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)

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Manipulative People

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Dealing With Manipulative People

An Excerpt from the book: In Sheep’s Clothing
By George K. Simon

Two Basic Types of Aggression

There are two basic types of aggression: overt-aggression and covert-aggression. When you’re determined to have something and you’re open, direct and obvious in your manner of fighting, your behavior is best labeled overtly aggressive. When you’re out to “win,” dominate or control, but are subtle, underhanded or deceptive enough to hide your true intentions, your behavior is most appropriately labeled covertly aggressive. Now, avoiding any overt display of aggression while simultaneously intimidating others into giving you what you want is a powerfully manipulative maneuver. That’s why covert-aggression is most often the vehicle for interpersonal manipulation.

Acts of Covert-Aggression vs. Covert-Aggressive Personalities

Most of us have engaged in some sort of covertly aggressive behavior from time to time. Periodically trying to manipulate a person or a situation doesn’t make someone a covert-aggressive personality. Personality can be defined by the way a person habitually perceives, relates to and interacts with others and the world at large.

The tactics of deceit, manipulation and control are a steady diet for covert-aggressive personality. It’s the way they prefer to deal with others and to get the things they want in life.

For a long time, I wondered why manipulation victims have a hard time seeing what really goes on in manipulative interactions. At first, I was tempted to fault them. But I’ve learned that they get hoodwinked for some very good reasons:

  1. A manipulator’s aggression is not obvious. Our gut may tell us that they’re fighting for something, struggling to overcome us, gain power, or have their way, and we find ourselves unconsciously on the defensive. But because we can’t point to clear, objective evidence they’re aggressing against us, we can’t readily validate our feelings.
  2. The tactics manipulators use can make it seem like they’re hurting, caring, defending, …, almost anything but fighting. These tactics are hard to recognize as merely clever ploys. They always make just enough sense to make a person doubt their gut hunch that they’re being taken advantage of or abused. Besides, the tactics not only make it hard for you to consciously and objectively tell that a manipulator is fighting, but they also simultaneously keep you or consciously on the defensive. These features make them highly effective psychological weapons to which anyone can be vulnerable. It’s hard to think clearly when someone has you emotionally on the run.
  3. All of us have weaknesses and insecurities that a clever manipulator might exploit. Sometimes, we’re aware of these weaknesses and how someone might use them to take advantage of us. For example, I hear parents say things like: “Yeah, I know I have a big guilt button.” – But at the time their manipulative child is busily pushing that button, they can easily forget what’s really going on. Besides, sometimes we’re unaware of our biggest vulnerabilities. Manipulators often know us better than we know ourselves. They know what buttons to push, when and how hard. Our lack of self-knowledge sets us up to be exploited.
  4. What our gut tells us a manipulator is like, challenges everything we’ve been taught to believe about human nature. We’ve been inundated with a psychology that has us seeing everybody, at least to some degree, as afraid, insecure or “hung-up.” So, while our gut tells us we’re dealing with a ruthless conniver, our head tells us they must be really frightened or wounded “underneath.” What’s more, most of us generally hate to think of ourselves as callous and insensitive people. We hesitate to make harsh or seemingly negative judgments about others. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t really harbor the malevolent intentions we suspect. We’re more apt to doubt and blame ourselves for daring to believe what our gut tells us about our manipulator’s character.

Recognizing Aggressive Agendas

Accepting how fundamental it is for people to fight for the things they want and becoming more aware of the subtle, underhanded ways people can and do fight in their daily endeavors and relationships can be very consciousness expanding. Learning to recognize an aggressive move when somebody makes one and learning how to handle oneself in any of life’s many battles, has turned out to be the most empowering experience for the manipulation victims with whom I’ve worked. It’s how they eventually freed themselves from their manipulator’s dominance and control and gained a much needed boost to their own sense of self esteem. Recognizing the inherent aggression in manipulative behavior and becoming more aware of the slick, surreptitious ways that manipulative people prefer to aggress against us is extremely important. Not recognizing and accurately labeling their subtly aggressive moves causes most people to misinterpret the behavior of manipulators and, therefore, fail to respond to them in an appropriate fashion. Recognizing when and how manipulators are fighting with covertly aggressive tactics is essential.

Defense Mechanisms and Offensive Tactics

Almost everyone is familiar with the term defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms are the “automatic” (i.e. unconscious) mental behaviors all of us employ to protect or defend ourselves from the “threat” of some emotional pain. More specifically, ego defense mechanisms are mental behaviors we use to “defend” our self-images from “invitations” to feel ashamed or guilty about something. There are many different kinds of ego defenses and the more traditional (psychodynamic) theories of personality have always tended to distinguish the various personality types, at least in part, by the types of ego defenses they prefer to use. One of the problems with psychodynamic approaches to understanding human behavior is that they tend to depict people as most always afraid of something and defending or protecting themselves in some way; even when they’re in the act of aggressing. Covert-aggressive personalities (indeed all aggressive personalities) use a variety of mental behaviors and interpersonal maneuvers to help ensure they get what they want. Some of these behaviors have been traditionally thought of as defense mechanisms.

While, from a certain perspective we might say someone engaging in these behaviors is defending their ego from any sense of shame or guilt, it’s important to realize that at the time the aggressor is exhibiting these behaviors, he is not primarily defending (i.e. attempting to prevent some internally painful event from occurring), but rather fighting to maintain position, gain power and to remove any obstacles (both internal and external) in the way of getting what he wants. Seeing the aggressor as on the defensive in any sense is a set-up for victimization. Recognizing that they’re primarily on the offensive, mentally prepares a person for the decisive action they need to take in order to avoid being run over. Therefore, I think it’s best to conceptualize many of the mental behaviors (no matter how “automatic” or “unconscious” they may appear) we often think of as defense mechanisms, as offensive power tactics, because aggressive personalities employ them primarily to manipulate, control and achieve dominance over others. Rather than trying to prevent something emotionally painful or dreadful from happening, anyone using these tactics is primarily trying to ensure that something they want to happen does indeed happen. Using the vignettes presented in the previous chapters for illustration, let’s take a look at the principal tactics covert-aggressive personalities use to ensure they get their way and maintain a position of power over their victims:

Denial – This is when the aggressor refuses to admit that they’ve done something harmful or hurtful when they clearly have. It’s a way they lie (to themselves as well as to others) about their aggressive intentions. This “Who… Me?” tactic is a way of “playing innocent,” and invites the victim to feel unjustified in confronting the aggressor about the inappropriateness of a behavior. It’s also the way the aggressor gives him/herself permission to keep right on doing what they want to do. This denial is not the same kind of denial that a person who has just lost a loved one and can’t quite bear to accept the pain and reality of the loss engages in. That type of denial really is mostly a “defense” against unbearable hurt and anxiety. Rather, this type of denial is not primarily a “defense” but a maneuver the aggressor uses to get others to back off, back down or maybe even feel guilty themselves for insinuating he’s doing something wrong.

Selective Inattention – This tactic is similar to and sometimes mistaken for denial It’s when the aggressor “plays dumb,” or acts oblivious. When engaging in this tactic, the aggressor actively ignores the warnings, pleas or wishes of others, and in general, refuses to pay attention to everything and anything that might distract them from pursuing their own agenda. Often, the aggressor knows full well what you want from him when he starts to exhibit this “I don’t want to hear it!” behavior. By using this tactic, the aggressor actively resists submitting himself to the tasks of paying attention to or refraining from the behavior you want him to change.

Rationalization – A rationalization is the excuse an aggressor tries to offer for engaging in an inappropriate or harmful behavior. It can be an effective tactic, especially when the explanation or justification the aggressor offers makes just enough sense that any reasonably conscientious person is likely to fall for it. It’s a powerful tactic because it not only serves to remove any internal resistance the aggressor might have about doing what he wants to do (quieting any qualms of conscience he might have) but also to keep others off his back. If the aggressor can convince you he’s justified in whatever he’s doing, then he’s freer to pursue his goals without interference.

Diversion – A moving target is hard to hit. When we try to pin a manipulator down or try to keep a discussion focused on a single issue or behavior we don’t like, he’s expert at knowing how to change the subject, dodge the issue or in some way throw us a curve. Manipulators use distraction and diversion techniques to keep the focus off their behavior, move us off-track, and keep themselves free to promote their self-serving hidden agendas.

Early in the current school year, I found it necessary to address my son’s irresponsibility about doing his homework by making a rule that he bring his books home every night. One time I asked: “Did you bring your books home today?” His response was: “Guess what, Dad. Instead of tomorrow, we’re not going to have our test – until Friday.” My question was simple and direct. His answer was deliberately evasive and diversionary. He knew that if he answered the question directly and honestly, he would have received a consequence for failing to bring his books home. By using diversion (and also offering a rationalization) he was already fighting with me to avoid that consequence. Whenever someone is not responding directly to an issue, you can safely assume that for some reason, they’re trying to give you the the slip.

Covert Intimidation – Aggressors frequently threaten their victims to keep them anxious, apprehensive and in a one-down position. Covert-aggressives intimidate their victims by making veiled (subtle, indirect or implied) threats. Guilt-tripping and shaming are two of the covert-aggressive’s favourite weapons. Both are special intimidation tactics.

