How Do Normal People End Up In A Cult?

 

If by ‘normal’ you mean well-adjusted people who came from nurturing, caring environments with loving, accepting parents and family then those people do not become members of cults.  It’s those with damaged hearts and souls who appear normal on the outside, usually because of a lifelong ability to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and ‘keep up appearances’, who become cult members.

It is more than your sanity is worth to actually speak up about the pain you experienced from your own family.  So you learn from an early age to be like everyone else.  Most people are not perceptive enough to notice that you are ‘different’ to them, so most of the time it works. However, other people still end up getting the sense that something is not quite right, so you are kept on the outer rim of friendship groups or other groups of people.  That rejection, which has occurred in your life since childhood just keeps on reinforcing the pain you have felt that you are somehow damaged and ‘not normal’ and in your own mind and broken heart, there is a strong need to be approved of.  By somebody, anybody.  Hence the perfect cult victim is created.

I want to stress here that the need to be accepted and loved is absolutely normal.  Every human being is born with this need. You are not abnormal because this need is not met.  You are the result of the actions of those who should have loved but did not.  Recognising this begets the ability to find the source of all love and acceptance and that is Jesus Christ.  We come to Him and He is able to wipe away every tear, to take the burdens we have carried our whole lives and to minister to our broken hearts.  It is, I stress, the God of the Universe, who both fashioned our souls and saved them from destruction, who is the source of all healing and help.  NOT men. Obviously the problem occurs when we conflate men with God and think that pastors or elders should be given the same authority as God in their lives.  God never expects this, it is not biblical, nowhere in scripture does God give men that authority.  Scripture says there is one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus Christ.  No other.  This idea that men and God are one actually comes from the child within.  Our understanding of the fact that a loving human father is not God should come about naturally so that the attachment to our fathers is not damaged.  When we have abusive fathers the realisation that our fathers are not God doesn’t occur the way it should.  Not only are we not loved, but we are abused by the very person who should be caring for us. So we blame God instead of the man.  This leads either to being addicted to religion and religious leaders or it leads to atheism. The reason cults are so intriguing is because they appeal to people’s needs to be accepted, loved, and controlled.

Nobody asks to be born.  A parent makes that choice – to become a parent.  It is therefore their responsibility, as an adult, to take care of the baby they brought into the world.  It is such a common-sensical thing to say, yet so many people in the world do not have that sense.  They actually think that they can treat their children however they wish and there will be no consequences to that.  These parents either have no consciences or they simply choose to go against them.  I personally do not buy the lie that most psychologists peddle that ‘hurt people hurt people’.  This is a never ending cycle without a beginning and without an end, without a purpose and without a solution.  Life itself teaches us that nothing comes from nothing.  Therefore, abuse must start somewhere, and it can also end in the same place, in the mind and heart of an individual.  An individual who chooses to abuse their privileged position as a parent will always reap what they sow.  They reap destruction and pain and chaos.  This is why we have cults and it is also why apparently normal and sane people join them.

I am not a therapist nor a qualified psychologist, but I have studied the subject during university courses and done enough independent study myself to understand a thing or two. I also have my own personal experiences and those of the people I knew from years prior to joining the cult who changed before my eyes.  I have tried to talk these people out of being part of the cult and they have totally refused to listen or to admit that what is happening to them is harmful.  They won’t listen when I tell them what happened to us, they simply tell me that ‘it has nothing to do with us, go and talk to the elders’.  They ignore the decades worth of friendship that we had had previous to the cult membership and refuse to listen to a heartfelt plea from a genuine friend.  Instead, they prefer to cover their ears, avert their eyes and ‘keep calm and carry on’.

Ironically, the reason why this wartime mantra and form of brainwashing was inculcated into the British public was because they were in a constant state of panic and trauma.  Bombs were falling, the universe was being destroyed, but they were supposed to pretend everything was normal and carry on.  If they had not been zombified by the wartime government, they would have rebelled. No sane person wants to participate in war unless there is an alternative.  The British Government ensured that their citizens were reassured that their leaders were in control. This is exactly what cult members are told.  ‘Nothing to see here’, when somebody escapes or tries to tell them what heinous crimes the leaders of the cult have just performed.  They go to their ‘fathers in the faith’ and are reassured that everything is just as it should be. So they ignore what their own senses and minds tell them.  They ‘unknow’ the truth.  Scripture tells us that those who have no love for the truth will be sent a strong delusion.  Yes, these verses relate to the Anti-Christ, but every cult leader is a type of anti-christ and has the spirit of rebellion and apostasy over it.  Everyone who ‘greets false teachers’ will be sharing in their wickedness.  It is important for everyone who exits a cult to repent and renounce the involvement with the false teaching that John talks about in 2 John 1:10.

