My Daughter Is Getting Married

I think every mom of a baby girl dreams of the day their daughter gets married, hoping and praying for a perfect day and the man that will make their girl happy and secure.

On your wedding day the man we have prayed for will take you as his wife, for better or worse. This God-ordained pairing of two young people claiming Jesus as their Savior, joining together to live for Christ the rest of their days. I don’t know about you, but it overwhelms me and fills my heart with so much happiness.

The Lord knew the one who would love you with all his heart. The man who would take on the role of head of your family with certainty and a little fear. Someone who desires to uplift and encourage and love you as Christ loved the church.

I could not be more proud of you!

Head strong and confident.
Stubborn and feisty
Loving and giving
Sweet and sassy

You are my child.

The one I fell in love with twenty six years ago.  My daughter with the”800-watt” smile that lights up the room.

You are never far from my thoughts and my heart.

I love you, sweet girl.

 I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

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Victim Is Not A Bad Word

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Up until a few years ago, those of you who knew me, especially in high school and college, it is highly unlikely that you knew my story.  I am one of the many; one of the countless survivors of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence.

This week I was accused by someone on Facebook of being a perpetual victim.  So, I wanted to take sometime and share my experience and how society views us.  How we are shamed, judged and in some cases shunned.   I am a victim. No shame there; it’s true. A victim is someone harmed, injured or destroyed as a result of a crime. That fits for me, and to claim otherwise would negate my experience and deny the damage of the sexual abuse I endured for years as a child or my rape at 15 or my many years of domestic abuse.  Victim. While it is not my primary identity, it will always be a part of who I am.

This is nothing new to me, he was not original and these kinds of comments just bounce right off me these days.  Unfortunately, we live in a society in which we are often told that we are at fault, that there is something wrong with us, we as women are taught that our bodies are here for the pleasure of others, we are judged by our appearance and shamed into keeping our trauma a secret because no one wants to hear it.  We are afraid that no one will believe us even if we seek justice or help.

It is very common when you are involved in activism, speaking engagements or the fact that you speak openly about overcoming your struggles, you will be more likely than not be accused of having a “victim complex or mentality.”

So should we stop talking about oppression and trauma in order to just “get over” it?  To make society comfortable?

“Victim” – has become a word used to hurt:

It has been my personal experience that sometimes when people want to hurt me, their default mechanism is to call me a “victim.”  This is not an empty word.  Before you call someone a victim please remember that the memories of the trauma we have been through stay inside our psyche always. We want and desire to be 100% strong as adults but we feel hurt sometimes and we CAN regress. Then we try to soothe ourselves somehow so we can be our adult selves and start over again.  Believe me, It is not easy to put your self out their day after day, being vulnerable in order to effect change and help others who are struggling and going through pain.  The best medicine I have found is to be able to come alongside someone and say “I know what you are going through.  In order to do this we MUST tell our stories and be vocal about what has happened in our lives.

On a recent TV commercial, a famous athlete admitted that he had been suffering from a debilitating disease for years but had never told anyone. Then he said, “I’m not saying I am a victim, but I just want you to know there is treatment that works.” He then went on to sell the product he was endorsing. The fact that he needed to make the point that he was not a victim upset me. He had just admitted that he had been a victim of this disease for years. Why did he feel compelled to let us know he was not a victim?

The answer I am afraid, is actually really quite simple. He probably said it because he was afraid that he would be perceived as a victim and it was going to tarnish or ruin his reputation as a famous athlete. He said it because he wanted to make it clear that just because he had this disease it didn’t mean he wasn’t still big and tough and strong. He said it because like so many other Americans, being perceived as a victim is synonymous with being seen as being weak and being a loser.

It made me wonder when did “victim” become a bad word? Merriam-Webster’s definition of victim is a person who has been attacked, injured, robbed, or killed by someone else or someone who has been harmed by an unpleasant event (such as illness or accident). There is nothing either stated or implied in the definition that indicates weakness.

More important, when did being perceived as a victim become a bad thing?