Guilt-tripping – One thing that aggressive personalities know well is that other types of persons have very different consciences than they do. Manipulators are often skilled at using what they know to be the greater conscientiousness of their victims as a means of keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious, and submissive position. The more conscientious the potential victim, the more effective guilt is as a weapon. Aggressive personalities of all types use guilt-tripping so frequently and effectively as a manipulative tactic, that I believe it illustrates how fundamentally different in character they are compared to other (especially neurotic) personalities. All a manipulator has to do is suggest to the conscientious person that they don’t care enough, are too selfish, etc., and that person immediately starts to feel bad. On the contrary, a conscientious person might try until they’re blue in the face to get a manipulator (or any other aggressive personality) to feel badly about a hurtful behavior, acknowledge responsibility, or admit wrongdoing, to absolutely no avail.

Shaming – This is the technique of using subtle sarcasm and put-downs as a means of increasing fear and self-doubt in others. Covert-aggressives use this tactic to make others feel inadequate or unworthy, and therefore, defer to them. It’s an effective way to foster a continued sense of personal inadequacy in the weaker party, thereby allowing an aggressor to maintain a position of dominance.

Covert-aggressives are expert at using shaming tactics in the most subtle ways. Sometimes it can just be in the glances they give or the tone of voice they use. Using rhetorical comments, subtle sarcasm and other techniques, they can invite you to feel ashamed of yourself for even daring to challenge them.

Playing the Victim Role – This tactic involves portraying oneself as an innocent victim of circumstances or someone else’s behavior in order to gain sympathy, evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. One thing that covert-aggressive personalities count on is the fact that less calloused and less hostile personalities usually can’t stand to see anyone suffering. Therefore, the tactic is simple. Convince your victim you’re suffering in some way, and they’ll try to relieve your distress.

Vilifying the Victim – This tactic is frequently used in conjunction with the tactic of playing the victim role. The aggressor uses this tactic to make it appear he is only responding (i.e. defending himself against) aggression on the part of the victim. It enables the aggressor to better put the victim on the defensive.

Playing the Servant Role – Covert-aggressives use this tactic to cloak their self-serving agendas in the guise of service to a more noble cause. It’s a common tactic but difficult to recognize. By pretending to be working hard on someone else’s behalf, covert-aggressives conceal their own ambition, desire for power, and quest for a position of dominance over others.. One hallmark characteristic of covert-aggressive personalities is loudly professing subservience while fighting for dominance.

Seduction – Covert-aggressive personalities are adept at charming, praising, flattering or overtly supporting others in order to get them to lower their defenses and surrender their trust and loyalty. Covert-aggressives are also particularly aware that people who are to some extent emotionally needy and dependent (and that includes most people who aren’t character-disordered) want approval, reassurance, and a sense of being valued and needed more than anything. Appearing to be attentive to these needs can be a manipulator’s ticket to incredible power over others.

Projecting the blame (blaming others) – Aggressive personalities are always looking for a way to shift the blame for their aggressive behavior. Covert-aggressives are not only skilled at finding scapegoats, they’re expert at doing so in subtle, hard to detect ways.

Minimization – This tactic is a unique kind of denial coupled with rationalization. When using this maneuver, the aggressor is attempting to assert that his abusive behavior isn’t really as harmful or irresponsible as someone else may be claiming. It’s the aggressor’s attempt to make a molehill out of a mountain.

I’ve presented the principal tactics that covert-aggressives use to manipulate and control others. They are not always easy to recognize. Although all aggressive personalities tend to use these tactics, covert-aggressives generally use them slickly, subtly and adeptly. Anyone dealing with a covertly aggressive person will need to heighten gut-level sensitivity to the use of these tactics if they’re to avoid being taken in by them.

Recovery From Abuse – Not One Size Fits All

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This is a blog post from the Tales From The Crypt Blog which we edited between 2006 and 2012.  It focuses on our experiences post BCF and encourages others who have been traumatised by controlling Christian organisations and spiritual abuse.

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I would like to air some reflections which have been bouncing around the inside of my brain over the last few weeks. I particularly want to encourage other ex-BCF members to remember the place from whence they have come. More than anything else, we have to remember, and remind ourselves continually, that we have just come out of a cult, and cults are very particular, and peculiar places. They have messed with your head, and your life. That does NOT mean you are crazy, but it does mean that they have inflicted some damage, and that needs to be healed. How is that healed? That is between you and God.

I think its important to recognize the way cults work. Cults employ groupthink in the same way that our lungs employ oxygen. Cult leaders manipulate groupthink to increase fear, confusion, dependency, and loyalty. This is why BCF members for the most part will continue to defend their leaders and their group. They have been taught to believe that the rest of the world is the enemy. If you believe that your only place of safety is being attacked, you will fight to the death to ward off any blow which comes against you or your leaders.

If you are immersed in groupthink, you won’t be using your common sense or the logical side of your brain. Groupthink relies on emotions not objective facts therefore facts, logic, and the experiences of those which disagree with your perception are ditched. You don’t think for yourself, because you have been told year after year after year that reason is the enemy of faith, as Vic Hall himself has written.

Why is reason the enemy? Because if people are thinking for themselves, they are going to argue with you, and disagree with you and then if they disagree with you enough they will leave. If enough people leave, you won’t have a congregation, and your reputation will be so tarnished that you will have a great deal of trouble rescuing it.

Emerging from a cult takes involves a great deal of trauma regardless of how much abuse was actually perpetrated against you. The fact that you have been completely and wholly devoted to a group of people who you trusted without reservation and you thought believed in you and loved you unconditionally, and then you discover that these people have turned out to be deceiving you the whole time, and then turned on you at your darkest moment is probably one of life’s most soul-destroying event. I would go so far as to say that many ex-members of BCF are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to some degree. Not all, and the one thing I want to do is avoid making black and white statements. The fact that you have removed yourself from those outside the cult almost guarantees that you will find it difficult to find support and help from others who should have, and in all other instances would have, been close to you.

You have become your own worst enemy. You now must not only heal from these lost years of deception, but you must rebuild your life from scratch. You must re-discover your faith, you must re-learn who God is, you must reclaim your mind, your abilities, your independence, your integrity, your self-respect, your individuality.

It is this last I would like to focus on. Anyone who has spent decades of their life immersed in groupthink needs to become independent like their lungs need oxygen (to re-use a metaphor). You HAVE to find yourself again, and you HAVE to do that with support. SUPPORT, I say, not ADVICE. There is a difference.

Ex-members of a cult need to be told over and over and over again….” you don’t need to be told how to live, you can trust yourself to make the best decision for yourself and your family. You are a grown adult and not a child, you are capable, competent and you will re-discover that in time.” That of course doesn’t mean you don’t need to ask for help and support, that too is the right of every independent adult.

Many ex-members have gone to see psychologists or other mental health professionals just to talk about their experiences and receive some proper professional support. Others have seen medical doctors, or spoken to Christian pastors who have likewise given them what they need. It is my earnest belief that God helps us in our need in ways we are not even conscious of at the time. There may be those who don’t even feel comfortable talking to professionals, and that too is fine.

I know many won’t step foot inside a church, and find doing so is as traumatic as going back to BCF would be. This is PERFECTLY NORMAL. I include a link to an excellent article here on emotional triggers. This article is discussing PTSD, but the phenomenon of triggers occurs in cult victims also, regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with PTSD or not. The information is still valid. It has certainly helped me. (no link)

I would also like to remind readers of this blog that we put up a link to Jeff Van Vonderen’s excellent video series on spiritual abuse some months ago. He also talks about triggers and the symptoms of those who have suffered from being abused by those they trusted implicitly. These videos have also helped a lot of people who have been through what we have been through.

I have to stress that each individual who has been through the BCF group of churches and out the other side needs more than anything to trust themselves again. Trusting your instincts, relying on them in fact, and believing that you know what is best for you, is the best thing.

What that means is that if you decide that you no longer want to go into a church again, that is your choice and doesn’t mean you are no longer a Christian. You can fellowship with other Christians in your own time, and in the manner of your choosing (just a cup of coffee is still ‘fellowship), and you must not feel guilty about that. No-one else has the right to dictate to you the manner of your own healing, and since the manner of healing from a cult should be entirely and intrinsically individual, the choice is yours.

I wish somebody had told me that when I left BCF. I spent an inordinate amount of time just feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing what others wanted me to do. There were other ex-BCF members who got together occasionally, and I just felt I couldn’t be with them for long periods. The triggers were too great, and the stress just left me feeling emotionally exhausted. That’s why the internet was so great for me. I was able to talk to others without leaving my house or absorbing other people’s emotional turmoil. Some people are naturally sensitive and empathetic to others, and these people are even more at risk of becoming stressed around other ex-cult refugees. I say again, each of us must look after ourselves in the way which is best for US, not someone else.

Over time, I found myself doing things like personality tests, and IQ tests and other types of things which are free on the net, mainly for my own amusement, but a part of me needed to rediscover who I was. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY could tell me who I was, I had to find that out for myself. It didn’t really matter what I did because the key here was that I was experimenting.

A therapist I spoke to a couple of years ago told me that my ability to be spontaneous, experimental, and to push against the boundaries had been squashed. I was simply unable to think outside the square. I had to practice, practice, practice. That meant doing all the things which I hadn’t given myself permission to do up til that point.

I must say that I also found myself getting physically exhausted very easily.  I found myself also suffering nightmares with alarming regularity, but as I told my 12 year old the other day, nightmares are just the brain’s way of dealing with what you have been thinking about during the day. If you have been traumatized, so has your mind. This is a healthy and normal way of coping with that stress.

I must say here that I am not a psychologist (although I am studying to be one), and that my advice is simply based on my own experiences. Anecdotal evidence (or personal experience) has always been a great help for those seeking for encouragement that they are not alone in their sufferings, or that they are not crazy.

