Life in FOCUS Blog

What Color is Your Elephant?

Wherever I go, I see evidence of God’s most beautiful and unique design in creation in the women I meet. With just words, each woman was designed by God. Actually if you think about it, God was and still is the first HGTV program (House and Garden TV). HGTV is one of my favorite TV programs. It is amazing to me with just a dash of color and certain arrangements something is created from basically nothing.
I admire people who have the gift of seeing the potential in a room or house. I can view the beautiful results but cannot create it myself. The decorators remove the blemishes, cover up flaws, and add flair from their own design.
Each one of us can do the same in our personal lives. We have learned techniques to deny or ignore the existence of an issue that keeps us from growing in our lives and in our personal relationship with God. I call these “elephants”.
Did you know that the elephant is the largest land animal on earth? At birth, it can weigh 260 pounds. An adult can weigh up to 26,000 pounds. No wonder we are so weighted down when these elephants exist in our lives. As you can see, elephants would be hard to get rid of but not impossible.
You have heard the old adage that there is an elephant in the room, but no one addresses it. We think if we ignore it, it will just go away. We try to keep it hidden. We decorate the elephant to match our personal décor so it will go unnoticed by us and others. What color is your elephant? Have you added accessories? Have you tried covering it with patterns of behavior that mask its appearance?
The elephant does not fit into our definition of a “perfect” Christian. It is a blemish that brings shame especially if you are in ministry. Most elephants have to do with relational issues. So what do we do? We cover it up by the mask we wear on our face and claim everything is fine when asked, but down deep inside the elephant is growing and destroying us piece by piece. Fear of it being exposed keeps us enslaved to this secret. No one has escaped an “elephant”.
For more than 28 years, Pam dealt with an “elephant” that crippled her relationship with the Lord and devalued her as an image bearer of God. She did not realize that this elephant was becoming an idol in her life. It pushed away things that would enrich her soul and develop the potential God had placed within her. The elephant became her focal point no matter how hard Pam tried to deny its existence. It was a relational issue that quenched her spirit.
She was young, naïve, and uninformed. She believed in the myth that if you marry a Christian man, you would always have a Christian home filled with joy in the service of the Lord. The elephant in its infant stages was present, but the charm of the young man overshadowed its presence. There were little indicators, the authoritative tone that led her to question her parents’ wisdom and guidance, the aggressive behavior Pam interpreted as confidence. It was so subtle. What little she saw she determined to fix it by her love.
The baby elephant began to grow within the first week of marriage. An outburst of rage from her husband began a pattern of questioning her perceptions and over analyzing the situation.
Her husband was well liked at work and church. He would often make sacrifices to others but not his family. Behind closed doors at home, he claimed his headship and demanded submission. Verbal criticism chiseled away her self-concept. His denial of his actions or gifts he would bring left her confused about how she perceived an incident. Scripture taken out of context or misinterpreted kept her in her place. Walking on eggshells whenever he was present became a norm in her life.
One day as she looked into the mirror she noticed how much her physical appearance was being affected. Her eyes were sad. Her posture slumped and eye contact with others had become difficult. Putting on makeup was left for another day. She felt no confidence in her abilities. Depression and despair were her constant companions. It was through counseling by a godly woman that Pam was guided into labeling her elephant. The label was domestic violence.
She learned a new term, Boundaries. She had the responsibility to guard her heart by only allowing in what would build her up and develop her relationship with God instead of what would destroy. Pam’s lack of boundaries only enabled the abuse to continue.
She realized that she had tried to fix everything under her own power, her abilities, and her actions. Pam did not allow the power of the Holy Spirit within her to work. She did not understand that she needed to give up control of the life she was losing. By letting God be Sovereign in everything, she would actually gain life.
No matter what your elephant is God is there to guide and direct you. Can you release it to God and trust that God is only going to do what is best for you? Who else can you trust and know that their promise is true?
There are specific key steps in addressing an elephant.
1. Come out of denial. The elephant will grow and weigh you down more.
2. Identify, define, and label your elephant and then educate yourself about your elephant.
3. Don’t ignore it. Remember the weight of the elephant at birth and the weight as an adult.
4. Begin to ask yourself the following questions.
• How have I disguised my elephant?
• Has it been covered with a pattern of behavior?
• Has the elephant become an idol in my life?” Is it my focal point rather than God?
• Why do I ignore it?
The answer to the last question can contain many reasons that reflect past and present experiences in our life. Let’s examine some possible reasons.
Shame
Shame takes a strong grip on us as we look at other women who seem to have it all together. We compare ourselves to them pointing out our failures and judging ourselves harshly. We long to be all that God created us to be and to experience His grace, but we have become stagnant in our perceptions telling ourselves we are not worthy of anything. Shame becomes part of what we experience in difficult relationships.
• Shame that we can’t fix it
• Shame that people will view us as being the cause of the problem
• Shame that we don’t measure up to the standards of the Christian community
Fear
• Fear that we don’t meet people’s expectations of us
• Fear of not meeting God’s expectation
• Fear of a sin being revealed
• Fear of repercussions from the abusive person
• Fear that we won’t be heard and understood
• Fear of being blamed for the problem.
Rejection
If people know what your elephant is, they may reject you, abandon you or withdraw their love. That is a possibility, but God will not reject you, abandon you, or not love you.
Guilt
Maybe there is guilt for something you did to enable this elephant to grow, guilt that you didn’t do something sooner about the issue or you didn’t handle it in an appropriate way. Should of, could of, would of, and the If only’s don’t exist so don’t dwell on them.
Condemnation
There is a possibility that others will condemn you and persecute you when your elephant is revealed. but rest in God’s Word.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 NIV
Sometimes we ignore the elephant because of the labels we wear. I am not good enough. I’ll never measure up. I am unlovable.
Think about where these messages came from. What hurts have created these wounds that placed these labels on you?
The next step is
5. Take off the mask. Reach out to someone you trust and tell the secret.
6. Find resources to help you deal with your elephant.
7. Most important—seek God first. Let him be your focus, your strength, and power to deal with the elephant.
There is HOPE in removing your elephant even though it may seem too overwhelming and difficult. Turn your focus to the Lord for He is your hope and strength.
Hope is:
Holding onto Jesus
Opening your heart and seeking God’s guidance and wisdom
Preparing to take a stand against evil and sin
Experiencing God’s faithfulness and unconditional love

