Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Perhaps no issue is as confusing to Christian abuse survivors as trying to untangle who is responsible for what in an abusive environment.

If you ask an atheist who is at fault if a child is sexually molested by her father, without hesitation he answers that the father is guilty of a horrible crime against the child. But talk to a Christian survivor and she is often stuck in a maze of confusion. How can she still honor her father? How much of what happened is God's fault? Is it her fault, was God punishing her for some wrongdoing?

If a wife is abused by her husband. Many in our society automatically assume that the correct course of action is to divorce that "loser" as fast as possible. If you are a Christian, however, church people may give you the idea that it is your job to save the marriage, convert the husband into a true believer, and bear your "cross" with patience and goodwill. Christian abused wives struggle over how to submit properly, how to forgive divinely, how to protect God's reputation as a marriage-saver, and how to love well enough that their husbands won't feel like abusing any more.

If a Christian husband is abused by his wife, I think he probably goes through a lot of the same issues except instead of struggling with how to submit, they may be struggling with how to properly love that woman who is out to kill them (psychologically and/or physically).

How can Christians help one another through these intellectual and spiritual struggles? I would love to hear your thoughts in emails to me or as posts on the website. I have heard from a few women that their posts are not reaching me. If you have tried to post and never received a response from me then please use the email ( to make comments, and specify if you would like me to post your comments on the site. I have posted all the comments that have shown up for moderation. I moderate the comments to keep the site safe for those who are in the process of recovering from abuse; I will not post any abusive comments (which has not happened yet).

The next few posts will explore answers to the questions of who is responsible for what in abuse and in recovery from abuse.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Verbal Garbage

Verbal abuse stings. It cuts deeply into our hearts and has a way of staying with us for many years. Long after the abuser is finished with us, his or her words haunt us--because we keep the words alive repeating them to ourselves. It is an ironic and tragic part of emotional and verbal abuse that we end up joining the abuser in attacking ourselves.

It is a boundary problem when we receive anything another says to us and about us--regardless of whether it has any validity or not.

A friend recently sent me an email about a taxi driver who prayed for those who dumped verbal garbage on him. He refused to let ugly words ruin his day. He knew it was garbage, and responded to it accordingly. We would never put garbage on a rotating carousal and run it through our house over and over....So, is anyone interested in joining me on working on treating verbal abuse as the garbage that it is?

Let's throw out the garbage as it comes, letting go of hurtful words.

Let's pray that God will reveal himself to abusers and teach them about His love.

From now on, let's hang onto what God says about us (we're loved, we're created wonderfully, we are a child of God, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are equipped for every good work that God has planned for us to do, etc.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Evil Defeated

Evil Defeated

by Tanya T. Warrington

Evil stripped,
Love clothed,

Evil pushed down,
Love lifted up,

Evil trampled,
Love released,

Evil crushed,
Love nurtured,

Evil took,
Love gave,

Evil gloated,
Love comforted,

Evil lost,
Love won.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Here We Go Again

Yesterday I had a reminder that healing does not occur in a straight line. I spent time processing a 25 year old memory. My heart sped up as I remembered an incident of abuse. I wondered how much longer such memories would hook my emotions. I wanted to say that after twenty-five years it shouldn't hurt any more. Have you ever felt that way?

In reality, however, I know that we can't look at a traumatic memory once, face it, file it away and never look at it again. When we expect emotional healing to happen in a linear way, we will be frustrated. It just doesn't work that way. It helps me to think of emotional healing as overlapping circles. Each time you revisit a specific memory of abuse you will be healing a different layer in your soul. One time you might experience the fear you felt, the next time you might deal with examining the beliefs you absorbed at the time of the abuse, another time you could vent the anger that the memory stirs, and another time around the circle you might work on being kind to yourself about how you responded at the time of the abuse.

I used to get frustrated, thinking that I wasn't making any progress. I felt the temptation yesterday to judge myself for reacting to my memory. Then I remembered how much healing comes each time around the circle, and I focused in on identifying what I needed to learn this time. It turned out, I hadn't allowed myself to admit previously my anger over being treated so disrespectfully. Once I acknowledged the anger, I felt peace again.

If you feel frustration with your own recovery from abuse, I have now been at this enough years that I can assure you that you are making progress. Each "backward" loop is adding a deeper layer of healing. It can be helpful to occasionally review what you have written in your journals and see how far you have come. Or if you don't use journaling much then you can talk to someone who has known you a long time and ask them if you have changed. Or you can, ask yourself what you were like before you embarked on emotional healing. How did you formerly deal with stress, how did you interact with people, and how did you talk to yourself?

Progress doesn't happen in a smooth, straight line--but healing happens, especially when we invite God to lead the process. Next time I feel like I am moving backwards, I am going to celebrate that I am ready to deal with another layer of healing. I am going to thank God for bringing me back around a loop to go a little deeper, because when you look at the big picture it is good news. I'll take every ounce of healing I can get. How about you?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


When you are abused as a child, choice is a foreign concept. Fear is the master and you obey without thinking--unless you are the "black sheep" of the family. But even if you were labeled the black sheep, you probably had little awareness of choices. You most likely rebelled instinctively without careful decision making. The "black sheep" that I have met felt like it was impossible for them to avoid punishments so they might as well vent some of their anger.

