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!

Those Who Hate Those Who Love

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Most of us have noticed that Mother’s Day has widely different meanings for everyone. I am grateful that mothers are acknowledged, but the vast differences in how we experience our mothers or being a mother elude the composers of greeting cards.

Each sibling will experience a different mother. My two sisters and I would laugh that there was always a favorite who wasn’t one of us. That, we realized, was existentially impossible. My older sister and I were not our mother’s favorites and our sister finally admitted it but didn’t know why. At least our experience was validated after our mother’s death.

Mothers cannot satisfy all their children’s needs. They are not allowed to have their own needs. On the other hand, there are women who did not choose to be mothers or can be harmful to their children’s development. Such is the lost cause of one-role meaning for a person.

Because there are so many differences in the way that one woman’s version of mothering plays out, Mother’s Day seeks to at least say it was good she allowed us to be born. But even that comes under attack.

Recently a remarkable young woman, Rachel Held Evans, unexpectedly passed away from a reaction to antiobiotics she was given to treat flu-like symptoms. Such a random and senseless cause of death has those who appreciated her reeling. Even worse, she leaves a 3 year old and a baby less than 1 year old with her grieving husband.

What has made her death even harder to bear is the harsh words used by some in the faith community of which she as a part. Rachel had increasingly sought to uphold Jesus’ gospel of love rather than legalism. A skillful writer, researcher and journalist, she reached out to those who had been hurt by the judgmentalism and rejection of some in that faith tradition. With discoveries of wide-spread abuses in some churches, large and small, those who felt outcast and in despair had in Rachel a voice that encouraged them to believe in their own worth and in God’s love for them.

But, just as in some families, while one sibling adores mother, another sibling feels animosity toward her. For some reason, Rachel’s emphasis on love angered some who believed her doctrine was not correct. They felt compelled to mar the grief many felt with their criticism and name-calling.

Why are some offended by a gospel of love? They were in Jesus’ day and they are now. Why is love so threatening to some people? Is it fear? Fear they won’t be the chosen, the favorite child? Comedian John Stewart recently said that the entire Jewish religion, in his view, was the search for the father’s approval.

The elder brother felt it in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Martha seemed to feel it, the producers, the ones who do all the right things, the compliant ones, the performers, often feel slighted if love is extended to those who don’t conform as they think they should out of duty if not love.

As the saying goes, we can be happy or we can be right.

So why do some hate those who love? What makes us resistant to the experience of what we crave and need so badly? Love often does not play by the rules and that can feel scary. Is it the need for power to control?

 I suggest widening our emotional economy. There is not a scarcity of love. When one person is loved, it doesn’t mean the other person is not loved. But each love is different because each person is different. As in the idea of five different love languages, it is not always easy to find out what way each person experiences feeling loved.

But for those who are threatened by love’s freedom, I hope you will forgive those who love for not measuring up to your definition of law as more important. It doesn’t mean you aren’t loved. I am sorry if you don’t feel loved. But please save the mean-spirited remarks and let us mourn this lost mother peacefully.

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

Eat or Spend? The High Cost of Insecurity

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Almost anyone who struggles with an eating disorder or really any addiction is familiar with how we can switch obsessions. If we are not drinking, we are eating. If we are not eating, we are smoking. If we are not working, we are drinking. On and on.money-fly

Spending is one of the favorite “go to” switches for those with eating disorders. In fact, some studies show that many seeking recovery from eating disorders have either alcoholism or sexual abuse in their childhood experiences. Because of this, poverty can be a stressor from growing up in an alcoholic family or, on the flip side, a family member may use gifts to secure illicit favors from their child victim. Compulsive spenders report feeling in power, getting a “high” as a stress relief, or needing to “escape” – all of which can be effects from feeling powerless as children. One woman said that, unlike gambling, at least she knew what she had spent the money on and had something to show for it.

Even when these are not factors, in our consumer based materialistic culture, money is probably one of the most misunderstood and emotionally charged experiences Continue reading

The Sources of Resentments

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“Why did she do that to me? I’ve never done anything to her!”

“No one crosses me and doesn’t pay for it.”pout

 

 

 

 

 

 

“He may think he can do that to me, but just let him try it again.”

Resentments are often called frozen rage or “drinking poison and hoping the other person will die”. Continue reading