Yes, I am a survivor, but completely ignoring my victim hood minimizes the damage and pain that came about as a result of my perpetrator’s crimes. There is no way to make what they did OK. “Victim” is a reminder that he wasn’t just a good guy who made a mistake. He was a depraved criminal who sexually abused a little girl. I was that girl. I was his victim.

When the Malaysian flight 370 disappeared a few years ago, we saw the families of the assumed dead wailing and crying. Some were expressing anger. This was a very human and a very appropriate response to the loss of a loved one, especially the loss of a loved one in such a devastating way. But many Americans were critical of such public displays of emotion. It made us feel uncomfortable. In this country we are supposed to see the bright side of things.

I think what is really going on here is that our hero-worshiping, optimistic, “Eye of the Tiger” mentality is robbing us of our very humanity. It starts in childhood when even small children are taught to “suck it up” and be strong instead of allowing themselves to cry or feel their pain. It is especially drummed into the minds of boys.

It shows up in the numbers of children who are bullied because they are perceived as weak.  It shows up in the way we respond to victims of bullies. We tell them “don’t let them see you cry” or “don’t let this get you down” instead of acknowledging to them how frightening, humiliating, and damaging it is to be taunted, pushed, or beaten by those who are bigger or stronger than we are.

We have become a culture of people who despise weakness when we see it. In that way we are all bullies to one degree or another. Think about it. Who are the school yard bullies?  Experience shows us that bullies are usually children who have been abused themselves in either their home or elsewhere. These are kids who are angry because someone has been hurting them. And they feel humiliated and shamed because they have been victimized. So what do they do with their anger? They can’t take it out on their abusers, who are usually adults or older children who are much stronger or who have more power and authority than they do. So they take their anger out on those who are smaller and weaker than themselves. And what do they do with their overwhelming shame at having been overpowered? They punish those who remind them of their own weakness and vulnerability.

It is no wonder that we are raising yet another generation of bullies and abusers. Unless we turn this thing around and make it OK to admit when we have been victimized, admit when we feel bad, and not allow other people to shame us for it, the cycle will continue.

After all, in our society a woman who has been emotionally or physically abused by her husband, she must have asked for it in some way or she is exaggerating. Even if we don’t blame her for being abused, we blame her for staying. After all, if someone abuses you, you need to just walk away, right? If you don’t, you deserve what you get.

Similarly, if someone is being sexually harassed or bullied at work by her boss, she should be strong enough to walk away and find another job, right? If you have any self-respect at all you don’t stay in a situation where you aren’t valued or treated with respect.  Never mind the fact that she lives paycheck to paycheck, supporting her family as a single parent.

As a society, we make all these assumptions about people who are victimized because we want to hold onto the fantasy that we all have choices, that life is always good, that all it takes to get out of a bad situation is courage and determination. We don’t want to admit that there are times when we have no choice—times (think child abuse or that single mother) when we have to take the mistreatment that others are putting on us just to survive.  It is so much easier to believe that all it takes for the poor or homeless is to step out of their circumstances that they find themselves in and “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” We point to the few who were able to overcome tremendous obstacles and we say, “See, she did it. That means you can too.” We want to say stop your crying, stop feeling sorry for yourself and just move on.”

Again I ask, what price do we pay for this attitude?

How do you imagine that person feels? Like a failure, of course. Like a loser. She thinks, “If she can do it why can’t I?”  Why can’t I overcome my rape or sexual assault?  Why do I still cringe when a strange man comes up behind me? Or every time I close my eye’s I see my rapist face.

We expect instant recovery!  We expect nothing less.  We not only ignore and blame victims but we expect them to recover from their adversity in record time, usually on our time table. In our culture we are supposed to “get over” adversity and “move on,” and many people don’t have much tolerance or patience for those who don’t or perceive that they don’t.  It is funny to me, when someone who has not been touched by trauma tells me I should be farther along in my recovery.

What I want people to understand is this;  It takes time to recover from trauma or adversity, and healing can’t really take place until there is a complete acknowledgment of what actually transpired and how it made the victim feel.

