The fate of the divorced Pretend Christian

Let’s imagine an unrepentant, ‘professing’ Christian spouse who is an abuser, has been disciplinarily divorced for abuse (constructive desertion), desertion (leaving without cause) or adultery, by their regenerated, true disciple, Christian spouse. Hereafter, we’ll refer to the unrepentant spouse as Pretender and the true disciple as Real-deal for simplicity’s sake; that is, we are talking about two spouses who call themselves Christians, but one is deceptive and acting as a follower of Christ in public, but not at home, and one is honest, and genuinely following Christ.

If Real-deal has separated and later divorced Pretender for disciplinary reasons pertaining to I Corinthians 5:11, we’ll say that Real-deal is free to remarry because Pretender has broken their covenant by a pattern of abusive behaviour. Pretender’s pattern of abusive behaviour has essentially driven Real-deal away, because Real-deal is a disciple of Christ and also follows I Corinthians 7: 23 with conviction.

I Corinthians 5: 11

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother [professes to be a Christian] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

I Corinthians 7: 23

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.

What is Pretender’s fate after being divorced?

  • Has Real-deal abused Pretender? No.
  • Has Real-deal deserted Pretender? No.

Real-deal did not leave without cause, but because of Pretender’s constructive desertion of Real-deal.

  • Has Real-deal committed adultery? No.
  • So, has Pretender been treacherously divorced by Real-deal? No.
  • So, is there any justification to treat Real-deal as an unbeliever? No.

So as a ‘professing Christian’, Pretender is divorced, but has not been divorced treacherously. If Pretender, who professes to be a Christian, indicates any wrong-doing on the part of Real-deal to family, friends or church leadership, Pretender is trying to deceive them. Pretender does not follow Christ’s example of truthfulness, but rather Satan’s example of deception. Deception and abusive behaviour are not loving behaviours. Loving behaviour would distinguish a disciple of Christ (John 13:35), and likewise a pattern of unloving behaviour indicates otherwise.

John 13:35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

 

If Pretender’s church leadership are not ‘blind guides’ but discerning, they might:

  • Seek permission from Real-deal to hear Real-deal’s perspective, or via a representative, in order to gain a fuller understanding of the situation

 

  • Follow up any ‘damage control’ or genuine remorsefulness from Pretender with insistence on participation in regular accountability measures. These might include explusion from church attendance until repentance has been demonstrated in action, which would include checking with Real-deal (if Real-deal was willing) to ascertain Real-deal’s perspective on Pretender’s subsequent behaviour towards Real-deal.

 

  • At some point, the church would expect confirmation of genuine remorse via restitution from Pretender. This could be by graciously making financial restitution where financial abuse has occurred (no whingeing and reviling, and claims of injustice by Pretender), and by making restitution in the form of confession of all deceitfulness, and slander of Real-deal, to all who Pretender has intentionally deceived. Adherence to this would give greater credance to any appearance of genuine remorse by Pretender. Real-deal’s input would be valuable in this regard.

 

  • If Pretender’s remorse is genuine, Pretender would not want to remarry anyone until Pretender’s reformation was complete and acknowledged by church leadership, however long it took. Nothing less would indicate that Pretender was then capable of genuine and self-less love, and that Pretender was a suitable spouse for remarriage to Real-deal, or someone else in a subsequent remarriage (if Real-deal was not prepared to remarry Pretender). Pretender might even choose celibacy, and undivided devotion to the Lord, rather than risk falling back into old control tactics with another potential victim spouse.

 

  • If Pretender is unwilling to participate in accountability processes, the church leadership could treat Pretender as they would an unbeliever, in which case Pretender would be free to remarry according to the laws where Pretender resides, but such a marriage would not be officiated by Pretender’s pastor

Is this likely to happen? Not often, and not until we reform our thinking around biblical principles of marriage, divorce and remarriage. What happened prior to the divorce is important, not just for the ex-spouses, but for any future spouses.

Deception is hideous. Marriage or remarriage based on deception is a gross assault and miscarriage of justice to the new Mr or Mrs.

Churches who arrogantly ‘don’t condone divorce’ even after disclosure of abuse, but happily officiate at remarriages of the spouse who’s behaviour has been called into question, without any investigation, do not have as ‘high view of marriage’ as they think they do. They do not have a high level of care for the next poor person who walks into the deceiving ex-spouse’s entrapping ‘web’, or a high level of care for the previously abused spouse. For some bizarre reason, they care most about giving the deceiving abuser their stamp of approval, and saving themselves some ‘nasty bother’, by condoning the pretender’s remarriage without investigation. Where is their allegiance; to Christ or Satan, the father of lies?? (John 8:44).

John 8: 43-44, 47 (Jesus’ words)

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies…He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.

Anyone who prefers to coddle a liar than seek the truth, might do well to reassess who’s bidding they are doing. A little ‘bother’ now, might save them a lot later.

Our society is unimpressed when those whose position demands a certain level of duty of care, are not diligent to maintain it. And we serve a God of Justice; who is all-knowing and all-powerful. We might pause and think on that.

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Nearly a year later…

It is over 11 months since I started this blog. It has been a learning experience for me to set it up, has provided an avenue for me to speak up about what was on my mind regarding intimate partner abuse, and has helped put some of the pain and frustration behind me as I’ve done so.