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Self-esteem, Shame, Spiritual Direction

Take Heart, Daughter!

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. Matthew 9:20-22

This woman was clothed in shame from the illness she suffered for twelve years. Year after year she had been considered unclean. This affected any kind of relationship she would have. This had to have caused immense isolation and loneliness.
Read more ›

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Self-esteem, Shame Tagged with: , , ,

Responding Wisely to a FOOL

After identifying our Fool, we may ask ourselves “Now What!” We can once again turn back to the wisdom of scripture to learn how to respond while heading its warning.
Proverbs 24:25: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Wisdom: Over time we can become like the angry person when we continue to be in relationship with them. The longer we stay connected the more entangled we become in their behavior.
Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Wisdom: Physical injury and/or mental damage will occur to the companion of a FOOL. Stay away from the FOOL. We will grow in wisdom if we choose to be a companion with the wise.
Proverbs 19:19 “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”
Wisdom: Don’t keep the FOOL from suffering the consequences of their behavior. If you rescue them, you are enabling their behavior to continue and you will have to rescue them over and over again.
Proverbs 17:12: “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly.”
Wisdom: Keep your distance from a FOOL otherwise you will experience fierce, frightening actions that are worse than a mama bear fighting for her cubs.
Your FOOL could be your husband/wife, mother, father, sibling, your son/daughter, friend, employee, or your boss. For various reasons you may feel these individuals must remain in your life at some level.
You can begin to see the effect they are having on your life. You know you cannot change them (although you would like to fix them), but you can change how you interact with them.
The first step you can take is to DETACH. You may not be able to physically remove yourself from the FOOL’s presence, but it is important to emotionally detach. Words will still come at you from their angry lips but tell yourself “I’m dealing with a FOOL This is their foolish behavior. Their words are lies.”
Emotionally detaching is not an easy thing to do and will take practice and time for it to happen. When angry darts fly at you, try to remove yourself from the FOOL’s presence. Do something that you consider as self care. One woman went into the bathroom and turned on her radio to listen to music so she could not hear the words.
If the FOOL is at your place of employment, you may have to busy yourself with your job responsibilities. In some cases, you may have to get a new job.
Try not to lash back with angry words. You will only be adding fuel to the fire. Your words will be used against you presently as well as in the future.
Since the FOOL repeats his folly, you can in calm moments develop responses that could be options to relating to the difficult person the next time an incident happens. This will help you not to become so entangled in their behavior.
In summary:

  • Identify the FOOL in your life
  • Seek God’s wisdom in dealing with and responding to your FOOL
  • Detach or physically distance yourself from the FOOL
  • Pray for your FOOL that they will allow God to work in their heart and renew their mind so their behavior changes.
  • Forgive your FOOL

Paula Silva

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Spiritual Direction Tagged with: , ,

Can a FOOL Be an Abuser?

