A Cry For Justice

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

Does Scripture differentiate between ‘putting away’ and ‘divorce’?

A cack-handed way to cut the knot!

Some people claim we can cut through the knotty DIVORCE scriptures by simply differentiating words and their meanings.

Their argument goes like this:

(i) The Hebrew word shalach and the Greek word apoluo should be translated ‘put away’. Both of those words are used for the husband orally dismissing and sending away his wife without giving her a certificate of divorce.

(ii) The Hebrew word kĕriythuwth and the Greek word apostasion should be translated ‘divorce’. Both those words mean that the husband wrote and handed a certificate of divorce to the wife.

(iii) Seeing the difference between (i) and (ii) is THE KEY to un-knotting the divorce texts.

The people who promote this idea are mistaken. In Part 2 of this series I began to demonstrate how they are mistaken. This post follows on from what I said in Part 2.

In this post I will make my case by looking at the Hebrew word shalach as it occurs in Deuteronomy 21:14 and Malachi 2:16. So get a cuppa, slow down, and put your thinking caps on!

And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her. – Deuteronomy 21:14 (NKJ)

Even though English translations of this verse don’t use the word “divorce,” it MUST be talking about a proper legal divorce.

“..if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free…”

The Hebrew word translated ‘set her free’ is shalach. That word is used more than 800 times in the Old Testament. Only nine of those times is it used for what we moderns think of when we hear the word ‘divorce’: the ending of wedlock, the legal ending of a marriage between husband and wife. Those nine instances are Deuteronomy 21:14; 22:19,29; 24:1,3,4; Isaiah 50:1b; Jeremiah 3:1,8 and Malachi 2:16. In some of the nine instances, shalach is used alongside the word kĕriythuwth (which means bill/ certificate/ writ of divorce), but in others it is used on its own.

Let us look at Malachi 2:16. In that verse, shalach is used on its own – not in conjunction with kĕriythuwth.

“If he hates and divorces [shalach] his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Armies. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously. (Mal 2:16 CSB)

God inspired Malachi to use the word shalach in that verse. What is he talking about?  We have two options, only one of which can be correct.

  1. Malachi 2:16 is talking about a legal divorce (certified, legal, a writ of divorce).
  2. Malachi 2:16 is talking about a man ‘putting away’ his wife without giving her a divorce certificate.

If option 1 is correct, the verse is condemning men who hardheartedly (treacherously) divorce their wives.

If option 2 is correct, then it is only condemning the failure of the man to give his wife a divorce certificate when he dismisses her.  It’s not denouncing treacherous divorce per se, it’s only denouncing the failure to issue a divorce certificate.

Option 2 puts all the emphasis on the paperwork. In option 2, treacherous divorce is not condemned so long as the paperwork is issued.

Which makes more sense? Option one makes much more sense! It fits with what we know about God: His condemnation of treachery and hardheartedness.

To assert that shalach means ‘putting away without a certificate’ turns Malachi 2:16 into a rather limited verse: an admonishment only to husbands who fail to issue the paperwork for divorce. But this contradicts the context of the passage! Malachi 2:13-16 sternly warns men not to act treacherously against their wives. It condemns all men who hardheartedly cast off their wives, not just the ones who fail to write a divorce certificate.

This is yet more proof that it is simplistic to say that word meanings are the KEY to understanding the divorce texts in Scripture.

It is wrong to claim that some words mean the wife is put away without a divorce certificate, while other words mean divorce certified with a written document.

Those who would claim otherwise need to defend their case using logical argument. And if they do so, they ought to address the points I’ve put forward here.

The folks who claim that the key to understanding what scripture says about divorce is to Pay Attention To The Words have not followed their own advice!

If you are going to write a book or teach others, you ought to study and then think through the logic of your ideas to make sure there are no contradictions. I don’t know Hebrew, but I’ve figured this out simply from careful study using the Blue Letter Bible, Strong’s Concordance, and spiritualised common sense.

