Setting The Captives Free…a book review

Ron Clark Setting The Captives Free

A Christian Theology for Domestic Violence

By Ron Clark

ISBN 1-59752-424-7

Book Review by Reverend Paul N. Papas II

October 7, 2007

I was first introduced to the author at a PASCH (Peace and Safety in the Christian Home) conference in Portland, Oregon in May. Ron Clark was one of the speakers who had a clear understanding of the issues and down to earth. He is an experienced Pastor who recently started a new church in the city which we attended on Sunday. He did tell us some exciting news that the credentialing authority for Christian Seminaries has taken the first step toward requiring Domestic Violence training.

Three things are important to note about this book. First, it is written for anyone involved in or touched by domestic violence, not just Christians. Second, two of his sources known in this area are Lundy Bancroft and the Boston Medical Center. And third, that he did not come from abuse. In his preface Ron Clark explains that was watching Forrest Gump for the third time when he got it. “Jenny had come back to see Forest at his home in Alabama. They went by her old home, which was now abandoned, and she began to get angry. She yelled and threw rocks at the house. That’s when I got it. She had been abused as a child! It all came together. Her erratic behavior in the movie, her distant love of Forrest (the only man who truly loved her), and her choices in life were all understandable now. How could have I missed it?”

Ron Clark then proceeds to tell of his journey, struggles and mistakes as he proceeded to help victims of abuse. In his zeal he made rookie mistakes that he includes as a teaching tool for anyone who has a thought getting involved in an abusive situation. This is not a how to book, nor is it a long sermon. Is it rather a book by someone who has experience both in a church setting and in the trenches dealing with people with various beliefs. It can be used by anyone who comes in contact with an abusive situation or those affected by abuse to include untold succeeding generations.

He does quite handily address the misuse of the Bible scriptures by various people who bend them to justify abuse, the abuser and a requirement that a marriage be preserved at all costs. Ron Clark does believe that both the abused and the abuser can be helped. They both need to be loved and counseled, just not in the same setting together. They both need a church family. The abuser needs to be held accountable for his or her actions. It has been shown that people are more likely to heal when they have hope and have a faith community for support. Ron Clark says:” Domestic Violence is not only a crime against humanity; it is a sin against God. The community of faith is called to protect victims and prevent the abuse of power.”

Many people have been re-victimized by words or actions of people in power even if they have good intentions. Ron Clark wrote this book in clear concise language to help us stop and think before we speak or act. Many people have told the lie that sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Abusive, degrading, demeaning words cut deeper and last longer than broken bones. Sometimes the people who are helping exercise more control over the people they purport to help.

In his introduction he sobers the uninitiated with facts from various sources of how wide spread domestic violence really is. “In America two to four million have indicated that their spouses or live in partners physically abused them during the year. Twenty to twenty-five percent of all women reported that their partners abused them at least one. One out of four American women report having been raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, live-in partner, or date at some time in their life. Twenty-five to forty percent of dating couples experience physical violence. Hospital emergency rooms indicate that twenty to thirty percent of women seeking treatment are victims of battering. Every day in America at least three women are murdered by their husband or intimate partner. Throughout the world, one in three women have confessed to having been beaten, coerced into sex, or experienced other forms of abuse. Domestic Violence is estimated to be much higher within the United States military than within civilian families”

More disturbing are the reports that he shares to show that it is not just the spouse, but children and other family members that are affected by the abuse. “One-third of abused women indicate that they were abused the first time during pregnancy…,( which may) contribute to low birth weights infants. In a study done by Boston Medical Center over one-third of children reported seeing violence by fathers against mothers when a parent reported that no violence occurred. Children brought up in abusive homes have a higher risk of being abused. It is estimated that 5 million children per year witness an assault on their mothers. Around forty five percent of abusive men extend their behavior pattern to other family members.”

Ron Clark explains the definitions of Domestic Violence and how “abuse is not about anger”, rather “about control and forced compliance.” Then he explains issues of victims, abusers, children in abusive homes and family in friends in his next section. He then goes into depth explaining effects of Domestic Violence on the Family System with cultural considerations.