Let me say again, you must find your own healing, your own way, and you will find it. Don’t allow somebody else to categorise you, make you feel guilty or ashamed. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. God isn’t going to take away your salvation if you swear, get angry, get furious, tell somebody exactly what you think without qualification, or refuse to do something. You have the right to be angry, you have the right to whichever emotional state you find yourself at any time. Emotions are not sin. You have to rediscover your own right to make your own decisions. That will take time, and that too is NORMAL.

My favourite quote here is ‘I am reacting normally to an abnormal situation’. It’s true. What we have been through is not normal in Christian circles, or even in secular circles. We have been treated with utter disrespect and abused without conscience. Coming to terms with this will also take time, and everyone is at a different level of healing.

I don’t know what else I can offer other than the words “It happened to me too”. You have done nothing wrong, but you have been with people who have taken advantage of you and the best defense to avoid being a victim is knowledge of how abusers work, and knowledge of yourself.

I heard another quote recently ironically enough from ‘The Art of War’.

“If you know yourself and you know your enemy, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”.

This is where the quote ‘know yourself’ comes from, and it is a very good piece of advice. If you know yourself, you can make your own decisions and not feel guilty if someone disagrees with you. You can act without shame if someone doesn’t think you should do what you want to do. You can begin to have confidence, and as my husband often says ‘back your own judgement’. We have learned to do this the hard way believe me, but the effects of this on our lives have been revolutionary. We trust our own gut instincts now, and we even hear God speaking to us on occasion. We know its him because when he says something, it comes true. We hear his voice now as a gentle guidance rather than a monkey on our back. God is no longer a tyrant, but a sensitive, careful voice of love and encouragement. THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION.

We live for the day when you are all free of the condemnation that has plagued your consciences for so long.

 

Further help:

Complex Trauma: Understanding and Treatment Diane Langberg

Can Authentic Christians be Chronic Abusers?

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20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. 21 And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.  (1 John 4)

To begin with, a man’s actions mark him out.  They characterise him, they qualify him and they prove his allegiances and his God.  In the case of a Christian, love is what proves us. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

If we love God at all, it is because He loved us first. It follows then that if we have God’s love in us we would automatically love God’s people over and above even our own unsaved family.  Because our love FOR God is actually the love OF God himself. But how is love proven?  It is very simple. God sacrificed himself to bring us again to himself, His love lead inevitably to the willingness to die in order to restore His people. So it follows that a loving Christian parent nurtures their child.  A loving Christian sibling values, approves and respects their siblings.  A loving Christian pastor protects, supports (materially and spiritually) and teaches his flock.  A loving Christian marriage partner lays their lives down for the other.  True love is both felt and seen and it involves actively caring for and fellowshipping with the other.  Chronic abuse of other Christians proves not love but hate.

The conclusion I have come to is that even a true Christian can develop really bad habits, but they prove their genuine faith by responding to the love of God and repenting of their ways when they are confronted with their sin.  Anyone who says he has no sin and that the person who accuses them must be the sinner is not an authentic born-again Christian. They have not the love of God within them, because they prove by their refusal to humble themselves and their hard-heartedness that they are lost. They need prayer, they need to hear the genuine gospel and they need to be born from above.

When Christian people you trust and love prove themselves untrustworthy and capable of betrayal, a Christian’s worldview is shaken.  When that same Christian attempts to reason with the person who has betrayed them and finds that the betrayer does not want to either admit to or apologise for (or make fake apologies for) what they have done, the Christian becomes distressed and upset.  When their betrayer then turns around and expects them to forgive them and forget what happened and pretend it never happened, the pain of this becomes too much to bear.  Many questions swirl around a Christian’s head, not the least being ‘was the betrayer actually a Christian to begin with?’ .  It is a fair question.

I would first of all suggest that we demarcate the differences between ‘offenses’ which the scriptures help us to deal with (Matthew 18 is a good example) and ‘abuse’ which is more about character disorder and chronic offense  often not just with one person but with many.  In the case of a church elder or leader who has abused many in the congregation and has refused time and time again to either acknowledge or repent of their sins against others and at the same time expects their congregation to remain silent about what happened and never even mention it to others, then you have all the elements of a reprobate.  No Christian who loves God and God’s family will abuse in this way.

Some may have developed a carnal lifestyle because of lack of genuine teaching and a failure to mature and act out of ignorance.  But all genuine believers, because of the presence of the conviction of the Holy Spirit are able to a) recognise sin and b) repent of it out of the understanding that sin separates and confession and forgiveness reconciles. It might take some discussion with mature believers who can help the offender recognise that their actions and beliefs are irreconcilable with scripture, but it is possible to bring people like this to their senses.

It’s those who steadfastly maintain, over time, that they are faultless in the face of not one but many accusations of abuse that we must call out, accuse of their sins in public and hope that they will eventually come to a place of crying out to God.  It is a terrible thing but there are people who identify as Christians who will never cry out to God in repentance or even acknowledge to themselves that their actions are not just sinful but in many cases criminal.  I am not just talking about rapists, child molesters and serial adulterers.  There are many in churches today who repeatedly indulge sexual sins of all types.  There are many in churches today who think it is their right to control and manipulate other Christians. There are many who cover over their sins, persuade others to cover for them and ensnare weak minded and immature believers.  Chronic abusers are not just damaging themselves, they are damaging the body of Christ.

Jesus and Paul had a lot to say about the ‘weaker brother’.  Paul even went so far as to say he would rather become a vegetarian if eating meat caused a weaker brother to stumble. (1 Corinthians 8:13) This is a rather dramatic statement.  Yet how many Christian leaders today have this level of humility, this level of self-sacrifice to their church members?  Very few. But its not just church leaders who fail in this.  Church members, ordinary Christians who run businesses or act as ‘counsellors’ or teach Sunday School or influence other church members in some way can be guilty of reprobate behaviour.  In short they are hating their brothers and sisters by treating them as lesser beings or beings whose lives don’t even register.  Hurting fellow Christians can take on the characteristics of kicking a dog or stepping on an insect.  These people may believe that Jesus Christ is their Saviour, but how can these people claim to be loving others when they are acting like this?

This issue is not a delicate one.  It is not enough to simply excuse the pastor because ‘it has nothing to do with me’.  It is not enough to turn the other cheek when chronic abuse is happening.  Scripture tells us that every fact should be verified by the witness of the two or three. If anyone is to bring an accusation against an elder there should be again a witness to the fact.  In the case of Brisbane Christian Fellowship, the witnesses number two or three hundred at least, and I would suggest even two or three thousand by this date.  The same applies to individuals who are not leaders.  But what happens when that fact is established beyond reasonable doubt?  The answer is not just to hope that it all goes away and never speak of it again.  I propose that the answer is to keep speaking about it until the abuser repents and acknowledges that their actions have damaged lives.  If it means that the accusations have to go public, then it is necessary.

Two thousand years ago, you could ‘take it to the church’ as Jesus mentions in Matthew 18 if the accused will not repent.  In today’s culture, when it is the church who encourages and protects abusers, we take it to the wider Christian body.  Even in the face of malicious charges of ‘just being bitter’, or ‘not dealing with it privately’ it is necessary to speak up, and keep speaking up.  Why is this necessary?  To annoy the abuser?  NO, because of love.

How can ‘airing your dirty linen’ be a loving act?  Because the pain of betrayal means that the betrayed need the offense, the sin of abuse to be brought out into the open in order that the deeds done in darkness will be brought to the light.  Only then can the relationship hope to be mended, and only then can the abuser hope to be changed into Christlikeness.  Most chronic abusers don’t want to deal with this.  But it is their only hope. The reason they became chronic abusers in the first place is because their actions were not dealt with properly after the first time they offended in this way.  They need restoration, renewal and transformation, and only God can do that for them.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  (1 John 1)

When the betrayer confesses, recognises the pain and destruction to the relationship and willingly concedes the need to repair the damage, there can once again be true fellowship.  Christians who see no need to either confess or repent of sins against relationship do not value relationship.  This is why it is neither helpful nor scriptural to insist that a woman who is being physically abused by her husband should ‘submit’.  A woman in this situation needs help, and there needs to be distance between her and her husband and she needs to protect her children if necessary.  The only way that marriage can mend is if the abuser changes, and that can be a wife or husband.  The only way that they can change is if it is made abundantly clear that other christians around them will not tolerate them in their midst if they keep abusing.

A loving Christian does not deliberately offend others, does not abuse when confronted with their sins, does not incite abuse by others against the one they offended.  Again, a chronic abuser who does all of these things does not have the right to be called an authentic Christian by the church.  We MUST have, not a standard of behaviour, but a recognition that actions are determined by choices and choices by faith.  Our love for God and His people will cause us to make every effort to bring the abuser to repentance even if it means turning them out of the church.  If every Christian takes a zero tolerance approach to abuse in their own lives, we will all be doing each other a great favour.  But love needs must be extended to those who abuse.  And loving the abuser means making extremely painful decisions and being willing to follow through on them.

 

 

 

 

 

Loose Canon

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There is a huge cache of written analysis and testimonial on the internet. Let’s call it the canon of lay-knowledge relating to abuse.  I don’t include the works of professional psychologists here because, especially in relation to Narcissism, these works hadn’t made it onto the internet until a vast supply of information from non-professional quarters had been published.  I am more than a little suspicious that all of a sudden online psychology magazines take Narcissism as their pathology du jour just when there is a critical mass of interest and discussion.  Psychologists after all are part of the mental health industry and it is in their best interests to be where the work is.  That said, this body of knowledge, this accepted canon (accepted by the victims of abuse that is) holds an interesting conundrum.

Many of us, including psychologists, are good at recognising the problem and it’s patterns. We are good at describing those patterns.  We just can’t really understand why they do it or how to fix it.