At the beginning of this new year I expressed in a post that it was time for a new thing. It seems now, that the new thing is perhaps more extreme than I first thought would be needed, but suspected. I am having to take measures to ensure I can better provide for my children, and I anticipate having less time to spend writing posts as I do so, and less time to work on increasing the audience of the blog for the sake of encouraging more people.

I am looking at this as a season, because there is still burning in me a passion to speak up regarding the issues of intimate partner abuse; particularly the devastating and appalling impact on abused Christian spouses of extra-biblical traditions and lack of discernment regarding divorce, which are held by many abuse victims, abusive ‘professing Christian’ spouses, extended families and friends, and church leaders. I have no doubt I will keep reading and sharing posts I find online, and remain ready to do anything else as the Holy Spirit directs me.

Looking over some earlier posts I came across a song by Shelley Nirider (below) that I find incredibly meaningful. It is appropriate to me now as I reflect on the purpose of the blog, my hopes for the time I spent writing posts, and Who it is that watches over my coming and going both now and forevermore.¹

Some of the lyrics  of the song are:

It’s all about you, Jesus
And all this is for You…

It’s not about me
As if You should do things my way
You alone are God
And I surrender
To Your ways…

Jesus, I want you to know
I will follow You all my days…

It’s all about You, Jesus

(Edit: I hope the video stays put this time. I noticed on my phone that a Michael W. Smith song was there instead of this one, and when I logged in on my laptop, there was a Lauren Daigle song there instead!! That is a mystery to me, and my apologies to anyone that was understandably confused.)

For those who continue to happen upon the blog posts at Hadassah’s Legacy blog and Hadassah’s Legacy facebook page, please contemplate those words in the Bible, in Galatians 5: 1 that speak of that which Jesus Christ’s wants for us;  freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’

¹Psalm 121: 8
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We’ve messed up

In the Bible, there are no exception clauses regarding Abused Christian Spouses where justice, freedom, dignity, and righteousness is addressed for all people.

 

‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free’ (Galatians 5: 1a)

Abused Christian Spouses are not excluded from this freedom.

 

‘Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’ (Galatians 5: 1b)

There are no exception clauses compelling Abused Christian Spouses to allow themselves to be enslaved by their Abusive Claiming-to-be-Christian Spouses.

 

‘He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both repulsive to the LORD’ (Proverbs 17: 15)

There are no exception clauses allowing condemnation of Righteous Christian Spouses for maintaining firm boundaries against the abusive behaviours of their Wicked Claiming-to-be-Christian Spouses.

There are no exception clauses allowing justification of Wicked Claiming-to-be-Christian Spouses who abuse their Righteous Christian Spouses.

 

‘You must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister [Christian] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people’ (1 Corinthians 5: 11)

There is no exception that insists Abused Christian Spouses must eat with a Sexually Immoral-Greedy-Idolatous-Slanderous-Addicted-Or-Con Man/ Woman (SI-G-I-S-A-Or-CM/ W) who call themselves a brother or sister [Christian] if the person is their Spouse, let alone;

have sex! (a vastly more intimate ‘association’) with their SI-G-I-S-A-Or-CM/ W Spouse,

be financially vulnerable to such a SI-G-I-S-A-Or-CM/ W Spouse,

ignore a complete lack of trustworthiness in such a SI-G-I-S-A-Or-CM/ W Spouse, or

ignore a complete loss of feeling safe under the same roof, physically or emotionally, for one’s self or one’s children, with such a SI-G-I-S-A-Or-CM/ W Spouse.

 

‘A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again’ (Proverbs 19: 19)

There is no exception allowing a Hot-Tempered Claiming-to-be-Christian Spouse to avoid penalty and be denied the opportunity to be accountable to their church, with a view to reformation and restoration.

 

Jesus’ words about divorce guarded against the mistreatment of Treacherously Divorced Wives.

Abused Christian Spouses today can unfortunately say as David did;

‘You keep track of all my sorrows

You have collected all my tears in your bottle

You have recorded each one in your book’ (Psalm 56:8)

This is not only regarding the injustice they receive from their Abusive Claiming-to-be-Christian Spouses, but the injustice they receive from their Lacking-Discernment Churches.  

As traditions replace scriptural truth, Abused Christian Spouses are treated as of lesser value than their abusers; as a lower class of person, discriminated against and afforded less protection. The abused are assumed not to be included in various scriptures, as if their marriage gives impunity to their Abusive Claiming-to-be-Christian Spouses. Abusive Claiming-to-be-Christian Spouses act accordingly, believing they have impunity for their unrighteous behaviour.

If traditional beliefs about marriage and divorce compel us to treat Abused Christian Spouses as lower class people, we’ve messed up! Jesus would never do that.

‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’

Galatians 5: 1

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Did he think I was that stupid?

“Did he think I was that stupid?” That is a thought that recurred many times when I considered the behaviour of my abuser, and the contrast between what he said and what he did. I gradually came to accept that I couldn’t expect it to make sense. The abusive person’s behaviour doesn’t make sense. He, or she, is not wise, nor godly.

A few thoughts on 2 Timothy 3:

2 Timothy 3:1-7 New International Version (NIV) 

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

I have wondered whether rather than reading 2 Timothy 3: 6-7 as describing the women who abusive men target, as being;

* weak-willed/ silly/ vulnerable/ gullible

* loaded down with sins, and

* swayed by all kinds of evil desires,

* always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth;

that we should be reading it as describing the people described in verses 2-5 as the kind who;

* worm their way into homes and gain control over vulnerable women

* are loaded down with sins, and

* are swayed by all kinds of evil desires,

* always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth?