His whole section on the theology for Domestic Violence is well written and accurately supports his belief “that the spiritual community must address domestic violence from the perspective of abusive power and control issues. First, the source of spirituality, God, is not abusive or controlling. Second, the community must reflect our Creator by confronting abusive behavior and empowering victims to be strong and safe. Third, victims are to be protected by the faith community. Instead of further oppressing them or humiliating them, we must empower them to be safe and loved. Too often the faith community calls the victim to forgive rather than the abuser/oppressors to repentance.”

I highly recommend this book as a must read for the faith community, those who work with abusers, the abused or those affected by abuse.


Related

Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Self Care

By Reverend Paul N. Papas II

September 30, 2007, updated

Everyone is familiar with stress. Stress comes in various forms and degrees everyday. Some stress is good for us. When we experience great amounts of stress and our physical or mental functioning is affected that could be a problem.

Feeling like there are too many pressures and demands on you?

Losing sleep worrying about a project or task ahead of you? Eating on the run because your schedule is just too busy? You’re not alone; everyone experiences stress at times, – adults, teens and even kids. There are things we can do to reduce or manage stress.

When we feel “pumped” or “wired” or an increased amount of energy and alertness, this is a result of small doses of beneficial stress.

When the level of stress becomes too great for us to handle we can get “stressed out”, “burned out” or be at our “wits end”. That is when our physical well being could be compromised. We all handle stress differently and each has a different level of pressure we can safely handle. We must listen to our bodies. Symptoms that we feel may include: anxiousness, nervousness, distraction, excessive worry, or internal pressure.

Our outward appearance may start to change as we appear: unusually anxious or nervous, distracted, or self-absorbed.

If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time or the stress level increases we could experience: anxiety or panic attacks, a feeling of being constantly pressured, hassled, and hurried, irritability and moodiness, allergic reactions, such as eczema or asthma, problems sleeping, drinking, smoking or eating too much, doing drugs, excessive fatigue, depression, could even think of hurting yourself or others, headaches, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, chest pains or pressure, racing heart, dizziness or flushing, tremulousness or restlessness, hyperventilate, or have a choking sensation, feeling of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and emptiness. If these symptoms persist or increase in severity or frequency seek medical help.

Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room if your stress results in any of the following symptoms: thoughts of harming yourself or others, chest pain, fluttering or rapid heartbeats, headaches unlike your usual headaches, or any condition that you feel might cause you serious harm if not treated immediately.

Pressures that that become too intense or last too long or troubles that are shouldered alone can cause stress overload. Some things that could overwhelm us are: being bullied or exposed to violence or injury, relationship stress, family conflicts or the heavy emotions that can accompany a broken heart or death of a loved one, ongoing problems with work or schoolwork related to a learning disability or other problems, such as ADHD (once the problem is recognized and the proper support is given this stress usually disappears), or crammed schedules – such as not having enough time to rest and relax.

With all the above you might get the idea that we cannot do it alone. We are not designed to run at high speed all the time. We were designed for fellowship and to live in a community. A very wise person taught me to use my words. When we feel something is wrong we need to use our words to share our feelings in a safe setting. When we hold all these things in we become like a pressure cooker without a safety release valve and we could explode or implode. Exploding could hurt others or things around us. Imploding could do grave us great physical harm.

Remember to take care, eat right, slowly enjoying your meal, do everything in moderation, regularly exercise and really relax and rest.

Professional help is available, if needed, to help get on or stay on the right track. It is your body, listen to it, treat it well and it will treat you well.

More information and workshops on mental health was available at the NAMI State Convention Oct 132007 at the Sheraton in Framingham hosted by NAMI Greater Framingham. Oct 7-13 2007 was Mental Health Awareness Week.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2007/10/06/stress-anxiety-depression-and-self-care/

Pastor Jack Graham Shares His Battle with Depression and Why the Church Must Lead in the Mental Health Fight

03-21-2021 Jack Graham

We live in an incredibly anxious and depressed culture here in America, and the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and divisive politics have further exacerbated this issue. According to a 2020 report from Mental Health America, more than 47 million adults in our nation are experiencing some form of mental illness. My home state of Texas is one of the lowest ranking in the nation for quality of mental health and treatment for mental illness in adults.