Please know that Abuse and other forms of trauma cause victims to feel helpless and powerless, and these feelings can lead to feeling humiliated. In this country we tend to believe that the way to recover from adversity is for victims to deny these feelings of helplessness and powerlessness and instead focus on becoming powerful and successful.

Victims Need Validation

It is very important for everyone, but especially children, to have their feelings and experiences validated by others. Lack of validation will result in to feelings of guilt that somehow it was their fault and shame in reaction to their negative experiences. Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s internal experience as valid. When someone validates another’s experience, the message they send is: “I understand your feelings. Not only do I hear you, but I understand why you feel the way you do. You’re not bad or wrong or crazy. ”

Just as I was shamed by a friend (who really does not know me at all). Instead of receiving validation, most victims are ignored, rejected, or judged. Instead of being encouraged to express their feelings, most are shamed into silence, we can’t admit that we are afraid to hear them, afraid to face the fact that this kind of trauma really exists.

Worse still, many have their feelings and perceptions attacked, dismissed, or question the reality of a person’s feelings. This is done through denying, ridiculing, ignoring, or judging another person’s feelings. Regardless of the method, the effect is clear: this makes the invalidated person feelings somehow “wrong.” Showing compassion for someone can be a form of validation.

By continuing to blame victims, we all get to avoid facing up to our own acts of inappropriateness, indifference, and cruelty. If we continue to hold to the ideas that it is always the victim’s fault, or if we can convince ourselves that there really are no victims and even when people are victimized they should “just get over it,” we can continue to avoid looking at how we have hurt others and how it has affected them.

We desperately have to get over our hatred of victims. We have to stop pretending that victimization doesn’t exist in our society. We have to admit that when a person is victimized—whether by abuse, by poverty, by racism, or by any other form of trauma or adversity, that person is changed, at least temporarily. We must allow that person to cry and to scream and to feel his or her pain. To tell their story and believe them. That person desperately needs our compassion for his or her pain and suffering. And perhaps more importantly, that person needs validation that yes, she was abused, yes he did lose his house, yes she was raped, yes she is living in poverty. And yes, it hurts, it is painful, it is debilitating to experience these traumas, these assaults, these inequities.  And it’s ok to not be ok.

So together, as a society let’s stop making “victim” a dirty word. Let’s open our minds to the truth of their situation. There are people in this world who are victimized and they have a right to have that victimization recognized and affirmed. They have a right to feel their pain and anger and helplessness. They have a right to the time it takes for them to heal. They have the right to not be pushed to “get over it” or to be grateful it wasn’t worse. They have a right to not be further shamed because they aren’t getting over it or seeing the bright side in our timeline we have made up in our heads.  And perhaps most important, they have a right to our compassion, our care, and our kindness.

So, as for that man who felt the need to tell me “As long as one chooses to be a victim there can be no Victory”  I have never met a victim of abuse, rape, or assault that chose to be a victim now or ever.  We don’t share our stories to give you ammunition in your arsenal to hurt us or anyone else who has faced adversity.  We share our stories to inspire, educate and come along side other victims of trauma.  To usher in healing and hope.

To my fellow survivors, know that you are not alone. You will have days where it feels like it is all too much, but you have to believe that what you have been through is something you can handle and that asking for help will never make you weak. You are no longer a victim, you are now a survivor and that is a powerful thing.  Never again will we be defined by what happened to us or what people may say.

And to those who fail to understand, I am not sorry for the words I have written here, for my story, for living my life to the best of my ability. I will not apologize for calling people out for their inappropriate behavior, for bringing awareness and educating the public on what it is like to be called a victim.  The choices I have made are my own and I stand by them as I heal and become a stronger woman.

When a Husband Doesn’t Love His Wife with Christ-Like Love

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One of the saddest and most disgusting phenomena I’ve ever encountered in my life is the Christian church and the many believers who take the side of the abuser in domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault cases, particularly if the abuser is friendly and many times charming, he may even be a pastor or leader in the church.  The types of assistance the church needs to give a woman and children seeking help for serious marital issues should be firm, direct, truth-seeking, validating, and grace-filled. When a person seeks counsel from their church, they are looking for spiritual help.

