Many are puzzled by Jesus’ different approaches to the subject of violence.
- ‘turn the other cheek’
- ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’
- whipping the bankers and merchants out of the Temple
- telling the apostles to get swords for themselves before going into the Garden of Gethsemane
- rebuking Peter for slicing off the ear of a man who came to arrest Jesus.
There is, in fact, a consistent philosophy or principle that unites all these sayings and events and eliminates the seeming contradictions. This is the principle of Self-Defence and is part of Natural Law.
Natural Law describes the workings of this world. These are the Design Rules, if you like, of this creation and this creation includes mankind, both physical and psychological.
Design Rules imply and indeed require a Designer. Natural Law is God’s Law and is evident before our eyes in our world all around us every day.
When Jesus said and did all those things, He was talking to and demonstrating His (God’s) Law of Self-Defence in specific situations. Through these illustrations, he was giving us a very valuable principle to live by — a Law ignored (and even preached against) by our religious leaders down through the centuries.
But first, let us define our terms. What are the definitions of Violence and Self-Defence that will be used in this essay?
Violence is either an unprovoked attack using physical force to harm or dominate another human being, or an over reaction to an unprovoked attack.
Self Defence is the application of the minimum force necessary to protect oneself (or those one is responsible for) from physical harm from another.
Force necessary for preservation is Self-Defence. Force used over and above this standard of preservation becomes Violence.
Passiveness, in terms of this article, is failing to defend oneself, or those one is responsible for, to the extent that one has the ability and the opportunity to do so.
“Ability” might be compromised through physical constraints or an induced state of confusion or prior psychological conditioning.
“Opportunity” might be compromised through literally having a ‘gun put to your head’ or something else in that vein.
Implicit in these definitions is the right to defend ourselves which is based on our right to sovereignty over ourselves. That we each have free will is proof that we have this sovereignty.
Self-defence in nature and in human relationships
The Gospel of John begins by telling us that Jesus created the world and everything in it. Jesus designed every living thing with a means of self-defence – a way to survive. Every species that has survived to this day has, by definition, successfully employed self-defence.
Plants have toxins, especially around their seeds. Animals are equipped to fight or run. But we are not taught to think in terms of self-defence when it comes to the subject of violence. We are most often taught to either react passively or to return violence with more violence. Both of these reactions attract more violence in return.
Violence returned for violence only escalates the destruction of life. Passivity invites more violence because it removes any restraint to the violent and stands by while life is destroyed. These two responses — passivity and violence — are promoted in our culture through media, literature and films and are typically the only two options employed in analysing Jesus’ sayings and actions regarding violence.
We all have an innate sense of justice and we intuitively know the difference between force used as self-defence and force used as violence against others. We all react with an emotional ‘yes!’ when we see someone respond finally with force to end violence being perpetrated against them. We automatically respond with an emotional ‘no!’ when the self-defence turns into violence itself — for instance, if someone subdues an attacker but then proceeds to strangle the attacker when restraint is all that is necessary for their protection (perhaps the police are on their way, for instance).
The third option, self-defence, is the only option that decreases violence. Self-defence is primarily concerned with preserving life; not in destroying life. This is the message that restraint conveys to the attacker – the defender is also interested in preserving the life of the attacker not just the defender.
Strict self-defence conveys a message of mutuality and is the option that I believe Jesus was teaching – love your enemies.
‘Love your enemies’ does not mean tolerating violent behaviour. What it does is it helps to counter the impulse to anger and thus poor thinking leading to more violence rather than self-defence.
Jesus’ wisdom on self-defence
1. Turn The Other Cheek
‘Turning the other cheek’ has been portrayed as a passive and even submissive practice or strategy against violence. This is a complete misunderstanding.
You have heard how it is said, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist wrong. But whosoever gives you a blow on your right cheek, turn to him the other. (Matt 5:38-39)
‘An eye for an eye’ sounds like an equivalence but it is not. How is ‘an eye for an eye’ actually achieved? How do you go about removing the culprit’s eye? With overwhelming force in the form of many accomplices, or the overwhelming force of the secular state or the prevailing theocracy — and much cold premeditation and calculation to boot! There is no way this is an equal response to the initial act of harm. There is no equivalency. This is an escalation of the violence and is the deeply flawed basis of our destructive legal system even today. But, perhaps this is an issue for another day.
Jesus also said “do not resist wrong”. The word ‘resist’ in this instance is the word that means to ‘go toe to toe’ with someone – to butt heads, in other words. Hard against hard is not very smart.
So let us look at Jesus’ proposed alternative.
It is curious, is it not, that Jesus would specify the right cheek? It must have had significance for him to mention it. Most people then, as now, are right-handed and, unless you have been trained in the gentle art of Western Boxing, it is usual to strike someone with your right hand. So to strike someone on their right cheek with your right hand, requires giving them a ‘backhander’ to the soft flesh of the cheek. A backhander is the strike of choice for superiors when dealing with insubordinate people they consider to be inferior to them especially when in front of an audience.
Jesus was teaching on how to deal with abusive people in power. When you turn the other cheek they cannot repeat the backhander because they would strike the hard bridge of your nose or your even harder chin with the back of their hand. The back of the hand is quite sensitive (try hitting the edge of a table with the back of your hand). To avoid undue pain to themselves, they have to punch you with their fist if they want to continue. The trouble for the ‘authority figure’ in doing so is that they lose their superior position in the eyes of the audience. They lose their perceived legitimacy and are reduced to brawling like a common thug. Which is what many who abuse their positions of power are, of course; thugs in fine clothes.
This perceived legitimacy is crucial because any despot knows that the people en masse ultimately have the power and not him. Hence the need for pomp and pageantry and all the police and displays of military clout to impress this idea of superior status and power onto the general populace. Power exercised over others is always an exercise in deceit.
Turning the other cheek is an act at once defiant and yet non-aggressive. It is in no way submissive. This action refuses to acknowledge the authority of the abusive power. It does not accept the legitimacy of the attack. It does not submit.
Alternatively, reacting passively may invite more violence as it tells the attacker it is safe to continue the violence. Or reacting with violence yourself in this position will invite evermore violence in return from someone in a position to inflict much more violence on you.
Jesus’ advice is very practical and preserves one from more violence and therefore is a form of self-defence. It preserves dignity as much as is possible in an otherwise ‘no-win’ situation. It is an example of defending (as much as is possible) against physical violence without using physical force in return.
2. Jesus Clears The Temple
The situation where Jesus used a whip to chase the merchants and bankers out of the temple is, on the face of it, difficult to see as ‘self-defence’ at first. But remember, He called the Temple His Father’s House (John 2:13-17). If you went to visit your father and found his house occupied with party-goers having a great time and trashing the place at your father’s expense, would you not feel you have the authority to physically throw the intruders out?
Self-defence extends to force used to preserve the lives and property of yourself and those you are responsible for. Jesus did not injure the merchants defiling His Father’s House, it was not necessary. He upended their tables and used enough force to drive them out through the Temple doors and no more.
Jesus was in a position to physically intervene to defend His Father’s House and He did so.
3. Blessed Are The Meek
The Beatitudes have the curious line:
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. (Matt 5:5)
It doesn’t sound right, does it? But Jesus, as always, knew what He was talking about. After all, He created the world and mankind and He designed us for survival (John 1).
The meaning of the line hinges on the word ‘meek’. Another word for meek is ‘gentle’. To experience gentleness is to experience restraint and control of strength – otherwise what you feel is weakness. To be truly gentle, you need to be truly strong and capable. Gentleness means using only the strength that is necessary for any situation and not an ounce more.
The reward for gentleness is trust. That is what trust is about – willingness to make oneself vulnerable in the belief that strength, though present, will not be used against you. There is no point in trusting weakness. Weakness does not engender safety.
Strength can engender safety but only if it is used to preserve life. Otherwise it engenders fear because it can destroy life. So strength is necessary but only if it is under control. This is the original meaning of ‘meekness’. Unfortunately, the original meaning is not conveyed adequately today (if ever) in either of the words “meek” or “gentle”.
To many, “meekness” suggests the idea of passivity, someone who is easily imposed upon, spinelessness, weakness. Since Jesus declared Himself to be meek (Matthew 11:29), some perceive Him as a sissy-type character.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Greek New Testament, “meek” is from the Greek term praus. It does not suggest weakness; rather, it denotes strength brought under control. The ancient Greeks employed the term to describe a wild horse tamed to the bridle.
In the biblical sense, therefore, being meek describes one who has channeled his strengths into the service of God. [Emphasis original.]
(Source: Christian Courier: Matthew 5:5 — Meek Inherit the Earth)
Now we can see how gentleness relates to meekness and meekness relates to strength under control which leads to self-defence of oneself and those you love and are responsible for. It is both sad and telling that our culture does not have a better word than ‘meek’ to encapsulate this simple but profoundly important attribute of wisdom, love and preservation.
Our species’ survival depends on procreation. So, given enough information, which of these three types of men would most women choose to mate with?
- The passive man who will not defend her or her children?
- The violent man who will attack her and her children?
- The ‘meek’ man who will not attack her or her children but will defend her and her children from others and sacrifice himself in the process if needs be?
The answer is obvious once the question is laid out correctly. This is Jesus’ Natural Design inherent in our psychology in action. Only one option is geared towards survival. This is the ‘meek’ whom Jesus was talking about. The meek will inherit the earth because they are the only ones who can.
An act of protection is an act of love. An act of violence is an act of exploitation. Exploitation is destructive and will not lead to long term survival of a relationship or the long term survival of our species. So if we are to survive, it will be through meekness which is true strength, as Jesus said.
When He said the meek shall inherit the earth Jesus was making a prediction based on the certainty of His Design Laws. The violent and the passive will be destroyed by violence. Only those with the ability and determination to defend themselves and those they are responsible for will survive, because they are the only ones with the wisdom and ability to stop the violence with the minimum of force and thus preserving life. The Meek will most assuredly inherit the earth. And you can be part of that by learning to defend thee and thine in the best way that suits your particular circumstances.
4. Living By The Sword
Jesus tells Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane: Put your sword back in its sheath. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matt 25:42-54).
To ‘take the sword’ means to ‘live by the sword’. To ‘live by the sword’ means to live by means of using violence to exploit others and, in the end, perish yourself. This violence, although initially successful, has a limited life. It is not true strength. We see this continually in politics and organised crime. These people use exploitation to rise to the top only to get ‘bumped off’ the peak one way or another. Clearly, this is not the way Jesus designed us to live generation after generation.
So why do we find Jesus instructing the apostles to beg, borrow or buy themselves swords prior to them all going to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ arrest? The apostles return with two swords and Jesus says ‘It is enough.’ (Luke 22:38).
Bible commentators have puzzled over this for generations and seem to have completely missed the point. Amazingly, Pope Boniface VIII in 1302 managed to fashion a whole theology rationalising his (and all subsequent Popes’) complete authority over every body and every thing on earth from this passage regarding two swords!
But, back in the world of reality, the explanation is far simpler and easily comprehensible.
Jesus knew that the temple guards were coming to arrest Him. He also knew that they would be accompanied by an armed mob. Armed mobs are not known for their rational thinking and behaviour. They tend to be rather cowardly and lack restraint when it comes to violence. The two swords were to convey the non-verbal message to the armed crowd that should they take it into their heads to attack the apostles, they might suffer injury themselves. The wearing of the swords is a simple example of how men communicate with each other through body language. A ‘Mexican stand off’ is far preferable to a ‘blood bath’. This is self-defence.
Everything was going fine until Peter, not understanding the precautionary role of the sheathed swords, pre-emptively decided to draw his sword and attack the high priest’s servant. This was no longer self-defence but violence. Peter struck first. Jesus rebuked Peter (Matt 26:52). And Jesus healed the high priest’s servant of his injury (Luke 22:51).
In another account of this confrontation, Jesus said to His Father during this confrontation, “I have not lost any of those you gave Me.” Jesus accepted responsibility for the apostles’ safety.
(John 18:1-12 New Matthew Bible)
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Kidron, where there was a garden into which he entered with his disciples. Judas who betrayed him also knew the place, for Jesus often resorted there with his disciples. Judas then, after he had received a band of men, and officers of the high priests and Pharisees, went there with lanterns and firebrands and weapons.
Then Jesus, knowing all things that would come on him, went forth and said to them, Whom do you seek? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I am he.
Judas who betrayed him also stood with them. But as soon as Jesus had said to them, I am he, they went backwards and fell to the ground. And he asked them again, Whom do you seek? They said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I said to you, I am he. If you seek me, let these go their way. This was to fulfil the saying that he had spoken: Of those whom you gave me, I have not lost one.
Simon Peter had a sword, and drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Then Jesus said to Peter, Put up your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink of the cup which my Father has given me?
Then the company of men and the captain and the officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound him
Jesus clearly had the apostles carry swords for their protection and to keep them sheathed for the mob’s protection (the ‘mutuality’ in preserving life).
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Some Bible commentaries have the meaning of ‘meek’ in this instance as those who carry swords, who know how to use them yet keep them sheathed. This is fair enough as far as it goes, but if a sword is always kept sheathed no matter what, it tends to lose its significance.
An indispensable part of ‘meekness’ is the willingness and capacity to act when necessary — to draw your sword when attacked and not before.
Most senior practitioners of martial arts, particularly the Oriental arts, will tell you that they learn to fight so they don’t have to fight. If you know how to fight and are prepared to fight, then you do not exhibit fear and you stand your ground when faced with exploitation. Exploiters sense this and, typically being cowards, back down and violence is avoided. Fear attracts violence. This is exactly the situation in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus faced with the apostles. By arming them, they were able to face down the mob and thus avoid violence — Peter’s impulsiveness notwithstanding.
Peter’s behaviour shows us that it is not only strength that is important but control of one’s emotions, too. Masking fear with anger is self-defeating because anger, like fear, also attracts violence.
So how do we deal with the violent amongst us and not be subject to fear or anger? By learning to defend ourselves and learning to love our enemies and thus demonstrating that we will not be dominated nor will we seek to dominate others.
We learn how to physically control others when needed, but, more importantly, to psychologically control ourselves at all times. This creates an environment for life to flourish and is the essence of ‘meekness’.
Psychopaths will use anger to further violence. Either anger at others or anger at the psychopaths themselves. Beware of people who repeatedly make you angry. Anger makes it hard to think clearly and that is the point. Love your enemies. Stay in control of yourself and you have the best chance of staying in control of the situation and stopping it from escalating into violence or more violence.
….be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. (James 1:19)
Jesus designed us to defend ourselves and He gave us some examples through word and deed in the Gospels on how to do it. Self-defence, done correctly, lowers violence. Passiveness and retaliatory violence increase the level of violence. Violence is destructive and therefore not conducive to survival in the long term for anybody. Controlling both your anger and your fear assists in reducing violence. Hence, the meek shall inherit the earth.
Jesus was not uttering a feel-good prescription for how to be nice to each other or moralising about behaviour; He was making a simple logical prediction based on His laws of our psychological design and existence.
[July 4, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 4, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 4, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 4, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 4, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Written by James. James has suffered and survived many types of abuse.
Logic and Authority in the Church — Also written by James.
109 thoughts on “Jesus on Violence”
Wow, this is a wonderful post! So much to ponder before responding in specifics, but thank you, James.
Thanks very much for your nice comment, Gany T..
For me, the multiple concepts contained in James’ Guest post Jesus on Violence can be condensed down to the single concept of how an individual does (or does not) communicate. (Omitting details for my protection.)
Interesting observation, Finding Answers. I hadn’t thought of it like that. Thanks.
Finding Answers, absolutely true.
The expression: actions speak louder than words is a popular one, but I prefer my own version: actions speak just as loud as words. They both matter immensely. They are both highly consequential. I’d like to think words and actions go together, work together, and communicate together.
This isn’t an across the board narrative! Just offering thoughts to add, not to make sweeping generalizations.
We all know the Hippocratic oath that doctors take: “first, do no harm.” In the quest to heal, do not inflict undue pain onto your patients. Yes you might need to be firm, but never rough. Yes you might need to say hard things (“you have a serious illness”), but communicate it in the most gentle way possible. Your goal is to inflict the least amount of suffering on those that are already suffering.
I personally struggle with knowing how to measure out my words just right, because every word I choose, or don’t choose, makes a difference.
Then I also struggle with knowing how to measure out my actions just right, because every action I choose, or don’t choose, makes a difference.
Therein lies the desperate need for Biblical discernment. And James did an amazing job outlining examples in the Word to start us off.
Standing up for yourself can be hard. If you’re like me, you were never taught how to. Victims of abuse are likely not encouraged to learn. They’re likely punished for even trying to learn how, not to mention the added punishment should they dare to actually try to.
Putting that aside for a moment, how about learning how to stand up for others, not just yourself? The Bible doesn’t shrink back on communicating the importance of this.
For me, one of the worst experiences in being abused at home, bullied at school, was the lack of defenders. No one wanted to help me, at least not in a way that reinforced my dignity. Condescending pity is not going to do the job.
I struggle with this, too, so I don’t want to get on a high horse. In casting your lot with a person like myself, you’ll likely gain very little and lose a whole lot more! It’s a risk to be potentially targeted with me, in attempting to defend me. Is it really worth it?
I enjoyed many insights of this article.
The one that is in my view most urgent to get across to the public is that passivity is condoning just as much violence as violence itself is. By not locking away sadistic and violent paedophiles one wilfully condones innocent children being harmed etc.
Also note that society must preserve the possibility of self-defence for each individual. As soon as a situation arises in which individuals cannot defend themselves against a certain force or method of attack, huge business plans for exploitation open up.
Thank you, Dr Katherine Horton! 🙂
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Katherine.
Pacifism (passivity) is often portrayed as being noble but if someone has a ‘duty of care’ towards another, particularly a child, and fails to defend them when they could, then the pacifist is anything but noble. They are worthy of their very own millstone!
From Dr Katherine Horton:
Tweet by Joint Investigation (Dr Katherine Horton) [Internet Archive link]
Tweet by Joint Investigation (Dr Katherine Horton) [Internet Archive link]
Who is Dr Katherine Horton? She is someone I follow on Twitter and YouTube and I have learned a great deal from her. She has survived and is surviving horrific abuse.
