To say that I am pissed off is an understatement. And I believe my anger is just one snowflake on the Mount Everest of God’s anger. The Enemy has stolen the Word of God and used verses within it to plant a field of explosive mines, and then victims are sent into that field to navigate life in fear and shame. They are inevitably blown to pieces, their faith shattered and scattered over miles of dark and dead terrain. Boom.
How typical of God’s Archenemy. Here is the tell-tale sign that what you are seeing has the fingerprints of the Enemy:
Whatever you are looking at is flipped upside down and inside out.
I’ve been reading the Bible through every year since I was nine or ten. And I didn’t just read my Bible. I underlined verses and wrote notes in margins. I’ve made many a copy of God’s Word dog-eared and well-loved. I went to a Christian college where we were required to fulfill a Bible core curriculum in addition to our field of study. I taught in a Christian school. I was in full time ministry for many years. I led Bible studies. I’ve done numerous Bible studies on my own. I’m not a theologian, but I know more about the Bible than the average person.
But I read the Bible through a certain lens. The lens of patriarchy. Through this lens, I felt convicted and shamed with almost every reading. The positive thing about this is that I could see the love and grace of Jesus more clearly for myself. The negative thing about this is that I lived in perpetual guilt and shame, longing to be a light in the world, and feeling that my sin would forever eclipse my purpose in glorifying God. Now I see how twisted that thinking was, but for most of my life, that was the confusion I swam in.
Over my struggle of several years to escape my abusive marriage and ultimately my abusive church that enabled abusive marriages to exist, I stopped reading the New Testament. It was in the NT that most of the “condemning” verses were hidden, and I needed so badly to have a break. So I camped in the Psalms (and Proverbs too because Proverbs revealed the truth of my abusive marriage, and I needed that validation.) Eventually I added the Gospel of John to my repertoire and read it over and over again to familiarize myself with JESUS CHRIST.
In other words, I needed a break from LAW, and I needed to dip my feet in the ocean of JESUS and His love and grace toward me.
Fast forward a couple of years. I was finally divorced and remarried, and I decided it was time to dig into the books that now scared me, find the lies, and flip ’em. Why? So I could once again connect with the Word of God in my life.
BECAUSE THE WORD OF GOD BELONGS TO GOD – NOT THE ENEMY!
Yeah, I don’t think God is real happy that it gets stolen from Him and used like a grenade on His precious children. I do believe God will have His justice one day, but in the meantime, let’s get down and dirty with the enemy and start flipping him on his back. Because that’s our job as Christ followers. To be lights in the darkness. To set captives free. To do the work of the Gospel in our corners of the world.
So today I want to flip two verses in Philippians chapter 2.
(I was SO on fire about this Sunday morning, that I hopped on Facebook and did a live video about it with nasty bed head and no makeup. Hey, when the inspiration strikes…)
LIE: Woman, you need to stop looking out for your interests and look out for the interests of others, namely, the interests of your abusive manipulative spouse and your abusive controlling church.
Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil. 2:4
This verse actually implies the understanding that everyone SHOULD look out for their own interests. This is common sense. We are given a body and a life to steward. If we don’t look out for the interests of our own body and life, we are not taking responsibility for the ONE THING God gave us sole responsibility for. But, Paul is saying, don’t ONLY look out for your own interests, but also love others. Look out for their interests as well.
IN ADDITION TO. Not INSTEAD OF.
But the Enemy is interested in our trusting in Black and White Rules (Law) rather than relying on the nuanced wisdom of the Living God through the Holy Spirit coming into play in our very real, daily situations (Love). And the Enemy knows this appeals to human beings. Give us a rule to follow. We are lazy butts. We don’t want to seek Wisdom. It’s easier to slap a rule on everything.
The rule here is: whenever there is a conflict of interest between a victim and the Person in Charge, the victim must “die” to her own interests and meet the interests of the Person in Charge. The husband. The Pastor. The Controller.
Pertinent Rabbit Trail here: Philippians chapter two is about humility and it brings unity and peace to the Church of Jesus Christ. Are abusive, controlling Persons humble? Do they have the attitude of Christ? They want to FLIP this chapter in order to shame and blame those who point out their hypocrisy and lies by saying, “Say now! You shut your Jezebel mouth, Woman! You aren’t looking out for the interests of others! You are selfish! You are…
COMPLAINING AND ARGUING!
And that brings us to another lie.
LIE: Woman, you need to do everything I tell you to do without grumbling and arguing with me. If you don’t, you are just another part of a crooked and perverse generation. Shape Up!
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Phil. 2:14
So women in abusive situations read that verse as if it is for them. But what if it is for the REAL grumblers and arguers? The abusers? Do they grumble and argue?
- Do they complain about how you “nag” them?
- Do they complain about how you don’t give them enough sex?
- Do they complain about your appearance?
- Do they complain about your dinners?
- Do they complain about your choice of groceries/hair style/clothing/purchasing decisions/decorating decisions, etc? (Or maybe they just don’t let you make any decisions on your own, because, they complain, you wouldn’t make the “right” ones.)