 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2 (NKJV)

I also know that many of my friends came from ‘negative childhoods’.  Their families were abusive, their childhoods were disrupted.  So they had been looking for belonging, love, and parenting their whole lives.  What many church leaders do, and this is across the board regardless of denomination, is take the place of absentee fathers or abusive mothers.  They take the reins of a person’s life, tell them what to do, reassure them, in short they control them rather than teach them to be independent and to go to God for their support and needs.  The body of Christ is nothing without Jesus.  He is our reason for existence, and the Holy Spirit is our power and strength.  Human beings cannot give us what we are looking for, but because as new Christians we are told that we should join a church and get the help we need from older more mature Christians, many of us end up in unhealthy churches run by control freaks and psychopaths who revel in the fact that their congregations are simply putty in their hands.

People want to be told what to do because they genuinely believe that other human beings can take the place of God in their lives.  They conflate human parenting and the fatherhood of God himself and assume that if they just do what the pastor or elders tell them to do, God will be pleased with them. But God is not interested in having His people become co-dependent upon human beings.  He told Israel, when they asked for a human king to lead them, that a human king would rip them off, send their children to war and destroy their lives.  They would not listen, so God provided them with Saul.  And it happened exactly as God said that it would.  The Israelites were ripped off by their human king.  (1 Samuel 8)

It is still happening today.  People want, for their own personal reasons, to be lead by a man.  So men lead them.  Those men, who were often never even supposed to be in that place at all, end up becoming corrupt and wicked and end up wallowing in all kinds of carnality, greed, sexual impurity, crimes of all sorts.  Then the people become damaged and offended by this behaviour, as well they should.  But what they don’t do is look at why they followed these men in the first place.  Everyone who exits a cult needs to understand how it was that they gave their loyalty to men so easily. Then they need to understand how it was that they were unable to see the abuse for what it was.  It was because they were deceived and led astray by their own sinful flesh.

So does this mean its our own fault if we end up in a cult?  Yes and no.

A man’s sin is his own, and elders and pastors who abuse the flock will be held accountable by God for their sins.  They will be judged harshly for leading the vulnerable astray and many of them will end up eternally punished.  It is not a light or easily dismissed thing to abuse God’s people.  He will avenge them and Himself.

However, we also need to recognise our own blindness.  We need to see how it is that we were so easily led astray and how it was that we were unable to recognise abuse when it was right in front of our eyes.  Many of the people who have left BCF, the cult we were part of (Brisbane Christian Fellowship), have admitted that they knew that the Holy Spirit was trying to get their attention a long time before they actually had the courage to leave.  Most people, I believe, know when something is not right.  They just don’t want to do anything about it in the hopes that it will all go away. But it doesn’t.  It just gets worse.

I have been asked a few times how it was that I ended up in a religious cult for 15 years.  People don’t understand how you can be so sane and yet have made such stupid decisions.  The problem is, I am sane now, I wasn’t then, and they didn’t know me back then.  So what they are seeing is me as the post-brainwashed person.  A pre-brainwashed person is completely different. I used to have terrible panic attacks several times a day.  I would wake up at 3.30 a.m. with my heart pounding and my stomach churning for no apparent reason.  I was just scared of getting another attack.  It took 20  years to finally realise what was happening to me, and it was because the upbringing I experienced was so traumatic. One of the books I read years later was by Sallee McLaren, a melbourne psychologist.  She states that:

One thing that I think needs to be noted is that it is not a coincidence that almost every person I see in my anxiety clinic has come from a ‘difficult’ background. A difficult background simply means that objectively a person has, on average, experienced more distressing events in her or his childhood than other people have experienced. These events could be all sorts of things, like parental separation or divorce, death of someone close, serious illness, school bullying, excessive parental criticism, physical or sexual assault, excessive moving from place to place, or over-protection from parents (which teaches children that the world is a frightening place that they need protection from, and, which also teaches children that they cannot trust themselves and depend upon their own resources and, therefore have to be rescued or over-protected).  Dr. Sallee McLaren’s Blog

I was not able to function as a ‘normal’ adult anymore because the old ‘keep calm and carry on’ mantra no longer worked.  I did the opposite.  I began to feel what my body had been telling me to feel for 20 years.  I panicked and froze and was not able to carry on in any way shape or form. So I began looking for answers.  My first response was to go to church leaders and counselors. Some of these people were genuinely ignorant of what panic disorder is and back in the early 80s there really were very few people who had even heard of it.  Nobody was able to tell me why I was living with totally frayed nerves and yet managing to ‘keep calm and carry on’.  It took a huge toll.

It really is no surprise that five years later I was involved in a religious cult.

I know that this will not be a popular suggestion.  Cult victims should be given sympathy and compassion.  I did not say I didn’t feel sympathy and compassion for cult victims.  I have been feeling sympathy and compassion for my friends in the cult for over 30 years.  It has not helped them though.  I have also seen people who have left the cult try every type of means to recover from their experiences, and the only way I have seen which has any genuine effect is to take a hard look at your own personal experience and work out how it was that you stayed in a cult when you were under so much pressure and feeling so much pain and rejection and loneliness.  The big question is not how you got there, the big question is why did you stay?

