIAm, I hope you can find more receptive places where you can exercise your natural gift / ability to pull people together into functional teams, and to heal old wounds that might exist if a team has not been well-led because the former leaders did not have the capacity for one reason or another.
As James explained so well in this post, any or all of these factors may have a bearing on why the person or people who are the official leaders of an enterprise may not be competent to lead that enterprise:
—Sometimes the titular leaders lack character.
—Sometime they lack intellectual development: they do not have the ability (IQ) to detect all the pertinent contradictions and analyse all the multiple variables to come up with the best ‘on the ground’ solution to a problem.
—Sometimes they are missing essentials because they do not have all the information. Sometimes this is because people on the team, and others who are witnessing or overseeing the progress of the enterprise, have not passed on to the leader all the information they know that would help the leader make the best decisions.
—Very often they (the official leaders) have been taught / brainwashed to believe certain presuppositions and traditional doctrines. So they EXCLUDE and DISCOUNT and DENY and DISBELIEVE information that comes across their plate when that information does not fit those presuppositions and traditional doctrines.
—And almost always, the official leaders are beholden to higher-status leaders for their jobs, their reputation, their airtime, their use of the microphone. So, when the official leaders of the enterprise get feedback or suggestions or complaints from people lower in status than them in the enterprise, they bristle. They resort to Ad Hominem attacks. They tap-dance and sideswipe and sidestep. They may pretend conciliation, but they want to quash the constructive suggestions which that lower-status person has made, because they can’t bear their incompetence and incapableness being put on open display.
Thank you, Barbara and Helovesme,
I am not sure in this venue how much of my story to share, but as Helovesme mentioned, agency was a huge part of the issue. The organization took away my agency, the tipping point being when they took away my agency over my counseling choices. The organization had considerable authority over me without feeling any responsibility to me, so I, with the other wives, had a lot of regulations on me, without there being any benefit to us personally for being part of it. They did not develop our gifts or utilize them in any way, just encouraged us to care for our children. I had objected to this. They decided to diagnose me as projecting my past abuse onto the present and demand I go see a prayer counselor who would fix this. They chose the counselor and told him everything they felt was wrong with me. Then they contacted me to tell me their demand. I was already in PTSD counseling, which they knew about.
That situation sent my PTSD levels skyrocketing. I began flooding almost constantly. My father had used sexual abuse as punishment for my “rebelliousness.” My mind saw myself back there. In this counseling situation, I would have to strip myself naked emotionally for a man who was focused on my sins. I was in a bind, because if I told them how my mind was processing this, that would merely “prove” their diagnosis, with which my own counselor disagreed. I did try to convince myself it wasn’t that big a deal, to just submit. Every time I started thinking that way, my mind would suddenly be thinking something else entirely, and I wouldn’t have any clue how I got to that new thought. It was bewildering and overwhelming. The only thing I could do was say “no” and hold the boundary. We were fired.
I had been healing considerably, and this experience really set me back, particularly with my relationship with God. I had been learning to see Him as loving and kind. I was back to seeing Him as someone who enables abusers and ignores the cries of the abused. This is what led me to your site. I am trying to rebuild my faith that God cares about justice for the abused.
With my counselor, I decided that simply walking away would calcify that bitterness that God doesn’t care. We decided that even with the intense triggering that goes with the process, I needed to pursue justice.
I have spoken with two Christian colleges which allow the org to recruit on campus, [I spoke to them] to share my story and to ask them what responsibility they have to offer accountability. They have counseling departments and business management departments. Both could speak into the organization’s policies. These are not legalistic colleges. They are liberal arts colleges. I have also approached the board. The org had healthy policies in the manual, policies which I followed but the org violated on many points. I am working on a letter to the board this week. I had a meeting yesterday with a friend who is an international business coach. He helped me figure out how to structure my appeal.
Many friends and family have been critical of my actions with regards the org. One person said: “Yes, they were wrong, but we all have to deal with issues. My boss is bi-polar. Was it worth getting fired over?” Another person said: “No normal person would think they wronged you. It is just because you were abused in the past that you think so. You have a victim mentality.” My team refused to speak up for us, “Just submit, and trust the org.”
I learned who I could trust or not trust through this. One of my siblings was in many ways the most hurtful. I have been careful, as a sister to respect that sibling’s agency over his / her life and not tell him / her what to do, even when I think he / she is going in the wrong direction. Why treat this sibling like a tug-of-war rope? This sibling has no such compunctions. I called to process, since I am a verbal processor. This sibling started telling me how I was wrong and what I needed to do differently, which included praising God for my suffering and understanding women’s place. When I got more upset, the sibling told me, “You called me for help, and now you won’t even take my advice?” I never asked for advice. It got worse from there, and we will not be talking anytime in the foreseeable future. My counselor had me cut out everyone who was criticizing me until I could heal. That sibling of mine topped the list.
I have another sibling who is even-keeled, easy-going, not-very emotional — this one surprised me by being more trustworthy than the more emotional ones…. This sibling supported my reporting my dad, which was happening at the same time. This sibling would call to check on me. This sibling did not see things the same way as me, but didn’t tell me I needed to see them like he / she saw them. That makes such a huge difference.
I think I am growing healthier, but it often doesn’t feel like it. It bothers me how closed I feel toward God, how guarded. Yet I am holding my ground with the org. I am not running away, even after a year of fight-or-flight nausea and an overpowering urge to run away. I have stood up for myself to people who condemned my decisions. It has been so hard, and it feels like I have to defend myself to almost everyone. My counselor has helped. She advocated for me and urged me to practice defending myself to her. That helped me see how much I had been taught that defending myself is wrong and worthy of heavy punishment.
[Some details airbrushed by Eds.]
Thanks for sharing this part of your story, DaughterIAm. It sounds like your choice to push back against the injustice is building your strength, your resilience, your character. Well done!
I’m not wishing to imply that all victims ought to take that route of pushing back against the injustice like you are. I encourage each victim to make their own call on how and when and where to resist the injustice! There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to handle things like this. You — with the help of your counselor, who sounds great! – have decided to push back this way….and all strength to your arm! 🙂
Just wanted to echo Barbara’s comment to DaughterIAm.
Well done and well said (both of you). I’m so glad things are moving forward for you.
I do understand having a jaded view of the Lord due to traumatic events or other such horrors. I’m still working through things as well. I hope I’m doing better, but it’s still hard.
Thanks for sharing so much. You mentioned those harsh reactions from others (so harsh!), so it took a lot of courage to share with us.
James said in his guest post:
This about sums up what that church did to you, DaughterIAm. They belittled you, they played dog-in-the-manger, they ostracised you, because they knew that you could serve the body of Christ (God’s sheep, God’s people) far better than they could.
Hi DaughterIAm, thank you for commenting and sharing your story.
Ummm….what Barb said! 🙂
If you are not familiar with the Dunning-Kruger Effect, I think you would greatly benefit from researching it. I gave a brief description in a comment that Barb linked to at the foot of my article. And there was a good comment from Anonymous.
It is a familiar pattern of behaviour that you experienced at the hands of your bosses. It is very common for people with high IQ. You just want to help but schemers and petty tyrants do not understand this. They think you think like they do!
I came to learn rather late in life that all the people who rejected me and my help were doing me a favour. I was wasting my time in these situations and getting stressed with no benefit to anybody, especially myself.
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
I can think of many examples from my own experience which illustrate what James said.
As many readers here know, Jeff Crippen and others criticised me in the second half of last year. Some of their criticism amounted to bullying. Some of it was mockery. Some of it was privately expressed to me. Some of it was publicly expressed at the ACFJ Facebook page, and at public blogs or social media accounts owned by the people who were criticising me. Some of it, from what I have heard, was expressed in private Facebook groups, where I could not see it. I know this because others who were part of those private groups have given me this info.
Some of the criticism was no doubt warranted….I had been at times brusque and even rude to others, that was certainly the way they had perceived me and I don’t ever want to dismiss or discount the perceptions of other victims, when they have already suffered so much abuse in their lives.
Some people had felt hurt by my short answers.
Some had felt offended by my asking them to insert paragraph breaks in their comments. They felt this was me being schoolmarmish. Or pettily dictatorial, like abusive spouses are to their victims.
Some had taken umbrage not because I had said something that offended them personally; rather, they read what I had written to another follower of this blog and they assumed that I had hurt that other person by my words or my tone. And they wrote and told me so. Interestingly, in the one case like this where I was able to do so I contacted the third person to see if he HAD been offended by what I had said, and he replied that he had not been offended.
Some people had been hurt when I attempted to correct a false doctrine or a false presupposition.
Some people had formed a stereotype of me that I was always criticising other advocates so I must think of myself as above all the other advocates. I must haughtily believe that God had commissioned me to pick apart the writings and teachings of other advocates. People who formed that view of me did not trust me. But here’s the rub: they did not engage with the substantive arguments I made when I critiqued those advocates….they just dismissed me and slandered me for what they perceived as my haughty stance. They did Ad Hominem attacks on me, rather than engaging in rational, respectful debate about the substantive arguments I was making. And this has not changed. Those people have shown a pattern of never wanting to engage in substantive debate. They prefer to slap me down on social media, or make Ad Hominem attacks on me, or just ignore me. And one of them wrote to me saying “Never contact me again!”
One person gave me their feedback privately via DM on Twitter, and then immediately blocked me on Twitter so I could not reply to her, which I felt was disrespectful and hurtful of her. She was criticising me for being rude and offensive to victims of abuse, but she was rude to me by blocking me and not allowing me to reply.
DaughterIAm, in her comment 10 May 1:40 am, described how the chauvinistic ministry she was part of went after her when she offered suggestions for how to pull the dysfunctional ministry team together.
James replied to her, 10 May 4:45 am, saying:
James is right. And I have experienced so much of this! I just want to help, but many people do not understand this. They often react badly when I offer help or correction of faulty logic. And they often don’t grasp the logic of my arguments. And when I have devoted so many years of my life to building up this site as a place that would be a useful resource for victims of abuse, some people just take for granted that I do all this and they expect me to be perfect and so thick skinned that they can make Ad Hominem attacks on me whenever they want to.
Barb and James,
There are SO many personal stories I could add to James’ post / Barb’s last comment, but for my protection, I cannot write them in public. And that hurts, not because I have any urge to publicize the stories, but because I have no way to support Barb and James by providing additional personal examples.
I cannot write an anonymous comment without airbrushing so much as to render the comment a meaningless waste of words.
I could write a list of numerous public examples from all over the world, but the Holy Spirit tells me “no”, it is outside the mandate of the ACFJ blog.
Perhaps there are many others in a similar position, unable to provide open support in ANY fashion, not even the few words I have written. Perhaps their voices could be added to mine.
Words are hard for me to find, the pictures in my mind flow faster and with greater complexity. And I don’t always paint my picture clearly, accidentally missing words or steps in the process.
I am better at Finding Answers than I am at finding words.
Finding Answers, what you have written is very supportive. That the words here have been meaningful, is very gratifying to me.
Words have their uses and their limits. Many times it is enough to get a nod and a smile that says, “I get it”, from a fellow traveller on the road to truth as we all journey through this world of lies.
Venting is good. You chose to do so at a very appropriate moment, Barbara. None of us will ever know the depth of pain you have experienced through the venom of those who betray you.
This website is bringing healing to many, many precious ones.
There is sort of a statement, ‘If you stand for something, you will be criticized. If you never stand for anything, you never will be.’ You definitely stand for truth.
Thanks, Seeing Clearly.
I have the sense that some or many victims are being helped by the ministries / blogs of Jeff and the other advocates who have lambasted me. God is using all of it, all the different things each ministry / advocate is doing. We can be assured that God is using it all for those He has called according to His purpose (Romans 8).
I think God used the debacle last year to mature me and give me more understanding.
God is still teaching and helping me dis-attach from wanting to be recognised and valued by other advocates. James’s post is one of the things that had been teaching me this lesson.
James and Barbara,
Yes. I am a get-to-the-heart-of-the-issue-and-address-it type of person. I am very focused on potential to wound, so when several people go the same route and end up with the same wounds, I look for what wounded them and then go to deal with it myself or talk to the people in authority who need to deal with it. I have a daughter who is a comforter. When someone gets hurt, she knows how to comfort them. I just feel lost. However, I do know how to figure out what hurt them and deal with it. Seeing the difference between us helped me understand myself better.
I think you are right that it is very hard to receive help in the areas where we are weak. Because we are strong in other areas, we assume we must be strong in all areas. There is an inability to recognize that we will need help from others in our areas of weakness. My team related to me only by pointing out areas of weakness in me. In themselves, they focused on strengths. When I told them I thought I could pull the team into being a team rather than a tug-of-war, they pointed out the areas they thought I would fail in leadership. I actually agreed with some of those assessments. I told them that I did not necessarily think I would be right for permanent leadership of the team, but I knew I could do what needed to be done right then. They kept trying to move forward without having a unified direction and commitment. I knew I could get everyone feeling they had been heard and valued so that they could join together. (Interestingly, when I asked them to please tell me some things I was getting right instead of constantly pointing out my failures, they said they did not know me well enough to know my successes. They certainly felt they knew me well enough to know my failures.)
I could not understand why my addressing an issue of lack of unity and the presence of unresolved conflict was viewed badly. I acknowledged where I was contributing to team dysfunction even as I pointed out there was dysfunction. In my view, that demonstrated that I was not condemning anyone for the issue. I was focused on the issue, not blame. It was not received that way at all, and since I had acknowledged some share of the fault, all of it was ascribed to me. I was scapegoated, as I had been as a child.
And for ^THAT I was accused of many things. (Omitting details for my protection.)
DaughterIAm also commented:
What I rather snarkily call(ed) “being run by a committee”. (Omitting details for my protection.)
DaughterIAm also commented:
(Missing the words to complete the picture in my mind.)
I think you were on a different wave-length to your bosses / co-workers. You were interested in truth and in everyone working successfully to the best of their ability. Your bosses were interested in being seen as successful themselves and indulging in all the little lies and anything else that supported that outcome.
You were seeking different outcomes to each other. While they paid lip service to the best outcome for everybody, they were seeking the best outcome for themselves, as they saw it. They neglected to tell you that! They always do.
Because they saw what you said as attacking them personally. My guess is that none of them were able to think logically or abstractly so they couldn’t recognise that you were talking about ideas. Unable to take in that you were talking ideas, they assumed you were talking about them personally. That is all they are aware of.
So they got personal in return. It is all that they can do because they can’t counter your ideas. They don’t have the skills for that. This is why personal attacks are such a loud signal that the person issuing the attacks cannot think logically (and if you cannot think logically, you will cause harm as a leader).
I bet the attacks were just a series of accusations with no logical argument as to causes or effects.
An effective response is to ask the attacker to explain what they mean and when and where it happened and who was affected and how. You can do that nicely or perhaps a little more brusquely as in, “OK Buster, make your case. I’m listening”! Ok, I’m joking but just a little.
In other words, don’t automatically go on the defensive. Ask the attacker to justify their accusations. Which you have a prefect right to do.
There is no case to answer until the case against you has been made. This simple rule gets forgotten even by lawyers.
Here endeth the lesson! (apologies for any presumptions)
James, your lessons are VERY helpful to me. So please keep giving them. 🙂
This really rang bells for me:
Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah, as the Beatles said. 🙂
I reckon that ALL of us as victims of abuse have experienced that at some time or other. The abuser makes a series of allegations but there is no logical argument as to cause and effect. The allegations make no sense. And their very senselessness leaves us reeling. What? What? What did he just say? My mind can’t even compute where he got that from! In fact, it makes so little sense that I can’t remember the words he just uttered. They had no syntax, no logic, they were so out of left field that I can’t recall them and repeat them to the people I want to seek help from.
So when I seek help from people (the pastor, the police, the homegroup leader, or whoever) I make no sense when I’m trying to explain what the abuser did to me.
I am speaking from much past experience of when I tried to disclose the abuse and seek help from those who supposedly were able to help me.
Barb, yours and James’s comments rang with me too. Personal attacks, accusations and being on very different wavelengths.
Not to mention being unable to discuss ideas without things being taken personally rather than abstractly.
The lack of skills and logic made a lot of sense. And the advice to not get defensive but to ask questions instead. I wish I’d known something like that long ago.
As Barb mentioned the accusations might be plain crazy sounding! How do you go from there?
I would add that it’s usually not going to go well when dealing with such persons (a lack of logic might also mean a lack of maturity. I’ve never quite known how to deal with childish adults.). But it’s worth knowing that it was likely not your fault, or not for lack of trying.
James, I am working on my letter to the board right now, so your recommendation to ask them to justify their case is timely.
I had recognized that I was on non-stop defensive, since all the power seemed to be on their side. They took my agency for my own as well as that of others including my teammates. I could not figure out how to get out of the defensive mode. The only way I saw to do that was to go outside of the set arena. That is why I approached three sister organizations: two colleges and one other mission org. I figured with all the scandals in the news, it was a good time to point out to sister orgs that if they did not hold each other accountable, we could also end up being publicly exposed.
The two schools agreed to meet with me. One school might actually act. Some of the individuals at the meeting already had concerns. The other school tried to re-contain my message by limiting the meeting to those who already knew and a board member of our former org who was employed there.
I am trying to think about how to word my letter to put the burden of proof on them. The reason I am pursuing this is that I am not the first, second, third, fourth…. If I walk away like others have done, it is only going to get worse. It is currently rapidly accelerating the abuses.
I have talked with some people who were on staff who were fired with non-disclosure agreements, a red flag for ministry where there seems no legitimate reason for non-disclosure agreements. I have also talked with other former missionaries from the org who are deeply wounded or with their pastors and friends who have told me about the betrayals. Many cannot speak up. I can.
There is so much evidence to show I followed the manual and they broke it. I have gathered data from periodicals on healthy vs. unhealthy businesses, from law, from trauma research, but I am trying to figure out how much to put without making it appear I am defensive. I want to demonstrate that I am a competent, knowledgeable person without appearing defensive. If I say too much, I could appear defensive, but thus far, they never check their assumptions against truth, so I want them to be confronted with truth first. If I present the facts I have gathered to this new body, the board, as truth — and ask them to prove how the org was justified in breaking the policies, laws, best practices, current research, will that change the tone enough to move it from defensive to assertive / healthily offensive?
Many have cautioned me that the board will simply justify the multiple breaks in policy. They think I should walk away. “Is this really what God wants you focusing on? Shouldn’t you focus on ministry instead?” “Won’t it just hurt you more if they deny you justice, as is likely?” But God laments in the prophets:
To walk away seems dishonoring to God, who longs to establish justice. However, it feels very daunting, especially as I try to figure out HOW to present my case most effectively. I have tried so many ways unsuccessfully.
Then there is the pressure from pastoral teaching. “It is because you don’t believe God.” A huge part of me is completely hopeless about the situation precisely because I feel completely hopeless about it, and that is because every time I have sought justice in the past, it has been denied. Because my father was completely unjust in his punishments, I struggle to believe God the Father gives justice. Because when I sought justice from DHS when my daughter was abused and they believed her abuser never even asking to see the evidence I told them I had, I struggle to believe that God the Judge will give justice. And I feel that even this is victim blaming. How can God blame me for struggling to believe in His justice in the face of so much evidence that justice is ignored. I cannot make my heart believe God grants justice. The only thing I can do is act in accordance with hope for justice by crying out for justice. Sometimes my heart feels like it splitting from the pressure of trying to stay open to the possibility of justice.
DaughterIAm, I resonate with how you have gathered data from law, trauma research, etc, to demonstrate that you are a competent, knowledgeable person. And your vexed question of how much of that data do you present to them to make your case most effectively….all the while knowing that the strong likelihood is that they won’t listen and repent, but will do their best to turn it back on you and paint you as defective.
When writing my book I did heaps of research. The endnotes and bibliography in my book testify to that, but I read more articles and books than those listed in my bibliography. I was always conscious of how men / pastors / academics would be likely to dismiss my work and I felt I had to demonstrate my competence to the nth degree, to make it harder for them to dismiss me. The irony is that all these years later (it’s eleven years since my book came out) most of the men who I wanted to influence have not even read my book. Time and time again when I ask a pastor or seminary professor whether he has read my book the answer is “no”, or he “has started it”, or he “has flipped through it”. Very few men in leadership have read it in full. So was all my research wasted? No; because it made ME more knowledgeable and stronger in my convictions. But it hasn’t changed the status quo in the visible church much at all.
God will bring justice — in the end. On the Day of Judgement He will deliver full and perfect justice. Sometimes He delivers a measure of justice to the evildoers while they are still in this life. But there is no guarantee He will do that in any particular case, and He does not promise that.
Should you send your letter to the board and they dismiss you in the ways that corrupt orgs dismiss whistleblowers, then you might like to report the whole situation to Dee Parsons from The Wartburg Watch. It is the kind of stuff her blog focuses on all the time.
Barbara:, you wrote:
Thank you for that recommendation. I have thought a bit about what to do next, but have not had any ideas.
It is so hard when we work hard and our work is not even noticed. I am sorry that those who were important to you have not even taken the time to read your book. I empathize. A friend of mine and I were invited two years in a row to write a kids program for a retreat. Both years we worked hard to pull off a good curriculum and the teachers refused to use it. They just wanted to do their own things. It hurts. Yes, there is still the personal benefit to ourselves, but there is also a wound.
Like you, DaughterIAm, I have struggled to understand why many people have viewed me badly. James’s description of leaders being out of their depth because they are unable to handle multiple variables has helped me greatly. It’s one of those things I ‘knew in my gut’ but hesitated to fully accept in my conscious mind.
DaughterIAm, you and your situation have been on my mind. I am away from home, computer, and the quiet space I need to go over what you have written. I have had some experience over many years dealing with lawyers and the Catholic Church (the mother of all slippery organisations). And I have friends and family who have also gone into battle with various institutions.
There is a striking sameness to it all. They are all totally unscrupulous while sounding righteous. The insanity can totally do your head in. But you knew that! 🙂
I am hoping to have a considered response for you by tomorrow that you can take into account when making your decisions regarding what and how. Take care.
DaughterIAm, wow my head was spinning. Through no fault of your own, I had a hard time following the back and forth. There was so much that was nonsensical, contradictory and frankly completely illogical—-not to mention destructive AND detrimental.
The paragraph that starts out this way stood out to me:
I saw lots of terribly abusive tactics, and completely unfair and unjust methodologies working. Nothing fell into place as being productive or practical in any way. There was no blessing given or received. It was tragic on so many levels.
I’ve had two major experiences that mirror yours—-one in ministry and one with family members who were professing Christians. I’d hard to say which one was worse. I thought of those I ministered with and to as family, and the family was—-well, family!
A long time ago I read a book to try to help me untangle the MANY knots I was dealing with. One thing stood out to me: they encouraged the readers to try to find their “positive intention.” What were your intention, goal or endgame?
For example, if you are a doctor, and you hit a wall. Go back to the beginning: you got into medicine to help and heal people. That will help you re-focus.
In all the drama and dysfunction of what I’d experienced, I’d lost sight of what really mattered. Who was I trying to please—-God or people? You can’t have it both ways.
I also tried to get a glimpse of the goals of those those around me as well. While it’s very hard to be certain of what is going on in the heads of others, I do believe you can get a good glimpse: you will know them by their fruits.
Both in ministry and this family, I saw a LOT of what you may have experienced—-I saw more and more intention to control others instead of relate to them.
When conflicts arose or communication was attempted, no one brought Him up. Scripture was not considered or spoken of. There was just a lot of recklessness and irresponsibility, a lot of scapegoating and a lack of accountability. A lot not being said, but also plenty being said.
In the ministry area, this was a bit different. Biblical rhetoric was put out there, but there was no way it was put into proper practice. I can’t even put into words how long I was traumatized by certain sequences of events.
I couldn’t believe what I saw and heard, but no one seemed to bat an eye. It did not line up with Christ, because there were many lies and so much manipulation going on. When self-righteousness masquerades as the righteousness of God, nothing good will come of that.