An abuser may be male or female from any culture or from any racial or socio-economic background. They may appear normal, charming, or religious. They may be the usher, the elder, or even the pastor at your church. Abusers come from all walks of life. Each abuser though does exhibit certain common traits. These traits are found in the Word of God as we look at the word, FOOL.
Let’s look at some passages of scripture and note the traits.
Proverbs 12:15: “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Trait: A Fool thinks he is always right.
Proverbs 28:26: “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”
Trait: A Fool trusts in himself alone, but may profess he is trusting God.
Proverbs 29:11: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
Trait: A Fool vents his anger without concern for how it affects their partner.
Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Trait: A Fool despises accountability for his actions and is offended when consequences are given.
Proverbs 18:2: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”
Trait: A Fool is opinionated and does not desire to understand someone’s point of view.
Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”
Trait: A Fool exhibits a destructive pattern of behavior that repeats itself over and over again.
Proverbs 15:14: “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly.”
Trait: A Fool’s consistent destructive behavior feeds his need for control and power.
Proverbs 29:9: “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.”

Trait: A Fool is not interested in resolving conflict and will not listen to reason.
Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
Trait: A Fool in relationships causes others to suffer with his destructive behavior injuring body, soul, and mind.
Psalm 73:6-8: “Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment . . . They scoff and speak with malice; they threaten oppression.”
Trait: A Fool is mocking and threatening, violent in some form, and is malicious in their relationships.
Fools can be compared to rough sandpaper that does not beautify anything it scrapes up against. Instead it creates deep gouges that mares the original beauty of the object.
Take time to think through these scripture passages and identify those that are Fools/Abusers in your life. Knowing what you are dealing with is the first step to relational wisdom.
Paula Silva

 

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Insights, Spiritual Direction Tagged with: , ,

What Would Jesus Do?

What a novel idea! Set aside the church’s self-prescribed “principles and practices”, and search the living Word to find out what Jesus would do. Here are some things Jesus would not do:

Overlook, dismiss, or hide abuse

When a church or family ignores spousal abuse, it enables the abuse to continue and flourish, and allows the abuser to perpetuate his criminal behavior. For many churches, it is easier to pretend everything is okay than to admit failures and dysfunctions within the congregation.

“If another believer sins, rebuke him . . .” (Luke 17:3 NLT) Jesus would expose the sin, offer grace and forgiveness to the sinner, and allow him to experience the consequences of his sin.

Make blind or unwise assessments

Even though she had a black eye from the beating by her husband, the pastor told her “your husband isn’t a wife beater.” He suggested that she submit to the elders of the church as they worked out this problem with her husband—who was the pastor’s close friend and largest financial contributor of the church.

Jesus would say, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He would show the abuser the truth about his own wickedness, offer him the choice to repent, and then walk with him on the path to restoration and healing.

Place more value on the sanctity of marriage than the safety of women and children and the sanctity of life

Women who are battered should not have to choose between safety and the support of their church. However, many times they are reprimanded for leaving an abusive husband and coerced into quick forgiveness and reconciliation before the abuser has truly changed his behavior.

Excerpt from What Would Jesus Do? 1998 FOCUS Newsletter

Copyright FOCUS Ministries, Inc.

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Church Response, Domestic Violence, Insights

New Light on a Common DV Perspective

I have been pondering something. Whenever we educate the church about domestic violence, we often note that there is a high possibility that 1 in 4 women in their congregation have or will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Let’s look at this from a different perspective. If we say there are 1 in 4 women victims, that could indicate that there are 1 in 4 men in the congregation who are perpetrators.

This could be generalized so we don’t leave out males who are victims of domestic violence. We could say 1 in 4 people in the congregation will be or are victims of domestic violence and 1 in 4 are perpetrators.

Would we look at domestic violence differently in our congregations if we viewed it in terms of possible perpetrators? Would the church more readily enact responses of accountability for those who perpetrate abuse?