Moreover,  across America,  approximately 4.4 million children have been diagnosed with anxiety and another 1.9 million have been diagnosed with depression. Most concerning, suicide has become the second leading cause of death among people 10 to 34 years of age.

We have an established mental health crisis on our hands. Sadly, the Christian church has often neglected to respond in a loving and supportive way to those who are struggling with mental health issues. I’m heartbroken to say many people who have sought help and hope within the church have been turned away, shamed, or told — sometimes by well-meaning pastors or lay counselors — they just need to “pray harder” or “have more faith.”

2021 is a new year, and it’s time for the Christian church to respond to this crisis in a new way. 

In 2019, Lifeway Research surveyed pastors, congregants, and their families about mental illness and the church. The survey revealed nearly half of pastors (49%) “rarely or never speak to their church in sermons or large group settings about acute mental illness.” Additionally, close to one in four individuals surveyed indicated they had either “stopped attending church, had not found a church to attend or had changed churches based on the church’s response to mental health issues.” 

I believe the church’s failure lies not in ill intention but largely in misinformation and lack of proper training. While there is a spiritual aspect to mental health that churches and pastors can and should address, we often have missed the clinical reality of mental health.

Complicating the matter is the fact that in my generation (Baby Boomers) mental health has often been viewed as a taboo subject to be discussed only at home, if at all. We were raised to believe that if you are a follower of Jesus, you’re not supposed to struggle with mental health, depression or anxiety. I remember thinking this way when I was a young Christian, and it took several painful experiences over the course of my life for me to grasp what it’s like to struggle with mental health.

My father was brutally murdered by a shoplifter at his store when I was 20 years old. Losing him in such a violent way launched me into one of the darkest valleys I’ve ever had to walk through. At one of my lowest points, I seriously doubted God’s existence.

Then, 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The treatment and recovery periods were grueling and left me exhausted both physically and emotionally. Anxiety and depression took hold. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t enjoy the things I once loved. I felt like a dead man walking, and I wondered if I was ever going to make it. Some Sundays I had to drag myself to the pulpit.

It took me more than a year to come out of that darkness. I sought the help of professional counselors who recommended different forms of treatment that were effective in my battle with depression. The church also played an indispensable role, caring, loving, and encouraging me during my hardest days. This is what the apostle Paul exhorted us to do in Galatians 6:20, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the love of Christ” (ESV). 

If we are followers of Jesus, we are tasked with not only caring deeply about the spiritual health of others, but their mental, emotional and physical health as well, for they are all tied together. 

The good news is the church is uniquely equipped to care for people struggling with mental illness. As a local community of faith called to love one another, it acts as a crucial support system for all who are in need. Many of the Bible’s teachings — such as forgiving those who have wronged us, recognizing the inherent value of every human life, and giving thanks for the blessings we have — are used by professional counselors to help people cope with and overcome depression and anxiety.

The church has the potential to change the tide of the mental illness epidemic rising in our nation, but for this to happen we need to start talking about the issues. We need to equip ourselves so we can offer effective, practical care for people who need healing. This is why Prestonwood has started Life Recovery Ministry, a program to help people cope and heal from emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual wounds caused by illness, addiction, and abuse. Life Recovery Ministry will host The River Conference on March 19 and 20, to address mental health stigma, domestic abuse, sexual healing, and more. This event will feature experts in psychology and religion and is open for in-person and online attendance.

We the church can no longer stand on the sidelines while people are suffering and hurting. We must step up and step in to end this critical cycle before it’s too late.