I was very ashamed that I had trusted all the wrong persons, it seemed. Everyone was afraid to take any decisive action, so I found myself carrying enormous loads that did not belong to me. I was also horrified at the amount of humiliation I had to face, all of which was completely avoidable.
Regardless of what transpired—-I tried to look in the mirror, and of course look to Christ—and ask Him to help me make sense of all this senselessness.
I became born again to escape my own sin and the kingdom of darkness. I’m not interested in emulating persons that obviously have a lot of darkness to deal with. I will associate with them as little as possible or not at all.
I do not know where their heart is exactly with Christ. It’s enough to know, however, that these people are not what I want to be like. I know them by their fruits, and what I’m seeing is nothing that I want to see in my own life.
I don’t want to feel or deal with all this hurt I’m carrying around, but I will. I also don’t want to hurt people. I want to help them. If the Lord will give me His grace, I will labor in it for His good and the good of others.
When I see Him again, I want Him to tell me that I was faithful to Him. I didn’t give up. I wanted to plenty of times, but He kept giving me grace.
If I was worth dying for to Him, then He is worth the struggle to know Him more, and to help others know Him more. Even if I have to limp across the finish line, I’m going to finish this race.
You told me to love You and love others. Those were commandments, not suggestions. So I’ll take them seriously, because You took me seriously.
AND, it’s worth praising Him when He enables you to divide the truth correctly. There are a lot of deceptions out there, and it is a true work of the Lord when He shines His light, so we can see clearly what was in a fog for so long.
I think you’re doing a wonderful job in processing all this pain and aiming for justice as well. Praying for you.
Helovesme, thank you for your compassion-filled response. Yes, my head was completely spinning going through all of it.
One of your sentences especially stood out to me:
Before I entered this season, I had felt God telling me that He wanted me to learn to trust and to receive from people again. That is why I decided it was time for counseling. God had untangled a lot of hurt just one-on-one through prayer and listening dialogue and through wrestling, but now was a season for Him to help me through people.
Perhaps you can imagine my confusion about God’s statement when the ministry began its attacks on me. “God, you said you wanted me to learn to trust and to receive from people again! How will such huge betrayals of trust help me learn to trust people?”
I kept wondering whether He wanted me to simply trust the org. The org kept blaming me for not trusting them because “We love you and only want what is best for you.” Teammates wrote to me after hearing the org’s perspective and without asking for my perspective, advised me to trust the org and to submit. I tried to make myself do so, but every time I started to think about submitting, my brain would suddenly be thinking about something else completely different, and I would not know how I got to the new thought or even exactly what I had been thinking before. I just had a sense it was something about going to the other counseling.
What I have eventually come to was that God wanted me to learn how to discern whom to trust. I chose some good counselors. I walked away from one other counseling situation during that time because I could not trust the counselor, and I did not feel trusted and respected.
I learned which family members were trustworthy. My gentle, kind, hyper-complementarian younger sister was completely untrustworthy. She wanted to control me and tell me what to do. My logical, independent brother surprised me by being trustworthy. He would call to check on me. He did not condemn me. He shared how he dealt with things, which was different from how I did, but did not insist I must deal with them the same way. And where many of my other sibs questioned me reporting my dad, this brother told me, “You don’t need to defend your decision. It is the right thing to do, so do it.” The others would, at best, say, “if you feel you should then you should.” I needed someone to help strengthen me, to hold up my arms. It surprised me that this brother was the most trustworthy. Even as a child, he never seemed to need anyone. I thought he could not understand me and my emotionality because of that. However, my siblings who are more emotionally impacted by things were more critical of me.
I learned that the friends who can maintain healthy boundaries were trustworthy to overflow my feelings on. They would respond when they were able and not feel pressured by my distress. I apologized to one and told her I was trying not to overwhelm her. She told me it was her responsibility to maintain her boundaries. Others did not have boundaries, but a wall without a gate. They would listen and ask if I felt better, but I felt as though I had talked to someone who was not present. It reminded me of how a sexual abuse victim will dissociate away. I felt dirty after talking to them, even though they said they were available to listen.
I did some research on trust in the workplace, and my former org practiced all three taboos listed on a Psychology Today article. There was another article on how an underling can foster trust in an unhealthy trust work environment. I had practiced a least six of those. That bolstered my confidence that the org was wrong about my lack of trust. A psychological test a counselor did had shown up with me struggling with trust, so I was confused as to whether my org was right.
When one of our supporting churches called us in to question us more than once, because they could not decide whether the org was right, I finally told them I was proud of my decision. It showed I was practicing healthier trust. Instead of saying yes to abuse as I had in the past, I had said no AND HELD MY GROUND. I cried and screamed through my fear as the org retaliated, but I did not back down. I told them I had trusted my knowledge as a psych major and someone who has done extensive reading over the years on trauma. I had also trusted trained professionals. I had not trusted the boss whose only credentials for this decision was “authority,” translate power. He was the boss. That was not a good basis for trust.
So through the process, I was learning healthy trust. It was hard and awful. I am not yet at a point of being at all glad God took me through it, even though I can see some good in it, but at least I can see some good.
You wrote on 16th May 2019 – 2:40 am:
These are your two options and I’m guessing that they feel like a double-bind. Neither looks particularly hopeful. Presenting your case and fighting it out holds out the hope of some success but the downside is that you will, instead, set your healing back even further with no gain for yourself or others.
Walking away may be safer and may be caring for yourself better but doing that is going to bug you for the rest of your life. Hence the double-bind.
I have good news and bad news for you. First the bad news. Writing to the board and engaging in whatever process they may present to you will end up a disaster. I and my friends have played that game and it is always the same – one betrayal after another. Your situation may differ from ours but I strongly doubt it for too many reasons to expand on here.
There are no impartial arbiters within the system and you are playing within their system so you will always be on the defensive. They have the money and the power coupled with zero scruples. The system is a series of ‘catch-cans’ to handle the whistle-blowers and the abuse victims. I will elaborate of this more fully but first a brief mention of the good news.
The good news is that there is a third option whereby you play your own game and start investigating them. Turn the tables on them. More on that after I finish the bad news.
I have gone over your comments carefully and it seems to me that you are up against more than the usual incompetence and arrogance. Your former boss is a psychopath and it is always the case that the organisation will rally around the administrative staff – as they have already.
Everybody from your boss on up will be looking at you as a potential litigant for wrongful dismissal and / or as a whistle-blower. You can be assured that they will do nothing without legal advice.
They will quietly receive your written submission and write back asking for more information and within their letters will be veiled criticisms of you and your work. And so it will go – you getting triggered and providing more and more information about yourself.
If you go for a face-to-face meeting, be assured that it will be recorded. Then after all this (which they will string out as long as possible), they will do nothing. You will be then faced with the options of either walking away weaker and more damaged than before from engaging with them or going to court in your now massively triggered state.
What they have been doing through this process is finding out what the case you have against them will look like in court and they will be deliberately weakening you in the process. They will twist every word and every fact you have provided for them and you will find yourself endlessly cross examined about your submissions until you relate in court something that is even slightly at odds with what you previously wrote. And they will hammer on that contradiction relentlessly. They will pressure other employees to lie in court.
At this point, you will realise that you should never have engaged with them prior to taking them to court. You will also realise that though you gave them lots of information (including your self-perceived weaknesses) while they have provided you with nothing. Not even the slightest admission of any wrongdoing.
You will realise that the board you appealed to was never likely to find in your favour because they are part of whatever is going wrong at your former organisation. You will realise that the court system is geared to back the powerful because there is a much larger game at stake which extends across multiple institutions.
Our society is run by criminals in suits with big smiles and lots of money. Paedophilia is rampant amongst the top level in our society. I and my friends know this from first-hand experience and church organisations and the Law are no exceptions.
I strongly suspect that there is major criminality going on within your former organisation and you and your fellow counsellors that were fired have been getting dangerously close to stumbling on it. It will involve money but there is probably more to it.
I also strongly suspect that your former boss, the psychopath, was put in his position to manage you and your fellow counsellors as a precaution.
You said on 15th May 5:44 —
Are you counselling or caring for children? Please don’t answer that if you think it unwise to do so.
Whatever is going on at that organisation (that has got people so fearful and insistent that you bury your head in the sand like they have), it goes beyond simple incompetence.
The third option is to cease engaging with the organisation; drop off their radar and investigate them. Find out what they are up to. That will certainly get you out of defence and onto the offence. You won’t like what you find but at least you will be in the driver’s seat.
I will write about how to go about this in a following comment a bit later on.
I agree with this statement by James. I wanted to repeat it to highlight it. I believe it is 100% true. And it explains a great deal of what is going on in the world.
But I know that God is going to bring all those psychopaths to judgement. The Bible tells us so.
Whatever you decide to do, I think it would be valuable for you to go through this investigative process first. You will have more answers and understanding regardless of whatever else you might do.
Basically, you want to draw up a time-line of all that has happened. You want it in chronological order because the cause and effects relationships will be much more evident to you then. Right now it is probably all jumbled up in your head. You will see meaningful patterns of behaviour and it will suggest avenues of further investigation.
Start with lists. Draw up a list of the people who have been similarly fired. Next a list of all the people you have had less than happy exchanges with. Add to this list all the names of the board of the organisation and anyone else you could potentially interact with.
Note which people seem to have a personal relationship with your ex-boss. There is probably an unofficial hierarchy of power and influence within your organisation. Draw a stick diagram showing that hierarchy.
Next make a list of all the incidents that happened. Once you have them all on paper, start arranging them in chronological order with dates and times. Begin each entry with the date and time. Note the names of people in each incident and any odd relationships between them. As more incidents and events occur to you, add them to the time-line.
Go through your lists of names to see if they are all in your time-line.
Review the time-line to see if any connections or patterns emerge. Is there a central character, for instance? Does something happen often soon after you talk to a certain person, etc.
Go back to the list of employees who have been fired. Is there a commonality amongst them? Perhaps they were working in the same area or with the same people or similar clients? It won’t be their personalities that are similar so much as what they were doing.
With a lot more detailed understanding of what has been going on, you might be able to ask these former employees much more detailed questions which might get you more forthcoming answers now.
Expect former colleagues to contact you to see how you are going. Be suspicious of anyone who pops up out of the blue especially if they offer to help. They will be sent to you to find out what you are up to. Your silence as far as the organisation goes might be unnerving to them. Or someone you have talked to has gossiped about you and what you are doing.
So, give out as little information as possible to anyone.
Do internet searches on the major players that emerge from your time-line. Search the career employment of the board. Their CVs may be available. Check their history, particularly their qualifications. You can phone the universities and colleges concerned. They may confirm over the phone whether someone has graduated from there or not. Any scandals attached to their former organisations?
Google is badly censored so use Startpage or DuckDuckGo or similar search engines (they’re private too). Get yourself an encrypted email service if you are going to be emailing any of this stuff. Runbox.com is good.
Organisations like large churches and others employ law firms who employ Public Relations firms who employ people to hack emails when needed. They also employ what are known as shills. It is common. Lawyers offering pro bono services, ex-cops offering advice and people claiming to be abuse victims offering valuable info are the usual type of shill, although you probably won’t attract them. But just in case, forewarned is fore-armed.
The less your org knows about what you are doing, the better! Remember, everybody gossips.
The time-line is central to all this. Just keep updating it as you get more info. This may sound all very strange but once you start doing it, it will explain itself. I think you will find it fascinating. You get a certain emotional distance from yourself and the events which helps you use your analytical skills. Once you get a good idea of what has really been going on, you can decide what to do with the information.
A detailed knowledge of psychopathy will be invaluable!
Your abusers have successfully put the focus onto you and your supposed failings and distracting you and everybody away from what they have been doing. Now you can reverse that and put the focus on them and their myriad failings and, perhaps, criminal behaviour. What have you got to lose? 🙂
James, thank you so much for these two comments you have made. They are gold. I know a whistle-blower who has been battling the Presbyterian Church of Victoria for years. I will point her to your comments.
Barb, it seems to me that most (if not all) churches and institutions have followed the Catholic Church model of controlling abuse survivors. This model is diabolical and they get away with it because people don’t see it for what it is because they cannot get their head around the level of malevolence in the leadership of these institutions.
The foxes are in charge of the hen house and that is extremely disturbing for anybody to contemplate.
James, I competently agree with the “fox guarding the hen house” analogy. And how diabolical it is.
Sometimes I think it can also be compared to: “rats deserting a sinking ship.” It’s perfectly fine to stay on board and be a part of the crew—-as long as their needs are met.
When the ship starts sinking, no way will they try to help that crew. They jump ship to save themselves. I don’t even think they’ll bother to assist the other rats who might need help. It’s everyone for themselves.
That is what I sometimes sense when power structures are exposed to be corrupt. Everyone thinks only of their interests, and the rest can fend for themselves.
Here in America, there ARE laws in place meant to protect whistle-blowers. But who is there to enforce them if the ones in power, the very ones who are being challenged, are the ones who are entrusted to enforce a law that goes against their interests?
My former pastor retired rather suddenly, ostensibly to spend more time with his family. Seemed legit. We later found out that he retired because a scandal about him was about to be exposed. So he jumped ship before that could happen, leaving us to clean up the HUGE glass of milk he had spilled.
A lot of people DID end up “drowning,” if you know what I mean. Hopefully the Lord has rescued them and brought healing, but I have a feeling that many are still either treading water or have simply gone under.
Barbara’s “vent” fits this discussion in so many ways. She claimed she “vented,” but really, it was so articulate and well thought out that I don’t think “vent” is the proper word.
I understand about others holding back about their personal experiences, but making it clear that they have been through something similar, or worse.
I keep coming back to the same word from James’s post: contradictions! When Barb was describing how others had treated her unfairly, I kept seeing either false information, missing information, and disingenuous actions or words.
I saw a HUGE lack of “do unto others as you would have others do to you.” If you can, please check out Pastor Sam’s blog post with that title. [Do unto others [Internet Archive link]1] It was wonderful.
I too couldn’t begin to count personal examples from my own life, and I too would need to be careful—-mostly because I have no interest, even in anonymity, in dragging their names through the mud. I have no sympathy for them, but Barb’s post demonstrated, I’d like to be careful how I treat others even if I’m doubtful that they will ever read any of my words.
Being a female in this world is different than being a male in this world. It’s an oversimplified statement, but it’s true. It works in various ways, and not everyone has the same experiences. No doubt, both females and males can be subjected to victimization. The stats sadly lean more towards females, but without a doubt all of humanity is vulnerable to harm.
This has been my experience only, so I’m not applying my words to everyone else. As a female, I was and am smaller and weaker, so I’m easier to hurt. I was physically and emotionally abused, due to those variables, apart from being female. But sometimes I thought there was a particular disdain towards females that fed the abusive cycle. I don’t quite know why.
Abuse is not only hard to take, it’s hard to keep taking it! It hurts. It’s hard on the body and mind. It weighs you down and makes life extremely difficult, almost impossible at times. Male or female, no one should ever be subjected to such treatment.
It took me years to finally realize this huge elephant in the room. A huge contradiction: “if I’m so weak and spineless and worthless and shameful, why are you heaping abuse on me that I have had to be particularly strong, inside and out, to be able to bear?”
I’m not a brick wall that can keep withstanding all these blows. In fact, the abuse at home and at school made it clear that I was weak, wimpy and without merit. Therefore deserving of being targeted. Therefore deserving of being “taught a lesson” with violent words and actions. But how is someone supposedly so weak, supposed to be able to roll with and take on so much pain without easily buckling under the strain?
And yet, you come back and keep hurting me more and more—-again with the crazy idea that I deserve it, so I should be strong enough to take it. But would you come back to hurt me if I was strong enough, physically and emotionally—-to put you in YOUR place?
Probably not. Yet you keep lying to me and to yourself: I wouldn’t abuse you if you weren’t so weak, so you deserve it, so even though I just said (or implied) that you are weak—-so you must be strong enough to bear what you clearly deserve.
That is a huge contradiction. There’s no logic working. There is a ton of false and misleading and straight up lies working there. And there are lots of holes in that argument as well.
I was only about half a dozen years into my walk with the Lord when I experienced a good glimpse of what Barb said here. I was passionate for the Lord, but that is not a form of insulation—-protecting you from the pain of slings and arrows. A godly man or woman is not impervious to real things like betrayal, gossip and snobbery.
I don’t believe that those who treated Barb in the ways she described really cared about her, her work or even victims and advocates. If they did, there was room for improvement for sure. Barb can absolutely handle a real discussion or debate. She’s not above correction, as are none of us, but if you don’t want to deal with her directly, don’t deal ABOUT her with anyone else, or don’t deal with her at all. Do it right, or don’t do it at all.
Barb has been abused herself. I again stress that she can handle herself, but treat her right. If you’ve ever been abused, and you don’t tread carefully when dealing with OTHERS who have been abused, I would say that something is wrong with you, not with her.
And if you don’t know how to do it right, figure it out before you do anything! I did not grow up in a home where conflict resolution was our strong point. That doesn’t mean you are a lost cause. Doing it badly, or wrongly—has consequences.
Sometimes people start conflicts, but have no desire to converse. They just want to command or control, or discourage or dismay. Such a person needs to work on themselves, and not blame others if they (not shockingly) don’t respond well to such tactics.
The Word talks about being careful that we don’t bite and devour one another. I would hope we would very cautiously try to be aware of that.
1[May 29, 2022: We added the link to Sam Powell’s blog post Do unto others. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that post. Editors.]
For me, the word “vent” did not fit the picture in my mind of Barb’s comment.
Thank you, Helovesme, for finding the words for the picture in my mind.
Click this link to read Ps Sam Powell’s post Do unto others [Internet Archive link].
Ruth Magnusson Davis posted this at Facebook, and has given me permission to post it here. She says:
From Ruth’s comment:
^NOT that, in the sense that not everyone has this as a feasible option.
I am teachable in the sense of:
I am like a blind person, looking to God, looking to the Light. And the Holy Spirit is my Guide, gently leading me, making sure I don’t trip or stumble over anything in my path.
I have listened to online sermons, ones that build pictures in my mind with the words I hear. This picture-building-in-my-mind-from-sermons has NEVER happened in ANY “c”hurch I have attended.
I am teachable, but not everyone can teach me. (Omitting details for my protection.)
(No words to describe the rest of the picture in my mind.)
Hi Finding Answers, would you like to tell us whose online sermons you are listening to that help build pictures in your mind? It might help some other readers.
I praise God for how gentle and caring He is. 🙂 🙂
Finding Answers and Barbara, I am also interested in knowing of these online sermons.
I listen to Liam Goligher’s sermons. Somehow, the way he connects Scripture and background information helps build the picture in my mind. I am not PCA myself, but the sermons I have listened to have untwisted many things I have been falsely taught.
I listened to his complete sermon series on the Book of Esther, using the ACFJ blog links.
The ACFJ link to the first sermon on the Book of Esther is below:
Liam Goligher’s sermons on the book of Esther (pt 1)
I’d like to elaborate and add my own thoughts to these words which James wrote.
Psychopaths are astute observers. For example: to be a successful serial child molester you need to be an acute observer of others: you have to acutely observe the responses and reactions of children, and the response and reactions of the adults who are the guardians and caregivers of those children. To get access to children to molest, you have to carefully observe both the children’s and adults’ responses, and compute all those variables to figure out how to molest your child-targets without being detected and held to account.
Another example: a man who successfully abuses his female intimate partner has to be an astute observer of her hopes and wishes, her beliefs, her aspirations, her fears, her soft spots and sore spots. He must observe and compute all those variables to successfully invade her mind and intimidate her and brainwash her while simultaneously getting her to believe that he loves and cares for her. (Don Hennessy explains this so well, and I am indebted to him for his insights.)
Computing all those variables requires a high level of intelligence. So to be a successful psychopath / wolf you probably have to have a high level of intelligence. (James, I’d love your input here, and to nuance or correct me if I’m wrong.)
James pointed out that a good leader has to be an astute observer. So how does a good leader differ from a psychopath?
A good leader has to have a high degree of intelligence, and be of good character so that the problem solving he / she does is of benefit to all people of good will.
I think that a high level of empathy is also important.
Let us apply this to abuse advocates:
An abuse advocate might:
—be of good character
—have sufficiently have high IQ to be able to manage multiple variables
—have all the right information and understand the dynamics of interpersonal abuse.
But if they don’t have high empathy as well, they can jump to wrong conclusions about other members of the team. And they can jump to wrong conclusions about other abuse victims.
High empathy seems to go hand in hand with humility.
What do others think about this? Am I ringing bells? Does any of what I’ve said make sense to you?
Barb and others,
This is a little long-winded but hopefully worth the read.
Barb wrote —
Psychopaths need to observe the “Who, What, When and Where”. The problem-solver needs to learn not just the “Who, What, When and Where” but the “Why and How” of the situation as well and then engage all the parties and their needs and priorities to arrive at a suitable outcome.
So the psychopath only needs to identify that a problem exists to exploit it. He looks for signs of neglect or abuse as well as disengaged or absent parents, particularly fathers. He may test the situation by putting his arm around the child in the presence of one or both parents to see the reaction, if any.
They may observe for themselves next time they are in a social situation that includes adults and children. Look for withdrawn children or children who are indiscriminate in whom they approach (adults unknown or barely known to them).
Observation is a necessary and sufficient component to be able to exploit others. Observation is a necessary but not sufficient component to problem solve.
Barb wrote —
The abuser looks for targets that are high in empathy and trust. The abuser then invites the target out for dinner or arranges some discreet time together and inquires into the target’s life. “Tell me all about yourself? What interests you?”! What follows is sometimes called “The Interview”.
“The Interview” is where the woman, grateful that someone is interested in hearing about what she is interested in for a change, tells the abuser all he needs to know to ensnare her. “What a coincidence!” says the abuser. “I love helping the homeless, too! Tell me more. We must combine our efforts!” And so it goes.
The abuser doesn’t need to be of high IQ or high observation skills. He only needs to ask. Afterwards, to brainwash the target, he just needs some basic ‘gaslighting’ skills. These skills amount to no more than introducing doubt (by questioning what happened) and confusion (by lying about what happened) and the empathic and trusting target will do the rest themselves. It progresses slowly so that the hapless target doesn’t notice the small incremental increases – the “Boiling Frog” effect. (Human beings have the maddening ability to normalise the decidedly not normal if it is done slowly or if there is no escape.)
As the confusion over time increases, it becomes more and more painful. The aim for the brainwasher is to increase this pain ’til the target gives up and says in effect, “Just tell me what is real and what to do”. Structurally, this is no different to physical torture.
Barb wrote —
The corrupt leader is not interested in problem solving and so he doesn’t need high IQ or acute observation skills. All that is needed is good ‘interviewing’ and ‘gaslighting’ skills together with an ability to project a powerful, competent persona. Their power is a product of others’ perception. A trusting flock is necessary.
What about the difference between good and bad leaders concerning empathy? I think “empathy” in this context is the wrong word (and I may have used it myself). We need empathy but what we should be looking for in a leader is compassion.
Compassion, like courage, is a choice and results in action. Without action (and I include many cases when the decision is to not do something), there cannot be courage and, likewise, without action there cannot be compassion. It’s not a feeling; it is a decision.
So now we are in the realm of action which is the realm of ‘fruits’.
Assessing the behaviour, the outcomes regardless of rationalisations, is the way to sort the good leader from the bad.
Someone with empathy will have humility within themselves. Someone with compassion will act with humility towards others. It is the other side of that coin.
I hope I have answered the questions and that some of this is helpful to readers.
Thank you James! Your answers are VERY helpful. I will ponder them.
(Airbrushing and simplifying the complex pictures generated in my mind by James’ comment….)
I was usually told I took after my “dad”, in some cases physically, but mostly in the way we worked / taught. I, too, often commented on some physical quirks my “dad” and I had in common.
My “dad” is an abuser, was a secular leader, and has no concept of the word compassion.
I ask people “Why?”, and I listen to their answers.
My anti-x is an abuser, is a paid secular spin-doctor, is a pro at “The Interview”, and has no concept of the word compassion.