Authors like Walter Callison (Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love) and Stephen Gola (Divorce: God’s Will?) have not done this. They haven’t seen the contradictions in what they are saying. Neither have the well known abuse advocates who are recycling Walter Callison’s or Stephen Gola’s ideas.

Leslie Vernick is promoting this mistaken idea that word meanings are the key to un-knotting the divorce texts. In 2018 she said:

there are two different words for the term divorce throughout both the Old and New Testament. Our English bibles translate one word as a certificate of divorce and the other word is translated simply divorce. When you read what the Bible has to say about divorce, notice when it says certificate of divorce or just divorce because they mean different things in that culture. (link)

At least one other female author/advocate who is working with victims of domestic abuse is promoting this mistaken idea.  I have tried courteously and respectfully to get her to reconsider her admiration for Walter Callison’s book, but she chose not to engage in debate.

Why don’t people want to engage in reasoned intelligent debate? Maybe it’s got something to do with what our guest-poster James wrote about here. Logic. Multiple variables. Capacity or willingness to engage in Mental Effort.

Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is a law about divorce

We can apply the principles of this law to our own time, even though we are not living in the Old Testament era.

The law which Moses gave about divorce in Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is not to be sneezed at or passed over. Even though English translations of verse 14 do not use the word ‘divorce,’ that doesn’t mean it is not a law about divorce.

And there is much in this law which we can apply to domestic abuse right here and now! I will talk more about what this law means in the next post in this series.

***

This post is the fifth in a 6-part series.

Part 1 The tangled mess of mistaken notions about what the Bible teaches on divorce

Part 2 The Bible uses different words for divorce but they all mean legal divorce. Those who tell you otherwise are mistaken.

Part 3 Jesus did NOT say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. Deuteronomy 24 has been greatly misunderstood.

Part 4 The Jewish divorce certificate gave women theright to remarry, but some men used it rule over women

Part 6 (coming soon) Divorce in Deuteronomy 21 gives dignity and rights to the woman

I may add a seventh part later, but it’s not in the pipeline at present.

For further reading

What about Divorce? — an FAQ page on this website. It lists our most significant posts about divorce.

A little more about Walter Callison and Stephen Gola

Walter Callison, Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love (2002) shows no evidence that he is familiar the extant ancient Jewish and ancient Near East documents which mention divorce. So he is nowhere near the scholarly competence and in-depth knowledge of David Instone-Brewer.

Stephen Gola, Divorce: Gods’ Will? (Divorce Hope 2003) argues that abuse is grounds for divorce, but he makes many logical and exegetical errors in his argumentation to arrive at that conclusion. His views on intercultural marriages are very strange, almost racist. And his charismatic approach to ‘soul ties’ lacks understanding of the way the abuser manipulates the victim to brainwash her. He recommends people I would never recommend: Marilyn Hickey, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Focus on the Family.

Both of their books are on our Hall Of Blind Guides.

28 Comments

  1. TS00

    May I humbly suggest that having a very strong opinion about something does not make it automatically ‘right’? Nor is it just to assert that all who disagree with me obviously have not done their homework, do not understand logic or are practicing faulty hermeneutics. It may be that when others look at all of the information that I have, and reason carefully upon it, they arrive at another opinion. At times, it may be an opinion that I now reject, but will someday embrace.

    This happens all of the time. Intelligent, thoughtful, godly men and women arrive at different conclusions than I have. And the fact that they do not choose to engage in debate with me, if I do not appear genuinely open to considering other viewpoints, may simply reveal their discernment and/or need to marshal limited time and energy.

    The arguments for both views have been fairly well laid out, so anyone can do their homework and consider the reasoning behind the various views people hold. Yet, each one must decide for himself what he believes is most reasonable. The challenge is to do our humble best to seek understanding, remain always open to more knowledge and wisdom and to be gracious with both those who do not agree. I personally do not feel I have ‘arrived’ at perfect understanding on any subject, and fully expect that my views will continue to be refined as long as I live.

