Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Forgiveness Ploy

Today, I read this blog post on Emerging From Broken and had to agree with many statements made by the guest blogger, Pam Witzemann, who posted. (I overlooked the fact that this blogger is in desperate need of a viable editor and simply took the content of her words. Her words were more gripping than her bad grammar and poor (actually, wrong) use of commas. However, I did have to address this in my blog, since I am a writing instructor and many of my readers know this.)

This particular paragraph was especially poignant and prompted the title of this blog post:

"What many abusers want instead of forgiveness is for the abused person to forget what was done to them, over-look it, and not hold them responsible for it. They also need their victims to remain silent and when that silence is threatened, they demand forgiveness and declare that any relational problems are due to the victim’s unwillingness to forgive. These lies cause confusion and abusive people know that causing confusion in others, works in their favor. There is nothing that confuses a childhood abuse survivor more than the forgiveness ploy." 

This "forgiveness ploy" works for abusers and they are not silent about it. Last summer, while on vacation with my family, I was confronted in a museum by a man who had assaulted me several years earlier. At the time of the assault, he was not only a member of our church, he was a trustee. He became angry at me for something I said and actually physically assaulted me in the foyer of the church!  Other people got him away from me, but I was stunned. I called the police, who instructed this man to find another church to attend and not come near me or the property since I lived on the property.

When this man saw me at the museum this past summer - in another state, by the way - he boldly approached me, along with his wife, and demanded forgiveness. I stood my ground, even as they approached, coming physically close to me (I never, ever back down from an abuser). I asked him what he wanted me to forgive him for and he stated that he'd done nothing wrong. I then asked why he needed forgiveness and he became enraged. He and his wife continued to approach me; I continued to stand my ground. They nearly hissed that they had forgiven me. I asked them what for and they had no reply.  Upon their next step closer, I told them they will either back off right now or I will call 911, and I reached into my pocket and took out my phone. They backed off, but not silently. They backed off while saying, "God is a God of forgiveness!  You have to forgive!"

They did not want to be held responsible for their actions.
They wanted me (still want me) to be silent about the abuse.
They demand forgiveness, even while simultaneously begging for it while denying their actions which would need forgiving.
They threw it on me, even though they were the ones who approached me, with their demand for my response to "forgive."

The missing piece in forgiveness is often accountability. I've seen and heard counselors tell their "counselees" they "have to" forgive. They even wrap it up nicely and tell them they are forgiving more for themselves than the abuser. This is furthering their abuse because this lays guilt on the abused, causing further damage. It's akin to acknowledging a broken leg, but requiring that someone use that broken leg to do some lifting before it's set to heal. This not only delays the healing, it causes further damage to the leg. The healing will come; just not by demand.

In the blog, the author, Pam Witzemann, also said, "An abuse survivor can forgive their abuser but it is foolhardy and dangerous to continue in a relationship with a person who never acknowledges the personal damage they have caused." This is where many victims of abuse are, and many have been put there by their counselors.

This man, who demands my forgiveness for something he won't acknowledge doing, apparently wants to continue in a relationship with me, hence he approached me. It would be dangerous and foolish of me to continue in a relationship with him since he has already assaulted me once and has continued his threatening behavior ever since.....and now his wife is acting the same way. She, herself, assaulted me on a smaller scale once. They are both dangerous to me. Neither of them will take responsibility for their actions. Pam Witzemann also said, "It’s simple, people who want forgiveness will say they are sorry and name specifically, what they are sorry for. People who are content to abuse and thereby, hold power over their victim, will have no remorse and will never acknowledge the pain and damage they have caused." This demonstrates what this man and his wife are demanding from me, yet denying responsibility for.

So, while Pam's article was directed at victims of child abuse (which I also am), the principles she pointed out apply to all victims of abuse. 

To abuse, then remain unaccountable, then demand "forgiveness" is absurd. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who, Himself suffered for our sins - even the sins of abuse - demands more. He calls us to repent, 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19. The Scriptures are filled with calls to repentance. With a readiness to forgive, He stands with His arms outstretched. Repent. Find forgiveness in Jesus Christ. He will see to the rest of the forgiveness you may seek, and He can restore relationships as a result.

This man, this particular abuser, had only to acknowledge what he did to me, own it, tell me he will never deny it or do it again, show me that he had trusted Christ and changed, and our relationship could have been restored. 

But, for now, he really needs to stop approaching me in a threatening manner.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Reality Meets Les Misérables

This past weekend, I saw Les Misérables with a friend. At first, I didn't like it. I wanted dialog I was used to, not dialog which was sung. But, now, several days later, I can't stop thinking about the characters, their plight, their conclusion. Today, I read this review of the film and I was struck by a few things therein. What struck me about this reviewer's comments was the idea that Christians found parts of this film offensive. The idea that this could be offensive is very, very confusing to me. The reason I'm confused at the offense of some is that the film represented reality for many people and how can reality be offensive, especially to Christianity? In this review, the author, Bob Bixby, breaks his thoughts down into three categories:


From there, he gives a very objective opinion with which, I think, the producers of the film would be pleased. I want to comment on the vulgarity aspect of his analysis of the film.  Particularly, the prostitutes singing "Lovely Ladies" in the streets while a desperate woman, who has lost not only her livelihood, but, as a result, her hair, a couple of her teeth and now her dignity as she is dragged into prostitution not knowing what else to do because no one in the world would show her any mercy whatsoever. 