After MANY years, and the laborious process of translating a parable in the Bible to a complex picture in my mind to the single word compassion, I FINALLY understood a very short time ago I have ALWAYS understood / practiced compassion.
Now I understand. I have very little in common with my “dad”.
I am going to sum up the points in James’s explanation that really hit the mark for me.
The difference between an abuser and a problem solver /good leader.
I found this ^ so clarifying. I get it now.
Yes, we should be looking for compassion.
And taking this further, I think that very often we (meaning people who are not abusers / psychopaths / narcissists) – very often we make the mistake of thinking that the abusers have empathy, when all the abusers have is a highly developed ability to notice the responses and reactions of other people and the cunning to use those observations to masquerade having empathy and compassion.
Quickly wanted to give props to James for this:
I tended to think of empathy as BOTH of what he described, but I will ponder that for sure and keep that in mind. In fact, I may have thought of empathy and compassion as interchangeable, but again—-I’m going to keep his words in mind.
My comment focused on empathy, which I had understood as being able to walk in the shoes of another person, without actually doing so. You got a glimpse of what life might be like for them because you tried to put yourself in their place.
An example is when you lose someone you love. You are much better able to empathize with others who have lost loved ones, and can therefore better empathize due to that now shared experience.
Before you lost that loved one, your response was likely sympathetic, but now you can truly feel what it’s like for them, because you have felt it yourself. You aren’t in their shoes exactly, but you are much closer to that than you were before.
I may be splitting hairs here, however. Perhaps this is more a matter of semantics more than anything?
James’s comment is worth the read. It’s not too lengthy because it reads well, I think.
I think you’re making distinctions between the psychopath and corrupt leader and abuser? When you described them, there were some differences in how they operate. The aim is always to hurt others, but they seemed to go about it in different (but also similar) ways. Just making sure I read it right.
I also enjoyed reading Finding Answers, finding answers for her own life. Very much seeing those major distinctions between herself and her “dad.” What a breakthrough!
Appreciate you tying compassion and courage together. I don’t think it’s fully realized how closely they are aligned. Deciding to NOT do something is also an active choice, because it took real work to come to that decision. IMO, it’s not apathetic. Those that don’t care simply do nothing, because they don’t care. That is different than what you described.
Love cannot exist in a vacuum. That is another act of courage—to understand that love is a living, breathing action. I do understand how it’s getting harder and harder to interact and relate to one another. Too many times and in too many ways—-people hurt each other versus embrace one another. And if you’ve been hurt a lot, it’s very hard to know not only who you can trust, but how to trust.
I’ve read a fair amount of comments (not on this site) that indicate that. Whether it’s trying to avoid even the appearance of sin, or avoid any opportunity for sin, or other possibilities—-people seem to favor avoiding one another as much as possible, versus risk the many alternatives that may (or may not) cause any trouble.
I felt a real “pang” when you described the “Interview”! Believe me, I enjoyed speaking about things that I am passionate about. Who knew that I might have been giving away my vulnerable spots? I used to freely share my stories of abuse, using them as a way to testify about Christ, or to just allow people to get to know me—-but I look back and realize that I was giving them the exact ways to weaponize my own words.
Absolutely. As you wrote, to be a good leader, you need to have more than just certain skills. It’s not enough to observe, but it’s a start. Sometimes we don’t even notice things right around us, because we never bothered to intentionally take notice.
For example, the Word speaks of noticing someone with needs like food and clothing, and you can help them, but you do nothing. That’s not right (1 John 3:17). James 2:15 also stresses this. Problem solving on this level requires His heart and desire to help as well as practical ways to feed and clothe the needy.
I wonder if the exploitative factor comes in when someone in need is noticed, but only in order to bring them down even further. All he or she was looking for is a target, not an opportunity to tend to their needs.
Both Barb and James opened a door as to why the Lord is so passionate about the fatherless, widow and the oppressed. Those that have been abused, exploited, preyed upon and treated so cheaply and scornfully. Those that have been betrayed and abandoned, broken down and then crushed to a pulp.
I’ve never seen more righteous anger from people around me—when someone they love deeply is being treated as though they are of diminished worth. They are reduced in value, treated as sub-standard, or simply put aside with little regard.
There is nothing more offensive, and rightly so. “I love this person, and look what you’re doing to them. Look how you’re treating them. You don’t see their worth, or you don’t believe they have worth. Whatever the case, you’re in the wrong.”
This is how I believe the Lord is when His children are wronged. “This is someone I love, and you’ve treated them so unworthy, and I saw it all. And I didn’t like it at all.”
In this day and age, it seems we have to PROVE our worth, before we are treated as worthy. And only then are we treated with real worth. Not so with the Lord. Every human being has intrinsic worth. It does not have to be proven in order to be realized.
Yes! Absolutely this rang a TON of bells!
I will read James’s reply for sure. I just want to throw my hat in and say how well that was phrased.
The Word speaks of faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6). If you have faith that can move mountains, but have no love—you might end up dropping that mountain onto someone.
It also speaks of the danger of having zeal without knowledge (Romans 10:2). Zeal for the Lord is fabulous, but if it’s not based on Biblical knowledge, it can be dangerous.
It speaks of having zeal, but with shady intentions:
Then there is a verse about love and righteousness being perfectly balanced in Christ (I could not find that verse; I think it’s in Hebrews). The Pharisees were righteous, but had no love in them. Jesus, having both, knew how to love without denying what is right. And He knew what was right, but never denying love.
And the humility factor is above and beyond important. Christ is clearly, undeniably superior to us in every way you can imagine. But He is humble. In essence, He is the perfect Advocate that all advocates should seek to emulate (1 John 2:1).
Psychopaths clearly do know how ABOUT people. As Barb said, they study and observe and get a good, hard (and often accurate) blueprint of those they want to exploit. They can pick up on the pearls of those persons, but only in order to trample them.
Like actual pearls, a lot of my pearls have taken a long time to form. That makes them especially precious. And it’s especially hurtful when I’ve trusted the wrong persons with them.
However, I can’t hide ALL my pearls from everyone. An astute observer as Barb described, will likely pick up on a few of those pearls, just through observation. So what do you do, hide yourself so that no one can ever find out where you are vulnerable?
No, that’s not the answer. I don’t know the exact answers, honestly. My best and strongest hunch is to be aware that there might be unscrupulous persons around you, but try not to live in fear. That is what the devil wants. Ask the Lord to keep you alert and aware and on guard.
Live in His light, and let His light shine through you. I know that if you’ve been deceived BECAUSE you let His light shine through you, that’s the last thing you want to do.
I point to Mathew 5:15 only as a reference, not to guilt anyone if they are in a season where they are licking their wounds, or in a spiritual wilderness of some kind.
Don Hennessy wonderfully described how evil persons pinpoint those that are Christ-like, and we are encouraged to be Christ-like, right?
But I have to end on this note: you have nothing to be ashamed of, or sorry for—-in emulating our Savior. Being a warm, loving, generous and compassionate man or woman of God is everything to be joyous over, even if you were targeted and suffered as a result.
Those that did and do such heinous things have every reason to hide in shame, or hide in fear—not you. And they will pay when they see the Lord face to face. It’s personal to Him, every bit as it was personal to you.
I’ve gotten the weird idea from professing Christians that you shouldn’t take abuse or victimization personally—-I guess as a way to minimize the damage or fast track forgiveness for who hurt you? That is a lie. If it’s not personal, then it’s not punishable. And sin, as a general rule, IS personal. Christ took sin very personally when He died for us. Why are Christians, of all people, even hinting at that?
This post is well-written and a challenge for me to read and ponder. I, too, feel like I’m in kindergarten, or maybe even learning to walk when it comes to a deeper awareness of social dynamics and what to do instead of the ingrained training.
What is sadly surprising is finding that some of my important relationships which I thought were deep and meaningful and somewhat secure, were not sustainable and could not endure direct respectful communication and inquiry to sort out conflict or to have mutual input for planning collaborative work.
It really has rocked the boat because I don’t always defer to others’ plans and narratives for me anymore, unless it’s something that I really can agree with.
I’m still perplexed by these family members not being able / willing to talk about conflict and differing perspectives. “As far as it depends on you be at peace with others.” [Paraphrase of Romans 12:18.] It seems so unfinished.
I wonder what word to use for empathy plus meaningful action / activism / help / or overlooking?
According to the dictionary: Compassion is sympathetic concern for the suffering of others.
I like hearing that compassion must involve action, too.
There’s a great video by a well-known author comparing sympathy and empathy and this same author talks about how important “connection” is. It’s been important and helpful to me to sit with an empathetic listener and to be an empathetic listener.
This sentence of James’s —
—is one that rings true for me, too.
Thanks, Artina. 🙂
Could you please send me the link to video by the well-known author who compares sympathy and empathy and talks about how important “connection” is. Please email me those details. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
I might (?) / would (?) be interested in this video.
Perhaps the author’s “connection” comparison could help me add complexity to the current picture in my mind.
Hi, Finding Answers, I have emailed the link to Barbara. I hope that it is helpful.
Artina your comment really rang with me, too!
Sorry I re-posted nearly your entire comment. They just stood out to me so very much. And I hope it’ll bless you in knowing that you’re not alone in what you described.
I wonder if those that have been abused or whatever the case may be (rejected, exploited)—if they are told they don’t make good judgment calls when it comes to who they choose to relate with.
I can look back and see some warning signs and red flags, but I still come down on the persons who chose to hurt me or whoever else: “you chose to do this. Even if I opened the door or gave you permission or didn’t set boundaries or caved in or gave in or whatever—-you chose to do what you did and you did not have to choose what you did.”
Helovesme, thank you for your reply to my comment. It means a lot to me and it does bless me to know that others have had experiences that resonate with my descriptions of some of what I struggle with.
The family member that I do have more disconnect with did tell me in regards to some of my abuser’s behaviors not to take it personally, that it was motivated by his ego needs.
This sentence: I think I have struggled a lot in the past with this. But I’m getting better with how I respond, or even if I don’t respond outwardly, my internal responses are healthier than they were in the past. But my processing is not quick.
I’m planning on studying this post and comments once my employment work load eases up a bit here soon. There are several key pieces of information given here, descriptions written in such a way that I think they will be helpful for placing some pieces of my mental puzzle or shoring up loose pieces that rattle out of place easily, something along those lines. I’m very grateful to be reading here.
Hi Artina, (sorry I think this is nestled under the wrong person so I hope you will see this).
My attitude towards the excuses abusers or their enablers make is becoming a bit more simplified. You mentioned a prime excuse you were told: it wasn’t personal; it was all about his ego.
One of the hardest things for me (and for others, I would imagine), is how to RESPOND when things like that are said. What can you say, exactly, and how can you say it so that it comes out right?
My responses try to run along these thoughts:
According to you, it sounds like he has an alibi for everything. Is he guilty of anything, or because he had a “valid reason” for his choice of behaviors, his guilt is either minimized or non-existent.
Where do I fit into all of this? If nothing is his fault, everything must be my fault? So, he gets to have all these alibis, but I have none of my own it seems.
When you speak like this, you give him all the power. You give him all the rights, but in doing so you take away mine. I have no right to feel pain. I have no right to be angry. I have no right to be offended by this abuse. I have no right to ask for justice. I have no right to speak.
I have no rights, because you say I have no reason to feel as I do, but he has every right and every reason to be given alibi after alibi.
Come back to me when you’re done exhausting all those alibis. Maybe then you’ll be in a place to hear my side of things.
This! I wrestled with my old org’s actions, because if I had not already been hurt, would it have happened? Was I expecting too much? What I decided was that they did not cause the initial wound, but they had a choice to help me bear it or to ignore it or to increase my wounds. While I was quiet and fearful, they chose to ignore it. When I began to heal and began to speak my thoughts more, they decided to switch to hitting my wounds and making them worse. They could have eased my burden. Instead, they made it all the heavier.
DaughterIAm, it took me a LONG time to realize how little at fault I was for the actions of others. I had been trained and conditioned to be scapegoated, so for years I naturally took on what was unnatural to take on—-burdens that did not belong to me!
I once had a back and forth with a wonderful commenter on this site—we discussed how people can pick up on your weaknesses, your wounds, your vulnerable areas. Or, you may have confessed or confided in them about past abuse or trauma.
How they treat this knowledge can go in two directions: they will respect your pain, never look for ways to make it worse, and watch out for you as well—-should anyone else try to do otherwise. They will look for ways to help you heal and grow and build up what was torn down. More than that, they will choose to simply love you—-which is the greatest gift of all.
These are all choices. None of them happen in a vacuum. They are wonderful, Christ-like, Christ-driven choices. There is no hidden agenda. There is no deception. You don’t have to prove your worth to them. They care about people, including you, simply because they are people. Case closed.
The flip side is what you described so well. I cringed at your words because that is about as brutal as I’ve ever heard it described!
For me, people picked up on my insecurities, my false sense of inferiority, my desire to please in order to be loved and accepted and approved of, and also my tendency to overcompensate to get attention or feel included. My issues certainly opened certain doors, but no one made them walk through them. And again, no one HAD to walk through those doors, even though they were swung wide open at times!
It really did make my life about a million times harder than it already was, and it didn’t HAVE to be made harder. I tried to convince myself that God was testing me, or sending me trials in order to refine my faith in Him. The jury is still out on that, but the ball is still in the court of those that chose to hurt me—-they are 100% responsible for taking advantage of my shortcomings.
It’s hard to exactly tell from your words, but I would say they chose to be casually indifferent at certain points, but then switch to casual cruelty at other points. All with the goal of tearing you down, or making sure you stayed down.
It came off as strategic, not unintentional, but I won’t commit to that since it’s just a surface perception, based on a few sentences you wrote.
I understand the jury being out on that one. I feel the same way. The verse I keep thinking about is Matthew 18:7 (NET Full):
Hi DaughterIAm, thank you for that wonderful Scripture. That was the perfect one to insert into the discussion!
I’ve enjoyed the verses you’ve shared about loving AND seeking justice during this life, while understanding that we may not see justice in this life—but justice delayed is not justice deferred. We WILL see it on the other side of eternity.
In response to your comment on 5/16/2019 12:08 pm:
This sentence of yours is one I relate to and [I] long for even more simplification of my responses to abuse and disrespect. I thank God I’m in a better place (with much farther to go).
I know this sibling that I have conflict with, obviously, has also been abused, as that was our family of origin. I’m not trying to understand this sibling’s perspective for accuracy (although I initially did this), but rather just trying to understand where it’s coming from, really. What is sad to me, sometimes, is sticking to my limits and not reading in too much or assuming that I know exactly where it’s coming from or accepting that I can’t fix it. But I’m glad that I recognize the futility in “reconciling” on their terms, not that they’ve expressed interest in reconciling. ….and in my not knowing exactly I continue to try to make some heart-sense of it, too much of the time. Maybe I just need to think of one word when it comes up….”lamentation” and leave it at that.
This description of yours, Helovesme, is exactly how I was made to feel in my family of origin, by this particular sibling, by a particular church that did an act of dominance, IMO and others’ opinions, that triggered me and pushed me in a different, more appropriate for me, direction, which I knew better than to let them “oversee”. It is how I felt in my marriage:
I said it this way, “living their life by default” and in coming to decide an appropriate response, I came to think, “it’s not going to help myself or others if I live life in conflict with my conscience, live a lie”.
Nowadays, I would like to pursue continued healing, which I sense is related to joyful curiosity and humility, which is hard to find in the midst of my muscular build up of, in part, practicality in surviving. I have a lot of investment in community places that have become seemingly unfitting for me. They made more sense when my life “stage-fit” with the programs, with children, although even then, obviously, we didn’t fit entirely, in large part because there was not a welcome place for big questions (regarding authority, abuse and conflict resolution) and discussions and many canned cliches did not make sense. And most of the friends I’ve met along the way are not as interested, or available, as I am, in discussing ideas or trying to acquire knowledge of church history.
I value discussion of ideas, because, as is said by another Christian non-profit that I am interested in, “Ideas have consequences.” In a small group that I was in, a person referred to someone else interested in discussing ideas. I assumed (because I didn’t know the speaker well), the reference was somehow negative, not toward the person, but toward the practice of discussing ideas. To me, THAT is where I want to spend some time, discussing ideas because I believe they do have consequences. Just the act / practice of hearing others’ takes on ideas and sharing your own is growth and connection producing. Although, I love just hanging out with friends, too, and NOT discussing big ideas, but I have to work at not bringing up big ideas. But, still, years ago, I saw a documentary on Jewish youth that was so energetic and interesting to me. It was just young men in this documentary, but according to something I read, historically, women were also encouraged in this passionate discussion of scripture and ideas. I wanted to be there.
Hi Artina, I relate to what you said here — it beautifully describes how I felt in the first few years after having left my 1st abusive husband:
….my muscular build up of practicality in surviving.…. Yes! The muscles and armour I had to acquire to just survive. It made me appear hard, stern, formidable.
But so much of it was simply because I had to acquire those muscles and armour and a face like flint in order to survive the stigma of being a single mother, a woman who had left her husband, a woman who had taken out a protection order against her husband, a woman who had to fight for custody of her child and would not let her daughter see her dad whenever she or he wanted to see each other, a Christian woman who might get DIVORCED (yikes, the D word!)….and a woman who had to spend hours or days dealing with her daughter’s trauma after she (the daughter) had visited dad.
All that stuff doesn’t leave much room for joyful curiosity and humility!
I am like you, Artina, I value the discussion of ideas.
I’m so glad this blog is a place where that kind of discussion is happening. And the beauty of it is that because it is all done in writing, we can’t interrupt each other. We each have time to think and ponder what the others have said, and take as long as we want to formulate and write our own responses. 🙂
Artina, this spoke to me too. I treasure those hours and sometimes minutes when learning about or just observing God’s world around me. I feel so small yet blessed at the same moment.
Barbara, I’m so glad to read that you could protect your daughter the way you did and help her in dealing with the trauma after visiting an abusive dad!
My siblings….and I, too, to a lesser degree, really struggle with the fact that our mother didn’t protect us more from the fallout of our father’s ways. It seems that I have more good memorable times with our mother, in large part, I think, due to birth order, not because I was favored. Some of them are older and have more memory of traumatic events. A counselor once asked me if it made sense that I’d remember all the emotional details of experiencing a life-threatening tornado nearby. But my older siblings remember stuff I don’t and they experienced more levels of abuse than I did. And I believe them and know I was steeped in the same spiritual climate even if I was on the sidelines or not the target.
My children and I are working on being resilient. My children, who’ve been through trauma of a different sort….were inspiration for me to continue learning and growing and trying to be open to healing. I believe they are in better positions than I was at their ages to move forward more freely and with better awareness than I had at their ages. That is a hope I have and we’ve been through stuff where I’ve been able to provide and protect (at times by enlisting good help to go along with the wisdom I’ve gained), all imperfectly.
Thank you for believing your older siblings. I was the older sibling and the target, and sometimes I feel as though my younger siblings blame me for having more trauma than them.
I also struggle with the fact that my mom knew and did not protect me. When I told her in college what my father had done to me as a child, she said she had suspected and pointed to how I had stood in slutty ways as a child.
I could not undo what happened to me and I cannot undo what happened later to my daughter, but when my daughter came and told me as a child that someone I had let back in my life had hurt her, I acted. I wish I could go back and change things. Instead, I have gone to get counseling on setting and holding healthy boundaries. I have questioned the doctrine of forgiveness as it was taught to me. I have researched the importance of justice, I have determined to go forward in new ways in order to lead my children into a better place than where we began.
I am so sorry about what happened to you — the abuse from your father, the neglect from your mother, the blame from your siblings….and for what happened to your daughter.
It can only imagine how much courage, fear, tears and determination it has taken to stand against the lies and false teaching and to do your best to protect your daughter. And I know some of what that is like from my own experience….(I can’t say more than that publicly).
From Artina, DaughterIAm and Barb—all those comments were wonderful.
Sharing ideas and trying to have actual discussions and conversations is so precious. This site and the climate is extremely welcoming and open-minded, not to mention open-hearted as well.
I DID like Artina pointing out that sometimes you just want to relax and not discuss anything too heavy—-which is important as well.
Life is very serious, but now and then it’s good to not take life so seriously.
But then I truly echo Barb’s sentiment, however:
I have no idea (not anymore) why we are told have the “joy of the Lord” when we are at low points. And if not, we are defective in our walks with Him somehow. “Oh, you of little faith: where is your joy?”
What makes them think that it’s not reflective of this joy, when we are crying and pouring our hearts out to Him? Desperate, discouraged, and heading for disintegration?
There is great joy in drawing near to Him when we are at our worst, because that is when He is at His best—-cradling and comforting us—-not to mention counting all our tears and keeping them in a bottle. Each and every tear, each and every hurt is precious to Him, and nothing is deemed too unimportant or too inconsequential in His eyes. There is no one that is like that but Him.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told Him: if You had not held me together somehow, I would have disintegrated from the inside out, or from the outside in. Take your pick.
Two of you brought up the experiences of your siblings. That isn’t always something we focus on. My older sister was abused as well, and I grew up watching it until my turn came. I hesitate to say I got it worse than her, but I think it’s safe to say we didn’t deal with it in the same ways.
My younger brother was more of the person on the sidelines. Often I feel like I failed him. We were semi-close, but I had so many problems I feel like I left him behind.
I am incredibly sorry for what your mom said to you, DaughterIAm. I too struggled in that my own mom did not protect me, either. She never went so far as to speak to me as yours did (horrible!), but for sure she took a lot out on me. Easier to blame the unruly child than try to hold her grown husband accountable.
Like I said, the abuser tends to be given or has a laundry list of alibis for him or herself. Where does that leave the victim or victims? Especially if the abuse is within a family. For me, my dad had all the power because he was given all the alibis. The rest of us were indirectly trained or taught to live that way.
Problem is, most kids leave the home eventually! How in the heck do they learn how to function and operate as adults with that sort of foundation laid for them? Alibis for the ones in power, silence and suppression for the powerless?
And no, we usually don’t leave behind those faulty philosophies when we leave. We tend to carry at least a part of them into our adult lives. We don’t automatically learn how to think for ourselves once we turn 18 (the age of a legal adult in America), as if a switch is flipped on. If we didn’t learn that as kids, it’s not automatically installed in us adults.
Artina, It has taken me a long time to get to this comment of yours, sorry.
On 15th May 2019 – 1:59 am, you wrote —
In my experience, and as I tried to convey in my post, people like your family members have demonstrated that they can’t talk at your level of understanding because they are not abstract thinkers. They can’t think abstractly, as in discussing ideas using reason. And they don’t realise there is a different way of thinking.
IMHO, there can’t be a resolution that brings you together with them except for acceptance of the differences. They may never do even that but at least you can and have, unfinished though it may feel.
You reinforced this when you said in a later comment (17th May 2019 – 5:47 pm) —
James, thank you for your reply to my comment. I’ve got a lot to think about in this entire post of yours and all the very good comments. Your succinct descriptions and comments of others seem like sturdy scaffolding on these topics.
You have written so many great comments and I have only had time to read them. It may be a day or two before I can get back on the computer to reply properly.
Oh goodness no worries if you need time or end up not having time to read them! Please take your time, take care of yourself, and take care in that no offense will be taken if you don’t end up reading them.
There may be others who are more needy and deserving of your time, attention and whatever response you have for them.
The harvest is plentiful on this site; lots of persons with so much to offer and so much to give back to. I’ve actually had to make several sacrifices to dive in as I’ve done—-worth it, but it’s not the norm!
Before anything, you’re our brother in Christ and Barb is our sister. I’ve told Barb (and indirectly, including her assistant) that if the Lord ever directed her to shut down this site and pursue other things—-we’d hopefully all be on her side for sure.
Helovesme commented (15TH MAY 2019 – 12:12 PM):
Oddly enough, I ALWAYS understood Helovesme’s sarcastic intent.
Helovesme also commented (15TH MAY 2019 – 8:28 PM):
And oddly enough, I ALWAYS understood this, too.
The pictures I have in my mind for Barb and Helovesme are VERY different than the way the comments might have been misconstrued.
(Missing words for the rest of the picture in my mind.)