COMMENT

We wholeheartedly concur with Dr Jack Graham and call on all churches to address mental health stigma, domestic abuse, sexual healing, and more

Dr. Jack Graham is the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in America. He is also a noted author, and his PowerPoint Ministries broadcasts are available in 92 countries and are heard daily in more than 740 cities. Facebook | www.facebook.com/PPTMinistries   Twitter | @jackngraham

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2021/march/pastor-jack-graham-shares-his-battle-with-depression-and-why-the-church-must-lead-in-the-mental-health-fight


Chilling First Amendment

By Rev Paul N Papas II
September 3, 2013

Most people have heard of the First Amendment without understanding it or its history. At this point in time the First Amendment is under assault. Some of these assaults have become vitriolic and devolved into personal attacks. A little history is needed to show how and why we have the First Amendment.

Many of the first settlers to this part of the New World that we now know as the USA came from Great Britain where the King was both head of state and head of the Church of England. At that time adherents to other dominations were ostracized and persecuted which motivated them to flee to seek freedom to worship God according to their denominational doctrine. Some came to this part of the New World directly, some came by way Holland or other countries seeking the freedom to worship God without interference from the government.

When this country decided the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient, they had a choice to amend that or draft a new document, to do that they called a Constitutional Convention. They decided on a new document.

Several delegates to the Constitutional Convention refused to sign the newly drafted constitution because it did not include a bill of rights. Bills of rights were typically parts of the constitutions of the several states of the day (and today), placed there to ensure that certain rights were recognized by the government. Most of the delegates did not feel such a bill was necessary, and other may have been on the fence but were weary from the months of negotiations.

The lack of a bill of rights was one of the main arguments that the Anti-Federalists used to try to convince the public to reject the Constitution. But the need for change was all too evident, and it was not rejected. However, some of the states sent suggestions for amendments to the Constitution to add an enumeration of certain rights. The ratification messages of the states included many varying suggestions, which the very first Congress took under consideration in its very first session. (Note it was not sent to a study committee for some future Congress to settle.)

What makes the first Amendment so important?

The Constitution granted by the people created the government, by contract. In this Contract the federal government is given enough power to protect people’s unalienable rights from being damaged by foreign aggressors and other individuals.

Unalienable Rights can never be taken away by anyone, including the government, because they come from God. Inalienable Rights are granted by the government and subject to cancellation by the government or the people.

Our Founding Fathers gave us a Republic which guarantees each of us our Unalienable Rights. In a Democracy a vote by 51% could cancel the Rights of the other 49%.

The Contract also limits the federal government to ensure that the government itself never became the oppressor and destroyer of those rights.

Once you fully understand those two statements, the reason the First Amendment may be clear.

Our rights come from a power higher than the government, God. If the government could mandate a state religion, there would be no power higher than the official government endorsed religion. Thus our rights would in essence come from our government, and thusly could be taken away by the government.

The Freedoms of Speech, Assembly, and of the Press are there to make sure we had a way to find out what was going on and could let other people know about it if the government ever got the idea not honor the Contract and give itself powers which we the people hadn’t consented to grant them.

If government controlled the message and religious beliefs it would dictate how the people thought and acted. In essence government would have final word on what constitutes open expression of religion and alienate people from their unalienable rights. When you have the power to rule over God, you become God, which is exactly what the First Amendment was created to prevent.

Federal laws are passed by Congress and enacted when signed by the president, or by a veto override. There are some who believe the words “separation of church and state” prevent Prayer or other “religious” activities in public. When Courts determine what the authors of a law meant by a certain word or phrase they review the Congressional Record in order to make a ruling. The phrase “separation of church and state” was written in a private letter by Thomas Jefferson.

The Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789, record the months of discussions and debates of the ninety Founding Fathers who framed the First Amendment. Significantly, not only was Thomas Jefferson not one of those ninety who framed the First Amendment, but also, during those debates not one of those ninety Framers ever mentioned the phrase “separation of church and state.” It seems logical that if this had been the intent for the First Amendment – as is so frequently asserted-then at least one of those ninety who framed the Amendment would have mentioned that phrase; none did.