It seems that in the main chronic abusers are either psychopaths or malignant narcissists.  These are the types of people who act purely on a desire to create chaos and destruction and they seem to sadistically enjoy seeing the pain in their victims’ eyes. In plainer terms, they abuse because they want to.  This is an almost impossible concept to understand and if you have trouble getting your head around this, be grateful. It means that you are an empathetic individual with a conscience – most of us are.   Certainly all of those who share their experiences of abuse and abusers have trouble understanding why they were victimised in the first place.  It seems that generally speaking you don’t have to do anything to be targeted for abuse.  You can be born into an abusive family, or you marry an abuser, or you are friends with an abuser or you work with one.  They are, unfortunately, everywhere.

The psychologists will tell us that abusers were born that way or that they were made that way by their parents or somebody who abused them. That makes about as much sense as stating that everything in the universe came from an explosion of nothing into something.  Abusers may be born with certain genetic material which makes them more likely to be abusive, and yes they may also have been abused by others as children. But if abuse causes abusers, then what happens to all those siblings of abusers. Why aren’t they out abusing everyone.  And if there are in fact abusers who enjoy abusing, then this counters the argument that they were so traumatised by their abuse as children that they simply go out and abuse others because they don’t know any better.

The problem is that nobody understands why malignant character disordered people do what they do.  There are many suggestions as to why, but nothing definitive. Nothing at least which satisfies most of us. Personally, I believe that abusers who enjoy abusing others and do it without remorse and do it even more when you try and point out that their actions are hurting you are simply wicked people.  It sounds trite, but as a Christian, I believe that this is actually a biblical explanation.  I won’t go into it on this post, but I believe there are precedents in scripture.  Good men have had evil sons.  Jacob and Esau are a perfect example of two sons born to the same man; one who was favoured by God and one who was profane, or godless. Job the righteous had delinquent kids for whom he needed to sacrifice daily ‘just in case’, and King David’s son tried to overthrow his rule.  The patterns are historical, writ large and undeniable. It simply remains for the rest of humanity to ‘get it’. Why is it that many of us feel that this will never happen?

There is a greater question in my book, even greater than why it is that wicked and repellent people do what they do. And that is, how do they manage to get away with it?  They seem to have a network of supporters, some who are both powerful and influential, who will deny the possibility that the abuser could do any wrong.  They are not just loyal friends, they seem to be devoid of any ability to question or critically assess the reports of victims.  It seems to be a near constant, at least from my own research over the last decade or so, that abusive people are more likely to have a Greek chorus of apologists and adherents than the genuinely deserving.

Internet blogs and commenters tend towards calling this Greek chorus ‘flying monkeys’ which is a cute phrase taken from the Wizard of Oz.  The witch in this movie/book had an army of literally flying green monkeys who did her bidding.  However, the term has a larger meaning in the online canon of abuse and abusers.  A flying monkey is somebody who not only does the bidding of the abuser and applauds their every move, refuses to believe what the victim says because they are invested in believing that the abuser is a good person, but also will gossip and spy on the victim and carry information to and from the abuser in an attempt to reinforce the abuse. They are not the silent and innocent bystander (who by the way is also an accessory), they are co-abusers.  They turn the acts of abuse by the individual into a reign of terror.

Why would anyone do this?  To me this question has even greater import than working out why abusers abuse.  At least ‘being evil’ carries the understanding that some people just love being mean.  Every child who has ever seen a Disney villain or a pantomime will know that some people are just evil.  In real life of course, that brainwashing loses its impact.  Evil is not obvious, it is very often banal, to quote  Hannah Arendt’s book ‘Eichmann’ which was based on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the nazi war criminal.  She posits the theory that people who carry out evil acts are not necessarily psychopaths but simply following the orders they are given.  Stanley Milgram, a sociologist carried out a series of experiments at Yale University in the 1960s from which he asserted that 7 out of 10 people will follow orders from somebody they perceive as an authority even if those orders are hurtful and wrong.  This may explain the mindset of flying monkeys in some cases, but often the monkeys are not in a position of working for the abuser or even relying on the abuser for ‘orders’.  Often the flying monkeys are simply friends with or relatives of the abuser, whom they seem to genuinely like and respect, and they believe that the victim of the abuser, moreover the victim who speaks out against the abuser, is actually the evil person. This assertion is both counter-intuitive and counter-logical.  Simply speaking the truth does not make you bad or even abusive.   I don’t know whether flying monkeys do what they do because they truly believe that victims are lying about their experiences or whether they are attacking the victim in order to avoid having to look at the facts that the victim is exposing.  Either way, their actions are often worse than the original abuse because in their zeal to protect the abuser, they are re-traumatising the victim.

If you read the previous post relating to the rape victim from the Master’s University, you will see a classic case of the abuser’s supporters creating even more trauma for the victim of the rape than what she originally experienced.  The upshot of these flying monkey’s actions was that the rape victim was denied the right to graduate despite having already finished three years of her degree and having her name slandered and her character assassinated in the college community she had known all that time.  Few people stood up for her, and the devastation of the rejection and betrayal of so called mature Christian leaders and the Christian friends she had known all that time was in fact worse for her than the original crime.  The rape itself was bad enough, the abuser was unrepentant despite his final ‘confession’ that the act was in fact non-consensual after a long period of silence.  This was nothing to those who led the inquisition against this young woman, in fact I would go so far as to say that the men who attacked her as a consequence of the rape and her refusal to acquiesce to their completely insane demands to withdraw legal charges and ‘let them deal with it’ were in fact pathological abusers themselves. John Macarthur’s church is well known for its abusive practices and some have gone so far as to call it a cult. It doesn’t surprise me that he and his staff re-traumatised this poor girl for having the courage to not only confess a crime against her body and soul and one which carries shame and humiliation, but looked to them for help. This is what predators do.  In the face of a terrible experience, they have shockingly backwards reactions.  Normal people would help the rape victim and condemn the abuser.  These men attacked and blamed her and attempted to blackmail (itself a crime) her into lying about what happened.  Not only are these reactions abhorrent to God and anyone with a working human soul, they are proof that the environment in which the rape was covered up was in itself malignant.  Whether or not they were trying to protect their college’s reputation (too late gentlemen) the means manifestly did not justify the end. And despite their own delusions as to their pristine reputation, the facts, which they themselves so ably demonstrated, were that their college is run by wicked men.

Incidents like this are hardly uncommon.  Flying monkeys do what flying monkeys do in just about every instance where sociopaths or malignant narcissists or in fact any kind of abuser exists.  The canon of knowledge and experience attests to this fact and has done since it’s inception over ten years ago.  And this is the interesting thing about abuse.  Since the advent of social media and blogs in general, abuse victims have used the resource to speak up about what happened to them.  Comments from other victims, who often write their own accounts later, testify to the common attributes of both the abusers and their apologists.  It IS a canon of knowledge simply because of the fact that the information has been shared and acknowledged as true by so many other people from so many different backgrounds and so many different experiences. The abusers are male or female, the apologists can be related or not related, the abuse can be physical or mental or both, but the actions of these people form chilling patterns which simply cannot be ignored.  Hence the rise of the psychology journal articles and their authors who have proven by their use of it that the canon of information out there is not only authentic but creditable.

It is our belief that abusers, true to their predatory and calculating characters, will choose supporters, acquaintances and contacts from among those who will best suit their purposes.  To these ingenuous and just as often disingenuous individuals, they show their best faces.  They are kind, helpful, supportive and ensure that the relationship is mutually profitable.  Thus when the victim chosen by the abuser begins to speak up, the true venal nature of the abuser becomes clear.  The unwitting supporter thinks that his good friend is being slandered and opposes the slander out of loyalty, and the collaborating supporter slanders the victim out of knowledge that they will be rewarded for their collaboration.  This works in a professional environment, in a familial environment and in a church environment.  And it proves beyond a doubt that our carnal human nature can be successfully manipulated by the truly evil.

It takes a great deal of wisdom and discernment to pick a human predator.  Often the very worst abusers hide by choosing careers in the caring professions because they know that the victim’s guard is down especially if they are vulnerable.  Patients need their doctors to be above suspicion or they would never trust them.  Children need their teachers and other significant adults to be trustworthy or they will never learn or grow.  In the same vein, the very worst kind of abuser is a character disordered parent who uses their own children both as victims and as flying monkeys.  The adult child of a narcissist suffers for the rest of their lives as a result of being abused throughout their dependent years, sometimes as many as twenty or more.  That is a very long time to be under the intimate influence of an abusive adult.  And if there are more than one abusers in the family, as the canon has proven to be common, the victim must not only deal with their parents but often their siblings.  This does not end at adulthood and leaving the family home. It is a very common scenario that a victim of abuse often seems to discover the truth of their family lives into their forties and fifties.  Why does it take this long? We believe that maturity, experience and worldview play into this. Also, now the internet canon of information is available, more and more victims are discovering what abuse really is by recognising the patterns from the testimony of the thousands who report what their abuser did.  Finally, the victim can read these reports and have something of a slow epiphany in their own lives. They recognise the patterns in their own family, compare it to what they see from other’s accounts and reluctantly and with trepidation make the connection to their own lives.  If nothing else, recognising that you were either raised by or married to a predatory individual is the very worst kind of revelation.  But in the end, the truth changes you and the lives of those who care about you.  When you know the truth, you can live differently.  It will be painful, but it is necessary to remove the rot. In our lives, we determined that we would end the cycle of familial abuse with our own generation.

