Luke 17:3 Ministries Inc
Saturday, May 18, 2013
For Adult Daughters of Controlling or Abusive Birth-Families
AUGUST 2006 Newsletter
LUKE 17:3 Ministries
for adult daughters
A sisterhood for those who seek support in developing self-esteem, setting boundaries and limits, forgiveness, Godly confrontation, recognizing and cutting ties with reprobates, healing, and rejoicing in the peace and love of
the Lord, our Father
Luke 17: 3 is the scripture often misquoted, usually by an abuser or his enabler, when he tells you that the Bible says “Forgive and Forget”, or that you must forgive him because you are a Christian. However, Jesus is very specific when he tells us to rebuke the sinner, and if he repents, to forgive him. Have you rebuked your abuser, and has he or she repented?
THE ONLY FORM OF ABUSE STILL CONDONED BY SOCIETY. THE ONLY ABUSE IN WHICH THE VICTIM IS CRITICIZED OR ABANDONED FOR TRYING TO PROTECT HERSELF. CHILD ABUSE THAT DIDN’T END WHEN ADULTHOOD BEGAN…THE CONTINUING ABUSE OF GROWN CHILDREN BY THEIR PARENTS.
If you have ever experienced Adult Child Abuse by a parent, sibling, or other relative, We Welcome You!
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Thank you Jesus!
WHEN IS IT EVER GOING TO BE MY TURN?
The Exploitation Habit- If You Start It, They Will Come!
By Rev. Renee Pittelli
Fairness and Sharing the Burdens -A Better Habit To Start
Once you realize a habit has gotten started, can you do anything about it? Absolutely, and quickly, before it gets even more firmly entrenched. At any point along the many years of each testimony we have discussed, each victim could have taken steps to change the course of events and restore a give-and-take equality to the relationship, if only she had taken a step back and realized what was happening. The key is to keep your antennae up for that subtle shift in the relationship, when your relatives are starting to take you for granted- when they are not giving back to you as much as you are giving to them. It is most accurately referred to as a “power shift”. That is the time to nip it in the bud by taking preventative actions. Let’s look back at the testimonies we’ve discussed and think about what each victim could have done differently to affect the eventual outcome of her family issues.
Same Testimonies, Better Endings
In our first testimony, Laurie willingly took on far too much responsibility when it really wasn’t necessary. When Patty lived in
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Jesus said to them, “Only in his own home, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith….Mark 6:4-6
And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them….Mark 6:11
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…..2 Corinthians 4: 1-4
For the family parties, Laurie should have made it clear to Patty that her presence was expected, as well as her financial contribution for their parents’ parties, but for years, Laurie led Patty slide. There were things Patty could have helped with from a distance, like sending out all the invitations for her parent’s parties. If Laurie was hosting a holiday or get-together, Patty could have arrived a day or two early and helped out. Over time, Patty came to believe that she didn’t have any obligation to her birth-family at all, and a major reason for this was that no one had ever voiced any disapproval of her disappearing act, nor made it clear to her that, even though she had moved, she still had family responsibilities, and that she was still expected to do her share.
Laurie also needed to make other plans once in a while, instead of being available to be used every single holiday. A winter vacation with her husband and children every couple of years instead of spending every holiday with her parents would have given everyone the opportunity to get used to the idea that Laurie also had a life of her own, just like Patty. Laurie would have also made the point that she had the RIGHT to another life, just like Patty did. When her parents objected, she could have reminded them firmly that she wasn’t an only child and they did have another daughter and suggested that they make plans with Patty. Family obligations did not have to be split 50/50 with Patty, but 100% Laurie and 0% Patty was a recipe for disaster.
Laurie did finally do the right thing for herself and her husband by pursuing her dream and for that she should be applauded. But her retirement move would have gone far more smoothly if her birth-family didn’t feel so entitled to exploit her because of her endless patience and willingness to be victimized.
Janice is another woman who willingly took on 100% of the family responsibility and let her brother get away with 0% for many years. It is natural that a mother’s care falls to her daughter. Both mother and daughter usually prefer it this way, and often enjoy their excursions and time together. But what if mom had no daughter- only sons? Who would take her to the doctor then? Perhaps the mother is much more comfortable having her daughter take her to the doctor to discuss “women’s problems”, or maybe she really feels strange about going clothes shopping with a man. This is understandable, but it is not understandable that her son cannot take mom to the dentist or food shopping either, if his sister is doing the rest. Especially if one sibling is retired, it is not fair for the one who has to work to also cover all the family obligations, while the retired sib plays golf.