Oh thank you for that, Finding Answers. I usually don’t resort to sarcasm, because sometimes that is a technique for abusers. They project their hate via sarcasm. And Barb was just fine in asking me to articulate. And I DO regret one of those sentences, so I’m going to try to watch myself for sure.
It took me some time to come up with one sarcastic but very well thought out rant towards those that supposedly care about sexual purity by oppressing girls and women. You have to make sure the message doesn’t get lost in your use of sarcasm. That does take a bit of work.
From the original post
On 15TH MAY 2019 – 1:38 PM, I commented:
I then commented:
My own reactions when I trigger could be misconstrued as using the technique explained by James, yet it may / may not reflect my trust in a person.
The person would have to be able to see the picture in my mind.
In reading James’ two-part reply (17TH MAY 2019 – 8:06 AM, 17TH MAY 2019 – 9:19 AM) to DaughterIAm’s comment (16TH MAY 2019 – 2:40 AM), I could picture in my mind many complex pictures.
And now I understand why the Holy Spirit has led me to airbrush / omit so many details of my own story.
James’ most recent replies to DaughteriAm – long ones, about how to handle her corrupt former ‘C’hristian employer – are great. He really put the truth out there about most of our society being run by criminals in suits with smiles, and how rampant pedophilia is among them.
Goodonya, Gany T.. 🙂
And just to translate for those who don’t understand Aussie lingo, “Goodonya” is Australian slang for “Good on you!”
Thanks, James, for using some Aussie slang in this forum. I love it, because I am an Aussie too.
And for those who don’t know, “Aussie” is pronounced “Ozzy”. Hence the chant when Aussies join together or meet up and celebrate something about our Australian-ness:
Can the nesting be changed to include more levels? It’s hard to follow these things when they get going.
WordPress only allow comments to be nested to three levels. At least, that is true for the set up we are using at WordPress, and we don’t have the time and energy at the moment to consider switching to a different set up on WordPress.
As admins of this blog (i.e. myself and my assistant Reaching Out), our time and energy can be taken up by a lot of annoying things that prevent us getting on with our core work. For example, a commenter who gives multiple screen names all the time and uses fake email addresses so we cannot email her to request that she stop doing that.
And another thing that takes up our time unnecessarily is the kind of commenter who drives on and on at their ‘pet’ topics and who berates me when I don’t agree with their view on their pet topic.
As admins, we end up having to ignore commenters like that because they take up too much of our time and energy.
Reply to DaughterIAm on 17TH MAY 2019 – 3:14 AM:
Thanks so much for YOUR compassionate filled reply to mine. It was filled with so much wisdom AND joy. The wisdom in learning how to trust, and then the joy that comes when those lessons are activated in real life.
The ability to trust is often squashed, or completely obliterated—–when our trust has been abused so often, or so many times. The experience of rejection is real and has real consequences. Most of the time, however, the ones that trusted are cast in an unfair light.
My response tends to be quite simple: the question is NOT: “why did you trust someone that was obviously NOT to be trusted” (in their eyes, “obvious” means they would have known better, so something must be lacking in you).
The question SHOULD be: “how dare someone take your trust and abuse it as they did?” That is squarely on their shoulders, not yours.
I’m not going to go into my own trust issues, because I don’t want to be a wet blanket on what the Lord is doing in your life. I’m still very wounded and very upset at how many ways and how many times I’ve tried to open up to others, only to very much regret ever opening my mouth, or my heart (“I felt dirty after talking to them, even though they said they were available to listen” paints that picture well). But I absolutely celebrate your progress.
It’s surprising when you find out who you can and can’t trust, right? Never underestimate the power of God to send people to you to step into that gap. He has used non-Christians, strangers and of course, He Himself stepped into the gap to make sure I had some level of support. When those who claim to be His people fail or fall short—-don’t despair. He has resources that are mysterious to us, but effective for us.
There was a lot of good, strong and healthy takeaways from your comment about how discernment enabled you to lay down what trust should entail, and not entail:
Set down strong boundaries. This is an intentional act. You can’t do this passively. You also can’t make it up as you go along. You can move them around if you need to, but you can’t “wing it” and assume they’ll fall into place naturally. They won’t. When you pray and actively seek the Lord in this area, you’ll likely pick up a lot about yourself that you didn’t see on you own.
For example, I had no idea how much fear instinctively affected my boundaries, and then I questioned if I even had any boundaries to begin with!
I easily caved into and cultivated one-sided relationships. This is NOT Biblical. It’s not “love” to constantly give and give, and to brush off any and all of your own needs because the Lord is your “all and all.” That is dangerous thinking: so other people have legitimate needs, but you don’t because you have such a strong bond with Him?
The confusion you experienced (brought up) is actually a good thing, IMO—although it’s hard to deal with. But it might be a signal to you that you’re picking up something that doesn’t feel or seem quite right. Those that are numbed to automatically obey, without question, have gone past that confusion and simply accept and carry out whatever is commanded of them.
Even with all the caution and carefulness you adhere to, whenever you choose to trust someone, it’s a leap of faith. You can’t 100% predict or be positive that you won’t get hurt.
If we will only trust if we are assured we will never get hurt or never be proven wrong—-I would advise never trying to form a real bond with anyone. There is always a risk, even when we work as hard as possible to minimize that risk.
Trust is an act of compassion, but also courage. We step out of our individual orbit and decide to allow others to join our orbit. And also, we join their orbit as well. We share common space, we make space for them, and they make space for us.
We become a part of each other’s individual orbits, for one main reason: it’s lonely to exist in your own orbit, all by yourself! Simply spinning and circling in our own routines, alone and solitary.
Think of Judas. He was purposefully picked as one of the Twelve. He was fairly scandal-free as an individual. We did find out that he stole from the money bag (which he was entrusted with — why, I wonder?). This is in contrast to Peter (who often shot his mouth off without thinking). Or the two disciples whose mother went so far as to ask Jesus to give them major preference over the others.
I would hope that NO ONE would try to tell Christ Himself: “It’s Your own fault You got betrayed. You picked him as one of Your own and seemingly missed all the signs that he wasn’t to be trusted as one of Your own. You could have stopped him from betraying you. If You were destined to go to the cross, could you not have picked a less cruel way to fulfill that calling? Could not anyone BUT one of Your own be used instead?” That is beyond brutal.
I think He allowed His betrayal to unfold as He did, to remind us that those that are closest to you might turn on you. There were other times where He spoke of that sentiment as well.
No, that doesn’t mean pick your known enemies to be your nearest and dearest!
Judas may have started out as an eager, willing-to-learn disciple, and as His ministry unfolded, he became more and more disillusioned. It wasn’t what he thought it would be, so he got more and more angry until it erupted into choosing to decisively turn on Him.
That was not the fault of Christ in any way, shape or form.
Christ didn’t need to learn how to set better boundaries, or be a better judge of character. (Are you kidding me?)
Christ didn’t need to learn how sinful humanity is and keep that in mind the next time He picks His disciples. (Are you seriously kidding me?)
The hurt is real when you are betrayed. But the fault is not your own.
Response to DaughterIAm 16TH MAY 2019 – 2:40 AM and Barb’s reply—-concerning your hard work and how it was not received as it should have been:
I gave that a lot of thought yesterday. The attitudes you both presented were wonderful: being joyful in the learning and growing you amassed, despite the less than ideal reactions of those around you. I will absolutely try to keep that in mind.
When I was much younger, I saw a movie where the ending was less than ideal. The fictional teacher unfairly treated, and even some of his students turned on him out of pressure from the parents and principal.
I asked my sister what the point was of the ending. The students found a way to thank him for all he’d done for them, but the teacher was never reinstated or apologized to. She said that it was important that the students had learned, despite the teacher still leaving them.
My reaction was something along the lines of: that’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Here’s how it SHOULD have ended (aka a happy ending). Since it was fictional, I also resented that those in power did not choose a happy ending, which they very well could have.
So I sympathized with what both of you went through. You both put enormous effort into what you do, because you both care about people. You put your best into your work, because you wanted the best for those that would read or have access to your work.
You both did what you were supposed to do, just as that fictional teacher did what he was hired to do—-he taught them with great passion and skill—-but got fired for it. So, is there no point in putting yourself out there, because you might get punished for doing right?
The answer is, of course not. But I understand the frustration and deep disappointment.
I remember an author being interviewed for a book he wrote about how he fought drug addiction. He was already publicly known, but that was no guarantee his book would sell well. He said that if it helped just ONE person in need, job well done.
I loved that. I’m not a drug addict, and I learned from the few points he talked about in his book. One of them was: if you hang around a barber shop constantly, sooner or later you’re going to get a haircut. I never forgot that. It was a warning that it’s not healthy or wise to hang around areas in which you might be tempted to start using again, even if you think you’re strong enough to resist.
Barb’s words were really helpful:
I’m willing to bet that young man would agree. Writing out his path to recovery probably helped him a lot as well as possibly helping just one person. That’s worth it for sure.
Rats leaving a sinking ship is very apt, Helovesme. Psychopaths, bullies and fellow travellers are cowards….always.
They are kept in line within these corrupt organisations by two things:
(i) carrots in the form of permission to feed on their own flocks, and promises to protect them and provide extensive legal services when caught;
(ii) and sticks in the form of extortion using compromising material against these lower ranked rats. This is why many of these orgs require a person to be corrupt and have the evidence on them (such as paedophilia) to rise to the upper levels. They are then controllable.
When it all does suddenly fall apart, it is because the lower-ranked rats see that the upper ranks have been exposed or are about to be exposed and therefore the upper rats cannot save the lower rats nor threaten them.
Whistleblower legislation and structures are designed to control the whistleblowing. This way the upper rats protect the lower rats (whom the whistleblowers are usually dealing with) to keep them in line and not revolt against the upper rats (because they are all cowards).
So whistleblowers using the prescribed structures and procedures are on a beating to nowhere. The purpose is to keep the wrongdoings out of the newspapers and out of the courts (not that those institutions are more ethical, but more people get to hear about the corruption). This is done by grinding the whistleblower into the ground through long drawn out procedures causing stress and financial hardship and long term psychological damage.
And all the while, the organisation can claim to an unsuspecting public (and workforce) that it is dealing with the corruption and will get to the bottom of it and fix it. They never do.
The acid test is, how many organisations have overcome the corruption that is structural and endemic? How’s that workin’ for them?
By their fruits….
Sticks & carrots being the means by which higher rats control lower rats. Whistleblower procedures being designed to wear out the whistleblowers, thus protecting the lower level rats. While the higher rats seldom get exposed by whistleblowers.
Once again you’ve put it in a nutshell, James.
Hmm. In my observation, when the upper ranks have been exposed or are about to be exposed, the organisation / society sets up a commission of inquiry (e.g. Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse) which supposedly gives the victims of the rats the opportunity to tell their stories in public, and then produces bright & shiny NEW POLICIES and NEW LEGISLATION to reduce the ability for the rats to do what they do.
But all this is just more image management to protect the high level rats from being fully exposed. They may sacrifice a few high level rats during the commission of inquiry, to make it look like they are “really doing something to stop the evil” — but the rest of the high level rats just keep doing what they are doing and their iniquities remain invisible to the general public.
Really great comments from James and Barbara about upper and lower rats, plus how the whistle-blowers fit into the craziness.
This is as accurate as anyone can state it. This has certainly been the case in America as far as I’ve seen. This happens as well when victims try to call out their abuser or attacker, and that person happens to be a powerful person—-in the secular OR spiritual realm.
The scales are terribly tipped against the ones who don’t have the kind of money and / or influence to fight the team of lawyers and publicists that will no doubt take center stage.
What is hardest to deal with is what I see as “double talk,” or “talking out of both sides of their mouths.”
Statements will be put out that SOUND like they care and want to launch inquiries, but it’s all a cover for “just say what they want to hear and hopefully they’ll eventually forget this ever happened.”
I think they bargain on the public having short attention spans. Or, in the case of whistle-blowers and victims—-they are unwilling or unable to stand the strain of lengthy processes that may or may not succeed in seeing justice.
The “control” aspect James mentioned is so spot on. Control the message, control the reactions of the public, control those in the lower ranks, and here and there eject a few persons in the upper ranks to control the public image they want to portray.
I had the honor of reading Clara Hinton’s blog about her now ex-husband / ex-pastor who was revealed to be a child molester for decades. She said that one of his victims reached out to her and that is how everything started to unravel.
I would consider this victim to be something of a whistle-blower, because John Hinton’s control of his public image was extremely powerful. He was not a high ranking CEO of a secular company, but he was certainly CEO in how people viewed him: an especially powerful man of God. The last person you would ever think would harm children.
Clara didn’t even hesitate. She called her son Jimmy right away, not to try to cover things up, or draft a statement to release to the public, not to plan a strategy to control the message, and certainly not to give John a heads up. She called her son because she knew she could trust him, and the story goes from there.
Clara had eleven children with him. I’m sure she thought of her kids and how they would be affected, but that still didn’t stop her. She never thought: “I have to protect him. He’s the father of our children. No matter what he’s done (or not done), they need their father; he’s the only father they have.”
No, she thought of THOSE children whose lives he had ruined, as well as her own children.
In a sense, I think she thought of those children he had preyed upon as if they were her own, and so she didn’t give herself a chance to emotionally detach herself from the situation at large.
I digressed just a bit from the “corporate structure” analysis from James, but it seemed to also be somewhat applicable to “church structure” as well.
Recently, it has become public knowledge that Clara Hinton’s youngest daughter was the victim who disclosed to Clara that she had been sexually abused by John Hinton. So John Hinton, the ‘much loved pastor and father’ was in fact abusing his youngest daughter.
Understandably, until this daughter was willing to let this be known publicly, Clara and Jimmy didn’t disclose the identity of the victim who first reported. But Jimmy Hinton has now written about this on his blog, because his younger sister has been willing for this detail to be made public.
Oh no! I didn’t know that! Thank you letting me know. I am heartbroken.
I do believe one reader DID ask Clara if she knew if he had abused any of their kids. Clara, gracious as always—-explained that her kids weren’t as public as herself and Jimmy were choosing to be. So she wanted to keep the conversation focused on her personal story.
Perfectly understandable. I wondered now and then about that question—-and I’m sickened to read this news.
I read the post you linked on Facebook from Jimmy, about tips for parents when they take their kids to the doctors. I liked it so much that I’m going to try to read more of his writings. So I’ll try to read about this daughter as well.
Helovesme said —
I had the churches very much in mind, too, Helovesme. After all, it was the Catholic Church that brought the bureaucratic / military hierarchical structure down from the Roman Empire and ‘blessed’ our Western Civilisation with it. As such, the Church hierarchy are the masters of control and deceit.
All the splits off from the CC over the centuries have taken this same poisonous structure with them.
Helovesme, it has taken me some time to go through your comments and reply as I said. Here’s a start. 🙂
You said on —
14th May 2019 – 5:37 pm
These are excellent points. You ask why questioning is discouraged? And it is from earliest school days. Those that use logic and can see the overall picture have, by and large, been displaced in our civilisation by psychopaths as the natural leaders. We are seen instinctively as the enemy by these psychopaths. And rightly so because we ask the questions and follow the contradictions.
You linked courage and compassion together in another comment and I heartily agree. This is an all too common example of it. Both the adequate and the inadequate pastor or leader will immediately be aware of the power imbalance between the young girl and her abuser. Depending on their courage will depend on which way they go. You [Helovesme] have courage and would without thinking act with compassion on behalf of the girl.
The pastor, if lacking in courage, will perceive the abuser as having more power than the girl and will (almost) without thinking, side with the abuser. The girl will be easy to bully and turn away and thus his problem is solved.
He avoids a bigger problem (in his mind) of dealing with the abuser. That would take courage and he hasn’t got the chops for it.
I thought it might be valuable for readers to expand on this concluding line of mine from a male perspective.
In some cases, especially with psychopaths as leaders, they will side with the abuser automatically. But it will be out of shared psychopathy rather than shared gender.
For the non-psychopath leader, he will often side with the abuser out of fear. Men, as a group overall, suffer much more violence in their lives as children, teenagers and young men than women do. Men learn how to negotiate around potential violence as an almost subconscious survival strategy. They (Ha! I should say ‘we’) pick up on the body language signals that indicate that violence is not far away if the verbal conflict endures for much longer.
Abusers / psychopaths are adept at using these signals to bully and bluff other men. And men, from the experience of their younger years, are adept at picking them up and responding to them whether or not it is appropriate to back down in that particular circumstance.
I am in no way excusing any man who backs down to a bully in regard to any woman or girl he has any responsibility for. And I am not minimising domestic violence against women. I am talking about the whole male population as opposed to the whole female population. I am talking about your average male being more familiar with violence that your average female. Men don’t talk about it – quelle surprise!
Anyway, I thought this might be new information for many and give a better understanding of what is going on with many male leaders.
If you want to test whether this is the case or not, just ask, “Are you afraid of confronting Blowhard Bombast?” If you get an instant angry response (you may want to take a step backwards first!), you have your answer – he is!
My apologies, James, for publishing your comment providing valuable information from a male perspective prior to seeing your request to correct the one paragraph. I rarely make this mistake.
My honest, immediate reaction to those words about MEN suffering much more violence than WOMEN was to splutter, “WHAT? Are you kidding me? That is SO wrong!”
Then, I re-read the entire comment and thought on it. Especially important is the part:
(caps mine) and:
(caps and added word mine) Ah yes, you’re not talking about the pool of domestically abusive men. And as you said, you’re also not minimizing domestic violence against women.
I have several brothers and thought back to our growing up years. One was quite the street fighter, the others peaceful. I definitely observed the peaceful ones not only avoiding upsetting the fighter one, but it seems I recall them avoiding certain groups of guys (the troublemakers) in high school, too. Until you pointed it out, it hadn’t hit me how much violence they intentionally steered clear of, regularly. Also, in middle school and high school, I reflect on the number of male-to-male (physical) fights vs. the number of female-to-female. Lots to almost none!
So, there’s more for me to consider about the average (i.e., good, non-psychopathic) male’s years from birth through young adulthood; your brief comment has given me new information to think on and to incorporate in my understanding of the bigger picture of violence. One being, the issue of birds of a feather (often) flock together (i.e., psychopaths support each other) no matter their gender, as well as EACH gender’s experience of violence. I think I am correctly interpreting your message to further be “each gender’s experience of violence WITHIN THEIR SAME GENDER GROUP,” correct? (In which case, you’re also not including in the topic of general violence, society’s lower view of women and the rampant sexual harassment of men against women.)
Thank you for the additional comment!
Thank you for sharing that perspective (from the male point of view). I think I got the heart of your message; I hope others picked up on it too.
None of the adults who knew I was being bulled ever advised me to physically fight it out. And I was bullied by boys and girls. Their courses of action (if there were any) were to remove me from the situation, and only the male counselor said he’d confront of my male bullies on my behalf.
It is fair to ask if they would have suggested otherwise had I been a boy. It’s hard to imagine any authority figure suggesting that beating up a bully is the right course of action, but on the other hand—-maybe not?
Thanks, James, for saying this. It reminds me very much of Tony Porter’s description of ‘The Man Box’. Tony Porter is a leader of A Call To Men [Internet Archive link].
A Call To Men is a violence prevention organization and respected leader on issues of manhood, male socialization and its intersection with violence, and preventing violence against all women and girls.
Click the link to watch the video….but trigger warning: some people might find the video triggering. What is the Man Box? [Internet Archive link].
A CALL TO MEN uses the Man Box to illustrate the collective socialization of men. The Man Box identifies the limitations on what a man is supposed to be and what he believes. These expectations are taught to men – sometimes unconsciously – and reinforced by society. In the man box, men are supposed to be:
In the Man Box, women are objects, the property of men, and of less value than men. The teachings of the Man Box allow violence against women, girls and other marginalized groups to persist.
Reaching Out, no problem. Thank you very much for making the edit for me. Much appreciated.
BTW, I really like the practice here of highlighting the name of the person you are replying to. It makes it easier to follow.
Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply and the illustration. Yes, you got the distinctions exactly right and the description of your brothers was perfect.
I was struggling to find the words and had two goes at it but you made it all clear.
I only brought up the issue of men’s violence against men because it impacts the behaviour of your pastors and leaders which then impacts the people here. The issue of violence in our culture, and as a result of our culture, is huge but this blog (as I understand it) is about a specific need to a specific and very real problem.
Thanks again, Gany T. I must say I have never come across such an insightful and articulate group of commenters.
Helovesme wrote —
I could hold forth all day on this topic. 🙂 But I’ll try and keep my response brief and to the point. When I was around [age redacted] or so, our next door neighbour, Harry, who was an ex-boxer, offered to teach me boxing. I jumped at the chance.
By the time I had turned [age redacted], I had ended the violence from the Christian Brothers who taught me and from the Catholic priests who did things beyond your imagination. But there still remained the violence at home from my father. But with Harry’s instruction and training, I managed to end that, too. God bless you, Harry!
Looking back, Harry knew what was going on in our home and his offer to train me was his way of helping me deal with it. And it worked!
Mothers, encourage your sons and daughters to learn a martial art. Boxing is probably the best one to start with for boys. I’d suggest Judo for girls. A man is no good if he can’t protect himself and his loved ones. This is basic.
It is one of those big ironies that if you know how to fight (men and women), you rarely need to because you give out the signals that you can and will fight in your bearing and the cowards notice it straight away and back off.
Anyway, I don’t want to introduce yet another subject. I feel I have hijacked the discussion enough as it is. It is just that if more people can defend themselves and those around them, the level of violence goes down. And that is yet another discussion! 🙂
[For safety and protection, age was redacted. Editors.]
I don’t mind you bringing in this anecdote about boxing, James.
And I agree with your sentiment — God bless Harry for teaching you boxing!
Harry must have been astute. I can easily imagine he waited ’til you were in your teens to offer to teach you boxing. He probably watched you growing physically into manhood, and knew that was the best time to make you that offer, given what he knew your dad was doing in your home. 🙂
Helovesme also wrote —
Although I don’t want to pursue this topic, having started to comment on violence in general and boxing in particular, I think I had better explain violence and how to stop it.
Violence, in my view, is that amount of physical force that exceeds the force needed to protect oneself and anyone under your responsibility. Below this level it is not violence but self-defence – which every creature on God’s earth is entitled to do and I believe designed to do.
Our society teaches us that violence consists of two alternatives – dominance or passivity. But these only increase the level or amount of violence.
Society never teaches us about self-defence and what it is (see above). Self-defence stops the immediate violence but does not escalate it.
This models the behaviour you want. Upping the ante with more violence in return models the behaviour of the bully which is exactly what you don’t want.
Passivity is an invitation to be exploited. You don’t care about yourself so why should your abuser. This is not a condemnation of anyone here – please understand that. I didn’t use my boxing skills (such as they were) to end the violence of the Christian Brothers and the priests. I refused to return to that school and to go to church or have anything to do with the church. Avoidance and vigilance were the tactics used there.
Everyone here has worked to end (or is ending) the violence in the ways they were (and are) able to. That is not using physical force but it is not passivity. It is active.
However, those that do nothing (for whatever reason) get more of the same. That is not a condemnation but an observation.
It is the principle of self-defence and our God-given right to use it that is the principle to be followed in deciding what to do in individual cases.
Ok, I’m done. 🙂
No, thank you James for those comments about physical violence versus physical self-defense. Really important distinction made there.
Self-defense has no interest in causing pain in the same way that abusive violence does. The motives are different, and need to be taken into account. Fighting back is not the same thing as looking for a fight.
And my sympathy does lie with boys who might be either teased or taunted into fighting, and if they choose not to (for whatever reason), names like “sissy” and “girly” and “coward” are likely to come his way. We could go on and on about being called “girly” as an insult, right?
No matter who the bullies were in my case (male or female), the goal was more along the lines of turning me into an inert target. One that didn’t move or react or talk back or try to stand up for myself.
I apologize for this comparison—-but I felt like a toy or a doll. No hint of humanity, so don’t feel bad about what you are doing. And keep doing it—-it doesn’t feel pain like we do.
