Correct With Love

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photo credit: Kurdistan Photo ???????? kurdistan via photopin (license)

 

The next time someone is wrong on the internet, let’s try to remember that correction requires a loving relationship, or it won’t be received well. Usually, it is best to just stop and pray. If God does ever ask us to correct his children for him, it is wise to first connect with God’s children and positively and nurture them, meeting their needs in a loving manner. If we take time to do that, we will be much better received. In this context, correction is a positive affirmation of relationship instead of the negative rejection it is when it is disconnected from a warm, nurturing relationship.

Let’s also remember we need loving correction ourselves and seek nurturing relationships where we will get nudged into the right direction safely. We can get through bad days by relying on a nurturing relationship with someone we can trust to lovingly, gently correct us while praising what we get right more frequently and patiently listening even if we don’t say everything as respectfully as we should. I strongly recommend we all have that relationship with Father God and Jesus Christ our Lord.

If you happen to have a good parent or spouse who qualifies, too, great. However, we need to keep the Lord as our first go-to person or our loved one will become an idol. Three reasons to avoid that. One, idolatry hurts God like our spouses committing adultery would hurt us. Two, even the best people won’t always be there for us, but God is always with his people. Three, idols often will fall off of their pedestals, but God will never fail you. So spare God and yourself a lot of pain and keep God first.

Now, some of us have conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder which cause rejection sensitivity. When triggered, it produces a physical anxiety that some would call “negative energy.” Whatever we call it, we are often tempted to think this comes from the person triggering us, blaming them. In reality, it comes from our own flesh’s response to our own perception of rejection.

Perception is not reality. Nonetheless, our flesh reacts to our perception. Our flesh’s reaction often triggers more negative behavior in the other person. And it can cause rejection where none had been. This cycle can be broken, if we can change our perception of others’ negative behavior. For example, what if, instead of perceiving rejection, we saw an indication the person is hurting and needs help? How would we respond differently? How might our more compassionate response improve their disposition?

This is far from easy, of course, and we do all need to be careful if someone truly means us harm.

Still, God can help us if we pray, acknowledge our weakness, and ask him to give us his eyes. He can also help us to treat others with respect and love even when we still find their behavior disrespectful and unloving. Again, abuse survivors, this does not mean we must let abusers keep hurting us. It means to set boundaries with respect and love. Typically, an abuser will decry any manner of boundary-setting as rude and unloving, so don’t allow them to be the judge. Let God show you how to love and respect the abuser as you also stop enabling them to keep sinning against you.

Finally, when you or a loved one is honestly struggling and truly wish to do better, give yourself or your loved one grace. Recognize where your and/or your loved one is at that day and set reasonable expectations of what can be accomplished. Lower the bar clear to basic safety levels, if necessary. Decide together on three baby steps in the right direction and take those steps together. Little by little can accomplish much and build confidence for more tomorrow.

[tweetthis]Correct With Love #Christiandiscipline #Spiritualgrowth #boundaries #abuse [/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]Before you correct God’s children, connect with and lovingly nurture them, meeting their needs. Godly correction is done with love, in a healthy relationship. [/tweetthis]

Why do abuse victims keep silent for years?

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photo credit: Ömer Ünlü romantic sunset via photopin (license)

This question is being asked mostly in related to sexual assault victims coming forward. I won’t get into any of those cases. Politics and current events are not in my realm of expertise and this blog isn’t about current events or politics.

However, I do have an interest in abuse culture, otherwise known as the dynamics of a dysfunctional tribe. I would like to answer this question for those who sincerely want to know. And the church is made up of flawed humans, from many backgrounds, so it could help make peace in church disputes to offer up my understanding of how dysfunctional tribes operate. I have seen the survivors God has delivered from that toxic environment attacked in the church, too, for, say, “turning on” a fallen church leader after propping him up by covering up his secret, ongoing, unrepentant sin. So for those of you who sincerely want to know why a real victim may well wait years before shining light on deeds done in darkness, here’s why.

Keep in mind, this is a general answer on abuse culture and dysfunctional tribes. Not on simply sexual abuse. These dynamics can appear in all types of abuse and dysfunctional environments. A dysfunctional tribe can be anything from a family, a workplace, a group of hobbyists, a political party, or even a church.