- Do they complain about your parenting?
- Do they complain about your friends? (Or maybe just don’t let you get together with them.)
- Do they complain about your opinions? (Or maybe just don’t let you have them.)
- Do they complain about your autonomy (or maybe just refuse for you to have any rights in the relationship.)
- Do they complain that you don’t do enough for them?
- Do they complain about your intelligence level?
- Do they complain that you are too emotional?
- Do they complain that you bug them?
- Do they complain that you “attack” them when all you’ve done is ask them to stop poor behavior and be respectful of you?
Get the picture? What about arguing?
- Do they argue with you about your feedback?
- Do they argue with you about your thoughts?
- Do they argue with you about your feelings?
- Do they argue with you about your viewpoint?
- Do they argue with you about your rights to respect?
- Do they argue with you about your desire to be treated with kindness?
- Do they argue with you when you ask them to stop doing something mean?
- Do the argue with you when you want to see change?
- Do they argue with you when you set healthy boundaries?
Now let’s talk about the DIFFERENCE between “grumbling and arguing” and being assertive about getting help and giving feedback.
Grumbling and arguing is about pride and selfishness. When your spouse grumbles, he is expressing his own discontentment with you and his own selfish desires for you to be what HE dictates you should be rather than loving exactly who you are and respecting you as a separate human being from him.
When your spouse argues, he is refusing to be a good listener, to show honor and mutual respect, and basically – to show the love and humility of Jesus Christ toward you.
When you are assertive and honestly share your concerns about his behavior and how it affects you spiritually, emotionally, and physically, you are doing exactly what emotionally healthy, adult people do in relationships. In fact, to do the opposite and hide and placate and appease your partner is to enable further denial and deception to continue. Denial is not emotional health. It’s emotional dysfunction.
So the spouse who is complaining and grumbling is in denial. But you don’t need to be. If you are an assertive person, you will be vilified and torn to shreds by someone who is a grumbler and arguer. But THEY are the ones who perpetuate the darkness, while YOU are exposing the darkness to the light of truth. It takes guts to do that, and there are consequences to pay. The darkness does not go quietly. But that’s how you can tell who the REAL grumbler and arguer is.
So how do you avoid falling into the grumbler and arguer trap yourself?
When your abuser grumbles against you and argues with you, don’t give him anything to play with. Children like shiny toys that move and make noise. They get bored with a toy that does nothing. You want your abuser to get bored with you. That means you need to stop reacting to his grumbling and arguing.
- Stop giving him feedback. It doesn’t work. It only lets him know that you are still a fun plaything – and he enjoys poking and seeing you dance.
- Stop answering his questions with answers that include your feelings and opinions. Don’t tell him your feelings. That’s FUN! Don’t share your opinions. That gives him fodder for arguing! FUN! Be boring. When he asks a question, give a yes or no answer. Or, if the question requires more than that, give him the bare minimum. Make it transactional. Be boring. BORING.
- When you need something from him, state it clearly with no emotion. If he doesn’t give it to you, figure out another way to get it. Work on not needing him. Try to involve him as little as possible in your life. BOOOORRRRIIINNNNGGGG.
- Make your own decisions. He isn’t your Daddy. He isn’t God. He’s a human being with huge issues. He is a big boy who gets to decide for HIS life. You are a big girl who gets to decide for YOURS. Growing up means being a separate human being from your parents – and from anyone else in your life. (The verses about marriage making two, one – only apply for marriages in which there are two people keeping their vows. That’s not your marriage if you are reading this and nodding your head every 30 seconds. You are not “one” with an abuser. Ever. I’m currently in a healthy marriage, and we are TWO separate human beings who work on our OWN stuff – and we come together as healthy, whole individuals. Not as a host/blood sucker union.)
On that note, I’ll add that in my former marriage, I was very assertive but was accused of being “aggressive.” To be assertive means that you claim (not demand) your legitimate rights while respecting the rights of the other person. But dysfunctional people don’t like their partners to have legitimate rights. Therefore, when the abuse target stands up for herself, she is accused of being “aggressive.” If the abuser is a covert narcissist, he will passive aggressively get her back for stepping out of line by asserting her opinions and rights to have an opinion or viewpoint that differs from his.
In my current marriage, I continue to be assertive, but my husband LOVES and respects that about me. He is not passive aggressive. Instead, he is also assertive – and we both come to the table in total frankness, honesty, and mutual respect to tackle problems. It is a JOY to be in this kind of marriage, and each hurdle we face only brings us closer together and into deeper intimacy. It’s a beautiful thing.
So for those of you who fear you are what your abuser calls you – you aren’t. It’s them. Not you. And if you were with a healthy person, your strengths would be rewarded with peace and joy. Not grumbling and arguing.
So next time you read those verses or someone slams them down your gullet, flip them upside down and inside out, and sigh with relief.
Oh, and be boring. 🙂