So next time you hear a cult victim talk about their experiences, don’t wonder at how such an obviously intelligent person can get themselves involved in a religious cult and be so deceived.  Realise that we are not just walking intellects.  We have hearts and souls which need to be fed and nurtured. And when those needs are not met, we suffer greatly. We will do anything to stop the pain, anything.  We will go to anyone who offers us love and acceptance. The leaders of cults are almost invariably psychopaths and conscienceless individuals who take up their mantles for the very reason that so many vulnerable and hurting people will accept their lies and egotistical behaviour and think they are some kind of messiah.  They want and need a messiah, but the person they really need is Jesus.  These men and women will not lead them to Jesus, they will just suck the life and money out of them until they can give no more and then they will broom them to the kerb.

 

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Drawing Lines In the Sand

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We began this blog as a family and we have covered all kinds of subjects, mainly to do with Christian living and spiritual abuse from cult-like churches. We have recently included some blog posts about specifics regarding our families and why we went no contact with them.

We just wanted to talk about what no contact actually is and what it isn’t and the thinking behind it because a lot of people talk about this on the net, but not a lot of people really understand the reasoning behind it.

Going no contact is not about ignoring or shunning. It is not about revenge and it is not about manipulating in order to get people to do what you want. It is an event horizon.

The phrase ‘drawing a line in the sand’ is something of a misnomer. When you think about it, sand is not something which holds it’s shape. Drawing a line in the sand is more akin to making a temporary boundary than it is to making a permanent one. Drawing a line in the cement is probably a better term to use in this instance. There is time for it to cure and therefore make the line fixed, but after that, it is indelible. Going no contact is about drawing a line beyond which reality changes.  It is a time line but also a paradigm shift. It can be temporary or not, the choice is up to you. And this, for abuse survivors is the most significant property of the no contact decision.  It is a choice we make to protect ourselves from further abuse.  A choice, I say again, that WE make.  When those choices are impugned or resisted we learn to live as viable adults who must accept that life is not simple and that we have to accept these tests of our character. It is where we grow and change.  Therefore the choice to go no contact is not just a border or barrier to abuse, it is a means by which our identity is matured. Through making and keeping boundaries we grow tougher and at the same time more malleable.  We learn to tell genuine belligerence from guileless ignorance.  And there is a difference.  The real wolves, the real life destroyers, are the blissfully unconscionable, not those people who have simply made bad choices.

Discussion online about going no contact, I think, began among those in the narcissistic abuse community. It grew from discussion about how to deal with narcissists in your family or other relationships who won’t stop abusing you. Most people do not go no-contact on a whim. In fact many people report not actually wanting to cut their abusers out of their lives altogether. Others have a great deal of difficulty making complete breaks. It is neither easy nor always possible to go this route. Often there are cases involving children where this is not possible. What is clear though, is that many recognise very early in their journey to health and wholeness that they simply cannot reason with their abusers. This is actually what prompts most people to even recognise abuse in the first place. It is the act of somebody who lacks the ability to use self-control or empathise with others, the act of somebody without a conscience who figures that laws or consequences are for other people.

I want to point out that for Christians, going no contact is reinforced by scripture. If you go to a brother and point out his sin and he refuses to deal with it, take another as a witness and try again. If he still won’t respond, take it to the church, and if he still refuses to change you refuse the sinner entry into the congregation until they come to their senses. No contact in scripture was always a means to get a sinner to stop sinning and keep the congregation safe from their behaviour. It’s all in Matthew 18.

In the case of the cult, we went to them, or rather Steve went to them, in order to talk to them about their behaviour. Steve got a lecture about how I was a ‘bad influence’ and that Steve needed to side with the elders against me and that if he didn’t…. You get the picture. Since we had already been witnesses to at least one family who they had destroyed, we got the picture very quickly. Fortunately for us, Steve stood up to their ridiculous assertions and we parted company. It took 15 years to get to this point. 15 years of trying over and over to fit in, to understand what was going wrong and usually blaming ourselves. 15 years of ‘discussions’ with cult leaders which ended up being more like confessions. During this time our self-respect was eroded, our mental well-being was undercut time and again and our faith in God and in other Christians was undermined. It was inevitable that we would come to the conclusion that enough was enough. The only reason it took 15 years was because they had not ever dealt with us in such a direct and retributive manner. We were being warned that the elders were targeting us, me in particular, because I had spoken to a ‘person of interest’, namely a woman whose marriage they were already in the process of destroying. They knew that if she talked to me, I would know the truth and they would not be able to deal with two of us knowing too much. They had already isolated her and planned on creating a divorce. In our marriage they simply warned Steve that his place was with the elders and their assessment of my danger to them. Steve saw this venality for what it was and made up his mind.