Paula Silva

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Church Response, Domestic Violence, Training Tagged with: , , , ,

A Plea to Pastors

Dear Pastor,

Since 1995, FOCUS Ministries, Inc. has been reaching out to women who are struggling in abusive and dysfunctional relationships.

Most of them belong to churches like yours.  They sit in the pews on Sunday morning alongside their abusive husband.  Perhaps you are unaware that behind the smiles and handshakes is a secret that is steadily destroying the entire family.

Statistics show that one in every four women in each church community are being abused by their partner or they have been at some time in the past.  One in every four—count them!  How many does that make in your congregation?

If you are skeptical about this statistic being true in your church, please consider the following reasons why you may be unaware:

1. Women may be hesitant to come to you with their story if you have not addressed the problem of domestic violence publicly from your pulpit.  When was the last time you took a strong stand against violence (verbal, emotional & physical) from the pulpit?

2. When they finally get up the courage to tell someone, women need to know their pastor will believe them, will maintain confidentiality, and will be willing to help.  How approachable, trustworthy, and safe are you?

3. The abuser may be one of your staff, deacons, Sunday School teachers, or your biggest tither.  Are you willing to confront someone you respect and trust about their abusive behavior?

4. You may have missed the warning signs that should alert you to suspect domestic violence.  Do you know the classic profile of an abuser and a victim?  How skilled are you in determining who is telling the truth?

5. Many Christian women who are being abused remain silent because they have been told by their pastors to pray harder, be more submissive, cook their husband’s favorite meals, keep a clean house, and develop more patience and understanding in order to make their husband happy.  Are you guilty of giving well-meaning advice without knowing what is really going on behind closed doors?

6. Many women will only share part of their story to see how you will react. You will only see the tip of the iceberg.  When someone comes to you with a relationship problem, how deeply do you probe?   How seriously do you take her concern?

7. You may be so focused on a particular ministry in your church (overseas missions, evangelism, prison ministry) that you don’t notice the needs in your own church family.  Is your church unbalanced in its outreach?

8. You may be avoiding the obvious need because of legal and personal risks of getting involved.  How far are you willing to go to help someone in crisis?

9. You did not receive training in seminary on how to deal with domestic violence, and you think annual marriage conferences will take care of the problem.  Are you willing to learn new skills for dealing with domestic violence that will not work in regular marriage counseling?

10. You may not want to know what is really going on because issues of abuse are hard to deal with, and you don’t want to be perceived as being soft on divorce if you advise someone to leave an abusive marriage.

Since the beginning of FOCUS Ministries, we have offered our services and literature, free of charge, to pastors and churches who want to learn more about domestic violence.  Very few have accepted our offer to supply their churches with literature or lead a workshop on domestic violence.

Has your church invited local ministries (crisis pregnancy centers, food and clothing ministries, etc.) and missionaries to speak to your congregation?  Are you supporting them financially?  I commend you for this.  These are all good outreaches which need to be supported by the local church.

Unfortunately, many families are suffering in silence because the plague of domestic violence is being ignored, and ministries like ours who want to help are struggling financially because the Christian community does not see the need to partner with us.

What will it take for you, as a pastor, to take this problem seriously?  Sadly, many people don’t get involved until domestic violence affects someone they love—a daughter, mother, friend, neighbor.  We are confident the problem is already pervasive in your congregation, whether you are aware of it or not.  Since someone you love is being affected, won’t you take action now?  Here are the tools you will need:

Education

Domestic violence has many facets which cannot be compared to difficulties in typical marriages.  The method of counseling is entirely different.  If you do not understand the mindset of an abuser, you will not be able to help his victim effectively.  In fact, you may put her in greater danger.

If you are not aware of the dynamics of domestic violence, make it a priority to learn.  We are available for speaking engagements, to present workshops, or work with you one-on-one to help make you and your church more aware.  We provide training for support group leaders if someone in your church wants to facilitate one, and our Pastor’s Guide to Domestic Violence is an invaluable resource for pastors and lay counselors.

Clarification

When you understand that an abuser feels justified by scripture to “keep his wife in line” because he is the head of the house, you must clarify your sermon on the husband’s role to explain about “servant leadership,” as well as defining specific actions that are considered abusive.  You should remind men that scripture does not give them permission to punish or discipline their wives, even if they are not submissive.  God is the one who disciplines his “adult” children.