Her website is Stop 007 [Internet Archive link].
A summary of Dr. Horton’s work and its sabotage by Secret Service networks [Internet Archive link]
Thank you again, Katherine, for these very kind comments.
This post is a masterpiece! There is so much light, wisdom and truth in it that I will have to read it several times. I was taught the passive submissive ways in the church since childhood and it turned me into an easy prey. This blog is one of the major tools God used to open my eyes and have the courage and peace of mind to get out of an abusive marriage that lasted 26 for years. It has been hard but I keep coming here for more light and understanding, then I find a post like this one and many others that are helping me not to live under bondage in many areas of my life.
Thank you, Barbara, thank you James for opening my eyes and healing my wounds. The truth will set us free. I thank God for this ministry.
Hi, Anon, thank you for your very nice comment. I am really pleased that my article was helpful.
I would like to talk about that and more about the definition and nature of passivity.
I don’t have time at the moment but will return to it later today. Thank you again for commenting. 🙂
This is a little rushed, I’m afraid, but I hope it makes sense and is useful.
(Again) you said:
Your comment highlighted a huge problem for churches and society in general because they function through coercion of various types. And coercion is directly against Jesus’ design for us.
I tried to point out in my article that Jesus did not design us to be passive and does not want us to live passive lives. But many of us do through no fault of our own and I hope to show briefly how this is done.
But first, a definition of passiveness which I unfortunately omitted from the first submission of my article. Passiveness, in terms of this article, is failing to defend oneself, or those one is responsible for, to the extent that one has the ability and the opportunity to do so.
For coercion to be successful, it is of primary importance for abusers to take away the inherent psychological ability of potential victims to defend themselves. How do they do that? They use pain – physical and / or emotional / psychological.
We have a different neurological circuit to learn and remember events associated with pain. You can imagine how this would be necessary for survival. Fire burns!
How many times do you have to burn yourself to know that this is absolutely true and to be avoided at all costs? Once!
How many times do you have to learn that 6 times 9 is 54? Lots of times.
How many times do you have to learn 6 times 9 equals 54 if you are beaten after the first answer which is wrong? Twice. The first time you used the normal neurological circuitry to try to learn and the second time you used the traumatic circuity.
You might learn 6 x 9 more quickly but a lot of fear has been introduced to your body and mind which has many bad consequences.
Crank this process up a notch or two and you have Trauma-Based Mind Control.
The traumatic circuity uses the endocrine system and principally the pituitary, hippocampus and amygdala glands (if I remember correctly). If the learning is traumatic and inflicted during childhood while these circuits are developing through childhood, permanent damage is done. The ‘learning’ can be counteracted with knowledge and diligent practice later in life but not undone completely. It is something you will likely have to always be alert for.
So if you have been beaten or badly shamed into learning very unnatural things such as submission to violence (emotional, psychological or physical), you can expect to have difficulty dealing with people on an equal footing for the rest of your life. This doesn’t mean you are doomed to eternal victimhood but it does mean you will have difficulty with asserting yourself automatically.
There are side benefits to it all, though. Once aware of this dynamic of abuse, you will spot the abusers far more easily in a community, such as a church, than people who have not been abused badly whether in childhood or later in life. Your gut will tell you if you are about to be exploited.
Another benefit is that we can appreciate more the suffering from [word redacted] that Jesus willingly submitted Himself to to free us from the legal grip that Satan had over us because none of us are perfect and without sin or guiltless. We can understand Jesus at a deeper level and have a deeper friendship with Him because of that. That friendship will be forever and that, to me, is a very valuable thing to have achieved.
All this is to make the distinction between apparent passive behaviour which is the result of conditioning and conscious passive behaviour which is cowardice. So the definition, again, is “the failure to act in defence of oneself or those one is responsible for to the extent of one’s ability and opportunity.”
[We redacted the word James used as it might sound denigrating to some people. Editors.]
I appreciate the deeper clarification of James’ definition of passivity.
A sweet little thing for me is that I had a relative that I did not have opportunity to be that close to, but would visit with my mother on occasion and she was a teacher and told a story of 9 X 6 = 54. So, since James used that particular example, my great-aunt’s story came to mind. I think she must have been a good teacher because she used a doll, named “54”, to help students remember….”9 X 6″. That is, she enhanced the environment of learning with safety and invitation to play rather than drilling the need for repetition. Maybe even the number of repetitions was reduced by this creative, nurturing, protective provision.
I wonder if this may increase the number of repetitions needed for learning? Or I wonder if the abuser is trying to “teach” a false conclusion, not a fact? But the abuser probably thinks it is more efficient and has probably gotten away with what they do for a long time and it probably works some way to get what it is they want. And if you are beaten, either physically or psychologically or emotionally when you go to the “experts” or power holders for dispensing loving justice (one of my traumatic memories) then you will quite likely never go to them, or that particular one, again for help (my dad). And that can be a good thing to learn (about the particular one), but harder then to learn how to embrace the associated feelings and thoughts on justice, how to collaboratively learn about justice and mercy. I’m still working on it…. When I filled out FAFSA papers and read the govt. language….wow the fearful foreboding of messing something up was tremendous, but I listened to others facing the paperwork and could also see places in the questions where I thought of all the many others who had more difficult situations than I had and I was brought back from unhealthy fear to a better place I could endure and I got through it.
This is hard to accept, and so hard in fact that I’ve hidden, in the past, from this truth that I’ve feared. But I’ve searched while I’ve hidden and have found more hopeful information in some places than others. I still hold “labels” very loosely, though, because sometimes “labels” are too fixed and don’t seem quite flexible enough to allow for growth toward healing. It’s complex, but not as much confusion as [it] used to be, for me anyway, but my communication is probably confusing for others at different places, and it is hard for me to remember this and live in consideration of this. I’m left, often, feeling like others get to be themselves, even their imperfect selves, and I do not get to be myself, even my imperfect self, but also, for sure not, my seeing-more-clearly self, as we are learning together.
In the past I didn’t see blows (non-physical) coming and spent long periods of not seeing them at all. I didn’t see my own ways of violence either. I prayed to recognize them (others), probably prayerfully longing for better without specific words, but one prayer was very particular and then the same day I realized I was in the midst of a “blow” with opportunity left to resist and wow, I resisted, respectfully, too. I found that some of my abusers did back off easily when I resisted (not without some form of payback, though). Sometimes my resistance was not done well and I punched back with critical words (Never toward my mom, though, but I did tell her “no” at times and she had a silent way of shaming, coming from her own shame, I think, but that is not the whole of how she was. There were positives, too.).
Anyway, that is a snapshot, but what I find really hopeful is integration of cutting-edge neuroscience, trying to better learn critical thinking (which I thought I did well and am learning that I have lots of room for improvement in) and faith. (I also find practicing, or trying to learn mindfulness helpful – but I haven’t learned it well yet.) I still do much “problem solving” (and, at times, talking about it with the wrong people) as that is a pretty deep rut that has been constructed in my wiring. I’ve been told by safe loved ones to “do more play” or find spaces to “play” and I agree, but it’s pretty hard, actually, does not come easily or automatically. I have to read a book about it first, etc., etc., and try to find motivation and direction through knowledge, etc., etc., BUT at times it does surprise me as I just keep taking steps that I just suddenly realize that I’m in a really fulfilling moment.
I’d like to be more helpfully effective in others’ lives (and I have been in my children’s – definitely not perfect, though, and the imperfections of mine grieve me) and I try to improve the way I do my work. And the world’s imperfections, especially certain segments of the institutional church, in regards especially to my children and other people’s children….makes me really angry and I am more discerning about directing my time, money and energy to places I have more faith in. I don’t have faith in authoritarianism. I do have faith in the fact that God is “most high”, obviously, and that Jesus shows us what God’s character looks like in human form. If I buy a Christian book, I’m much more discerning about researching where the author is coming from and if they are in the authoritarian segment of Christianity I won’t be sitting under that umbrella, or giving them money, even for a women’s Bible study….I’m pretty practiced in problem solving and have resistance down better than before. But I don’t have “beyond resistance” down yet, whatever that may be.
That’s weird that your great-aunt should use 9 x 6 = 54, Artina! For me, it was just an off the cuff analogy that occurred to me as I was writing. That said, it is a rather limited analogy for my purposes.
While 9 x 6 = 54 is true, underneath all conditioning is a lie. I have found EMDR therapy very effective in getting down to that lie. Once uncovered, it loses its power over your thinking and responses.
I have also found Tai Chi very effective in getting my mind more integrated with my body. We experience ourselves and our environment (being alive, in other words) through movement. Tai Chi is a kind of mindfulness in motion.
You have learned to be discerning, Artina, and that is very very valuable. If you are into critical thinking, look up “The Trivium Method” on the internet. There are articles and YouTube interviews on it. There is The Classic or Classical Trivium which is good but it really only covers Deductive Logic. “The Trivium Method” covers both Inductive and Deductive Logic.
Thank you, James, for your response to my comment, and for recommendations on where to put effort. I have heard of EMDR and have purchased a book but have not worked with anyone, or on my own, with that process much. I appreciate your favorable opinion of that. I know of a few others, too, who are interested in that process.
I am growing in awareness of how problematic conditioning is. I like movement, but don’t practice that enough (exercise – but I’ve been a jogger in the past). I’m sure of it being helpful for positive change. I loved movement as a kid, ran all over the wide open spaces.
I have done some Tai Chi, many years ago, liked it, but was warned against it by some people I was associating with at the time, so I was a bit afraid to continue. But I am at a better place now, realizing those warning me didn’t have a good sense of direction in order to speak to me that way.
I do have faith in working on critical thinking, and will look into “The Trivium Method”. Thanks, again.
Artina, you wrote something a few days ago (Dec 24th) and I have been pondering it ever since. I believe in response to this….
I’ve been pondering it because I’m not sure exactly what I know and what I don’t. I do know that the research shows that prolonged trauma during childhood inflicts permanent damage but how much of it is permanent? It seems to vary and I’m sure your research bears this out. For sure, we can vastly improve our lives and that is well worthwhile for obvious reasons.
As regards communicating with others, I am acutely aware that the same words mean different things to different people. Just the word “abuse” or the words “childhood abuse” or “domestic abuse” mean different things according to someone’s experience. If someone hasn’t lived it, they really don’t know it – despite what they might think.
I used to shake my head at some people and mutter to myself, “You don’t know you’re alive!” And there’s some truth in that but it is not helpful. What was helpful was hearing, “You can tell the size of the person by the size of their problems” and adjusting my expectations accordingly.
I think everybody lives in the centre of their own little catastrophe and I find myself not envying a life where little problems assume huge proportions. My abuse and the lessons learnt have expanded my understanding and expanded myself as a person and I don’t think I would fit back into a regular-sized box – nor would I want to.
I picked up on that comment, too, James, that Anonymous wrote, because it resonated with me as well and is very much applicable to my life as well. I wasn’t raised as a Christian but my experiences might mirror Anonymous more than we might think.
And before I forget, amazing job as always, James. I think the turning of the cheek section is one I’ll be reading several times over to get a deeper perspective.
Thanks for the lovely comment, Helovesme.
The insight that it is a “backhander” that Jesus is describing is not original to me. So I can’t take credit for that. 🙂
But it does change the whole meaning of “Turn the other cheek”, does it not?
Absolutely, James, the entire dynamic changes for sure.
The comments and replies have been wonderful. I will have to dig into them and digest them in a few days or so—or piecemeal it out since I’m sure they’re packed with insights.
Have a wonderful holiday, everyone. I’ve had a long and exhausting year; it’s amazing to have made it this far. 🙂 I pray for all of you as often as I can, but especially during this time of year—-it can be a mixture of sweet and sour, but hopefully plenty of comfort from His long and strong arms of love. We’re never out of His reach.
I agree Anonymous — this post is a masterpiece. I am very grateful to James for writing it.
In the quarter of a century I have been of walking as a Christian, attending churches, studying the Bible and reading commentaries on the Bible, I have never heard any explanation of Jesus’ teaching on violence that even faintly approaches the calibre of what James has written in this post.
Thank you so much for writing this, James, and to Barbara for posting it. You saw a need and worked to meet it.
Absolutely agree with you on the lack of teachings about violence in the church. I sure heard enough about the violence inflicted on Christ Himself, which is incredibly valid to focus on, but not so much on how to tackle violence (or abuse, which is not just limited to physical violence) in the arena of human relationships.
Words have the power to bless or curse, the Bible says. They can bring life or death. It is Biblical, IMO, to use your words to defend oneself, but not to inflict undue harm, as James encouraged in this post.
I’ve been a victim of both physical and verbal abuse. The latter carried a poison with it that lingered long after the physical pain went away. Although the physical also left its inner marks as well.
One of the harshest poisons left behind by my abuse was fear. In all its terrible forms, fear has a way of either leaving me too scared to act, or react, so I feel trapped, helpless, and humiliated. In essence, I’m still locked into my abusive childhood.
Or it leads me to appear fearless to project a false image— a perceived show of strength that doesn’t exist, but I’m the only one who knows it.
Perfect love drives out fear. The more you abide in Him, no you don’t necessarily become 100 percent fearless, but you learn how to trust Him to keep you in His perfect love, which is about as comforting as it gets.
Well, Barb, I haven’t had a compliment like that before! 🙂
If I’m ‘out there’ by myself perhaps I should brace myself for ‘incoming’!
Wasn’t sure if my reply would nestle in the right place. James’s response to Anon was WONDERFUL: I kept resonating with it the whole time.
Yes! When I was a child, what James described was absolutely my experience. Fear, panic and anxiety stayed with me throughout my schooling. Kids AND teachers (not to mention parents) know how to hurt those that are already hurting—-and not having the right answers or knowing the right ways or not being a fast learner or (in my case in particular), being targeted by bullies—-you feel like you are nothing more than a waste of space.
From his reply:
Absolutely! Couldn’t have said it better!! Usually I try to add more to what is being said, but to be honest—-he said it all and he said it best! I WOULD like to stress his last part, though—it is NOT a 100% hopeless, doomed lifestyle (“eternal victimhood”). You feel lost, but you are NOT a lost cause. You may struggle with assertion and recapturing what was stolen from you for the rest of your life—-but God will be there with you every step of the way. And baby steps are not meaningless. They may be small, but it’s a start. It’s way better than curling up in a ball and trying to tell yourself that that is all your life will consist of.
And again—as good as anyone could state it. My own story involves being targeted as well as better learning how to spot those that are doing the targeting. I DO like how he brought up our “gut” instinct. Now, it may not always be spot on, but do NOT ignore it. Give it to the Holy Spirit. You may be onto something, you may not be. But let Him decide.
This is something I recently told someone. He is a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with pain, and we esteemed Him not (Isaiah 53). We are always close to Him of course, but uniquely and especially so when we are suffering. This does NOT mean we go looking to get hurt, or revel in sufferings! Pray for the pain, internal or external, to subside! But in a world (and often a church) that shows contempt for or indifference towards those who cry, for those who cover their faces in shame as the tears flow freely—God does not look away, He is deeply moved and He is not ashamed of you.
James’s last paragraph in his reply is worth pondering or writing down somewhere to keep it handy. It’s a good reminder and good medicine for when the choices before us may seem confusing.
—makes a difference, makes all the difference. I’ve been in those often “sticky” situations myself—-and it’s not always easy or obvious to know how far you CAN go, SHOULD go, or WILL go, based on those two factors. I’ve hemmed and hawed from past decisions to try to understand the rightness or wrongness or anything in between to help me learn and understand and grow from them. I don’t have even one tenth of the answers, but it’s still worth processing.
Thank you, Helovesme, for another very thoughtful comment. Thank you for mentioning “Man of Sorrows”.
Indeed. It is not a matter of getting things right or wrong – being ashamed or not ashamed. We learn either way and we are here to learn about love. Sometimes that involves experiencing evil and that might take us beyond the knowledge level and understanding of many if not most people – people who through their blissful ignorance think they have it all together. But God knows and understands.
I’m not a big movie fan anymore. I used to enjoy the superhero movies, probably because I liked how they protected and defended the public from evil.
I realized that most of them had tragic testimonies that explained why they became crime fighters.
Bruce Wayne saw his parents murdered in front of him with a gun, so he will never use guns to fight crime, for example, but he’ll make dang sure no one has to suffer like he did, and still does.
It’s Peter Parker’s story that stays with me. An outcast in school, raised by his aunt and uncle. His uncle drove him someplace and tried to be a father to young Peter. To which Peter hotly replies that his uncle is not his father.
Peter witnesses a robbery but doesn’t do anything to stop him. “None of my business”, he says. “Nothing to do with me.”
Well that robber ends up shooting his [Peter Parker’s] uncle for a getaway car. Not only did he speak harshly to his uncle, now he can’t make it right. All because he did nothing. His choice of words and lack of actions culminated in a cruel ending.
Bruce Wayne as a child couldn’t save his parents. He had no way to defend them.
I think such persons are fighting crime to ensure no one suffers as badly as they did, but are also fighting a lot of unresolved guilt within.
Back to real life. I know for me traumatic experiences can help me want to help others. In word or in deed. They can also help me face a lot of unresolved guilt as well. There have been so many failures in my life, that it can compel me to empathize with others.
It’s not as simple as that of course! But it’s a place to start.
I agree that this is a wonderful post, timely and helpful for better understanding of how Jesus spoke into the culture, how he lived and how important and relevant that was then and is now.
I don’t have time right now to post a longer comment, but after I catch up on work and other things I’ll be reading this again and possibly posting a longer comment.
Thank you, James, for writing this post. And thank you, Barb, for making a space for it.
Thanks for commenting and I’m glad it was helpful. I hope you are doing well.
Dear readers, I have updated James’s post at his request. In the section Definitions he has added these three paragraphs ——
Just wanted to thank Barb for this in one of her replies:
I remember a very public story where a victim of abuse finally realized she was a victim of abuse. For me, after finding out after nearly four years of thinking her abuser was anything BUT that—–the worst part is that there was no “opportunity” or “ability” to help her—even with something as simple as prayer.