From my experience, verses 2-5 and the characteristics described in 6 and 7, describe my abuser to varying degrees:

Verses 2-5

‘…lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.’

Verses 6-7

‘…who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.’

In my own case, I was certainly vulnerable as a result of being lied to; I was young, and inexperienced with abusers, but after all due self-reflection, that is all from verses 6-7 that I could apply to myself. I know there are countless other women for whom those verses do not seem to apply, either.

If men target women who are kind, loyal, dedicated and honest (A Cry For Justice, Don Hennessy series part 3) a lot of these women are not going to be ‘loaded down by sins’, they are often diligently pursuing righteousness. The description fits for abusers, that they are ‘loaded down with sins’ (for example, as listed in verses 2-5) and ‘swayed by all kinds of evil desires’. The fact that such a small percentage of abusers ever reform, is in keeping with the description of ‘always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth’.¹

The punctuation varies between the translations, so I wondered what was intended in the original? Having looked at the New Matthew Bible translation at Bible Gateway, I found it written this way:

2 Timothy 3:6-7 New Matthew Bible (NMB)

6 Of this sort are those who enter into houses and bring into bondage women laden with sin, which women are led by divers desires and lusts, 7 ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I guess what we can say from all of this, is:

  1. At least some of the women who fall prey to the kind of people described in verses 2-5 can be described this way (in verses 6-7)
  2. The description in verses 2-5 does fit many abusers
  3. We could also guess that some of the people whose behaviour is described in verses 2-5, might also fit the description outlined in verses 6-7 because of their evident unrighteousness
  4. Verses 2-5 are not describing the male gender, but rather people of either gender in the last days, as verse 2 doesn’t specify gender²
  5. Verses 6-7 tell us that women of that description may fall prey to the kind of people described in verses 2-5
  6. Verses 6-7 do not say that all women who are abused by such people described in verses 2-5, will fit the description in verses 6-7

There is absolutely no reason within these scriptures, for anyone to draw a conclusion that a woman who is abused would by definition fit the description of the women described in verses 6-7. There is, then, no reason for abused women to think they are obliged to respond to, let alone defend themselves against any insinuation or accusation that they must fit the description of the women described in verses 6-7, if they are claiming they have suffered abuse.

Nor, should women imagine there might be something wrong with them, that perhaps they can’t recognise their own sin, if they fall prey to an abuser. If a woman is diligently pursuing righteousness, and making amends when she is in error, that woman is NOT laden down with sins. If a woman has been laden down with sins, and has repented and changed her behaviour, that woman is NOT someone who never comes to a knowledge of the truth.

Godly women who seek to be patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and to love, be joyful, peaceful and exercise self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23) may be  vulnerable to abuse, but they are not stupid. They are not generally ‘swayed’ from pursuing righteousness, and they often hold fast to God even if they are fighting against a fog of confusion for a time. They do keep learning, and they do come to a knowledge of the truth; the truth about what they are experiencing in contrast to the deceptions they are told; the truth of the good news about Christ, and what he called them to; the truth that God detests injustice, oppression, lies and slander.

Godly women are not stupid. They are patient, they are loving and kind, they are good, they are gentle and they exercise self-control when dealing with a husband who is abusive. They meditate on God’s word, day and night (as they wash dishes, as they tuck children into bed, as they search their Bibles and the internet! for answers to their confusion). They also worship God alone, not any man. It is for freedom that Christ has set them free, not to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5: 1).

2 Timothy 3: 12, says:

‘In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.’

It seems the very same chapter of Timothy also tells us that a woman who is abused, might also be a person who is wanting to live a godly life and is being persecuted by an evil man, an imposter, who is going from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. How much more is she persecuted, if the church leadership also fit the description of people in verses 2-5, who go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived?

2 Timothy 3: 11, ends with:

Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them [persecutions].

Yes, he does! He patiently takes us through, step by step to safety, and helps us learn how to manage those things remaining that we have no control over.

Here’s an uplifting song, “Rescuer (Good News)” from Rend Collective that affirms Jesus is our Rescuer with contagious enthusiasm!

https://YouTube/watch?v=sAg7rn7fH3Q 

¹For more posts on these verses at A Cry For Justice blog see here.
²Not in some translations anyway. For a post that discusses the fact that the Greek word anthropos is sometimes translated as ‘men’ and sometimes as ‘people’ see here. The article highlights the fact that translating is a very involved endeavour, and that differences in interpretation of scripture are sometimes further complicated by differences between translations.
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Extracting Reality from “Poppycock”

I don’t know how far and wide the word ‘poppycock’ is used, but it is a word used to refer to ‘nonsense’. The following is an example of extracting truth and reality from nonsense, in order to avoid being deceived and undermined.

Sometimes writing thoughts and feelings down helps us to see reality among the confusion of thoughts and feelings we’re having, because our sensible side has a better chance of being noticed on paper, than mixed up in our minds with all the nonsense we’ve heard, or told ourselves. Maybe singing the reality out of our minds in a made up song, writing a poem, creating some art, or making statements as we punch a punching bag, or dig the garden, might suit some people?

