Clarifying Concepts: Faith

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“Now faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.” I Cor 13:13

Of these three, hope is probably the least vague or problematic for women in destructive relationships. In fact, hope keeps her going. Through the skillful use of intermittent reinforcement, a woman continues to hope  her abuser will change, that if she can just hold on or do more, she will be delivered from the nightmare she is living.

Intermittent reinforcement is the carrot and stick method of bondage. The abuser is romantic, kind, insisting he cannot live without her.  Then some minor mishaps occurs and he flies into a rage that she is the stupidest woman he has ever met. This cycle of escalation-outburst-honeymoon keeps hope alive in the woman. If he can be so loving part of the time, she berates herself, the other times must be her fault. Surely God will show her how she must change to stop this torment.

We all need hope in the good or a better tomorrow to keep going. But this kind of hope relies on a denial of reality. It is too hard to admit that his behavior is deliberate and not her fault.

Love also has many meanings. When an abuser says he loves a victim, he means she seems ideal to use. Other ideas of respect,  honor, compassion, and commitment are not included in his definition, although they are in hers.

But perhaps the most frequently misused concept overall is faith. In fact, six faith concepts are examined in my self-help workbook, Redemption from Biblical Battering, which contribute to a believing victim’s confusion.

So when the word “faith” is used itself in verbal abuse, it is like having all six lobbed at you like a tennis ball machine. The more vague a woman is about what this concept means to her, the more an abuser can use Bible verses or ideas about faith against her.

Faith is often used in six of the verbal abuse categories: countering, discounting, blocking/diverting, accusation and blame, name-calling, and  judging/criticizing.

Below are some of the most popular quotes about faith and some of the ways they are misused as verbal abuse. And some of the ways you can counter these, even if only mentally and not aloud verbally.

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:7 – the abuser may counter  your need for answers or accountability by quoting this. You can counter this by explaining your faith is in God.

For it is by grace you have been saved, by faith, and his is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9- may be used by the abuser to deflect if you want some acknowledgement or recognition of your efforts to obey and be productive, thinking this will free you from his insults. You can counter this by asserting you have the gift of faith and don’t boast.

You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. James 2: 24 – may be used by the abuser in the same way to discount your rightful desire for acknowledgement. This is a great verse to turn around on the abuser by citing his works are not developing much confidence in him.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Heb 11:1- may be used to criticize you if you ask for some accountability in his actions. You can counter by you have confidence that God wants you to be respected and loved.

Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. I Cor. 2:5- may be used to accuse you or call you faithless if you ask abuser to contribute his part in the relationship. You can counter that you don’t have faith in the abuser’s  “wisdom.”

You can deal with these tactics? As with all the other tools, maturing your concepts into a clear understanding of what they mean provides a shield against using these ideas to insult or demean you. Combine clear concepts with assertive skills.

Of course, the inventiveness of the abuser in misusing faith concepts is ongoing. But combining clarity of concepts with assertive communication is a shield.

Faith is the evidence of what we have not seen because it is based on what we have seen. That is, we have experience that when we ask for help, we receive it. Therefore when we ask for help again, we can expect to get it.

Faith is not anti-intellectual. Faith is not magical thinking. Faith is not to be placed in people.

Faith is trust that the God in who we live, move and have our being will provide for our lives. God provided an earth that had food we would like before we even knew what we liked or were here.

We trust or believe or have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. If we had never experienced the sun rising, we would not have faith or trust or belief that it would again.

So faith is based on the experience of the nature of God in our lives. It is very personal and not a subject for anyone else to use against us to insult us.

“Don’t you have faith?” “You’re being faithless”  are merely coercive mind games to guilt you into doing what the abuser wants. Your faith is in God, not your abuser and you can certainly feel free to say so.

Your abuser certainly does not have faith, or he would not be trying to coerce you through fear, guilt, power and control.

And if he falls back on that old ploy of his standing in for the Lord, you can say you don’t believe in idolatry.