In cults unfortunately, you don’t get to enjoy the benefit of seeing them come to their senses because while you are cutting ties to them, they are cutting ties to you and lying about why you left to everyone still in the cult. They work on the people you know to ensure that they learn their lines, that we are cursed and that they should not have anything to do with us. So trying to explain to others why you are leaving is often completely pointless. They have already been brainwashed against you. Then you get all the fun things like coming face to face with cult members you barely know in the supermarket and having to ‘overhear’ them talking about you in the next aisle, or having to ask them to get out of your way so that you can get something from the shelf right behind them because they are being deliberately obstructive.

In our case, they also invaded our children’s school. Six months after we left, three cult members became teachers on our children’s campus. One of whom was in our home group for a couple of years and was to be teaching our son Nicholas. Nick was only 11 at the time, didn’t understand the dynamics of what had just happened and figured that his new teacher was a really nice lady. Which she was, to him. It was part of the agenda of dividing families.  Unfortunately, she refused to accept that Nick has dyslexia because in the cult, children don’t have learning difficulties because everything is caused by disobedience to the cult leaders. So it became impossible to relate to her. So going no contact was not really an option for us. The minute you leave a cult, you are persona non grata.

As far as going no contact with our families the minute we explained where we were coming from, the more we saw that our siblings in particular were not going to listen to us and were going to protect and agree with our mothers, on both sides of the family. Kind of interesting that both of us had the same dynamics happening.

The fact is that the whole ‘waking up’ crisis involves a deep level of trauma in itself. In effect, dealing with family who support a corrupt leadership is exactly the same as dealing with a congregation who support a corrupt leadership. If its not happening to them they will ignore, minimize, justify, explain and generally blame you instead of thinking that maybe there is something to what you are talking about. People will label you as the ‘crazy one’ rather than take time to understand. If you know anything about brainwashing and group-think, especially in relation to trauma bonding, you will understand that it takes a HUGE shift in thinking and an attendant strong emotional disturbance before you are able to even empathize. People who are not involved in the group will more easily be able to judge your story objectively. We discovered this the hard way. We did not want to have to go and tell our story to strangers, but having come from a cult and then recognizing the same dynamics in our own families, we realized we had no choice. Nobody we knew, nobody who had known us for decades, was going to be able to help us.

In a cult, you may be able to get the other inmates to agree that something is wrong. They may even go so far as to start questioning the status quo themselves. But its’ like being on a piece of elastic. People will only go as far as the elastic allows them and then spring back to their original mindset. It’s a form of self-protection. Any seismic shift in reality is incredibly difficult to manage. Human beings are more likely to stay warm and safe in bed than want to get out and get dressed in the cold. Once you are out however, you realise if you stay in bed, you won’t be living your life, you will be just existing, however warm and comfortable you will be. It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees as the old saying goes. To which I would add, it is better to die in your shoes than be murdered in your beds. You still die, but at least you will have lived first.

So short of deliberately shaking people up you are really forced to make more changes in your life when your family and friends refuse to see the truth and choose rather to continue living with a lie. That is their choice, in the end yours will take you down a different path. What inevitably occurs however, is that while you manfully make your choice and travel down another road, there will be the pain of loss and even further abuse from a family who not only don’t understand your choice but actively oppose it at every opportunity.

So you will have to further consolidate your losses by making the choice to stop the exposure to more abuse. In our cases, we communicated with family members, wrote letters to explain our positions and were met with insults, accusations, fake apologies or attempts to diffuse the situation by saying ‘but we love you so much’ which actually does nothing to deal with the problem at all. Especially when you know that ‘love’ in an abusive environment is not love at all. People can be brainwashed into thinking that they are loved when they get attention, or they are given treats, or they are allowed to spend time with the person they want attention from. It is extremely easy to manipulate people into thinking that the leadership cares about them if the leadership plays good cop bad cop on a regular basis and keeps either the congregation or the group members in a constant state of imbalance, never knowing what is coming next. It is really the definition of “Stockholm Syndrome”. The reason that kidnapping victims end up relying on their captors and in some cases developing romantic relationships with them. They end up getting into a state of learned helplessness and believe that they have to do what they can to survive. Cult members do the same thing except on a much longer term basis. All of the friends we left behind in the cult have been there now for nearly 30 years. Their kids are all married and having kids of their own. It is a loss we feel at a very deep level because our own children were cut off from their friends and should have been having a life with these young adults, and sharing their own children with each other. You might think that we should just get on and ‘get a life’. But bearing the scars of a loss of a friendship group, especially in a christian group where the connection is spiritual as well as social and familial, is not something you can outlive or distract yourself from. These scars are lifelong, they are not to be dismissed lightly and they should be respected. You don’t just ‘get a life’. It is the reason that Christ’s scars remained after his resurrection. His sacrifice for us was not just temporal, it was eternal. Relationships involve deep scars, some sacrificial, some malignant, but we all bear them. It is what makes us human, the images of the God who created us.