    Our opinions might have more of an impact if not presented as the only possible way to think, when many have arrived at other conclusions. They, and their ‘experts’ might even be right, or more right than I. I offer this, not to be rude, but with the best intentions. Frankly, I am willing to consider varying opinions on this subject, because I genuinely desire to understand what scripture intends to say, and it has so often been used with great harm. I am, however, put off by strident defenders who appear unwilling to reconsider their own preferred theories. Now, if I can only learn to apply my own suggestions consistently. 😉

    • Hello TSOO, your comment seems to me to be a subtle ad hominem attack on me. You are critising my tone – which you label as ‘strident’ – rather than engaging with the substance of my arguments.

      I debated whether the publish your comment, but have decided to do so in order to call you to account.

      You said –
      “Frankly, I am willing to consider varying opinions on this subject, because I genuinely desire to understand what scripture intends to say, and it has so often been used with great harm. I am, however, put off by strident defenders who appear unwilling to reconsider their own preferred theories. Now, if I can only learn to apply my own suggestions consistently.”

      I think you nailed it that you are not applying your own suggestions consistently.

      Please defend your claim that I am not willing to reconsider my preferred theory.

      “The arguments for both views have been fairly well laid out…”

      So far as I am aware, I am the only writer — and certainly the only advocate working in the field of domestic abuse — who has laid out the arguments that I’ve laid out here and in Part 2 of this series.

      I wish it was not necessary to lay out my arguments against this ‘word meanings are the key’ theory. But I have chosen to do so because the theory that ‘word meanings are the key’ is a stumbling block to some victims of abuse who are coming out of the fog and are hearing it from people like Leslie Vernick.

      Many academic scholars who write about the divorce scriptures do not even bother to mention this theory; if they do mention it, it is only in order to dismiss it in one or two sentences, because they know the theory is ridiculous and it does not hold water.

      You claim that the arguments for both sides have been well laid out. I have trail blazed on this. You know not what you talk about.

      “…Yet, each one must decide for himself what he believes is most reasonable. The challenge is to do our humble best to seek understanding, remain always open to more knowledge and wisdom and to be gracious with both those who do not agree.”

      And that is your challenge, TSOO. Please apply it to yourself.

      Have you read Walter Callison’s Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love and Stephen Gola’s Divorce: God’s Will? And Leslie Vernick’s blog post? Those are all people who defend the theory I am rebutting. Then read Part 2 of this series. And then, if you wish, present your arguments against my theory.

      As the saying goes, if you can’t handle the heat get out of the fire.

    • James

      The above comment from TSOO is Rhetoric. Propaganda is almost always rhetoric. Politicians use rhetoric non-stop to promote their propaganda. Rhetoric is an appeal to our emotions to persuade us without using pertinent facts.

      Sometimes, as in the above comment, it sounds like it is instead an appeal to our reason by using the words ‘reason’ and ‘reasonable’ and stating things that are generally true but are, in fact, irrelevant to the case at hand.

      But rhetoric is not an appeal to reason and this is how you can tell. Reason presents facts and arranges them in a non-contradictory manner using logic to lead to conclusions that conform with reality.

      The above comment does not contain any facts. Therefore, unsurprisingly, there is no logic and therefore no valid conclusions in the comment. It does not address any of the facts laid out by Barb in her detailed argument. Therefore, as an argument, it has zero value.

      Instead, the comment is clearly aimed at Barb herself. Thus, it qualifies as an Ad Hominem attack. This is a well recognised logical fallacy and is employed when a person does not have a valid argument. When they cannot counter the message, they attack the messenger and hope that no one notices the switch.

      Did you notice that I employed a switch myself in the last paragraph? I switched from talking about the commenter, TSOO, and instead talked in a general manner by using the word ‘person’. I did this to protect myself from the reasonable counter that I cannot know the commenter’s motivation and thinking (and I can’t). But by making it general I can hide behind that and still make the charge that they don’t have an argument and this is the reason behind the personal attack!
      To say it another way, I can talk generally but still lead the reader into thinking I’m talking about TSOO. So I can attack him/her but avoid responsibility for doing so by not addressing him/her directly. Kinda underhanded, isn’t it?