When you teach about submission, don’t stop short by just instructing wives to submit to their husbands.  Husbands are to submit to their wives; children are to submit to their parents; employees are to submit to their employers; and we are all to submit to God (Eph. 5:21-32)

Explain Jesus’ style of servant leadership which had nothing to do with external control or coercion.  He did not use His power to control and demand, but to   invite, nurture, and serve.

Are you aware that many good Christian men in your congregation view woman as “second-class” or “less than” men.  They may not openly admit to this attitude, but listen closely to their jokes and occasional references to the belief that men are superior to women and are entitled to certain advantages and rights.  Be careful in your sermons to clearly define the man’s role and responsibility in the home and at church which should be modeled after Christ’s example of humility, servanthood, compassion, forgiveness, and long-suffering.  Remind them of the scriptures which indicate men are not spiritually superior to women (Gal. 3:28; 1 Peter 3:7).

If you harbor a secret attitude of superiority, ask God to reveal truth from His Word and for a teachable spirit.

Compassion

Compassion will move you beyond good intentions to love in action.  Ask God to give you the compassion of Christ as you shepherd His people.

Courage

Getting involved in domestic violence is very risky and messy.  Many people shrink back because they are afraid of personal attack.  If you have the courage to get involved, you may be threatened by a lawsuit or by bodily harm to you and your family.  If God has called you to defend the defenseless, just as Jesus would do, are you willing to lay your life on the line for someone else?  Steve Dresselhaus, a missionary pastor in Mexico (who has been threatened with guns, machetes, and other weapons for helping victims of domestic violence) wrote, “My church needs to know that serving Christ is an action lifestyle, not an academic one.”  Ask God for the courage it takes to go the distance.

Wisdom

You will need to rely on wisdom from above to discern the truth about a violent situation.  Most abusers are very clever and charming.  They will try to convince you their wife has a mental problem and needs help.  They know how to use religious words and tears to convince you they have repented and changed.  You will need discernment when a victim denies being abused in order to protect her husband, and wisdom to know how to proceed without putting her in greater danger.

Self-Sacrifice

One pastor so accurately observed, “We in America, with our love for comfort, have done a pretty good job of focusing on the promises, the blessings, the wealth, and the perks of being Christians.” Will you give up your level of comfort to meet this great need instead of waiting for others to do it?

Toughness

The abuser also needs your help.  He is caught up in a cycle that needs to be broken, and he needs support and accountability to change his mindset about power and control.  Are you tough enough to encounter rage and hostility from someone who may not want to change?

Tenderness

The victim doesn’t need you to take over control of her life.  She already has a controlling spouse who has convinced her she is not capable of making decisions on her own.  She needs tender compassion and respect from someone who will present her with options so she can make choices and regain her dignity and self-worth.

Integrity

When you promise confidentiality, you must keep it!  Don’t make the mistake of sharing your conversation with the victim’s abuser, even if he is a friend or serves on your board.  When you promise to help someone, follow through.  Don’t place strings on your help, and don’t bail out when the going gets tough.  Guard yourself from getting emotionally or sexually involved with someone who is looking to you for strength.

Spiritual Direction

Providing help and safety is your second priority.  The first priority is to help them find their hope in God, not in the church or the legal system.  Help them put their pursuit of God before their pursuit of a better marriage.  Ask God to help you put the safety of women and children above your desire to preserve the marriage at all costs.

Resources

Refuge requires resources.  The church needs to provide safety and financial help for victims of domestic violence. Don’t depend on government-sponsored agencies to do what the church should be doing.  Generously support Christian-based domestic violence ministries prayerfully and financially.  We desperately need your help!

Refocus

Love in action is no less important than evangelism.  Is your church off-balance in its priority?  Will you allow God to refocus your direction?

Our plea to pastors and churches is that you get as involved in saving lives as you are in saving souls! 

© 2004 FOCUS Ministries, Inc.,  www.focusministries1.org

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Church Response, Domestic Violence, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Spiritual Direction

Heart Piercing Wounds

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 19-20 NIV

All of us have from time to time said things that we later regret. Emotions run high and anger comes to the surface. There are, though, individuals who consistently remain in a pattern of behavior using words to destroy others out of a sense of entitlement, superiority, and power. In James 3:6 we find, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

These abusive people can even profess to be “Christians” using this mask to cover up what is really in their heart. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10 NIV

When confronted with a verbally abusive person, we have a tendency to explain or defend ourselves over and over again hoping to prove that their statements are false. This only gives the abusive person more ammunition to use against the victim.