Making the choice to go no contact with abusers and their supporters is the very means by which survivors ‘get a life’. We move on with our lives, cognizant of the memories of the people we choose to remove ourselves from, and not without the pain of knowing those relationships will possibly not ever be mended. We have told our relatives, in writing, that when they begin to treat us with respect, we will be happy to talk with them again. The ball is actually in their court. If they want to start talking to us as equals and with a genuine desire to relate in a healthy way, we are happy to talk with them. Nobody has ever taken us up on that. They have simply used our refusal to be treated badly as a weapon against us and even gone so far as to tell their own children that we want nothing to do with them either. This is patently not true. We do not know their children, they have made sure of that. As adults they have their own lives, and they can contact us if they wish to verify what happened. They are not likely to do this unless they experience a waking up of their own through hardship or trauma.

It is really that simple. We have learned to draw the line, to cut off the generational abuse. That may mean that we never have extended family around us until our own children marry and have their own children. We have come to terms with that and do not expect anyone to come searching for us. In fact, we expect the opposite. This blog is not widely read, and probably will never be. It is simply our means of speaking up about what has happened to us and why we have taken the action we have.

We wish no ill on anyone. In fact, we pray to the effect that no ill will happen to our family and even now, knowing that our mothers are old and will very shortly be required to stand and give account to God for their lives, we pray they will be spared the agony of being denied an eternity in His presence. We wish nobody the torment of hell, but since people make their own decisions about God likewise they make their own decisions about hell. I know that our families know the gospel, because we have told them the gospel ourselves. They are without excuse.

28 Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.”

29 “Truly I tell you, said Jesus, “- no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and to receive eternal life in the age to come.

(Mark 10: 28-30)

The Upside of Rejection

 

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Is Shunning biblical?  Short answer – yes.

But lets look more closely at the term shunning. When I use this term, I mean the isolation and rejection of and by people in your social circle and family. It is behviour that has been used by cults to get compliance to orders from their members, and it has also been used by churches to describe the discipline that is metered out to those who won’t listen when they are told to stop sinning. The two are actually very different.

Paul gave the churches instruction on how to deal with reprobates. He frequently told his people ‘from such turn away’, usually from false teachers and brethren who were wasting the church’s time and energy. 2 Timothy 3:5 and 1 Timothy 6:5 are two examples of this. Paul spoke about false teachers being twice cursed (Galatians 1), Peter talked about false teachers and their effects on the church in 2 Peter, and John the apostle talked about false teachers in his second epistle saying that those who greeted them ‘shared in their evil deeds’.

So, if by shunning you mean having nothing more to do with those who refuse to stop preaching false gospels, then it is definitely biblical.

There is even a story told by John’s disciple Polycarp which spoke of the fact that on one instance when John had heard that there was a known false teacher, Cerinthus,  in the bathing house he was going to he left in a hurry, convinced that the roof would fall in because of this person. Now that is the fear of God. Whatever happened to that kind of reverence for the gospel?

Nowadays, there is no such concern among most of the church going public. Those who consider themselves Christian seem to have no real concern about false teachers or their influence. They happily read, listen to and even greet false teachers with open arms. There is no fear of God, no wisdom and no desire for spiritual things. They would not go to the lengths that scripture demands, to avoid false teachers, most church-going Christians today would not even recognise a false teacher because they are so used to false teaching from their own pastors.

Then there is the ‘shunning’ or ‘sending away’ which occurs when churches use the biblical method of disciplining those who refuse to change their behaviour when they have been confronted a number of times by church members.(Matthew 18).  The sort of behaviour I am talking about is usually confined to sexual immorality or abuse. It is the end run of the sort of pastoral care that involves taking church members to task for the kinds of behaviour that affect other church members and even whole churches. It is necessary for the morale and faith of the whole congregation and it is usually not done often and only towards the most reprobate of offenders. It is the equivalent of sending somebody to prison for their crimes. Except in church environments it is used prayerfully and not without a great deal of pain and concern by all involved. Nobody uses the ‘sending away’ principle on a whim, and hopefully there will also be follow through. If the offender refuses to change and does not come back to the church that is their decision. But in most cases, there will be an opportunity for that person to come back when they are ready. Prayer and fasting is usually involved by all concerned.

The ‘shunning’ which is practiced by controlling churches is a different matter however. This type of shunning involves church members literally running away from you if they see you in the street. They will justify their behaviour by saying that the person who left, or was kicked out, is a ‘bad influence’ and they need to oust this person in order to save the offender’s souls. This is not usually the case. The shunning that is done is purely motivated by the flesh and is in fact a punishment for not doing what they are told unquestioningly by their abusive leaders. Most people who are shunned by cults and controlling churches are shunned because they have had the courage to speak up about the abuse. It is not a badge of dishonour, it is more of an indicator of who the church members themselves are.

I want to point out the difference at this juncture between shunning and the issue of ‘going no contact’ with abusive relatives and friends.