      Well, that is what TSOO did with her/his entire comment. They spoke in a general way without addressing any of their comments or assertions to Barb personally. Indeed, they did not even use Barb’s name in the entire comment. So the arrows can be hurled at Barb from behind the cover of general statements and proclaimed humility using reasonable sounding assertions that do not employ any reason and have no facts supporting them. Neat huh!

      This is the world of rhetoric – the world of politics, all designed to lead you around by your emotions while sounding like reason.

      Over the years, I have had this sort of rhetoric used against me. It is really difficult to counter because if you answer by assuming they are criticising you (and they are), they act offended and say, “No, we are not. We are just proposing that you might not have considered everything.” It is all rather cowardly on their part.
      They are introducing doubt into your mind without offering counter facts or argument. It is a form of gaslighting.

      Of course, we cannot know everything but that doesn’t mean we know nothing. No arguments or decisions would ever be made if this ‘reasoning’ was held to all the time. We move ahead when we know enough facts and used enough logic and arrived at conclusions that are true enough.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Thank you for your concise wording, James. As I was reading your comment, I felt as if the curtain was being drawn back to expose the tiny wizard in the well known movie, The Wizard of Oz. In this case, the wizard being, TSOO.

      • James

        Thank you Seeing Clearly. I like the metaphor you used. It’s multi levelled, too!

      • Thank you James! I had to study your comment to see how you switched in your fifth paragraph from the particular (TSOO’s comment) to the general (person). I appreciate you pointing that out.

        Last night when I first read your comment my brain was too tired to understand your ‘switch’ fully, but this morning I have re-read it carefully. And I now get it. Very neat.

      • Finding Answers

        James commented “…..Propaganda is almost always rhetoric. Politicians use rhetoric non-stop to promote their propaganda. Rhetoric is an appeal to our emotions to persuade us without using pertinent facts.”

        ^THAT!

        And when similar situations occur elsewhere in life, the frustration it causes can feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. (Omitting details for my protection.)

        For me, there are times the phrase bait and switch can ALSO feel like I am left banging my head against a brick wall. (Omitting details for my protection.)

        James also commented “…..It is really difficult to counter because if you answer by assuming they are criticising you (and they are), they act offended and say, “No, we are not. We are just proposing that you might not have considered everything.”…..”

        ^That.

        James also commented “They are introducing doubt into your mind without offering counter facts or argument. It is a form of gaslighting.”

        ^That.

        To paraphrase Seeing Clearly (19TH JUNE 2019 – 6:58 AM), I feel like a curtain is being drawn back to expose the man behind the curtain who non-verbally gaslit me from the day I was baptized in the hospital as a very sick infant.

        The man behind the curtain was my “dad” / “father”, creating a false picture in my mind of my Father, a false picture I am currently in the process of over-writing with the picture of my true Father.

  2. Finding Answers

    I’ve been building a picture in my mind throughout this series of posts, and today’s post has added more detail.

    I don’t yet have words for the bigger picture in my mind for the overall series, nor words for the picture in my mind for today’s post.

    The only words I can find so far are to say I’m getting a clearer and truer picture in my mind of God.

  3. Seeing Clearly

    Malachi 2:13-16
    ….brings to light the “hold out” situation. A husband has given up on the marriage. He no longer contributes anything positive to the relationship. He behaves treacherously and hard heartedly behind closed doors. However, he will not be the one to file for divorce. In his heart, he has left the marriage. He is a coward and will not expose his true colors by initiating divorce.

    We can imagine how this rejection is severely affecting his wife. With hardly any life left, she files for divorce. Ah ha! Now he takes on the roll of a martyr. He will fake broken-heartedness and abandonment. He claims to be the victim.

    I could write out a list of churched women in my town who are considered to be “the problem all along” and mostly because she told her now ex, “no more lies and deceit”. There is not a place in these churches for women to carry out in public what her husband has already carried out in his own home.