It would have made things worse, far worse, if I had tried to indicate that I was not only NOT a doll, but I could feel and I could speak. And I could feel pain.
I’ve heard that kids who are bullied are often blamed for not fighting their own battles—physically or verbally. However, if I did not remain as passive as possible—-the bullying would have increased to make sure I reverted back to the state of a non-reactive piece of merchandise.
So I just tried to let them say or do whatever, and wait for it all to be over and done with. And I tried to save my tears for after school, where no one could see me.
BUT, I stick to agreeing with James about boys and men. They DO have it hard in their own ways. They are expected to be tough, or toughen up, or act tough—-possibly this is instilled in them from an early age? The entertainment industry only feeds this mantra. Everyone will be afraid of you, or they’ll regret it if you dare to cross them.
I read an article about a male survivor of domestic abuse. He was beyond shocked when others seemed to suggest that he use physical violence to deal with his wife’s abuse. I’m thinking, to put her in her place and teach her that he is the tough one? He didn’t go down that road.
Bear with me here—wives who are being abused are usually not taught to defend oneself, physically or even verbally, from an abusive husband. They aren’t taught to take real action. They tend to be taught to love, submit more or be more sexually available.
I’m sure there are women who HAVE defended themselves, with every right to, but there might be a price to pay. Even with the goal in mind of self-protection, a victim might not be viewed as a victim unless she—-well, either chose to or wasn’t able to defend herself.
So if she caused a bruise on her abuser by fighting back—-“well, I guess you weren’t THAT helpless, so how are you a victim? You both got hurt. Even if you got hurt more, the fact that you dared to defend yourself shows that you’re not as unsafe as you claim to be.”
Or, if you start talking or shouting back as he verbally berates you—–attempting to either call him out or call him names in return: “You gave as good as you got! You’re not a victim, you’re a participant.”
This is terrible, awful, horrible, right? So I have to remain as passive as possible, let him hit me (or scream at me) to within an inch of my life, and not fight back—-before I’ll be taken seriously?
This didn’t work when I was a child being bullied. Being passive and not fighting back (physically or verbally) didn’t help or strengthen my case.
Note: I focused on a few types of abuse to limit my comment. I realize there are others that are just as abusive. Just wanted to say they’re all relevant.
I do think that males might have a hard time standing up to each other. It might be easier to “stick to your own.” If a male pastor thinks toughness is a necessary male quality, even within in the church, you [male pastor] might see an abusive husband as “keeping his family in line.” Or, that same pastor may be too scared to stand up to this big, tough guy himself. Especially if he [the big, tough guy] has a lot of allies. Now you [male pastor] have to face a whole “gang” of tough guys, who aren’t above using that toughness to keep YOU in line.
This happens with women, too. A “tough woman” may OR may not use fists to paint herself as tough, but she can certainly use biting words and bullying ways. I was badly bullied by a female professing Christian and I can attest that she knew how to spread fear and poison to give the impression that she was no one to be messed with.
She also knew how to PLAY the victim, saying that I wasn’t tough enough on her or in general, and the women around her seemed to agree. At least, no one contradicted her.
Women might be taught to be good listeners—-listen to others, but don’t judge. That’s not a bad thing. But wait, does “don’t judge” mean, don’t talk back at all? Don’t rebuke or refute? Keep your mouth shut? That’s partially how I think she was allowed to thrive. She just went off on me when I wasn’t around, and they just listened.
I truly do appreciate the male perspectives that are offered here. I have no problem with it and it adds so much to the conversation.
James, I appreciate your comment and found Gany T.’s comment extremely helpful, too, in order to navigate reading your comment and reign in my reactions to spots that were also troubling for me to read.
I’m motivated to try to deeply consider male perspectives in general in regards to overcoming trauma and learning to connect well. I have young adult children of both genders.
Your comment initially reminded me of and confirmed some of the ideas presented by a female speaker I heard recently. She was humorous, which I didn’t always appreciate. She didn’t really bring up the environment of violence that men are raised in in detail but mentioned that they have a lot of pressures, something like that. That is a very big difference between how she spoke of it and how you’ve presented it. I appreciate the more serious environment here, but understand, too, the difference between the two contexts for the ideas being presented.
I really appreciate this, from a later, follow-up comment of yours:
This is good for me to think about and try to keep more in mind as I try to contribute.
Thank you, Artina.
I really appreciate your comment and the comments from others here. Been trying to think what to say but I don’t have the words except to say thanks.
Helovesme, 20th May 2019 – 11:41 am. In my previous comment, I said:
My second sentence is not well expressed and should have been expounded on or left out of my comment. So by way of explanation and to confirm I understand you, can I ask a question?
Would I be correct in saying that, by turning yourself into an impassive ‘doll’, you defended yourself from more harm using the only thing under your control – your ability to hide any emotional reaction?
That takes an act of strong will and is most definitely resistance. It was your ‘call’ and you chose what to do out of the options available to you as you saw them. It is not anyone’s place to criticise you for that or even question it. This is keeping a measure of control very much along the lines that Victor Frankl wrote about in Man’s Search For Meaning for which he has been universally praised.
What bugs me and also you (if I read you comment rightly) is ‘well-meaning’ people, especially within churches, that talk a victim of violence (of whatever variety) out of what she wants to do to protect herself and her children from the abuser. In that case, she knows best and is always responsible for her choices whatever they might be. Those choices may include leaving the abuser or publicly exposing him or taking [it] to him while he is sleeping with a baseball bat! (I’d go with the last one, frankly! — That’s ‘black humour’ btw, for the ‘Eric’s’ of this world.)
Again, my purpose is not to excuse any male behaviour but to explain another possible factor that some readers may not be aware of, in a pastor’s behaviour in attacking the victim instead of confronting the abuser.
James, I’m glad you brought up the topic of the victim’s resistance. We actually have a tag for that. Here it is: Victims’ Resistance.
And here are a few of our most useful posts about how victims resist abuse:
Victims resist abuse in prudent, determined and creative ways
Victims invariably resist violence and other forms of abuse
Silence As Defiance: Tamar’s Desolation — a reblog from The Shiloh Project
All the things I didn’t tell you
My abuser’s evil plan was to give me the “scorched earth policy”. But with planning, strategy and God’s help, I outsmarted him.
Defining domestic abuse by a list of behaviors is never going to capture it
On Violence, Resistance, and Power in Language – video presentation by Dr. Allan Wade
Hi James, thanks for the wonderful reply and for taking the time to thoroughly read AND give feedback. Your comments to DaughterIAm especially likely helped her out immensely.
I appreciate the observation in linking compassion and courage—-and then daring to apply it to me as a form of encouragement. I’m beginning to realize that these are two areas must work together in order to be fully effective.
I haven’t always done as well as I now wish I had, in looking back. However, it would be far more detrimental if I focused on what I can’t go back and undo, rather than hope for a redo in the present and future.
A beautiful Bible verse that describes this is Romans 12:9:
You can’t choose one or the other. Hating what is wrong must also be coupled with holding onto what is right.
I have to bring Clara Hinton back up. I hope to have her courage AND compassion as she lived it. She was married to a former pastor, a now convicted pedophile.
She was approached by one of his victims, which got the ball rolling and exposed the entirety of his evil deeds.
I am used to victims NOT being believed, or taken seriously at first, if at all. But she believed her right away and took action right away. No hesitation. She called her son Jimmy, knowing she could trust him, not to “consult” him on how to “handle our own.”
She told me, when I asked her how she chose to not be in denial as so many others do: why would she lie? She had no reason to lie.
Perhaps that is the line of questioning, or response needed, when a victim dares to come forward: “why would I lie? What reason would I have to lie? Is there no possibility that I might be telling the truth?
If you say there IS a possibility that I’m not lying, then you must act on that.
If you are 100% sure I am lying, then you have to tell me why you think so, and why you think I would lie about this.
If your answer is based on what a “good man” he is, so he can’t be guilty–you’re basing guilt or innocence based on how “good” someone is, or appears. This is anti-Biblical language you are spouting. The Bible is clear that appearances can be deceiving, and that no one is good, not one.
You’re also saying he is SO “good,” that I must be lying. You’ve assumed the best about him, and the worst about me. You don’t want to ruin his reputation for being a good man, but you are perfectly willing to throw me under the bus without a second thought.
You want to handle this “in house,” because he is “one of your own?” Am I not “one of your own” as well? Or do you favor the ones who you’ve known longer and have a history with? In that case, the rest of us will never find any favor in your eyes. We can’t compete with the history you have with this man.”
I do have sympathy for those that are tempted to side with the perpetrator. The temptation is real, especially if he is “the last person” you thought would or could do something like this.
We tend to side with the one that is: more likable, related to us by blood, is a closer relation to us personally. If those don’t apply, then it’s usually the one who is grabbing the most attention, and has a bigger audience:
Vehement denials, passionate rebuttals, playing the victim while painting the victim in the worst light, and quoting strong, powerful Scriptures to put the fear of God in anyone and everyone who dares to disagree with him–or agree with the victim.
Is far easier, supposedly less consequential and frankly seems “safer” to do nothing. The perpetrator is not asking for anything that will burden you or requires any action from you. He might ask that you not interfere as the process plays out, without it playing out in the “court of public opinion.” Sounds good, sounds healthy, and sounds Biblical, right?
The victim is not trying to burden anyone in an unfair way, but it comes across like that. Asking for support, asking to be believed, asking to be taken seriously “comes off” as burdensome. “Why are you asking me to interfere?” “Why are you asking me to get involved?” “This has nothing to do with me–and I don’t want to be a busybody, or a meddler.”
Well, the Bible disagrees with you there. Victims need support if they are to carry on and carry forward–whether the case heads to court or not. They aren’t asking for anything that the Bible does not command us to do.
The perpetrator may not need to ask for support; he is already supported by those who will not choose to support the victim. So he is strengthened in knowing that the victim is not strengthened.
Bear in mind a victim is already traumatized by the abuse or attack. Layering on any additional trauma (lack of support IS traumatic) only reassures the perpetrator that it’s likely he will come out ahead. He is not traumatized by what he has done, so he again has the upper hand in weathering the storm that is ahead.
Victimization is all about power. He already had the power to hurt the ones who were powerless. Now he has the power is making sure those victims remain powerless, and reminded that they will stay that way.
Likely, such victims will retreat into silence: they were powerless to stop him from hurting them, and now they are powerless to see justice, and powerless to stop him from hurting others as well.
If the power wasn’t in your court to win your case in court–all is not lost. They will pay when it comes to the court of the Lord, and no fancy lawyer talk or amount of favorable public opinion or a line of character witnesses will sway Him.
Helovesme, that is a great quote from Romans 12:9:
Your comment is a good reminder that the power imbalance for the victim goes on well after the actual physical victimisation ends. The abusers had a vital interest in keeping up the control and subjugation of the victim. And they will use any means they can.
It is beyond bizarre that these abusive pastors and priests can do what they do all week and then preach what they do on Sunday and presumably think they will escape judgement. But that is exactly what they do. They are truly deluded.
Helovesme, on 14th May 2019 – 8:49 pm, you wrote:
Helovesme, I hope you don’t mind but I will use your observations in this comment to lay out the logic of free will and authority as it might be helpful for someone else and also to back up what I have been claiming in other comments.
God is the source of all authority. I doubt anyone would argue with that.
God has put us here on earth to live a life of choices which will determine our entry (or not) into Heaven for eternity. I doubt anyone would argue with that (at least within Christian circles).
God has given each of us free will to make those choices for ourselves and bear the responsibility for those choices.
Following is the logic to back that statement up:
We bear the consequences. Therefore we have the responsibility. Therefore we have the sole authority over ourselves.
We cannot choose salvation if we don’t have the authority to do so.
Therefore if we have authority over ourselves and our choices, nobody else is authorised by God to interfere with that. If someone wants to interfere with that, they are interfering with God!
Therefore it can be categorically stated that God did not appoint anyone else as an authority over you.
However, you are free to enter into contracts with other people whereby you agree to forego some freedoms or authority in return for benefits from the other party. The benefit to you is an obligation on the other party and will by definition restrict his freedom and authority in the specified matters.
These are called contracts.
If there is no contract, there is no obligation regardless of what someone else may claim.
So, on to your next excellent point —
The false premise is that they have authority over you and your husband. This can be demonstrated by asking, “Do you have authority over me?” If the answer is “No”, that’s the end of the discussion. If the answer is “Yes”, then ask, “Who gave you this authority?” and keep repeating your question ’til answered (this is called ‘The Broken Record’ technique).
Oh my goodness another excellent comment by James. Sorry, I sound like I’m gushing. For those that were abused and pretty much told that the abuser had every right to do so, this is hopefully a huge healing balm to those wounds.
Your breakdown of authority pretty much follows how I came to such conclusions: “Wait, you’re not our authority. What makes you think you are? And where do you get off professing to be something that you are not (aka our authority)?”
I had to apply these conclusions to family members (parents, older siblings), but also professing Christians who gave the impression that they had my “best interests” in mind and so I should listen to them. One of them was a pastor and others seemed to think they were being “pastoral” even without the actual title.
So you have my unwavering sympathy when it comes to working through such things. These aren’t strangers. They are your loved ones, people you respect or want their approval.
Sometimes people don’t come at you and start giving orders right away. They will often start treating you as an inferior in small ways, and will escalate as you give them more and more permission to infringe upon, or question your choices, or lecture you as they know better and you need their input (often you don’t even ask).
I am used to being treated as an inferior (my abusive childhood and school bullying had conditioned me), so I sadly took it as a matter of course. I had no idea what it was like to be treated as an equal, so I had no idea how to ask for it.
One year we had a guest over, at our home, that a few family members didn’t approve of. It took me FAR longer than I want to admit to realize that no one has the right to tell us who does and doesn’t come into our home. And that they have no right to try to tell us who we can and can’t associate with—-unless you have very valid reasons. And they better be valid, and you better tell us what they are exactly, before lashing out about our choices.
The ones who thought they had authority over us were acting like children. They were immature, demanding and refused to act like adults themselves AND treat us like adults. But they demanded to be allowed to act in these ways without bearing any responsibility, any real consequences.
I call that being SPOILED. You are so used to getting your way. And those that are spoiled and selfish like that are not givers. They’re not even just takers. They believe they are god-like, so they have the right to take, based solely on their will to do what they do.
It was interesting because I felt like WE had to be the adults in order to compensate tor them. We had to try to think clearly and hold our tongues in order to manage the chaos. However, in their “temper tantrums,” they were trying to give US the orders, since we were their subordinates. It was all backwards and terribly traumatic.
Not only that, but going back to James’s comment—-who gave you all this power to demand, expect, or anticipate our obedience? As James said, I have free will to say “no”, but YOUR will seems assured that I should comply with your will.
If you don’t vocalize your needs, but expect them to be met regardless—-that is terribly unrealistic. If you DO vocalize your needs but with the expectant attitude that you will meet them—that too is highly unrealistic. Why did you ask at all if you just wanted to give me orders? That is how I fell into being a people-pleaser. I wanted to be pleasing so badly, that I was willing to give up my free will, just to conform to and comply with the will of others.
So I have to beg that you all read James’s comment about authority carefully. Don’t just dismiss it—-that’s not me! I have free will and no one can take that away from me. Not only that, but I know who does and doesn’t have power over me, or who should and shouldn’t.
Do you? I used to think that. It got harder and harder to see where my will begin and ended; it was all so tied up in trying to please others!
Thank you, Helovesme.
And this is a perfect description!
I’m not sure where to put this, but responding to Barb, James, DaughterIaAm and Helovesme just to thank you all for responding to my comment (17TH MAY 2019 – 5:47 PM) regarding, in part, “joyful curiosity”.
I want to clarify a bit what I think of in using the words “joyful curiosity” – because trying to do some of this has been a part of my healing process.
And also, some of you responded, too, to my comment (18TH MAY 2019 – 1:58 AM) about “siblings struggle with the issue of not being protected more by our mother”. Thank you for that, too.
DaughterIAm (18TH MAY 2019 – 2:44 AM), when I read these words of yours:
—I thought, “it is no trouble at all to believe my siblings in this.” I have never not believed my siblings; but, again, I did not find out about some things, understandably so, until my 20s. Earlier I think we all knew dad had behavior problems and that he was wrong in his treatment of us much of the time. We, as kids, at some point, I think knew this, other adults indirectly affirmed this somewhat, I think.
I have never had an inkling of blame, consciously anyway, toward my siblings for the abuse we / they suffered or that they told me about later. I looked up to them, especially when I was younger.
Instead, I have had trouble with being hard on myself about the climate of the home in relation to what I thought the larger culture was; but I know and feel better now, after time and a lot of work.
But, also, my older siblings were not my only focus of looking up either. I felt more hopeful at school.
DaughterIAm, although I’ve never been employed by a church organization, I did volunteer for over a decade in a parachurch ministry. Your descriptions of your experience sound eerily familiar to me, not from the parachurch ministry experience, but from other dynamics where I needed to seek to understand or identify disingenuous behaviors in important relationships.
I have also researched a bit on some of the topics of interest you mentioned, the importance of justice, clarified accurate forgiveness teaching. I would add, teaching scripture as a whole rather than some parts being more emphasized like “Honor your father and mother” and “wives submit” or “children obey your parents”, which somehow I picked up were the important highlights to “keep order in the church” and to keep “unity” and not be “divisive”.
Helovesme (18TH MAY 2019 – 2:56 PM), I love this!
Clarifying “joyful curiosity” —
Helovesme (18TH MAY 2019 – 2:56 PM), I really relate to this:
This brings Psalms to mind (being human) versus something from my early church training of “act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic”.
Also Helovesme (18TH MAY 2019 – 2:21 PM), I aspire to this!
And I have been surprised by glimpses in my own life, especially in regards to my children, moments that bring to mind that:
Another favorite that “activated in real life” brings to mind is 2 Thess 2:16-17:
Also, to me, “joyful curiosity” is, in part, trying to connect with things that gave me hope and that I enjoyed in my early years, music and learning (to use the words of a famous scientist, “the pleasure of finding things out” [Richard Feynman]) – I especially like finding out about unsung heroes, for one example.
I thought this might bless others; I wasn’t sure where to nest it so I thought I’d just start at the bottom!
A few persons from Pastor Sam’s blog made two statements that I liked so much that I thought about them while stuck in a LOT of traffic a few days ago.
These thoughts hopefully fits into James’s post AND subsequent comments. Applying Biblical logic and sound doctrine to our lives brings joy, peace and intense comfort.
“The ‘grace on steroids’ teachings are so widespread.”
“I wish I knew what justice was.”
I thought about the first one a lot, because victims are often given a lot of mixed messages in this area.
First of all, grace isn’t cheap, so don’t treat it, give it out or receive it as though it is.
We praise God (and rightly so) because He is so gracious, and so generous with that grace.
But never think of it as “disposable income,” as if God has so much of it to give out that He’ll do it randomly, capriciously, and never miss it. His “bank account” is so full that that is just a drop in the bucket from Him.
I think we treat the giving out of grace as though they are pennies. Most of us won’t miss a bunch of pennies if we throw them into a fountain for fun (most parents didn’t mind giving out pennies for a few minutes of fun for the kids).
Likely (and rightly so)–it’s a much different story if it was 100 dollar bills being thrown into that fountain!
That is how I see grace. There is a lot of it at His disposal (and ours as a result), but it is not to be treated as disposable. The price at the cross was very high in order to ensure and seal salvation by grace. Don’t mock it.
That is how victims are often fooled and deceived. And anyone who tries to demand or expect grace to be given to them, has tainted it with such an attitude. Grace, by its nature, is undeserved.
Wishing and wanting to know what justice looks like rang with me, too. And it’s fair to question how much we do and don’t believe that the Lord will dispense justice. For myself, I have had to call myself to account for being so disbelieving about a key component of His character: He loves justice, and He loves to dispense justice, and He loves us, so we can count on Him to dispense justice on our behalf.
I remember reading about God’s judgment against Israel in the Old Testament and being blown away by what I at first saw as “going overboard” when His impending justice was described. It was fairly intense.
Then I recall that God never “goes overboard.” He is 100% fair and balanced in how He metes out His justice.
He’s not like humanity, who might use extreme forms of punishment as a way to “send a message,” or “appear tough on crime,” or just for the delightful surge of power in doling out harsh but unwarranted punishments. Or, to win the approval of people, rather than focusing on what is rightful justice.
However His people were sinning was so intense, that it required that level of justice. No more and no less.
And as far as I could tell, His people were truly baffled at the Lord’s negative reactions to their doings. They didn’t see their sins as He did. They didn’t see the suffering that their sins were causing, both to themselves and those around them.
It seemed they were in denial even until the very end, when judgement was finally enacted. The entire book of “Lamentations” is properly titled.
Jeremiah, even though he knew what was to come and tried to warn everyone for decades, was horrified by what His judgement actually looked like in real life. Having a good picture in his mind couldn’t prepare him for what he actually saw with his own eyes.
However, he knew God had been nothing but just (eventually he reached that conclusion).
Whatever His justice does or doesn’t look like, it will be perfect. That we can depend on.
I can relate to THIS part of the comment completely!!!
Absolutely! Goodness that really does fit you very well, doesn’t it? Didn’t even write that with you in mind, but it clicks just right with you for sure.
Sorry, couldn’t bring myself to slog through 150+ comments…. I think overall it’s very insightful, but I don’t think “management” is just handling more variables. For example, Dr. Travis Bradberry talks about IQ and EQ – EQ being emotional intelligence. I think good managers are going to have a mix of both. IQ in and of itself does not make a person superior. Studies show that IQs and GPAs correlate to a point, with success, but that there is actually a decrease beyond a certain point, with theories as to why, but no really solid explanations.
I grew up in a highly academic and intellectual environment. I believe this was actually a disservice. The mantra was that if I did well, I would be noticed and rewarded. That is a fallacy. I was a strong athlete, but [was] always chosen last in gym class. I was strong musically, but never chosen for talent shows. I was on the honor roll, but never in the honor society. Why? Because I never developed the sort of interpersonal skills that were needed to let others know I was capable.
On the other side, I think we have a societal conundrum. We want to have the right professionals to advise and treat us, but our community is no longer small enough that the good people are known. For example, my pastor has been a pastor in at least four churches in four states. There are the competent mixed in with the incompetent, and each professional organization has an odd task of simultaneously promoting and policing their own members. I think every year, Readers’ Digest publishes the 10 worst doctors in the U.S., who have had multiple malpractice lawsuits, multiple board reviews, generally have killed patients, and yet, they are still licensed to practice.
Thanks for reading the post and commenting, MarkQ. I understand that 150 comments would be a lot to read!
I don’t think that James, the author of the post, is saying that high IQ in and of itself makes a person superior. He’s only saying that the ability to handle multiple variables makes a person likely to be a capable leader.
Yours is the first comment that has mentioned EQ (Emotional intelligence). But James and other commenters have discussed how ethics, empathy and courage are other factors that have a bearing on whether a person who can handle multiple variables and abstract ideas is or is not going to be a capable leader.
I wouldn’t characterise it as a ‘slog’ and if you have the time and do read through the comments I think you will gain a lot from the insights of a number of people here.
Thank you for the approval.
Oops! There’s a ‘but’. And, actually, I didn’t say that.
I didn’t say that either.
I’m not sure how that relates to my post but, regardless, I think if you look up The Prussian Education System and the role of Johann Fichte you may get an insight into this. The Prussian System is the model for the US and Western education systems and was designed as social control or social engineering (for the purposes of war). As such it doesn’t suit those students with an IQ of perhaps 130 and certainly above 140.
Most students activate their left brain when working on a problem but the very high IQ students can activate both their left (specific and logical) and right (universal and emotional) brains together when they think. So they think with both sides of their brain at once and can see how a change to a specific detail will change the overall picture and they can do this very rapidly.
When the teacher asks them a question, they will often just ‘see’ the answer. This can be very disconcerting for your average teacher. The teacher wants to know how the student arrived at their answer and the high IQ student doesn’t know or can’t explain it. They just ‘see’ it. This student often gets ridiculed or simply becomes bored. Either way, they often don’t thrive in the school system.