In Patricia Evans’ book, The Verbally Abusive Relationships,  she states, “If you are encountering abuse and feel that if you could explain things, he’d understand, remember this: If someone started throwing rocks through your windows, you would be more inclined to tell him to stop than you would be to explain to him why he shouldn’t throw rocks. Verbal abuse is like a rock thrown through your window.” Verbal abuse shatters the window (our spirit) of our heart into pieces. Eventually we will no longer know who we are.

Therefore it is critical to identify the categories of verbal abuse.

  • Name Calling—The abuser uses derogatory names.
  • Abusive Anger—The abuser exhibits sudden outburst of anger which are usually irrational and unexpected.
  • Threatening—The abuser knows the victim’s greatest fears and uses these to intimidate and keep control.
  • Withholding—The abuser refuses to acknowledge the victim’s thoughts and feelings while remaining aloof, silent, and emotionally distant.
  • Countering—The abuser refutes the victims perceptions, thoughts, opinions, feelings, and life experiences usually stating the opposite viewpoint. This causes the victim to not trust her own perceptions.
  • Discounting—The abuser invalidates denies, and distorts the victim’s perceptions, feelings and thoughts stating; You’re too sensitive. You make a big deal out of everything..
  • Blocking and Diverting—The abuser either refuses to communicate or controls what is to be discussed. Sometimes information is withheld or the topic of discussion is suddenly switched to a new topic other than the original. This puts the victim into a position of defending herself. You’re such a nag. You’re always trying to start something. These are common statements used to block or divert.
  • Accusing and Blaming—The abuser blames the victim for his anger and problems. He accuses the victim of doing something wrong.
  • Judging and Criticizing—The abuser consistently judges, criticizes, and negates the victim’s feelings, thoughts, opinions, and actions.
  • Trivializing—The abuser considers the accomplishments, talents, abilities, and statements as insignificant.
  • Undermining—The abuser undermines the victim’s decisions especially parental decision regarding rules and consequences given to children.
  • Ordering—The abuser demands instead of asking politely.
  • Denial—The abuser denies that he is abusive by saying statements like: I never said that. That never happened.
  • Forgetting—The abuser denies he said or did something even if it happened recently.

Responding to verbal abuse in appropriate ways is a difficult task. Our tendency is to become defensive and angry ourselves. This only adds fuel to the fire. Setting boundaries such as telling the abuser to stop, walking away or becoming emotionally distant are appropriate responses for a victim who remains in the relationship.

Paula Silva © 2009 FOCUS Ministries, Inc. www.focusministries1.org

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Self-esteem, Spiritual Direction

Love’s Embrace

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NIV

This familiar passage of Scripture reveals to each one of us the extent of God’s love on a personal level. To think that God cares so much about our eternal destiny that he would send Jesus directly to us is beyond our full comprehension. Once we begin to grasp the depth of his love, we realize the magnitude of a relationship with God. We become aware of the ways that God shows his love day by day.

As we search further in Scripture, we note in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from his love. His unconditional love becomes more evident as we draw nearer to him. As we lean on him, his hands of compassion and grace are extended offering himself as a personal gift.

We find ourselves giddy at times thinking about his unconditional love. We look forward to each moment to bask in his grace as we absorb God’s love like a sponge. We carry this mental picture of dancing around in a meadow dotted with multicolored flowers as the sun shines warming our hearts. We catch the rays of his love and hold it close to our soul.

With God’s love comes truth and accountability. Each of us is   responsible before God for our words and actions. If we do not follow God’s ways, there will be consequences. The consequences are God’s tough love toward us.

In Galatians 6:7-8 we read, “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.”

When the Israelites would stray from God, he would send prophets to warn them about their wicked ways. If they did not turn from their sin back to God, he gave consequences like death and captivity.

Our relationship with God is not just one-sided. It is to be a mutual relationship. He expects us to love him back not out of obligation but because of a burning desire within.

¯ Do we stop to think about how much we are loving God and in what ways?

¯ Are our thoughts consumed with loving him back?

¯ Do we understand what encompasses loving God?

¯ Do we realize that obedience to God’s Word is part of loving him?

¯ Do we understand how much God desires for us to love him with all of our  being?

¯ How do we love someone who knows our deepest thoughts and secrets?

