As I struggle with my anger over the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard I read a story regarding Elizabeth Smart as well.
In both cases, the accused abductor seems to have been motivated by religious extremism, Ed Smart said.
"It makes you angry that anyone would use God as an excuse to rationalize their predatory behavior," he said.
It amazes me that most people can connect the dots with the religious abuse - among other forms of abuse - with these two ladies, but can't see the downright screwy thinking of the church regarding domestic violence of all forms.
I mean they use GOD to rationalize the abusive behaviors towards family members ALL THE TIME!
WORK ON YOURSELF
I remember years back when I started on my journey of learning that I had experienced abuse. What I was living with was indeed abuse - verbal and emotional abuse. I didn't recognize the physical abuse right away. I assumed that getting the snot kicked out of me was the only form of physical abuse. I learned later that was incorrect as well.
There were a number of people that KNEW I was being abused, and yet never pointed that out to me. They never told me I was being abused. I had never heard of emotional abuse, verbal abuse at the time. They knew I was in the dark about the issues, and instead I was told to 'work on myself'. That was a form of religious abuse to me. Why? It was never validated that what I was dealing with was WRONG on so many levels. I don't have an issue with 'working on yourself', but how can you truly do the work that is needed if people can't vocalize the core issues?
If you can't call out the sin that was happening in my life HOW do you work on it? How can you 'work on yourself' if no one will tell you what you are dealing with? People say that abuse victims are codependent. How certain behaviors of that codependency actually enables the abuser to continue. How you need to learn proper boundaries, and learn to disengage when it comes to certain actions or behaviors. That was 'secular' talk. I don't agree with some of the opinions of the secular concept either, but at least they hit closer to validating my reality at the time!
God, the Cosmic Janitor would fix everything if I just did things the right way! I loved the way Adventures in Mercy described this concept so well! How if I just believed in the Spiritual Pixie Dust they were handing me all would be well! Just follow their instructions step by step, and things will just magically turn around! My faith and commitment to my marriage would be in question if I wasn't willing to do so after all! Do this to the best of my ability! They would tell me if 'best of my ability' was fulfilled! For some reason I wasn't able to gauge that from what I was told. Their definition was religious extremism, and they always had an out about HOW you must not be doing something right if it didn't work!
So how do you 'work on yourself'? Here is the quote from Adventures in Mercy that I thought nailed it on the head!
When I was twenty and full of idealism, I thought that being a Christian meant I would be spared from heartache and spared from the bad things that happen to those poor non-Christians. I thought that if another person said they loved Jesus (and honestly did), that meant they would not do bad things, or that, if they did, they would quickly ammend them upon consideration.
I thought that if I followed the five steps to success, or the a-b-c’s of perfect family’s, or plastered Bible verses all over my wall, that we would be protected from sin and the fall and the destruction that it brings. I thought the Bible-based books I bought would help me fix all problems. I thought that Christian service and Bible memorization would innoculate us from dealing with hard things in hard ways.
I thought that Real Life on Planet Earth didn’t apply to me.
That attitude is so common its sickening! I do remember questioning this concept, but I was quickly shamed over that way of thinking. Why didn't I clue into the fact that was the wrong way of handling things as well? I was used to being shamed, guilted, and told WHAT is WRONG WITH YOU! Just follow the program WILL YA! That wasn't just happening with my marriage, but also my childhood had shadowed this same line of thinking. They had a different way of doing it, and I just assumed that is how the world turned.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
There are situations in life where the phrase does apply, but NOT within an abusive environment. I couldn't understand WHY people need to nit pic over every last detail to find that ONE portion of the relationship that was wrong - so they could use this phrase to hang their hat on!
OH dear! It sounds like your husband tends to be a bit of neat freak, and all you need to do is STEP IT UP a bit in the cleaning of your home! I always go out of my way to SERVE my husband in ways he likes! Granted my husband wouldn't call me those filthy names if I didn't, but maybe there are other things you are doing to push those buttons of his! It takes TWO TO TANGO!
What does that tell a victim? It tells them that their house cleaning that isn't up to par for the abuser, and you pushed their button by NOT doing it THEIR way! Granted SOME people don't call people NAMES over this, but there has to be something else IN ADDITION to this to make him act this way!
You see people within the christian bubble don't act irrational! ONCE you get married all the rules CHANGE! Look for that reason they were justified so you can STOP IT the next time! We are sinners that can't call out the sin without finding the sin on the other side as well! NOW - try finding that verse in the bible!
All their advice did was make me feel worse. I was this bad awful person that caused others to abuse me. I wasn't good enough in childhood, and now not good enough in marriage. People will ALWAYS find something wrong with me! I will never have the 'chaste' behavior down perfectly, and I will always be doing something in my life to screw it up! I will never be deserving of love, respect and honor. Why? I'm not perfect and never will be. I followed the program, and yet my effort wasn't good enough. How can I be good enough for you God?
People with a crushed spirit have now been ground into the earth, and transformed into DUST!
SPIRITUAL PIXIE DUST OR SECULAR ADVICE
I found the concept of verbal abuse one night on the internet, and it was recommended that I read, "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" by Patricia Evans. I have to tell you it was hurtful and painful to read, but it was like a LIGHT went on in my life! I remember since I lived in a black and white world some of the concepts didn't apply, so of course I spent alot of time talking myself OUT of this concept of 'verbal abuse'. I didn't fulfilled every last concept, so of course it didn't apply to me.