The following example statement (with an accusatory tone) is paraphrased:

An ex-husband was heard to say with some angst, “[Pastor’s name] said our marriage was repairable!” The ex-husband’s comment was made to his single ex-wife, after he had himself remarried.

A few thoughts:

  • Maybe the pastor left the “if…” unsaid, as it could be assumed the ‘repair’ would only be possible, if something changed to make it possible? The wife had evidently left for some reason, one would also assume? Certainly, I’d be surprised if a spouse would leave if they were very happy and contented, and had no significant concerns about their spouse’s behaviour?
  • Did the ex-husband think the pastor was omniscient (knows it all), like God?
  • Did the pastor think he was omniscient
  • Had the pastor educated himself regarding domestic abuse when presented with the estranged wife’s thought-provoking and perplexing concerns?
  • Did the pastor speak for the wife when he believed the marriage was repairable?
  • Did the pastor give false hope, or misplaced comfort when the estranged husband had a lot of work to do in rebuilding the estranged wife’s trust?
  • Had the ex-husband resolved his feelings toward the ex-wife, before remarrying another woman?
  • Had the ex-husband learned yet, to be respectful to the ex-wife?
  • Was the ex-husband still trying to undermine his ex-wife?

The wife left the home with a way forward for the husband. In essence he needed to demonstrate to her that he would respect her reasonable boundaries, and to keep doing so, for as long as it took for his trustworthiness to be re-established, even if it took a number of years. She assured him she would not remarry another man, so that it would always be possible for them to be reconciled, though she made it clear that she believed she was under no obligation to remarry him, as he had broken covenant with her through his unfaithful, abusive behaviour toward her. Even though she divorced him for disciplinary reasons, it was not irreversible in the eyes of the law or God, as she did not remarry another man.

Expressed this way, in reality the marriage was repairable “if”:

A. The husband responded by respecting the wife’s reasonable boundaries

B. The husband respected her reasonable boundaries for as long as it took to demonstrate his trustworthiness

C. The husband was prepared to remarry her after their divorce, after A. and B. had been achieved

D. The husband did not marry another woman before he had achieved A., B. and C.

Realistically, it was not likely to happen because love involves truth and work¹, and the husband had already avoided the work of love and living truthfully, in multiple marriages and other relationships. Still, it was possible, “if” the husband had wanted the marriage to be repaired so sincerely, that he was prepared to work at repairing the trust he had broken, as well as resolving the origins of his unloving and dishonest behaviour; wanted it enough to choose to do that work; and do it.

Instead, the husband was not prepared to work at either A. or B., or to acknowledge that C. was legally and scripturally possible, or to avoid D. His own actions in remarrying another woman, was what made their marriage irreparable, not anything the ex-wife did.

The ex-wife remained unmarried, yet the remarried ex-husband accused her with the words we began the post with, “[Pastor’s name] said our marriage was repairable!”.

What a load of poppycock!

 

¹Ascerted by M. Scott Peck among the treasure in his book, “The Road Less Travelled”

 

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Truth-telling, slander or gossip??

(This post is edited from a facebook post I posted at the Hadassah’s Legacy facebook page this morning, then realised my ‘quick facebook comment’ might as well be posted at the Hadassah’s Legacy blog.)

Telling the truth about your own story of abuse may be necessary for your mental health, and is different to slandering someone by misrepresentation and lies, with selfish and malicious intent, or gossipping about someone, likewise.

Abusers/ narcissists are themselves responsible for how they feature in their victims’ stories (not their victims and survivors). They try to accuse and blame their victims for speaking the truth, while they justify to themselves their own slander of the innocent; the very ones they accuse. (???)

Don’t listen to their twisted rhetoric and accusations; they do not have your spiritual growth at heart, and are foolish with their own. You do not have to keep their secrets for them.

Be wise to whom you speak, and the reason you speak, but you don’t have to hide their ‘secret sins’ if it will be to your further detriment.

They choose to write themselves into the stories of human beings who have free will, not robots who only operate ‘by their command’. They feature in the stories of others by their own actions; their choice; their risk; their responsibility.

Abusers/ narcissists alone are responsible for how the truth about their actions impacts their image, reputation and deceptions. Truly loving, kindly and honest people never need to worry about the truth being told about them.

Abusers may be worried because they know the truth about their actions, and that their image is a lie. If they are worried, and want their lies maintained, they have not repented, and any remorse they expressed was a sham. Don’t listen to them; don’t listen to them; don’t listen to them.

Your story is yours to tell, at your discretion.

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A life without regret

 

A life without regret

Listening; choosing by doing

Learning; knowing by doing

Accepting God’s forgiveness

 

“Jesus loves you”

“Build your house on the rock, not the sand”

“Follow the narrow way that leads to life”

“Jesus is preparing a place for you”

 

“Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life”

“Believe in Him”

“He is the same yesterday, today and forever”

“Trust in Him”

 

God knows

He knows who chooses truth and kindness

He knows who lies and deceives and slanders

God knows

 

In all the assumptions, ignorance and injustice

God knows

In all the deception and misrepresentation

God knows

 

“Fight the good fight

with faith and a good conscience”

“If we endure

we will also reign with Him”

 

He will be faithful in his promises to the faithful

He will be faithful in his promises to the unfaithful

God knows, and

“He will remain faithful”

 

Grateful Integrity

 

The words in quotation marks are supported by the following scriptures in order:
John 15: 9
Matthew 7: 24-27
Matthew 7: 13-14
John 14: 2
John 14: 6
John 3: 16, Romans 10: 9-11
Hebrews 13: 8
Proverbs 3: 5-6
I Timothy 1: 18c-19a
2 Timothy 2: 12a
2 Timothy 2: 13
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A New Thing

A New Year, 2019, and time for a new thing.

