Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘safety’

Ending Toxic Relationships: Am I being a poor example of Christ to others by my decision?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Topic: Am I Being a Bad Example?

This week’s question: I separated from my husband after 25 years. I can remember being pregnant with my now 22 year old son feeling distraught and asking myself why I am having this man’s baby?

The emotional destruction took place throughout 22 years of the marriage. I have asked numerous times to go for counseling and actually moved out twice only to come back to empty promises of change from him.

I feel a sense of peace in every cell of my body that I have not felt in decades. My concern is am I honoring God with my decision for self-preservation, my sanity? 

Am I being a poor example of Christ to others by my decision?

Answer: Your question captures the dilemma so many women who are in an emotionally abusive/destructive marriage experience once they prioritize their sanity and safety over keeping the marriage together. They fear God’s anger and his disappointment. They fear being a poor representative of Christ and feel guilty when they finally say “I can’t do this anymore.”

I deeply appreciate that you don’t take your marriage vows lightly. We ought to press pause for self examination, prayer, and Biblical counsel if ever we consider separating from our spouse, so that if we separate, we are separating for biblical reasons and have as clear a conscious as possible.

Let me encourage you that God values physical safety and relational safety as much if not more than you do. For example, in spite of God’s general instructions to submit to the laws of the land and to higher authorities, when David feared for his life because of King Saul’s jealous rages, God didn’t instruct David to “submit to the King and trust me to take care of you” Instead, David fled, always respecting the position of King Saul, but not allowing himself to be abused by him. (Read 1Samuel 18-31 for the story.)

In another example, when Jesus was born and King Herod sought to exterminate all the Jewish babies two years and younger, God told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt until it was safe to return (Matthew 2:13-15).

When Rehab hid the Jewish spies, she lied to keep them safe and God commended her (Hebrews 11:31). I suspect those who lied to keep Jews safe from the Nazi army were equally commended by God.

Jesus himself valued safety and said even the well-being of an ox was a higher value to God than legalistically keeping the Sabbath by not working (Luke 14:5).

Safety is an important component of trust especially in marriage. There can be no freedom or honest communication if someone feels afraid or is threatened, either physically and/or emotionally or has a price to pay whenever they honestly share their thoughts and feelings.

Women (and sometimes men) fear taking measures to protect themselves because they’ve been taught it’s unbiblical or ungodly. They suffer endlessly with verbal battering, even physical abuse believing that by doing so, they’re being godly martyr’s. Keeping the family together at all costs is seen as God’s highest value.

Yet Proverbs 27:12 teaches us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge.”

Sanity is also an important value to God. By sanity I don’t just mean good mental health from a secular point of view, but good mental health from God’s point of view. Again the writer of Proverbs warns us of the devastating consequences of living with a contentious and argumentative person (Proverbs 15:4; 17:1; 25:24; 26:28).

The scriptures are clear. People influence and impact us, both for good and for evil. When we live with an abusive, destructive, manipulative, deceitful person, it definitely takes its toll on our mental, spiritual, emotional, physical and spiritual health.

Being sane from God’s perspective involves knowing, believing, and walking in the truth. Jesus says, “If your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is (Matthew 6:33). The apostle Paul says by nature we exchange the truth of God for a lie and that the more we do that, we become more and more insane (depraved mind) (Romans 1:25-28).

Walking in the light and truth are important values of God. When you live with someone who prefers deceit and darkness and twists and manipulates the truth, it can be very stressful.

However your question is, Are you being a poor example of Christ to others by leaving? My answer is maybe. You also could be a poor example of Christ by staying. You see it’s not whether you leave or stay that determines whether you are letting the love of Christ rule you, but how you leave or how you stay.

There are people who choose to stay in a destructive marriage (for lots of reasons) and are terrible examples of Christ. They are bitter, angry, spiteful, depressed, resentful, and demonstrate no joy, peace, or hope in their countenance. Likewise, those who leave a bad marriage can also leave with those same negative emotions in control rather than Christ.

So what would it look like to be Christ-like and God-honoring even while leaving a destructive marriage?