I went outside the church for help with encouragement from people online. I was asked to contact my local domestic violence shelter. The thought of that scared the daylights out of me. Are they going to tell me my situation doesn't apply? Are they going to tell me it isn't that bad? What if they tell me I was silly, and called the wrong place? The thought of more rejection just paralyzed me. I just couldn't figure out WHAT I was doing wrong that made life so painful! I'm NOT saying I felt I was an angel, and perfect in every way! Believe me life had already shown me I was far from that! I think I just didn't wish to risk someone telling me yet again how this had to be something I did to cause this. I felt awful because I couldn't figure out what that evil was within me, and what they attempted to show me about myself certainly didn't fit the bill of evil.
Because It Matters recently wrote an article about her struggles called, Dealing With the Aftermath of Abuse.
When I was in my late 20s I realized I had nightmares most nights and had for as long as I could remember. These nightmares were the product of the church terror motivation campaign – the world is out to get Christians and will torture and kill us all if they get a chance (including showing graphically violent movies depicting this to teens and adults – talk about abuse!); the government is controlled by evil gremlins who hate Christians and will tear apart Christian families if they get a chance; etc.
On the other side of the coin was the church’s constant drill that I was inherently evil and unacceptable. In real life I was regularly held up for public reprimand and ridicule in youth group and at Christian school and that phenomenon appeared in my dreams frequently as well – though I followed the rules religiously. Fortunately, I knew my parents loved me, but in my dreams they turned on me just like the church did. Those dreams were a reflection of what was happening in real life, just magnified and concentrated.
Realizing I was being plagued by nightmares allowed me to address those fears on a conscious level. But they reappear from time to time still. In more recent years, the dreams that haunt me are of my marriage and rejection by the church.
The Religious Extremism kept me feeling guilt and shame. I learned that even if you are unequally yoked that a magically transformation by your chaste behavior could even turns things around. I was noticing that no matter WHAT your circumstance was 'people with little faith' were the ones that struggled, and didn't think their life would turn around if they followed their program. I was beginning to wonder if the mercy, grace and love was something you get to experience once you got into heaven only. WELL for certain people like me of course! I couldn't do anything right so of course that didn't apply.
I learned alot of the advice I was receiving was making my situation worse, and the shaming that I felt over it was a form of religious abuse. If you can't vocalize the reality of my world you can't help me cope with it. I learned within the years the church does divert conversations about my life just like he did. They projected their issues upon me just like he did. SURE it was a different form, but between the both worlds? My faith and home? Both made me feel worse about ME, and I was wondering if I would ever be good enough to love. Love like they said God loves you - not the 'love is just a feeling' type they hit you with. That statement confused me in my circumstance and I felt I was expecting to much from my life and faith. Maybe I was just solidly warped.
My counseling with the domestic violence shelter validated some of the things I wanted to own that no one would allow me to. It wasn't my fault, or something I did to HIM to make him abuse me. Being a better wife doesn't stop the abuse. Playing my role better doesn't change him. They didn't encourage me to leave and divorce. They didn't attack my faith. They didn't shove divorce lawyers down my throat, and tell me how MAN oppressed me. They didn't do any of the things that I was told they would do. They were perfectly okay with me taking a long time to feel safe around them.
The second book I read was Lundy Bancroft's, 'Why does he do that? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men'. I have to say I think I enjoyed that book more than Patricia's book. He broke things down into smaller pieces for me to understand. He spoke of different types of abusive behavior, and he labeled them for me. Some of the behaviors I didn't experience, but there were some I clearly did. WOW it wasn't my imagination afterall! People do actually ACT like this, and YES it is okay to admit it is damaging! WOW! Why did I have to stay in this tortured state all this time? Why can't people just admit it? I had to wonder after a while if they felt the group might question their faith, walk, etc if they dared validate me.
I did find some faith based material on the subject after a while, and I found that huge chucks of it are rejected by the church. The books I spoke about helped me own my reality, and learn to cope with it. My counseling at the domestic violence shelter helped me learn about aspects of me and my experiences in life that were priceless. I found forums online like OUR PLACE, that I could talk to both people of faith...lol and just plain secular people that helped me on this journey.
I found that God does love me, and he will help me along my journey. I'm okay speaking my truth, and if people want to attempt shame me over it? So be it! I won't live their reality anymore. Its not healthy for me. Its okay to have my voice, and speak out against their contradictions and unhelpful viewpoints. Its okay to tell them they are damaging the people they claim they wish to help. God gave me the gifts he gave me, and he also gave me the strength and love he wanted me to have. Man will not tell me not to use them due to some equation they have to fulfill their definition of a Christ follower. I like reality better. My life has alot of hurts, but now I can feel God's love. With all their advice? That is something they just couldn't show me. Their pride and unwillingness to humble themselves to that reality shows me things that I needed to see. They may claim I'm blind, but who is seriously! Who is blind here? It took books, forum, domestic violence shelter, and some fellow Christians that think outside the box to help me see that God loves me. I'm okay with all my warts, because he still loves me. He doesn't have unrealistic hoops for me, and he lead to healing.
I don't need the Religious Extremism, and their list of rules to follow their program. I refuse to take the shame and guilt over their religious abuse to keep me down from reality. I will pray for them, and I hope they soon see the light of truth is better than warping reality into something that makes it more palatable for them.
Mr. Smart said: "It makes you angry that anyone would use God as an excuse to rationalize their predatory behavior," he said. Isn't though?
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