She once tried to apologize for being deceived for so long and my first response was: “don’t you dare apologize.”
I know it can be upsetting, even angering if you felt lied to, you were WERE lied to. You thought everything was fine, and it was anything but.
My personal belief is that until her deception was lifted, she had no ability or opportunity to defend herself or take action. It was psychologically restraining her, holding her back.
When her deception was lifted, that also gave us around her the ability and opportunity to support her as she so desperately needed. I can only speak for myself, but it took some real time for the confusion and bleak reality to fully sink in SO that I could effectively pray and try to encourage her. I had been deceived for almost four years, so I was also restrained—-and it took prayer and crying out to the Lord to fully lift it.
IF this happens to you as it did to me—-don’t be passive in the sense where you sit back and remain restrained. The truth can and does set you free, but it’s a bit like leading a horse to the feeding trough. No one can make that horse eat what is front of him. You must learn to take in what is right in front of you; what the Lord is leading you to—-because you need it.
It must have been difficult beyond words for her to allow the Lord to free her from her own restraints. It took much prayer and fasting, she said. I can only imagine how much or how long she may have resisted taking in what the Lord was showing and leading her to.
I did not WANT to remain passive in the sense that there was no ability or opportunity to defend or protect or whatever the case may have been. It was like a “menu” of choices. Which ones were in that menu, and which one were not? And who was writing that menu and giving it to me, exactly? What did the Lord want to “feed” me with? Were His “options” even on that menu?
And if He is not dictating what I should and should not “eat,” then who is exactly? Me, the church, professing Christians, public professing Christian figures, loved ones, etc.?
And if it is not Him, then what are they “feeding” me? Spiritual “junk food,” or the Bread of Life?
How passive am I? Am I really that powerless to not be able to dictate what I do and don’t put in my mouth? Am I a baby in a high chair, restrained and spoon fed because no one thinks I know how to use a knife and fork? Or, no one has taught me how and it’s more expedient that I remain “stuck” as a perpetual baby or child, never breaking out of those restraints?
When you are an actual baby, the adults are the ones that release you from your high chair. But if you are not an actual baby, literally or spiritually, you don’t need them to release you. You know how to undo the straps and buttons and whatever else is holding you down.
You have permission from the Lord to unbuckle yourself, so if someone asks—-“by what authority do you do what you are doing?” You say—“He set me free, He told me I am free, so I am freeing myself from what He says I am free FROM.”
A small clarification to the comment by Helovesme: The text on “Ability” and “Opportunity” was additional information James supplied to Barb. At James’ request, Barb added the additional information to James’ post in the section under Definitions.
Ah, thank you for that clarification. I must have missed that accidentally
Thank you, James and Barbara, for this enlightening lesson! I have read it twice now and taken notes and I know I will need to read it several more times in order to fully internalize it.
I need to learn what self-defense really means according to Jesus, because like others, I never knew. My violent responses were overcome in childhood, leaving me a passive victim to bullying. I grew up, but was taught to be passive and so became what I thought God wanted me to be. Since I am somewhat aware of natural laws, this has always been confusing for me. I know all life was and is designed to survive – sometimes succeeding against amazing odds. So why are we taught to be passive and why do we learn to be “doormats” at church, in Sunday schools, and from our Christian parents? False Christians teach lies all the time, I understand that, but sadly it seems that well-meaning but totally misled Christians do, too. And those lies, those misconceptions and misinterpretations propagate and cause untold harm.
I may spend the rest of my life working on responding correctly to others; learning to recognize attacks as they occur rather than days later, and responding assertively with appropriate self-defense rather than with either passivity or hostility, but it is a work worth doing.
Without this incredibly clear and helpful essay, I would still not understand and would still be second-guessing my every move, thought, and feeling, and would still be that same easy target I was because of the false teaching that I once believed. Oh, thank you!
Thank you for your very clear and generous comment. It is much appreciated. Often we just need the picture to be put the right way up and then we can start sorting it out. Happy sorting! 🙂
That is very well said and is also another whole can of worms. To pick up on Artina’s mention of critical thinking, we can apply it to this almost universal situation. A good detective when confronted with a crime will very early on ask him(her)self, “Qui bono?” This is Latin for “Who benefits?” The perpetrator always benefits (or hopes to) from the crime and turning children and adults into victims is a massive crime.
So an exercise in Qui Bono might go like this —
1) Make a list of all the characters involved in even the slightest way.
2) Go through the list one at a time and ask yourself, “Does this person benefit from this situation in any way?”
3) What is that benefit?
4) How does that benefit come about?
5) What do they actively do to achieve the benefit?
6) What do they fail to do that results in that benefit?
7) Do they benefit from co-operating with others in bringing about this benefit.
Do this for each and every player in the scenario and see what you have at the end of it.
James, I liked the Qui Bono “questionnaire” you provided! It’s worth hanging onto and trying to apply it to real life.
I couldn’t get the example you gave about learning what 9 X 6 equals, and there was one other spot where you said it only takes one time to touch a hot stove to learn. Coupled with abuse and the trauma attached to it—we learn fast—it’s a matter of survival.
I agree, by the way. It just brought to mind some weird twists and turns from my own life.
Abuse is so horrible because it inserts everything unhealthy and toxic into what SHOULD be healthy and fulfilling—-relationships with one another. The standards of how we should relate to one another—-love, patience, kindness and (most of all) trust, are mutilated and deformed by the abuser’s drive to steal, kill and destroy.
My dad was my abuser. He once tried to “teach” me how to solve some math problems, but all he would do is give them to me and tell me to figure it out myself. Of course I kept getting them wrong, and all he would do is show a mixture of disapproval and disgust, and tell me it was wrong—-and send me back. It wasn’t long before I was crying. In his “attempt” to teach me how to think for myself, or send me a “message” that my brain was capable of figuring it out on my own—-I failed, time and time again.
In that case, I’m sure I tried my darnedest to get it right so he would get away from me! In other cases, however, it’s fair to suggest that I either pushed his buttons or resisted giving him what he wanted out of me (prompt and / or passive reactions). I hated the ensuing trauma, of course, but I hated letting him walk all over me.
He would also push my buttons in order to pick a fight with me (remember I’m still a growing human being, and those years are hard enough already!). Even at that time, I would muse what kind of an adult felt the need to match wits with a person who is nearly 20 years younger than him.
Let’s say I KNEW what 9 X 6 equaled, and he wanted me to recite to to him. I may or may not give it to him so easily, which would of course make him even madder. I would be the one that got severely punished for it (it is fair to ask if it was worth it, right?), but at least I had the small satisfaction of knowing I was not a robot.
Possibly the worst lesson I came away with is that negative attention is better than no attention at all. I wavered between wanting positive connection with my dad to wanting NO connection with my dad—-since the former was impossible, and the latter seemed unbearable—-I settled for some form of acknowledgement, cruel and callous as it was.
At school, however, I did not want one shred of negative attention, which I got a lot of no matter what. But I too wavered between wanting positive attention or no attention—-I do think the latter, though also very difficult, would have been preferable. There is a difference between your peers crushing you into the ground versus your father doing it to you—since I lived at home, not at school (although I spent more hours at school), I think I preferred to be a ghost at one place, and a zombie at the other. In either case, however, I was not a living, breathing human being. I was simply an object that no one cared about, or a target that everyone took advantage of.
Lashing out, or lashing BACK at my dad did me no favors of course (this might be why I had no allies at home; I was “asking” for it)—–but at least I asserted my humanity in that I wasn’t an inert, 100% passive, powerless doormat. I believe you mentioned that the abuse / punishment escalates as a result, and you’re right.
I was a doormat no matter what I did or did not do, though. My dad, though a grown up, was not held to the standards of a grown up—-such a person IS fully developed and a measure of maturity is expected as a result. Ironically, I felt like I was held to those standards, and I was not fully developed and had little to no maturity to lean on. He was pretty much allowed to get with anything and everything, which was terrifying.
But keep in mind—this is my dad, the only one I had—-and while that fear was understandable, I was desperate to relate to him on ANY level it seems. Even fear-based, but also hate-based. I hated him for causing me to fear him so much, and I hated him for causing me to want to be away from him as much as possible. In both of those scenarios, I am deprived of trusting him to love me and for me to trust him in return.
Abuse is NOT just about what the abuser does to you. It’s also about what he is CAPABLE of doing to you. Were there no lines he would or would not cross? Would he attempt to murder me? He would make threats that he did not carry out (beat me so hard I would have to be hospitalized) but once that is put out there, you have two choices: either take it seriously, or don’t take it seriously.
From the post:
I tried to do this sort of thing with my dad. Stick to your guns but don’t fire. I kept thinking a quiet dignity would at least speak well of myself. When I became a believer, the Christians around me were woefully ignorant of how to deal with a man like him. The best way to react is to not react? That may sound good on paper, but eventually I have to learn how to actually talk to him. And I’m not sure how staying silent delivered the proper message.
One last thing—-I don’t know if anyone, including myself, was able to admit that my dad, my abuser—-was in fact my enemy. I struggled with how to implement your very wise words:
Dealt with this with my dad and professing Christians who were just as bad, if not worse than my dad in many ways. That’s for another comment, but I look forward to re-reading your post again. I skimmed over it just now and realized how much more I need to dig into it!
Thank you, Helovesme, for saying that. 🙂
Reaching Out, can you please add what Helovesme said to our Gems (great quotes).
The great quote by Helovesme has been added to ACFJ’s Gems (great quotes) page.
Hi, Helovesme. My essay was about Jesus talking to grown men regarding self-defence. I tried to extract the principles involved for people to apply as they thought best. If you are applying these principles to yourself as a young child, I think you are being mighty unfair to yourself.
I am not in a position to comment specifically about your past but I can make a couple of comments on what you wrote that I hope will be helpful. You mentioned behaving differently or having different goals between home and school. Children need to get attention from their parents one way or another. They need food, clothing and shelter. That means getting noticed. It’s a physical survival issue. You were not dependent on the school environment for physical survival so you preferred to be invisible there.
You have put your finger right on the worst terror of torture; given the absence of restraints, what won’t they do next? (I’ve been tortured so I know the truth of this.) The torturer will use your own mind to terrorise you. So, if I were you, I would consider looking upon your childhood as a period of straight up torture – nothing less.
I presume you suffer from PTSD as a result and there are a couple of things you can do about that (such as employing the Trivium and using EMDR) but I don’t want to presume more than I have already. If you would like me to comment further, please ask.
Hi, thanks for your kind reply. And it’s proper to point out how your essay was geared towards how adults relate to each other.
The reason I wrote my comment as I did is because even though I WAS a child, I was (at least as I perceived it) expected to be a “grown up” about defending, protecting myself from the actual “grown up” (my dad).
It also put me in a position to be far more mature than my underdeveloped mind AND body could live up to. Again, I’m the smaller, weaker party, yet I was expected to match wits both intellectually AND physically with an opponent (my dad) that vastly outweighed and outsmarted me.
Think of a lightweight being put up against a heavyweight in a boxing ring. In the actual sport, my understanding is that two opponents who are roughly the same size and weight are pitted against one another. Otherwise it’s not a fair fight if one has the ability to easily dominate the other.
And yes, you brilliantly boiled it down between my home and school life. I WOULD suggest that peer inclusion, though not on the level of food, clothing and shelter, is an extremely important emotional need, but especially for an unhappy child such as myself.
I also needed “allies” in my classmates; potentially a safe place from my own home to hide out at, or escape to. I used to love being at their houses whenever I could. However, and understandably so—-that is a lot of ask of your own peer group. And the parents as well, might not really want a “problem child” like myself being around their own kids.
Interesting, right? As a child trying to be a grown up, deal with my own problems that no child should ever have to deal with (abused adults don’t usually have it any easier)—-I’m looking for support, encouragement and even a shred of decency to survive the unthinkable. My own age group AND adults far out of my age group may have tossed me a crumb here and there, but for the most part I felt like I was on my own, just trying to, waiting to and hoping to actually grow up and hope my adult mind would “take care” of what my child mind could not.
(From your reply):
I’ll give that some real thought, thank you. I tend to view it as tortuously traumatic, not necessarily torture.
And of course I would love to hear anything else you have to say on the subject. But please don’t put yourself out—-there are other comments that you can spend more time on as well.
Helovesme, this is rather long and I’ve written it using the more general sense of “you” rather than the personal. I thought it might be of use to others as well.
I mentioned torture in my last response. Torture involves trauma, of course. The presence of pain, or more correctly pain and fear, accesses different neural circuits, which I also mentioned in my last response. Trauma is an ideal environment for an abuser to implant ideas which will control the victim for the rest of their life unless later undone.
In short, torture (deliberately imposed trauma) is not used to extract information, as the popular understanding has it, but instead to implant information for the purposes of control.
The implanted information is always a lie. If it was the truth, there would be no need to go to all the trouble of torturing the victim. So you can be almost certain that if you are the victim of prolonged trauma, what you believe about yourself is a lie. If there is great shame surrounding this belief, you can be absolutely certain it is a lie. Despite how you feel, it is a lie. Because your feelings believe the lie or lies, they are not much help in escaping the lies. We need the objective truth to set us free of the lies.
There are two common ways to establish truth. One is experience. Water is wet – so jump in the water to test this and establish the truth of the statement. The other tool is logic. Logic is used to identify and eliminate contradictions. Contradictions only exist in the mind and always contain lies. Contradictions are the result of wrong information or missing information.
“The chemical symbol for water is CO2”. You can look this up and establish that this is wrong information. Carbon and Oxygen do not make water.
“Water is a gas.” “Water is a liquid.” “Water is a solid.” You can look these up and establish that they are all correct statements but put together they constitute a contradiction. You can’t be one thing AND another. The missing information is – a quantity of water can be all these things but not at the same time. Missing information makes for more artful lies.
To give a concrete example, recently an ex-friend convinced a non-thinking friend of mine that I was a hypocrite by presenting evidence of me having two contradictory opinions of a certain perpetrator. What was missing was the information that the opinions were stated twenty years apart. I did not hold these opinions at the same time. So, no contradiction, therefore no hypocrisy.
For truth we need true information and sufficient information and you know when you have achieved this because there are no remaining contradictions. To learn how this all works we can look to “The Trivium Method”.
“The Trivium Method” is the study of how to learn and consists of three parts (hence the name) – Grammar, Dialectic or Logic, and Rhetoric. The labels, grammar and rhetoric have different meanings within the trivium from their general usage in everyday language. (As an aside, once you learn this method, you can teach yourself anything and was once the beginning of a Classic Education.)
Grammar is the raw information. We might easily find this by asking the questions – “Who?”, “What?”, “Where?”, and “When?”.
Logic is the question, “Why?” and is the practice of fitting the grammar together to make sense in a non-contradictory manner. It is the mechanics of it or the logistics of the situation. If contradictions remain, go back to your grammar and check for what is wrong and what is missing and try again.
Rhetoric is the question “How?” The “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, “Where?” and “Why?” are brought together into a narrative, a story, that can then be easily related to others. It may contain, wisdom, morals or lessons learnt or solve a puzzle.
What I have written so far regarding trauma and truth follows the model of the “Trivium”. I have presented facts, tied them together with logic to arrive at conclusions and presented this (hopefully) in an understandable manner (again, hopefully) without creating confusion.
You can apply this model to sort out the puzzles in your own life. The puzzles will present themselves as the contradictions that are just below the surface of your pain. The puzzles might be someone else’s contradictory behaviour.
The other method of establishing the truth is experiential. I have used and can recommend EMDR. This stands for Eye Movement Desensitising and Reprocessing [Internet Archive link]1. This starts with the therapist using various techniques to stimulate the crossover between the left and right brain hemispheres which is essential for processing experiences. This crossover is inhibited when experiences or aspects of experiences are dissociated because of trauma from the everyday conscious mind and memory.
This technique allows you to see, hear, feel again the original traumatic event where the lie was implanted into your mind. You see the context and the truth of the situation and often from a disembodied perspective.:
As you might imagine, this process can be harrowing so it must be done gradually and sensitively. My first experience of EMDR was with a therapist who had little idea of titrating the method according to the level of trauma. So I experienced re-traumatisation. So you don’t want a cowboy doing this with you.
There are other experiential practices that use the body to undo the trauma contained within the body such as yoga and Tai Chi though they don’t give you the conscious insights that EMDR does. I have tried yoga that was specifically tailored to abuse survivors but found it problematical in my case. Tai Chi has proven to be more suitable for me as it is based on movement rather than static poses.
I hope this makes sense and is helpful.
1[July 7, 2022: We added the link to Wikipedia’s Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing page. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]
Thank you, James. I’ve been reading all your comments with interest!
I know the body remembers, i.e., the body remembers trauma. Bessel van der Kolk was one of the pioneers in trauma therapy and his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma is a classic.
I have personal experience of how my body had stored the memory of a traumatic experience from my childhood. My conscious mind was in amnesia about that trauma until the memory came back to my mind in my twenties. When the memory came back (full 3D terrifying flashback) I intuitively knew it came to the surface because I was regularly doing a particular physical exercise that had been recommended by a New Age therapist I was seeing. This was before I was born again.
My recommendation to anyone who is thinking of doing body work and / or bodywork to deal with trauma or depression or stress is this: be in regular talk-therapy before you start engaging in body work and / bodywork. That way, if a trauma memory comes up because of the body work and / or bodywork you will be able to talk it out with your therapist. And not just any talk therapist: make sure the talk therapist is able to provide non-judgemental, competent therapy for trauma and recovered memories.
I can understand why hatha yoga with its static postures would probably not be a good fit for people who have suffered extreme trauma particularly in childhood. In yoga classes there is no provision for talking out memories that may have been brought to the surface by the exercises. But even if no memories come to full consciousness, the static postures are often painful to hold, and pain on its own can make a trauma survivor feel worse: more depressed, more down, more anxious, more dissociative.
Also, I generally warn people against getting into yoga because, even if you are only being taught the postures of hatha yoga but not the Hindu worship origins of those postures, your teacher might be into the Hindu philosophy side of yoga and your respect for your teacher might then lead you to be open to Hinduism. Or you might be unconsciously or spiritually affected by things from the Hinduism realm. Hindu gods are demons, so beware. Yes; the postures of hatha yoga can be beneficial for bodily flexibility and muscle tone. But there are many other exercise forms that are not yoga if you simply want to stretch and strengthen your muscles, maintain body flexibility and relax or rest your body / mind.
