We have a ceiling fan in the middle of our bedroom with 2 pull chains hanging down to switch the fan and light on and off if we don’t want to use the wall switch. The 2 chains end with large weights that make it easy to grab the thin chains. Unfortunately they hang down just off the end of the bed, and one morning as I awoke in the pre-dawn darkness to go to the living room for prayer I walked right into those weights, with an impact in the middle of my forehead like being branded with the 666 mark of the beast. It hurt!
I staggered away from the fan but quickly regained momentum and with the first step stubbed my left little toe on the sharp corner of an old DVD player we had sat on the floor a few nights before to be donated later to a thrift store. But like a TV commercial trying to sell me a gadget, ‘But wait, there’s more!’.
I looked out the kitchen window to see in the pre-dawn light the empty bird feeder and 20 or so birds gathered around that I’m sure were talking among themselves about where breakfast was. Brow-beaten and made to feel guilty by a flock of sparrows staring me down, I put on shorts and went to the truck for the 20 lb (9 kilo) sack of bird seed I’d bought the day before.
As I tossed it over my shoulder I walked too closely around the end of the truck where my shin found the trailer hitch with such force there was immediate blood and a yelp out my mouth, followed by a slap on the shin with exclamation, “Healed in name of Jesus!”.
I filled the feeder yet heard no chirps or tweets of ‘Thanks John!’ from the flock, and walked back into the house, muttering to myself that now I had shed blood for those stupid birds, which made me think how Jesus said in Matthew 6:26 the Father feeds the birds, which meant in my grumpy thinking that morning, that my sacrifice of blood was really the Father’s doing, AND THAT prompted me to think to the Father:
“You’re supposed to be ordering my steps! Well, you’ve sure done a bang up job of it this morning!” Just as the horror of what I thought hit me and as the apology formed in my head, He spoke back in gentle rebuke: “You knew where each item was, yet you walked right into each of them. That’s not my doing!”
The start of abuse
Over the course of this series I’ll list core characteristics of an abuser and/or being in an abusive relationship covering friends, siblings, church, marriage, and work, and within those core traits I’ll list dozens more which feed off and flow from those core traits.
The first core trait is: The transfer of blame to another person.
BUT…Just because a person shifts blame away from themselves doesn’t make them an abuser, for we’ve all squirmed in our seats when confronted by someone with our guilt, just as I tried to blame the Father for letting me walk into the dangling weights, stub my toe, and walk into the trailer hitch. That’s just human nature to look for blame elsewhere.
But a lifestyle of never taking responsibility when it is clearly one’s own fault, while blaming others, of ALWAYS saying things like ‘You ruined it for me because…’ or ‘someone in the company is doing it to me…’ or even ‘It was just a misunderstanding’, reveals an off-balanced view of self, of others, and of life.
Gee, thanks Adam!
The seeds for abuse were sown early in the human race, with Adam putting the blame on Eve and God but leaving himself out of the equation in Genesis 3:12: “The woman which you gave me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Right Adam – It was God’s fault because He made the woman, who ate the fruit, who gave to you – if it wasn’t for Him doing that you wouldn’t have eaten of the fruit, so it was God’s fault, and her fault.
I’m not suggesting Adam was an abuser of Eve, I’m saying the principle of transferring blame to another person is fallen human nature, and if it becomes a lifestyle it is abuse, and once it is a lifestyle other traits of abuse will team with that core trait.
Teaming with blame shifting – narcissism
Once a person shifts blame to someone else, and therefore gets the attention off their own responsibility, they often work to turn the focus of emotions back on them and how they ‘feel’ because of x person’s guilt while making x person feel bad. This behavior kills the moment, and if a pattern, kills a relationship.
In Greek mythology Narcissus was known for his beauty, yet showed arrogant contempt for those who loved him. One day Narcissus was walking in the woods and Echo saw him and fell in love with him. He realized he was being followed and called out repeatedly ‘Who’s there?’, only to have Echo repeat back to him each time, ‘Who’s there?’
Eventually she revealed herself but he rejected her love, and she was so broken by the rejection she spent the rest of her days calling out until nothing but an echo of her presence remained. The god of revenge, Nemesis, heard what Narcissus had done, and lured him to a pool of water where he saw his own reflection and fell in love with himself. Realizing he could never return his own love adequately, he committed suicide.
Notice what I’ve underlined, for the blame shifting person and the one who loves them follow this same pattern. Of Echo, notice how she revealed her heart to Narcissus, bared her soul. Notice she was rejected and withered away of a broken heart until nothing but a whisper of her presence remained.
Of him, notice how he rejected her love, was arrogant, showed contempt, was in love with himself, and eventually self-destructed.
The person being abused, the one always being blamed, is heartbroken because the one they love continually rejects their love. Eventually whether it be in a marriage, a sibling, a friend, a church goer in the pew of an abusive church culture, or an employee in a similar abusive culture at work, they become a mere shell of their former selves – often not knowing any longer who they are, empty, void of life due to being rejected, blamed, and hurt – yet the abuser sees none of that. Everything is about them, but they don’t realize they are committing suicide in their relationship, in their work, in their church – in their emotions.
Putting the two together: Blame shifting and making it about them
In a marriage, if something goes wrong at work, the abuser will find a way to blame the spouse – maybe they didn’t sleep well because of their spouse’s snoring, which made them tired at work, which meant at the presentation they couldn’t think fast enough on their feet, which meant their presentation was rejected – so when they walk through the door that evening it is the spouse’s fault. They are the victim and one hurt.
At work, they are the one wronged because the Assistant put together a sloppy report, refusing to admit they had the responsibility for the final proof reading.
An abusive church culture accuses the person who brings up legitimate issues as the one with the problem, rather than deal with the issue within the church, the staff member, or the policy in question.
With a sibling or friend you are in the wrong because you don’t understand how hard it has been for them – as a means of shifting attention away from their actions which contributed to the issue.
The abusive person lives by transferring responsibility to another person, and twisting the confrontation to be about them. If you bring up a legitimate concern or need, rather than acknowledge it, they put the blame on you saying you are the one with the problem, you are the one with the issue, you are the cause. They are committing suicide of the relationship, but can’t bring themselves to admit wrong, examine themselves, nor change.
Their teaming of blame shifting with narcissism can make you think you are the crazy one, that you are the one with the problem. They make you feel bad about yourself, don’t praise or support you, let alone offer a true spontaneous compliment, and rarely if ever express concern for your well-being.
King Saul was just such a person, but I’ve run out of room. I’ll have more core traits and other examples next week, and as the series progresses suggestions for dealing with an abusive or narcissistic person.
Until then, blessings,