We all know husbands are commanded, “Love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19). They are told to “love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Ephesians 5:28–29). The focus of a husband’s Christlikeness in loving his wife is “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

It is so important for us as women to realize that God cannot endorse and will not embrace abuse in our marriages, because it contradicts His character. Since marriage is designed to represent Christ, any teachings of a church embracing abuse is heretical and it is blasphemous to the Word of God.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12

“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17

To be clear, an abusive husband is always breaking God’s law. He is disobeying Christ. He is not to be indulged but disciplined by the church. As a wife, you are never insubordinate to ask the church for help.

As Christians we are called to submit to various authorities and to each other: children to parents (Ephesians 6:1), citizens to government (Romans 13:1), wives to husbands (Ephesians 5:22), employees to employers (2 Thessalonians 3:10), church members to elders (Hebrews 13:17), all Christians to each other (Ephesians 5:21), all believers to Christ (Luke 6:46).

In domestic violence situations civil authorities can be the right thing for an abused wife to do. Threatening or inflicting bodily harm against a spouse (or other family members) is a misdemeanor or felony in California, punishable by fines, imprisonment, or most likely both. Which means that a husband who threatens and intentionally injures his wife is not only breaking God’s moral law, but also the state’s civil law. Expecting his wife to quietly accept his threats and injuries, he is asking her to participate in his breaking of both God’s moral law and the state’s civil law.  God himself has put law enforcement officers in place for the protection of the innocent. “If you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).

I wish in retrospect, I would have called the authorities on my husband the first time he physically abused me.  I would have spared myself and my children years of suffering.  But, because he was in church leadership, I was afraid that it would hurt the ministry and be a bad witness to the church, but glossing over victimization, minimizing its devastating effects, hurts us all.

My husband’s addictions, his verbal and physical abuse, his financial indiscretions, and a pattern of destructive behavior that had many times brought me to the brink of a breakdown—or well beyond it. Long stretches of estrangement, coldness, and sometimes outright contempt, only briefly interrupted by his “emergency” efforts to change the few times I found the nerve to give full voice to my frustrations. He would revive some semblance of the man I married for a few days or weeks, invariably slipping back into his previous patterns once he felt as though he’d sidestepped disaster.  I found myself trying to shoulder my entire relationship alone (not to mention my children, care of our home, and our finances) and still somehow feeling spiritually inadequate. I felt I needed permission to demand what I deserved—and to know that God was okay with this.  I was so wrong and suffered devastating results because of my desire to be a faithful christian.

I have learned a wife does not have to stay in an abusive marriage, nor should she!  She can get out and separate from her husband.  This does not mean she is divorcing him.   It merely means she is and should establish boundaries and protect herself and/or her children.  The abusive husband needs to be held accountable and he needs to get help.  If he truly has a repentant heart, then the couple could seek reconciliation.  If the husband is unrepentant then as in my case, he’ll most likely seek to satisfy his lusts by being unfaithful to his wife while they are separated.  And if he is unfaithful, the wife is no longer bound to him and she could then seek a divorce without being outside of the will of God.

What does a repentant spouse not look like?

If an abuser denies their sin, and calls their victim a liar, then he or she is not repentant. If an abuser acknowledges their sin, but blames the victim for tempting them or taking part, or causing him to sin, then he or she is not repentant. If an abuser demands forgiveness and full pardon without any consequences for their actions, using such excuses as “If you’re a Christian, you should forgive me, and love me again,” then he or she is not repentant. If an abuser say’s I have already asked forgiveness, so I don’t have to talk about it anymore, then he or she is not repentant.