Most abuse victims are anxious to please and try to advert trouble. I remember feeling in my mid-thirties like I had been an "adult" since age three, meaning that I had been a caretaker and non-playful person. My life was serious--survival took concentration and attentiveness. Like many victims, I was on alert status, hypervigilant in monitoring other's moods and intentions. I slept light and was always thinking and planning. I was focused on protecting myself and my siblings, and then later in life I was protecting myself and my children.

Once you become abuse-free, choice-making is a huge learning curve. It takes awhile to understand that you do have the power to make decisions. You can decide who to hang out with. You can decide what you will or will not share with others. You can choose how to structure your days. You can choose how to respond to abusive people.

If your boss is controlling, how do you want to respond to him? If your boss reminds you of your mom, how are you going to deal with that stress? If you want to learn a new skill, how are you going to treat yourself? Are you going to stick to the old tapes in your head or are you going to practice being kind to yourself?

I think what helped me most was accepting that making choices was a skill I could learn. I didn't have to make a "right" or "perfect" choice each time. I needed to recognize that learning this brand new skill was a process. As I saw my progress and learned to celebrate it, I continued to grow. At first, I was paralyzed by such mundane decisions as what to order off a menu...but now, I make decisions fairly easily. Growth seems painstakingly slow during the learning process, but in hindsight it is so obvious that God is changing us as we walk with Him into new territory.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Separating the Wolves from the Sheep (Part 3)

Wouldn’t it be nice if abusive people wore nametags that announced their tendency to use others? If you Google “domestic violence” or “abuser traits, abuser profile,” you will discover lists that explain the telltale characteristics of someone who controls others for personal benefit. Of course, abusers do not want to tip you off; they work hard to appear as an innocent sheep during the dating period. To make the misdirection easier to maintain, most abusers are “fast movers” who push for quick commitments of exclusivity (proposing marriage or live-in arrangements). Dating an abuser often feels like you’ve entered a whirlwind.

I urge you to research abuser traits on the internet and in domestic violence books. The more informed you are, the better off you will be. In this post, I will focus on the traits that you are most likely to encounter in dating (some of the traits you won’t see until he feels secure that you are “his.”) If the new person in your life displays these danger signals, I strongly advice you end the relationship:

-Insecure to the point that he fishes almost continually for reassurance and approval. There are many insecure and low self-esteem people who are not abusers, but if multiple of the other signs are present then the insecurity is significant clue.
-Gives over-the –top compliments and gifts.
-Tells stories of being abused as a child or watching a parent being abused. His emotions about this seem raw and unprocessed.
-Tells stories that show a fascination with weapons or power. He may also tell stories of what he has done when he has been angry—in a bragging manner.
-Makes off-color or sexist comments on a frequent basis.
-Ignores your requests and boundaries. Pushes against your boundaries or walks on them (in the beginning it will be over “small matters” that you feel are not that big of a deal.
-Blames others for all of his problems.
-Drinks heavily or is a drug user. This is a separate problem but it is especially dangerous when combined with violence.
-Harsh or cruel with pets, friends, and/or friends.
-Exhibits a violent temper over “little” things. (Often this part is invisible while dating, but may be hinted at with stories of what he would do or what he thinks others should do in a frustrating situation.)
-Distrusts everyone, except you (for now).

Bottom line, we must pay attention. If you are frequently excusing or laughing off his/her words and behavior, it’s not a good sign. If you feel sorry for him or if you feel he needs you as a caregiver, then beware. Remember warning signs only benefit us—if we heed them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Separating Wolves from the Sheep (Part 2)

"Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right." Proverbs 20:11 (NIV)

Are you frightened to trust anyone because of the abuse you have suffered in the past? Are you nervous that you'll fall prey again to a wolf in sheep's clothing?

It is a valid fear. Many abused people are victimized by more than one perpetrator. So what can we do to safeguard ourselves from relationships with other abusers? This is part two exploring how to recognize the wolves.

Were you attracted to an abuser because he seemed so charming, so interested in you, so attentive? Did he seem like a prince charming or did she seem like a fairy princess? Were his words extra appealing? Did he or she give compliments that felt wonderful, and yet seemed over-the-top?

Not all controlling people honey their words to hide their poisonous attitude, but many do. Words are powerful. Beneficial words from a sincere heart can build friendships, deliver kindness, and shine with encouragement. But in the wrong mouth, words are weapons that maim another with falsehood and manipulation.

To see what is really going on, examine the actions. Think about whether his words and actions match up. Observe whether she behaves the same as the picture she creates with her words. Does what he or she does confirm or contradict the "nice" words? Are his actions respectful? trustworthy? faithful? kind? honest? Christian? The most important question to build healthy relationships is not "Do I love her/him?"--rather, ask yourself "Do we behave like people who respect one another?"