They think universally (the overall picture) and also think for themselves and therefore tend to ask the awkward questions and so quickly become unpopular with teachers in this way, too. This situation persists into university.
(For other readers who might be interested, a lot of doctors, lawyers, intellectuals and academics score in the 120 – 130 IQ range and the education system is optimal for them. They are fast thinkers rather than creative thinkers. They tend not to rock the boat too much either.)
But back to my post. It was about logic and its use, or non-use, by church leaders and the effects that flow from that. Logic is a tool employed by the left brain for the benefit of the right hemisphere to use. People usually associate “Emotional Intelligence” with the right hemisphere.
The subject of integrating conclusions from the logical thinking of the left brain into the right brain’s overall picture of reality and its emotional aspect and, hence the gaining of wisdom, was not (and couldn’t be) part of the purpose of my essay. It was about why a leader needs to employ logical thinking and how to spot it when he or she is not using logic.
[At James’ request, modifications were made to his comment, so there will be a mismatch between his comment and Finding Answers reply. Editors.]
THANK YOU, James, for this explanation. All of my life, I have called this the “head” (academics) stuff and the “heart” stuff.
My abusive family of origin focused on the “head” stuff, and I kept saying the “heart” stuff was missing.
Very few people could / can understand what I meant / mean with my description of “head” stuff and “heart” stuff, though they might understand if I explain it in a different way. I am in no way implying anything about their intelligence, but rather I am commenting on my inability to find the words to describe the picture(s) in my mind.
(Missing words for the rest of the pictures in my mind.)
Finding Answers, I am glad it was helpful.
Actually, “head” and “heart” are very apt descriptions. I am not sure of the details but it seems the heart and the stomach have brains of a sort complete with cells with neural pathways and such.
So ‘gut feelings’ and ‘broken hearts’ are very real things. Serotonin, one of the (head) brain’s major neurotransmitters is mostly manufactured in the stomach. The head and the heart communicate with each other through the Vagus Nerve. Stimulating the Vagus nerve through breathing techniques can bring calm in place of anxiety.
In fact the whole body can be said to be a brain. Every cell has a mini-brain in its outer wall. It makes decisions constantly on what can and can’t enter the cell. It has been suggested that the subconscious brain is in the body. “Body memories” may be exactly that – memories of the body.
Cells can communicate with each other throughout the body and do it at a speed faster than the nervous system can operate at. It is not known how the cells achieve this. It is a fascinating subject.
I’ll write a little more on this and the relationship between left and right brains a bit later – probably with a new thread.
In my first reply to James’ comment, I ended my comment with “(Missing words for the rest of the pictures in my mind.)”
Bless you, James, for having the following changes made to the wording of your comment. And my apologies to everyone for such extensive copying-and-pasting into my own comment, but James’ modifications described most of the pictures in my mind for which I was missing words.
James’ modified his comment with:
Thank you, Finding Answers. 🙂
The additional comment regarding the relationship between left and right brains will be tomorrow. My brief comment is turning into War and Peace!
James, regarding what you want to say about left and right brains, I suggest that rather than submit it as a comment on this thread, you email it to me as a draft, because I might decide to run it as a stand-alone post.
Then….what does —
—mean if you’re not trying to say that management [is] “handling more variables”?
I don’t want to nitpick, but I’m concerned that the overall good message gets lost in the Mensa superiority complex. If my IQ leads me to be able to solve problems that others cannot – that’s great, but no employer looks at my resume and then asks me what my IQ is. In my family, IQ is somewhat inversely related to success.
And, yes, I completely agree with you on school. Our US schools are pushing more and more work output over actual learning. It was bad enough when I was in school that I had to sacrifice being a 4.0 student to have a life outside of school. It’s much worse for my kids.
I find intelligent pastors often more obnoxious than average pastors. As soon as you ask a question, they take over the discussion and start putting all sorts of religious jargon out there, which they may understand, yes, but the jargon is more about shutting down questions and creating superiority than actually responding. Where they generally fail is in finding patterns. For example the Reformed argument for paedobaptism is pretty good in isolation, and the argument against paedocommunion is pretty good in isolation, but as soon as you start comparing the two together….the arguments are incompatible.
Hi, Mark, can you please give your reasons for thinking that James is promoting a ‘Mensa superiority complex’?
I’m asking this because I don’t think James IS promoting a ‘Mensa superiority complex’.
Could it be that you are misreading what James has said, because your family of origin promoted some kind of Mensa superiority complex — and your family’s emphasis on IQ was no help to you in your developing into adulthood. In other words, could you be misreading what James said because you’re seeing it through the lens which derives from your family of origin?
Also, could it be that the people in your family of origin who prided themselves on their ‘high IQ’ were in fact NOT that sharp, because they didn’t help you develop the social skills that would have helped your gifts be recognised and valued by the wider world?
Ok, Barb. Will do.
MarkQ, you wrote —
Note my emphasis on your word “just”. This says that handling variables is a necessary and sufficient condition to handle ‘management’. That is your assumption about what I said. And to repeat myself, I didn’t say that.
My point is actually that the ability to handle multiple variables is a necessary but NOT sufficient condition to handle management. In other words, you need other things as well. For instance, a love for people (which I mentioned somewhere).
This is the second time through here, Mark. Please read carefully.
(then stop doing it)
Now that is quite a statement! Like Barb said, back it up. Or apologise.
Actually, in the US, it is illegal to test for or ask for an IQ score. More’s the pity because this causes more problems than it solves.
Now this is the statistical fallacy. I am talking about statistics which necessarily concerns averages for whole populations and you bring up an example of someone who deviates from the average and imply that this rebuts the statistics concerning the average.
I don’t like these pastors either and for the same reasons. What you are describing, though, is more to do with the Dunning-Kruger Effect (mentioned in the comments) and made worse through the effects of wielding power (power corrupts) than IQ by itself. I would guess this applies to your parents as well.
In between the IQ scores of 115 and maybe 130, you have people who can think abstractly and have the potential to use reason from those abstractions but they are below the ceiling of 130 IQ points under which the Dunning-Kruger Effect is evident.
This ‘Effect’ leads people to automatically assume they know far more about a subject, indeed all they need to know about a subject, and talk with great authority about whatever it is. Above this point (130+), people are smart enough to know that there is a whole lot more to a subject that they don’t know. And if we are lucky, they will approach the subject with a that humility.
But back to our 115 – 130 group, they can be extremely good managers and even valuable leaders in society BUT if they are overbalanced in their left brain thinking to the cost of their right brain thinking (like your parents), they become insufferable and cause a lot of harm through their pride and ignorance. They think they are experts but, in practical terms, they usually don’t know s*****.
If you want to respond and if you want me to reply again, you will have to first back up your charge that I am suffering from the “Mensa superiority complex”. And please do it from what I have actually written.
Hi, James, reply to your comment on 20TH MAY 2019 – 9:42 PM regarding my reactions to being bullied:
First, you explained yourself very well. I saw no indication that you were condemning passivity in terms of how victims do (or don’t!) react. You spelled it out just fine.
I just hope MY comment didn’t come off as if I thought you were. I saw no hint of you ever excusing male behaviors.
Yes, that is about as good as anyone has stated it. Other commenters sometimes state our experiences with much clearer and succinct language, just as you have.
I have no idea how much thought I gave into this form of “resistance.” Likely all I thought of was self-preservation and some form of instinct kicked in.
The worst thing that the school or a family therapist or even a well-meaning pastor could have done to me was make me face my adversaries. Even with a supposed adult or mediator in the room, there is no way I could have stood that.
(When you spoke of well-meaning persons trying to intervene, that is what I’m trying to reply to. They can easily make matters worse, not better.)
I have experienced the last option twice. All it did was give the bully “center stage” to rant and rave and play the victim—-and attack me with a high degree of emotion—-which usually means the mediator won’t step in. Being emotional might be an excuse to say horrible things (“she didn’t mean what was said; she just got worked up and carried away”).
Ironically, I felt I had to be passive while this was all going on! I didn’t feel allowed to attack back, or show a lot of emotion (BOTH of us ‘losing it’ would not help us resolve things), so I just had to sit there and take it.
Passive resistance didn’t always work at home. A person that is intent on abusing you only has to create an opportunity. It’s not that my dad was tempted to abuse me and gave in. He wanted to abuse, so he would often pick a fight with me, or try to goad me into giving him a reason to hurt me.
Being passive as a form of resistance has its downsides. I “stuffed” my emotions as far down as they would go. Yes, I let out a lot of tears, but that’s not enough to deal with the emotional scarring, not to mention the short and long term brokenness.
Was anyone ever going to love me, and more than that—-was I ever going to be able to love anyone at all, or in return? Not only that, but who would ever love anyone who isn’t even considered a real person? Dolls can be loved by children, but they are playthings, not persons. Children might say their dolls love them back, but again—it’s all pretend. No matter how deep and wide your imagination is—that’s a doll, not a real person.
I certainly tried to actively lose myself in any fantasy world I could come up with to escape the horrors of real life. So ironically, my passive reaction to the real world fed the decision to try to live in a fake world that I’d created for myself. But again—-that is all pretend. You can’t live in your head forever.
Sooner or later, you have to pinch yourself and say: “I’m not a doll. I just pinched myself and I felt that. I don’t live in a dream world where I’m loved. My dad just hurt me and that is not love. I felt that.”
Trying to end on a positive note! Pastor Sam recently wrote a blog about Cain and Abel that speaks well to how God loves AND saves the so-called nobodies of the world.
Here is the link. I’m thinking it’s safe to link Pastor’s writings on this site?
Cain and Abel [Internet Archive link]
Thanks, Helovesme. And yes, it’s okay to link to Sam Powell’s blog posts.
Thank you for your response and further insights. I am so sorry you had to go through this nightmare. I marvel that you can be so open and articulate about it.
This sounds like you dissociated to me. If you are not familiar with Dissociation, it might be useful to research it. It takes different forms at different times. I used dissociation (automatically / subconsciously) to preserve myself in traumatic situations when I was a child.
It is a creative and useful ‘natural’ response but it does cause problems later in life.
I haven’t got to Sam Powell’s post yet but I will.
Take care. 🙂
Thank you for the compassion. That means a lot. I’m in my mid-40s now, so I haven’t been a schoolgirl (or a girl child) for a long time. But as others will likely attest to, the memories are still quite strong, and quite real—-and they did quite a lot of damage.
I’ll keep my reply short. Yes, what I described it does sound a bit like dissociation. I’m not terribly knowledgeable about it so I’ll leave it there.
My mind did whatever I could to live in a form of denial, without going into FULL denial. So I learned to deceive myself AND others as best I could by putting on a mask.
For years I had no idea who I really was (even after the Lord got a hold of me), because I had been so busy “hiding” behind a variety of masks.
I’m so sorry about what you went through as well. Trauma is something no human being should have to deal with, no matter what your age. Although for children it’s especially heinous.
Patrick Stewart said it took him many years to process and be able to talk about how his dad abused his mom. When I listened to him speak about it, I saw that it was still very hard on him, even after so many years.
He spoke very well—-I could just tell by his tone and some of the heaviness in his voice, not to mention a few pauses now and then—-how the pain of what he saw and lived with is still a part of him.
The hardest thing to learn is that my memories and the pictures in my mind are not my imagination.
I was punished for the pictures I drew / painted because they did not match “reality”. I DID draw / paint reality – my reality.
Here, on this blog, I feel accepted, though I cannot always describe the pictures in my mind. And I am not punished for hijacking other people’s words that describe my picture.
I have found a new way to paint.
Helovesme, I can relate to your description of how you resisted abuse by escaping and hiding. In my early school years I was miserable from the teasing of a friend’s older brother on the school bus and I remember when my friend told me how to handle it. She said to just pretend like it doesn’t bother you. I did that and it worked and I definitely wanted / needed the escape. We, my siblings and I, did not have the emotionally engaged mothering that we would’ve like to have at home to help process anything. But mom did make sure we had books to read, supplies to start school with, etc. I think she did a lot, but emotional availability….she was not taking care of herself in that regard either when we were young.
I’m not sure I totally or even partially disassociated but I did pick up a habit of dreaming and not giving feelings enough consideration. As I’ve said in other comments the home environment was abusive and older siblings were more of a target, but I was a target of older siblings teasing. I could be an irritating younger sister, too, I think. But, again, I can’t remember their teasing like I remember the misery of the school bus until I learned to pretend I didn’t care. I was involved in sports and church but hid in a lot of other areas. When church friends partied I just couldn’t navigate that. I knew they had a priority of marriage and they married earlier. I felt I didn’t have the “dowry” of a healthy family and no one would want me, but that wasn’t all I wanted anyway. (I certainly didn’t have clear understanding of what I felt or wanted, but since my dad didn’t provide I think making my own living was a big desire). I wanted my own education and skills to make a living and pay my bills and help my mom. I already had, by the grace of God, village people who’d given me opportunities to work. Those things made sense to me and I’ve always been grateful for them, but I certainly didn’t understand them as empowering opportunities.
As an adult, I had to get out a “feelings” wheel1 and try to increase my emotional self-awareness. I found it in a Christian book that my older brother suggested I read. The wheel gave me more words to connect with a group of core inner feelings. I didn’t know what I was looking for when I started, in particular, other than resolution and relief from great pain stemming from…..numbing my feelings for so long in part. The first thing I noticed when I studied the wheel was the section that seemed to be somewhat empty for me. I felt powerless, at that time, which is connected to being respected and still I was worried, at that time, about not respecting my abusers. With a lot of work and counseling and time and stress reduction, connecting with other Christian women to prayerfully try to be open to Christian concepts in our lives and practicing self-care, I became more aware of the supply of self-respect that I had access to.
1[May 31, 2022: We found a PDF of the Feeling Wheel [Internet Archive link] mentioned in Artina’s comment. The Feeing Wheel was developed by Gloria Wilcox. The Internet Archive link is a copy of the PDF. Editors.]
Quick reply to Finding Answers:
Please continue to paint or draw (by hand or in your mind) whatever you’re able to handle. The comment about “reality” is an interesting one.
It would not surprise me if the teachers or even the kids thought they were doing the amount of harm to me that they were doing to me. It may actually shock them to hear that I’m still damaged by it all!
Perception is reality, but when the perceptions clash—-whose perception is the accurate one?
Likely, the less emotional one is considered to be more legitimate and more believable. If it sounds more logical and there are likely no tears or any depth of passion expressed, it comes off as sound thinking and therefore sound judgment.
Well, I don’t know how exactly to “mechanically” speak of trauma. I do try to use my words to try to paint an accurate picture. And I try to be specific AND I try to speak clearly. I do try not to get TOO “worked up” so that the message isn’t totally lost.
But I see no reason to dumb down the emotional component in an effort to be taken more seriously. Even when I brought up specific incidents earlier this year to my spouse, you could hear the pain in my voice.
I got triggered when I was watching a comedic outtake on a short film about teaching methods from several decades ago. She was fairly brutal to a young boy and that brought back a very specific, much buried incident from my school days.
However, because I AM much older now, I DID try to include the potential perspectives of that teacher who publicly shamed me. Not to justify anything; she was wrong no matter what—-but just to inject some depth into the story.
Thank you, Artina! My mom was similar to yours:
I got a little shiver when you brought up the school bus! Oh dear that was prime bullying ground for me for so long. And I had no other way to get to school. Middle school was probably the worst, but things DID ease up a bit in my later high school years. So my sympathy is truly with you.
But that feeling of being “trapped,” whether it’s in your home, on a bus, or in a classroom is nothing to be trifling about. I had nowhere to go, nowhere to run, nowhere to escape to—-except to train my mind to “retreat” into an area where I could not feel the pain so strongly. My mind wasn’t always strong enough, though, so that wasn’t the surefire solution.
I saw myself more a “product” than a person. So, imagine a supermarket stocked with different brands of the same product. And advertising is key. How your packaging is designed reflects what the product actually is on the inside.
So, there were “products” that said: “I’m clean and healthy and a real winner. Pick me! I’m more costly, but I’ll meet all your needs and never let you down.” (This would describe those church friends you mentioned?)
My advertising would have run along the lines of: “I’m cheaper, plus problematic. Hard work will be required to get me to function properly. There will be setbacks. You will get frustrated. You’ll need to be patient. I’m not an automatic winner like the others, who are more ready-made and ready to go.”
We could go into “false advertising” as well, right? Plenty of fancy words on the outside don’t always reflect the reality on the inside!
When the Lord got ahold of me, I felt like my tongue had been finally loosed and I was free to express myself with actual words (not just writing them down, which had been the previous and prime way I vented my pain).
Through no fault of His, however, it was a bit of a Pandora’s Box. I had very little discipline with this newly freed tongue of mine. I look back and wish I could have told myself to “be quiet” so many times. Freedom does not mean an utter lack of restraint!
Ironically, when I didn’t feel as silenced anymore, I also didn’t realize there WERE times that being silent was necessary. And it did not mean I was being muzzled again.
Add to that, trying to uncover feelings that had been numbed for so long, but were still very much present in me. But I had no idea how to make sense of what was now rising to the surface. I had to make sure they were the real deal. I had lived such a self-deceived life—-what feelings were real and which were fake?
And free will does NOT mean an utter lack of self-control—-so my feelings, real or otherwise, were my responsibility—-something else I had no idea about.
I think that’s part of the endgame (there is more, but that’s a start). If you realize you’re worth something, that will help put a whole lot of things into perspective. Abuse is abuse—-no one has the right to treat others as though they have little to no worth.
A lot of the way abuse was justified to me was that I wasn’t worth much, so I got treated as such. Once you apply Biblical logic to that falsehood (you ARE worth something and it’s wrong when someone says otherwise), it changes everything.
I wonder about the insertion made by Eds. to clarify my text. “Being” respected might be a better clarification, in my opinion, but also the inner word on the wheel was powerful1, not powerless and it is a “feelings” wheel.
When I first referred to the wheel, years ago, I felt a disconnect with much experience in that category (powerful) in spite of some accomplishment in education settings. But now I recognize, IMO, the cultural grooming of women for specific roles (especially the rural local culture I grew up in), or lack of cultural nurturing for women to pursue roles outside of, or in addition to, motherhood and childrearing that played a big part in my emptiness and hopelessness in this category of feeling. And I think there were definitely disadvantages to the cultural norms shaping men, too.
When I was growing up I had never heard about Alice Paul, or Katherine Johnson, Captain Silas Soule and Lt. Joseph Cramer. And Fred Rogers wasn’t celebrated as a good male role model either. The qualities they display are what I admire now. I would not have felt so miserable from focusing on the cover of the magazine “Seventeen” if I would have / could have noticed these unsung heroes. I feel blessed that one of my sons, here lately, texted me to say that he had watched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and really liked it. What are our measures of peoples’ worth, humility and capacities in our culture? I think they’re messed up and I care. So, now I’m intentional, more discerning, about looking historically and currently for inspiration.
I want to always be, or at least sometimes be, in the moment and recognize when I’m having a good time, not having to prove myself, or fix someone, but just sharing a moment of friendship-like time: many examples, but one is driving around a city with my younger sister, that neither one of us lived in, searching for just the right hot sauce to bring back to enjoy for a family celebration. I’m so glad we could be in that moment without having the weight of the family baggage ruin our enjoyment of each others’ company (and I wasn’t dreaming). We didn’t have to fix each other or label each other. And there were Mr. Roger’s-types of building-one-another-up comments, I think, just mentioning and noticing what was happening in each other’s lives that brought fulfillment, probably definitely not according to the world’s measure of success.
1[May 31, 2022: We found a PDF of the Feeling Wheel [Internet Archive link] mentioned in Artina’s comment. The Feeing Wheel was developed by Gloria Wilcox. The Internet Archive link is a copy of the PDF. Editors.]
Hi Artina, thanks for the heads up. I have now changed your previous comment so it says “being respected”. 🙂
Helovesme, your comments are always so thoughtful, thorough, and gracious. Thank you. Replying to your 22ND MAY 2019 – 12:24 PM reply.
I can relate to this, too. We were cultured to advertise ourselves as objects and cultured to believe worth is measured by being “chosen” rather than cultured and taught to embrace the gift of personal responsibility in “wise choosing”. Even the church culture today, in its view of subordinating women and running everything by “fathers”, IMO, is faulty, especially if “fathers” are not using their roles to empower but rather to rule over, that is, emphasize their authority and imply that affirming their authority is affirming God’s authority.
I do believe in seeking wise counsel, at times, for important decisions. But in many churches men’s agency is favored, women’s agency is destroyed, no matter how softly they peddle it. Choosing matters. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” [Paraphrase of Matthew 5:37.] This is not lost when a person gets married. Choosing is much more important than being chosen. Agency matters for both genders. Now, I associate being chosen with being targeted, somewhat. I know I have rough edges and am a work in progress.
Absolutely! Even in an academic setting I was not “advertising” where I was at in my learning but rather trying to prove something, my worth probably. And sadly, and I even had some hint of awareness about this, due to being in a “proving state” I was not freely enjoying intellectual curiosity. I don’t enjoy debating. I’m not practiced in it either. I have enjoyed competitive events, running, tests, etc. But the best moments are marveling together where no one has to prove anything and real deep enjoyment of finding something out happens. I think I want collaborative and non-hierarchical learning / growing settings.
Very definitely! I felt like I was making up for lost time by talking and didn’t know what to make of someone saying I was intimidating. The early Christians were told to be like Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who was not intimidated. But we’re not told to be intimidating. I was passionate about justice and trying to help and not in the nursery or kitchen. In my sphere of family influence I think I helped, but also hurt, tried to keep short accounts. But once it’s out, it’s out.
I also had lots of moments when I wish I had spoken up, though, too, and had been better at asking probing questions (I was definitely not practiced or knowledgeable in this – my own arrogance, I guess.), but that’s hard to do with so much outrage, lack of support, assuming others’ responsibilities, etc. I saw a lot of improvement in balancing speaking up and being quiet. It has taken a long time. The words that make sense to me, “I try to be open to God’s calibration of my speech, feelings, thoughts”. What is true? What is just? What is lovely? What is admirable? I’ve got a long way to go.
I can also relate to your reply to Finding Answers 22ND MAY 2019 – 11:53 AM where you said:
Exactly!! I get tired of the implication that the perception with less emotion is the more valid one. “God is a jealous God” seems like it says otherwise. I’ve had outrage, neediness, fear, but those are all trying to tell me something. By trying to allow God to “calibrate” my emotions, thoughts and logic I become more aware of how to passionately express myself, listen to others or help others. That process doesn’t eliminate emotions. It shapes fear into “wise as serpents”, outrage into “He sees, it matters, He empathizes” – we have options / agency-resistance (in a variety of forms) is not futile, neediness into – appreciation of solitude and awareness of safe healthy connectedness / not by their definitions / labels / priorities but rather friendship.
Thank you, Helovesme, and I agree. One good thing has come out of it all for me, though, and that is that I value love, care and respect, and the people who exemplify these qualities, far more now that I could have otherwise.
I am thinking I will value Heaven far more, too, because of it. And Heaven is forever! 🙂
Thank you and YES, that last line is a great hope and reassurance for all of us.
There is no hierarchy in Heaven. There is plenty here, unfortunately, but before Him we all stand on equal ground.
It would certainly be nice if the abused and victimized were not treated as though they stand on a different foundation other than Christ Himself. It would solve a LOT of problems and bring a LOT of harmony to this very dark world we live in.
Hi, Artina, in reply to this part of your comment:
The current climate I see is that Christian husbands are still told they are to be submitted to, but that they aren’t taught or trained as to HOW to be good leaders. So they are failing miserably by not taking their roles seriously enough.
Men are encouraged to lead in a Christ-like manner. And the wives are encouraged to pray for their husbands to lead in a such a manner. So what’s wrong with this picture?
This reflects the “soft peddling” you referred to. I don’t think I’ve heard it better expressed. Men are in leadership, but they lead with a staff, not a cattle prod. But I still have a problem with the lead / follow analogy. “No matter how he leads, I’m still supposed to follow.”