REAL REPENTANCE 

Sorrowful Recognition of Sin

Ezra and those with him are horrified and “disgraced” by sin:

“When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: ‘I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.’” Ezra 9:3-6

Job is so distraught by his sin that he despises himself:

“’… I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know … therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’” Job 42:3&6

A sinful woman washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and costly perfume:

“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” Luke 7:37-38

Peter weeps bitterly out of remorse for denying Christ:

“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times. And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:61-62

 Admission of Guilt & Confession

Isaiah, upon seeing how holy God is, dramatically confessed his fallen nature:

“’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’” Isaiah 6:5

Paul does not mince words when admitting his sin to God:

“‘Lord … I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’” Acts 22:19-20

John explains that failure to admit guilt is a sign that our hearts are devoid of God’s sanctification:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10

Humble Acceptance of Sin’s Punishment & Consequences:

Ezra declares Israel deserving of God’s wrath and punishment:

“What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant … Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.” Ezra 9:13&15

King David affirms God’s right to judge him after Nathan confronts him with his sin:

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” Psalm 51:3-4

The Psalmist thanks God for chastening him, yet sparing his life:

“The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.” Psalm 118:18-19

A Desire to Reconcile & Make Restitution:

King Hezekiah seeks reconciliation and restitution by sacrificing sin offerings:

“Early the next morning King Hezekiah gathered the city officials together and went up to the temple of the Lord. They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven male lambs, and seven male goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, for the sanctuary and for Judah. The king commanded the priests, the descendants of Aaron, to offer these on the altar of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 29:20-21

Jesus requires reconciliation between believers:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Zacchaeus pays back all he has stolen and then some:

“But 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.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ Luke 19:8-10

Regeneration & The Glorification of God:

Jonah promises to change his ways and glorifies God from the belly of the fish:

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” Jonah 2:8-9

King David promises to use his own sin as an example to bring others to repentance:

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 51:13-14

Paul says we were created and predestined to do good works:

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved … For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:3-5 & 10

John explains that a repentant sinner may sin, but will not persist in sin:

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7

What Then Should We Do With Abusers?

If an abuser does not exhibit these Biblical traits common to those who, by the grace of God, truly repent, then it is wise to question the authenticity of their repentance, and whether God’s sanctification is actively working in their hearts. Surely, repentance is a process, but it is one that must be completed in order to fulfill the requirements exemplified and defined by God’s Word.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world … Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:1, 7, 8

For the sake of Christ, the church should never risk the appearance of winking at sin.  A truly repentant abuser should, through abhorrence of their own sin and concern for the honor of Christ and reputation of the church, willingly and humbly step down, thereby clearly and publicly defining their actions as un-Christlike and deplorable.  We cannot ever risk further victimization.

 

Remember this: even if a perpetrator hurt someone for a few days, months or years and even if he regrets it, a victim lives with the pain, triggers, shame, and fear for a lifetime. For the perpetrator? It’s an incident. For the perpetrated upon? It’s a life-long battle.  We need to stand up for change.  Women should NEVER have to endure spousal abuse alone.

 

Proud Vs. Broken

Proud People vs. Broken People

Contrasting the characteristics of proud, unbroken people, who are resistant to the work of God in their lives, with the qualities of revived, humble people.
By Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Proud people focus on the failures of others.

Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

Responding To Domestic Abuse

Recognizing and Responding to Domestic Abuse

Author:  Category: CounselingRelationships

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Because the image of God is sacred, an assault upon one of his image-bearers through domestic abuse is an attack upon God himself.

Smartly-dressed Mike and his wife Debbie walked into my office for their first session. One look at Debbie revealed that she had been crying, but was trying to hold it together. Mike exuded smug self-confidence. Debbie’s head hung low, Mike’s was held high. As they told their story, details began to emerge.

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Mike and Debbie were in their early thirties with two young boys, ages 2 and 4. Mike was an investment banker, Debbie a stay-at-home mom. When Debbie would share something in the session that made him look bad, one look from Mike would silence her, occasionally mid-sentence. During the session, Mike was calm and collected. As they told their story, it became clear that Mike would leave the family’s home early for work, often not returning until late into the evening. It was Debbie’s job to have dinner ready every evening at six, for at least herself and the children, but Mike felt himself under no obligation to attend dinner, and seldom did. Nor was he under any obligation to let Debbie know where he was or when he would be home. This was not her concern, he said.