I forgot to start with the purpose of PTSD. It is a survival issue (surprise, surprise!). The purpose is to keep recalling the trauma until you can work out how to avoid the trauma happening again. This requires you to understand what happened first, how it happened and why, if possible.
Once this information is gained and processed, the PTSD symptoms will abate and even disappear.
How do you obtain this information? See above. 🙂
Wow, Hope, I feel like I could have written that reply myself! It’s too hard to reply well on my phone but I hope to give you a more well worded compliment when I can.
The whole time I read your reply I was like, yeah! Me too!
I have my own ideas why it was like that for me, but I’m sure we all have our theories.
I only add this part from one of my comments, to back up Hope’s marvelous words that Artina picked up on:
From Hope’s comment:
This was my experience as well. Since I am female, I think that played into things as well. In my experience, girls are not encouraged to fight back with fists, but additionally not encouraged to fight back at all.
Keep in mind I wasn’t raised a Christian, but in a conservative, tradition-based home that likely resembles some of the religious oppression that others might have experienced.
So where I lived, males had more freedom to be bullying, aggressive, bossy and belligerent. They were given permission to be fearful, and spread that fear as they saw fit. Simply put, they were treated differently than females. They had the power, the upper hand, they made the rules for others but broke the rules for themselves. You were told to be passive, expected to be passive and if you’re like me—-you hated it with a passive but very real passion.
So why are we taught to be passive and why do we learn to be “doormats”?
I became a believer at a young age. I remember many conversations with other Christian females revolving around what is or is not considered to be a “doormat.” We instinctively knew that God did not intend that for His children, but how does one serve and submit without either becoming one, or being treated like one?
No one knew for sure, of course. But it’s interesting that we had so many concerns. In the Word, there is absolutely NOTHING that supports or even comes close to suggesting that a born again believer in Him is ever to be passively stepped on with no interest, desire or permission to say “”NO”, don’t do that to me. Don’t look down on me, don’t put me down or put me down there, and don’t leave your dirt all over me. I am washed and cleaned and dressed in a perfect white robe of righteousness. Who are you to tell me any differently?”
Those persons that are or are similar to doormats are usually blamed for being doormats. No one likes or approves of those who step on such persons, but we lean towards blaming the ones “passively” allowing people to wipe their dirty feet on them.
We assume they did this to themselves. Who would want to be a doormat? We show passive or active contempt for them. We don’t care why or how they supposedly became this way. Doormats are doormats because they give permission to others to treat them as doormats. That is their fault. No one will disrespect you if don’t let them. If you resist them, they will respect you.
I had no idea how vital it is to ask the Lord to help you be bold—and NOT just to be a witness for Him to others—-but to BE like Him, regardless of and apart from witnessing to others.
“Human” doormats can absolutely 100% be “made” just as much as actual doormats are made in a factory. I think of abusers as playing “god.” They want to mold and shape you into whatever they want you to be—-and it’s NOT anything like what the Living God wants to make and shape you into.
James pointed out what it’s like to be treated a certain way when you are young. Abuse can mold and shape you into a “doormat.” Take the abuse, take it without resistance, and take it all the time, any time, any place. And whatever you do, don’t talk back, show pain or express any disdain or even discomfort—–doormats are there to soak up dirt. They’re cheap, disposable, and when they show wear and tear—–they’re thrown out.
In the Biblical world, I think Scripture is molded and shaped to support treating others in this way. I can tell you by experience that in my efforts to be a Biblical servant, people saw me as exploitable. I was seen as passive and pleasing, a “yes” person and WORST of all—-I didn’t “mind” being dehumanized. I took offenses lightly. I was slow to anger, slow to speak and ready to be compassionate and kind. Hey, she’s like Christ, right?
Such persons need a good, swift kick in the Biblical butt. A taste of their own medicine, a wake up call, a strong dose of His righteousness to set them straight. Christ is no doormat, and if you treat His children in that way, you are by proxy, stepping all over Him as well.
I was predisposed to soak up abuse as a Christian because of my upbringing. I easily embraced a false sense of inferiority that was now labeled as “spiritual” instead of “secular.” It was an easy transition for me, and unfortunately I was seen as kind, but with no spine. I cannot think of a worst insult to a born again believer—kindness requires His strength, boldness and initiative. I will admit that I lacked a strong “backbone” in Him, so that is where I was an easy target, an easy punching bag, easy to take advantage of.
Here’s my closing, victory statement: such persons didn’t count on ONE thing and ONE thing that makes every single bit of difference:
I GREW in Him. I grew BECAUSE of Him. I saw I needed to grow OUT of those bad beliefs.
Abusers and their allies don’t count on that. They truly think you will remain passive and pleasing and never change, always remain inert and so fear-deceived that you insist on remaining passive and pleasing. You live to benefit them, right? So being a doormat must be “right” in His eyes, if that leads to being a blessing to others.
No, it’s not. You were not saved by Him in order to serve others. You were saved to fellowship with Him, the One your soul loves because He loved you first. YES, serving Him AND others is a branch of that, but it’s not the root of your relationship in Him.
But the first commandment is to love Him. You were saved to live in and breathe in that love. That love leads you to love others, but from the very moment of your conversion—-it was you and Him. It will always be you and Him. That will never change, never has and never will. Ironically, you ARE clearly inferior to Him, but He treats you like a treasure.
If it’s not obvious, I idolized people for far too long. This is partially how they were able to manipulate me into being dehumanized. I let them mold and shape me into the fear-driven person I became, but regardless of my passivity and willingness, they still had no right to do that to me. No one does. I had and still have plenty of weak spots, but they chose to kick and poke those spots. They didn’t have to do that, and should not have done that.
I needed people (we all do) but I treated it as such a pressing need that I drove out my most imperative and primary need—-my Savior first and foremost. The rest of them come and go, but He remained, and still remains.
I am Yours, and He is mine.
This is in response to James’s last (29TH DECEMBER 2019 – 12:58 AM) comment:
Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to write out such a thoughtful response.
Since you’ve actually experienced this and I have not, I hope it’s okay to ask for some clarification. My dad seemed to do both. Finding what or where I was vulnerable (aka extracting info) seemed to enable him to then implant info (always lies, as you said) to control. Is there some wiggle room for that sort of thing? Perhaps that would not fall under the guise of torture, more like exploitation with the same end goal of control.
Words can’t express how much any and all victims need to hear this. Over and over again if necessary. Feelings can be particularly strong, almost overpowering the objective truth that as you said—-can and should override any and all feelings that disagree with said truths.
I liken it to Galatians 5 where the Spirit and flesh are at “war” within us—-although I do NOT consider “feelings” to be our enemies, if they are disagreeing with the Spirit, they need to be dealt with. Example: as a born again believer, He says you belong to Him. If He says you belong, you belong. Doesn’t matter if every emotion within you says differently. And He doesn’t lie, so if your emotions are saying that He IS lying (aka you don’t really belong to Him)—-your feelings are lying to you, not Him.
I’m careful here because I understand the process of eliminating those lies and replacing them with truth is often slow and painful. It is not meant to condemn anyone who is still struggling and stumbling to trust Him and take Him at His word—-I am very much on this journey as well.
I loved your insight about:
Yesterday I realized how many professing Christians around me did not have all the pieces of the puzzle to form the full, accurate picture. However, it was clear they weren’t even interested. They were more interested in controlling my behaviors versus caring about me as a person.
Example: Due to circumstances out of my control, I would decide to not socialize and to remain at home. That sent a message that I didn’t care. If you had all the info, however, acknowledging frailty and setting limits is not an indicator of being an uncaring person. In previous years, I had far more energy, so now I come off as hypocritical (“I cared then but not now.”). But people change over time.
By the way I’m so sorry your ex-friend treated you that way. When you said “non-thinking friend,” I immediately understood what you meant. It has been one of my most challenging and hurtful aspects in relating to humanity. If you don’t engage in cognitive thinking (or you let others do it for you), you’ll make a lot of bad judgments and snap conclusions that can and do cause great damage and destruction.
Yes all your info was very helpful; the “Trivium Method” might possibly help me the most. I did go to a Christian therapist for about 6 months about 15 years ago. It wasn’t AS helpful as I’d hoped, but I was given worksheets that paralleled your words. Breaking things down, asking those questions to resolve the contradictions.
I have already seen (as you pointed out) that:
I may have taken a more “cowboy” approach previously to sort them out, and came up with the best conclusions I could based on the limited data I had.
At times, I wonder if it’s easier to sort out the contradictions in others versus yourself! I have also asked myself (starting with the raw information as you indicted), then “why?”, and “how?”. It absolutely DOES:
Perhaps this will help someone else. If you find a lump on your body, logically you should go to a doctor right away.
Well, if you subscribe to the “Ignorance is bliss” mantra, you won’t do what is logical. What you don’t know won’t hurt you (wrong!) but more precisely, you’re too scared to find out what may or may not be wrong with you. That lump could be benign, but it might not be. But you’re too scared to ask those questions of yourself, and to a professional. You don’t want to hear what you don’t want to deal with.
In attempting to untangle the many, many contradictions and lies that abuse perpetuates, you don’t know what you’ll find out about yourself, your abuser, and others. It may be ugly, it may not be. I once thought that realizing the behaviors of others were not my fault would be anything but ugly, but it was quite painful.
I was crushed in realizing the depth of ugliness that can and exist in humanity in general, but worst of all—-in people that you thought (or hoped) cared about you. Through no my fault of my own, these people chose to hurt me simply because they wanted to, felt entitled to, justified that entitlement, and felt no remorse or regret. In short, they believed I deserved what I got, they were in the right, and so my sufferings were my cross to carry, not theirs.
By the way, when you said:
Please everyone—take note of that! Shame is one of the most effective weapons of darkness. It is incredibly powerful and very hard to undo. It is like a disease that you long to be rid of, but since it burrows so deep within us—-it’s a formidable foe. But that doesn’t mean you give up and let it spread and rot your soul. In fact, that is part of its potency—-it wants you to give up even before you try.
Others have pointed out that even if they scrape and battle their entire lives, they may not see 100% full victory, but any victory, regardless of size, glorifies and honors Him—-and will be a blessing to you AND others. We all badly need the encouragement in order to endure, and whether it’s your own testimony or that of others—-EVERY bit helps. Every bit matters.
Helovesme, you wrote (initially quoting me):
When your father was setting you those math problems, it looked like he was abusing you to get the answers out of you – getting information OUT. But he didn’t need the answers from you (or anybody else, for that matter) and he certainly didn’t care about you or your education. What were the messages you were absorbing about yourself as a result of this treatment? Those messages were what he was really about – putting information IN.
You wrote —
That’s as good a summary as you are likely to find about how it works. This is why it is never a good idea to talk to psychopaths once you have identified them. They weaponise your own words against you.
Governments and government agencies such as armies will justify torture (after changing its name to such things as “enhanced interrogation”) using the excuse that they needed the information as other people are / were in immediate danger of dying (information out). But it is just government sponsored terrorism.
Professional interrogators have known for decades, if not generations, that information gained under torture is next to useless. The reason is simple. The tortured victim wants to stop the pain and will give whatever information they think will do that regardless of whether or not it is true.
Usually the hapless victim is innocent in the situation and is being tortured by a psychopath or a psychotic because the torturer does not have any evidence against the person. So torture substitutes for evidence. That is worth thinking about.
The Bolsheviks did this in Russia a hundred years ago and many cops do it today for much the same reason. There’s an agenda to meet or a quota to fill. You put the information in to get the information out when you need it at trial or wherever.
It has been public knowledge for many decades, but not widely known, that the German officers that pleaded guilty to wartime atrocities after WWII at the hallowed Nuremberg Trials, were tortured beforehand by the allied military. Why? The prosecutors did not have the evidence against these men, that’s why. There was a political agenda to meet, though, and confessions would be needed in place of the missing evidence.
Anyway, don’t get me started!!! There are many other aspects to it all and this comment is long enough already. Torture, false flag operations, media lies, wars and provoking people to act through anger and fear is a long and complex subject but it is always the same pattern.
The perpetrator will try to provoke the potential victim (or their family or countrymen) to react unthinkingly with either fear or anger and make a decision that is against the victim’s (or their family’s or countrymen’s) best interest and in line with the interests of the perp. The perp then assumes the position of the victim in need of support from others or assumes the position of the authority that must seize power in order to calm the situation.
This pattern is repeated whether by a psychopath abusing his family, a police force wanting more power over a domestic population or a government wanting to invade and occupy another country. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
The answer is to know you are being provoked by appealing to your anger or your fear and remember that Jesus said to love our enemies. This might give you just enough time to think and look at the situation without seeing it through the ‘red mist’ of emotion to see what is really going on.
Victor Frankl is famous for saying [Internet Archive link]1:
In that “space” is our opportunity to be in charge of ourselves by choosing self-defence rather than putting the psychopaths in charge of us by choosing violence through anger or cowering through fear.
Loving your enemies puts you in charge of yourself…. Who wooda thunk it?!
1[July 7, 2022: We added the link to the Victor Frankl quote. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that link. Editors.]
[Eds: Trigger Warning for some readers who might click on the link James gives here. Dear readers, you don’t need to click on the link to understand the point James is making here.]
Speak of the Devil —
‘The Report’ details the CIA’s heinous, deadly torture program. [Internet Archive link]
I have looked at the article James linked to in this ^ comment. The article contained a link to the unclassified report released by the US Senate Select Committee — that report does indeed refer to waterboarding being done 183 times on one individual.
Thank you so much, James! 🙂
Thank you for that well thought out reply, James! I got a LOT out of it.
Thank you for that, and yes that makes a LOT of sense. The messages being inserted were mainly anxiety driven, fear of doing or saying the “wrong” thing or things, and as a result “deservingly” being punished for my supposed (or actual) wrongness. A twisted version of “you reap what you sow.”
The phrase “enhanced interrogation” is sadly all too familiar to America, where I live. Waterboarding was described as one of those “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Your wisdom about how nothing useful can ever be extracted with “government sponsored terrorism” is spot on, and I wish people like you had been taken seriously.
Once you open those doors, I think it’s very hard to shut them. America has a long history of human rights violations (IMO). The reason why (again, IMO), this is particularly horrifying is because America claims to be a democracy (equal rights for all, special privileges for none)—-but actions speak just as loudly as words, and our actions have spelled out a VERY different message than the one we claim.
Perhaps if we studied our history a bit more seriously, we would stop repeating it so mercilessly.
I had to read those lines a few times over to really grasp its meaning. I remember a line from a movie that said something like: “what do all men with power want? More power.”
So the narrative reads: if you just give me more power, I can “control” the situation. I can bring order to chaos. More weapons, more authority will give me the power to bring “peace” where it is needed the most.
When it came to waterboarding, I think the fear of another 9-11 type of terrorism, coupled with the anger that 9-11 ever came into existence at all—-blinded those in power to demand MORE power to inflict MORE harm (aka torture) on those “deserving” of such harm, in order to supposedly prevent MORE harm to Americans.
It’s the LAST part of your reply that I can’t thank you enough for:
When the need for self-defense arises, I know for myself that there is often precious little time to make a decision on how to react (or NOT react). That space may only last a matter of seconds. My abuser was often very impulsive, which I think was purposeful because it put me in the position of having to react just as impulsively. And usually my reactions were either fear- or anger-based, and the mandate to love your enemy (aka respond with just enough force to protect oneself, no more and no less) was often glossed over with that paralyzing fear and / or anger.
If his abuse wasn’t so impulsive, the fear of escalation which again, often encouraged fear- and / or anger-based reactions put me in an “auto-pilot” mode. “You’re helpless, powerless and friendless—-so just numb yourself and try not to cry in front of him.”
This sounds like I am disagreeing with him, and no, not at all—-anything but. Since Jesus said to love our enemies, then He will provide the means to do so. I do not think He gave that commandment as wishful thinking, or as a propaganda tool that contains high-sounding words but has no substance behind them—-and in reality it is nothing but lies in order to deceive those you aim to control.
I was not a believer growing up, plus I was a child—-not fully developed in mind or maturity, so keep that in mind when I describe interactions with my father.
Ironically, that very commandment “tortured” me AS a believer—to love my enemy, and my father was not only an enemy of Christ (unsaved) but also an abuser—MY abuser, so even as a young woman in age AND spiritual maturity, that commandment spoke AND weighed heavily on me. And I constantly failed or fell short of it. I had no idea how to stand up to my father, resist him and defend myself—-yet all in the name of love! “Maybe your father will at least learn to respect you. At best, he’ll come to Christ!”
Professing Christians may unintentionally throw that verse around as if it’s the problem solver to all problems: “just LOVE those that hate you, and if they hate you even more, love them even more. Sooner or later you’ll wear them down, and even if you don’t, you’ve been obedient and faithful and God will credit that to you as righteousness.”
That didn’t work out so well with me. This post was not available to me back then, but it would likely have helped, and at least made me understand what I was up against, and also given me much needed perspective of Biblical AND non-Biblical expectations.
It was too soon for me, when I came to Christ, to immediately want my father (and family) to come to Christ as well. Loving your enemies seemed to have that dual purpose: love covering a multitude of transgressions AND preaching the Gospel.
That is a lot of pressure to put on a person, a victim no less, and a newborn in Christ. And I now don’t believe Christ said: “love your enemies (but they’re not really your enemies)”. Yes, they are your enemies. They are not your nearest and dearest. They are not to be trusted. In fact, why would I be engaging in self-defense towards a person if they are not my enemy?
I constantly go back to these wonderful lines in the post:
The “ability” and “opportunity” aspects have been tricky for me to untangle. I wonder why I didn’t simply defend myself from my father by saying “no, don’t do or say that to me.” Or, if he was hurting another family member, try to step in and say “no, don’t do or say that to her.”
I did read the “fine print” with these choices—-I understand how they can be compromised. Still, the questions within me persist.