First, a dysfunctional tribe has dysfunctional/abusive leadership. Abusers in general often, but not always, hold positions of power, these can include: parent, spouse, boss, teacher, coach, pastor, politician, doctor, and any other authorities a particular tribe may respect. Abusers holding important positions in the victim’s life often instill a real fear of the victim coming forward leading to the abuser harming the victim both directly and by turning the tribe against the victim. The abuser often succeeds at that. S/he often presents him or herself in public as a good guy/woman. One of the dysfunctional tribe’s rules is believing in and upholding this public image. This can be so ingrained, only neutral outsiders or members of an “enemy” tribe stand by the victim. The “enemy tribe” may be functional advocates for victims who truly help or another dysfunctional tribe just using the victim to advance their cause.

Abusers are usually found in dysfunctional tribes, and they usually target their own tribe members. Their victims are often brain-washed by the abuser and/or their tribe to keep silent. In such cultures, the victim coming forward, naming names especially, is deemed worse than what the abuser did. The tribe will defend the abuser and attack the victim, convinced the abuser is the real victim. The abuser convinces themselves and their tribe that they only hurt people who deserve it. In the tribe’s rules, it is often the tribe member’s responsibility to bow to the abuser’s every whim and manage their emotions for them. Until the victim gets outside the dysfunctional tribe, the victim may be unaware that managing the abuser’s emotions is solely the abuser’s own responsibility. It can take years for some victims to heal enough to accept it wasn’t their own fault, that they didn’t deserve treated like they were.

The abuser frequently will also insist the person coming forward has blown everything out of proportion, is making things up, or is crazy and imagining things, that nothing like that ever happened. Again, within the abuser’s tribe, this often seems reasonable and the victim often fears everyone will side with the abuser against them. An internal, God-given sense of fairness can set off alarm bells in victims’ minds but it is still an enormous relief the first time an outsider sees what’s going on and says we’re right, it did happen, we truly weren’t treated fairly by our tribe, and we haven’t blown it out of proportion, they are minimizing it.

So, within an abuser’s dysfunctional tribe, there is enormous pressure on the victims to keep silent and bolster the abuser’s ego and good person/perfect saint image. It is far too common for a dysfunctional tribe’s members to surrender to pressure to outright lie to protect the tribe and their dysfunctional leadership from their dysfunctional reality. Why? They don’t want to be abused, too, they don’t know how to fix the dysfunction and fear shining a light on the tribe’s actual dysfunctional reality will only lead to their cause failing and/or the tribe disintegrating. That has happened, too, but such deceit only props up the fallen, keeps the fallen from having to deal with the consequences of their fall, and kills all hope of the fallen ever recovering.

Still, it takes great courage for someone accustomed to this to come forward and tell the truth any point after the fact. For many victims who do come forward, it is often due to encountering the next victim(s.) The first victim starts to think the subsequent victim(s) abuse is the first victim’s fault. Since it could have prevented by speaking up. The victim comes forward when that guilt grows greater than the guilt of speaking out against “a good man/woman, really, s/he just has a little problem with . . . ”

Another way victims within the tribe find their courage is when they see the dysfunctional tribe leader in some way attempting to position themselves to hurt even more people. When that happens, real victims are vulnerable to exploitation by their tribe’s enemies. Especially when the tribe’s enemies are kind and loving to the tribe’s victims while the victims’ now ex-tribe defends their ex-tribe and props up the abusers at the victims’ expense.

A dysfunctional tribe is often blind to their own contribution to a victim’s “fall to the enemy.” The more valid of an enemy it is, the more serious the victim’s fall is, the blinder the tribe is to how the tribe has been a stumbling block to the victim.

Let’s be real now. Instead of objectively analyzing evidence offered against a trusted tribal authority, most of us are prone to dismiss it out of hand, sure it couldn’t be true. It is also too common for people to think their enemy tribe’s failings outweigh and somehow justify our tribe’s own. When a victim exposes one of our own, our eyes are prone to seek any reason the victim is the guilty one, and to question why they didn’t come forward sooner. The short “why” is because the abuser’s own tribe holds power in the victim’s life and will assume the victim is the one in the wrong without proof of that rather than give serious consideration to evidence of the abusers’ guilt that is coming in the form of eyewitness testimony.

Rather than dismiss eyewitness testimony out of hand, let’s at least seek actual proof the witness isn’t credible.

Now, it’s apparent many of us don’t know the difference between eyewitness testimony, other evidence, and accusations. To the best of my understanding, I’ll give some examples:

Accusation: “She/he is X negative identity.”