I don’t see Biblical marriage like that. Someone put it really well: we are both oxen, yoked to the Lord equally, yoked to each other equally, and He is the driver of us both.
If you do get married, nothing from the Word (as His child) is obliterated from or suddenly inapplicable to your lives.
Christ is still my Savior. I am still free in Him and my mind is still my own. My body still belongs to me (I willingly SHARE it with him, 100% freely and willingly).
I conformed to his last name, and gave up my own (as an indication of our oneness), but owning his last name doesn’t mean he owns me as a result.
If my spouse is my authority figure, and I must listen to him as such, he is closer to being my employer than my husband. And if he is—he shouldn’t be sleeping with a subordinate. And I shouldn’t be sleeping with my boss.
If my spouse has the upper hand, or final say in how we live, he is closer to being my parent than my husband. I’m not a child in a grown woman’s body. If you see me as a child, then you REALLY shouldn’t be sleeping with me. And I shouldn’t be sleeping with my parent.
If we are not equals, and treat each other as co-equals, then one of us assumes more power than the other.
The goal of Biblical marriage is oneness. I can’t become “one” with someone who insists on having that power, and worse than that—-believes that is Biblical. I can only become “one” with someone who is face to face with me. Any other way is impeding the goal oneness.
By the way, if the goal for BOTH persons isn’t oneness, then don’t call it a Christian marriage.
Now, I’m sure husbands are told that they are to be responsible and loving as leaders. I’m sure wives are told that Christ will lead your husband responsibly, so trust Him, and trust him.
Nope. I can attest that I have had to fight my closest relations for the cause of Christ. I put those relationships at great risk.
I did listen, by the way. But if they don’t line up with Him, they don’t line up with me.
Why? Because of what I said above. He never stopped being my Savior. He never relinquished ownership of me, before and after I married.
Remember that line said at weddings: what He has joined together, let no man separate?
That includes husbands as well as any other person. He joined me together with Him when I became born again. Don’t you dare try to separate us.
And of course that applies to outsiders that try to pull my spouse and I apart. And I HAVE had to deal with people that tried to. My reaction is the same: “Don’t you dare try to separate us.”
The rest of your comment was great. I’m reading through it to give it some thought.
Artina, as for the rest of your comment about learning when to speak up, how to speak up and even when NOT to speak up—-that’s right up my alley as well.
A woman who is passionate for the Lord might be easily dismissed as merely being emotional. Or, when a woman is speaking up or standing up for others (or herself), she might be seen as combative and rebellious. Even taking instruction or correction from a woman might be seen as being bossy or belligerent.
There is a lot of confusion and mixed messages out there.
I noticed the other day that the reason we have words like “feminist” or “feminism,” because they were needed—-women asked to be taken seriously, just as much as a man is. I don’t think there are mutual words to describe this for a man, because they tend to naturally be been taken seriously.
In my experience, you are darned if you do, darned if you don’t. I’ve stayed silent out of fear of being labeled as “difficult.” I’ve tried to speak up or step out in faith, and I’ve been labeled as “divisive.” There’s usually a price to pay, whatever the choice is.
In my desire to be not labeled in these unflattering ways, however—-it backfired. I didn’t have to deal with being labeled as “difficult,” but rather I very much earned the label of “people-pleaser.”
The label I truly should have sought after was “God-pleaser.” Whatever the price you pay for that, that is a label that is worth it.
I’m with you, however—-I still have a long way to go. The Bible says no one can boast of having a perfectly tamed tongue. So no matter what, we’ll make errors in judgment.
My problem is that we tend to be harder on women when they fall short in this area. Please apply the same standards to men—-don’t be too hard OR easy on them.
I think it’s because we naturally tend to see men as leaders. And leaders tend to speak. So when a man speaks out of turn, we forgive him all the easier because we don’t want to derail him in either being or becoming a leader.
When a woman speaks out of turn, we get huffy and puffy about it—-“why did you even open your mouth in the first place? You’re not on a path to be a leader. There’s no need for you to become polished or grow as a speaker.”
Regardless of being or becoming a leader, the Bible is clear that learning how to speak up or speak out is a pursuit for ALL believers. It’s not optional. No true believer in Him should ever be told otherwise. Silence is sometimes necessary (as you said), but it should never become a permanent state.
And I loved your paragraph about emotion and wisdom working together. God is passionate. I don’t equate that with being emotional, but it certainly doesn’t completely dismiss emotions.
Frankly, without learning how to express our own emotions, not to mention listen to others express them—-we’re missing out on a key component of being human. We are unique in that we have a conscience. And when wrongs are committed, we feel something inside. That’s a good thing!
Your comment really was wonderful. I hope others get a chance to read it.
I’m sorry, Helovesme, that it’s taken a while for me to respond.
It was hard for me to get through your descriptions of marriage and hard to find words of response. Here’s the best I do at this time:
Your description of your marriage and the topic of leadership sounds like you really have clear healthy boundaries, Christian visions and goals. When I think you’ve made it sound easy, I go back and read and you haven’t said that, as you describe different ways marriages can be off kilter. I appreciate your descriptions of those:
I really love this part,
I’m glad that your marriage has the dynamic you describe and you are happy in it.
Your description, especially the last part that I like so well, seems different than what I hear and read in Christian settings that insist on assigning roles to husbands and wives. I listen very carefully, I don’t hear what you’ve described in these settings. What I hear you say, “I did listen….But if they don’t line up with Him, they don’t line up with me.” is what men say of themselves, not in those exact words, and then they go on to speak for their wives without letting their wives speak for themselves and they make sure to….finally say they / he make/s a decision and the family moves on. Usually their wives aren’t around when these men are teaching or having an “instructive” conversation. The settings I’m talking about basically equate male headship with men having the final say in decision making. In one setting a pastor said, “Someone has to be the CEO.” and he was talking about himself in a church context and the husband in a marriage context. I think they were creating your “business model” marriage.
Basically….the logical results of what I hear being taught in these types of church settings is loss of women’s agency (it creates your described power imbalance model). Of course, they give lip service to love and serving, but their “serving” is military-like leading, even though it’s softly peddled. And what is confusing, or was, is that many couples putting up with this type of teaching are living more of the dynamic in your balanced description. They’re not living what’s being taught, although they appear to me to be living what would make more sense. I’ve thought about it and researched it intently for many years. I don’t attend church at these types of places anymore.
My marriage was complex and traumatic the last 5-6 years. My husband did not use religion as a tool to wield an “authority card”. While I appreciate that he did not do this, he was manipulative (same as coercive control) and emotionally abusive. Your descriptions, each type, really make me pause to consider what was going on in the type of marriage I had.
I can identify good things that came from my marriage, our children especially, but also I had a sense of belonging with my husband’s extended family, still do somewhat, and my own, although not without disturbance with some of my siblings.
Yes, I think our culture, takes men more seriously.
Labeling myself as a “Jesus feminist” is the only “label” that I kinda feel a firm “yes, and take hold of” with. I can’t keep track of all the “waves” of feminism, but I think, in terms of the waves, I relate more to what I think is the first “wave”, which were the suffragettes and abolitionists. I’m not sure how many waves there are even. I’m more curious now than when I was younger about women’s history and history in general. I’m finding there have been a lot of unsung heroes, probably more women than men, but some men, too, that I wish I had heard their stories when I was younger.
I agree. And this unfriendly audience puts a lot more pressure on women trying, or wanting to grow in the area of speaking. Everyone needs encouragement in their endeavors.
Mark Twain quote: “It’s a small man (woman), who belittles another’s ambitions.” [Paraphrase]
I agree. I think society more easily respects men, men have been cultured to expect this while women have been cultured to be quiet. I think cultures (church and education and society in general), should encourage both men and women to be speakers. I do think the competitive culture for men has it’s disadvantages, too, as James has written about.
This makes perfect sense to me! I just want all of us to be learning and growing together and I don’t see how that gets done really well without everyone’s voice and feedback.
Thanks for your replies, Helovesme!
Hi, Artina, no need to apologize and truthfully—-you’re under no obligation to reply. I’m going to try to keep this short and again, you’re free to end the conversation as you see fit. It won’t offend me at all.
And thanks for YOUR reply!
I’m a very private person, especially concerning my marriage. However, I have no problem in stating that my marriage has been extremely difficult. In some ways it still is, in other ways it is not. There is no way I could give an accurate perception without taking up too much of your time AND mine—trying to be truthful, yet accurate, yet use as few words as possible!
Those boundaries and analogies I brought up were not instilled in me by my upbringing as a non-Christian, neither were they taught nor demonstrated to me as a Christian.
I truly think you have real talent in how you express yourself. “Off kilter” is a fantastic phrase you used. If a marriage remains off kilter, however, and isn’t set straight, I deduce that it will become more and more off kilter—-and runs the risk of complete collapse.
My marriage is still very much in the “red” when it comes to being listened to and taken seriously (in response to your comment that my marriage reflects how it SHOULD be). It’s not what I would call a happy marriage. But it’s still alive, even if it’s barely kicking, and I refuse to “bury it” if I perceive that there is some life in it still.
A lot of “debt” in that department has piled up (hence it being in the “red!”) and it will take time for that debt to be “paid down.” There is a price to be paid when you don’t treat your wife as a co-equal, and if a husband insists on living like that—-he is only racking up more and more “debt” for himself as the years go by.
And make no mistake, you WILL pay a heavy price. Believing that you have a false sense of superiority, and therefore feeling entitled to inflict a false sense of inferiority on your wife—-is disastrous. This is true for a marriage that claims to be Biblical OR non-Biblical, but especially heinous if you claim to be a Christian IMO. You’re sullying the very name of the Lord as well as supporting a false concept of marriage.
Your paragraph about not listening to wives was as good as anyone has expressed it. I can’t agree or say “amen” enough. Never assume that my husband speaks for me, unless I have authorized him to. And vice versa.
Being “one” with your wife does not mean you are clones of one another. You are separate, distinct persons who are working hard to merge as one. The Word says we behold His face (as in a mirror) as He changes us from glory to glory. That is not my husband’s face in the mirror that I am looking to be transformed into. Same in reverse.
A husband is not a CEO of a marriage and family. If that is how you see it, sexual relations with your “subordinate” (aka wife) are an absolute no-no.
This isn’t a radical concept. When I was in school, teachers could be buddy-buddy with their students, but NO ONE ever forgot (nor should they) that teachers are authority figures. When I was out of school, scandals started emerging around the country of teachers and students having sexual relation. No matter what the age of the student, it was rightly horrifying that those boundaries were crossed. Doesn’t matter if there were claims that it was consensual or anything like that.
There is no reason churches should promote the idea of a husband as an authority figure over his wife, and not bat an eye that such an authority figure is also being very intimate with her. Does he revert back and forth from being an authority figure outside the bedroom, but they are equals within the bedroom? It’s either one or the other. You can’t have it both ways.
I am so sorry for what you went through in your marriage. Manipulation is very hard to pinpoint—-as Barb put it—-it’s terribly hard to undo all those knots. Love your term “Jesus feminist!” That’s far better than anything I’ve ever heard. I hope you don’t mind if I lay a hold of it as well. “Feminism” is a loaded word, but how you made it distinct is far more precise. And I love that Mark Twain quotation.
Here is a very brief description of the obstacles and [word redacted] concepts I’ve had to face as a female believer for over 20 years.
The fruits of the Spirit are not gender specific, and the are not gender exclusive. Don’t assume or presume that females have such fruits naturally built into their XX chromosomes when they are born. There may be females who have personalities that are warm and welcoming, but that is not the same thing as fruits of the Spirit.
Fruits like compassion, kindness, gentleness—-apply to both genders. So stop putting the pressure on women to bear such fruits that seem “womanly”, and men get to bear the fruits that are more “manly.” Leadership is not a fruit of the Spirit. Neither is authoritativeness. Nor is being commanding, controlling or coercive. So if you see a man who is a good speaker, self-confident and organized—-the Bible isn’t interested in such men for leadership.
I have had to deal with professing Christians who perceived me as easygoing, servant-minded and gracious—-and then dared to assume that that also means I won’t get offended. That I won’t take certain things personally. Or that I’ll stay quiet or keep my mouth shut or won’t make trouble. I won’t get angry, won’t stand up for myself—-I will take a backseat and not complain. Shove me in the tightest corner and I’ll paste a smile on my face and simply make the best use out of this tiny little space.
First of all, any fruit He has borne in me never came naturally to me. Insinuating that I’m compassionate as a mark of a “womanly” personality takes away the glory He fully deserves. Don’t take that away from Him.
Second of all, it’s insulting that you’ve assumed that it’s okay to take personal advantage of those fruits that His hard work (and mind) bore through me.
And third of all, you’re wrong. I AM offended when you do such things, It IS personal and I AM angry when I’m told to stay in my place and occupy a very small corner. The Bible said to be slow to take offense and get angry. Slow to speak and a ready listener. It never said to NEVER get offended or get angry. And I DO speak, as well as listen.
And I WILL make it clear that you are not welcome in my home, in my life, in my family if you ever try to exert an authority that you don’t have, or that I haven’t given you. I don’t care who you are, or who you think you are. Get out and don’t come back until you have learned how to govern your tongue, and learn some manners.
That last paragraph has been me speaking, not necessarily my spouse. I believe he agrees with me, but is having a hard time working through how deceived he has been for so long. Breaking out of deception is like a baby bird who is being born, breaking out of that shell that it is now too small to contain him. It’s hard work, messy and scary. Now you are out of that protective shell, and have to face this strange new world you’re now fully exposed to.
I have sympathy for him, but I’m not his mama bird, either. I’m here to help, but I’m not here to treat him like a baby bird. Perhaps how one relates to Christ gets tied up in how you relate to your parents and siblings. It’s a “family affair,” so your love for Christ is entrenched in your love for your parents and siblings—-who took you to church and likely exposed you to Him at a young age, and so you look to those family members as the Christian examples you should emulate.
How hard it must be to realize that not only are they not the example you should follow, but that the Christ they are professing is not exactly the Christ that the Word describes. Who is He exactly—what you have been told to believe, or what He is telling you Himself?
[We redacted the word Helovesme used as it might sound denigrating to some people. Editors.]
BOOM!!! Helovesme, I agree with Artina; so well said!
[Ed.: I think James is replying to Heloveme‘s comment 25th May 2019 – 1:58 pm.]
[Ed.: I think James is replying to Heloveme‘s comment 25th May 2019 – 1:58 pm.]
Yes it was. 🙂
Helovesme, your comments are brilliant and so well expressed. The logic you lay out re the ‘boss’ sleeping with his ‘subordinate’ is superb. It is tight – water tight!
It makes for a great logic test for any pastor or leader.
I shake my head at church people who think that God ordains someone riding rough-shod over someone else’s free will and agency – the very free will and agency He designed into every one of us – so we can choose Him of our own free will. That’s love.
To impose their will they must employ coercion of one sort or another and seemingly never think twice about it or the likely consequences for everybody including themselves.
I shake my head at them because time and again they are presented with the bad fruits that flow from these organisations and the bad abusive marriages that they sponsor. Child sexual abuse and spousal abuse are reflections of the organisations in which this abuse occurs. Yet these organisations never seriously look at themselves.
I have noticed a pattern over the decades: the more dictatorial the organisation or church, the more prevalent will be the abuse – cause and effect.
Replying to Helovesme’s reply: 25TH MAY 2019 – 1:58 PM.
I feel that I have to make sure and not take credit for the term “Jesus Feminist”. It’s the name of a book I haven’t read yet. But when I saw the title, wow, I thought it fitting. Other phrases I’ve heard and like (so I’m not the source): “Jesus is my main man.”, or “I miss Jesus.”, which I think comes from a well-known female Bible teacher telling the story of a younger female relative who had recently married. Just wanted to clarify that.
Yes, it is!
Thank you for sharing more of your thoughts and experience on how you are navigating marriage. Your comments are very helpful and worthy of reading slowly.
Thank you for the clarification on the term “Jesus feminist.” I too try to give credit where credit is due—or at least make it clear that I heard it or read it somewhere—but not sure where exactly!
My memory has suffered and struggled due to trauma, I believe. I don’t believe trauma takes away your IQ per se (as a nod to one of the parameters of this post)—-but it is hard on the brain for sure.
Helovesme and James,
This statement of yours, Helovesme and that you highlighted, James, is really good.
But this is the reality of how the majority of churches I’ve been a part of operate.
And this is true whether they verbally promote male headship as military-like headship or not but they still just let the church cultural status quo be, without demonstrating intention to change and movement of changing. This is why I don’t attend, except sporadically, and may even stop that. And instead gather with a few friends once in awhile.
Artina, you said —
That pretty much nails it!
That “business model” is the ‘worldly’ model which should damn it straight away in most people’s eyes but they cannot see or they cannot imagine an alternative. I don’t see how a job description for a pastor could be anything like a job description for a “CEO”. But then, maybe I don’t understand the business of churches.
Jesus and His apostles were teachers and not CEOs. CEO types always assume they are needed when, in fact, people actually spend most of their lives self-organising and it’s very efficient.
James, I actually think you nailed it when you said:
I think you answered your own question quite well. The words “business” and “church” don’t belong in the same sentence.
Being or becoming a pastor is a calling from God, not a career choice.
The former is something that is bestowed upon you by the sovereignty of the Lord. He chooses you because He is free to choose whoever He wants.
The latter is something that you bestow upon yourself by your own sovereignty. You choose your career because you are free to choose whatever you want.
Acknowledging that distinction is vital. It may be one of the major reasons why believers don’t feel safe in churches, and why the unsaved may balk at going to church—-even if they express a real hunger to know the Lord.
If a pastor treats a church like a business, even with the best of intentions (funding certain ministries or attracting new people)—the results may be disastrous.
Perfectly fine to work hard to manage your resources well, and be diligent and responsible with whatever you have. I don’t mean that that is treating a church like a business! That is just good old fashioned common sense.
I just mean that if the goals are aimed towards size, profit, book sales, conferences, seminars, popularity and people—-that is not what aiming for the glory of the Lord would look like.
If you’re all about projecting the image of the Gospel, without aiming for the substance of the Gospel, you may have a full house every Sunday—but it is likely those people will go home with empty stomachs. They won’t get fed with the spiritual food they so desperately need.
I have sympathy for any sincere, God-loving pastor, who takes their calling from the Lord seriously—-I can imagine how it’s a constant temptation to go down the “CEO” route, as Artina brought up.
Careers are usually about climbing a ladder of some kind. You look to be promoted so you can have more power, money and prestige. There is no sin in working hard and expecting to be rewarded for it.
But a calling from the Lord does not always guarantee secular success. Working hard for His glory has its rewards, no doubt about that—-but they might not translate into earthly rewards such as money, power and fame.
Being a husband is not exactly a “calling” from the Lord, I don’t think. But if a husband gets married and seeks to reap rewards from it in order to enrich his own personal goals (“my wife works for me and I have the Biblical power over her that favors me.”): he is no better than a pastor who sees the church as a way to elevate himself, but will say he is doing it “in the name of God,” trying to make it appear Biblical and therefore legitimate.
I can think of so many examples of CEO pastors, Elders, and seminary professors.
I have just re-read this post by James. I did so for two reasons:
1) I knew that by re-reading it I would get more out of it. I would learn more and consolidate what I had already learned from it.
2) I wanted to pay attention to how James talked about the MANY different qualities required for good leadership, and how he balanced those different qualities.
What stands out to me is that James definitely did not say that high IQ is the only quality required for good leadership.
I can best demonstrate this by copy / pasting the parts of James’s post which show that he says having a relatively high IQ is not enough to be a good leader. He says that good leadership also requires character, humility, love of God, and willingness to be a responsible servant to serve all people of good will. In the comments thread, these themes are developed to include things like wisdom that comes from life experience.
What follows is my copy / pasted and slightly amended wording of the parts of James’s post which I think demonstrate this. I have highlighted in bold the places where he talks about humility, character, and servant-heartedness.
~ ~ ~ ~
Teachers and leaders in particular, require skills that are above the average by quite a margin. They require character development and intellectual development.
The captain cannot operate successfully….unless he has the willing support of the team. He has to have the players enthusiastically follow his directions without coercion. So in effect, it is much more true to see the captain as the servant of the team. Now we have something like Jesus said in terms of leaders – leaders, be ye first servants.
Authority and Responsibility need to be freely given and taken because coercion kills enthusiasm and enthusiasm is needed to win, to succeed in the joint enterprise. This applies to ALL relationships.
Has your pastor filled the shoes that the office requires? Has he served the congregation? Has he counselled and comforted the afflicted using not only his heart but his head? Can he think and act logically? Can he think and act without contradiction?
Logic is the art of identifying and removing contradictions. There are no contradictions in reality.
Church-going Christians look to their pastors and priests to be their captains, but if a captain is not skilled in the use of logic, then error, bluff and wishful thinking will replace reality and a good number of his flock are in for a world of hurt and confusion.
Those with high IQ and the desire to teach had best take this responsibility to serve Jesus to heart and do the best they can with humility.
Those that don’t have the ability to serve in this way, or do not take the responsibility to serve seriously, end up not following their own words and become hypocrites.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Peacemakers are problem solvers. To solve problems, you need to be able to juggle a large number of variables to find a solution that suits all those of goodwill. You need high intelligence.
If your teacher or leader is not able to talk and act without contradiction and is not able to bring about peaceful solutions to knotty problems, your teacher or leader is in the wrong position and would be better off seeking some other way to serve.
Of course, pastors and others need to have a heart for God but that is not enough to lead….and it is hard to know peoples’ hearts. We can discern much, though, from listening closely to their words and closely observing their behaviour. And seeing if their behaviour matches with their words.
Look, on the one hand, for respect, compassion; for peacemaking, creative problem-solving, and for humility. And on the other hand [here James lists the “tells” for incompetent leaders:] look for simplistic answers, contradictions, hypocritical behaviour and personal attacks.
Barbara, Helovesme, Artina, James,
I have been following and greatly appreciating the dialogue. All of you have clearly thought out your views on healthy marriage and healthy leadership. I have not engaged recently because I have had visitors who took up my time, but I do want to let you know that the dialogue has been helpful. Both of my visitors are cognitive behavioural psychologists. They took the cognitive behavioural approach of challenging me to just see those who hurt me as having a different perspective, with neither theirs nor mine being wrong. Why seek justice? Why not just walk away? I have heard so many versions of this question this year.
It feels very hard for me to have to fight for others to see why what happened was wrong and even if they finally agree I was wronged, why I again have to fight to not be considered THE ONE IN THE WRONG because I do not just walk away. As James says, I see the variables and it is so clear to me that I am right, yet others see 1) a leader, 2) who can speak rationally without being emotional, 3) who claims to love me and to want what’s best for me, 4) while I am clearly angry with him and refuse to let the issue go. Therefore, they believe him. To me it is so clear that none of those reasons is a valid basis for belief. 1) A leader is not automatically right. 2) Abusers can often speak rationally, and the abused will be in great pain which is likely to cause an emotional response. 3) Claims to love me and want what’s best for me are easy to make. It is important to look at the actions rather than the words, and the actions of the org in the issues for which we were fired are clear violations of their own policy AND healthy organizational polity, while my own actions in those issues followed both company policy and healthy organizational polity. 4) My anger is also no basis for a decision, because anger and crying out for justice [are] healthy responses to particular circumstances. Again, you have to look at the circumstances, the actions. Since the actions of the organization were wrong and since my actions followed those outlined in the manual, then it seems clear that I am justified in crying for [out] justice.