If Jefferson’s letter is to be used today, let its context be clearly given – as in previous years. Furthermore, earlier Courts had always viewed Jefferson’s Danbury letter for just what it was: a personal, private letter to a specific group. There is probably no other instance in America’s history where words spoken by a single individual in a private letter – words clearly divorced from their context – have become the sole authorization for a national policy. Jefferson’s Danbury letter should never be invoked as a stand-alone document. A proper analysis of Jefferson’s views must include his numerous other statements on the First Amendment.

The assault on the First Amendment is an assault on God.

There are those who can not win an argument on the merits so they resort to the bully pulpit to abuse, demean and intimidate those with opposing views. The people who resort to such bulling tactics are generally insecure, anxious people who have many fears. Their thinking is that if they bellow enough others will give in, leave, or suggest the one being violated be removed from the situation. Either way the bully gets the sand box to himself. When the abuser/bully is stood up to he looses his power over the one violated. The abuser/bully can create mental health issues for the ones he violates, leaving more carnage.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/chilling-first-amendment/


Helped By Your Pet

7 March 10
By Rev. Paul N. Papas II

Patting your pet has been proven to be good for your health. With so many warning labels on food, medicines, and your hot cup of coffee isn’t it nice to have a natural way to nurture yourself.

Researchers are finding that pets truly have the power to heal their owners, especially the elderly. The most serious disease for older people is not cancer or heart disease, but loneliness.

Too often, people who live alone or are suddenly widowed, die of broken hearts. Love is the most important medicine and pets are one of nature’s best sources of affection. Pets relax and calm. They take the human mind off loneliness, grief, pain, and fear. They cause laughter and offer a sense of security and protection. They encourage exercise and broaden the circle of one’s acquaintances.

Patients in hospitals and nursing homes who have regular visits from pets – whether their own or those brought in from various agencies – are more receptive to medical treatment and nourishment. Animals give the patient the will to live and in nursing homes, the medical staff is often surprised to see residents suddenly “become alive.” Animals have a calming effect on humans and benefit mental well-being, especially with children and the elderly.

In recent years, the experts have been relying on pet therapy as a valuable aid in reaching out to the elderly, the in-firmed, and to ill or abused children throughout the country. Therapy animals go to convalescent homes, hospitals, day care centers, juvenile halls, and prisons. These animals are trained to be calm, gentle and well-mannered, especially around rambunctious children. There are no breed requirements. In fact, many therapy animals are mixed breeds. They come in all sizes and shapes. Cats and small dogs are good because they can be lifted easily and fit even on the smallest laps. A large dog makes a good companion for someone in a wheelchair, sitting patiently and allowing the occupant to stroke his fur.

Most importantly is that the therapy cats and dogs have a calm, gentle personality and are people-oriented. They must love attention and being petted and not be shy. In addition, they need basic obedience training and should be conditioned to not be frightened by sudden noises. They provide an invaluable service to those who are lonely, abandoned, or ill; indeed, anyone who needs the miraculous healing that can arise from a hug and a gentle touch.

Children, especially those who are abused or neglected, are able to communicate with animals. A pet offers a safe place for a child with emotional problems. They give unconditional love, providing a security blanket. A dog, cat, ferret or parrot can be the bond that glues a family together when upheaval, such as moving, death or divorce, occurs. Often, an animal can reach a child beyond an adult’s touch.

We were designed to have fellowship with each other, to love and be loved. Sometimes circumstances have become barriers to one of our basic needs, to love and be loved.

The innocence of animals and their ability to love unconditionally makes animals special. Human beings want to be part of their world, to connect with them in a mysterious and powerful way that will strengthen and nurture both humans and animals.

_ Pets help Alzheimer’s patients by bringing them back to the present. Specially trained pups can also help alert others that an Alzheimer’s patient has wandered into harm’s way. “Pets can provide a measure of safety to people with the disease,” says Thomas Kirk, a vice president of a chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

_ Children who suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD) are able to focus on a pet, which helps them learn to concentrate.

_ Patients who happen to have a medical condition of a mental illness, or those with emotional problems, share a common bond when a cat or dog enters the room. Instead of reacting negatively to one another, the cat or dog boosts morale and fosters a positive environment.