Eyewitness testimony: “This person did X wrong act to me or someone else in front of me. Here are the details to the best of my memory, given with the discretion called for by the nature of the act.”

Counter Accusation: “S/he is a liar!”

Counter Evidence: “Here are multiple separate cases where the same person has targeted multiple separate powerful men who fit a certain profile with asexual assault accusations. Here are recorded calls/emails/letters sent to all of the accused, demanding hush money or otherwise attempting to blackmail all of the accused.”

Counter Evidence: The same person has told the same story six different ways six different times and contradicts him/herself.

Counter Evidence: Four eye-witnesses to Christ’s execution and resurrection give the exact same account of the same event. This would have been evidence of liars colluding on a story. What we actually find in the Bible is four separate eye-witnesses giving testimony that contradicts each other on minor, insignificant details. Such is evidence the eye-witnesses are four ordinary humans telling the truth to the best of their own recollections.

In our modern tribal disputes, often, both sides of a dispute are contradicting each other and calling the other side a liar. We need to examine the credibility of both sides’ arguments objectively. That can be tricky, as it is human to be biased in the favor of our own tribe and the tribal authorities we love and respect. We could all stand to check our biases and more fairly evaluate the evidence and the objective credibility of eye-witness testimony. If, on careful examination, one side of a modern flap is giving detailed eyewitness testimony and the other side is mainly throwing out accusations and deflecting responsibility for their own behaviors, the latter side is at least acting guilty.

So, if you are innocent and someone is falsely accusing you, it’s best to resist letting yourself get caught up in defending yourself and lashing back at your enemy. Especially if you’re a Christian; that is not what our God calls us to do. Instead, pause. Reflect on how things looked from the other person’s viewpoint and ask “what could I have done to discourage incidents like this in the future?” Without taking the answer as justifying any wrongs done against you. It doesn’t. These steps are meant to help you calm down and to calm down the situation with a contrite, humble response.

Sociopaths, narcissists, and many other dysfunctional tribal leaders NEVER consider others viewpoints or admit to their own faults, and certainly not in public. In most situations, we’ll find we did contribute, though how we could’ve avoided the incident does not make it our fault. Unless the incident was ourselves lashing out, of course. Either way, owning your contribution, apologizing, and seeking to change can show either your innocence or genuine repentance and make peace. Victims are scared to try that, though, and our reasons can be valid with dysfunctional tribes and abusers. Pray hard before trying that tactic on an abuser or a dysfunctional tribe known to be apt to use your admitted flaws against you. Either way, take the brave road. Resist defending yourself. Resist lashing back. Instead seek to offer kindness, respect, love, a humble, soft response, knowing God is with you and will help you.

 

[tweetthis]Why victims keep silent so long: the dark side of #tribes #dysfunctional #coveringupabuse[/tweetthis]

Flashback Friday: “Warning!” Poem (Hi My name is Prejudice)

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Here is my obligatory denunciation of racism, and all other forms of prejudice for that matter, left as I first wrote it at sixteen. Note as a teenager I was warning us all to beware of our own prejudices first and foremost. Change begins with ourselves.

Warning!

Hi! My name is prejudice
You better beware of me.
Because I come in every shape
And any size, you see.
You can never be exactly sure
Who I am or where I’ll be.
Red, black, white, or polka dots
It matters not to me.
As long as I’m causing irrational fear
And panic, I’m as happy as can be.
So go ahead and play your games,
All you want with me.
I don’t care, but you best beware.
Because my name is prejudice, you see
And I can be anyone and everyone
No one is safe from me.
Lock your doors & windows, if you dare.
You can’t escape from me.
I’ll find you, all the same
And you’ll never even know it was me.
What I do you want to know?
Fine, but you didn’t here it from me.
I am the king of irrational fear and panic.
I feed off of ignorance and low self esteem.
I fill your head with false truths.
And your heart with fear, you see.
I’ll take away your very soul.
Leaving a lifeless mongrel to replace.
Away I’ll fling your true friends
And leave only the other victims of me.
I’ll turn you into your worst fear.
Just another clone of me.
Hi! My name is Prejudice
And you better beware of me.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Flashback Friday: “Warning!” #Poem Hi My name is Prejudice. You’d better beware of me. #racismsucks [/tweetthis]

Impoverished Gospel, Part One

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By Adam Graham

Note from Andrea: This article begins a two-part series on prayer by a special guest blogger, my sweet, thoughtful husband. The second part will post next Thursday.

war roomThe Kendrick Brothers’ latest film, War Room, finished second at last weekend’s box office. The film focuses on the power of prayer. For many, that’s a problem. Some have accused the film of preaching a prosperity gospel that says all you have to do is pray in faith and your family’s problems will all go away.