Here are a few thoughts for you to ponder. The apostle Paul says that we’re not to only look out for our own interests, but also to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). You are looking out for your interests for safety and sanity by leaving. That’s not ungodly or sinful. But if you want to be a godly wife, you must also look out for your husband’s interests. So what is your husband’s greatest need right now? Is it to stay with him, make his dinner, be his companion, and meet his sexual needs or is it something far more crucial to his long-term well-being? I believe your husband’s greatest need right now is to wake up from his slumber, from his darkness and to come to Christ and repent of his destructive behaviors. The question you must answer is would you more likely help meet his greatest need by leaving or by staying?

Second, God calls you to love your husband, even if he feels like your enemy right now. That is being Christ-like. However, you must also understand that unconditional love doesn’t entitle someone to unconditional relationship even with Jesus. The scriptures tell us that our sin separates us from close relationship from God. It doesn’t separate us from his love as Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38,39), but it does separate us from his Presence.

If Jesus doesn’t offer unconditional relationship with everyone even when he loves them, I don’t think he expects that of us either. Sin not only separates us from God, it separates us from one another. Until your husband can see his sinful heart and actions as damaging not only you, but your marriage and is willing to actually do the work it takes to change them, it may be most Christ-like to stay compassionate toward him yet separate from him.

One more thing. For your own peace of mind, please ask God to show you how to represent him well in this time. You must let go of your desire for everyone to agree with your decision to separate. You may be Christ-like in all your actions and attitudes and people still may not like it. Jesus represented the character of God perfectly and yet there were those, especially religious leaders, who did not approve.

Advertisements

Unsettled Spats –> New Idea

SOURCE:  Keith Gatling/Kyria

Unsettled Spats

When their arguments were going nowhere, Keith and Cheryl Gatling knew they needed to find a way to resolve their squabbles.

Keith’s Side: I’m Slow to Respond

Whenever Cheryl and I would disagree about something, she’d insist on talking it out. But when she talked she gave me too much information to process and respond to at one time. I’m an analytical kind of guy. I need time to think over things before I respond with a half-formed thought I may have to take back later, or say something I could have phrased a little more clearly.

With so much information coming at me quickly, I just couldn’t get my thoughts together to respond the way I needed and she wanted. As a result, during these discussions, I usually just sat there saying little and feeling stupid because I couldn’t answer her back immediately.

Invariably, after I’d had a chance to think about what Cheryl had said, I’d actually have some good responses. But that might not be until the next day. By then, it was too late—as if I were simply “dredging it up again.” Besides, even if I did bring up my good responses, Cheryl would only end up throwing more information at me than I could handle, all over again.

After a few years this got to be annoying. It bothered Cheryl that I never said much when we argued. And it annoyed me that by the time I figured out what I wanted to say, it was too late to say it without causing trouble again. Something had to change.

Cheryl’s Side: I Wanted Resolution

Keith and I rarely had conflict while we were dating. We had so many common interests. We were always doing something fun together—concerts, dancing, church, day trips.

When we married, we weren’t prepared for the work involved in hammering out the details of living together. We began to argue, as I said jokingly, “like two rams butting heads.” Our arguments were probably similar to those of most newlyweds learning to negotiate housework, sex, time management—and whether or not to reuse the towels after one shower. But what drove us both crazy is that our “discussions” never seemed to resolve anything. We had the same arguments over and over. When an old issue would return, both of us would think, Not the towel thing again! We both had such strong feelings that we weren’t able just to let things drop. A sense of futility started to creep in. Were we doomed to butt heads forever?

Our strong feelings were part of the problem. Each of us not only had strong opinions on the topic of towels (and every other subject), we also had intense feelings about how to argue. When Keith would express dissatisfaction with something, I interpreted that as his attacking me, and I rushed to justify myself. When I didn’t think he was “getting it,” I kept trying to find new ways to explain my reasoning.

But the more I explained, the more I saw Keith shut down and withdraw from the argument, which made me even more frustrated! I felt as though he wasn’t hearing me or even trying to understand my point of view.

What Keith and Cheryl Did

One day after another fruitless discussion, Keith sat down and wrote an e-mail message to Cheryl, putting down all his thoughts on the subject. He took the time to make sure they were clear, thorough, and exactly what he meant. He sent the e-mail to Cheryl’s account and asked her to read it. He left the room while Cheryl read. She replied by e-mail. He wrote again. She replied. And soon they were communicating, not merely talking at each other.