Picture yourself without mercy. 

First, she was lied about and had no voice to defend herself because no one would listen. Then, she was fired from her job (because of those lies), causing her to lose the only livelihood she could find to support her daughter. Then, she heard she could sell her hair for a little, so she sold her hair. Suddenly, without her long, pretty hair, she was not so admired. Then, she heard she could get more money by selling a couple of teeth. She had really nice teeth. She sold two teeth to help support her daughter. She was absolutely desperate. Desperation followed her, threatening to consume her. She had nothing left. Prostitution beckoned; there was no choice. Anything to keep her daughter alive. Anything. Anything. Desperation. Miserable, miserable desperation.

Quite frankly, an objection to this scene is an objection to the reality in some people's lives and a testament to the lack of mercy in Christian society today.  Those who would object would also shutter their eyes to the reality of life around them and shout, "No! No! Go away dirty girl!" to someone in need, rather than meet that need. 

This is reality for some people. Where is the mercy of those so-called Christians who would object? How can people object to reality? If they object, what do they do to change someone's situation? Do they offer to help? Not usually. Usually, the objectors sit in their pristine places condemning those less fortunate while they build themselves up with pats on the back and praises for lies.

I have seen a place of no mercy. I live in a place of no mercy, where lies are the "norm" and where even people who claimed to "love" turned out to only love themselves and look out for themselves at all costs.  I know what lack of mercy feels like. A no-mercy land strips a person of their dignity while those doing the stripping are laughing and patting themselves on the back with empty words which accuse the innocent and hold no truth. I have been there.

Les Misérables is an excellent portrayal of the reality of life for some people. Those who object are objecting to the real need of real people in places of real desperation. How dare they be offended? Where is their mercy? They have no mercy in their offense. Their response is to condemn the hurting so as to not get themselves dirty with the needs of another. If they can condemn the desperate, they can effectively turn the attention from themselves and the help they have to offer and get people riled in the wrong direction.

Yeah, picture yourself without mercy. Picture yourself surrounded by people who show you no mercy, who take your every word and attach evil to it and lie and deceive and laugh at your back while you try to pick yourself up and do what you can to protect your children.

Am I condoning prostitution? No. I'm only trying to shed a light of mercy on the poor girl who saw no alternative because no one would show her any mercy. People become desperate without mercy.

Our God is a God of mercy......those who are offended rather than moved with compassion at the stark reality which some people face do not know the God of mercy. They do not know God. What kind of person is offended instead of moved with compassion? Not the kind I want association with.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Devil Has Plans for You

I heard on the news about the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) wanting to remove the Name of Jesus Christ - and other references to God and Christianity - from their official literature, going so far as to tell people not to pray in Jesus' Name. The video linked here shows an excellent report on how and why this is being pursued.

This is the devil's talk. This is how the devil talks every time he talks. And he does not talk only within organizations like the DAR, he talks in church. A lot.

In a church building, in recent years, I've heard the following from lay leadership:

"It doesn't have to be about Jesus all the time."

"If you would just calm down about Jesus."

"I see no reason to study this passage (of Scripture)."

"You need to set aside the Word of God and have a passion for God."

"The Bible is like an idol to you. It's like you worship It!"  (Said to me, personally)

When I first starting hearing this kind of talk, I didn't know it was the devil talking.  A good friend from Togo, Africa, taught me that this is how the devil talks. Every time. Without exception. And his demons repeat this talk over and over and over until some ill-prepared or professing "Christian" falls for it and begins to repeat it themselves.

This should not take us by surprise, although being outraged is a good and appropriate response.  I Peter 5:8 tells us, in no uncertain terms, what is going on with this:  "Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour."

Breaking it down, we see the following from the Greek:

Be self-controlled/sober-minded
Be watchful/stay awake/be alert
Your adversary......accuser/enemy/slanderer/wicked person
Walks about..........imitates
Seeking.................trying to find information

Well, will you look at that? We are to be aware of his methods; God has clearly laid them out for us to see, know and understand.  There is no guess work involved. Yet, many in churches tolerate the type of talk I quoted above. This is completely unconscionable to me. He, our adversary, is actively looking to find information about us so he can see who is vulnerable and unprepared for his attacks. He imitates us so as not to raise suspicion about himself. His words become quite plausible when paired with the human ego, which is not watching out for anything but its own good.

I hope the members of the DAR will rise up and protest this removal of Jesus to a very large degree and stop it.