In his words, Mike worked hard to provide a nice living and a nice home for them. If she was ungrateful for all he provided them, she could leave. If she did, he said, he would get the best lawyer money could buy and he would make sure that she and the kids didn’t get one penny more than he was obligated to give. He seemed completely, almost pathologically, at ease saying these words.

By all accounts Mike had never laid a hand on his wife or his children, at least so far. (He was seldom in close enough proximity to do so, frankly.) His abuse was entirely emotional and economic. The wife and children regularly attend a church in the area. The husband did not often attend. He didn’t see the need. Towards the end of the icy session, the husband declared, “Go ahead and tell the pastor how bad things are in our marriage. What can he do to help you?”

Over the years, I’ve heard many women say things like:

“I really wish that he would just go ahead and hit me. Then I would know what to do and I’d be able to get the church to help me get out.”

What I have described above is a case of verbal, emotional, psychological and economic abuse. And, though Mike hasn’t laid a hand on Debbie, she is being crushed by him. Brothers and sisters, this is a tragedy. And, sadly it is epidemic in the church.

Domestic abuse can be defined as the desecration of the image of God in one’s spouse or intimate partner through patterns of intentional misuse of power, overtly or covertly, in words or in actions, to gratify self. In the beginning, the Creator formed humankind in his own image (Gen 1:26-27). God breathed a soul having intrinsic worth and dignity into the man of dust (Gen 2:7), formed the woman from his side (Gen 2:21-23), blessed the man and the woman, and gave to them both dominion over the rest of the created order (Gen 1:28). As a desecration of the imago Dei, abuse is a violation of the inherent worth and dignity of the God-breathed human soul.

To “desecrate” is “to treat (a sacred place or thing) with violent disrespect.” Because the image of God is sacred, an assault upon one of his image-bearers is an attack upon God himself. Physical violence is tied to the imago Dei in Gen 9:6, “Whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

But, the Scriptures also describe forms of violence that aren’t merely physical. Verbal assault is also tied to the image of God in James 3:7-9. Speaking of the tongue and its power, James asserts:

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Note the use of Genesis 1-2 language in James 3: “beast and bird”, “reptile and sea creature.” James references our creation mandate as image bearers who fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the rest of God’s creatures. Indeed, we have tamed and subdued the creatures of the earth successfully. Yet we use the most powerful of weapons, the tongues our Creator has graciously given to us to bless others, to verbally assault and curse those whom God has specially created in his likeness, all while blessing God simultaneously! What hypocrisy! How can we praise God and denigrate those who bear his image?

God has expressly told us how we are to use our words:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29)

Mike’s words tore down his wife, they were inappropriate, and they certainly did not give grace her – or to anyone. Mike had even mastered the use of non-verbal communication to incite fear and to control his wife.

Economic mistreatment of a husband and father to his family is just as abusive. Remember what Paul said to Timothy? “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8) Mike’s threats to withhold financial provision from his family placed him in a class that Paul called, “worse than an unbeliever.”

Abuse, in any form, overt or covert, in words or in actions, is an act of oppression against one’s spouse. It’s oppressive because it is a desecration of the image of God in the other person.

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble…he does not forget the cry of the afflicted” (Ps 9:9, 12)

“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” (Ps 10:17-18)

God responds to the oppressed by hearing their cry and offering them safety. God responds to oppressors with justice. Shouldn’t God’s people respond in the same way?

1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical abuse at some point in their lifetime. Those who have experienced severe verbal, emotional, psychological and economic abuse at the hands of an oppressor are even more common. Statistically, there are several Mikes and several Debbies in your church. How will you care for them?