Helovesme, you wrote —
Well said! Jesus’ instruction to love your enemies is hard to fathom at times. There is clearly more to it than the typical understanding has it. I don’t know the full extent of it, that’s for sure. I think it starts to make more sense, though, if we view the words “to love” to mean “to care for”. It is clearer that we can care for someone without embracing their ideas or behaviour.
The Japanese martial art, Aikido, was specifically designed to care for the attacker while defending oneself. That ‘care’ is not dependent on what the attacker says or thinks. And the ‘enemy’ has a perfect right to be left alone until the point that they actually attack you.
Jesus’ teaching on self-defence centres on minimising violence for everybody. Therefore it must involve caring for the attacker. In that sense, loving your enemy makes perfect sense. It doesn’t involve caring for the ‘enemy’s’ thoughts and feelings, though.
To choose self-defence over passiveness or violence means stopping long enough to think and choose not to give in to fear or anger. Again, this must involve a level of care for the attacker. It doesn’t mean any deep understanding of or empathy with the attacker / enemy. That may or may not come later.
Had any of the religious leaders in the US called for loving their enemies after the demolition of the WTC towers, the US government (with the support of the US citizenry) may not have attacked the Afghan people out of anger and killing hundreds of thousands of people who were minding their own business.
Had any of the religious leaders in the US, two years later, called for loving their enemies amid fears of non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, the US military may not have invaded Iraq out of fear and killing millions of people who were simply minding their own business.
The US and Israeli governments (together with the press, as always) are engaging in the same process at the moment in talking up a war with Iran using fear and anger. But will any Christian leader stick his head up above the parapets to say, “Hold on, lets see if we can minimise the violence by waiting ’til we (the US – and I don’t mean ‘US interests’) are actually attacked and then only act in self-defence using a minimum of violence?” Unlikely.
To use self-defence properly with a minimum of force means having some minimum level of care for the perpetrator. To not fall into anger or fear means having some minimum level of care for the perpetrator. To advance our own level of spiritual well-being means having some minimal level of care for the perpetrator and all without identifying with their thinking or behaviour. Otherwise we end up drifting backwards and towards becoming perpetrators (violent) or enablers (passive) ourselves.
Equally, if we are not prepared to defend ourselves from violence, we are not caring for ourselves or our enemies. So, loving our enemies is a part of self-defence and self-defence is a part of loving our enemies. They go together and are both necessary for minimising violence and maximising survival. You can’t really understand one without the other.
It was for our direct benefit, well-being and survival that Jesus instructed us to love our enemies.
Anyway, Helovesme, I have spoken in a general sense and I hope some of it is useful in applying to your own circumstances. Thanks, as always, for your engagement with my thoughts and ideas. 🙂
Thanks, James, for ^ these gems. (Bold emphasis added by me.)
If a counselor says that I must empathise and identify with my enemy and I must try to figure out what my enemy is feeling and thinking and take care not to hurt my enemy’s feelings, that counselor is NOT teaching self-defence. That counselor is teaching passivity. That counselor is urging me to act in a way which enables my enemy to continue in his evil ways.
(Dear reader: reverse the genders if needed to apply this to your own situation.)
This has been a wide ranging discussion. Some readers may think it has strayed off topic by talking about torture. I’d like to remind everyone that some ‘ordinary’ domestic abusers use torture tactics on their victims.
This is testified in All the things I didn’t tell you — a guest post. Here is a short quote from the post:
It is also testified in You Weren’t There — a letter to pastors from a survivor of domestic abuse — a guest post by Moody Mom. Here is a quote from that post:
This is an intensely thought provoking article. I have returned many times to re-read it through as well as the comments. James, your comment about how the dad who was demanding answers to math problems that were unreasonable was a form of putting information in and not just getting it out made me think of something my own father did which I may have mentioned previously. One incident of many that sticks out is that he once sent me to the store for some milk in a specific amount. I noticed that the half-size was on sale which meant I could get the same amount of milk for a dollar less.
So, I chose to buy the two half-sizes thinking my father would recognize that I had thought for myself, made a good decision and saved our family money. Instead I was severely chastised for the decision. He implied that I was stupid because I had not gotten EXACTLY what he had sent me for. I had deviated from his instructions. I could, however, see it in his face and hear it in his voice that he was aware that in fact I had done well but somehow he needed to maintain control. I realized my thinking for myself was the issue. I had acted with independent thought. His girlfriend at the time said “But _____, she got a BARGAIN!” She was even exasperated with his unreasonableness and could see it. He wouldn’t back down and admit that he was being quite unfair. I think what I got out of it was that I was bad and guilty for thinking for myself and that the penalty if I grew in any form of independence or capability was that I would be punished, denied respect and rejected. It was a bitter experience and one I have never forgotten.
My mother also pulled an unreasonable thing like this which was not uncommon as far as expecting things of me beyond my maturity level. She sent me when I was in the third grade, across town on my bike, to bring home the family’s laundry from the laundromat. I had to ride my bike across streets while nightfall was coming. I had no idea which machine the laundry was in or how to identify it. I went once and couldn’t find ours though I looked in each machine. I returned home only to be severely excoriated for my stupidity and apparent pathetic-ness. The second time I rode across town it was dark. I finally grabbed ANY laundry in desperation only to be told by an irate old lady that I was taking HER laundry. She helped me by process of elimination to find ours, expressing disgust all the time that an adult would send a young child like me out to do an adult job. I had to ride home with the laundry sack balancing on my bike which made it even harder for me to remain upright. It was quite a harrowing experience.
I found out later that her dad would send her into the garage to get a tool. She knew nothing about tools and when she would ask questions he would brush her questions off. When she brought back the wrong tool, she could also be excoriated and told she was stupid. One wonders why an adult would set a child up to fail like this; so they can take out their inner garbage on someone who cannot stop them?
One of the things that makes this so hard to overcome is that it’s invisible abuse in a way. It is violence done to personhood concealed behind the façade of legitimate interactions or legitimate discipline. It’s a stealth job. Deep programming in a way. Even though I am more aware of such covert abuse nowadays it frustrates me that all I have to do is have someone act in a way that resembles either of my parent’s style and I am reduced to a weak childhood state. It’s very frustrating and has caused me great difficulty with being unable to defend myself well when certain types of interpersonal violations are going on.
Hi, Kind of Anonymous,
I remember the two half-sizes of milk incident well. It was a perfect example of the hair-pulling, mind-numbing stupidity that reasonable, peaceful, loving adults and children have to put up with. Even though it is still stupid, there is a kind of sense to it from the perpetrators point of view.
To them it is about mind-control which you identified even as a young child. It’s all about power and power is all about power over other people. Everything is subservient to this for the perpetrator. Power is the addiction which must be fed.
Of course, this is all going directly against Jesus’ design for us and so these perps are setting themselves against God. It doesn’t get any more stupid than that! So we have the obvious ‘surface’ stupidity plus the stupidity of evil itself.
I find this double-whammy overwhelming at times and I’m sure you and others here feel the same. I get some sort of guilty solace, though, when I think that if I find it so overwhelming, so revolting, how must Jesus feel about it – He being the very source of love, reason and compassion? Then I know I’m not alone.
Your experience in fetching the laundry must have been excruciating. The redeeming factor was the older woman validating to you the unreasonableness, the stupidity, of the task you were set by your mother. The old lady was “The Witness” and to have someone confirm the truth of your situation is incredibly powerful in terms of maintaining your sanity. And that is what it is – an assault on your sanity.
The abuse, whether is it a government / military torture program or some freelance psychopath you have the misfortune to have as parent or partner, is designed to confuse and disorient you using physical and / or psychological pain to the point where you give up making your own decisions. One way or another they try to implant the conviction within your mind that you are incapable of running your own life. So they want to get you to the point where you metaphorically throw up your hands and say, “Just tell me what to say and do”. It takes incredible strength and courage to resist that campaign against you.
My guess is that your mother was not able to resist her father’s campaign against her and would not face it later in her life and so passed it on to you. She chose to react later in life by choosing the option of violence against you.
You have faced it, though, and bore the pain of not only the initial abuse but the grief in facing the truth of it later in life. Your courage in doing so has defended yourself and your sanity and defended the next generation from the madness.
When we pass over into the next life, we will have to face the truth of our life here. We cannot take lies into Heaven and I’m guessing that it will be a lot easier to have faced the truth here and not have spent the rest of our lives adding to the lies rather than undoing them.
You mention still reacting badly when someone emulates your parents’ style of behaving. It is probably a good bet that you have Complex PTSD. I remember well a therapist I had, who specialised in treating people who had experienced extreme abuse, said to me the number one factor in improving my life with PTSD was managing my environment to reduce the number of triggers. And the people I mixed with was the largest factor in my environment.
In other words, avoid those that trigger you as much as you can. It has helped me a lot. Don’t worry about others feelings if they are triggering you. It’s their job to look after themselves! It’s your job to look after yourself – to defend yourself. 🙂
Thank you for your story, Kind of Anonymous. Take care.
Kind Of Anonymous’s and James’s conversation has been wonderful for me to read.
And James is not the only one. I very much remember the milk story as well. I think it had a way of staying with us because it resonated with us.
I was the one James spoke to about the math situation. You know, I don’t know if I ever eventually got the answers right, but the truth is—-that would not have mattered, because that was not the point of the entire episode. It had nothing to do with teaching me math. It had to to with teaching me fear.
I think of abuse as a cancer. The abuser uses the abuse to “kill” anything good and healthy and productive in you. Abuse, as with cancer, only lives to consume and spread. It doesn’t produce anything of worth, it lives to cause nothing but suffering.
And thinking for yourself is one of our most prized possessions. Abusers use abuse to “kill” anything in you that allows you to think, feel and behave apart from them. I remember this well. I was desperate to get AWAY from my abuser, and my entire childhood goal revolved around wanting to live APART from him, so I could finally be free of him.
In reality, I did not know if I was capable of living independently from him unless I 100% severed any connection from him. He lived to criticize and control, so any attempt at making choices for myself would be met with disdain, disapproval from him, even (as K of A pointed out) if they were intellectually sound choices.
It’s no coincidence, therefore, that I felt like a prisoner in my own home, in my own HEAD, because the abuser AND the abuse kept me chained up. I constantly felt like I was living in a box or bubble that was too tight. No room to grow, no room to make mistakes (and learn from them) and no encouragement to learn or grow as a human being.
Gymnasts will talk about the pressures on their body in order to compete. In short, puberty is viewed as a nightmare. Developing hips, curves and a bosom affects your ability to compete, so you might see excessive measures taken to keep the body in a certain state.
But puberty is natural growth; it is not something you can prevent indefinitely. Eventually, your body cannot remain in an underdeveloped state. You have to burst out of that bubble.
The laundry stories resonated with me as well—-I could feel your anxiety and mirror it with my own. I know that fear of what you will face if you don’t comply with their unreasonable demands, knowing you will fall short no matter how hard you tried (even if you succeeded it’s likely to not make much of a dent).
I have faced this with professing Christians. This is still nightmarish to speak of. I’ll leave out a lot of details, but sum it up like so: I did not have the proper knowledge because it was not given to me. No one would talk to me or tell me what was going on, even though I tried to find out the pertinent information.
Anyone ever notice how, in order to do the right thing, because you care about the right people, you try to ask the right questions, and then you are punished for daring to ask at all?
As a result, through no fault of my own, I made all the wrong choices that hurt the exact people I did not want to hurt. I had no idea what was going on, so only until I found out what I did not know then, did I realize what I had done. And I was mortified, humiliated and beside myself with shame and sorrow.
It makes only a small difference that there was no way I could have done otherwise, because I did not know otherwise. I still hurt people, and I tried to NOT hurt anyone, but because I was refused the information that would have prevented it—-it nonetheless happened.
The persons in question were not what I could describe as merciful. I don’t know if they knew that I had been clueless, but I highly doubt that would have mattered. As with K of A’s description, the impossible was expected out of me (“do the right thing without knowing what it is”) and it made no difference that that was simply, well, humanly impossible to carry out!
It was like I deserved what I got. No point in recognizing that everyone else likely knew something, or knew enough to either avoid any missteps, or knew enough to do nothing.
The information implanted in me is that “you’re not one of us, you’re not like us, and we don’t want you around us. We’re going to exclude you from certain information in order to implant that information in you.”
My mom was not often respected by my dad (who was my abuser). For sure she either aided or abetted him, or actively participated. It is one of the worst tragedies when someone who is not being treated well, instead of fighting that system, enables it.
Yeah. I still struggle with this. If you have been abused, and if you can aim for one thing in life: as an individual, to NOT choose to abuse. To choose to NOT continue the cycle that you endured from a parent or a partner.
This requires the ONE thing that an abuser dreads and does everything to NOT allow it to spread: thinking for yourself. Undoing the lies, undoing the “programming” installed within you. No, it’s not so easy as pressing the reset button.
But James’s words about lies having no place in Heaven were wonderful. If they have no place there, then we should be doing everything we can HERE to prepare to live that way!
My mom would say my “dad can be hard on us, hard at times, but his aims are worthy—-trying to motivate us to do well or do better”. I wish there had been an avenue where I could say—“but you’re wrong”—-but that was not optional. You just had to sit there and say nothing, and remind yourself to never bring it up again.
Thank you, James, for your kind reply. Yes, that is true about others validating reality. It helps when others react with horror or outrage when you tell them something. It is quite restorative when someone responds with what would be normal when your life isn’t normal. I remember a friend who, upon hearing some rottenness my mother perpetrated on me, shook her head and said that if her mom did that to her she’d never speak to her again. It was somehow comforting.
Your comment that we cannot take lies into heaven really resonates with me. I watched a movie once where a character could pass through walls, bars etc. But he had a weapon from THIS world in his hand, a handgun, and as he went to pass through some bars, the weapon wouldn’t go through and he looked down in surprise to see what was holding him up. For some reason although the movie certainly had nothing to do with Christianity, I thought to myself “Yep, that’s how it is in heaven; you can’t take weapons with you when you go”. And yes I agree, avoiding triggering situations right now helps me have some peace.
I enjoyed and benefitted from the interaction; I love the way you break things down so they make sense. That’s a gift of wisdom and communication for sure.
Thank you, Kind of Anonymous, for your kind words. I think it was the psychotherapist and author, Alice Miller, who emphasised the crucial importance of the Witness in validating the truth of a situation to someone undergoing what we might now call mind-control. The Witness says, in effect, “No, you’re not mad. They are!”
Thank you for the image of the man with the weapon who can’t go through the bars with it. That will stay with me. It’s strange that given we can only take out of this world what we make of ourselves that we don’t concentrate on the forming of our character a lot more. But we are so easily distracted by the dramas of this world. At least, I am, anyway! 🙂
Lol, James, your thank you also has some wisdom that has created a refocus, where you said that:
You surely aren’t the only one who finds that the world has many ways of distracting and derailing us. I find myself sometimes despite high ideals, to be like those cartoon dogs in the movie “UP”! who could stay on task until someone saw or said “Squirrel”! Then they were plunged into chaos as it all fell apart right after promising their master they would carry out his orders. Indeed, right now my life is a mess of glaring contradictions, which I am working on sorting out but it is frustrating to believe one way and live another and have to go through the struggle and anguish of having to choose which side of the equation I want to end up on. Sometimes I am in “Vanity Fair”, other times the “Slough of Despond” for inordinately long stretches of time; “Pilgrim’s Progress” all the way.
I am only just realizing that the character development issue is and has been neglected and so related to remaining focused and true to God over and above other people and self. We don’t hear many practical sermons on how to accomplish this unfortunately. So many messages are sandwiched in between a lot of advertising and appeals and time-wasting silliness that by the time the pastor gets around to actually teaching there isn’t much time left, so I have to research and learn on that one. I so easily wind up being “formed” by other people, their thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes, the pushes and pulls from them, fear of them and also by my flesh, that I am not sure at this point if I were to stand before Jesus, there would be much reward or commendation to give me.
It is VERY frustrating to start off with your pack towards the heavenly city, with a heart full of joyful and thankful resolve, eager to get there and eager to live for Christ and know Him on the way, and sure that He can now use me with my sure devotion….only to find myself way off course in a wilderness, with a hard heart full of junk, broken commitments, and wondering if any of that was sincere. Like Peter who believed he alone would never let Jesus down, but who wound up saving his own skin first. I imagine like me, he must have wondered at that point if any of his devotion was anything but imaginary self-flattery and if there was any point in trying again.
I have lived much of my life looking for love and security and being able to live some of my dreams but most of that was earthly focus. I didn’t have an eternal focus and sadly I have made life-altering decisions in my life before I knew much about how to maintain discipline and self-control and think past the end of my nose with an eternal perspective. Some directional changes and choices, it was clear to me then and now that something was influencing me and pushing me in a direction, which only speaks to how real the battle is with flesh, devil and world.
Sorry for the long reflective response; your words certainly sparked some deep musing. Thank you again for your wisdom and words and your patient kindness with us, your fellow blog believers. 🙂
Hi, Kind of Anonymous, I identified with a great deal of what you said here (your long reflective response). No need to apologise — you are helping me. 🙂
Kind of Anonymous, you’re no slouch yourself when it comes to this wisdom stuff. 🙂
It seems to be a non-issue in our society and even in the churches which is sad.
Very heartfelt, insightful and ‘AMEN’.
Thanks for the exchange, Kind of Anonymous. It has been very helpful and enjoyable.
I’m not sure where to nest this comment, but since the mention of the author Alice Miller (I think), and James’ reference to the importance of the Witness is pretty meaningful to me, I’ll put this comment here.
Thanks, James, for your reply and further thoughts on one of my earlier comments about difficulty accepting long term effects of being in long term abusive situations. I don’t have a lot of time now and took an extended wonderful trip where I didn’t connect with the internet (in part because I had no well-functioning tech device). My trip was a good time, filled with more physical activity, too, and great company. But anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge your reply. Years ago I remember reading a book by Alice Miller and having a hard time doing that because the book, from what I remember, spoke of the long term effects of long lasting abusive environments (childhood). I think it would be easier to read now, maybe. I’m grateful, too, that I’ve had some experience of Witnesses when I was going through difficult authoritarian situations as an adult.