If shunning is avoiding spiritual poison, then ‘going no contact’ is about avoiding emotional poison; reprobates and those who refuse to stop abusing you. It may seem like a no brainer, but most people who have been involved in long term abuse have had their brains re-wired. I am not a neuro-surgeon. But I have read a great deal about brainwashing and neuro-plasticity which is the study of the brains’ ability to change the way it thinks. When you have been raised by an abuser, or been strongly influenced by an older sibling who is an abuser, you are taught to think the way the abuser wants you to think. You may grow up believing that you are a good, nice, caring person who serves others and wants to do good for them. In fact, you have been wired to think that this is what you are. You will go out of your way to avoid conflict, you will feel extremely uncomfortable whenever anyone else is angry or upset and you will do whatever you can to defuse stressful or threatening situations, usually by avoiding the person who causes them or doing things that make or keep them happy. If you can’t do that, you will probably end up going out of your way to get into their good books by doing more than you need to do, working harder, or bending over backwards by giving them what they want.

This is a recipe for your personal disaster and nobody has ever gained anything by living this way, except of course the abuser. But the abused person will not even think they are being abused. They will tell you that their abuser is a great person, has many good qualities etc. Sure, they say, he or she may be a bit short tempered and ‘I don’t really like it when they….(fill in the blank) ….but they are definitely not abusive’. The abuser is a nice guy, the victim of the abuse is a nice guy and we all get along famously. Until you get sick  or face some kind of personal difficulty which prevents you being their slave, or finally answer the clue phone and decide you have had enough of being stabbed in the back, treated like a doormat and taken for granted. Then the mouse will roar. However, what the victim needs to recognise is that they were never a mouse to begin with. They actually began life with their own personality, varied, wonderful, talented and quirky, fun to be with, free, happy and enjoying life. It was only when their parent/older sibling/relative began to use them for their own ends that the otherwise joyful child becomes fearful, withdrawn and subservient. Behold, another victim of abuse is created. And your creator is your abuser.

The objects of this kind of abuse is very good at reading people and empathising, anticipating needs and assessing risks. You are a good analyst both of situations and people. You are also probably pathologically terrified of people, in particular those types of people who resemble the abuser you grew up with; namely, narcissists and sociopaths. It takes a huge amount of time and energy for people in this situation to get to the point that they understand what happened to them, that they are not who they have been told they are – compliant, obsequious and servile. You fully believe that you are a great person, although deep down you really don’t like yourself very much. In fact, when you are having a bad day, you actually feel a lot of self-hate because you know instinctively that this is not the sort of life that you want, nor are you the sort of person you were created to be.In fact, to borrow a much loved phrase from A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh,

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

You need to be able to speak up about the abuse, you need to break the silence which has been forced upon you by your abuser, and you need to be able to hear yourself say ‘no’ to them. This will inevitably drag up all of your worst fears, and they are well founded. Most abusers have legendary tempers and you will h ave to face that when you tell them you don’t want to have any more to do with them. Abusers are not open to discussion, they are not reasonable and pliable people. There is a reason they are abusers. So when you speak up, you have to face what you have been avoiding for years.

We do not encourage anybody to speak up to their abuser without a great deal of help and support from others who understand the toxic dynamics of the situation. You need prayer, whether you are a Christian or not, because you are facing, and wrestling with, spiritual forces of wickedness. This is why you have been under so much pressure, you have not just been dealing with a human abuser, you have been dealing with a demonic one as well. Therefore it is a fait accomplis that you will have to break off all connection with them sooner or later for your own mental health. You can no longer continue to live as a slave to somebody else’s moods and whims. You must find yourself again and you must learn to use your voice, your authentic voice, not the one that the abuser gave you, which in effect is their own voice. You have been like the character of Echo in the Greek Myth of Narcissus. She was not able to use her own voice, only to echo back the last words of her lover Narcissus. She was previously a very talkative person who loved to have the last word. She was cursed by Juno because by her talking she distracted Juno and allowed Juno’s adulterous husband’s lovers to get away from her. Echo used to be somebody else, but she became a shadow of her former self, literally, and faded away to nothing as all echoes inevitably do.

As lifelong victims of serial abusers, we learn to echo their words, adore and worship them and throw our lives away in pursuit of their attention and love, only to be rejected and shunned by them.

Now, it feels like shunning to reject and cut off contact from these abusers, but in actual fact you have to do this in order to regain your authentic self. As a Christian, it is important to know who you are before God in order to be able to relate to him honestly and truthfully. We worship Him in Spirit and in truth therefore we need to be able to recognise that our personalities are not what we had previously thought.

Rejection has an up-side. If you are rejecting abuse, slavery and bullying and the people who use these forms of perverted relationship then you are rejecting deception, lies and the castration of your soul. This can only be a good thing. Moreover, once you are no longer living the lie that your abuser forced you to live, you can see the world, and in fact your God in a completely different light and you will be able to partake of the eternal life that God promises us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Christian Narcissists

Dolores-Umbridge-dolores-jane-umbridge-33436436-1024-768
Not a Christian, but looks a lot like one.