_ Pets are an antidote to depression. Life in a care facility can be boring. A visit from a therapy cat or dog breaks the daily routine and stimulates interest in the world outside.

_ Pets provide social interaction. In a health care facility, people come out of their rooms to socialize with the animals and with each other.

_ Everyone has the need to touch. Many humans are uncomfortable hugging or touching strangers, even those close to them. Some people are alone and have no hands to hold, no bodies to hug. But rubbing the fur of a cat or dog can provide a stimulation that they sorely lack. The nonverbal connection is invaluable in the healing process.

_ Pets are a source of expectation, hope and communication. Looking forward to a social call or getting home after time away gives that spark of anticipation all humans need to help feel alive. Pets can help start a conversation, and help one who is struggling against unusual difficulties in learning to speak for the first time or after a speech impairment such as a stroke.

Pets have proven to be very helpful in helping victims of abuse or sexual assault to heal as well.

Professionals in the field of pet-assisted therapy find that in addition to cats and dogs, fish, pot-bellied pigs, birds, reptiles, rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, horses and llamas are also valuable healers. They have also found pets lower blood pressure and stress levels, give the patient a reason to interact, offer a chance to exercise and a sense of security and/or intimacy, allow communication, and offer continuity in life.

Studies report that children who live in homes in which a pet is considered a member of the family are more empathetic than children in homes without pets. As children get older, their ability to empathize with animals will carry over into their experiences with people.

Finding the right pet for you to fit your circumstances including your ability to properly care for them is the key. In return for proper care your pet will unconditionally love you. The bond you will build with your pet will be very rewarding.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/helped-by-your-pet/


Related

https://news.liverpool.ac.uk/2017/03/07/family-pets-boost-child-development/

Unbiblical, Part 6 – Forgiveness v. Victims’ Rights

“ ‘And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us’ ” (Luke 11: 4).

As I have said elsewhere on this website, forgiveness is a personal matter between abuse victims and their God.  Urging forgiveness on victims prematurely ignores the gravity of their trauma, and the depravity of the sins committed against them.

This amounts to a further violation.  Victims will necessarily feel that Christians are siding with the predator…even condoning the abuse.  Shockingly, in some cases Christians have been guilty of this.

Witness the Catholic Church sex scandal.  This was, at best, a product of poor judgment, and a distorted view of Scripture.  At worst, it was a cold and calculated attempt to avoid corporate responsibility, while facilitating the most heinous of crimes

.

Detail from “Christ before the High Priest” by Gerar van Honthorst (1617), National Gallery (Accession No. NG3679), London, Source Web Gallery of Art (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)

Either way, church hierarchy applied precisely the same rationale to young abuse victims, as the high priest, Caiaphas, did to Christ:  “ ‘…[I]t is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish’ ” (John 11: 50).

To be clear, forgiveness is not a “warm and cozy” feeling, on the part of victims.  It is a deliberate decision by victims to leave the harm inflicted on them behind, and instead move on with their lives.

Significantly, genuine forgiveness can provide victims a release from their past which nothing else can.  The link to the predator is severed.  The hold the predator has had over victims is broken.  More than that, through God’s grace, victims are set free to heal.

Forgiveness is not inconsistent with victims’ rights.  A victim may decide no longer to expend emotional energy focusing on his/her loss.  This does not preclude criminal prosecution of the predator for the crimes s/he committed.

Criminal liability and lifelong monitoring, when imposed, are consequences of the predator’s own actions.  This is entirely in accord with Scripture.  Society must take necessary steps to protect its most vulnerable members.

Conclusion

A few final words:

Christians genuinely interested in being supportive to abuse victims should better educate themselves, both on Scripture and abuse, and should pray fervently for compassion, which – sad to say – many lack.

God is waiting with open arms for abuse victims.  They are more precious to Him than diamonds or gold.  In fact, His Son Jesus died for them.  It is this truth which Christians should strive to convey.

Originally posted 4/12/15

Wishing You All A Merry Christmas!