The best way for Janice to have handled this, right in the beginning, was
to choose a few chores she was willing and able to do for mom, given her work
commitments, and inform mom of what they were. If mom required anything else, Janice
then needed to have MOM call
Camille and Ben’s story is just tragic and sad, and compounded greatly by their family’s hard hearts. Again, perhaps they would have been appreciated more by not allowing Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people at their house EVERY year to become a “family tradition”. After the first few years, it was time to make it known that it was now somebody else’s turn. If no one else stepped up, then Camille and Ben could have started another, wonderfully rewarding “family tradition” of serving dinner to the homeless at a soup kitchen every Thanksgiving, where they surely would have been blessed and appreciated. When Camille gave birth to Emily just a few weeks before this huge gathering, she could have very rightfully said it was just too much for her to take on and left it to the rest of the family to decide who was going to do what, while she recuperated from childbirth, took care of her baby, and rested up from getting no sleep with a new infant in the house. But she failed to take advantage of this golden opportunity to introduce the idea of “doing their share” to her relatives.
Camille fell into the “Superwoman Trap”. Her willingness to continue being used by her relatives even though she had a wonderful and perfectly understandable reason to beg off after Emily’s birth, just reinforced their willingness to exploit her. The mindset is that if she could do Thanksgiving after just having had a new baby, then why can’t she do it after just losing her husband?
Camille’s family is really so inexcusably low that there is probably nothing she and Ben could have ever done to turn them into kind, thoughtful, caring people. However, they could have avoided being taken advantage of for two decades by cultivating traditions with others. If Camille and Ben had not allowed themselves to be taken for granted by 40 ungrateful freeloaders since they were first married, they might have started making different Thanksgiving plans, with normal people like their wonderful and generous neighbors, years earlier. A much better “family tradition” to start would have been hosting their neighbors one year, and going to their neighbor’s house the next, and forgetting about their extended “family” altogether.
In Sarah and Beth’s case, Sarah could have declined to be Beth’s kids’ emergency contact, because she had young children that she did not want unnecessarily exposed to illnesses. Believe it or not, Beth would have found someone else. Maybe she could have worked out a reciprocal agreement with the mother of one of her children’s classmates. The problem was that Beth did not want to EVER be stuck stopping whatever she was doing and going to school to pick up a sick kid, not even her own. She wasn’t interested in sharing that responsibility with another mother.
If refusing seemed too harsh to Sarah at the time, another solution would have been to compromise. She could have agreed to pick up Beth’s kids on her days off only, but explained that she could not be disturbed at work and that Beth could not give the school her work number. On Sarah’s work days, Beth would need to have an alternate contact.
Sarah could have agreed to pick up the kids no more often than once every two months. She could then have suggested to Beth that she make sure several different people were on her emergency list, not just Sarah. If she began getting called more frequently, unless there was a REAL emergency which genuinely warranted her involvement, the best thing for Sarah to have done was to let her answering machine take the call and not respond. After all, what was going to happen if the nurse called and Sarah wasn’t home? She would simply call the next person on the list- or horrors, call Beth herself! If no one could be reached, the nurse would take care of the child until she could contact a parent- that’s what she’s there for. And in a true emergency, she will call 911.
Beth needed to take some responsibility for her own children, to make sure the school knew how to reach her or her husband, not someone else. But she didn’t need to take any responsibility at all as long as she had her sister on call.
Another fair solution, which would have benefited both sisters, would have been for Beth to babysit Sarah’s children once in a while to thank Sarah for inconveniencing herself and risking her job and her kids’ health to pick up Beth’s kids. Then Sarah could have gotten some shopping done, or gone to a doctor’s appointment without having to drag her kids along, but again, Beth was not looking to reciprocate, and Sarah was not bold enough to ask for it. So Beth got into the habit of Sarah being the giver, while she was the taker, and when then tables were turned a few years down the road and Sarah needed her, Beth balked at this change in roles.
In Theresa’s case, she needed to set limits early on the amount of free time she could devote to Danielle. Like all narcissists, Danielle did not understand that Theresa had another life beyond her and her needs. Theresa needed to refuse dinnertime calls, for instance. She needed to inform Danielle that she had plans and would not be available to talk at certain times. Screening calls with the answering machine and calling Danielle back when convenient would have avoided Danielle getting into the habit of thinking that Theresa was going to drop everything any and every time she wanted to talk.
Another option for making it clear to Danielle that Theresa wasn’t just there to be used by her, would have been if Theresa spent more time talking about her life instead of just listening to Danielle. It probably would have been necessary to interrupt one of Danielle’s monologues and state point-blank that she wanted to talk about some things as well, or that she would like a turn to tell Danielle how her day went. Danielle’s response would have clued Theresa in much earlier as to whether they could establish a truly give-and-take relationship, or if it was always going to have to be all about Danielle.