I see: 1) A woman who acknowledges where she has been wrong while also pointing out where the other side has been wrong vs. men who only acknowledges where the woman is wrong. 2) A woman who is actively addressing the issues she has acknowledged in herself vs. men who focus all their attention on addressing the character flaws they have identified in her. 3) A woman who keeps the discussion on the issues vs. men who avoid discussing the actual issues by reframing her discussion of actual issues as proof of her lack of righteousness. 4) A woman who focuses on the issues vs. men who focus on their rationality in contrast to her emotionality. These are all clear signs that I am likely to be right. 1) A person who is willing to present both sides of an issue is more likely to be right than those who refuse to acknowledge the other side and their part in the issue. 2) A person who is willing to take active steps to deal with her own weaknesses is more likely to be right than those who only focus on where the other person is weak. 3) A person who keeps the discussion on the issues is more likely to be right than those who keep redirecting to discussions of the other’s character. 4) A person who keeps the discussion on the issues is more likely to be right than those who keep redirecting by contrasting their long-suffering rationality favorably to her emotional responses. Use of contrast of character is a huge red flag for me.
I keep thinking of Solomon who looked for clues like these to discern which woman was the true mother in the Biblical story. Why won’t others do this? And even if they do see it, why won’t they acknowledge that crying out for justice in these circumstances is a healthy and holy response. I keep remembering the first Tamar, whom Judah declared more righteous than himself, because she sought and got justice when he refused it.
Amen to everything you said, DaughterIAm.
You laid out those points very logically. Bravo. 🙂
DaughterIAm, that was amazing (comment from 26TH MAY 2019 – 4:22 AM).
Really good job breaking it down, extracting and separating those tangled vines and laying them out so neatly.
I have no idea if it’s appropriate to interject this idea into the conversation. Sometimes society doesn’t want women to fight—whether it be in the court system, in the military, or even in voting (I consider all of those as areas in which women have had to fight for their rights to be heard, or to be active in.).
It may be something as simple as: “We don’t want women to get hurt. We’re used to protecting them from harm, not putting them in harm’s way. Please stay home and stay safe and that is what is best. Let the men handle such things.”
I DO agree with your assessments—it’s sexism: I think men are worth listening to and taken more seriously, and women are not equals to us so we don’t listen to them as much and we don’t take them as seriously.
And even with the “good intentions” mantra as my statements indicated—-I think sexism is rooted in there as well. Especially for sincere, born again female believers.
The Bible says all of His followers will deal with Biblical suffering (FYI abuse doesn’t fall into that category). There are even warnings that we may be asked to lay down our lives for His sake. This is not gender specific.
Not every believer will suffer the same, and certainly not every believer will lose their lives in His name. But every believer will face challenges. If you want an active, growing relationship with Him, Biblical suffering will be a part of it.
No one should attempt to fight the Lord on this. He is certainly protective of His children, for whom He died, but He is not above asking them to step out in faith. He knows how to protect those He loves.
If the Lord asks a female believer to take risks because He is telling her to, I would advise being supportive AND protective. You can do both. You can be supportive as she faces a difficult road, and you be protective by trusting the Lord’s protection for her.
When a woman fights on the battlefield, there is every possibility she will get wounded. So when we step onto a “spiritual” battlefield, the same possibility applies. We try to be aware of the risks, but we never know what will or won’t happen until we become actively engaged. That scares me, but permanently remaining on the sidelines is not what the Bible has called us to.
I think of it this way: imagine a father who has twins: a boy and girl. They both grow up and want to enlist in the military. The father is so proud of his grown up son—-choosing to protect and defend his country. He is scared, but he is also bursting with pride.
To his daughter, however, he tries to discourage her as much as possible. “What if you get hurt? I won’t be there to protect you. I can’t stand the idea of you being in harm’s way. Please don’t put me through that.”
The daughter replies: “But Dad, why did you tell my brother something different, even though we want to do the exact same thing?”
Dad replies: “You’re my little girl. I have to protect you. Your brother can take care of protecting others, but I need to keep you from getting hurt. That’s my job.”
Daughter replies: “I’m not a little girl anymore. There is nothing saying that I can’t take the same risks as my brother. I may get hurt, I may not. But I’m willing to take that risk.
That is MY job.”
The Lord told His daughters that they were just as worthy to suffer for Him as His sons are. When we face Him again, I’d like to believe that I will confirm that narrative! Father, I trusted You, I took those risks, I took some bumps and bruises—-but I remained faithful as You asked me to. It was worth it, because You were with me the whole time.
Keeping you in prayer as you fight, DaughterIAm.
Thanks, Barbara, Artina, Helovesme,
Helovesme, your comments about the sexism of refusing to listen to women made me want to cry. For a long time, I begged my husband to speak up. I would see something but knew it was ‘not my place’ to speak because I was a woman, so I would point it out to him. He would dismiss it. He hates confrontation of any kind.
When he became acting team leader for a time and was forced to deal with the conflict, he began to hear me and try to follow my suggestions, but even saying the same thing, it would come out with a completely different tone, and I would wince.
At one point, someone finally sent something to our joint email, accidentally, so I could officially know what was going on. I took the opportunity to say what needed to be said. I signed and sent it. Our boss wrote back an effusive letter of praise to my husband for “his” thoughtful, compassionate email.
When our team leader came back and my husband was no longer acting leader, he spoke up more for our other teammates when I pointed out that they were feeling trampled, but he still would not speak up for me. At one team meeting, I sat with every other teammate in a room while one teammate attacked me verbally for several minutes, and I had to defend myself. “Actually, that was my husband who did that, so talk to him.” “Actually, that is unfounded.” “Actually, that is unfair.”
Another teammate sent an email to me telling me I did not belong on the team, and again, I had to defend myself, because no one else spoke up, even though they knew. “Actually, this is not your decision, and this is a team decision. This is not your place to tell me that.”
I have told my husband (with quite a bit of emotion) how much it hurt that he left me to speak alone. Several friends would tell me, but not him, that they wondered where he was in all this. As I have struggled to figure out what is right and wrong in all of this, it has been hard. I am better at dealing with conflict. Maybe God gifted me this way for a reason, and I shouldn’t expect my husband to do it for me. On the other hand, it is easier for people to dismiss me as an irrational, emotional woman whom they can simply diagnose as having a psychological disorder than it would be to do the same to my scholarly husband, who has extensive knowledge of church history and was the one to tell me that the passages used to silence women are not well-translated. He is good at dealing with abstractions, where I am down-to-earth and practical. So why did God gift me this way instead of my husband? I really struggle with wishing I could be someone else, someone able to thrive in that kind of culture.
I think of what Barbara shared in another recent post [here] about the difference between coaching men and women, and I struggle. My husband and I both have master’s degrees from the same seminary, and I have tried to speak to our seminary / ministry friends about how the traditional preaching is losing at least the wounded women. They have no trouble speaking into my life without being invited, but the same privilege does not go both ways.
Is there an answer? Will there ever be a place where I can thrive?
Hi DaughterIAm. Just want to let you know that the story of Solomon, his wisdom in sorting out who was the real mother, and the story of Tamar and Judah are two stories that also often come up in my mind as I navigate issues of authority, justice and character growth or presence. Judah going from exploiting a woman to calling her more righteous than himself, for her cunning and courage. That, seems to me to be, character growth acknowledging good character present and he brought her into his household to a place of respect that sounds, to me, like a place of provision and safety to raise her children and see them flourish. I’m glad you mentioned this.
I wish you well in your endeavor!
Barb, thank you for taking the time and effort to do that. 🙂
Barbara, that was an awesome sum up of James’s post. I hadn’t been closely following the thread suggesting the post indicated high IQ = superiority (from another commenter). But I never picked up on that when I read the post on my own.
James’s post was wonderfully written. IMO, those concepts he brought up are not terribly radical and revolutionary (he wrote them out very well, though).
I think, however, we’re still confused as to how vital it is to apply those words to real life.
I can think of two examples, one fictional, and one historical—that illustrate those points
I watched the TV show “House” when it was on the air. The main character was undoubtedly a genius in the medical field. He was also a drug addict and extremely unhealthy and unbalanced. Those around him tended to enable him, due to his ability to save lives.
I got very frustrated with the character for one reason: he didn’t seem to grow and evolve. He remained “stuck” and lacked nearly every characteristic that Barb pointed out MUST be found in a true leader, along with intelligence.
It is proof positive that having a lot of brain power does not equal the ability to relate to people. And he cared very little for his patients. He was more interested in them as “puzzles” for him to solve, rather than people who were in real pain.
However, he DID manage to help the majority of them, despite his objectification of them. That added a component of: does a doctor, whose very job is all about people, NEED to have relational skills in order to treat them? (I would say yes, of course.)
The other example is historical. One of our past presidents, John Kennedy, tends to be memorialized as a decent leader, having a heart for the nation and the desire to serve our interests. He was highly intelligent and even though his term was cut short when he was killed—-history tends to remember him fondly.
However, he was notoriously adulterous. I don’t think it was widespread knowledge at the time; things like that tended to be kept under wraps back then. But we now know for sure.
I watched a wonderful interview with a historian, who was asked a brilliant question (regarding JFK, and I paraphrase the question): “can you be a good president, even if you have a questionable personal life?”
A bit of background: in recent years, a woman came forward and claimed that as a 19 year old intern in the White House, she was seduced by and had an affair with JFK. That will help you understand his answer:
He paused to think before he answered. He said, “yes, he still believed you could be a good leader.” But then he paused again and said: “but why did he feel the need to seduce a 19 year old? He was in his early 40s by then. I mean, why did he go down that road??”
You could hear the conflict in his voice. He answered the question as best he could, but no doubt he saw the flip side as well:
If you can make good decisions for the country as a whole, balancing and incorporating intelligence and humility to serve the nation—-why can’t you treat the individuals in that nation with the same level of intelligence and humility? Show them respect. Treat them with honor and dignity. Use your resources to love them, not exploit them.
I realize I’m using a fictional character and secular history, so we can suggest that we can’t apply Biblical standards to this narrative. I agree, but I still think we can use these examples to illustrate how conflicted and complicated this entire issue is.
And, NO doubt, in the past AND present—-churches are still wrestling with that same question the interviewer asked. What if a pastor or leader is doing great work, both at home and abroad, loves and serves his congregation—-but at the same time he is seducing women from that congregation he claims to love.
Well, this is right along the lines of my former pastor. He was exposed to be a liar and a cheater, and he was considered a beloved leader who did a lot of good for a lot of people. Both at home AND especially abroad.
That last part is especially painful for me. He understood that those overseas are often suffering and struggling in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. The fact that he directed so many resources and engaged with the people in those countries—meant a great deal to me on a very personal level.
It especially broke my heart when he was exposed, because with all he did for others, I truly thought he would never be guilty of doing what he did. I never thought he was sinless. I never idolized him, and often prayed for him because I knew how hard it is when everyone is watching your every move. I know the power and pull of sin, and I never thought he was above temptation. I just never thought he’d go down those roads.
I’m sorry, but a million acts of good do not wipe out one act of evil. If you refuse to serve people as individuals, you have no business serving people as a congregation. Both at home AND abroad. If you can’t love them, you can’t lead them.
Helovesme, thanks for giving those two examples. I remember greatly disliking the lead character in the TV show House and deciding never to watch it again. I might try watching an episode again, just to help me consolidate what I’ve learned from James’s post and all the comments in this thread. 🙂
Oh goodness, thank you for that Barb. I kept my personal feelings about that TV show because we aren’t here to be TV critics! But I was so disgusted with the show by the time it wrapped up—-if it hadn’t ended then I would have walked away from it.
I’m glad I’m not the only one that felt that way. I didn’t want anyone who did enjoy it to feel judged, and I still feel that way.
I agree with the way you’ve written on this issue.
I am grateful for corrections to history where leaders’ bad and inconsistent behaviors are exposed, the sooner the better, IMO. Not for the purpose of being vindictive but for the sake of truth, the truth that motive, intent matters. If they are leading without a motive, intent of loving people, empowering people to “live and move and have their being (heart, mind, body, spirit)” in a better, more coherent place, they need to “be” what they are speaking and doing, so that what they are speaking and doing is proven to not just be an image. If the image is valuable, they must know something of it’s value being valuable in reality. Again, the fruit measurement. If some fruits are kept hidden (and some think bad fruit needs to be hidden just because of all the supposed good that a leader has done) this is a recipe for disaster, I think.
Speaking from experience, anyone who is idolizing someone — “putting them on a pedestal” — as I call it, is helped by truth that will move their adoring focus off the idol. I don’t think that that negates that God can use “good” deeds, done with ulterior motives, or done out of duty or ignorance, to help others, but it’s not the real deal, and it leaves those helped in a bind of trying to make sense of nonsense. Was I really loved by a fellow human being, or just exploited / used for political purposes, ego, power enhancement? Was anything they said real? the truth?….and will their past words (especially the ones that seemed sweet or where they seemed to hurt) ever stop replaying in my head where I keep trying to find a fitting understanding and response? When I try to “fix my eyes on Jesus”, I think He is an authoritative authority who does what He says.
My mom loved JFK, along with many others. I benefited from Lyndon B Johnson’s “War on Poverty” legislation, receiving need-based grants when I went to college. I’m grateful for that but I appreciate more awareness of the influence of cultural tides influencing that, Martin Luther King, also another story of inconsistency, but his work had an influence on bringing Johnson’s “War on Poverty” about.
And we all have inconsistencies (not to sin level, though), I’m just saying public leaders, for sure, don’t get a pass on exposure and loss of office as result and loss of level of admiration as a result. And I want my mind changed on how I view them. But I have good friends, who knew me when I was young, gather regularly but not often, who don’t want to talk about this. They do want to pull me into the blind celebration of good points of heritage and culture, without any consideration of past failures. I don’t think this is in accordance with scripture, Jesus, His life lived or His work on the cross. But it may be all our gathering regularly, but not often, can handle. I can relate to needing “light” time, or desiring to swim in the shallow (not superficial) end of the pool for a while. But celebrating aspects of cultural heritage in a certain environment where there would be a lot of political talk that I disagree with and with a larger group of people like-minded with my friends, where the conversations would be one-sided, are not light events for me, my analysis would kick in, and possibly out, at times. It’s easier to just share a meal.
It matters what leaders have done with their mistakes, how they talk about them, but we largely don’t get a picture of that. If they are publicly leaders, like in Galatians, I think it was, Paul made note of inconsistency publicly. The apostles wrote of their struggles to understand Jesus, their mistakes, and they didn’t leave women out in terms of positive, honoring, stories, the stories of Jesus with women and how radical those are in terms of how Jesus viewed, noticed and interacted with women, going against the grain of the cultural norm. The writers of the gospels didn’t leave women out. And it matters how I handle my parenting mistakes, my living mistakes as I bump along in my close relationships.
If I find that a famous theologian had multiple affairs with his students, I don’t want to read his work. What would his take on Jesus mean? If I find that a current popular theologian doesn’t see women as fully created in the image of God, whose ministry is to make sure women are joyfully submissive to being subordinate forever, then I don’t want to read his work. What could his take on Jesus mean?
Where am I? I’m in a better place than I was before, although not without pain, grief and longing, but also glimpses of exciting freedom, hope. More sense has been made of what I’ve been through. I’ve had an experience not too long ago, but it seemed like something I’d faced before, and this time as I went through it, it seemed like I’d been prepared for the challenge of which path am I going to go with, the cultural protocol (where all parts were not fitting with my intuition and logic) or exercise my freedom (in Christ) to tweak the protocol and live a path that seems right for me. I did have to hold my ground, explain my choice, to close relationships and they were pushy, so was I and we got to what I think is mutual respect and I see our love for one another.
In terms of watching TV, “House”, I watched it enough to recognize it was “off” for me, too, and I didn’t really enjoy, or watch it, that much. I like “Call the Midwives”. Ah, to share in collaborative work and have a safe place around a shared meal each evening to process life and work (a little).
Artina, I REALLY loved this line:
It may sound like a bit of a tongue twister, but not so. The heart and truth of that sentence speaks volumes (we could dig and dig for a long time and still not hit bottom).
Yes, when it comes to my former pastor, you described the confusion when a scandal about your leader is uncovered very well. I have no idea what to believe, what to take seriously, and what to throw aside. Where did the truth end, and the lies began?
I remember the case of a pediatrician who was exposed to be molesting his patients—both boys and girls. One of those victims, now grown up—-brought up a very simple point. Parents trusted this doctor with their kids for the simple fact that he was a good doctor. He knew and could treat childhood diseases or ailments.
The fact that he did treat and heal his patients is a known fact. But in essence, he healed their bodies but stole their souls.
I wonder if these victims would say that they’d rather have died from an easily treatable childhood ailment, than pay the price that they did in being treated by him.
I hear you about trying to have balanced discussions that incorporate far more than the “fluff stuff.” Trying to put together a puzzle that shows the full picture takes a lot of pieces and a lot of time. And you would have be willing to accept whatever completed picture that the whole puzzle ended up displaying.
Most people just want to concentrate on the prettier, more pleasing aspects of that puzzle. So, with JFK—let’s focus on his famed sense of optimism, and leave behind his dubious personal life (which has nothing to do with us, anyway).
The paragraphs where you described your own ups and downs are the perfect reply to those that just want to focus on what they can handle, and disregard the rest.
How do you learn from history, including historical figures, if you’re not seeing them as they really were? Insisting on painting them as the lives we wanted them to lead, not as they really lived.
If the point of history is to rewrite it as we want it to be, not as it really was—-then at least be honest about it. Make it clear that you’ve cut and pasted, edited and re-edited, spliced and sliced up real events and real people to reflect a history that didn’t really exist, but one that you’ve invented in order to please the masses.
You made it clear that your own life has been a bumpy road, and therefore a bumpy ride. I don’t have a problem hearing that sort of thing, because I would be surprised if all of us could not say the same exact thing about ourselves.
So why do we have a problem applying the same logic to those in leadership, secular or otherwise? JFK had some highs and lows as president, even in his short term in office. As for his personal life, don’t ignore it in order to elevate an image of him that again, doesn’t exist.
Adultery is a horrible thing to commit, whether it’s once or many times. I don’t care how normalized it may have been in his family, or in his wife’s family. His adultery doesn’t negate any good that he did while in office, but it’s still inexcusable, and unacceptable.
If it taints his image or legacy, which may be a great concern for those that remember him fondly, then I would have to ask: “why do you insist on having an image of him that doesn’t include his bad choices as well as his good ones?”
I’ve had the terrible dishonor of being idolized. It is nothing that I would wish on anyone. It is one of the worst things that can be done to someone, and I now beg the Lord that if possible, please never let me go through it again.
No one sees you as you really are. You’re not “allowed” to be who you really are. No one wants to know, anyway. They just want you to be something that you are not—and WHEN (not if) you disappoint them, they are ruthless like you can’t imagine.
We often mistake passion for Christ equaling perfection in Christ. That is about as destructive as it gets. There is no such thing as a person who is so passionate for Him that they cease to be a frail and finite human being—-capable of sin and certainly capable of committing sin.
Not only that, but we tend to prize what He does not. We tend to be impressed by things that He is not impressed by. We tend to look for people that please us, but do not please Him.
This goes back to Artina’s comment about an image that is not rooted in reality, but is more like an imprint of reality. So there may be some substance there, but not the real deal.
It reminds me of a church that does a dang good job at reflecting an image of Christ, but not the reality of Him. The people sitting there on Sunday mornings might feel entertained or amused, but they’ll go away with empty stomachs and hungry souls.
Hi DaughterIAm, in response to your comment on 29TH MAY 2019 – 2:17 AM.
You’re very much not alone in what you bravely and boldly described. I would say you’ve been far more successful than I have been (it’s not a competition; that is a compliment).
—is very much what I’ve had to deal with as well. Again, I’m extremely private, especially about my marriage. It’s not because I’m trying to cover for him—-it’s very hard for me open up in certain ways.
But I feel safe in expressing what I just did; just wanted to explain why I won’t go any deeper than that. And, as you described, the results are disastrous. There is no getting around that. Nothing good comes out of being absolutely adverse to confrontation.
You worked well and hard at speaking up and standing up for yourself. That sets an example for me that I could benefit from, so thank you. You spoke up when you were being demeaned and derailed, and very much noticed the discrepancies in how you were being treated, versus your spouse.
I had no idea how in the heck to deal with persons that could be combative, confrontational—–but then absolutely unwilling to converse. Also, as you pointed out, there was a ton of hypocrisy and sexism involved.
Exactly how do you speak to people who are convinced that you are inferior, are determined to make sure you feel that way, and stay that way? Even if you try to respond to them with carefully chosen words, in my experiences—-likely I would get no response—or something so minimal that it indicated that the case was closed (to them, at least).
That usually brought out a feeling in me that I had to mend these bridges that they chose to blow up—-but I still felt responsible to make things right. I felt as though I must have done something very wrong to be treated so wrongly, so I had to build up what I felt responsible for, even though I was not.
So, I’m left with an overall feeling of awkwardness and discomfort. And also a sense of defeat—-which precipitated a constant cloud of discouragement over my head. It made living out my everyday life very hard, with a feeling of dread that I had been such a disappointment. And I didn’t know how to fix myself, because I had no idea if I was broken in the first place! Just being told that you’re problematic doesn’t necessarily mean that you are.
Both of those observations fall right into my alley. Just today I was praying along those lines, so perhaps it’s no coincidence that I read your comment when I did.
When women are not taken seriously, we are not being treated with respect. Case closed. If women are not listened to, it sends the message that we don’t have anything substantial to offer, and are therefore worthy of dismissal. Again, case closed.
There is no wiggle room here, IMO. If you don’t treat human beings as if they have intrinsic worth, you’ve fallen short of the first AND second commandment. Those two commandments, Christ said, are the greatest, and therefore should be taken extremely seriously. If you choose not to, you’re not taking Him seriously—-and that is something He does not take lightly.
You cannot claim to follow the first commandment (love the Lord), and then choose to shun the second one (love others). No one who truly loves the Lord will dismiss what matters the most to Him: people. So if you claim to be actively engaged in the first commandment, why aren’t you just as actively engaged in the second one? You’re not engaged in either commandment, and so you are lying.
You also cannot fulfill the second commandment without primarily heeding the first one. There is no way you can love people without loving Him first. He is the One who fills you with love, and a desire to love—-those He loves—-people. And since people are not always known to be lovable, I would strongly advise not attempting to love people apart from Him.
And, if you claim to follow the second one, but have shrugged your shoulders at the first one, I would suggest that your claim of loving others is problematic. Are you loving people with a shallow, superficial, selfish and self-serving sort of love (which is not love at all)—-or do you love them the way He loves—-with strength and substance—-a love that builds people up and confirms their worth and value?
Not only that, but if you expect others to love you in this serious and substantial way, but have no interest in reciprocating that love—-you are problematic, period.
And before I myself fall into the trap of hypocrisy—-love is something that grows in us and through us as we abide in Him. It does not happen overnight, and no one is perfected in this area (not on this side of eternity). So I am very much a work in progress, and I often cringe at the number of shortcomings I have been guilty of.
My point is—-this is what we aim for, not necessarily fully achieve. The persons you described seem “stuck” in a vicious circle where their versions of love are extremely flawed or steeped in darkness. There is no light that gives off a real sense of warmth and welcome. There are dark, empty holes that are cold and callous—-and dripping with contempt for others.
Scoffing and scorning as you have described doesn’t belong in His kingdom. You asked how you can thrive in that culture, how to become someone else in order to thrive, or how to find a place you can thrive in.
My very personal (and therefore not worthy of taking too seriously) answer is this:
Seek to bear fruit in Him. That’s all He cares about, and that is all that should matter to us.
Don’t strive to change in ways that He isn’t on board with. He doesn’t care what others think or say, so if He says you’re on the right track, take Him at His word.
Christ Himself didn’t fit in with the religious culture and environment of His time. It’s a good thing He didn’t, because they did not love God, or others. You can wear the name tag of “man or woman of God” all you want, but that doesn’t mean you are one. Again, you will know them by their fruits—and there is such thing as fruits of the flesh. So you might see fruit, but they are not ones to seek after.
When you do feel out of place or out of touch because those two commandments are thriving in you, rejoice in Him, even as you feel rejected. You feel like a misfit, but you fit right into what matters most to Him.
Our final place is with Him. Whether we find a place or a culture that has a place for us, our final place is what matters most. I have no idea how that will work out for you, or me, or anyone else who feels like an island unto themselves—-but as long as He is with us despite it all—-we have already found the best and most wonderful place to be in—with Him.