Loving God is not a quick “I love you, God”, and then running off and doing our own thing. It isn’t leaving him a note on the counter hoping he will read it. It isn’t just going to church every Sunday.

Jesus himself teaches us in Matthew 22:35-40 how we are to love God.

“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Every part of our being is to be actively engaged in loving God. God first loves us. We receive it. Then his love flows through us to others. Our words and actions toward others will be the evidence.

People we meet no longer are invisible to us. Our sensitivity to others’ needs becomes heightened. We become more aware of what lies below the surface of the mask they wear. Some needs may be more obvious such as food, clothing, and shelter. Others may be emotional pain, lack of self-worth, grief, abuse, and distrust. They may just need a listening ear and a caring relationship.

Filling the needs of others is an act of loving God. For in Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Let’s go back to the verse in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The second part of the Scripture verse is often overlooked. We have a hard time     understanding what that means. Taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually is critical. Each of us is to be a good steward of the life God has given us. We are not to become self-absorbed but self-caring.

¯ Self-caring is being in touch with what is going on inside our heart, mind, and soul.

¯ Self-caring involves putting boundaries in place in order to not overextend ourselves in situations or relationships.

¯ It is not allowing someone to destroy us physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

¯ Self-caring is learning how to recognize people who are “toxic” and developing tools to handle destructive relationships.

¯ Taking time to relax, enjoy the beauty of nature, having fun, and surrounding ourselves with loving relationships become another area we need to incorporate in our lives.

Self-caring and keeping our  focus on the one who created us minimizes our anxieties, our fears, and directs our attention to God who is in control no matter the circumstances. His embrace is always available. Fall into the arms of God and put your head on his chest for he cares for you.

He’s waiting!

 

By Paula Silva

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Insights, Self-esteem, Spiritual Direction

My Counselor Doesn’t Get It!

After years of emotional and verbal abuse directed at my children and me and physical abuse directed at the children when they were younger my husband finally consented to go for counseling–he admits to being backslidden but agreed to go for Christian counseling. Much to my surprise the sessions have not been about his issues but about how I deal with his raging at me–he doesn’t even acknowledge his physical abuse with our children either.

The counselor allowed him to divert the session to my past which was almost 30 years ago–this happened after she questioned him about anger issues. He raised his voice to her and she allowed him to talk about my past so I would look like this awful person. She says that even if he makes me pay the price in some way, shape or form in the future for saying something he doesn’t like that its better to pay the price rather than suppress it–does that make sense to you.

Nothing addressed about his behavior. It has become all about me and my response to it–which is usually a feeling of being shell shocked and knocked off of my feet. What do you suggest? The fact is that all of his past behavior is the reason things are in the state they are in now–but he fails to acknowledge any wrong doing–a Christian psychologist told me that he has narcissistic personality disorder. Life is all about him at everyone else’s expense. How do you even begin to address these issues in a setting where he is present and the counselor doesn’t seem to get it?
Dismayed

Dear Dismayed,

In abusive relationships, we do not recommend couple’s counseling. Often the abuser will manipulate the sessions. Retaliation toward the victim will occur after the sessions. We recommend each person seek out their own individual counseling to work on their own issues. When both parties have worked through their past or present issues, then and only then do we say to go into couple’s counseling. What you have experienced in couple’s counseling is common. The counselor should not have continued counseling both of you together.

In your relationship, you need to know when you can speak truth to him and when to walk away. You need someone to come into his life and hold him responsible for his behavior. I think your counselor was trying to get you to stand up to him by setting a boundary but at your great expense. The only hope of someone changing is that he receives consequences for his behavior. In these kinds of relationships though consequences need to come from an outside source. Boundary setting is done in baby steps. A great book to read is Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Safe People is another book by them.

I can understand your counselor’s concern about stuffing your feelings. That could be anger turned inward. This can lead to depression, bitterness, and health problems. Learning appropriate ways to let it out is essential. But in your case, it sounds like the counselor does not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and the manipulation that occurs by the abuser let alone the danger it puts you in. It sounds like you are being blamed for your husband’s behavior.

My suggestion for you is to stop couple’s counseling and enter into counseling just for yourself. I would also suggest that your husband see a different counselor than the one you see. Narcissist people are their own god. Until they make the true God their god there is no hope. They will continue to abuse others around them.

FOCUS Ministries

Posted in Insights
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