Have faith and be free!

CLARITY: CONCEPTS AND ASSUMPTIONS

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How Journaling Helps You to Get Free

When I was in an abusive marriage to a minister, I was challenged to work my way through the reality of how my faith was used against me.

Studying communication as well as counseling helped me see the fallacies that my husband was using, both with and without Bible verses.

As women we want to be fair. We want to be responsible. And faith concepts, like all abstractions, are open to a wide variety of interpretations. Our right to challenge someone else’s idea of what they mean is often forbidden.

But both the meaning and the assumptions behind the meanings hold the keys to mental and emotional freedom.

Let’s begin with one often confused: humility.

When I was growing up, stories of the saints being glad to bleed or inflict themselves with pain were glorified. The ideal of not asking anything for yourself was held up as an ideal to strive for.

I had to learn the difference in humility and humiliation.

Our accusers often encourage us to accept humiliation with Bible exhortations to be humble. This wrongful use of these ideas is damaging to us on several levels.

A humble person is not arrogant. He or she accepts their place in the human race. They are equals, neither above nor below others.

One of my favorite sayings is, “The ego is easily offended.”

When around an arrogant person, you often see that they are easily offended. In fact they may look for excuses to feel offended where no slight was intended.

Your abuser may behave like this with you.

Humiliation on the other hand has its purpose in making you less than. It desires to take your strength from you and keep you in bondage to another’s wll.

God did not command us to be humiliated. We are made in the divine image. God desires our well-being.

Any treatment which says  you must accept insults or harm in order to be godly is wrongheaded. You will notice that the one telling you to accept this does not accept it for themselves.

The assumption means unequal power in the relationship. You are not worthy to be treated with the same respect as the one telling you to be humble when what they mean is humiliation. They will make you feel guilty or ashamed for resisting mistreatment. Reject this accusation for the false faith concept that it is.

Other misused concepts are faith, sacrifice, God’s will, and forgiveness.

Which one gives you the most trouble?  Let me know and I will examine it in the next post.

What’s Your Lump of Coal?

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sack coal

Holiday seasons are prime times for exalted expectations. Amid all the hype, images of impossibly happy families, outlandish claims for owning hundreds of products, or a desire to live up to other myths, we can easily become discouraged if we don’t see our own lives living up to the big screen.

A children’s story threatens that if we are not “good”, we will only receive a lump of coal. Early on we learn the power of pleasing others, especially those who can give us gifts, fulfill promises, and help us feel especially loved.

After we grow up, we do not believe these stories affect us. Still, the holiday season Continue reading

Share Your Expression This Season

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In the past two posts, we looked at the foundational necessity of Honoring Yourself in the pathway to spiritual growth. Without honoring our gift of embodied life, we are set at odds against ourselves, constantly battling our right to be and squandering the energy we have been so lavishly given by having a physical experience for our spiritual selves.

Likewise, the second step in our spiritual growth is to Discover our Expression. This is what we are uniquely suited to bring into the world. It provides a sense of satisfaction, a “rightness”, that assures us we are in the flow of our good and what we came here to do. It does not matter how small, how inexpensive, or how quiet our gifts may be, it they provide us with the “click” that signals the integration Continue reading

A Short Guide to Developing Denials and Affirmations

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Using the power of your words to create your experiences can be very satisfying and stress relieving.  More than just positive thinking, denials and affirmations are a dynamic duo in managing our perceptions and feelings toward achieving satisfaction in relationships, work and other areas. They are based on the truth that the universe is supporting us and that love prevails in assuring us our good because this is the Divine Will for our lives. They create what Jesus called “the Kingdom of God within you”. If we think about what would the evidence be that Good prevailed, that is what Jesus meant. Harmonious relationships, happiness, fulfillment, peace, love, wisdom, kindness. We can create these through the power of our heart-mind-words.

Peru Amphitheater Ankh

Basically as I have practiced this technique, Continue reading