Isaiah 43: 18-19

18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

For me personally, and therefore for the blog, it is time for a new thing. I started the blog in April, 2018 and during those past 9 months I have been able to express the things that had been on my mind regarding intimate partner abuse for several years; where I grappled with my situation, then made choices to survive, disentangle and recover.

I have done all I could to raise concerns with the appropriate people, with scriptural principles as my guide. I found no one that would be in a position to act, who understands intimate partner abuse well enough to ‘hear’ what I was saying. I trust that the majority of Christians will gradually ‘get it’ about intimate partner abuse issues, and things will be different in the future.

For now, I seem to be done talking to local people face-to-face, and will be focussing on participating in the sharing of posts and comments online between survivors, advocates, and anyone else who is receptive to learn about issues of abuse. My hope is that survivors and advocates will all be encouraged as we continue to raise our collective voices, and that systemic change will occur as we do.

This year I am hoping to keep the posts a bit shorter and perhaps more frequent. I share posts from the blogs of other advocates as well as Hadassah’s Legacy (HL) blog posts on the Hadassah’s Legacy facebook page (note: earlier HL posts were not shared at the facebook page).

I will ‘forget the former things’ where God has healed me and made me new. I will not forget the oppression that others suffer, and will continue to pursue Truth, Courage, Compassion and Justice as the Holy Spirit directs me.

Grateful Integrity

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Liar, thief and coward

The foundation of abusive relationships is often a liar‘s deceit. The relationship then is of continuous theft by that thief; taking through dishonest means, through false pretense, swindling. The theft might extend to financial theft, theft of dignity, theft through sexual coercion; many things. If an abused partner recognises their partner’s behaviours as unacceptable, and enforces reasonable personal boundaries even to separating or divorcing their abusive partner, it is a coward who then publicly slanders the abused partner for their own ends, a partner they abused all along for their own ends, and a partner they vowed their love for; a very feigned and false kind of declaration.

Deceit in a relationship comes through many means, such as through manipulation, projecting onto, falsely accusing, gaslighting, putting down, bullying, blame shifting, outright lying etc. Every act of deceit breaks trust, so that over time, trust may be worn away completely, to the point an abused partner can’t believe a word their abusive partner says, anymore.

If forgiveness is granted by the abused partner (though it should follow repentance(1) not mere ‘sorry’ words and a few tears) and repentance has not occurred, so that trust has not been able to be restored, it is not the abused partner whose heart is hard. The abuser has simply done nothing to restore trust, because their behaviour is still untrustworthy. It is the unrepentant abuser whose heart is hard. The onus should be on the untrustworthy abuser to add trustworthy act, to trustworthy act for as long as it takes to restore the broken trust, not on the abused partner to extend trust again where there is no evidence to warrant it. Trustworthy acts might include honesty, care when the abused partner is unwell, sharing finances equitably, respecting the abused partner’s belief that a separation is necessary for the abused partner, choosing not to intersperse emails ‘blaming the abused partner for choosing divorce’ with emails ‘demanding the divorce’, and so forth.

Is it also pastors, who accept an abuser’s ‘apparent’ remorse as a done deal, without negotiating any accountability measures, let alone having a protocol that stipulates these, that are hard-hearted toward the abused partner? the partner the abuser has just confessed to abusing?? for whom justice should be pursued according to scripture??? Is it also friends and in-laws who are hard-hearted, having witnessed and even remonstrated with the abuser regarding his (or her) inconsideration toward his (or her) incredibly patient spouse, when they allow themselves to listen later, to accusations against ‘the patient one’, by ‘the inconsiderate one’?

Loving is giving. If there is an abundance of unloving acts, of taking and using and lack of care, the sincerity of declarations of love is logically and reasonably to be questioned. If public confessions by the abuser of wrongdoing, and professions of love for the abused partner, do not yield the results the abuser was after, and are followed by slandering of the abused partner by the confessor, discerning people should be very concerned. If the hearers (Christian family, Christian friends, or pastors) of both the confessions and professions of love as well as the slandering, or those who are aware of it do nothing, they are labouring under a lack of insight and discernment at best, and hardness of heart toward the oppressed, the abused partner, at worst.

In considering two situations that come to mind [edit (add): where a concerned party might not act for an abused spouse]; one situation was already being laudably attended to by a gracious church who provided a means of accountability and mentoring to the erring spouse. In the second situation, a professional was one of many who received a mixed-message letter from an estranged spouse, which his code of conduct prevented him from responding to in any other way except to the writer, if appropriate, in session. Certainly, reassuring an abused spouse (or a one minute exonerated, next minute slandered spouse) of one’s support, and any personal perceived barriers to standing with them in a vocal way, would give a very different message to complete silence.

Isaiah 1: 17

‘Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.’

If Christian friends and family don’t check in with the accused abused partner about the slanderous accusations against them, but rather accept them without direct enquiry of the accused, they fail to follow principles in Matthew 18:15-17 (below). If these principles are followed, the truth may be uncovered, and as a result, whether there is even any need of repentance on the part of the accused, or rather the accuser:

‘“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.’