But, more than that. Oh, so much more than that, I hope Christians will finally stand up and stop this talk of removing Jesus from the church!  I wish people would become outraged when a brother or sister in Christ is told to "calm down about Jesus" and accused of idol worship because they are wholly committed to God's Word. We have to be watchful. We have to be vigilant. We will be swallowed up if we are not.

Anything less is Ichabod.  Once you have seen and experienced Ichabod, you will not ever look at this issue the same way. You will be so watchful and vigilant that people will tell you that you are mentally ill (as I was told). I suppose I'd rather be mentally ill than swallowed up by the devil!

The devil has plans for you. What are you going to do about that?  I Peter 5:9 has the answer: "Resist steadfast in the faith." Staying steadfast in the faith is an act of resisting the devil.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013


As a mom, I've always practiced a number of non-negotiable actions in rearing my kids. In recent conversations with one of my wonderful sisters, we've talked about parenting and how challenging it is to raise kids. She's had a few bad experiences with other people's kids lately while out and about. As the mom of eight kids, this is constantly on my mind. I'm always interested in what is best for my kids, always focused on what I can be doing to ensure they are going to grow up to know God and also be responsible adults. Here is a list of some non-negotiable things I've practiced over the years, along with the reasons for them:

God comes first - God commanded such (reason enough).

Rudeness will not be tolerated - Rudeness is a cruel form of abuse.

Respect is required - Loving me was up to them, but my kids had to show respect because God said so.

Saying "please" and "thank you" is required. Saying "please" destroys the notion that a child can demand anything. Saying "thank you" teaches a child gratitude, even if they are saying it because it is required. 
The lesson is still there.

Look me in the eye when you talk to me. Looking people in the eye when talking to them shows confidence and respect. This will take a child a long way in life. Even if they were saying, "Mommy, I don't want to..." (do this or that), they had to look me in the eye and say it.

I looked them in the eye when talking to them.  Even in times of discipline, I always tried to make sure they were looking at me, as though we were the only two people in the room, so they could fully understand what I was saying. This gives my words weight in their lives, shows them I am not taking things lightly, and that I respect them as a person.

Dinner is about more than just food.  With eight kids, life can get pretty hectic and life's lessons can get lost in the chaos.  I treated dinner as an event in our house - and I still do - because it was always such a rich opportunity to teach the kids.  A few non-negotiable things about dinner:

Everyone stays at the table until everyone else is finished eating.
Ask to be excused.
Food is served in serving dishes on the table, not out of the pan on the stove. 
(The exception to this is when I make a large pasta dish and serve it from the pan on the table or a big pot of soup served from the pot on the table. But, these pans are stove-to-table ready.)
Napkins are used.
Food is passed around the table in an orderly fashion.
No one starts eating until all food has been passed around.
Silverware is used. We generally set out all silverware - knife, fork, spoon - for each meal.
All dinner conversations include all dinner participants.
Everyone clears their own dishes.

Moving on from dinner: 

Toys are to be picked up before bed. There were times we tripped over toys a lot, but at the end of the day, they had to pick them up. I went by age - the 4-year-old picked up 4 toys, etc - and that worked well. The reason is obvious, everyone has to clean up after themselves in life. Starting young works best.

Each child was doing their own laundry by age 10. This has paid off big with my sons, whose wives LOVE the fact that their husbands help with the laundry and they did not have to be taught. We assigned laundry days and everyone does their own.

Mean what you say and say what you mean. I do not talk in riddles to my kids and make them figure out what I am trying to say. I do not allow my kids to talk in riddles, either. They have to look me in the eye and say what they mean, then they have to mean what they say. This makes them accountable to their own words; they own them, they have to live with the consequences of them. I've heard many parents make idle threats and their kids' behavior shows it because they are not taken seriously. If my kids acted up in church or out at a restaurant somewhere, all we had to do is say, "Do we need to go for a walk?" and they knew that meant trouble for them. They knew this because every single time we threatened to take one of them for a walk of discipline, one of us (my hubby or I) followed through and took them for that walk. So, they knew their parents would not throw out idle threats. I recall only a small handful of times I actually had to follow through, because the reality was a given and they knew it.

As parents, we are a united team; we will never be pitted against one another. If a kid says, "Dad said it was ok..." I always checked with their dad. They learned early on that we would do this. This not only protected them, it strengthened the family overall.

Young moms, if you're struggling with your kids' behavior, practice these non-negotiable things in their lives. It will make a huge difference in their behavior. This not only produces great kids, but it really makes parenting much easier!  I'm not claiming to be a perfect parent. My word, not even a chance Nor do I think I have perfect kids. My word, not even close. Mostly we adopted these practices out of desperation to retain control of our household. We had so many babies so very quickly, it was clearly evident early on that we had to be a united force, get and stay organized, and treat our kids like we want to be treated.

This is discipline. It works. Make 2013 a great year for your kids!