Narcissism is not what some people might think.

 

It is not self-absorption or even extreme selfishness.  It is a pathological lack of conscience, empathy, compassion, humility and reasonable self-image which revolves around actual talents and character.  It is about lying every time  you open y our mouth.  It is about thinking about your life as a fantasy of what you want to be and then believing it to be true. It is also about expecting others to believe it even when there is no empirical evidence to support that belief. Incredibly,  Narcissists seem to manage to convince others that what they think about themselves is true. They seem to be able to project an image and convey such confidence in that image that others are manipulated into believing it to be real.

Narcissists do not cope well with denial of their fantasies about themselves. Unfortunately, although they are toxic emotional vampires, they can be very charming and persuasive and make you believe that you are their very bestest best friend at first meeting.  They love bomb strangers and at the same time treat their old friends and relatives like dirt. Then they want to know why you are acting strangely around them. It’s because you are catching onto their behaviour and trying to fit it into the jigsaw puzzle of their lives.  The bits don’t match.  They won’t, they belong to a number of different jigsaws.  The one the narcissist is working on is different to the one  you see. They mess with your head and make you believe you are the one with the problem. So lacking in normal morality and working conscience are they that they can carry on like this with a huge smile on their face and be completely free of any shame, guilt or concern about their actions and their consequences. They are like six-year-olds playing a game and they get just as hostile when you don’t want to play any more.

Narcissists can turn from the cute six-year-old to the homicidal maniac at the drop of a hat.  You might think this is an overstatement, but there have been narcissists of my acquaintance who would easily kill somebody if they thought they would not be caught or that it wouldn’t harm their image.  Fortunately they usually stop short of this and just murder your soul instead.  Murdering somebody’s reputation or character is also a good substitute.  That takes time and effort however, so you would have to have upset the narcissist a lot for them to get to that point. On the other hand if the narcissist has a willing pack of servants, often called flying monkeys on the internet, especially family members, then they can get them to do the dirty work for them.

Narcissists have been known to destroy marriages, families, people’s sanity and their careers and to cause nervous breakdowns and suicide, but not so as anybody would notice.  They attack by stealth and its a campaign of attrition. Only the victim knows anything is wrong at first and afterwards, they still blame the victim when it is clearly the narcissist staring at you with the knife in their hand.

Some psychologists have made the suggestion that Narcissists become what they are because they were abused as children and have never grown up and have no real choice as to how they behave.  But the evidence belies this statement.  Anyone with any intimate knowledge of narcissism, especially if they have been raised by it, grown up with it or married it will know that narcissists are not just abused children.  They are extremely functional adults who know the difference between good and evil, and switch between the two depending on who they are talking to and whether or not there are witnesses.  I have seen children do this as well.  And these children were not abused, they were simply choosing to do the wrong thing to suit themselves, and then to cover it up by charming the person in authority, usually the parent.

I am not a psychologist, although I am an avid student of human behaviour. Having grown up around narcissism, and spent 15 years in a religious cult you have no choice but to deal with it.  It is a case of adapt or die.  You have to learn who your enemy is.  And this brings me to the point of my title.  Christian narcissists are liars.  They are first of all not Christians, because it is not possible to continually sin without conscience and be genuinely filled with the Holy Spirit.  Therefore if a narcissist claims to be saved and moreover is a member of local congregation I treat them with the utmost caution.  So called Christian Narcissists can run churches, preach from pulpits or sit on boards.  They can be married to the pastor or serve on the missionary committee, you will know when you have struck one because they continually leave you stunned with their rudeness and contempt. Should you try and deal with this person they will look and sound as though they are truly interested in helping you come to terms with your stupidity.  They are simply not able to recognise their own sin, and will wipe it off onto you because you are blaming them, the blameless, spotless lamb of God.  I heard an abusive former elder of the religious cult I went to actually say this.  He spent decades preaching a false gospel, abusing and bullying everyone he met yet when they finally kicked him out, and we went to him to ask him to be accountable for his actions, his whole demeanour was one of total innocence. Who me?  How could I be at fault?  Now scripture tells us that nobody is without sin and if anyone says he has no sin he is a liar.  This man had lied to us for a couple of decades and after having been kicked out of his own cult, he was still lying.   However, I once saw a picture of him up on his facebook page.  He had that typical narcissist smug grin.  It is the grin of a naughty child who is making you their co-conspirator.  It’s the ‘we all know I am naughty but you know you love me’ look that very small children are apt to get away with.  Its ugly and its an outright offence against the body of Christ and God himself.

No More Sucker Punches

jo.._peooooo Most would know what a sucker punch is but for clarity I will insert an excerpt from a website on self defence which describes it.

