A very old couple in old clothes that were fashionable decades ago shuffled into a hamburger place one day and ordered 1 hamburger, 1 order of fries, and 1 cola. A man nearby thought they were cute, but he was alarmed they only ordered 1 meal. Cautiously he approached and in a low voice discreetly offered to pay for another hamburger, fry, and cola. The wife responded sweetly, “That’s okay, we share everything.”
Seated now at their table, the old man carefully divided the hamburger in half and put half in front of his wife. Then he counted out half the fries and set them in front of his wife, and set the cola in the middle of the table. He then began to eat his half of the hamburger, while she just watched him eat.
Again expressing concern, the man approached and offered to buy another hamburger, fry, and cola, but again the wife responded, “That’s okay, we share everything.” “But why aren’t you eating?” he asked, only to hear her reply, “I’m waiting for the teeth.”
That may take the idea of sharing to an extreme, but an emotionally healthy person can share with others – whether that be credit for a job well done, or blame for their part of mistakes. Unhealthy people refuse to admit their share of the blame and instead shift blame to others, unwilling to take responsibility.
The abuser demonstrates their immaturity in many ways, from explosions of anger to retreating within themselves. Their outburst of wrath is disproportionate to the situation, or retreat into their grumpy silent self, ruining a whole event, but they don’t care because they are angry at x person or x company or x situation – they would rather ruin the event than grow up and be pleasant to be around.
Last week I shared a core trait, blame shifting, and included other elements; Narcissism and how the narcissist can make you feel like you are the one with the problem, make you feel bad about yourself, doesn’t praise or support you, and rarely if ever expresses concern for your well being.
Remember this: Conviction brings us to God and is all about Him. Condemnation pushes us away from God and is all about us. Don’t allow the abuser to make you feel condemnation. Reject their condemnation.
Core principle #1 today: The one loving them knows the good part of their heart, so stays
The abuser isn’t an abuser all the time. There are times the sweet and genuine part of them functions, and that is the part the victim of the abuse sees and loves, whether it be spouse, friend, sibling, or co-workers.
In a church it may be that they love the worship even though the pastor is a controlling man who says from the pulpit things like x person who left has demons, or they are now opening themselves to demonic attack because they left their church – control issues like that. But enough people love the teaching or love the worship or they have a good children’s church that they stick around in spite of the spiritual abuse.
At work a boss or co-worker doesn’t want to fire the person because they know their family is on the edge financially, so they end up covering for them at work, which makes them feel good/boosts their ego that they are ‘helping’. The church goer above derives a benefit from the abusive pastor or church culture. In a marriage the benefit may be financial or they have a roof over their head, so they stay in the relationship.
A co-dependent relationship…
…is one in which one person supports or enables another person’s poor or dangerous behavior, whether that be simple immaturity and laziness, or an addiction, irresponsibility, or explosive anger, while deriving some sense of good or pleasure within themselves for offering that support.
It is marked by one person’s need to rely on others for their identity and/or approval as a person while the other half is the emotional or physical need of the one who loves to help, nurture, and care for them. Thus the relationship is dysfunctional in a swirl of love/hate and peace/war between them, yet each deriving a benefit, twisted as it may be.
The one person sees the potential and keeps hoping that ‘this time’ the other one will come to their senses, while the object of their love – the abuser, the self-centered blamer - isn’t dealing with their internal issues so can only rise so far before they undermine that situation, job, or relationship, and fail.
The Christian wonders how far do I walk in love, and at what point does love turn into enabling?
From the Prodigal Son who had to ‘come to himself’ at his lowest point, to Galatians 6:1-6 and much more, scripture tells us to walk in love and come to another’s aid to the extent they are also willing to do their part to grow and change. If not, they must be allowed to experience the consequences of their actions, like the Prodigal Son who demanded his money and the father sadly let him go his way until he ‘came to himself’.
If they are unwilling to change and the Christian continually finds themselves enabling sin, that is when to draw back and allow them to experience the consequences of their actions. In Galatians 6:1-2 Paul says to go to a person ‘overtaken in a fault’, in Greek, they’ve committed a trespass against another person, and point that out to them in meekness. As in Matthew 18:15, if they receive you, you’ve regained your friend.
If they don’t receive your efforts the next verses say: “(But) if a man thinks that he is something when he is nothing, he is self-deceived. Each one should test his own actions, then he can have personal satisfaction.” Paul goes on to say, “Don’t be deceived, God isn’t mocked, what a person sows is what they will reap.”
The Bible teaches a trespass has 2 elements*: The guilt before God (the vertical), and the injury caused to another (the horizontal). We are to forgive a person, keeping our heart right ‘vertically’ to God, but there are times forgiveness also allows a person to experience the consequences of the injuries they’ve brought upon themselves and others if they refuse to admit their guilt. They are forgiven in our heart, but must walk out the consequences unless and until they are ready to heal the injuries they’ve caused. *Leviticus 6:1-7
We see this in scripture with King Saul and his hatred for David, who did him no wrong, and indeed was only a helper and blessing to him.
The root of King Saul’s issues can be traced to a poor self image. Samuel observed in I Samuel 15:17; “When you were little in your own sight weren’t you made king over Israel?” We are told in I Samuel 9:1-3 that Saul came from a very wealthy family and that he was head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the whole nation, and he was very handsome – yet he was ‘little in his own sight’.
So much so, that when the time came to anoint him as King, he hid himself among the caravans and animals, requiring a word of knowledge from the Lord to Samuel to reveal where he was hiding: “He has hidden himself among the supplies.” (10:22)
But at the same time God was his biggest supporter, and kept pouring out His grace and Spirit upon him so that he prophesied to the extent Samuel prophesies in 10:6 “The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy to them, and you’ll be changed into another person.”
And that is what happened – but here is core point #2 today: Like King Saul, the abuser has had experiences with God, but they don’t change him. To say it another way, the abuser doesn’t let God change them.
I’ll pick it up there next week for I’ve run out of room for today, more next week…until then, blessings,