Somewhere along the line, Danielle morphed into a drama-queen. Her issues went from being acute to chronic. Problems which should have been short-term and easily solveable, were dragging on forever. Danielle had lost interest on actually solving any of her problems, in fact, it was to her advantage to keep them going on and on because she was loving the attention and sympathy she was getting from Theresa. She turned every small thing into an ongoing situation, and when she had squeezed every last drop of mileage she could out of a particular problem, she simply went on to the next one. Most of the things she got herself all worked up over were normal issues that everyone copes with in their lives without making such a big deal. The “situations” she found herself involved in were ordinary and even boring, but because of her exaggerated sense of entitlement, she persisted in blowing them all up out of proportion and then expecting to use them to monopolize Theresa’s time and attention.
Theresa’s problem, on the other hand, was failing to recognize the point at which this began happening, and to start setting limits before Danielle got completely out of hand. Like all such victims, Theresa was left asking herself, “Where did I go wrong?” when she had her life-crisis and Danielle couldn’t have cared less. She was stunned that Danielle had no interest in supporting her, and shocked by Danielle’s anger at not getting all the attention she was used to during the time when Theresa needed to deal with her crisis. For years, the inequality in their relationship had been progressing, but in this case, because it happened slowly, Theresa did not recognize it. Finally it progressed to the point where Danielle felt entitled to all of Theresa’s time and attention no matter what else was going on in Theresa’s life, and Theresa realized then that she had indeed created a monster.
And lastly, we come to Maryann and Mike. Maryann’s fatal mistake was having mom come to live with her in the first place. There was absolutely NO need for this at the time. Mom was, and still is, healthy, competent, vital, and still drives. She used the death of her husband to guilt Maryann into letting her move in because she “didn’t want to live alone.” To this day, there is absolutely no reason why she cannot maintain her own household.
When mom did move in, no limits were set. Mom was not appreciative that she was a guest. She decided it was her place to push Maryann aside and be the matriarch in her daughter’s home. Mom has a controlling and manipulative personality, which is the main reason she lacks a social life with friends her own age, and Maryann and Mike allowed her to take over their household. They had expected mom to cook for herself and watch her own TV shows- that is why they built her a kitchen and provided her with her own living room. But when she balked, they welcomed mom to join them for meals and evening relaxation. They had assumed she would prefer to stay independent and that they would have some privacy and family time with their kids, but when it wasn’t working out that way, they did nothing to make it happen.
Important issues like this need to be discussed and agreed upon BEFORE you take a relative into your home. Even after she moved in, Maryann and Mike could have insisted on some privacy by simply telling mom she was welcome to eat with them or sit with them for three or four evenings a week, and that she would need to make other plans the rest of the time. Maryann should not have thought twice about asking mom to excuse her when she wanted some privacy on the phone or to have a conversation with Mike or one of her children. Somewhere along the line, Maryann lost sight of the fact that this was HER house. She just surrendered control of her home, her family, and her life, to her domineering mother.
Mom did play the poor pitiful widow well, so it can be difficult to admit she is domineering. Domineering people don’t necessarily have abrasive, forceful, overbearing, or aggressive personas. Many come across as sweet, harmless, sympathetic figures in one respect or another, but if you consider what they manage to convince you to do for them, you will realize that they are indeed controlling and dominating you. This is called “manipulation” and most takers are highly skilled and extremely clever at it.
Financial compensation was never discussed, another issue which should have been settled BEFORE any moves were made. Maryann and Mike fed another person every night, did her laundry, and paid for all the utilities that mom enjoyed. They took out a second mortgage and footed the entire bill for adding mom’s apartment onto their house, and absorbed the resulting increase in property taxes, heat, air-conditioning, and insurance without complaint as well. All this while mom lived with them, rent-free, after selling her home for a nice piece of change. Where else could she have lived without paying rent, mortgage, utilities, and taxes? Mom had a generous retirement income and dad’s former employer paid for her private health insurance. Yet Maryann was reluctant to ask her mother for money, and so she didn’t. And mom didn’t offer. Mom was not oriented to thinking that way, because she is a TAKER. “Need” is not the issue-other people are EXPECTED to do for her.
So yes, Maryann and Mike should have insisted that mom chip in for the groceries and pay rent- if not the going rate, then at least a fair sum. And the proceeds from the sale of her house should have been used to finance the construction of mom’s apartment, rather than Maryann and Mike burdening themselves financially by taking on another mortgage. Mom did not even do any chores to help out. There was no reason why she couldn’t have done the laundry, for instance, or some of the cleaning.
As long as Maryann’s mother was living with her, she should have expected her sister and brother to pitch in somehow, if not significantly, with the family obligations. Since she had taken in their mother, then perhaps all the holidays could have been at her brother’s house, and sis could have taken mom on a two-week vacation every year. Or she could have informed her family that she would be expecting mom to spend one weekend a month each, with both her son and her other daughter. This would have given Maryann and her family two weekends a month to themselves, and made the point to mom and the other siblings that Maryann was not an only child, and that she wasn’t going to do everything while the others did nothing. Letting her sister and brother think that they were going to have a free ride while she did everything for their mother, without them contributing anything at all, set the stage for their refusal to pitch in when she wanted to take her cruise. By then, they didn’t think she had the RIGHT to expect them to do anything.
Another mistake was for Maryann to take it upon herself to contact her siblings and ask them to “take care of” their perfectly fine, able-bodied mother while she was away. Maryann was in denial about their selfishness. The stark reality was that they had never done a single thing in all those years to relieve Maryann or help out mom. Why would she think they’d help out now?
Further, there was absolutely no good reason why mom couldn’t have managed just fine on her own for the ten days. Why even put the thought in mom’s head that she couldn’t? If she had any problems, Maryann’s brother and sister were nearby. If mom thought she needed to be “taken care of”, it was her place to call her other children. Maryann should never have put herself in the middle- she was just borrowing trouble. It would have been far better to just inform mom she was going, tell mom to call her other kids if she needed anything, and say “see you in ten days”, rather than putting herself in the position of having to defend her decision to take a well-deserved vacation and wind up arguing with her entire family.
Undoing The Damage Once a Habit Takes Root
OPEN YOUR EYES
Chances are someone you love is a taker, because almost all families are comprised of mostly takers, and one or two unfortunate givers. So if you are a giver, the probability that just about everyone you love is a taker is very high. Perhaps hardest of all, is to take off the rose-colored glasses, and see those we love as they really are. This is especially difficult when a relationship that was once two-sided gradually shifts to being one-sided over time, because often we don’t realize it is happening. We would all prefer not to believe that those we love are selfish users, but wishing doesn’t make it so.
Although it is painful to admit that a parent or sibling is exploiting us, burying our heads in the sand and choosing to ignore reality is not going to give us that big, happy family we all wish for and deserve. What is going to happen is that we are going to be worn out, used, and abused for years, until one day, for some reason, we need to break the usual pattern. Then our family’s true colors will come out, they will become nasty, demanding, and angry, things will get ugly, and the big family blow-up we were hoping to avoid all along will happen anyway. The only difference will be that, if we had not volunteered to be the family patsy years earlier, things might have still gotten ugly when we set our limits back then, but at least we would have spared ourselves years of unappreciated slavery.
While we certainly don’t want to keep score of every favor and expect tit-for-tat payback, never underestimate the value of setting a “one hand washes the other” precedent early on. You should not expect your relative to “re-pay” you each and every time you do something for him. But every fourth or fifth time, you should expect someone else to take a turn, just so it’s not ALWAYS you! Relatives need to be reminded of their family obligations, and that they are expected to share the responsibilities and burdens as well as the fun. Before our families get into the complacency habit, and learn to just sit back and be waited on, we need to make it very clear that we expect everyone to pitch in and share because we have no intention of doing it all!
TRY A LITTLE EXPERIMENT
If Christmas is ALWAYS at your house, for instance, try an experiment this year. Don’t invite anybody. Don’t mention it. Just don’t bring it up. See how long it takes your family to bring it up. And note what they say when they do bring it up. Do they just assume you’re going to host it, as always? (“What time should we be there on Christmas?”) Do they think that maybe you just haven’t gotten around to calling them? (“Haven’t heard from you yet about Christmas, so I figured I’d give you a call. What’s on the menu?”) Or does it even enter their heads that perhaps YOU are the one waiting for an invitation this time? (“You know, you’ve had us all for Christmas for the last five years, how about coming to OUR house this year?”) If they call but do not invite you, be bold! Tell them firmly that you’re tired of always hosting the holidays, you figure it’s their turn this year, and ask what time they want YOU to be there!
STOP VOLUNTEERING TO BE EXPLOITED
The hardest thing for a giver to learn is to STOP VOLUNTEERING for everything. Your reputation for being the good-natured, reliable patsy that the family can always count on is killing you! Give up your need for everyone’s approval! You shouldn’t have to earn your family’s love! Just DON’T DO IT. Sit back. Hesitate. Buy time. When you are about to take on yet another chore, bite your tongue! Give someone else a chance.
If someone imposes on you, don’t allow guilt to rule you. Learn to say no. You don’t have to agree to everything- you are allowed to turn down other people’s requests. Think first. Come up with other solutions. Suggest ways in which everyone can do their share, and if they refuse, then DON’T STEP IN and do it all. It is not your job to fix everything! It is not your job to solve everyone else’s problems! Let the chips fall where they may, but don’t YOU do it. (“ Yes, mom, I know there’s no pumpkin pie tonight- Kelly didn’t bring it, so you’ll have to discuss it with her.”)
If someone dies, stay calm and think before you invite his perfectly healthy, independent spouse to give up her home and move in with you. Do not make any decisions for at least a year after a major loss. If dad passes away, by all means, YOU move in with mom for a couple of weeks until she gets her bearings. Help her with paperwork and donating dad’s clothes to the thrift shop. When you’re ready to go home, set up a schedule of frequent visits and calls. Ask her friends, neighbors, and other relatives to look in on her. Invite her to visit you FOR A FEW DAYS in a month or two. Make sure your siblings know that they are expected to do the same. But whatever you do, do not, while the family is in a highly emotional state, sell mom’s house and move her in with you. The biggest favor you can do for mom is to encourage her to stay independent, have a social life in her own town, and make friends her own age. Down the road, if mom’s health or mental abilities begin to decline, you can always rethink this. The key is not to take on any major family responsibilities BEFORE it is actually necessary, or if there are ANY other viable solutions.
DISCERN THE SITUATION
Analyze and anticipate when a favor or responsibility you may agree to do has the potential for becoming your JOB. Then decide if you are still willing to take it on, knowing you’ll be expected to continue doing it forever. Just because you don’t mind doing something once in a while, doesn’t mean you’re going to appreciate it becoming your permanent assignment.
Be alert for subtle shifts in your relationships, from two-sidedness to one-sidedness, and take appropriate steps to restore the balance between you and your loved one before things get ugly.
Be willing to support a loved one going through an ACUTE AND SERIOUS CRISIS. However, barring serious illnesses, set limits on your availability for ongoing, chronic problems that never seem to be getting any better. See clearly when a relative is always making mountains out of molehills. Realize when someone has become a drama-queen and refuse to let her take over your life and drain you or overwhelm you with her “problems”. When was the last time you had a two-hour conversation with this person that was all about YOUR problems?
Periodically assess your relationships for reciprocity. When we love someone, we jump to help out whenever there’s a hint of need. If this is our concept of showing family love, then it follows that if THEY love US, they’ll be jumping to help us out whenever we have a need, as well! If they don’t care about our needs, then we need to admit we are in the middle of a one-sided relationship, and start changing things.
BE LIKE THE LITTLE CHILDREN
For another lesson in group dynamics, take a trip down memory lane back to childhood, or think of the last time you observed children playing together. Periodically, the din of activity, laughter, and giggles will be punctuated with a child loudly proclaiming, “IT’S MY TURN, NOW!” And shortly thereafter, the others let that child have her turn. There are no hard feelings. Everyone gets to take a turn, and anyone who doesn’t think they are being treated fairly will protest. After a child gets her turn, she will then allow another child to have a turn.
Selfish children who refuse to share are avoided and wind up with no one to play with. Left to themselves, children make and enforce their own rules about taking turns and sharing. There may be a spat or two, but in the long run, groups of kids play together peacefully, treat each other fairly, enjoy each other’s company, and remain friends, even though each one insists on getting her turn. Understanding that they must take turns is natural to those who wish to remain a part of the group.
Years ago, we were one of those children on the playground. We had no problem insisting on our turn, and protesting if we didn’t get it. We never thought of ourselves as “selfish” for demanding our turn, we simply thought that’s what was fair. We insisted on being treated fairly- and it worked! When did we lose that ability to stand up for ourselves? When did we stop believing we have the right to be treated fairly in our relationships? Somewhere along the road to adulthood, did we decide it was a sign of “maturity” to let others walk all over us without ever putting a stop to it, or even protesting?
When someone we love is a taker, or has become one, we need to admit it to ourselves, recognize it for what it is, and take steps to remedy the situation, and bring some equality back into the relationship before it deteriorates to the extreme of the testimonies we have discussed. We need to pay attention to what is going on in our relationships. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be taken for granted before we “create a monster”. It is not selfish to expect others to give back to us in return once in a while. It is the only way to prevent a very unhealthy pattern from developing. Let’s not let the takers become so firmly entrenched in taking that they no longer give. Exploitation is a habit that never has to get started in the first place. And if it already has, then it’s not too late to kick the habit.
Dear Sister, you are not a slave. You are under the dominion of no man, or woman. The only one we serve is the Lord! Step up and take your rightful place as a daughter of the King! Glory to God!
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon…..Luke 16:13KJV
Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?...Romans 6:16NLT
Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than human authority”…Acts
But you are not to be called “Rabbi”, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father”, for you have one Father and he is in heaven…Matthew 23:8-9NIV
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord….Ephesians 6:4NIV
Father, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged…Colossians 3:21NIV
For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave….1 Corinthians 7:22NIV
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve….Matthew 4:10KJV
Blessed Holy Spirit, thank you for your word and for your grace to complete this series. Use it according to your will- thy will be done, Abba Father. I praise you, Lord. I worship you, King Jesus. May I decrease so that you may increase. All honor and glory is yours, Lord. Amen.
For more help and ideas, please read the sections on our website on Setting and Enforcing Limits and Boundaries, Happier Holidays, Claiming the Victory, and the book reviews in Reading Spotlight.
Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent- the Lord detests them both….Proverbs 17:15
ENFORCING CONSEQUENCES IS NOT REVENGE
By Rev. Renee
Once again, I am amazed at the creativity of abusers who are trying to weasel out of being accountable for their actions. Here is another excellent question we received in an e-mail from a sister who is dealing with abusive parents, and the answer which clarifies this point:
Question: “Whenever I attempt to enforce consequences on my father for his abuse, he tells me that I am being spiteful and vengeful. I have told him that I will not be around him when he is drinking because he is really mean and nasty, also crude and vulgar. Then when he gets drunk and abusive and I start to leave, he tells me that I am acting out of revenge. He says that God says that vengeance is the Lord’s and I am sinning by taking vengeance myself. I end up confused and very frustrated and not knowing how to respond. He does not respect my boundaries and I feel helpless to defend myself……Sister Vicky”
Answer: “God does indeed tell us that he reserves vengeance for himself and we are not to take revenge for a wrong. But there is a big difference between taking revenge and taking a stand against wickedness or unacceptable behavior, which God does tell us to do. There is also a difference between being vengeful and protecting ourselves or our loved ones from further harm, which we are also taught to do.
Let me illustrate with an example. Let’s say your brother stole money from you. If you went to his house and threw a brick through his picture window, or set his car on fire, that would be taking revenge. God does not want you to do that, and he promises that he will take care of avenging you in his own time. God’s revenge is a perfect and terrible thing, and we can’t do better than that.
However, if you called the police, brought charges against your brother, and had him arrested, that is NOT revenge. That is a perfectly appropriate consequence. That is taking a stand against your brother’s evil behavior. That is righting a wrong, seeking justice, and protecting society from a criminal. Forcing your brother to live through the natural consequences of his own behavior is not taking revenge. Going to jail is something HE BROUGHT ON HIMSELF. You didn’t “do it to him”.
Furthermore, let’s say that now that you know your brother is a thief, you decide to avoid him, or even to end your relationship. That is NOT revenge. That is being prudent. He can’t be trusted, you have to protect yourself- and you have every right to protect yourself. It’s that simple. God instructs us to take steps to protect ourselves from harmful people. If your brother repents and makes restitution, you may feel that he has learned his lesson and continue to associate with him on a trial basis. This will give him a chance to prove himself. The key is to do this over time, and not to give him access to your money or possessions again until he has built back your trust.
In your case, you have rebuked your father and informed him of your conditions for being in his presence. Your conditions are reasonable, appropriate, and absolutely necessary. He chooses to disrespect your limits and continue to abuse you. In the Bible, when someone refuses to listen to our rebuke and change his ways, we are told to have nothing further to do with him (Titus 3:10, Matthew 10:14, Matthew 18:15- 17,etc.) So your father should be grateful that you keep giving him another chance instead of avoiding him permanently, because you are cutting him far more slack than you are required to.
Now let’s take this one step further. Let’s say you know your father has a habit of driving drunk. Would it be “revenge” to call the police and ask them to keep an eye on him and arrest him if they catch him driving while impaired? Again, NO, although your father will surely disagree (but then his judgment is impaired by alcohol, anyway).
If your father’s behavior and choices present a danger to innocent people, then you have a responsibility to do what you can to stop him. You can’t control his decisions, as you already see, but you can help him learn from the consequences of his behavior, and in the process, protect yourself and others from him. That is not taking revenge on your father. That is doing whatever is necessary to keep him from harming, or killing, someone else. If you have already rebuked him about his behavior and he refuses to listen, you are free to avoid him. But if he presents a danger to others, you do have some moral responsibility to take whatever steps you can to keep innocent people and their families safe.
When rebuking an ungodly person, trying to teach him how his behavior not only affects others, but separates him from God, will have no effect. If someone does not have a relationship with the Lord, then the threat of damaging that relationship will have no meaning for them. The Lord uses us to rebuke each other. Fellow believers who care about their relationship with the Lord will learn from your rebuke, but the unrighteous will not.
That is a big part of the reason that the Lord tells us to shun, avoid, and have nothing further to do with those who are unrepentant and will not listen to rebuke. For such people, social censure and the open disapproval of others is the only thing that might have an effect. Unfortunately, there are others (see our articles on Reprobates) for whom even this will not work. Then there are folks who don’t really care about how the damage they inflict affects others, but when they see their behavior is going to impact THEM and have social or relational consequences for THEM, will make an effort. Even a grudging change is better than no change at all.
After we have rebuked and walked away, we are leaving these people in the Lord’s hands. Only he can work a change in their hearts, if they choose to listen to him. If they choose to listen to the devil, then God will also walk away from them. He will turn them over to suffer the consequences of their reprobate minds. (Romans 1: 28-32)
Sometimes doing the right thing may seem like revenge to the unrighteous. But it is still the right thing to do. Since they are unGodly, we can’t expect them to understand this. Hopefully enforcing consequences will motivate a change in heart. If not, we can at least influence and limit the damage a harmful person can do to ourselves or others. Consequences are a teaching tool to help offenders learn appropriate boundaries.
You presented your father with a CHOICE. You gave him fair warning of your boundaries and what the consequences would be for disrespecting them. Now you need to stand firm and back up your words with action. If being in your presence really matters so much to him, then he can CHOOSE NOT TO DRINK around you. It’s that simple. He doesn’t have to like it, but that’s the way it is. Refusing to tolerate bad behavior or to stick around and be abused is not revenge, so don’t let him lay a guilt-trip on you. If he accuses you of being vengeful, don’t allow him to drag you into an argument- because then you’ll wind up staying longer and he wins! Just say, “I’m sorry you see it that way, but I’m still leaving” as you walk out the door!
THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR
By Martha Stout, Ph.D.
Sisters, if you’re looking for some intriguing late summer reading, drop everything else and read this book! It explains, from a psychological and scientific point-of-view, just what is wrong with truly malevolent, devious, cunning abusers. This book will answer all your questions about how anyone could be so cruel or treat those who love them so wickedly. It is a disturbing and creepy look at the cold-blooded, ruthless among us. Until now, they were free to “get away with murder” by staying under our radar, but The Sociopath Next Door “outs” them.
Did you know that “1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty”? In our ministry, we teach that such people are referred to in the Bible as being of a “reprobate mind.” Reprobates are cannot be redeemed- they are “foreordained to damnation” by their consistency in choosing Satan’s way over God’s throughout their lives. The Lord gives them many opportunities to turn to him and repent, but they choose evil every time. Eventually they are no longer capable of doing good, and Satan has complete control over them. God then “turns them over to their reprobate mind” to suffer the consequences of their evil in this life and the next, and to be used to teach the rest of us. Many Scriptures tell us to avoid, outcast, shun, or not associate with, such people.
Reading such an in-depth, modern day analysis, in contemporary language, of the Biblical “reprobate” is fascinating indeed. From the first paragraph, I was riveted. The Sociopath Next Door begins, “Imagine-if you can- not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools. Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.”
After this opening, I could hardly put the book down until I had finished it. The number of people I recognized in my own family, and that I had heard of throughout our ministry, who fit this profile, was astonishing to me.
The Sociopath Next Door is a book about most aspects of conscience- its origins, biological, anthropological, societal, religious, etc. A number of amazing studies are explained which demonstrate various aspects of conscience or the lack thereof. Also discussed are fascinating studies on why normal people don’t question or confront those who are doing evil, especially when the evil ones are perceived to be authority figures.
Many “enablers” tend to make excuses for abusers, and a favorite excuse is that the abuser himself had an abusive childhood. But “there is no convincing body of findings linking the core characteristic of sociopathy- that is, the absence of conscience- with childhood maltreatment. Furthermore, sociopaths as a group are not afflicted with the other tragic consequences of childhood abuse, such as depression and anxiety.” One surprising study found some evidence that sociopaths are actually influenced LESS by their early experience that are non-sociopaths. I do urge you not to be discouraged from reading this book because it discusses scientific studies- it is still very readable and easy to understand.
Sociopaths (formerly referred to as “psychopaths” by the medical community) do not feel emotions, especially positive emotions, and most especially, love. They have different goals in life- some may want wealth and power and stab others in the back to get to the top, some may want only to dominate and terrorize their own family, some may want to live off others and never have to work. Their life is a game of manipulation of others to reach their goal, whatever it may be. Their interactions with others consist of battles of will, mind-games, and other ploys for domination and control of others. Many times they will “bite their own nose to spite their face” in their quest to win the “game” of making others “jump”, just for their amusement. They blend in well, and could be anyone from a political or church leader, to a sweet-looking young mother, to an elderly neighbor. Sociopaths can never be “cured”, and don’t want to be cured.