If friends and family did check in with the accused abused partner, they would understand why the accuser has not followed those principles himself (or herself) – because there are no witnesses to the abusive partner’s accusations, because the accusations are false.

If pastors fail to follow up the abused partner’s concerns about their abusive ‘professing Christian’ partner, they fail to follow principles in 1 Corinthians 5: 11-13:

‘But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

They therefore fail to ensure safety for future victims, just as surely as failing to investigate allegations of paedophilia, inevitably results in further victims. The church is currently under scrutiny for their response to domestic abuse in their midst and yet pastors who don’t want to be involved and don’t investigate, and who don’t condone divorce yet find it in themselves to officiate at the abuser’s re-marriage to their next victim, are failing to meet either biblical responsibilities or current social expectations of duty of care.

Of course, we are all the Church who are believers, and a believing spouse who separates or divorces because of their spouse’s unrepentant sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander (whether behind closed doors or publicly), drunkenness (or intemperance by other means eg drugs) and/ or swindling (theft by deceit, which might include lying) may perhaps choose to do so with a clear conscience, in accordance with the 1 Corinthians 5: 13 stipulation to, “Expel the wicked person from among you”. This may be all the recourse left an abused, oppressed spouse in a community that identify as Christian, where none have either the discernment, or the heart to act on behalf of the oppressed spouse.

Even if the abuse in question is not currently criminal in their country or state, church discipline for conduct unbecoming a professing believer, at the very least may give pause to vulnerable future victims wanting to marry a Christian, and to family and friends of abusers who have some semblance of discernment, before they welcome the next victim into their unreformed family member’s or friend’s web of deception. Of course, the abuser may well accuse the church of some form of ill-treatment, and attempt to elicit more pity that way, but pastors make the abuser’s job easier, and fail to follow scripture, if they make no attempt to address the abuser’s behaviour because it is too difficult.

Accountability of pastors is higher because of their position of authority and the power base that comes with it. If they won’t get involved and won’t investigate, and instead enter the world of pretense of the alleged abuser, are they not cowards also? At best, they are still suckling ‘milk’, as they are not mature enough to chew on ‘meat’ or solid food.

Hebrews 5: 11-14

‘We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.’

Such is also the case of family and friends who rate sentimentality toward an abuser over justice to those who were once their family member-in-law or mutual friend. Stand up for the oppressed, don’t turn a blind eye! Don’t pity the ‘poor soul’ whose spouse left with good reason – he (or she) should be alone until they are fit to treat their partner, or a subsequent partner, in a loving and healthy manner. Even if attempting to stay neutral, anyone who doesn’t stand for the abused partner, is complicit in support of the abuser.

Failing to address abusive behaviour of the abuser is actually a disservice to the abuser as well as to the abused, as much as to withhold discipline from a child is to fail to love the child. God disciplines us because He loves us. Isn’t the church failing to truly love abusive partners, if they fail to offer accountability measures (which for a time may include expulsion from fellowship) with an overall aim of restoration, not just in view of fellowship, but of the soul for eternal life?

Narcissistic abusers, who claim to be Christians, are constantly undermining their own goals, digging themselves a bigger and bigger proverbial hole of shame of their own making, in a series of doomed attempts at being an acclaimed success, and having all they believe they are entitled to. They do not stop short of further sinning against their innocent former spouses through slander, in order to deceive, and receive pity, and pave the way for their subsequent marriages to be deemed ‘biblical’.

If an abuser can’t come at accusing their abused partner/ former partner of adultery because there is ‘zip, zero, not-happening, nuh-uh, no’ evidence of any sexual unfaithfulness, another is to claim the abused partner was guilty of ‘desertion’ or ‘abandonment’. As indicated by comments on US divorce law, listeners to an abuser’s ‘pity me’ rhetoric, would do well to investigate what those grounds actually require, before they get sucked in by the abuser’s manipulation.

Abandonment means that one spouse has left the other without consent, but like adultery proving desertion means more than that a person left home without the consent of the other spouse.  Most states require that the defendant or respondent left home for a year or more; that the parties failed to agree about the departure; that plaintiff or petitioner failed to pay support; and that the departure was not caused by the plaintiff or petitioner.”

“Constructive desertion happens when one partner causes the other partner to leave the marital home through misconduct. If one partner is forced to leave the home because the other’s misconduct, he or she has been constructively deserted. In this regime, the conduct of one spouse makes it impossible for the other to stay in the marriage.” (2)

So an abusive partner whose partner leaves because of the abusive partner’s misconduct, has no grounds to claim abandonment or desertion. Rather, the abuse survivor who leaves the abusive partner has grounds to claim constructive desertion against the abusive partner. As always, it depends on the jurisdiction and the judge, or the church denomination and the leadership, what would actually be judged in an individual case. At the very least, an understanding of the legal terms can aide Christian leaders, along with scripture, in wading through an abuser’s rhetoric. It can also aide the conscientious Christian to act with good conscience before their One True God.

If the abuser extends his (or her) assertions to further suggest the abused partner’s leaving constitutes behaviour that indicates the abused partner should be treated as an ‘unbeliever’, may God have mercy on that person’s soul, and on any who intentionally fail to investigate the matter beyond a self-confessed liar’s deceptive misrespresentations.

Abusers who are genuinely repentant need to sort their rubbish out and take whatever time is required by their partner/ estranged or former partner and/ or their accountability team (if they seek a subsequent relationship) to prove they are now fit to function in an interdependent relationship of mutual goodwill. This is not an easy task, and consequently thrown into the ‘too hard’ basket by many. Not however, by many of the oppressed; the abused partners/ former partners, the ones with ‘SILENCE’ figuratively taped over their mouths; the ones way back in the background being asked if they have ‘forgiven and moved on’, or perhaps who are offered pastoral care or counselling in the face of their attempts to advocate for justice for others who are abused, and future victims.

Yet, in Luke 19: 8, “Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” That is repentance; eager and generous restitution, not remorseful words, followed by unrepentant behaviour, followed again by slander of the innocent.

Anyone who fails to listen to the pleas of the oppressed, and does not investigate their concerns, do not do a subsequent Mr or Mrs X the III, IV or V any favours by gushing their happiness for the new couple – seriously. The liar, thief and coward routine simply starts all over again.

Proverbs 19: 19

‘A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again.’

Galatians 6:7-8

‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’

1 Samuel 16: 7

‘But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”‘

Proverbs 17: 5

‘Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—
    the Lord detests them both.’

 

Epilogue

Following Jesus with courage, studying and following scripture diligently (to the best of one’s knowledge) leaves one with no regrets, whatever may be the choices of others.

I want to say (in case it means something to somebody) that though my separation from my abuser brought considerable relief from the day-to-day nightmare, and the divorce gave me considerably more relief through legal safety and independence (with no personal sense of obligation to ever reconcile and remarry him) his remarriage brought the fullest sense of RELIEF!! Though it was in a way the final rejection and fullest extension of his unfaithfulness, I celebrated! I found myself smiling, at moments, all that day and after!

Where the divorce did not preclude reconciliation and remarriage either legally or biblically, his remarriage to another woman did preclude any future remarriage between the two of us in biblical terms (Deuteronomy 24: 1-4) as I understand it. At any rate, ‘for the first time and forever’ no one in Christendom will ever ‘point the finger’ at me again, and say I am obligated to reconcile with a person who habitually chooses unrighteousness, who is unrepentant, and who ought to be treated as an unbeliever until he repents. YAHOO! Jesus, I’m all Yours!!

(That’s not to say there aren’t a myriad of issues that may attend a former spouse’s remarriage. The perspective shared above is just that, a perspective shared on one issue.)

 

(1) Jesus’ words to us in Luke 17: 3 are:
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” (Bold added)

(2) Quotes retrieved at https://www.divorcesource.com/ds/divorceprocess/abandonment-and-desertion-in-divorce-309.shtml

 

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Whether diagnosed or not

Many behaviours of abusive people have a devastating impact on their intimate partners. Whether or not those abusive behaviours happen to be sufficient for the abusive partner to fall within the diagnostic criteria of any given psychological disorder, in any particular edition of the DSM, has no bearing on whether the behaviours do, or do not impact that person’s intimate partner.

The intimate partner is the most expert in regard to whether or not the abusive partner’s behaviour is affecting their own well-being negatively. A measely hour or few, several emails, and ‘X number of years psychiatry experience’ does not trump the day-in-day-out lived experience the intimate partner has had, for however many years they have been married, or partnered to their abuser.

Let’s suppose for example that you identify with 20 out of a list of 26 experiences of a non-Autism Spectrum Disorder (non-ASD) or neuro-typical (NT) intimate partner, in an ASD/ NT marriage; does an absence of a diagnosis mean your relationship isn’t evidently dysfunctional, unhealthy, and likely to be causing grave deterioration in your own emotional, psychological and/ or physical well-being? We also might consider whether the absence of a diagnosis is due to a psychiatrist being unable to categorically diagnose according to DSM criteria, or whether the abusive partner is undiagnosed because he/she won’t even get a referral to be assessed? Maybe the referral lays at home, and months go by before the abuser makes an appointment, or attends one.

Maybe the psychiatrist talks about personality differences between the abusive person and the intimate partner, but never mentions narcissism, let alone makes any kind of a diagnosis; does that have any bearing on whether or not your spouse’s behaviours are the same tactics that narcissist’s use? Just because no-one will ‘call a spade a spade’, doesn’t mean it isn’t a spade. The psychiatrist doesn’t live in an intimate relationship with your partner, and psychiatrists often differ in their conclusions.

Personalities that lack  empathy, the capacity to understand the perspective of others, or the humility to learn how, are not compatible with an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship. Taking months to get a ‘win-win’ agreement (one step forward) on one of many issues, only to find three months later your partner has ‘forgotten’ the agreement, or claims a different understanding of it, written or otherwise (two steps backward), because you’re the only one who cares about the changes you need, is essentially the same degree of progress as going nowhere at all.

At that rate a decade could easily go by with needs never being adequately addressed, and maybe your own well-being requires resolution without delay? Maybe your relationship with your diagnosed or undiagnosed partner is extremely challenging, but he/ she is genuinely engaged with making changes, even if for their own benefit. Either way, some professional support for yourself as an individual, could be beneficial for getting perspective on your situation, and your level of coping. It can be very difficult to get that perspective alone, if your own well-being is already significantly impacted.