This post, again, is a really meaningful one for me and I’ll be going over it again along with the many good comments and replies that I can relate to.
Welcome back, Artina! I’m glad you had a great trip and thank you for taking the time to comment. It is very encouraging for me to hear that the post has been meaningful and helpful for you. It was helpful for me to write it.
I’d like to thank everyone for your comments. I was hesitant for a long time to write the essay as I didn’t know where to start. Plus, who am I to hold forth on what Jesus was teaching? In the end, I followed a pretty heavy prompting I received during prayer and you, Artina, and others have vindicated ‘the prompting’ and my decision to have faith in it.
Self-defence is such a big subject. The deeper you get into it, the deeper it gets. We have been taught so much nonsense around it that it is as much about unlearning ideas as it is about learning new (but ancient) ideas. Self-defence is more than an idea, though. It is something that I believe Jesus wove into our psychological design from the beginning just as He did with our conscience.
Conscience tells us there is something wrong – self-defence tells us we need to respond to it. We all have it within us but we are taught through pain of one sort or another not to respond to the promptings of this inherent design.
The wise, capable yet gentle Defender is an archetypal character deep in our psyche and that is why we respond instinctively to someone who acts it out. Jesus put that model (which is ultimately Himself) within our hearts for our survival and growth.
To switch gears from the eternal to the more mundane, the subject of self-defence, to me, is a lot like poker. We come to it with a certain understanding of games between people. The rules are simple and can be taught in a single session. You can quickly play a passable game where you cease ‘being taken to the cleaners’ which is very useful, of course, but learning to master it takes a lifetime or more.
To get better, we need to be able to analyse our past games, what we did well and where did we get tricked. But the analysis needs to be aimed at the next game – how can you use what you’ve learned to advantage. Only that way can we get better.
While we may curse the abuse in our lives (and I certainly do), it does give us a lot of information to analyse and use to our advantage in the future. We know more.
But why get better? Is there a purpose?
When Jesus said —
—He was talking about us as a species or collective. When He later said —
— I believe He was talking to our destiny and purpose us as individuals. It is much more personal, to me at least.
The ultimate purpose of self-defence is to become a peacemaker. Through skill and understanding, we can bring peace into the lives of others. But before we can do that really effectively, we need to bring peace into our own hearts; to become a child of God. Jesus is peaceful. Do we not all long for that peace of Jesus?
The guide or ‘litmus test’ I see for my own actions and reactions to bring peace into my life is to learn to respect myself while being gracious to others. If I can fulfil both requirements with each action then I think I will be close to the target; close to the model I believe Jesus gave me to follow.
Anyway, that is my ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ before me (h / t to KoA!).
God bless and peace to you all. And thank you. 🙂
Thank you, James. 🙂
….a bare ‘thank you’ is all I can say at the moment. I want you to know that your example of humility is a blessing to me.
Kind of Anonymous, did the movie where the man moved through walls, happen to be “Terminator 2?”
The T-1000 was made out of liquid mercury, so he could literally pass through solid bars of metal. But when he was carrying a weapon (made of metal), it would get stuck and he had to manually squeeze it through the bars. It could not pass through the bars with him.
I had a friend at the time who was quite the fanatic of that movie, and she explained that to me. 🙂
And yes, when James spoke of staying away from triggers and triggering, that too spoke to me. A young addict wrote a book about his recovery. He was told in rehab that “if you hang around a barbershop long enough, eventually you’ll get a haircut.” It was a reminder and a warning to stay away from places that will eventually open a door to do something you know you should not do.
This likely includes people who are hanging around that “barbershop.” If you know you should not be there, find other places to interact with them, or don’t interact with them at all. And you might consider not interacting with them at all if it will keep those doors shut that you want to remain shut.
Yes, it was “Terminator 2”. 🙂 It was that exact scene, where the next level Terminator had come to remove the female lead so that the resistance could never get started, and he is trying to walk through the bars in pursuit of her.
I love the barbershop analogy, does that ever apply. When I got with my second husband, he had a drinking problem which I didn’t know about. I rationalized that going to bars was okay because well, there wasn’t a specific Scripture that said Christians may not enter a bar, and after all it was just a social place with a really good sound system and I ought to be mature enough to handle that.
What actually wound up happening is that eventually I became overpowered by the ungodly influences I was surrounded with until I had actually consumed more booze in a year than I had in a lifetime and I didn’t even like drinking and now my relationship was full of booze-fueled fighting with a completely unreasonable and immature man who had gotten baptized as a Christian. And of course even though I had wanted to remain pure, I wound up not only drinking but “sexing” somewhat too, which some of these people actively pressured us about. Why? Because THEY lived that lifestyle, and in worldly thinking, if they could get ME to fall and him to secede back into what they thought was his “REAL” intent, it proved there was nothing to worry about or take seriously. He did give up drinking to excess after an abusive argument over it but never was willing to enter any kind of serious recovery program where he began to deal with his life issues. And I by that point, had been somewhat “reclaimed’ by the enemy who had used various things to cause me to fall back into old bondages and issues.
If you can bear another movie analogy, I remember that in the movie, the Matrix, one quote spoke to me of how I needed to realize that until someone is walking with Christ, they can still be a tool in the enemy’s hand to come against me and take me out, so that compassion and mission have to be balanced against the reality of what we are actually up against. Here’s the quote [Internet Archive link]1 which is from when Morpheus runs Neo through the Agent training program with the woman in the red dress:
Helovesme, I think I will begin thinking some on what in my life constitutes a barbershop because I’ve had a few too many prison-style shaves in my life and wound up falling badly. Thanks for that. 🙂
1[July 8, 2022: We added the link to the quote made by Morpheus that Kind of Anonymous quoted. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that link. Editors.]
Your very welcome, Kind of Anonymous, and thank you for sharing those stories that backed up the “barbershop” analogy. I’ve got plenty of my own stories to share that illustrate its wisdom as well.
My friend (big fan of “Terminator 2”) spoke of the scene where the T-1000 is running after the people he was programmed to kill. They managed to escape him. The T-1000 patiently gets up from the ground, turns around and walks away.
She said that Terminators are patient. He showed no emotion, no regret, no anger that his attempt at completing his mission had failed. Bear in mind Terminators are machines, not humans—-but since you watched the movie you know that there is more to them than met the eye.
That stayed with me. I consider our greatest enemy to not necessarily be the devil, but our cold, hardhearted, rock-solid pride that lives to defy the Living God. In His hands, pride does die, but it dies slowly and it doesn’t die without a fight. If the Lord were not so patient in HIS mission, to make us what we ought to be in Him—-our lives would be in a permanent state of misery.
Make no mistake, the devil does everything possible to study and exploit us where we are weakest. I do not underestimate his schemes (the Bible warns us about this).
I too have fallen for the “I should be mature enough to handle” something that I KNEW I could not. And it had NOTHING to do with a lack of maturity. A group of believers wanted to see a movie that I knew very little about, but something kept tugging in me to NOT see it. I don’t recall it’s rating, but I was over 18 so even if it was rated R, there was no viable reason to NOT go see it.
Well it was a horrific movie and I finally ran out of the theater as scene after scene grew even more hideous. I do not know why it took me so long to get out of there. I kept thinking “I can handle this; everyone else is remaining seated.” It took awhile for some of the more gruesome scenes to finally be relegated to the back of my memory, but they never completely disappeared.
I was somewhat embarrassed (I was the only one who bolted and ran). I came off as weak. Christians deal with the understandable conflict of what forms of entertainment are permissible, and which ones are not. But we confuse that with maturity. If something is not permissible to you, it is not necessarily because you are immature.
I never saw the “Passion of the Christ,” but I was told it leaned towards graphic violence. It was not meant to “entertain” of course, it was meant to capture the horrors of crucifixion. I do not recall the rating, but I do know it was shown in churches. It is fair to wonder if younger persons could handle the realistic portrayal of something that might give them nightmares, but is also the central focal point of the Christian faith.
(I fear this is NOW becoming a movie review comment, Barb and Reaching Out, I’m watching my step!)
If I could just end it on the “Matrix” comment K of A made. First of all, I remember that movie well, and that quote you offered. And yes, I picked up on what you picked up on too.
But I can’t believe you brought that movie up. When it first came out, the group of Christians I was around seized upon it because of what they perceived as the strong parallels to the Gospel.
It was an easy bandwagon to jump onto since a fair amount of the story, script and characters mirrored those in the Word. And there are a good number of memorable one-liners to tie in with the Bible or Biblical living, as you picked out a good one.
I am now going to tie this to the post’s subject matter. I may be straying just a bit from the topic, but bear with me.
Back to my horrible movie experience. I should have defended my conscience (which was obviously trying to warn me) and stood up for myself. It’s not that the others were trying to attack me and I had to put up a fight, but I was afraid they would make comments if I dared to suggest that this movie was not “for me.” Trying to find a way to say—“I’m not judging you, go see it, but I know I can’t”—-even if everything in me intended to NOT judge, there’s a good chance someone would feel judged. Perhaps the next time they organized to go to another movie, they’d leave me off the invite list.
Back to the Matrix and how it “took off” in the Christian circle I was around. I didn’t mind it so much at first, but well after I found myself feeling pangs of guilt. That line you brought up was key: yes, those within the system are innocently trapped in it, perhaps helplessly or stubbornly dependent on it. But whatever the case, since they ARE trapped in it—-they are our enemies and are to be treated as such.
Well, the way they dealt with those people they claimed to want to save FROM that system, but are also still dangerous to those OUT of that system—-was to kill them with as much firepower as possible. NO sane person, in or out of the church, would ever approve or even suggest that we kill those who are unsaved—–but there are more ways to kill people than with guns. And you do not have to commit bodily murder to cause unspeakable suffering. This entire website is excellent at expressing this. Abuse victims will testify of how they became and were treated an “enemy” of the Gospel, the church—-and were “cut off” (or “killed off”) from that church system. They just wanted you to disappear, and act and treat you as though you no longer existed.
Now, I know we do not and should not take the movies too seriously. Truly, the Christians I was around were likely only using the Matrix to teach and reach the college-aged students we were attempting to minister to. But years later I felt a twinge of shame. Professing Christians, who supposedly believe in Him, easily fall into the trap of mocking the unsaved for their lack of belief in Him—-and in that process, dehumanizing them.
No one is born in a born again status. At one point, we were ALL unbelievers. Enemies of Him. And make no mistake, we love Him because He loved us first. While we were His enemies, He died for us. We should certainly be cautious about who does and does not belong to Him, but never to take that beloved, belonging status we have in Him for granted.
If I had tried to point this out during the “Matrix” mania, I don’t think it would have gone over very well. “Lighten up, it’s just a movie; of course no one should actually “kill” our enemies (love them instead!).” But as I described above. it’s not so simple.
Hi, Barb, I am glad I am helping you rather than boring you, lol! Thank you.
Kind Of Anonymous’s last comment about character development was wonderful. I know that frustration well—-too well!
Who is the Potter—Him or them? Whose Hands are making me what I ought to be, and whose hands are simply in the way of His work? And who does and does not want me to be a work of Him, and not a work of theirs?
There is only one Potter, one Savior, one Father, one Master (you cannot serve two), and one King. Everyone else: exit the stage. No one lays a hand on me but Him. Only He bought me with His blood, so He owns me. Everyone else has been demoted, dismissed, or denied any rights to make me into anything else BUT what He wants me to become.
Peter might have wondered if he should choose as Judas did and simply quit living. Peter also betrayed Jesus (with Peter, no money changed hands and he had no intent to betray Him as Judas did).
But Peter chose to remain alive (thankfully) and find out what it meant to really live. If Christ had not personally sought him out, it’s fair to wonder where Peter might have ended up.
I remember wondering if I was serious and sincere about salvation, or if it a seasonal, superficial “phase” I was going through. I had just experienced the trauma of a suicide attempt. Was I thinking clearly, or was I simply crazy? Was I trying to make sense out of self-inflicted trauma, or was I spouting nonsense and only traumatizing myself even more?
I know what you mean when you speak of “eternal perspective.” This world we live in revolves around the temporal. How does one keep their eyes on the ONE thing they can’t see, but the ONE thing that will remain after everything else is gone—-the Lord Himself?
I try to think of the many so-called temporal things we do in His name: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving water to the thirsty.
My prayer is that I know these things are temporal: food is eaten, clothing wears out, and water is drunk.
But I pray they will make an eternal impact. The food is a reminder that He knows we need to eat to live. The clothing is a reminder that He cares when we are shivering. The thirst that is quenched is a reminder that He that made our bodies knows it cannot live without water.
Think of someone you may have done this for. You might see them in Heaven. You might know that He used you to plant a good seed on good soil, and it yielded an amazing crop.
Live in this world, meet those temporal needs, but ask for an eternal impact.
I remember having similar thoughts of self-doubt and self-questioning. In my case, the thoughts were prompted by what my mother and some of my other relatives said to me. None of my family know Jesus. I remember them saying or implying that they thought my Christianity was probably just another fad, like the fads they had seen me get into when I was in the New Age. They didn’t say it harshly, it was only a few words here and there, but what they said made me deeply question myself — was my conversion just another fad?
I tossed and turned that question around and I always came up with the answer that Jesus IS real. I met Him. I know Him. He revealed Himself to me without me seeking Him or wanting Him.
I thought Jesus was a load of bunk but He revealed Himself to me despite my scorn of Him.
I know that He loves me. I know it in the depths of my being. I know He is more real than all of this world, more real than all this time-space continuum in which I currently live and interact with other human beings who, like me, are souls in bodies.
I concluded decades ago that my conversion to Jesus Christ is not just another fad of mine. When I read the Bible He speaks to me off the pages. I keep on learning more from Him every time I read and re-read the Bible. I pray and answers sometimes come miraculously, overnight, or in a split second, or delayed but just at the right time. Sometimes I have not even formally prayed, I’ve just thought a vaguely articulated wish / hope for something and sooner or later I get an inner prompting to do such and such, and I follow the prompting and my wish / hope ‘prayer’ is answered in a way I could never have expected. And then I think “oh, I wished for this, and now it has happened. God has given me my wish even though I didn’t formally ask / pray to Him about this.”
I have battled demons (literally) and used the name of Jesus to command them to stop attacking me. The demons and dark forces have fled. I have put this to the test numerous times. This is not a formula — my guess is that it is only effective if you have been born again and know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.
If someone has not been born again but mouths the name of Jesus to command demons, the demons are likely to scoff at that person. Demons can overpower and harm unregenerate people who wield the name of Jesus in their own strength (Acts 19:13-20). Hubris. Arrogance. Presumption. The sons of Sceva.
Barb, that was a beautiful story you shared! I was in my first year of college when the Lord started to seek me out.
The word “college” can be synonymous with “experimentation,” meaning you are trying to “find” yourself and college life provides a lot of ways to explore and experiment as you attempt to nail down a path that “fits” you as an individual.
I believe that your soul is too precious to experiment with, and exploring or entertaining HOW that soul can be saved or redeemed is nothing to trifle with. At any age. But again, college life can open a lot of paths to do just that. I was in a terribly vulnerable state at the time as well and so my judgment was understandably questionable.
I met the Lord through a pretty high energy group of Christians. From the start, I saw the fine line between worshiping Him with upbeat music and worshiping Him from the heart. I questioned if it was more like champagne going to our heads (a sort of euphoria) or if it somewhere in the excitement, the intent of worship was getting lost.
I was a pretty high energy person back then, so you can see how I wondered if I was caught up in another “fad.”
(I eventually faded away from the Pentecostal, Charismatic-type denominations. When the music loses its edgy appeal, the legs are too weak and tired to keep jumping up and down, when your broken heart needs more than an hour of “Biblical” excitement, it’s time to find a quiet place in a corner, away from the crowds.)
Barb’s testimony was wonderful:
This was me in a nutshell. I hated Him with everything in me, but I thought He hated me first. I mean, look at the life He put me into. So I was simply responding in kind. Was I truly expected to be “nice” about His so-called contempt for me?
Imagine hating the most beautiful, kind, generous person for no good reason. Instead of hating you back, this person comes looking for you. And instead of being curious, you hate that person even more for trying. Why would someone you hate NOT hate you in return, and THEN come looking for you?
The “God is love” narrative amused, angered AND appalled me to no end. Imagine that person you hate trying to seek you out, and that person brings you a bunch of roses, simply as a gesture of love. Just to break the ice.
Well, I flung those roses into His face and stormed off. Multiple attempts, multiple times and multiple rejections from me. “Why won’t you just leave me alone? I hate you so you should hate me back. I’m not interested in you, and I have enough problems of my own, so please go away. By the way, these problems are your fault, so if we DID ever talk, you’ll eventually hate me after you hear WHY I hate you so much. And I won’t hold back, so take the hint and take a hike.”
I’ll fast forward to when we DID finally talk and I started to read the Word.
It makes no bones about how you WILL suffer if you become born again. For me, this would have been the ultimate turn-off from the Lord. The one thing I was 100% against. The LAST thing a person already in pain wants is MORE pain.
When you first read that, you can understand them but not necessarily process them. I had no idea what my life would be like in Him, including the suffering He assured me I would face. This was not about knowing what I would or would not face. This is about knowing how to TRUST Him as I faced whatever did or did not lay ahead.
Abuse is one of the strongest forms of betrayal. Reading about His sufferings, including His betrayal, indicated that God just MAY know something about pain and suffering. Maybe He hated my sufferings as much as I did. Maybe I shouldn’t hate Him for my sufferings. Maybe I should trust Him with them instead.
I had attempted suicide a few months before I met Him. The Word includes stories of godly people who either wanted to die (Jeremiah, Elijah), and those who did end up killing themselves (Saul, Judas). Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.
I had a rough start with Him. I struggled to get my feet wet and then keep them on the straight and narrow. I fell down a lot and fell down HARD. This could easily prove how flaky I was. Maybe I was, but as I said before, this wasn’t about me “finding” Him. Since He worked so hard to find me, I knew He wouldn’t let me go without a fight. He held on to me regardless if my grip on Him was shaky or nonexistent, even.