In the next post, we will examine common traits of people who become violent with their partners.

P.S. Sorry I am a day late with this post, it took a little longer than I expected to recover from my week of vacation.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Welcome to the site!

I will be out of town for the next week. Please browse and enjoy the site. The next post will be on the 13th or 14th.

God bless you with His grace,

Friday, April 4, 2008

Separating Wolves from Sheep (Part 1)

In the animal kingdom it is easy to spot a wolf moving in on the sheep. Shepherds are never confused identifying the predator even when his sharp carnivore teeth are covered.

If only it were so simple with people, how much safer we would be. But with humans appearance doesn't give away the wolves. Recently, I checked a law-enforcement website to view the addresses and pictures of all convicted sex offenders within a 10 mile radius of our home. Some of the mug-shot faces did look "creepy" or potentially dangerous. But just as many perpetrators looked like nice people, ordinary neighborly people.

How many times have you seen news coverage of neighbors declaring, "He seemed to be such a nice guy" when speaking of a neighbor who was a murderer or a rapist?

So how do we spot the pretenders? How do we identify men and women who steal another's sense of self-worth through imbalance of power, systematic belittling, and manipulation?

I don't believe there is any sure-fire way to avoid all abusers, but I have been learning some things are a help.

First, it makes a huge difference to ask God directly for wisdom and guidance. Ask God to lead you to healthy relationships. Ask him to help you to understand/discern another's character and intentions. We are so easily fooled by window dressing, but God sees hearts. He is never fooled.

In tomorrow's post, I will share another wolf-spotting tip.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fun Ways to Lighten Up

Healing is serious—and often depressingly slow. The stress can be overwhelming. Following are some ideas that may enhance your healing journey:

  • Rent and watch an old-fashioned comedy (try Danny Kaye, Phyllis Diller, Bob Hope, etc.). Laughter is a proven healer.
  • Take off your shoes and run through the dew-covered grass.
  • Go to a park (without your kids if you are a mom or dad) and swing back and forth.
  • Post comic strips on your bathroom mirror.
  • Do a finger painting.
  • Sit outside to watch a sunset or sunrise.
  • Sing while you do a chore.
  • Turn up the music and dance in your bedroom or living room.
  • Skip—it is still a fun thing to do.
  • Treat yourself to a picnic lunch or dinner.
  • Take a bath to relax.
  • Lie down and listen to a whole CD. Just listen.
  • Take the time to read a light book.
  • Go to the library, sit on the floor, and read a stack of picture books.
  • Go to a card shop and read all the encouragement cards.
  • Serve an upside down meal to your family (dessert first!)
  • Sit on the bathroom counter and soak your feet in cool water on a hot day.
  • Buy squirt guns and play with your spouse and/or kids.
  • Spend time each day on a hobby—even 10 minutes a day can make a difference.
  • Buy inexpensive flowers and put them all over your house.
  • Take a walk with a friend.
  • Learn a joke and tell it to at least two people.
  • Have a pajama day.
  • Roast some marshmallows with friends and/or family.
  • Pay for a massage or swap massages with a trusted friend.
  • Do anything that sounds both fun and healthy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Be Kind to Yourself

This past week I have been reminded of the importance of taking care of yourself. Looking at painful memories takes energy and courage. It is stressful work. The results are worthwhile but the process takes effort.

When I am helping someone else with their recovery process, I urge them to be gentle with themselves. We all need that reminder.

Abuse conditions us to being stressed as a chronic condition. Abusers urge us to take care of them to excess, and to discount and ignore our own needs. We are well-trained to consider any self-care as "selfish."

Nurturing ourselves is not selfish however--it is essential to healing and it is foundational to modeling a healthier way for our children (or others who may be impacted).

So how do we go about it? How do we treat ourselves with love and respect?

I am still in a state of figuring this out. Here are a few things that have worked for me thus far:
  • Reminding myself that if I want my children to be healthy in their self-care, the most effective way to have a positive impact is to let them see me taking care of myself. When my child sees me resting after I acknowledge that I am tired, then my child learns that it is okay to rest when you are tired.
  • Asking myself what I would want my friend to do for herself/himself in a similar situation, and then doing it for myself.
  • Exercising regularly to keep my emotions more stable and positive.
  • Journaling frequently to stay in touch with myself.
  • Telling myself the same positive thoughts that I tell others. Reassuring myself that I am involved in a process that takes time.
  • Watching for opportunities to acknowledge to myself what I am doing well.
  • Praying to ask God to teach me to take better care of myself. Taking care of myself is a way to be a good steward and to increase my usefulness in service to God.
  • Sitting outdoors and/or putting flowers in a vase to remind me of the beauty God has created. Remembering the beauty energizes me to care more what I do with His temple.
If you have some ideas on how to be kind and nurturing with yourself, I'd love to hear from you via a post or email.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft