Rachel Miller, who writes the blog A Daughter of the Reformation has reviewed Jeff Crippens’ book. Here is her review where you can submit comments. Some survivors and supporters are speaking up in the thread; it would be great if some of our readers would go over there and support them.
Her review is also published at The Aquila Report
but you can’t submits comment there.
Parents who’ve managed to extricate themselves from an abusive relationship often wonder what they need to do to ensure that their children will survive the ordeal in an emotionally healthy manner and not go on to repeat the irresponsible behaviors and abusive conduct they witnessed growing up. And while there’s no simple, reliable “formula” for preventing the things we fear most from happening, it’s crucial that abuse survivors come to a firm understanding and acceptance about the kinds of things over which they do and don’t have influence or power.
Very early in my work with survivors of relational abuse I learned some things that shed welcome new light on all the research findings on depression. And when I published my first book, In Sheep’s Clothing, I made sure to include what I had come to believe was the behavioral “formula” for depression. Focusing attention and investing time and energy where you don’t have power, I realized, is a sure pathway to frustration, anger, feelings of helplessness, and eventually, depression. Contrarily, focusing on what you have power over — namely, your own decisions and actions — and investing your time and energy in those things is the “formula” for personal empowerment and joy. Doing so also requires that you “let go” of the possible outcomes of your actions, and of people, places, and things you can’t possibly control. How crucial this realization would prove to be became all too clear in the many subsequent years I worked to help empower abuse survivors.
No one functions effectively when depressed. So, when it comes to parenting, especially the task of guiding those who’ve already experienced more than their fair share of trauma toward a better way of living, it’s absolutely essential to invest all your energy only where you have power. Naturally, you’ll be tempted to focus on your ex-spouse and his/her possible retaliatory actions, manipulations, etc. And out of concern for your children you’ll be tempted to try and control every outcome with respect to their behavior. But it’s absolutely crucial that you take to heart and accept these fundamental principles:
You ultimately have the most power over your own choices and behavior. You might be awash in what appears a sea of powerlessness, but you always retain the power to choose. This even includes power over the kinds of thoughts you entertain. And when you get right down to it, your thoughts can only be of two basic types: secure and insecure. While it might be really difficult at times, you always have the power to choose the secure thought over an insecure one. So, when you find yourself thinking such things as “I’ll never make it on my own, “ or “My kids will never be the same,” or “My ex will turn them all against me,” you can change those thoughts to secure ones like “I am a person of worth and capability,” and “I still have the power to influence and nurture relationships with my children.” Even if you can’t make yourself believe the more secure things you tell yourself in your heart, you still have the power to change your thoughts. And in time, thinking more securely will come more naturally and sincerely (as the old saying goes, you can “fake it until you make it”).
Because you always have the power to act, the most important aspect of empowering your life is to do something — anything differently from what you might have done before out of fear or insecurity. Take action, that’s the key. And don’t take action in anticipation of the outcome. You don’t have power over outcomes — that’s in God’s hands. But you always have the power to do. And when you afford appropriate recognition to your choices and act in good faith and in accordance with your principles, and most importantly of all, when you reinforce yourself (give yourself an internal pat-on-the-back for doing the right thing), you become steadily stronger. Only a strong, confident, principled person, can parent a child looking for direction effectively.
Although you can’t possibly have power over outcomes, or over other people, places, and things, you have an incredible power to influence. You have not only the power but also the duty to exemplify and model healthy, appropriate, principled behavior to your children. Whether you think your example is having an effect or not, make no mistake, your children will be watching and observing your conduct. That doesn’t mean your children will always be in a mental or emotional place to fully attend to and take to heart the example you set before them, or that they’re using the lessons you try to teach them to shape their own character, but they’re watching nonetheless and taking mental notes. You don’t have the responsibility nor do you have the power to affect the outcomes you desire. Still, you’re obliged to set the example and to advance the principles in which you truly believe. God, in his own time, takes care of the rest.
You also have the power, right and responsibility to set reasonable expectations for the kinds of behaviors you desire from others. In other words, it’s up to you to set and enforce the minimum character standards a person must display to have an intimate relationship with you. And the character standards you expect of them should be the same ones you’re willing and determined to exemplify yourself. You also have the power to provide encouragement and reinforcement when such standards are upheld and to show disapproval and withdraw support when the standards are not upheld.
You have the right and responsibility to establish and enforce reasonable limits and boundaries, especially when it comes to the behavior of your children and your ex. And it’s important to make sure that when it comes to issues of discipline with those you love, that it’s never about them or your regard for them, but purely about their behavior and what’s acceptable or not acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. There’s a real “art” to doing this well. Being kind, loving, open to forgiveness, etc., while firmly standing on principle and making behavioral guidelines clear is a real challenge that requires both tact and practice to eventually become a skill.
Remember that you have no power over the nature and quality of the relationship your children will have with your ex. And it’s extremely counterproductive to carry out a covert war against your abusive ex through your children. It will only demonize you in their eyes and invite them to over-idealize their character-deficient other parent. Instead, focus intently on the nature of your own relationship with them. As they grow and mature, God willing, they’ll come to increased awareness about the differences in your character and your ex’s, as well as the difference such character qualities make in a relationship. Should they come to truly appreciate those differences, you will likely gain a level of quality in your relationship with them that you never had before. And if, for some reasons pertaining to their own character issues, they never come to such awareness, you will have lost very little.
I once counseled a woman who’d suffered for years in an emotionally abusive relationship. She had two teenage daughters, the older of whom had always been fairly close to her father and shared several of his personality traits. This woman was incensed that neither of her daughters could see their father for the defective character she knew he really was. She also was deeply hurt that they didn’t seem to appreciate her or the hell she went through during the marriage, trying to hold things together and mostly on their behalf. She was determined to make them realize that she was the good person, worthy of their love and respect, and that he was the bad guy, whom they should have nothing to do with. And she seized every opportunity to point out his shortcomings, failures, and antics. She even gave the girls a copy of my book Character Disturbance, having underlined all the portions she believed applied to her ex. The girls’ father, on the other hand, was a charmer. So it wasn’t long before both girls came to see their mother as a vindictive, bitter woman and started increasingly distancing themselves from her.
This woman was not very happy when I challenged her to let the issues that existed between her and her ex remain between them alone and to focus both her attention and her passion on nurturing a more positive and intimate relationship with her daughters. Nor was she happy with the thought that she could only control her part in the process. She was always complaining: “I did what you suggested but it didn’t change anything.” She was definitely not comfortable of doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing and not because it comes with a guarantee of the results you desire. But somehow she made the leap of faith and found the courage to persist. And gradually, she and her younger daughter got to know each other better than they ever had. It took longer for a healthy relationship to develop with the older daughter. But in time, both girls came not only to see their parents but also the principles upon which they operated with much clearer eyes. And the woman found herself having the kind of family she’d always yearned for but which had long eluded her. She also learned some interesting things about herself along the way and what made her vulnerable to making some poor decisions with respect to relationships. And in the end, she came to a much healthier sense of self – a self that would never again enter or stay in a relationship devoid of mutual respect.
For a list of Dr Simon’s other posts on this blog and his books and other internet writings, click here.
I have been studying the themes set out in Genesis 1-3 and tracking them right on through the Bible. Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with the image-bearers of God. They didn’t of course, but Christ – the last Adam – is and will. Those image-bearers are US. This Psalm speaks of that coming great reign of King Jesus that will never, never end and it speaks about how in His righteousness he will crush the oppressor and make him lick the dust (a clear reference to and fulfillment of the curse put upon the Serpent in Eden).
So read this Psalm and be particularly encouraged by the Lord’s particular love for the oppressed, and by His particularly wrathful hatred for the oppressor:
(1) Of Solomon. Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!
(2) May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
(3) Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!
(4) May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
(5) May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
(6) May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth!
(7) In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
(8) May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!
(9) May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust!
(10) May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!
(11) May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!
(12) For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.
(13) He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
(14) From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.
(15) Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day!
(16) May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!
(17) May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!
(18) Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
(19) Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!
(20) The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.
Light’s House: a resource for adult children of difficult and toxic parents, and maybe for victims of domestic abuse as well
The Light’s House website and Light’s Blog have recently come to our attention. These sister-sites are aimed at adult children of difficult and toxic parents but some of the information may also be useful for people who have been in difficult or toxic relationships with partners, co-workers, ‘friends’ etc.
A scan of their site shows that as well as using lay-person’s language to discuss difficult and toxic relationships, they often employ the diagnostic terms of the APA (American Psychological Association). Many of our readers will have heard of some of these terms, such as NPD (narcissistic personality disorder), AsPD (anti-social personality disorder), BPD (borderline personality disorder), HPD (histrionic personality disorder), etc.
We at A Cry For Justice are not professionals in mental health and we have no firm views on whether or not those kinds of diagnostic labels are helpful or unhelpful in dealing with domestic abuse and domestic abusers. We are aware that there is a range of views out there among psychologists, counselors and mental health professionals, about the APA diagnostic schema. So we would advise our readers to be aware that just because something is affirmed by the AMA, does not mean it is perfect truth, nor is it fixed in concrete, as the APA revise their diagnostic manual every few years.
On the Light’s House website they make a disclaimer that neither lightshouse.org nor Light’s Blog, nor any of its contributors are professional mental health service providers and that any and all information disseminated through their site is entirely non-professional.
Having said that, here are a few of the posts I found at the Light’s blog, which I thought would be particularly helpful for our readers.
We at A Cry For Justice would not endorse Light’s House’s explanation of passive aggression, as it seems to us that Dr George Simon Jr has a better understanding of that phenomenon — see our post Covert aggression is not the same thing as passive aggression.
Many of you know that I was involved in a training day Domestic Abuse and the Church in Charlotte, North Carolina last Saturday. The day went well. About 60 people attended. The audience consisted of counselors and social workers, survivors of abuse, clergy, friends and family of survivors, and one woman who works in law enforcement. There were quite a few men there which I found very encouraging, having been to many domestic abuse events where the participants are almost all women. There were three people in the audience who I know from this blog ( I won’t mention their names, but if they want to identify themselves they can do so in the comments thread). One of the readers from this blog brought her father, who is an elder in a church in a town in North Carolina. It was so lovely to meet with these people who I have interacted with and got to know in cyberspace; to give them a hug and get to know them a little more. And some of these people gave me a lift to my next destination in South Carolina, where I am staying with Katy at the moment — yeah, that’s Katy who comments on this blog and we’re having a great time together
The three speakers explored different facets of the topic. Julie Owens, a survivor of a severe domestic assault (her separated husband took to her and her father – a pastor – with a knife) who has been working in Domestic Abuse education and service provision for at least two decades, spoke about worldwide domestic violence, the historical and legal context, types of abuse, the dynamics of an abusive relationship, myths and misconceptions, the profile of an abuser, why anger management doesn’t stop domestic abuse, the dangers of couple counseling, whether a batterer can change, mistakes Christians make, commonly misused scriptures, and what Christian victims need to hear.
Readers who follow this blog would have recognized many of the things that Julie said from posts on this blog, but she also covered things we have not covered, like the historical and worldwide context of domestic violence.
Sunya Folayan, an African American social worker and survivor of domestic abuse, spoke about providing support to victims in ways that respect and acknowledge their individual backgrounds and cultures: ethnic, cultural, historical, familial, linguistic, economic, etc. She asked lots of open-ended questions and I think her talk led us to be more sensitive and aware of the individual differences and complexities that victim-survivors may have.
I gave a talk about the story of The Levite’s Concubine in the last three chapters of Judges, which I see as a superlative case study in domestic abuse and how abusers enlist allies. This was the first time my teaching on The Levite’s Concubine has been presented publicly and I was happy with how it went. I read from a written script but I think I was able to make it lively and interesting with intonation and gestures.
I really want to get my Levite’s Concubine teaching out to the church at large and I think that presenting it as an audio visual is the best way, so if the video recording made last Saturday is not good enough for some reason, I will re-record it somewhere/somehow, as I am determined to provide it as a audio visual teaching. I’ve been sitting on this teaching for quite a long time, so overloaded with blogging and emailing, and yes, suffering from a combination of fear and inertia and perhaps some other emotions too, that I have allowed myself to just leave it on the back burner, where it was gnawing an uncomfortable hole in my conscience. But now, having had this opportunity to do this presentation live, I am galvanized to make it available to a much wider audience.
Chris Kelly, a professional photographer from Raleigh NC, videotaped all the presentations, giving her services as a volunteer. I also discovered that she has videoed Lundy Bancroft quite a bit: once at a PASCH conference some years ago (PASCH = Peace and Safety in the Christian Home, an organization that no longer exists), and more recently for a documentary Chris is making about domestic abuse which will feature Lundy. I asked Chris to let me know when this doco comes out, so we can tell our readers and help spread the word.
Chris will be sending me a master copy of my presentations and if the audio track is good enough I’m planning to make my Levite’s Concubine talk into a DVD. I’ll have to interleave the powerpoint slides I used into the head-shot video of me (techno challenge!). The DVD may also include the second talk I gave on Scriptural Dilemmas of Christian Victims, which summarized what I say in my book Not Under Bondage and briefly addressed the other major dilemmas faced by Christian victims: forgiveness, suffering, and submission and headship.
I’d like to thank Julie Owens especially. I only ‘met’ Julie by email in late February, and told her I was available to do a speaking engagement in Charlotte while I was there, if she wanted to organize one. She organized this training day very rapidly, taking only a month to put it all together. What a great effort!
Readers in North Carolina may be interested in this Faith-Based Domestic Abuse seminar that is being held in the town of Matthews in September: Shine A Light On DV. The lady organizing this seminar was one of the volunteers who helped last Saturday’s event run smoothly, so I’m sure the seminar in September will be well organized.