    I hope I have not stretched the scripture too far out of correctness. But this is what came to mind when I read Malachi. You may correct me.

    • I think that by extension Malachi 2:13-16 condemns the dead-beat unrighteous husbands who ‘hold out’ as you described, leaving it to the wife to apply for divorce, and then slandering her to the church – which ends up with the church accusing her of being the problem all along.

      In other words, Malachi 2:13-16 condemns not just men who treacherously divorce their wives, but also men who in effect abandon all their duties as a husband but don’t actually file for divorce.

      In the days when the Bible was written, their legal system was different. Our systems require one party to file at the state court for divorce. In Malachi’s day and Jesus’ day, the state court was not involved in any paperwork for divorce. The husband simply wrote a certificate of divorce, dated it correctly, and handed it to his wife.

      Dr Instone-Brewer has cited documentary evidence of the fact that Jewish women in those days sometimes asked their religious leaders (rabbis, scribes) to put pressure on the husband to make him write a certificate of divorce so the wife could be free (and she would then be able to marry another man if she so wished). Sometimes this pressure on the husband worked. But still, this is not the same thing as our modern court systems.

      • Seeing Clearly

        I can’t imagine what would happen to many, many women (and children) today, if the state court was not involved in divorce.

        I am including a quote from my great grandmother’s diary, written prior to 1920. She was divorced after a short marriage, left with two very young children and syphilis.

        “A divorcee definition: A woman shunned by good men, mocked at by bad men and all women alike. Wanted by no one, and always in everyone’s way. It may be that their children think lots of them, but for how long. Oh! my God will it be that they will love and revere their mother. Only until their father or some other sets them up against her. God pity every woman who has to go through what I have.”

      • Thanks Seeing Clearly for sharing that with us. Your great grandmother was a courageous and honest woman.

  4. Finding Answers

    Seeing Clearly commented (18TH JUNE 2019 – 12:31 AM) “I am including a quote from my great grandmother’s diary, written prior to 1920. She was divorced after a short marriage, left with two very young children and syphilis…….”

    Sadly, today’s “c”hurch would probably automatically blame Seeing Clearly’s great grandmother for having syphilis.

    And the end result would be (from the same comment): “A divorcee definition: A woman shunned by good men, mocked at by bad men and all women alike. Wanted by no one, and always in everyone’s way. It may be that their children think lots of them, but for how long. Oh! my God will it be that they will love and revere their mother. Only until their father or some other sets them up against her. God pity every woman who has to go through what I have.”

  5. Dear Readers, can I have a show of hands for whether you’ve every experienced from a church leader the kind of things TSOO said in her comment? –– the statements she made, the way it was ‘speaking generally’ yet subtly pointed at me.

    If you’ve experienced that kind of thing from a church leader, how did you deal with it? E.g., did you push back in any way? And how did the church leader respond to you then?

  6. Seeing Clearly

    When my now ex was in crisis mode in marriage and ministry career, another church stepped in for crisis intervention. I had a sense everyone was wasting their time, trying to help a man who did not want to change.

    I made an appt with the minister who would be coming alongside my ex, professionally.
    A well respected elder from the helping church joined me as I sought specifics of goals, approach and time allotted for the intervention. Each of my questions gave a specific example alongside a specific question as to this authority figure’s plan. The elder knew my ex well and added to my questions.

    Over and over, an answer was avoided, just a brush off was verbalized.
    In the end, he directed one clear question at me, “Where’s your wedding ring?”. I clearly stated that my profession requires wearing latex gloves, changed often throughout the day. I could possibly lose the ring or the diamond. On that evening, I had not remembered to put it back on. The elder spoke up that he too, did not wear his due to safety issues in his construction career. The appointment was ended by his question of me.

    The minister remained seated behind his big desk. We put our chairs back in their places and walked out.

    It took me three days to get out of my uncomfortable fog and begin to figure out what happened. I did not return to that man behind the big desk again.

    • Thanks Seeing Clearly. 🙂

      The man behind the desk brushed off all your questions and then asked you ““Where’s your wedding ring?” His question was designed to appeal to your emotions – to make you feel uncertain and guilty – but he did not use pertinent facts. So his question fits the definition of Rhetoric that James gave in his comment.

      This discussion and the examples are helping me understand and discern more about the tactics of manipulators.

      • Seeing Clearly

        I wasn’t certain it would fit, but tried to highlight relevant points. Thank you for highlighting how it fits criteria.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Barbara, he was, physically, a small man behind a very big desk. He was second in command to a strong, charismatic senior pastor. Here is the thought that hit me on day #3. While I intuitively never used the word “abusive” to describe my ex, I recreated his abusive scenarios. I was, unknowingly, describing the small man, making him very uncomfortable. He must have felt he had been found out. So he pushed back on me very hard to silence me, once and for all.

      • Thanks Seeing Clearly.

        May I just ask you to clarify something?

        Where you said “While I intuitively never used the word “abusive” to describe my ex, I recreated his abusive scenarios,” does the word “his” refer to the man behind the desk? Or does it refer to your ex?

      • Seeing Clearly

        “his” refers to man behind the big desk. I should add the word “perhaps” was creating his sceneries because it is only a guess.

        In previous conversation with Elder, I used the word “abuse”. When I walked into the small man’s office, something inside me suggested I should not use the word “abuse”.

    • James

      Seeing Clearly, you wrote –
      Over and over, an answer was avoided, just a brush off was verbalized.
      In the end, he directed one clear question at me, “Where’s your wedding ring?”. I clearly stated that my profession requires wearing latex gloves, changed often throughout the day. I could possibly lose the ring or the diamond. On that evening, I had not remembered to put it back on. The elder spoke up that he too, did not wear his due to safety issues in his construction career. The appointment was ended by his question of me.

      It took me three days to get out of my uncomfortable fog and begin to figure out what happened. I did not return to that man behind the big desk again.

      You were very wise to not go back. The minister was playing judge behind his big desk and was viewing you as the defendant. You would have picked up that power imbalance subconsciously if not consciously and reacted accordingly with an increasing sense of powerlessness. You were bullied; and it was a set-up. That’s my guess as I have been in similar situations.

      You answered his question about the wedding ring literally not registering consciously the implications. You then went into a fog afterwards. Perhaps you felt like you got hit but you don’t know how and from which direction. If I may guess again, this was a dissociative fog brought on by a ptsd response to being accused of something you didn’t do or didn’t think (the implication).

      It is really, really hard to counter this sort of treatment, the implied ad hominem attack; especially if it plays into ptsd. I have found an answer to it, though.

      I used to be married to a clinical psychologist; and a very manipulative one at that. She would ask me questions that had hidden implications and do so usually when I was focused on something else such as leaving the room to go to the shops or engaged in reading or just after a discussion has seemingly finished.

      I am an open sort of person and think and talk literally as the default mode, as it were. So I would answer quite literally this question out of the blue and only realise later the hidden implications and that she would take these answers to others to ‘prove her case’ or validate her version of what I am.

      I finally got myself into the habit of stopping to think before I answered anything. Even if I knew what to say, I would count to 3 before opening my mouth. I would practice this whenever I could with whomever I was talking to.

      Once I could do that and break the impulse to answer straight away, I could then think to ask in return, “Why do you ask?” It worked a treat!

      That little question undoes all the manipulation. Now the manipulator has to explain themselves and you are now on the front foot instead of on the backfoot trying to keep your balance. You are now focused outwardly on them instead of focusing inwardly on yourself. Big difference.

      Whenever there is a power imbalance, you are in a boxing ring. You need to focus all your attention on your opponent if you want to stay on your feet and not get blindsided. A boxing ring is no place for introspection. You can do that later.

      If you suffer from ptsd, focusing hard on your ‘opponent’ and the power play will help you stay present and ‘en garde’.

      If anyone is interested, they can practice this with a friend. You will notice how different you feel doing it. You will be much more poised (like our French fencer!). First practice counting to three before responding to a question. After practising this for a bit, then add in you own question, “Why do you ask, Grasshopper?”

      It is not aggressive and you don’t have to make it sound as if it is. Ask because you are curious.
      A usual response is, “I don’t know. I just thought I would ask”, or some such. To which you just nod or say, “Aha”, and don’t say anything and watch. After all, if they don’t have a reason to ask, you don’t have a reason to answer! There’ll be other responses but you will work it out. The attitude is key.

      Practice using a ‘resting smile’ while engaged with whomever it is but watch them like a hawk. Look at the bridge of their nose and you will see their whole body.

      Lessons I’ve learnt after many figurative broken noses. I hope this is helpful.

      • Finding Answers

        James commented “……I hope this is helpful.”

        For me, your entire comment is helpful, James. I just need to learn how adapt it to my own unique circumstances. And yes, I need to find words for the pictures in my mind.

      • Seeing Clearly

        James, I like your technique of answering with this 4 word question. I have been aware for sometime that other people use that on me. But, duh, I never thought to use it myself. It will take practice, a lot of it. Thanks for sharing.

      • If it helps you feel any better, Seeing Clearly, I have not thought to say, ‘Why do you ask?” when I sense someone is asking me a question with a manipulative hidden agenda.

        I have sometimes said, “Why do you ask?” when someone asks me a question and I think they are asking because they have jumped to a wrong assumption about what I have just said to them in the conversation we are having. But I’ve never done it to undo their manipulation & get the manipulator to explain himself/herself.

        James’s wisdom, learned from lots of painful experience, is helping me mentally rehearse and then eventually put into practice more skills of calm assertiveness in dealing with opponents.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Along with learning to use “why do you ask”, I’ll need to recognize the type of question being asked.

      • Finding Answers

        James commented on a possible use of the phrase Why do you ask?, followed by comments on the same phrase by Seeing Clearly and Barb.

        I’ve thought of additional ways the phrase Why do you ask? might be helpful for my own situation. I wish I knew then what I know now. (Omitting details for my protection.)

    • Hi Seeing Clearly, I’m interested in the well respected elder…

      He was from the helping church, so presumably he was a close colleague of the minister (the “man behind the desk”) who so mistreated you that it resulted in you being in a fog for three days after that interview.

      This well respected elder knew your ex well and he helped you formulate more questions to put to the minister. That suggests he was somewhat of an ally for you, someone you felt was understanding you and helping you.

      He and you both left the interview together. He didn’t stay on in the room with the minister when you left, he left with you. Did he debrief with you? Did he ask you about how you felt about the interview? Did he tell you that he felt the minister gave you the brush off? Did he in any way validate you? Or did he just let you stew in the juice, flounder in the fog?

      And on reflection, do you think he was intentionally and deceptively giving you the impression he was your ally and your witness/advocate, in order to get you to be more open and trusting with this minister whose whole plan was to intimidate and lay false guilt on you? Rather like the ‘good cop / bad cop’ routine.

  7. Finding Answers

    James commented (19TH JUNE 2019 – 10:44 PM) “…….You would have picked up that power imbalance subconsciously if not consciously and reacted accordingly with an increasing sense of powerlessness…….”

    I THINK ^That happens to me, first instilled in me by my “dad’s” extreme abuse of me when I was an infant.

    Encountering crucial moments when communicating the pictures in my mind is important / vital, I get more and more frustrated with myself if I cannot sensibly convey the picture(s) in my mind.

    An insight reached as I wrote that last paragraph: I need to re-write that last paragraph!

    Encountering crucial moments when communicating the pictures in my mind is important / vital, I feel more powerless if I cannot sensibly convey the picture(s) in my mind. I have past memories of anger directed at me during these moments of powerlessness.

    And my “dad” was the source of the anger, NOT my Father.

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