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com


Unbiblical, Part 5 – Self-Sacrifice v. Codependence

Sketch for mural “The Spirit of Self-Sacrificing Love” by Kenyon Cox at Oberlin College, Smithsonian Museum (1983.114.15), Source https://americanart.si.edu (PD-Art, PD-Old-95)

“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.  We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

– Mother Teresa

Self-sacrifice is natural to Christians, and encouraged.  Christians are to put the legitimate needs of others ahead of their own, in imitation of Christ.  Mother Teresa was a shining example of this.  For abuse victims, however, self-sacrifice can become confused with codependence.

Codependence as an After-Effect of Abuse

Individuals suffering from codependence will allow the emotions and behavior of others to dictate their view of themselves.  Those with codependence will tolerate – even, unconsciously, seek out – relationships that are “one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive verbally or physically” [1].

Codependent characteristics include low self-esteem; fear of anger; denial of any problems with the relationship; and an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the feelings, choices, and actions of the loved one [2].

While on its face, codependence may resemble Christian self-sacrifice, there are distinct differences between the two.

The codependent individual may forego his/her goals and desires to meet the perceived “needs” of a loved one.  But the underlying motive for this is not the welfare of the loved one.  It is fear.

Actually, the codependent individual is attempting to shore up his/her fragile sense of worth, strike an unspoken bargain for love and affection, and maintain the relationship at all costs (however abusive or unsatisfying it may be).  An overly solicitous mother might be a crude illustration.

By comparison, Christian self-sacrifice is not the attempt to manipulate (or placate) an individual perceived as more “important” or powerful.  It is, or should be, truly selfless.

Clinging to an Imitation

None of this is meant to imply that abuse victims cannot love and love intensely.  The problem lies in the fact victims have not seen healthy love modeled.  What feels familiar is a flawed version of love, an imitation.  The real love and support victims need seem out of reach, so we cling to the imitation with all our might, confusing pain for passion.

Reality Check

Codependence does not have to be a permanent state.  What can loosen its grip is reality, in liberal doses.

  • What would a third party identify as problems in the relationship?  Putting aside the excuses victims have always made for him/her, what attitudes and behavior on the loved one’s part cause victims pain?
  • Why is it victims feel unworthy of a satisfying relationship?
  • What would the consequences be, if victims expressed their dissatisfaction or anger? What was the response to their anger in childhood?

Notice that the list of our supposed failures and inadequacies is not included here. That, for the most part, is a work of fiction.  But abuse victims are not likely to recognize the fact until the foundation for the fiction has been undermined.

The reality is victims are no longer children.  We are entitled to have needs, and express them. We are entitled to have negative emotions, and express them.  We will not be annihilated, if the abusive relationship ends.

The reality is victims are not responsible.  Not for the feelings, choices, or actions of the loved one – much as victims might like to believe that.  An exaggerated sense of responsibility provides only the illusion of control.  That illusion may be necessary to the child; it is crippling to the adult.

The reality is victims can survive.  The proof is – astoundingly enough – that we have.  Despite the dire predictions of those who should have loved us.  Despite childhood insults, curses, and neglect; despite adult scars.  Despite even the flawed relationships into which we have fallen, thinking we deserve no better.

Only when abuse victims understand the concept of self-love will we be able to put the needs of another before our own, freely.  Till then, victims will continue playing out the tragedy of abuse.

[1] [2] The Diversified Intervention Group, Education, “The Latest Definition of Codependency”, http://interventiontreatmentrecovery.org/education/codependency/?gclid=CPSfiK3-_8MCFdgYgQodshIARw.

Originally posted 4/5/15

This series will conclude next week with Forgiveness v. Victims’ Rights

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com


Unbiblical, Part 4 – Trusting God, Self, and Others

Detail from “A Girl Comes to Christ” by Fritz von Uhde (1884), Museum der bildenden Künste (Accession No. 550), Germany (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)

Trusting God v. Trusting Self

Christians talk casually about God’s plan for their lives and the lives of others.  This can be grating to the ears of abuse victims (especially those new to, or unfamiliar with, the faith).