We are given suggestions for recognizing sociopaths. They are often hypochondriacs, and use their “ailments” to get out of doing work, helping a friend out, taking on a responsibility, etc. They often have an aversion to sustained effort and hard work and prefer to get others to take care of them. A reliable clue to a sociopath is some variation of the “Pity” ploy. This is because they know that “good people will let pathetic individuals get by with murder, so to speak, and therefore any sociopath wishing to continue with his game, should play repeatedly for none other than pity. More than admiration- more even than fear- pity from good people is carte blanche.”
Very useful is the author’s “Thirteen Rules For Dealing With Sociopaths In Everyday Life”, which include “suspect flattery”, “question authority”, “redefine your concept of respect”, “do not join the game”, “question your tendency to pity too easily”, “never agree to help a sociopath conceal his true character”, and “the rule of threes (basically three strikes and you’re out)”.
One of my favorites, which the Bible also teaches in numerous scriptures, is “The best way to protect yourself from a sociopath is to avoid him, to refuse any kind of contact or communication.” The author explains that, “Psychologists do not usually like to recommend avoidance, but in this case, I make a very deliberate exception. The only truly effective method for dealing with a sociopath you have identified is to disallow him from your life altogether. Sociopaths live completely outside the social contract, and therefore to include them in relationships or other social arrangements is perilous…..You will not hurt anyone’s feelings. Strange as it seems, and though they may try to pretend otherwise, sociopaths do not have any such feelings to hurt. You may never be able to make your family and friends understand why you are avoiding a particular individual….Avoid him anyway.”
The author’s observations on what ends up becoming of these people are consistent with my own experiences. Such remorseless, ruthless, and demonic beings may do well for a while, or even for many years, but they eventually begin a downward spiral. In the end, they tend to self-destruct and their lives become dreary, lonely, and boring. Many of their schemes will be uncovered, they may lose jobs, go to prison, and have no one who will have anything to do with them. The author tells us that “One might even say that, for the extraordinarily patient observer, one technique to determine whether or not a questionable person is a genuine sociopath is to wait until the end of her life and witness whether or not she has ruined herself, partially or maybe even completely. Does she really possess what you would love to have in your life, or, instead, is she isolated, burned-out, and bored? Is it perhaps stunning the way the mighty have fallen?”
Copyright 2002-2013.-All articles on this site are copyrighted. Permission to copy is granted for non-profit use only.Please help yourself to anything we write if you can use it to help others. A link back to this site is our only requirement. Please contact us for any commercial or other use. All e-mails, letters, and other correspondence become the property of Luke 17:3 Ministries, Inc. Due to the large volume of e-mails, we're sorry that we are unable to personally answer every one, but we do lift everyone who writes to us in prayer to the Lord.
The Lord specifically called Sister Renee to minister to Adult Children, not their parents, estranged siblings or friends, abusive or abused spouses, or victims of other types of abuse, although what we write here can often be meaningful for those folks as well. Because of this, our ministry and website have a narrow focus which we will not be changing. We simply can't cover everything. In addition, it is not our purpose to help you re-establish contact with someone who felt it was necessary to cut you off for the sake of their own well-being. We do not keep a list of resources for estranged parents or any other type of abuse and suggest if you are sincerely interested in making amends with an estranged relative, you do an internet search for a website or group that will be more relevant to you. If you cannot find a group or site that you can relate to, we suggest you start your own, and bless other people in your position as well as find support for your personal issues.
For Adult Children and others as well, please understand that we cannot give you personal advice concerning your particular family relationships. We are not therapists or lawyers, we usually do not have enough information to form an opinion, and time does not permit us to give enough thought to each person's individual situation to do it justice. If you need personal advice, we urge you to contact the appropriate professional, depending on the problem you have- your minister, therapist, attorney, police department, local domestic violence hotline, etc. In reading this site, you acknowledge that nothing you might read here qualifies as or substitutes for professional advice. Please note we cannot recommend or refer you to a counselor and we do not have a list of therapists or recovery groups in your area. The only Counselor we recommend is the Holy Ghost, and we encourage you to read the Bible and learn for yourself what the Lord says about the issues we write about.
Our articles are strictly our personal opinions and testimonies and are not intended to give or offer any advice. All who access this site do so with the understanding that we are NOT professional counselors and we strongly recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your pastor or therapist and pray for the Lord's guidance before acting on anything we write on this site. Unfortunately, the abuse we discuss is all too common, inflicted on countless victims by countless perpetrators. All names and identifying details in our articles have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. Any resemblance to a real person or persons whom you might know is strictly coincidental.