The internet has allowed many victims to speak out, both anonymously and openly.  Initially, we spoke out about the abuses of the cult Brisbane Christian Fellowship under assumed names. We found that whether we hid our true identity or not, the flying monkeys descended, some claiming they ‘knew who we were’ with the sinister overtones that they were somehow going to ‘get us’ for having spoken up.  We received threats of legal action and yet nothing eventuated.  You don’t actually need anything to eventuate if those threats come from the people you knew while you were in the cult.  You know what they have done already – destroyed the faith and relationships of individuals and families – and you know that they were willing and able to slander and destroy your character and reputation to everyone else in the cult.  In the end though, it was at the borders of the cult’s influence, and narrow and petty they were too, their threats lost power.  They might attempt to bad mouth you to other churches, but the fact that their own reputation was scarcely pristine even to those who did not know of their covert destruction of marriages and lives would ensure that their gossip remained just that.

Speaking out is seen by our society as ‘airing dirty linen’ and is treated as shameful.  It is seen this way in churches also.  We are told ‘not to judge’, yet the apostles themselves had no problem writing public letters regarding false brethren and leaders and teachers and naming names.  There is a scriptural precedent for warning of false teachers.  But where there is freedom to speak, believers have been known to  use it as a license for carnality. There are now many so called ‘discernment’ ministries which are nothing more than lists of every christian leader with whom the author disagrees theologically.  Disagreement over certain texts does not mean a person is a false teacher.  If Paul, Peter and John all declaimed false teachers to the point of cursing them to the blackness of darkness forever, and if John said that even bringing  a false teacher into your home causes you to participate in his evil deeds (2 John 2:10-11), then false teachers are not simply believers with different opinions to you. These sorts of people are actually the same as chronic abusers.  Genuinely false teachers have wicked hearts and intentions.  No believer who is simply either immature, carnal or who has an unrenewed mind is described in the New Testament as being cursed. Only those with a reprobate mind and soul would be so designated.

Despite these problems, the internet is still a place where real stories can be written and read and real comfort and help can be gained.  The ‘canon’ has been loosed and is accomplishing a great deal more than paid professionals could ever hope to.

 

 

Do You See Me?

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I received an email update from a forum I am part of the other day.  It contained a vivid and extremely disturbing account of the victim of a rape whilst out with a group of college students.  This account is actually so disturbing and vivid that I would caution anyone who has been through a similar incident not to click on the following link as it will trigger you.  But for those with stronger stomachs, you can read the story here.

This story is from a young woman who attended John Macarthur’s Masters College.  She had had what she describes as ‘three glorious years’ training to be a counsellor, and this event occurs in the last year of her training.  Here is en excerpt from the beginning of the story.

Spring break starts tomorrow. I was going to go home today but last night I hit my head and suffered a concussion. The doctor said I need to take it easy so I decide to stay on campus and catch up on rest and homework. Not to brag or anything but I hang out with the smart crowd, and the smart crowd hangs out with the seminary students from The Master’s Seminary. They invite me to go to a play in town and then to dinner. I probably shouldn’t but it’s an approved outing as some of the seminary guys are bringing their girlfriends, and of course there will be no drinking, drugs, or dancing. We all had to sign a contract that we would not do those three things while attending Masters. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t drink or do drugs anyway.

Four of the seminary students live together and I know three of them. The fourth, a stranger who I have met maybe once, sits by me at dinner and asks if he can get me a soda. I thank him and say yes, but about a half an hour later I start to feel foggy. Everyone begins to discuss going ballroom dancing after dinner. I want to weigh in but my words are slurring and I can’t move my legs. The rest of my friends start laughing because I’m acting funny. They remember I suffered a concussion yesterday and think I need to go to bed. They urge the stranger to take me to my dorm room so I can rest. By this time he has to carry me out of the restaurant. No one thinks this is strange or seems at all concerned. I black out.

I will draw a veil over the rest of her account except to say this.  The treatment she received from the Master’s College teaching and admin staff was literally sickening.  After  having been to the police and the doctor, this young woman goes to those in charge at the college and is interviewed in a frankly disturbing and completely unprofessional way.

I tell him every excruciating detail I can remember…

Rick leaves the room several times to go talk to John MacArthur. He comes back with John’s ruling on the matter. Rick tells me that I need to be disciplined for doing drugs, drinking alcohol and almost dancing. He said the consequence for breaking the rules is that I will be kicked out of the college. He is angry at me for going to the police and the doctor. I should have let the church handle this without outside interference. He tells me not to tell anyone else, not my fellow classmates, not my teachers, not anyone at church.

“You are ruining that young man’s life!” He says.

He tells me I have to go to the police and drop the charges or I will be brought in front of the church to be disciplined. I don’t drop the charges. Not that it matters. The police interviewed my rapist and all the “friends” who were there and ruled it a “he-said, she-said” incident that can’t be proven either way.

I don’t keep quiet either. I reach out to the professors who “disagree with John MacArthur on a few things.” They won’t see me. People are avoiding me. I feel their whispers. Even close friends are acting weird.

Throughout the whole ordeal, the rapist’s situation and feelings are given priority and is treated as a victim and the victim of the rape is treated as the criminal.

I am standing outside the door to Rick’s office. I take a deep breath and feel confident that I am strong enough to do whatever it is that he asks me to do. I open the door and am shocked to see the stranger sitting there. I am starting to shake and sweat. Rick asks me to sit down by my rapist. Rick speaks for the rapist.

“He has admitted to everything he has done. He has acknowledged his sin and that this relationship was not consensual and he has repented. Look at him, he is crying.”

I don’t want to look at him but I do. I feel panicked sitting this close to him. I am wondering why I have to be present if it has become clear that I am innocent. Why wasn’t I immediately reinstated in school?

“Now it is your turn to apologize.”

I am not hearing right. I think that Rick Holland has just asked me to apologize to my rapist.

“Apologize for what?” I ask.

Rick says something about apologizing for the dress I was wearing at the bar and for drinking alcohol. He says I caused this young man to stumble, and he is incensed that I have not dropped the charges with the police. He says he has been talking to Joe and Sandra and my RD and they all say that my story keeps changing. I wonder why they are all allowed to talk about it but I am not. If I am to be reinstated in the school I must agree to weekly counseling with Rick and the stranger. I am told that the stranger and I have committed this sin together and therefore we must work through it together. I must agree to sit next to the stranger in church every week.

I don’t know where to begin. Do I start with the fact that I didn’t put that dress on or how my story isn’t changing, I am just remembering more things? I feel confused and angry. I am yelling. I hear more accusations coming out of Rick’s mouth. I am not submissive. I don’t trust the men that God has put over me. I am rebellious. He is angry and I cannot keep up with all of the attacks on my character that are flying out of his mouth. I am kicked out of school. I have less than twenty-four hours to get my things out of my room and get out. If I show up on campus, I will be arrested. They are changing my three years of earned college credits from A’s to F’s. I have flunked out of college.

There are a number of websites which discuss what happens at the Masters College and also at John Macarthur’s church.  He is by all accounts a bully and a bigot and will not countenance anyone who does not agree with everything he says.  I have seen too many men like this who run megachurches. This young woman’s experience is not unusual, and if you go to the website I linked to and read the 90 odd responses (probably more since this account was published) you will see more corroborating evidence.

Speaking up about abuse is vital, but speaking up about abuse always involves risk. People may not believe you.  People in particular who know the high profile leaders of the college will have a vested interest in rejecting accusations against their heroes.  Scripture tells us when bringing a reviling report against an elder to have two or three witnesses.  Even when there are more than two or three witnesses, people will still not believe you.

When you have been as damaged as this woman has, you don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with further abuse from those you trusted to protect you.  She had no reason to doubt that Rick Holland and John Macarthur would turn on her when she needed their protection the most.  Yet they supported and protected somebody she had never even met before.

Every comment I read on the website supported and ‘saw’ this young woman.  It was heartening to know that so many responded so well.  Yet, this is nearly twenty years after the event, and it would have been good for her to have had that support when the rape  occurred.

When somebody hears about abuse, they often want to minimise its severity or undermine the account by the victim in some way so that they either don’t have to process what they are hearing or consider that somebody they like or admire is in fact a criminal and possibly a morally insane individual.

If we ever hear an account of abuse from somebody and it sounds unreal or difficult to process, remember that cognitive dissonance is a normal reaction to having your belief system challenged. Nobody wants to believe that somebody they have thought of as trustworthy would do what they are being accused of doing.  But just because you have not seen the abuse, or the abuse hasn’t happened to you, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen to the victim. Often the official response is that the victim is making it up, or that somehow they caused the abuse themselves, especially in rape cases.  This is rarely true. Every account of rape should be treated with due sobriety and concern, and in particular, if necessary, the victim should be assured that their case will be immediately investigated.

Whether we believe what is being told to us or not, if we understand that the first response is usually unbelief and discomfort, we will be more likely to understand why the report sounds unbelievable.

Since this young woman’s report was not only corroborated by others who have been through what she has been through and by others who understand what the Master’s College administrative team are like under these kinds of circumstances, there can be no reason to doubt her account.  This has not only happened at this college, but at many other secular colleges and workplaces and churches.

In my mind, the most important aspect of this account is that while the college admin treated her rape with less than Christian mercy and compassion, they also deliberately sabotaged her academic career and destroyed any hope she might have had to complete her degree and recover her dignity and heal.  It is one thing not to believe a person when they tell you they have been raped, it is quite another to consciously slander and destroy that person’s reputation and standing in a christian community.  She had not previously shown herself to be promiscuous or of bad character nor had her academic record proven any lack of intelligence or ability.  There was patently no defensible reason to attack this young woman.  Yet they went out of their way to make sure she was punished for not simply bowing to their bullying and abuse.

Sadly and frustratingly, this is happening to women everywhere.  Infuriatingly, it is happening in Christian churches and communities.  Not only do Christians themselves find it difficult to know how to respond to this kind of traumatic event, non-Christians find these situations pretty horrific.  How is this possible in places where people claim to be motivated by the love of God? It is possible because people lie about who they are, and it is possible because even Christians get to choose their actions.  People can choose to do ugly wicked things just because.  There doesn’t even need to be a reason, they just feel like being ugly.  When a rapist or abuser becomes a predator there needs to be more than just decisive and rapid response.  There needs to be a finality.  Deal with the abuse, get rid of the threat to the safety of those who are vulnerable, and don’t even think about blaming the victim.  It’s that simple.

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.

Happy Un-Mother’s Day

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Wouldn’t it be great if everyone who had a Narcissistic mother woke up one day and realised that they had been kidnapped as a baby and this wasn’t their real mother. Somewhere out there was a woman who had actually given birth to you and loved and cared for you. Who hasn’t had the fantasy as a child that you were adopted?

Scripture is very clear about how normal mothers feel about their newborn babies.

26 Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!”

But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.

27 So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother

(1 Kings 3:26,27)

Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.

(Isaiah 49:15)

Even jackals offer the breast, They nurse their young; But the daughter of my people has become cruel Like ostriches in the wilderness.

(Lamentations 4:3)

As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you;
And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

(Isaiah 66:13)

But even in some of these verses, you can see the dichotomy.  Sometimes, a mother will forget her child. Sometimes our mother will forsake us, sometimes a mother is cruel, sometimes a mother will kidnap another child as her own and deprive the child and the other mother of that sacred bond which both nurtures and maintains life.

Yet, when our mothers do forsake us, we are promised in scripture that God will take us up.  So we are not abandoned, and not forsaken.

When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me (Psalm 27:10)

Disney’s character of ‘mother Gothel’ in the animation ‘Tangled’ is about as close as it gets to a perfect portrayal of maternal narcissism.  This woman is only interested in one thing, maintaining her youth.  She steals, lies, destroys families, and does this systematically and continually until such time as her victim, Rapunzel, ‘wakes up’ and recognises that she has been had.

Interesting that it takes an intruder into her very small world to open up her mind to the possibilities which lie outside.  She wants to know what the lights in the sky on her birthday are for, her rescuer, Flynn, just wants the valuable crown.  Both the anti-hero  and the villain of the piece are deeply selfish.  In the movie, Flynn ends up ‘falling in love’ and then changing his ways (which never happens), but Gothel does not change. She was a narcissistic witch, she remains so at the end when she of course dies. For that is the only way you can get rid of somebody like this, fictionally speaking.  Unless you want a sequel.  In real life, you have to cut off the predator/villain from your life, because they have targeted you and will not stop until they have destroyed you.  It is your destruction which gives them ‘life’.

In this movie Gothel has no supernatural powers in and of herself. The character is ‘human’ and must therefore manipulate Rapunzel to stay in the tower by fear and deceit.  I was totally amazed at how the creators of Gothel described their villain.

Seeking inspiration for Gothel and Rapunzel’s “bizarre” relationship, Greno and Howard conducted a series of interviews with several female Disney employees,[2] asking them to list qualities in their mothers that “they found annoying and cloying or restricting”,[7] specifically “the things that their [sic] mothers would do that made them feel trapped or made them feel smothered” in order to make the villain appear more relatable.[6] Gothel’s “Mother Knows Best” line “Getting kind of chubby” was in fact borrowed from one of these interviews.[8] Gothel embodies “the darker side” of overprotective parents;[7] at the beginning of the film, Gothel and Rapunzel’s relationship resembles more-so of “a pure mother-daughter relationship.” Elaborating on Gothel’s “unique mothering style”, Howard explained to Den of Geek that the character “has to convince this smart girl that she is her mother … whatever her motivations are.”[3] Citing Gothel as one of the film’s most difficult characters to develop as a result of her complex relationship with Rapunzel, Greno explained to Den of Geek:[3]

“Mother Gothel can’t be mean. She has to be very passive-aggressive. She was one of the hardest characters to crack. When we were developing her, people were saying that she doesn’t feel enough like a villain, and people would point to characters like Ursula. And then she was too dark for a while … Because what you do with her directly affects how you play Rapunzel in the movie. Because, if you play an extremely dominant and cruel villain, that girl is going to become meek and downtrodden, with almost nothing of a person, with low self-esteem. And we knew we didn’t want a character like that … We had to balance it out, and figured that Gothel has to be more subtle than that, rather than a one-note, domineering mother.”— Co-director Nathan Greno to Den of Geek.

Mother Gothel – Wikipedia

 

Clearly the creators of this character weren’t setting out to create a narcissist. At no point in their lengthy description of the development of this character did they mention the word ‘narcissist’.  They wanted evil, but they didn’t want anything overt.  They wanted her to be charming and convincing, but at the same time manipulative and underhanded.  What they got however, was a narcissist. Whether they wanted to or not, and anyone with a narcissist mother will watch this movie with a mixture of amusement and discomfort.  It is a superb characterisation and the women whom the directors interviewed clearly had narcissistic mothers themselves without realising it. They got to share their experiences with the movie makers and lo and behold, Disney nailed it.
So, as Mother’s Day looms, how do Christian adults cope with God’s command to ‘honour your mother and father’.  This is the first commandment with a promise, and therefore we feel obliged, if not compelled to honour those who gave birth to us. There is an element of fear which attends the thought that if we don’t obey God in this, we will suffer.
Let’s think about this for a second though.
When a child is born, the first instinct is to reach out for comfort and help.  If that comfort does not come in the form of human contact and affection, it has been recorded that a child, even though it is being fed, will not survive.  So we look to our mothers to give us that nurture.  As a mother of three, I can say without reservation that you give your child what they need and recognise the terrible weight of responsibility caring for that little tiny scrap of life is.  You don’t have to be told to do it, you are literally losing sleep over it.  It is normal and natural for mothers to love and nurture and protect their children.  It is normal and natural for children to love and cling to and wish to please their mothers.
So why did God have to command the Israelites to honour their father and mother? There would have been rebellious children in their midst who refused to obey their parents.  If this commandment is the first to reward obedience with long life, it is my belief that rebellious children and teenagers will inevitably shorten their lives by doing stupid things, not listening to their mothers when they tell them how to stay safe, and consequently will probably die of a preventable cause because of foolishness.
That said, looking after widows in both the old and New Testaments is considered to be a responsibility of the children and/or families of the widow. Jesus also chastised the Pharisees whose traditions contravened the law God had given them.
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; [a] and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’[b] But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—   (Matthew 15:3-5)
This seems to be in relation to finances.  Much has been said on this subject of caring for widows and orphans, or in this case, even the fathers who are too old to work for themselves. Where the widow has no family, it is the responsibility of the church.
Parents are not only given a huge responsibility, but so are families.  We are to love and care for those who cannot care for themselves.  Dare I say that this responsibility should also be a natural outgrowth of the Christian whose life is now in Christ?  John talks a great deal about the love of the brethren being an indicator of having the love and life of God within us.  Why would we abandon our parents if we were true believers?  We would not.  This is the very reason we have these dilemmas.  For believers who have the revelation that their parents, or more pertinently their mothers are narcissists, abusers who refuse to change and sinners who refuse to repent there is the added responsibility of bringing them to the understanding that it is not acceptable to keep abusing their own families.
We are not commanded to honour the unrighteous, and we are commanded to relate to God ‘in truth’. Therefore, where as adults we are able to recognise and confront evil, we must do so even if it be in our own parents.
The world wants to pretend that evil mothers don’t exist.  There seems to be only one place where you will find solace if you have a narcissistic mother and that is on the internet.  Here, people can share their stories without being attacked because there are so many other adults who grew up with narcissistic mothers.
Even the creators of the classic narcissist ‘Gothel’, don’t name her as such. They think she has good qualities.  The woman who voiced this character, Donna Murphy, says…

“I also think there is this thread of a kind of love that she does have for Rapunzel. It’s not what she set out. But she does raise this child and it’s the most intimate and certainly the most sustained relationship I think the woman has had in her 387 years or however old she might be. So as deep as the need is to get something for herself, she can’t help but fall in love with her. She’s spirited, creative, and charming and I think that stirs something in her that is confusing for Gothel. And Gothel has to keep reminding herself of what is most important, which is taking care of herself. But I think there is a genuine kind of humanity. It’s by degree, it’s not unconditional love but there is a love that develops.”

— Donna Murphy to Collider
Murphy claims Gothel is in love with the child.  In fact, Gothel is in love with Rapunzel’s hair, not the person who owns the hair.  She talks to the hair, she is affectionate to the hair.  To the girl, she is abusive, rude, hurtful and sadistic.  There IS no relationship with Rapunzel.  I think Murphy wants, as many others do, to believe that everyone is redeemable.  Scripturally this is not true.  While it is true that God does not wish any to perish,  scripture also makes it clear that not everyone will inherit the kingdom of God.
Gothel is an example of those mothers who think that they are beyond reproach, and that their needs come before anyone else’s.  She is not just selfish, she is self-absorbed. She is in love with herself, and not the girl she is raising.  This is a good example of the warped sense of ‘motherhood’ that the world has.  The world thinks that motherhood and fatherhood magically confer upon human beings a ‘goodness’ which is not natural. Only God is without sin, only God’s fatherhood is perfect, and human beings are not capable of being truly godly parents.  Goodness is only possible if we have been born again of the Spirit of God and have changed natures.
.11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.  (Matthew 7:11)

Jesus was referring to the fact that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  We are evil in our natures, but we know the difference between good and evil and know how to give good gifts to our children.  Even the so called ‘good’ parent can bless their own child despite the fact that in comparison to God they are evil.  It is strange that a truly evil parent, such as a narcissist, also is able to give good gifts to their children.  It is this very understanding of what is good and evil which indicts them. It is why we as children don’t run from their evil the first chance we get.  We are groomed to question ourselves first, because ‘mothers are good aren’t they?’  Therefore it must be us as children who have done something wrong in order for our parents to treat us this way.

It is important for Christian adults with Narcissistic mothers to recognise that they have always honoured their mothers.  It is the mothers who have dishonoured them.  This means that we don’t just send our unrepentant mothers gifts and cards to tell them how much we love them.  What we need to do this mothers day is recognise that these people are evil.  That as adults we do not owe them anything, especially if these mothers claim to be Christians as many of them do.  We do not owe a wicked reprobate parent any gifts or protestations of love and acceptance.  In love, we need to confront them with their evil and help them recognise that we are no longer willing to remain passive victims. If they refuse to stop abusing and indulging their own fleshly natures, they must be treated as any reprobate.

If we truly did not honour our parents, we would not be asking the question “how do we honour our abusive parents?”.  This question proves that we do not wish to disobey God, nor do we wish to dishonour our parents.  We do not have, or at least I hope we don’t, rebellious dishonourable hearts.

It is time for the world to recognise that human beings are not born ‘good’.  Babies are born innocent of blame because they have not committed any sins yet.  But as they age and get to the point of understanding right from wrong, you will see that they choose wrong just as many times as they choose right.  Humans who are taught morals will still make their own decisions to go their own way, rather than the way of right and truth.

Narcissists are simply those who love evil and themselves more than they love good.  They need to recognise their sins and repent of them.  Until they do, we are not able to ‘honour them’ as our mothers, because in fact they are evil reprobates.  Yes, they gave birth to us, and we tried very hard to please them because we loved them as our mothers.  Coming to the understanding that our mothers don’t actually love us is very disturbing.  But it does not mean we have to pretend, or accept the worldly attitude towards mothers.  The world says mothers can do no wrong because they will always love their children.  The world believes motherhood is somehow sacred and must not be touched.  Yet how much of this mother worship is in effect ‘goddess worship’ of the form that takes place in the Catholic church, which took the goddess worship from pagan cultures and conflated it with the virgin Mary and the baby Jesus.  Mothers are not goddesses who cannot be confronted with their own sin.

God says ‘when my mother and father forsake me’, not if.  God knows the depravity of human nature and does not impose false measures and weights upon us.  He is just, righteous and all-seeing.

Thank God that He is able to deal with these women. We do not have the ability to judge and deal with them. All we are called to do is recognise the sin and call them to salvation and repentance.  If they refuse, then we follow the scriptural directions for the unrepentant.  “From such turn away”.

It is not dishonouring parents to chastise them and deal with their actions.  It IS honouring parents to show them the error of their ways, and ensure that they know that you will not deal with their abuse any longer.

 

Further reading:

Luke 173 Ministries “Is God Really Telling Us To Honor Abusive Parents?”

 

 

 

 

 

Soul Abortion – The Devastating Effects of Malignant Narcissism on Children

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The other day I wrote an article on invalidation and how churches invalidate their congregations, other churches and critics. It is abuse because it is usually carried out by those in authority in the church. In this case, it is a perceived authority, it is certainly not a godly authority. God does not give leaders in order that they ‘lord it over’ their congregation. (Matthew 20:25-28, 1 Peter 5:3, 2 Corinthians 5:24). Jesus told us that church leaders in order to be great had to be servants. They are there simply to serve, not to direct the lives of others. If people question them, the response should be the same as those ready to defend their faith at all times (1 Peter 3:15). But often those who have taken illegitimate authority are highly combative and will attack any who question them or in some cases simply ignore them.

Invalidation is an attack on the personhood, the identity, the integrity of an individual. It is appalling to think that a pastor who is purporting to minister to God’s own people would treat them with any level of contempt. We lived in a Christian cult for about 15 years and were exposed to invalidation from pastors and from other members of the cult. The core of this kind of behaviour is hatred of the brethren (1 John 2:9-11). John tells us that if we have no love for the brethren, our fellow believers, then we lack the very basis of our salvation, the love of God. If God’s love does not reside in us, His Spirit does not reside in us and there is no proof that we are born again. Yes, we are saved by faith, but faith without works is dead. So the move to destroy both individuals who support you and individuals who criticise you is that of an unsaved religious person with no understanding of the offence their very behaviour is to God himself.

We realised very quickly after our exit from the cult that our families of origin were the blueprint for our lives. Because we were raised in narcissistic environments, we did not recognise narcissism in others, we saw it as perfectly normal. While we saw the abusive behaviour and registered it at some level, we didn’t entirely understand that this behavior was not just unchristian, it was inhumane. We had been trained from birth to accept hatred as love, to embrace abuse as acceptable and to believe invalidation.

Malignant narcissists (meaning they don’t just have a narcissistic personality disorder but their narcissism is predatory, sadistic and pre-meditated) are everywhere and can be both pastors and parents. A parent with MN visits literal hell upon their families and spouses. They invalidate as a means of keeping tight control on people in their close vicinity. I believe that malignant narcissists hate their families more than they do others. Their lives are an inversion of what human beings normally associate with intimate relationships. Those closest to them suffer their contempt and degradation, while comparative strangers are treated well, at least at first. Their hatred of their families comes from the knowledge that these people know them intimately, have lived with them from birth and have witnessed their lives and have the power therefore to expose them to others.

I will never forget my own MN mother’s response when I went to get some counseling from a pastor’s wife after suffering from intense crippling panic attacks. I had initially asked my mother for help, but her response was to invalidate the experience and laugh at me as though this was all just a minor inconvenience. I became desperate, and believing my problem was a spiritual one (which it was in the end) I went for help from another more mature Christian. My mother’s response when she found out was explosive. I was literally hauled off to her bedroom by my ear (I was 19) where she hissed at me that she could not believe that I was ‘airing our dirty laundry’ to a complete stranger.

Now I think about it, this was my mother exposing her own abuse. She knew deep down that she had been treating me with contempt, she did not know what I had told the counselor (I had actually mentioned nothing about my mother at all) and she immediately assumed that I was ratting on her. Why would she assume this? Dare I say that it was her guilty conscience? This makes her actions even more contemptuous and sadistic. Not only was I abused to the point of having panic attacks, I was then attacked for looking for help. I did not know what was wrong with me, I didn’t find out until I was in my 40s. Yet my mother assumed I had full understanding of what she had done, because my mother had full understanding of what she was doing, and lived in fear of exposure. Her attempts to silence me were met with confusion from me, and in the end she calmed down when I told her that I had a ‘spiritual problem’ and was looking for an answer from a spiritual advisor. She realised I was not gunning for her, but looking for answers since I didn’t really know what the problem was.

I have termed the effect of malignant narcissism on children a ‘soul abortion’ in the sense that MN parents attempt to destroy their children’s soul before it is fully formed. Probably most of the population would think that this would be impossible, an oxymoron. Parents love their children. If your parents’ loved you, then rejoice. But anyone reading this would probably have been searching for information regarding malignant narcissism and has either married or been parented by a MN. People with this kind of experience don’t have to be told, once the light goes on, that their experience was real. They have lived it. My favourite verse in the Old Testament is verse 10 from Psalm 27.

When my mother and father forsake me the Lord will take me up”

David’s family were not exactly loving and nurturing. When he took supplies to his elder brothers in the Israelite army their response was to attack and demean him. I love his response “what have I done now?”. It is very revealing. It means that he was being victimised by his brothers on a regular basis. Likewise, Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers who then told his parents he was dead!! These families were hardly the ideal Christian example. Yet the men who were ‘taken up’ by God became mighty kings and wise leaders, men after God’s own heart. I wonder if these young guys weren’t attacked simply because they were favoured. David was anointed king as a teenager, Joseph was given the coat of many colours by his mother, I mean there must have been some serious jealousy that the youngest in the family gets the honour that should by rights be due to the elder. It seems that in the Bible, this concept of the elder serving the younger, or the elder being marked out as wicked and the younger chosen by God is exemplified quite often. Even fairy tales will often tell the story of the youngest son or daughter rather than the eldest.

So, abusive families are nothing new. The thing to remember with both David and Joseph is that while they were abused, it did not stop them from becoming all that God wanted for them. They had to leave their families first it seems, in some cases cutting them off for over 20 years, but it was the families in the end who had to deal with their own wickedness in the face of God’s evident favour towards the victim of the abuse.

I would like to say that this happens all the time for Christians from abused families. But the damage is very real, and it takes a lot for Christians from these backgrounds to be able to first of all recognise the abuse, and secondly to come to terms with it.

God has dealt with us as a family and is still dealing. 12 years after leaving the cult, we are finally on the path God wanted us to be on all along, and which we left. He did not abandon us, but He allowed us to suffer the consequence of our own disobedience. Yes, he understood the reasons why we left the path, which were due to a kind of a Stockholm syndrome effect if you like. Becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically mean that the lifetime of behavioural oddities you accrue after leaving your abusive family don’t still affect you. But at least we have the wisdom now to recognise aberrant behaviour and cut it off at the root before it can flower and cause more damage.

Church Hierachy and Invalidation

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Invalidation can come in many forms.

You can be ignored or you can become enmeshed.  You can be attacked or you can be minimised. Whichever way you are invalidated it is always abuse.  It is abuse because you are being told that you do not matter, that your opinion, your personhood has no import, no impact on the people around you, that you are in effect invisible. You are being abused because the person abusing is the person with the influence and authority.  There is a power imbalance.  There is nothing more damaging to a human being than to be informed by the human beings they value the most that they are themselves value-less.  It creates a deep feeling of insignificance, powerlessness and depression.  Unfortunately, in churches, it also gives people the erroneous idea that God himself disapproves of them because the hierarchy disapproves of them.  This is the idea.  In the most abusive environments, the hierarchy stands in for God and therefore any communication with the congregation is purported to be from God himself.  If you buy into this idea you start to believe that the human being you support as pastor or elder is the conduit through which your relationship to God is realised.  Their acceptance becomes God’s acceptance, their disapproval becomes God’s disapproval.

Different church hierarchies tend to use different methods.

A patriarchal and authoritarian structure has more heavy handed methods of invalidating.  Generally they choose to invalidate the opposition without by isolating their group and any criticism from those within by abusing their members.  Women in general and wives in particular are seen as a threat in these structures.  They are a threat because the wives are far more perceptive than their husbands, and they have an intimate relationship with them.  They know all their dirty little secrets. So in order to control them women will be invalidated by being handed a gender role defined, they decree, by scripture.  Often these structures claim to be ‘the truth’ and they will therefore invalidate all other denominations as ‘other’, or in some cases ‘irrelevant’.  John Macarthur recently decreed anyone not reformed as ‘basically irrelevant’ and another reformed pastor added ‘and wrong’.  This kind of fascist approach to faith is not what we see in scripture.  The disciples knew the truth, they preached a true gospel and they condemned preachers of a false gospel, but they did not murder those who opposed them as Calvin did, or shut down genuine questioners in the church.  It seems all of Calvin’s children have a similar mindset to himself minus the bloodshed.  But this is just one denomination.  We have seen similar attitudes in other types of churches, notably those who embrace Latter Rain theology. But plenty of Baptist or even Pentecostal churches have this kind of heavy handed approach.  There are always of course the independent groups or minor cults. It seems to come down to the spirit behind the church itself rather than the denomination, but there certainly are some denominations which lend themselves to this attitude.

On the opposite end of the scale, the emerging seeker-sensitive church takes a different approach.  Their attitude to dissenters is just as self-righteous and just as invalidating but they are often much more subtle.  Rather than take on other Christians they are apt to take on ‘the world’ although how much change they are actually effecting with their political and social activism is yet to be ascertained. This is their stated aim.  They are not interested in being changed from within by Christ, they are more interested in changing things around them; in particular political or social problems such as poverty which they say is the responsibility of the church.  It is easy to see that their theology is skewed in this way in order to avoid actually being accountable to other believers and to God.  If they keep the focus on changing the world, they appear to be both engaged in the world and therefore powerful, and also ‘doing what Jesus did’ ie. feeding the poor. What they inevitably refuse to accept is that Jesus’ message was not ‘feed the poor’ it was ‘be saved from out of this perverse generation’. That has always been God’s message to His people and to the rest of the world.  He came to save our souls, not feed our bodies, although obviously He has also promised to feed us as a good Father and a good Shepherd.  For God though, relationship with Himself through His Son is the essence of His message.

In our experience the emerging approach to any opposition or even casual questioning is to either pretend you don’t exist or to embrace you in a warm fuzzy ‘we love you anyway’ conversation.  Here I should point out that others including ourselves have also experienced rudeness, rejection and shunning from individuals in the emerging church.  So they are not without their clumsy and immature attempts to avoid dealing with questioners.   The face they present to the world is a much more benevolent one.  They want to disarm  you and help you to understand that they are not about conflict, they are about peacemaking. So the conversation becomes moot and you are left hanging, wondering what just happened.  In effect, this is a form of enmeshment and gaslighting.  They convince you that you are the problem not them yet the genius behind their approach is that they maintain an almost hypnotic insistence that they are simply interested in embracing your views along with everyone else’s.  It is impossible to argue with somebody who refuses to recognise the differences between two opposing ideas. We are all the same, each person is valid, and in this apparently egalitarian theology what they are actually doing is invalidating everyone. Its like that statement ‘everybody’s special’ which essentially nullifies the meaning of special – that which embodies the idea of different, or out of the ordinary.  If you change the meaning of special so that it actually means ‘the same’, then the word has lost its specific meaning. Covertly changing the meaning of language has always been one of the methods that cults and or political movements have gained traction with their ideas.  It’s a classic bait and switch. It not only destabilises their followers, it confuses the enemy, and produces cognitive dissonance, an important ingredient in manipulating the masses.

In many ways, the emerging church theology as a whole is about enmeshment.  They wish to do away with opposition entirely. They don’t like to declaim their beliefs, they do not have a ‘theology’, there is no right and wrong and everyone’s ideas are valid. Or so they say.  In actual fact they are invalidating not just individuals but whole faith systems by homogenising all faiths into one.  There are no more boundaries there is just this apparently loving whole which revolves around….well they don’t like to define what it revolve around but often it is their Jesus, who in fact is not the biblical Jesus but a synthetic amalgamation of eastern and western mysticism which is embodied in an impotent, unilateral Jesus.  In fact, this Jesus is the forerunner to the Antichrist who will be worshipped by all religions.  If you buy into the emerging church anti-doctrine doctrines, you will inevitably lose any biblical perspective that you originally had.  The emerging church is actually a political tool of the movers and shakers of this world which uses the Marxist and Hegelian doctrines and methods of social and political change.  Hegel stated:

(the state)‘has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State… for the right of the world spirit is above all special privileges (source)

This is a quote from the same source above which describes Hegelian philosophy.

The Hegelian dialectic is the framework for guiding our thoughts and actions into conflicts that lead us to a predetermined solution. If we do not understand how the Hegelian dialectic shapes our perceptions of the world, then we do not know how we are helping to implement the vision. When we remain locked into dialectical thinking, we cannot see out of the box.

Hegel’s dialectic is the tool which manipulates us into a frenzied circular pattern of thought and action. Every time we fight for or defend against an ideology we are playing a necessary role in Marx and Engels’ grand design to advance humanity into a dictatorship of the proletariat. The synthetic Hegelian solution to all these conflicts can’t be introduced unless we all take a side that will advance the agenda. The Marxist’s global agenda is moving along at breakneck speed. The only way to completely stop the privacy invasions, expanding domestic police powers, land grabs, insane wars against inanimate objects (and transient verbs), covert actions, and outright assaults on individual liberty, is to step outside the dialectic. This releases us from the limitations of controlled and guided thought.

The emerging church above anything is a political force being used by the powers that be to manipulate and control the Christian church.  We are being manipulated into taking a political stand when Jesus did not tell us to be political.  His kingdom is not of this world, and when He returns very soon to claim His own, He will not be making any political statements.  His is the power and the glory forever and ever amen.  Therefore, our eyes should be on the returning King and not on changing the world which needs must deteriorate.  We cannot stop the sinking ship.  We are urged to love our neighbours, to minister to our brothers and sisters, and to love our enemies.  We do not gain anything in God’s Kingdom by endorsing political manoeuvres by religious leaders or by fighting social battles to help feed the poor. Yet this is the agenda of the emerging church.  You don’t count unless you are poor and either unchurched or of a different religion.  People of this nature are, by definition, more virtuous and need greater recognition and help than any Western Christian.  Yet the very people who espouse this idea are western Christians.  What is this but invalidation on a mass, and political scale.

In essence, and this is an exceedingly ironic fact, the emerging church purports to be the antidote to the patriarchal and authoritarian church theology and methods of preceding ages.  The leaders present themselves as non-authoritarian yet wise. However they still lead megachurches as professional Christians.  Their target is the younger generation who have not yet been established in traditional theology and are still easily persuaded.  They convince even older Christians that the idea of an imposing and angry God who ‘murdered his son on the cross in an act of barbarism’ is not biblical, that God is in essence Father Christmas and does not want to punish anybody in an eternal hell.  They therefore, in order to uphold this ‘theology’ need to invalidate the historical and biblical Christ and remake Him into a clappy-happy loving peace-nik neo hippy who embraces everybody and does not impose any expectation upon his people.

In essence, the emerging church invalidates everyone who does not agree with their version of the truth.  This is the same problem any hierarchical system has, they just have different agendas.  While many hierarchical church systems preach the gospel, they present a straw man god who is the ‘angry god’ that emerging church leaders love to impune.

There you have two sides to the argument.  The dialect is complete and  you must choose which one you embrace.

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.  Jesus Christ is neither a hippy nor a policeman, He is the Son of God, himself God and the creator of the universe, the saviour of all mankind who brings to us the gift of eternal life.  He neither condemns us nor tells us we don’t have to change, nor does he endorse socio-political ideologies.  He is not a change agent, He enables us to be born again.  He does not change our flesh, He makes us wholly new.  Neither approach is right, both approaches invalidate the individual, the theology of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ and blaspheme Jesus himself and His cross.

God does not condone abuse, nor does He endorse false doctrine.  A false teacher is twice accursed and their end is destruction, and we are told not to even greet such a one.  It is starting to look as though the life of a genuinely born-again believer and son of God in this world is that of a weary but determined soldier fighting the final battle before the return of Jesus Christ.

My encouragement is to stand fast, hold your ground and resist the Devil and he will flee.  That is our battle, that is our calling.  Jesus is coming!  Hallelujah!