I see the film as a mostly positive illustration of the power of prayer, but I also see how it could play into the hands of the false prosperity teachers. However, prosperity teachers aren’t the only sources of a warped view of prayer. This is important. Of all the areas where I’ve received poor teaching, none has done more harm than the variety of awful teaching I’ve received on prayer.

Growing up, the big thing was health. A popular sermon was, “Is it God’s Will to Heal Everybody?” The answer given was yes. The problem? As a child, I was often sick with bronchial infections. It recurred several times a year and hung on, time and time again, for weeks on. I begged God for relief and it never seemed to come.

When I was little, based on such teaching, I declared over my bronchial infections, “I am healed, and I was healed.” It was a nice, positive confession, but the illness continued to return to torture me round after round. As I grew older, I lost confidence that I would ever get better. Indeed, to this day, I have a bout once or twice a year with the same affliction that’s stalked me since my early days. I wasn’t alone in getting disillusioned from a lack of healing. I remember talking to a dear, sweet brother with chronic pain. He left a fellowship because he couldn’t live up to that standard of God healing him.

Thankfully, my never receiving a miraculous healing didn’t lead me to abandon God. I knew people who were healed, genuinely, absolutely, clearly miraculously healed, and only God could have done it. My conclusion was something was wrong with my faith and I couldn’t fix it. In the back of my mind was the idea maybe God didn’t love me as much as he loved others whose prayers seemed to be readily answered.

My confusion was infused with cynicism as I realized for some people, “I’ll pray about it,” meant, “I’m going to use prayer as an excuse to do nothing.”

At the first church I attended in Boise, I then heard a very clear message: God doesn’t want to hear about all your little selfish needs. “He doesn’t want to hear your selfish lists of requests.” This abusive church commanded us to only pray for others, and that’s what I did. Whole years passed where I would hardly mention my own needs to God.

It had been drilled into me that prayer was important and not doing it was bad for you. Prayer became the spiritual equivalent of an unpleasant medical exam: not fun but it’s got to be done.

I loved praying in groups because I did believe God would care about that prayer. Things that were prayed by groups had gotten God’s attention. He’d promised to move if two or three agreed. But me? Would my prayers ever change anything? Certainly not.

I did things for God and tried my best. Yet a lot of my effort was wasted. It’d be a mess or just unfruitful as I did my best to tilt at windmills and found the windmills winning.

Of course, I’d never publicly affirm that to be the case. I hardly admitted it to myself because it was too shameful to admit. But it’s had an effect on my life nonetheless. I worry too much and get way too stressed. I don’t have the peace I should have.
prayingman
I read scripture verses that I desperately wished would define my life but didn’t. They’d almost make me cry with longing for them to be true. Cast your cares upon him for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7) In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6) That’d be nice, and I wanted it to be true, and to reign in my life, but it didn’t.

Instead, I carried far too much on myself. In the process of rejecting the tacky idea of the abundant life with perfect health now and everyone having a Cadillac and a boat, I’ve also missed out on experiencing what Christ meant by that phrase in the book of John.

However, God is working on me and one thing that ministered to me over the last couple of years is Diane Moody’s book Confessions of a Prayer Slacker (Second Edition). I got it free on Kindle, and it was the best free book I’ve ever gotten. It’s an honest book about how this author built her prayer life. She was honest about her struggles and the challenges she faced in doing it and it pushed me to making my prayer life a priority. And my Donna Fletcher Crow book Seasons of Prayer
has added some helpful organization.

Slowly but surely, I’ve drawn closer to God through prayer and the vast majority of days I’m remembering. I’m not where I should be, but I’m not where I was either. I sin a little less, fear a little less, and am moving closer to Him.

People who target a false doctrine often forget there’s more than one way to be wrong. For every churchgoer who thinks God owes them a BMW if they ask for it by faith in the name of Jesus, probably two or three wonder if there’s any point to praying at all. It’s this second group that War Room is meant to speak to.