As the name implies, the sucker-punch, also known as the ‘king-hit’, relies on the attacker’s ability to dupe his victim into a false sense of security, lowering their fight-awareness. The practised thug will do this through engaging the victim’s mind with words or movement, meanwhile closing the distance and getting into a good striking position, to then deliver one — and only one — almighty punch. This punch is delivered with full speed and full power to do one thing and one thing only: knock out the victim. In such situations, there is no fight. There is only an ambush, brutality and violence. There is not a loser as such, only a victi

Source: (click to link) While the above paragraph is about physical punches, I want to talk about what happens when you get an emotional or psychological sucker punch. The pain is very similar I believe. I also am convinced that you can get sucker punched in the heart and gut and you can feel the effect of these in the midriff area around or just below the stomach, the same place that you get ‘gut feelings’. Many of us have carried these punches to our hearts all our lives. The result of this kind of emotional bruising is wide spread. Every kind of addiction and obsession can be traced, I believe, to the heart condition of mankind. A hardness of heart can ensure which creates angry hostile people and a world where kindness has become very uncommon. You can get all kinds of emotional sucker punches and they are exactly like the physical kind. You are taken unawares because you believe or trust in the person who attacks you. You have no idea that somebody actually is a ‘practised thug’ as they turn on the charm and convince you that they are the good guy. Alternately, a sucker punch can come from long time friends or trusted authority figures. Often sucker punches come from somebody who you have no reason to believe would betray or hurt you. As the old T.V. ad used to say ‘one punch can kill’. You can be sent flying by just one well placed hit to the heart, say the infidelity of a partner, that you had never suspected. Imagine if you will a life of sucker punches. Many of us have lived them. What happens to your heart and your soul? They become calloused and distrustful. Why should you trust the world when it has rained only continual cursing and hostility down upon you. This, I believe, is the situation in which many find themselves. I also believe that this is why so many have lamented the fact that the world has become increasingly devoid of courtesy and consideration for others. What a couple of generations ago would have been a world of comparable kindness of strangers is now a world where aggression and rudeness are the order of the day. I want to briefly mention here that there are in fact people who are deeply character disordered and actually enjoy giving sucker punches. Psychologists call them ‘malignant narcissists’ or ‘psychopaths’ and claim these ones are often the criminal types who get away with all kinds of rule breaking because they think the rules don’t apply to them. While this may be some kind of comfort to those who are not character disordered, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with them. And the punches to the heart do not heal any quicker simply by understanding that there are dangerous predatory types who are simply waiting for the unsuspecting to take their bait. Scripture tells us what is happening and in fact prophesied that this would happen two thousand years ago.

3 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

(2 Timothy 3) While it is important to recognise what is going on in our world, it is far more important to know how to deal with the aching void within which results from trying to deal with the pain and shame of the sucker punch. For here is the problem. We are not only dealing with other people’s sin against us, we are dealing with the shame of being victims of other people’s sin. You would think that there is no shame in being a victim, but ask anyone who has been abused physically or sexually and they will tell you that they feel overwhelming shame. Human beings try anything and everything to fill the void. They fill their stomachs, they fill their minds and they fill their lives with activity. They empty their bank accounts, they empty their minds, they empty their lives of friends and family because their obsessive and self-destructive behaviour is too hard to live with. I have experienced this kind of shame. It is debilitating. But the flesh, which is temporal, will never be able to fill the void because as scripture tells us, the flesh is a bottomless pit of need. Solomon said it best.

The leech has two daughters— Give and Give! There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, “Enough!”: 16 The grave,[a] The barren womb, The earth that is not satisfied with water— And the fire never says, “Enough”

I would add that the flesh is never satisfied. If you make the flesh your master, it will drive you to hell. It will never be sated, it will never say ‘enough’, it will never leave you alone. Your only hope is to go to God. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the healer of the brokenhearted, as this is in fact the scriptural term for those who have been sucker-punched too many times. Your heart breaks, your spirit becomes sickened. Scripture also tells us that a man’s spirit bears him up in illness, but a broken spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14) It also says that the Lord is near to the broken hearted and those of a contrite spirit he will hear.(Psalm 34:18) While this verse focuses on repentance, I believe it is also true of those who have been the victims of other’s violence.

“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.”

(Psalm 147:3)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,[a] To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

(Luke 4:18) The sucker-punch is the hallmark of those who have lived in this world for any length of time. I don’t believe there is a human being alive who has not had one of these at some point. The biggest problem is for those of us who have had too many of them. You can become ‘punch drunk’, to continue the metaphor.

  1. Showing signs of brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head. Used especially of a boxer.
  2. Behaving in a bewildered,confused, or dazed manner

(Free Dictionary) There is only one thing to sober you up in this situation, and that is the truth, the life and the way. One person can heal you, give you peace, give you direction and protect you from further punches and that person is Jesus Christ. If you come to Him and seek comfort and help from the Saviour, you will no longer be a sucker, and the hits, though perhaps still surprising, will no longer be delivered to an unsuspecting victim. You will be a prayer warrior, a child of God, in His keeping and hedged around behind and before by God’s own hand.

With love,

Steve and Anita