I have read numerous places that couple counselling is not recommended if your partner is abusive, including in some of the links included in this post. My personal experience has lead me to question the practice, also.

Maybe you can highlight 80% of the Power and Control Wheel (Duluth Wheel), but your spouse has not committed a crime he can be arrested for, and will not acknowledge he abuses you. Maybe the relationship counsellor has failed to recognise that your uncertainty about where your spouse’s ‘breaking point is’ (before he uses physical violence) raises a question about whether you really do feel safe, even if you say you do. Maybe you have not linked your sense of vulnerability, or being unable to depend on your partner to be reasonable, or to self-regulate, to a sense of not feeling ‘safe’; so you don’t say the magic words, “No, I do not feel safe” that would otherwise lead a counsellor to follow a domestic abuse process.

I once read a comment on a forum that said, ‘Autistic men aren’t abusive, abusive men are’. I think this is an important comment. We hear the term, ‘adorable aspies’¹ and are reminded that ASD behaviour is easier to accommodate and provide for once we understand why we are encountering it, and adjust our expectations. This does not mean there will be no frustration, and it does not mean the person is incapable of making intentionally hurtful choices. Abusiveness is not the exclusive domain of non-ASD people, and not all autistic people are abusive. Some ‘aspies’ are adorable, others are not.

Susan Heitler, PhD, a clinical psychologist has written an article discussing the similarities between narcissism and autistic spectrum disorders (here) published by Pyschology Today. In a subsequent article (here) highlighting two case studies, Susan says this to conclude:

“The bottom line from my perspective is that there is often overlap between these two syndromes [narcissism and Aspergers].  Is that because some people have both?  Is the border between the two disorders a fuzzy boundary, so the label is a function of which features the diagnosis is primarily focusing on?

In my view, the essential feature of narcissism is a listening defect.  Narcissistic behavior is behavior that focuses only on oneself—what I want, what I think.  This ‘all about me’ tendency creates, or maybe results in, deficits in ability to hear others thoughts, feelings, preferences, etc.  When others insist on trying to be seen or heard, the narcissistic tendencies lead to anger.

As to Aspergers, I regard the addition of social oddities, avoidance of close social interactions, gaze aversion, and difficulties reading others’ feelings as signs that Aspergers as well as narcissistic non-listening may be present.  Also, narcissistic self-aggrandizement is typically less pronounced or absent with Aspergers.  And Aspergers individuals do not as often have the social charm that many individuals with naricissistic features have.

Paradoxically, people with both diagnoses can be very empathic and generous.  The bottom line is that these are not all-or-nothing syndromes, and they can easily co-exist. Very complex.”

The good news is some high functioning people with or without diagnoses choose to learn, and choose different actions. The bad news is, some high functioning people with or without diagnoses have no intention of changing; maybe changing looks like too much hard work, or they don’t want to give up the power base they maintain through manipulating their circumstances to suit them; maybe they don’t want to give up the allowances made for them because of their difficulties, or their ideal image of themselves makes no allowances for acknowledging there is any problem at all.

An apt quote by Charles M. Blow says:

“One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”

A list of tips from the Neurotypical Site for neurotypical spouses of ASD partners is a very illuminating read (here). It could provide some welcome validation for anyone struggling with having a stakehold in their own life; having anyone appreciate that their partner’s disorder is not their fault either; and, that their neuro-typical condition is precious, and worth preserving, not an inconsequential and expendable sacrifice for the altar of accommodating their ASD partner’s needs.

Even with a diagnosis, if it’s not their fault, it’s not yours either. A disorder is not an excuse to abuse one’s partner. What is the point of a neurotypical person gaining a psychological disorder because of the excessive pressure put on them by their abusive spouse, whether diagnosed or not, whether ASD/ narcissistic/ or both, or anything else?

From a biblical perspective, abuse breaks the marriage covenant, a parity covenant, which is dependent on both parties upholding their vows to care for and be faithful to the other. Sometimes we are blinded from the truth of the scriptures by the extra-biblical traditions of men. That is a topic for an entirely different post, but it is worth mentioning that the tips for neurotypical spouses are not invalid for Christian spouses.

God condemns oppression and injustice, and He does not qualify that with an exemption for married people, allowing spouses to oppress or accuse their partners unjustly. That would not reflect a just God. Nor do we need to excuse abusive behaviour whether someone is diagnosed with a disorder, or not. Essentially, if someone were to be incapable of choosing right or wrong behaviour, they would be incapable of maintaining an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship, such as marriage.

Here are a few other websites and interesting articles:

Websites:

The Neurotypical Site at http://www.theneurotypical.com/about_us.html

Aspia at https://www.aspia.org.au/

The Truth About Aspergers at http://heartlessaspergers.com/

Articles:

http://heartlessaspergers.com/effects-of-neurodevelopmental-levels-on-relationships/

http://www.drpsychmom.com/2015/02/28/am-i-aspergers-or-narcissistic/

https://www.theneurotypical.com/tips-for-nt-spouses.html

¹’Aspie’ is a nickname for someone diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, listed in the DSM-IV.  Asperger Syndrome has been dropped from the DSM-5 as noted below:
Asperger’s was considered related to but distinct from autism. DSM-5 contains a new disorder that replaces both the old autistic disorder and Asperger’s: It is called autism spectrum disorder. Retrieved at https://www.livescience.com/37333-dsm-aspergers-disorder.html 

 

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