Adam Graham is a follower of Christ and a contributor at PJ Media and Caffeinated Thoughts. He is the author of the novel, Tales of the Dim Knight (with his wife, Andrea) He has been an adult Sunday School teacher. He is also a former President of his local American Christian Fiction Writers Chapter. You can follow him on Twitter @idahoguy

[tweetthis]NEW! Two-part series on #prayer by special guest Adam Graham @idahoguy. #WarRoom[/tweetthis][tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]In targeting #falsedoctrine we forget there’s more than one way to be wrong. #prayer Impoverished Gospel[/tweetthis]

Hope for Lock Box Hearts

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lockbox heart

In my mid-teens, I wrote the following poem:

The Box

I locked my heart in a tin box
And threw away the key.
I ran from all like the fox,
But someday it will return to me.

 

Though I lost my tin box in my flight,
It returned to me to my surprise.
But alas, where is the key?
Without it, there is no hope for me.

 

So I must ask: Who has my key?
Would you please return it to me?

Guess who had the key?

When I look through the poetry I wrote in my teens, the ones not dedicated to Jesus, or not overtly about difficulties at school or home, were all about my imaginary boyfriend—or rather my hoped-for future husband–or crying after my imaginary ex-boyfriend had imaginarily beat me or otherwise broken my heart.

Yep, I was that kind of teenage girl once. This one was straight up a poetic confession about my defense mechanisms, hyper vigilance, on guard, emotionally withdrawn—in short, I was often too busy protecting myself from pain to let anyone in to love me, either. I had a lot of issues with going numb, shutting down, just going through the motions of life, only remembering what I needed to remember to function and survive at the time. It left most of my childhood a huge blank today with few memories retained. I fled into books and story worlds, both those others wrote and stuff I wrote—and I can remember the paracosms I created fairly well with a little effort.

As implied by the second stanza, to my surprise, God managed to reach me, to connect with a locked-up heart, teach me to trust the Lord and let in my Father God’s spirit, and submit to the long, slow, painful healing process. It began with an awareness of the dangers of my state and a desire for healing and freedom.

As a young, emotionally abused teenager, I imagined what I needed for my heart to heal and for me to come out of my shell was the love of the right boy. I also wanted my first serious boyfriend to be the man I married and to marry the one God meant for me to marry. God only gave me the second. When I met my husband, Adam, in college, I was no longer hoping God would send me a mortal man to rescue me as the Church’s Bridegroom was the great love of my life healing, teaching, and spiritually growing me, and helping me connect with others. I still have issues but I’m far better than I used to be.

you had mineI’d forgotten all about this poem when, for our anniversary one year, Adam got me a cutesy card with a heart on it and an attached key meant to go on a charm bracelet. The words inside read, “you’ve had mine from the start.”

Nonetheless, my heart seized, though consciously I was more thinking “aw” at the intended meaning that I had the key to Adam’s heart in a romantic way.

Yet a young woman with a heart on fire for Jesus tore that key off the card and placed it on the cross necklace I’ve worn regularly ever since I received it as a gift from Adam back when we were engaged. In fact, I pried apart the loop that connects the cross to the chain (shoelace really) and added the key to the cross charm.

The jewelry that I wear around my neck, personally, has powerful symbolic meaning to me; what I wear over my heart is a testimony to—and a personal reminder—of what is supreme in my heart. God’s even convicted me for having added to the chain an angel charm that I’d dedicated to the children I’ve lost before they ever got to be more than a dream in my heart. (Note: my ‘angel babies’ aren’t literally angels.) God let that go for years; only when I was ready to surrender them to God was I asked to put that one away.

God had previously talked to me about idolizing my husband and dealt with that heart issue without the key charm ever being mentioned. When I got on a roll and went to remove everything I’d hung beside the cross, and saw how I’d even chained the key physically to the cross, I actually felt convicted to leave it and God began showing me what it really was meant to represent.

The answer to the prayer of the young girl I’d been. God owns my heart, so the key to my heart was God’s from the start. God thus had the key, and God had returned it to me as I’d so earnestly prayed. The symbolic one coming to me via my husband is gently humorous as when I wrote that I’d still been foolishly imaging a husband could ever do more than hand me powerful symbols that remind me of inward, unseen realities and be a vessel of God’s grace.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]God remembers what we’ve forgotten. He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. (See Joel 2:25-27)[/tweetthis]

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
–Joel 2:25-27