I don’t recommend this sort of lifestyle of course. I struggled to run TO Him, not AWAY from Him, because frankly that was all I knew for so long. Make no mistake, He knew this about me. He knew EVERYTHING about me.
To tie this with James’s post: I was His enemy. I either actively attacked Him, or passively rolled my eyes at Him. Instead of vaporizing me, He used just enough “force” to neutralize me, but not to kill me. To talk to me: “Why are you persecuting Me?”
No, I wasn’t quite the enemy of Him like Saul was (who became Paul). But that flash of light He showed Paul could have killed him in an instant. That wasn’t His intent. I believe God was defending His name (which Saul was ignorantly blaspheming), defending His believers (who Saul was ignorantly persecuting), and defending Saul / Paul himself (who needed to be brought to task—“why are you doing this?”).
I struggle with wanting to hurt those that hurt me as much as possible. This is never a a good idea. I do NOT, however, suggest seeking out and taking roses to abusers!
The reason why Christ reached out to me is because He created and loved me, died for me and wanted me to belong to Him. So He sought me out.
I suggest that we don’t seek them out at all, to hurt or gift them. Let the One who DID create, loves and died for them—-deal with them. He who loves them will, in that love, judge them. This is not a passive reaction, IMO. This is simply knowing when to shake the sand from your sandals and move on.
Responding to James 1ST JANUARY 2020 – 11:44 PM:
Wow. Barb picked up on what I am “wowing” about; hope I can add a bit to it:
(First I appreciate that you too know that you don’t have it all figured out, how to love our enemies! It’s great to find out, of course, but good to know we’re not alone.)
This is tricky. Too often I have heard the argument of: “feel sorry for the abuser. What must he or she have suffered in order to do what they are doing?”
First of all, I’m a victim of abuse and if I chose to abuse another, it would not MATTER that I was abused myself. There is no justification for choosing to inflict abuse on the innocent. It was wrong when I was being abused, and it’s JUST as wrong if I chose to abuse. Perhaps even more: what the heck am I doing, inflicting similar harm on another that I know only too well? I know those tears personally, why I am causing them instead of preventing them?
Thank you for bringing a sensitive but significant topic up—the never ending wars in the Middle East. I know it’s a tough and touchy subject. You handled it VERY well.
I despise lethal force in general. If and only if we are attacked, and if and only if we need to defend ourselves—-I would prefer that we use non lethal methods. I know that’s not always 100% possible. But I would like to spare as much human life as possible. Because:
It’s too easy, too common to dehumanize anyone we consider to be our enemy. Perhaps we figure that this is the only way we CAN fight our enemies. They’re blips on a screen, images on a computer, targets to train your weapons on.
Sound familiar? This is how abusers work, IMO. They dehumanize us in order to effectively attack us. They treat us as targets to train their tactics onto. That way, obstacles like “empathy” are swept under the rug.
When I have been treated as an enemy, the message I got is that I deserved what I got. It is not about WHAT exactly I got, the point is that I deserved it. If it was excessive, that’s better than not enough—-at least you got the message, loud and clear. “Be afraid. Be very afraid. Don’t make us angry. You see what we’re capable of. We cannot responsible for how our anger leads us to react. It is a force NOT to be reckoned with.”
(By the way, my abuser used to warn me to not make him mad. When I looked back, his tone was not only threatening, but almost desperate. It was like his anger was controlling him, and he had no control over what it would lead him to do. This made me even more afraid.)
This is tricky. Excessive force doesn’t always accomplish that purpose. Human beings don’t always fade into fear-based, numbed obedience—-they might retaliate with their own version of excessive force. They may do whatever it takes in the name of survival as well.
The worst about this what we sickeningly label as “collateral damage.” The civilian populations that had nothing to do with whatever choices their authorities made, but they’re paying the ultimate price for those choices.
In abuse, this happens all the time. Children of abused parents carry their own scars, for example. They were born into a mess they didn’t create.
I look forward to the day when the only blood that we speak of being shed is the blood He shed for us, only ONE time, for ONE purpose—-that gave purpose to our lives, saved our souls, and gave us eternal life to boot.
Helovesme, I agree with your thoughts on the Matrix. And for the purpose of our discussion, isn’t that a good example of one of the devil’s schemes? Because there is some apparently friendly to the Gospel elements, we are willing to overlook a lot of sin and evil that is being put forward as acceptable and okay. Movies make violence look like it’s the only option and it’s the cool option of choice for those who are savvy, with it and confident and assertive.
I can also relate to your story about finding yourself in a theatre with something on the screen that just became more and more unbearable to watch. I can feel how agonizing that situation was and I could see myself supporting what your conscience was saying to you. If it was making you spiritually ill, that was a good enough reason to politely excuse yourself.
I think that the church right now isn’t very separated from the world and situations like you described are more common, as many modern Christians have the spiritual sensitivity of a road mending crew. I think that the idea that we can expose ourselves to evil and wickedness being done by others whether in reality or on a screen and not have it affect our minds and thus, our hearts, is serious error.
I used to think that Christians of yesteryear who rejected theatre-going and other worldly forms of entertainment and behaviour were uptight legalists. My thinking has undergone a sort of slow revolution in this regard; while I am sure there were legalists then as now, I think that perhaps these Christians correctly understood that you can’t hang around barbershops without eventually finding yourself inside in a chair getting a haircut. They correctly understood that friendship with the world is enmity with God and was a serious threat to their walk with God. We seem to lack that today. I chose what to watch back then on the basis of whether or not I liked it or was entertained by it. It didn’t occur to me to think, how will this affect my heart? How will this affect my purity or my desire to follow Christ?
Barb, your words about Jesus seeking you though you scorned him gave me hope and encouragement. I have often wondered why it seems as if He does not seek me in any way I can recognize and feared that it is because I have been so stubborn prideful and disobedient. So hearing that He pursues even when we are still enemies is very encouraging.
Haha! That made me chuckle. 🙂
No offence to anyone who makes their living from working on a road mending crew. We all need to have money to live. And road mending is an honourable occupation — far better to earn your money that way than by selling drugs or making porn or trafficking children to pedos.
Yes, I agree, road mending is a necessary trade and a valued one. We wouldn’t be going anywhere fast without it. The sensitivity aspect refers to the heavy and blunt tools and the force necessary to break up rough pavement which by nature is not delicate work, so yes, no insult to the actual persons engaged in the trade. 🙂
Good clarification, thanks, KoA. 🙂
I picked up on the humor from the “road mending” crew as well. Stayed with me. Barb was incredibly sensitive to clarify that no one was mocking the actual occupation, and K of A’s comment sealed the deal well. I likely would not have picked up on the valid need for those clarifications, which ironically I now question my own level of sensitivity. I’m only slightly poking fun at myself, but truly I have a ways to go.
Almost every time with K of A comments I keep relating to them. What you mentioned about so-called rigid, possibly upright Christians was right up my alley. It’s almost exactly how I felt. Dang if I’ll become so strict on what I watch or listen to. God is in charge of course, but I still have a mind of my own.
The Bible is interesting in that it promises freedom in Him, yet this freedom is to be found in obedience to Him. For me, obedience meant following a bunch of commandments, rules that took away any sense of free will, individuality. “You don’t have a say, you just do as you’re told.”
Then the Bible explains that Gentiles will look down on you for not pursuing the same things they do. Things that they find to be fulfilling. In fact, others will promise freedom but they will only put you into greater bondage.
Now I understand a bit more clearly. Your comment explained it well as to how we are affected by things far more than we realize so no need to add to it except to say well said.
James / Barbara,
Fabulous post. I’ve wanted to comment for a while but have had difficulty formulating my thoughts into a coherent comment.
As you both know, I’ve come to view Jeff Crippen. who co-founded this blog with Anna Wood, as an abuser. In his own words, as well as Barbara’s, this blog was initiated to promote Jeff and Anna’s book , “A Cry for Justice”, which Barbara edited for them.
Subsequently, God has used and continues to use ACFJ to bless His children who are abuse victims / survivors. I’ve learned much from ACFJ from both the posts and the comments.
It grieves me that Jeff exhibits the very characteristics he preaches against. When Jeff turned on Barbara, in an unprovoked online social media stoning on the ACFJ Facebook page, because he could not control her or the blog (after he publicly declared his retirement from the blog), Barbara exhibited the kind of Biblical self-defense as outlined in this post.
As you both know, a few months ago, I, via social media directly and indirectly confronted those who participated in the stoning, (I tweeted a link to a paper I wrote, tagging those whose Twitter handles that I knew of – except Jeff Crippen). I did it in defense of Barbara and his other victims and with the hope to preclude him from hurting more abuse victims / survivors. Although I had not tagged Jeff because he is the predator, I expected him to find out in short order (hence my statement of indirectly confronting) and was correct. He blocked me within one day. He did not repent nor did I expect him to as abusers do not repent.
In my paper, I exposed his abuse in his own words to include blatant dishonesty, manipulation, and many of his vile, reviling tweets. Although he blocked me, via another Twitter account I’ve occasionally looked at his Twitter feed. His reviling on Twitter from that day forward ceased because he was caught. (I suspect he also scrubbed some of his tweets from a few weeks prior. You have to go back to July or earlier to see the real Jeff. He may scrub more if he gets wind of this comment.)
In writing both the paper and this comment, I’ve wanted to do as Helovesme stated regarding the Hippocratic oath. In the quest to heal (or in this case protect), I do not want to hurt the victims who look up to him / follow him. Yet I want to protect them from trusting him / sharing their hearts with him, as they may become emotionally / Spiritually abused by him.
Some of Jeff’s writing is good, some of it is not, and he is not. Jeff on his blogs with faux sanctimony has a disclaimer that he is no longer associated with ACFJ. In my opinion, ACFJ should also have a carefully worded disclaimer regarding Jeff, not so much for self-defense although it is justified, but because Jeff is not safe.
Now having said that, getting it off my chest, I have really enjoyed reading the comments, dialogue between the commenters and James / Barbara. I learn so much from all of you and love seeing the community / sanctuary provided here.
I have some of my own thoughts on Peter; yes, technically he denied knowing Jesus. But he was physically there precisely because he did care and it took a lot of bravery to be there. He was just trying to protect himself while still being present. In my opinion, the bigger betrayal would be from the disciples who fled. Likewise, commenters, you too, are brave doing what it takes to survive and keep the faith. Don’t sell yourselves short. ☺
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.
Thank you, Sister, for contributing to the discussion on this post. And thank you for encouraging James and myself.
For those who want to read Sister’s post about Jeff Crippen, here it is:
Jeff Crippen is Unsafe [Internet Archive link]
When you first published your post about Jeff Crippen, I decided not to publicise it. But that was quite a while ago now. People have had plenty of time now to reflect on what went on and what went down. So I’m okay about giving readers a link to your post now.
I will consider your suggestion that I write a “carefully worded disclaimer about Jeff Crippen” for the well-being of those who might admire and follow him. The optics of me doing that are the problem. Some people who still follow Jeff might spin whatever I write here about him as more ‘proof’ that Barb is not godly and is off balance.
Wanted to say “thank you” to Sister’s comment and I would like to read your paper if I can set aside some time. I bet it will be well worth it if your comment is any indication.
It’s your last paragraph that gave me a bit of humble pie to swallow! I never thought of Peter’s presence, trailing Him after He was arrested to be as meaningful as you pointed out. That certainly did take bravery. Thank you so much for sharing that.
And for tying in this post to that awful, awful time you referenced. It fit in perfectly but again, you put it out there just right.
The reason I could never agree with any notion that Barb was or still is either abusive (I can’t recall the exact words) is because of one simple fact: I believe Barb has grown in Him as evidenced by her words and actions. This is how we know who is truly of Him.
I’m glad you stood up for her and thank you for it.
Thank you for your kind words. No humble pie necessary. You didn’t say anything wrong. Peter did feel shame as evidenced by his weeping bitterly after denying knowing Jesus. I meant what I said about you being brave like Peter.
You were and are 100% correct. Jeff’s pattern, conversely, is never being wrong on anything, accepting criticism from no one, and being deceptive / vindictive while giving the appearance of being an advocate. That’s what makes him so dangerous.
You’re welcome and thank you for including the link!
Sister, thank you for your astute application of this post to:
It’s hard enough to deal with abuse from an individual or from a church (be it mega or small), but when abuse comes from within the advocacy community, it is shocking and a very hard pill to swallow. Yet, we must be awake to not only naïve or willfully blind enablers, but to actual wolves among us.
I saw that horrible public stoning of Barb on social media (by professing Christians and abuse victim advocates, no less), as well as read your paper which thoroughly documents it and clearly outlines Jeff’s longstanding pattern of behavior. I also saw the horrible things on Jeff’s Unholy Charade blog post disclaimer about ACFJ, along with some hateful, personal comments (still up, 1 year+ later) against Barb. (Their policy of publishing comments seems to apply only to those saying what they agree with; and as to moderating for the safety of victims – also applying only to victims in said group.)
And as you say, Jeff has scrubbed the incriminating tweets from the “Unholy Charade – Jeff Crippen” Twitter account. It now only goes back as far as October 2018, but months ago I saw it going back to 2013, and had numerous links to ACFJ posts (when he was demanding Barb remove all of his previous ACFJ posts & no longer reference any of them in future posts). Also there, was proof that the ACFJ blog domain was under his control (harking back to the shock waves created when the blog crashed in March 2019). Yep, all scrubbed nice and tidy now.
Just two more points (although your paper gives many more) which lend support to the picture of a man who tightly controls the narrative and perhaps blurs some appropriate procedural lines: 1) His DV blog’s blogroll has only TWO listings, one of which is his other blog. (Hmm, basically zero interest in any other voices or advocacy work?) 2) People can donate to ‘his work’ – which he loosely defines as including his two blogs and church. He directs donations to his church, a 501(c)3 organization, or through PayPal. (See Unholy Charade’s Resource page and Home page under Donations for details.) To my knowledge, no other DV or spiritual abuse bloggers does any such thing. (I welcome correction or clarification on this point.)
I accept that it is pretty hard to convince many of Jeff’s followers (many of whom have simultaneously made Barb their enemy), that he is not what he presents. But to the sincere, searching victims, I think your words here, Sister, are the briefest and gentlest for them to consider before possibly being hurt:
And from your reply to Helovesme:
I’m sorry for this lengthy comment going somewhat off topic from this excellent post on “Jesus On Violence”.
No, thank you, Gany T., for that response and don’t apologize for its “length.” First of all, it was a fast and good read, and second of all—have you seen the length of some of MY comments? So you have nothing to worry about. 🙂
I cannot imagine how your comment does NOT fit into this topic. Self-defense goes WAY deeper than just defending your physical life.
I don’t want to add in too many of my own details of that horrible, horrible time that is being described here. Barb is also a survivor of abuse, and I don’t want to put anything out there that she doesn’t need to be reminded of. Although I don’t think she is against us speaking about it, I’m trying to be sensitive as well.
Instead, I’ll put out some of my OWN experiences (as briefly as possible) when it comes to attempts to defend not your body, but your character when it is under attack.
Ironically, your body, though not being directly threatened—is likely to suffer when your persona is being attacked. I was bullied badly in school, but never physically. But my stomach and nerves and paranoia and anxiety were very real, bodily experiences before and during and after being bullied.
I’ve been bullied by professing Christians as well. They never laid a hand on me, but in professing Christ, they could add spiritual bullying to verbal and emotional bullying. FYI: I consider bullying to be synonymous with dehumanization. They minimize your intrinsic worth as a human being in order to treat you as no human being should to be treated. All abusers are bullies, IMO, but not all bullies are necessarily abusers, or will become abusers.
Whatever the label, however, the damage caused is real and consequential—-sometimes permanently.
I looked for defenders, but found none. Siding with someone like me will not gain you anything. I had nothing to offer them. I’m not powerful or influential. There is power in numbers and I am a party of one. In fact, your “stock” will likely plummet if you side with an “inferior” like me. Think politics: side with or support with an unpopular issue or person, and it’s toxic for you. You will not win elections, not remain in or gain power.
This is perhaps just as bad, if not worse, than being bullied by those you consider to be your own, linked by the same blood that saves us all. As it’s said, we didn’t KNOW at the time that those that who professed Him, weren’t necessarily OF Him. Or, if they are truly born again in Him, they have some real repenting to do. If that doesn’t happen, we rightly should consider them dangerous.
I’ve gotten in MORE trouble when I have attempted to defend myself, others or dare to call something out as wrong, hurtful or offensive. I’ve also been a coward and backed down more times than I wish to admit—and again, that too caused trouble. So I know the struggle. You pay a BIG price for boldness but you pay a BIGGER price for cowardice.
Let me make sure to clarify. Boldness is more than just being brave and refusing to back down. Cowardice is more than just being fearful and backing down. Both scenarios come down to a matter of trust—Who you trust. And WHY you trust Him. You believe His Word. You believe specific words in His Word: stand up for the oppressed. Stand up TO the oppressor.
Most importantly, you cannot be bold apart from Him. You don’t “work up” the strength to be bold. You let Him work in you and it naturally flows out of you. It is a work of Him that we freely submit to (so we DO participate in this work; it’s not a passive thing!). But “apart from Him, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). I assume nothing means no exceptions. 🙂
Back to my standing alone. Technically, I was not alone of course. The Lord never left my side. For those that COULD have stood with me, they should have known the same thing. If they dared to stand with me, perhaps they would feel snubbed or shunned, especially if they were only ones that sided with me—-but they would not have been alone. He would be with them.
Standing for, standing up for, standing IN His righteousness often means that you stand against others—the very others that profess His righteousness, but are not standing in it.
Someone once asked how, as Christians, the unsaved knows us as Christians (they were asking, I think, for personal experiences to offer).
Here was mine: You need to be wiling, in order to profess Christ, to stand up to the ones that claim to profess Christ. When it’s necessary, of course, not as an ordinary course of action!
Imagine being on the outside looking in. You are out in the cold, looking into a window into a house that is warm and welcoming—-but you’re not included. Because you don’t fit into their system of beliefs, which fuel their systems of behaviors. They profess a “hybrid” form of righteousness that does not honor Him. It also leaves a wide path of carnage in its wake.