Greg Wilson holds two Masters of Arts degrees, in Marriage and Family Counseling and Christian Education, from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a Licensed Professional Counselor – Supervisor in the state of Texas, and is a featured Pre-Conference Workshop teacher at ABC’s 2017 National Conference, addressing this very issue of recognizing and responding to domestic abuse.

Spotting A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

 

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My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.           –James 5:19-20

Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Author:  Category: BlogCounseling

 

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One of the methods bank tellers and merchants learn in order to distinguish real money from counterfeit bills is to examine genuine $100 bills over and over again so that they more likely to spot the counterfeit bills when they see them.  In the same way we can learn to recognize destructive people by knowing what to look for.

Some may object to any attempt to identify wolves among us because it sounds uncharitable and judgmental to call someone a wolf.  Only Jesus knows a person’s heart so who are we to judge?  Yet, Jesus himself warns us that there are those who claim to be believers, they may even be leaders in the church, but they are vicious or ravenous wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).

The apostle Paul warns Timothy that there will be people who act religious, but are puffed up with pride, who are unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, and cruel (2 Timothy 3:2-9). Part of spiritual maturity is gaining the ability to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).  Why is this necessary?  Because Paul reminds us that even Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Evil pretends to be good, especially among church folk.

Sometimes as Christian counselors we make a naive assumption and it gets us into terrible trouble.  We assume that if someone claims to be a Christian and talks like a Christian, and knows biblical principles, that means he or she is a committed Christian.  That’s not true.

Just like there are counterfeit $100 bills that attempt to pass for the real thing, there are those among us who attempt to pass for Christians but underneath they are ravenous wolves. How do we tell the difference?

Jesus said by their fruit we will know them.  A wolf can be an expert at talking like a Christian but over time, when you observe his or her behaviors, they look more wolfish (aggressive). As the saying goes, the sweetest tongue often has the sharpest tooth.  Here are three things to watch out for.

  1. Wolves live for the love of power rather than the power of love. Wolves refuse accountability and resist submission to authority. You’ve heard the phrase lone wolf?  Wolves in sheep’s clothing put themselves as their highest point of reference. They often use charisma and charm to “win” people over but they do not have mutual or reciprocal relationships.  People are to be used, possessed, exploited, or controlled rather than loved.

 

  1. Wolves look like sheep and talk like sheep but they bite like wolves, especially when the sheep are disagreeing or dissenting. Winning and being right are their highest values and they do whatever they need to in order to stay “on top”. When operating in church or religious settings their methods are often underhanded and cunning in order to appear less aggressive. They don’t want to look like wolves, that’s why they pretend to be sheep.

 

When you challenge or confront a client what happens?  Is he humble? Reflective? Willing to consider what you are saying?  Or does he bristle, attack you, deflect, or blame?  Remember, when someone willingly comes for counseling, he or she is asking for your help.  When you try to give it to them, do they receive it or is their presence in counseling for a different purpose?

 

 

  1. Wolves are experts at deceit. That’s why they are successful at looking like sheep. Wolves pretend to be good and care about the sheep but those closest to them (their family) know the truth. They’ve been bitten again and again and again.

 

But the wolf’s ability to maintain his cover is one reason why it’s so difficult for church leadership (including Christian counselors) to believe the person (sheep) who has been wounded by the wolf. Those in charge fail to see him as a wolf and assume that what is happening is merely two sheep biting one another.  Look again.  Look harder.  Wolves have much sharper teeth and stronger jaws than sheep do.  A sheep cannot harm a wolf even if he pretends he’s wounded.  A wolf kills the sheep.

It’s interesting that God chose a wolf as a poignant word picture to portray this type of person who lives among us.  A wolf is a predator.  It has a strong jaw and 42 sharp teeth designed to stab its prey to death. The Bible warns us that, “reckless words pierce like a sword (Proverbs 12:18).  Verbal abuse is real and it when regularly done, lethal to the person being pierced by it.

Let’s not naively close our eyes and think that there are no wolves in our churches. They are everywhere.

 

The most loving thing we can do is to lovingly and accurately warn of error, sin, and false teaching–all of which cause great destruction and lead to death.