E-mail became a tool that helped both of them. Keith and Cheryl have separate computers and separate accounts, and they both check their e-mail frequently, so it’s never a long wait before they read their messages.

Keith says, “The wonderful thing about this system is that I was able to write, edit, and rewrite before I pressed the send button. Not only was I able to answer Cheryl point by point, but I could do so without interruption.” He no longer felt at a disadvantage when it came to getting his point across. He also liked that it was harder for his words to be misinterpreted: “She couldn’t accuse me of saying something I clearly didn’t say.”

Cheryl says, “Writing e-mails slowed down the process of arguing enough to remove most of the heat generated by raised voices. I found I was able to concentrate more on the issues and less on my hurt feelings.” As Keith and Cheryl responded to each other’s e-mails, they cited each other’s exact words in quotations, so they both knew they were being heard.

Now that they have a mechanism to resolve conflict, Keith is more confident and Cheryl more relaxed. That has spilled over into their real-live conversations, improving their verbal communication skills. They’ve learned how to wait to talk things out—verbally or by e-mail—rather than try to settle things in the heat of the moment. And the results have been noticeable.

“Keith talks to me much more than he used to,” says Cheryl. “I think he feels safe to express himself. Since I feel less threatened by his opinions, I’m able to let him have his say without overreacting.”

Keith adds, “I’m happy now that when we argue, and I start feeling overwhelmed, I can tell Cheryl I need time to think about everything before giving her an answer. I no longer feel pressured to respond immediately.”

“We both still have strong opinions,” Cheryl says. “But instead of butting heads, we’ve found that our e-mail strategy helps us to resolve our differences in a much more civil manner.”

Intimate Partner Violence: Healthy Steps You Must Take

SOURCE: Adapted from an article from the American Association of Christian Counselors

Provide for your Safety

Ensuring your safety (and that of any children involved) is always the first priority. You must take steps to separate from your abuser if necessary.

Have a Plan

Develop a plan for the next time abuse occurs. Be sure that you have numbers to call — police, a family shelter or hotline, and a trusted friend or counselor.  If you decide to leave, where will you go? Who will you call? Have bags with essentials packed and in an easily accessible location so you and the children can leave quickly if needed. You should photocopy important documents and have them packed as well. You should think through how you can access money, car keys, and the important documents if you do need to leave suddenly.

If you need to leave at some point after an abusive incident, no argument or discussion with the abuser should happen at this point. You should calmly exit and go to a location you have predetermined with the people at that location.  Do not hesitate to seek out expert consultation in this very serious and complicated problem.

Follow Up

As a victim of Intimate Partner Violence, seek continued help.

Be Reassured

Abuse is never deserved but is always wrong.  A spouse’s role in a marriage never includes the right to manipulatively control or abuse another person.

Assess Relationships

Assess how much support you have and be encouraged to reach out to others for help.  Have supportive family members join the effort.  A victim of abuse is often isolated, both out of shame about the situation and the abuser’s need to control.

Biblical Insights

Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.  Genesis 31:7

Trust involves being trustworthy and being willing to trust another. Originally Jacob fled from home because he had deceived his brother (Gen. 27:41–43); here he fled because he had been deceived by his father-in-law. Violated trust can destroy relationships.  How much better to build a bond of trust with those closest to us.

And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”  Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Numbers 20:10–11

Moses reacted in anger, and it cost.  Anger can be the most damaging of all emotions, causing people to say or do things they regret.  Out-of-control anger can ruin friendships and marriages and even cause nations to go to war.  Some people end up living forever with the consequences of choices made in a moment of heated anger.  People who struggle with destructive anger must find help to discover alternative ways to manage it.  This begins by turning it over to God.

Then [Abimelech] went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers, the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone.  But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, because he hid himself.  Judges 9:5

The tragic story of Abimelech pictures extreme violence used for selfish reasons. This illegitimate son of Gideon and a concubine (Judg. 8:29–31) brought disaster on the rest of Gideon’s family.  Violence and murder became his way of dealing with all threats to his power (9:22–49).  In the end, however, his violent ways resulted in his own destruction (vv. 50–56).

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Parents ought to be careful in their training and discipline not to provoke their children “to wrath.”  In other words, sometimes a parent’s discipline can be overly harsh, unfair, unloving, or irresponsible, causing children to become angry, discouraged, and resentful.  Parents who discipline fairly, consistently, and lovingly are raising their children well.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3:21

Although children are commanded to obey their parents, this does not give parents permission to be cruel or unreasonable in their treatment of their children.  Parents who nag, belittle, or deride their children destroy their self-esteem and discourage them.

The purpose of parental discipline is to train children. Consistent discipline, administered with love, will help children grow into responsible adults. The hard and unvarnished truth is that violence doesn’t resolve anything, and ultimately leads to more violence.

Not only does a violent person fail to gain control, but he or she loses the person who would have loved him or her.

Can I Set Boundaries with An Abusive Spouse?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

Today’s Question: I have one other question which I hope you can also address. My husband says that he is put into a kind of uncontrollable rage when I disrespect him because it is his god given right as the husband to be respected. Last night I told my husband who has physically struck me in the past that I felt unsafe in our marriage and that I thought it was necessary that we lay some ground rules and boundaries specifically to be enforced during our times of arguing and fighting so that we can keep each other accountable.

He resisted in agreeing boundaries were the issue but finally agreed. I told him that a universal boundary should be absolutely no physical striking or threats of physically hurting of any kind toward one another. To that he said that his boundary equivalent to that was “no disrespect/raising my voice to him.” He said that when he is disrespected, he feels he is being verbally abused by me and it feels as terrible as I feel when he slaps me on the arm/leg/head.

In theory this sounds “right”. He says that I am making a double standard when I put a boundary on his behavior but that he cannot on me. And yet, something does not seem right at all about what he is saying. I agree that disrespecting your husband is as sinful as physically striking your spouse in anger. Is it biblical to see these exactly the same in terms of setting “off limit” boundaries in disagreements?

Answer: Your struggle to think clearly in this muddle is common to women who live with abusive men. I want to help clarify some important truths.

First your husband’s rage and subsequent acts of violence toward you are not uncontrollable. His behavior is always his choice. I’m sure he has experienced disrespect from other people in his life – his employer, a rude driver, your children, a friend, an enemy. People sin against us all the time in many ways and sometimes we do get angry. However, that doesn’t mean we hit them. In fact, isn’t that what we teach our children NOT to do when someone takes their toy or makes them mad? We don’t hit people when we’re mad. Period!

Let me ask you a question. Does your husband hit other people in the arm/leg/head when he feels disrespected? What do you imagine a police officer would say if your husband used that as his excuse when he hit someone who disrespected him in traffic or at the mall?

Hear this important truth. Your husband hits you when he is mad because he chooses to and you have continued to enable him by not enforcing legal consequences that would protect you from this kind of abusive behavior.

He says that it is his god-given right to be respected. It’s also your god given right to be loved and cherished. When he fails to love and cherish you and you feel hurt or angry, do you hit him?

The second truth I want you be crystal clear on is that you will fail your spouse and he will fail you. Sometimes these failures are big but often they occur in little ways. He doesn’t love me like I’d like or she doesn’t respect me like I want her to. The truth is, our spouse doesn’t always give us what we want even if what we want is a good and godly thing. Hurt and disappointment occur in every marriage and we can feel angry.

But is the right answer to treat our spouse with abusive behavior or abusive speech when they don’t give us what we want? Jesus says “never!” The Bible labels that kind of behavior sin and selfishness and is never justified.

The truth is no one get’s everything he or she wants all of the time. Part of growing up and maturing is learning how to handle ourselves in a godly, mature way when we are disappointed, angry and hurt when we don’t get what we want.

Your husband’s entitlement thinking has deceived him into believing that since he’s entitled to be respected, he’s entitled to hit you when you’re not complying with what he wants. That is absolutely not true. How do other men handle being disrespected by their wives? They might pray for their wife. They might talk with their wife. They might get counseling as a couple. A much healthier response to his disappointment or hurt when you don’t respect him is for him to say, “Honey, that hurts me when you talk to me that way. Would you please stop?” Or even, “When you talk to me that way, I can’t hear you. I’m ending the conversation.”

As far as boundaries – you’re right, you will never feel safe to have a conversation with your husband let alone disagree if you fear for your safety. In the same way, if your husband fears your tongue and being disrespected, it’s hard for him to share his honest thoughts and feelings with you.

However, I’m not sure of his definition of disrespect. You were very clear with your definition of what you want stopped, no physical threats or physical violence. His definition was fuzzy – “No disrespect or raising your voice”. Does that mean that when you feel strongly about something or disagree, you can’t speak with an elevated voice without him feeling disrespected? Does that mean that you cannot argue because he will feel you don’t respect his opinion? Does that mean you have to agree with everything he thinks because not to will feel disrespectful to him?

You need to ask him to define for you the behavior that feels disrespectful to him. Is it calling him names? Is it swearing at him? Is it rolling your eyes? If you know what it is specifically, then you can decide whether or not you can agree to stop or change it. If you don’t know what it is, then the rules always change and he can feel disrespected just because you open your mouth in protest.

Finally, a first step boundary or safety plan for both of you might be that when either one of you feels unsafe, the one who feels unsafe can stop the conversation and the other person will respect that boundary and stop talking.

If it continues to be unsafe to have difficult discussions together and you have important things that need to be decided, then you will agree together to engage the help of a counselor to help you learn to speak safely and respectfully with one another and to handle your disappointment in a more godly way.

These “rules” need to be agreed to by both of you and if he does not keep them, then it’s time to let him experience the consequences.

False Control or Real Security: The Choice Is Ours

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

We all have sensitive buttons that when pushed, cause some pretty sorry and regrettable responses to come out of us. One we all have is the control button. Whether we see ourselves as leaders, controlling personalities, or at the opposite end, as followers or passive personalities, we all have the need to be in control of a situation or to have our agenda or plan be followed.

Most people feel more secure when they are in control. A trip down a steep mountain road doesn’t feel as dangerous to us when we’re the ones with our hands on the steering wheel. The passengers will always be more anxious or fearful because they are vulnerable to the skills and decisions of the driver.

Having control over our circumstances is very important to most of us … it allows us to feel more secure, competent, and confident. But we can’t always be in control … actually, we have a lot less control over external circumstances than we think. When facing situations beyond our control, we may feel helpless, vulnerable, anxious, fearful, angry, or overwhelmed. We may experience panic or depression.

In today’s world, a sense of safety and security may be difficult to find. The good news is there is one way we can always be secure.

God provides a way for us to experience a sense of security at all times. He leaves it up to us … we can either continue depending on ourselves, panicking or losing hope when we can’t control a situation … or we can depend on the Lord. If we choose Jesus and His way for our lives, we can always be secure in His love. We will still experience problems and trials on this earth, but we will begin to view them from His perspective. When we turn control over to Jesus, we can know that no matter what challenges or trials we face, He will ultimately work them out for our good, like our favorite teacher who gave us a tough homework assignment to expand our mind and future, or our greatest coach who drilled us knowing we were getting stronger and better equipped to succeed in the big game, or the acting instructor who stretched our comfort zone pushing us to a wonderful and exhilarating performance.

Today, examine whose hands have control of your steering wheel? During especially stressful situations are you still trying to control every detail of your life? If your confidence is in yourself, usually it will be your emotions and fear of pain, the me-centered motivators, that will direct your steps, and poor decisions will be the norm. Do you experience frustration, fear, or even anger when you can’t control what is happening to you? Turn everything over to God. You can trust Him. He is way more equipped to handle life than you are. Then be a good steward of the instructions He gives for your part of the plan.

Prayer

Dear Father God, it seems that every time I turn a situation over to You, I hang on to some little part of it and pull it away from You again. I want to be in control, and yet I know that doesn’t always work out. Please forgive me for not trusting You with every area of my life. Help me to trust You more and to leave the control of my life in Your hands. Help me to rest securely in Your love. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One You sent to teach me how to trust, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Tag Cloud