The second commandment is not secondary. Everything we are in Him revolves around how we treat others. Everything we are in Him revolves around Him loving us first, so we love Him in return. As a result of that, we love the others that He too loved first—-and love them.
This is NOT a brag comment. I ended my answer to that question by making it clear that I have racked up more testimonies of failure than faith. However, I am hoping that the unsaved will see that He has not forsaken me despite all that—-maybe they should check Him out?
It is proper to remember that He defends us daily. The devil is the accuser of the brethren, cursing and reviling us nonstop. The devil lives to accuse us, but He [Jesus] lives to intercede for us. I’d like to think we know Who will come out ahead. 🙂
It is 100% proper to cry out for His intercession, and depend on it as well. And to not forget that He doesn’t stop interceding for us, just because no one else will. In fact, I’d like to think He goes into overdrive when He knows how alone we are. 🙂
He is a covering that will clothe you when you are on the outside in the cold, naked and shivering. Let Him warm you with His love, when the ones in that house kicked you out. Let Him welcome you into His heart, when the ones in that house refused you hospitality.
Gany T. commented (6TH JANUARY 2020 – 5:53 AM):
And in reply:
Helovesme commented (6TH JANUARY 2020 – 12:20 PM):
For me, the length (or lack thereof) of a comment is less relevant than the actual content (meat) of the comment.
For me, many ACFJ blog commenters provide more sustenance in their comments than many pastors / theologians / etc. provide in their sermons / “sermons” / etc.
For me, Barb provides sustenance in her comments / blogs / Twitter / etc. without “preaching” / preaching.
^That statement often does not apply to other survivors / advocates / etc.
Thank you, Helovesme. Your comment blessed me enormously. I found my hands lifting in prayer and praise many times as I was reading it.
Thank you, Helovesme (6TH JANUARY 2020 – 12:20 PM). Lots of good thoughts, just two of which are 1) a general truth, and 2) an observation which really hit me during and after the public stoning of Barb on social media, Fall of 2018.
First, all blood-washed believers will experience this, be they very private individuals or in the public eye. You said:
And, gratefully, this:
The second is regarding standing alone and the lack of defense by “C”/Christians who are in the public arena, be it ministry, advocacy, & / or social media. Without reiterating all the publicly stated grievances and “concerns” (“for Barb,” personally, and for her ACFJ followers), and after my initial shock and disappointment, I now just accept these, too, as truths. You said:
Jesus categorised people in three ways – shepherds, sheep and wolves. “Peter, feed my sheep”.
The Apostle Paul also used these three terms and warned repeatedly that the wolves would come amongst the believers.
My blog post centred not only on the principle of self-defence but also the people who use it; “The Meek”. Better terms these days might be “Defenders” or “Guardians”. They are the shepherds. Shepherds feed the sheep and defend against the wolves. This is exactly what Sister was doing in writing her post about Jeff Crippen. She was defending the sheep against the wolf in their midst.
So I would agree with Helovesme in saying that Sister and Gany T. are bang on target with their comments and writing and entirely in line with the subject matter of “Jesus On Violence”.
Wolves most often masquerade as shepherds. So how do we tell them apart? By what they say and write as well as what they do.
Shepherds use facts and reason to make their case. Wolves use lies and emotions to make theirs. Sister meticulously documented her case against Jeff Crippen using his own words and behaviour and tied it all together using logic and reason. There were no gratuitous attacks or insults. Wolves typically lie, of course, and their tactics include appeals to their own authority and baseless insults towards their targets.
Wolves are also never to blame….for anything! They are perfect! Shepherds will humbly examine criticisms of their behaviour – acknowledge valid criticisms and defend against invalid criticisms. They wish to improve themselves. We saw this playing out with Jeff’s attacks and Barb’s response.
Shepherds defend themselves but also defend those they have a responsibility towards and we all have some level of responsibility as shepherds towards each other as sheep in defending against lies and destructive behaviour.
Given that wolves are always looking for ways to maximise harm to others, defending against false teachings and accusations as Sister and Barb have done is the way to minimise harm. This is what we are all called to do and what we are all designed by God to do.
Here endeth the lesson. 🙂
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.
Hi, Gany T., I don’t think your comment went off topic. And I appreciate you expressing your thoughts and observations, especially about the scrubbing of some tweets from the Unholy Charade – Jeff Crippen Twitter account. I haven’t been looking at that Twitter account since Sister published her blog post. I have more important things to do than track what Jeff is doing on that account. 🙂
To my knowledge there are other DV or spiritual abuse bloggers who have 503(c) organisations and invite their readers to donate $$. The one that comes to mind is Give Her Wings. But I can’t think of any DV or spiritual abuse bloggers that receive donations directly to a bricks-and-mortar church. I don’t know everything though. And my memory is not perfect! (Whose is?)
Barb, I am very glad you were more blessed by our comments (and hopefully less or not at all re-triggered or re-traumatized)
You set an example for us, not by your lack of shortcomings but by how you handle them. And in how you respond to the shortcomings in others.
Victims of abuse may understandably REALLY struggle with this. Our abusers may have taken taken our actual shortcomings and abused us for them. Then they may have fabricated shortcomings about us, deceived us into believing they were real.
This is all designed to make us as miserable as possible. When you don’t even know how to discern actual reality from distorted reality—all you know is that we all sin and fall short of His glory. And our abusers never let us forget that, weaponizing both factual and fictional shortcomings to make sure we feel as bad about ourselves as possible. Hopeless, even. And certainly “stuck” in as much shame as possible.
If a person has a broken leg, it is 100% logical to conclude that they will have either limited mobility or none at all for a time. So no one will be upset if that person, say, doesn’t show up to a social function. They’d understand.
Now imagine if someone dared to scoff at that person for not using their good leg to drag themselves to that party so no one would miss them. Hopefully everyone there would defend that person and rebuke such unkindness, right there and then.
Imagine a heart, spirit or mind broken by the trauma of abuse. If you’ve ever felt that inner brokenness, you know that while your limbs are in working order, it can be hard to get out of bed. Hard to put one foot in front of the other. Your inner brokenness is affecting your outer mobility, but unlike a broken leg, this is a brokenness that cannot be easily seen, if at all.
When you feel broken like that, socializing might take too much out of you. It took enough to get through the day, right? Now you want to reserve your strength to face the next one. So you may withdraw a bit, remain private about your pain, but overall you mean no harm to anyone.
Now imagine that social function. Where is so and so? She has no reason to not be here. Now a scoffer steps in, suggesting that she doesn’t really care. More scoffers jump in now. “Yes, she always seemed a little weird. A bit anti-social, even. Maybe she thinks she’s too good for us. Well, maybe we’re too good for her.”
Let’s say they know, or find out what’s really going on—-during or after the party. Do you think that will change anything? Will anyone still defend her at the party, or feel repentant for judging her too quickly, too easily? And reach out to her, offering to socialize with her one-on-one (much easier than in groups) or offer a spiritual “crutch” while her inner mobility is fragmented?
One of hardest things for me, personally, when I try to talk about my past or present traumas—-is not knowing who I can trust. I need to know that they have my back. They’ll defend and protect and guard my privacy, not to mention my fragility—-should the need arise. They will not rush to randomly attack, but they will not passively stand by if the threat is real. They will not go looking for a fight, but they will not back down from one, either—-again, as this post so well describes—only if you must, and only fight back in a way to protect and disable, not destroy and terrorize.
So it’s hard to know who you can trust, even and especially with professing Christians. Sadly, I’ve had a terrible track record in this area.
But take this lesson away from if professing Christians treated you badly. Not only make it a point to not follow their bad example in how they treated your frailties, but aim to BE the kind of person that you wished they had been to you—-to others who are frail. Be a trustworthy person. Honor their trust. Do not abuse it. Do not trample it.
And, NO—no one will be perfected in this area on this side of eternity. That’s why I said to AIM for it—start working on it down here; you’ll be a finished work up there. 🙂
I identify with the difficulty of knowing who to trust.
Here is the strategy which I find helpful. I talk about a snippet. The snippet can be the tip of the iceberg of my personal experience of having been victimized by an abuser. Or the snippet can be a more general abstract statement about the mindset and tactics of abusers. Or it can be a general statement about how society and its institutions often enable abusers. I say a snippet to the person I am talking to one-to-one, and I watch their response.
Their response tells me whether or not they have awareness / insight / compassion / willingness to hear and learn more from me. If their response warms my heart and gives me hope, I tell them another snippet. If their response to my first snippet is blank or judgemental, or they assume they know more than me about abuse and they start pontificating to me by telling me concepts I already know, I get the message that they are not wanting to engage in respectful mutually beneficial conversation on the topic of abuse. So I smile the Mona Lisa smile and disengage.
Finding Answers (6TH JANUARY 2020 – 1:09 PM) – I, too, have received:
And I heartily agree about Barb providing (non-sermonizing, my term) sustenance in her comments / blogs / Twitter / etc., as often noticeably contrasted with other survivors / advocates / etc.
I found ACFJ a little over 3 year ago, but have read posts and comments going back to the beginning of the blog. With the benefit of 20 / 20 hindsight, I see posts and comments that have stood the test of time and….newer or fuller Biblical exegesis and discussion, newer DV research, and greater public awareness. And I also see Barb still standing in this (demanding) work, growing, learning, and apologizing or making adjustments as needed. (How many other authors or counselors or advocates have publicly announced a significant change of mind, prompted by deeper study and the input of those personally impacted by their teaching, as she did with her book and 1 Cor 5? I see quite the opposite as the norm among prominent advocates, several of whom were on the SBC CaringWell team of experts being just one point in case.)
James (6TH JANUARY 2020 – 7:45 PM) – thank you for “the lesson” 🙂 on Jesus’ 3 categories of people (shepherds, sheep, wolves) and more! Very encouraging and helpful in analyzing who all, did what all, (and when) in the situation of Jeff attacking Barb. It’s over a year later, but I find it helpful to have further input (such as your post and comments here) to analyze things, in hopes of growing and being prepared for future inevitable challenges.
I also love the explanation of the meek being better termed these days as perhaps defenders or guardians. Wow, that really sheds a new light on long held views on Christ’s teaching.
Barb (6TH JANUARY 2020 – 7:53 PM) – thank you for reminding me that yes, there are other DV or spiritual abuse bloggers who have 503(c)3 organizations and invite their readers to donate money.
Gany T., thank you for your kind words. You wrote —
At the risk of overdoing all this (and obviously lying when I said previously “here endeth the lesson”!), there is a simple and effective illustration to see which category of person you are dealing with. The illustration comes from the legal fraternity and is meant as advice to young trial lawyers (or barristers where I come from). It has been attributed to multiple people and the wording varies somewhat but in essence it is this —
When you have the facts, pound the facts.
If you don’t have the facts, pound the witness.
When you don’t have the facts and you can’t pound the witness, pound the table!
Shepherds pound the facts; the truth, in other words. These are the defenders and self-defenders (if that is a term).
Wolves, who don’t have the truth, pound the witness; character assassination of the victim, (or the defender) a.k.a Ad Hominem attack in formal logic.
Wolves, as a last resort, pound the table; they throw a tantrum using outright lies and irrelevancies to raise the level of fear, anger and confusion so that no one can think properly and see what they (the wolves) are doing.
There is one footnote to this that I’d like to make. Occasionally, a wolf will have an isolated fact which they will pound on relentlessly blowing it out of proportion in an attempt to shout down any attempt at context or mitigating facts.
Be especially wary of attacks that go like, “SHAME ON YOU!. SHAME ON YOU!” or “HOW DARE YOU!. HOW DARE YOU!” That’s table thumping and raising the emotions to lower thinking.
Anyway, there’s plenty of opportunities to practice this just watching the news (or listening to your pastor / Elder!). The question to ask is — “Is this person pounding the facts, pounding the witness or just pounding the table?”
Thank you, James, for this deeper explanation of shepherds’ & wolves’ styles of operating. Very helpful! (Who’d have thunk it that we could glean such truth from the legal world, lol!) I will remember this:
Thank you, James, for this! I’m summarising and highlighting it here, for the benefit of us all.
Advice given to young trial lawyers / barristers.
The job of the lawyer is to get a win for his client, regardless of whether the client is righteous or wicked. Many lawyers see it as a well-paid game.
Here is how we can apply this as wisdom for our own lives:
To identify whether someone is a SHEPHERD or a WOLF I can ask myself this question —
Shepherds pound the facts; the truth, in other words. These are the defenders and self-defenders (if that is a term).
Wolves, who don’t have the truth, pound the witness — they do character assassination of the victim (or the defender). Ad Hominem attacks.
Occasionally, a wolf will have an isolated fact which they will pound on relentlessly blowing it out of proportion in an attempt to shout down any attempt at context or mitigating facts.
Wolves, as a last resort, pound the table; they throw a tantrum using outright lies and irrelevancies to raise the level of fear, anger and confusion so that no one can think properly and see what they (the wolves) are doing.
Attacks like “SHAME ON YOU! SHAME ON YOU!” or “HOW DARE YOU! HOW DARE YOU!” are table thumping and raising the emotions to lower thinking.
Indeed, Gany T.. 🙂
Reply to James 6TH JANUARY 2020 – 7:45 PM.
Thank you for that wonderful reply. I got a ton out of it.
I will be honest and say I never, ever saw that (the meek seemed to be the ones primarily in need of defending, not put in or able to be in positions of being able to defend others).
However, now I’m like—huh? Jesus Himself was and is meek, and very clearly describes Himself as a Defender and Protector.
I’ve heard the phrase: “meek is not weak” many times over, but real life often taught me that it’s a nice idea, but not translatable into reality. Both the secular AND spiritual world will not often stand for it, or stand up for it.
You never fully abandon aiming for His meekness, but you realize that YOU might be fully abandoned by those that approve of meekness in theory, but show contempt for it in reality. You will pay a price, a much higher one that you anticipated. You can either cling to Him even more, or you simply cave in to them.
And when I say “spiritual” world, I apply that to churches that do not fully cling to His righteousness. There are absolutely “pockets” of real deal Christ-like persons out there and I wouldn’t want to throw them under the bus.
James, I want to thank you again for that paragraph comparing and contrasting wolves and sheep. It was simplicity at its best, but it spoke volumes.
Thank you, Helovesme.
Barb’s comment (7TH JANUARY 2020 – 3:05 AM) on Helovesme’s comment about the struggle to know whom one can safely trust with our past or current traumas. I love Barb’s ‘snippet strategy.’
Barb, that reply was amazing! I hope everyone got a chance to read it.
It is pretty much the exact strategy I too implement. Don’t serve them the full course meal right away. Give them a taste of it first. See if and how they “swallow” it. Did they spit it out, or let it sit there on the plate, cover it up with a napkin (“I can’t swallow what I can’t see”), or did they swallow it and then tell you how awful it was. Aka, sometimes people just don’t want to hear about abuse. It makes them uncomfortable. That is like having to eat their vegetables. “Don’t make me choke down what I don’t want to swallow.” They want desserts all the time, every time.
See Isaiah 30:10:
It’s a “dessert” type illusion that abuse isn’t real, and isn’t painful, and isn’t traumatic. And that it doesn’t happen to anyone you know. But in reality, you just never wanted to hear about it, so of course you are not going to find out that it DOES exist, it IS painful, it IS traumatic, and is DOES happen to people you know. They tried to tell you, but you didn’t want to know.
I cannot stress the last part of Barb’s reply I quoted enough. WATCH their response. If it’s not face-to-face, read their words carefully. Body language speaks volumes, but actual language speaks just as much.
Don’t just look for certain things in their response (or lack of), expect them. Barb listed them out well:
You are worthy of that. It’s not about entitlement (that implies a demand. You want a loving response to be freely given.). You are worthy of loving, caring attention given to you based on your humanity, something that puts us all on equal footing. Your pain matters.
I also adhere to the “one-on-one” aspect Barb mentioned. This is how you can really tell what a person is like—-away from the group-like settings.
Sadly, I’ve had what I THOUGHT were compassionate responses, but there was no real deal substance in them. So I gave them a snippet and I thought it went well, but in reality it went nowhere. I DO have to say that I DO believe they either were sincere at the time, or they thought they really were—-but in reality they meant well but had no intention of following up. Or, they tried to say the right things, what they thought you should hear, or wanted to hear. It doesn’t take much to know that if someone hints that they are hurting, they want to be given (and should be given) comfort.
However, Barb’s model is a great place to jump off from. You will likely have to improvise along the way a bit, learn as you go and anticipate a few curve balls. But when it comes to trust, treat it like a pearl. It is the greatest treasure we have. Who we trust, we love. And who we love, we trust.
Give your biggest “pearl” of trust to the One who not only commands our trust, but is worthy of it. I would say give ALL your trust pearls to Him in theory, but since we are encouraged to form relationships with each other (which requires trust) you do give your trust pearls to others as well as Him.
But if you trusted someone that abused it, that is not because you didn’t trust Him with all your pearls. Someone took your pearl and chose to trample it. It is not because you failed in trusting Him. Someone failed you. And abusers, for all their puffed up pride and self-idolatry—are the biggest failures of all in this aspect. Not their victims.
James, oh my gosh I loved that reply:
I’m sorry to quote so much of his comment in a reply; it was just so well written that I wanted to stress it. The simplicity comes through loud and clear, even though deception (and spotting it) usually does NOT come through as loudly and as clearly.
But with guidelines like those, some of the “fat” falls away from the bone so you can see the “meat” that is right underneath it.
I am actually going to pass this onto someone who I KNOW can really use this. Thank you again, it’s most helpful to me, most of all.
I’m really pleased it was helpful, Helovesme. Thank you. 🙂
I love that quote from the lawyer because you can see it happening.
From the post —
Today when reading Lamentations 3, I saw something interesting in verse 30. I cannot be sure because the pronoun reference is unclear, but it could fit with James’s argument in this post.
My interpretation of this verse — If I give my cheek to the person who smites me, that person who smites me is reproved. That person is filled with reproach.
Barb, while your interpretation assumes the “smyter” is capable of feeling reproach, I don’t see how any other interpretation makes any sense.
So I’ll take that as an endorsement from old Jeremiah!