As victims are inclined to see it, God’s plan for them included abuse.  Whether He caused that abuse or merely allowed it to occur, He failed to protect them against it. And they have the scars to prove that.

The issue of innocent suffering is a profound one, and cannot be papered over with a handy Bible verse.  For abuse victims, coming to terms with it may be a lifelong struggle.

Trusting themselves can be as great a challenge.  Abuse has effectively “taught” victims not to rely on their own judgment, their own instincts.  This is something they must unlearn.

It is not helpful for Christians to urge victims to trust in God, rather than themselves.  Such trust will come with time.  It cannot be rushed.  There are deep wounds which must be healed first.

Trusting Others

Christians should be sensitive in the language they use around abuse victims.  To victims of incest, even the term “Father God” can sound disturbing.  To those who were sexually abused or tortured by siblings, the term “brothers and sisters in Christ” may be equally threatening.

Christians should not pressure victims to drop their defenses, and should not hug or make other physical contact with victims without their permission.  Victims may experience either as invasive, and shy away.

Christians should allow abuse victims to take the lead, insofar as relationships. Friendships should not be forced.  These will develop as victims gradually come to see they will not be harmed.

Originally posted 3/29/15

This series will continue next week with Self-Sacrifice v. Codependence

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

Unbiblical, Part 3 – Humility v. Lack of Worth

Many, if not most, victims will conclude from the abuse inflicted on them that they have little or no value. They are likely to view God as angry and withholding, unconcerned for their welfare. This applies whether the abuse is emotional, physical, sexual or in the form of neglect.

When in all humility Christians describe themselves as undeserving of Salvation or compare their righteousness to “filthy rags” (Is. 64: 6), abuse victims can readily identify. However, abuse victims are inclined to view themselves as irredeemable.

Having been treated like filthy rags, having been taught that love must be “earned” – and never is – victims may, even as adults, wrestle with shame and believe that they are worthless. This can drive them toward legalism (Christianity as perfectionism), in a frantic attempt to obtain the love they have been denied.

But God values every life. His love is freely given.

Christ said:

“ ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ ” (Matt. 5: 5).

He said:

“… ‘Whoever receives this little child in my name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great’” (Luke 9: 48).

Christians must, first and foremost, demonstrate God’s love to abuse victims.  If they fail in this, the shame is theirs.

This series will continue next week with Trusting God, Self, and Others

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com


Unbiblical, Part 2 – Sin Nature v. Abuse-Related Guilt

Woman with a broken heart, Author Nevit Dilmen, Source Sunset 02459.jpg and Broken Heart symbol.svg (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Christians speak regularly about the “sin nature” of mankind, the inclination by human beings to do wrong, as illustrated by wars and crime.

The following verses on the topic are typical:

“…[T]he imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21).

“ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…’” (Jer. 17:9).

“ ‘Then I will…take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes…’ ” (Ezek. 11: 19-20).

“ ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’ ” (Matt. 15: 19).

If anyone has experienced that sin nature, abuse victims have.  Victims, however, have been more sinned against than sinning.

Unfortunately, the continuous emphasis on sin is likely to sound like condemnation to victims, when what they need is love, encouragement, and hope.

Christians should remember that abuse leaves behind deep scars.  Victims of abuse may struggle with gender identification, sexual addiction or dysfunction, self-neglect, anxiety, depression, dissociation and related amnesia, drug or alcohol addiction, cutting, anorexia, bulimia, binging, and other issues.  The majority of prostitutes are thought to be runaways, with a history of abuse.

Dealing with major problems like these is not for the faint of heart.  Nor is it for the self-righteous.  Merely living ordinary lives can take enormous effort and enormous courage by abuse victims.  That victims, for the most part, accomplish this is amazing.

Victims should not be made a topic of gossip.  Nor should they be subjected to snap judgments, whether about their morality or mental state.

Above all, victims should be reassured that they were not the guilty party in abuse; that, as children, they were wholly incapable of consent to whatever was done to them; and that God still loves them, despite all they have been through.

Originally posted 3/15/15

This series will continue next week with Humility v. Lack of Worth

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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