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Archive for January, 2013


 

Refer to Step 7: I will make a detailed, written account of my abusive experiences, as well as my subsequent behavior. I commit to being as thorough and honest as I’m able.

There is a weird power in a spoken word . . . and a word carries far—very far—deals destruction through time as the bullets go flying through space.

—Joseph Conrad

Words are more powerful than most people can comprehend. No matter how much you desire to do so, you can never retract hurtful words spoken in the heat of an argument. Once they leave your mouth, those words can never be retrieved. Nearly everybody can remember hurtful words that were maliciously spoken when they were children, even decades earlier. For many, the pain from a rebuke can be felt years after it was delivered.

Hurtful, scolding words make indelible imprints on our minds and on our hearts. The wounds they inflict may last a lifetime. Unfortunately, apologies don’t erase them from our memories—nothing can. The Scriptures tell us that no man can “tame the tongue. It’s a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The power of words is incredible, especially negative, abusive ones.

Several years ago, a survey asked mothers to keep a daily record of how many times they made negative and positive comments to their children. The results were startling. The mothers documented that they made critical remarks ten times more often than encouraging words.

Statistics reveal that in an average household, children hear “no” or are told they “can’t” more than 148,000 times by the time they reach eighteen. One school did its own three-year survey and discovered the teachers were negative with their students 75 percent of the time. The study also determined that it required four positive statements from a teacher to offset the effects of one negative statement.

Why not take a few minutes and write down the negative things you have said to someone you care about? If you do, it will help you to think before you speak, and it can also help you make a positive impact upon another. Saying something positive can help heal a broken relationship. By encouraging someone today, it will also help advance your recovery. So, be merciful to someone who is wounded—someone who is in desperate need of validation.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Psalm 18:21)

Jack Watts

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Refer to Step 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

—Winston Churchill

It’s important for everybody to learn how to recognize spiritual abusiveness. Obviously, there are many ways it can manifest itself, but one of the most common ways is financially. In this area, let the buyer beware is an appropriate saying. It’s not a Scriptural verse, but it’s certainly true.

Here are some things to always look for. When a church or ministry is obsessed with money, it’s motivated by materialism, which is not a fruit of God’s Spirit. In essence, they tell you, “Give your money to God, but be certain to use my address.” To accomplish their goal, they either make you feel guilty about not giving, or they appeal to your own sense of greed.

The former is self-explanatory, but the latter requires clarification. When you are told to give so that you can receive more, there’s nothing Christian about this. It’s greed, and there’s nothing noble or praiseworthy about it. If you believe anything else, you are deceiving yourself and playing right into the hands of those who want to take your money deceitfully. The end result is religious abuse.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of ministries eager to exploit you in this way. There’s an entire Christian faction dedicated to this, which is called the “prosperity gospel” movement. You should never give expecting anything in return. It means you haven’t given; you’re investing, expecting a dividend. Don’t do it, and don’t feel guilty for refusing.

You need to examine your own heart about this. When you give, is it really giving, or are you actually expecting something for yourself? If it’s the latter, it’s materialism motivated by greed, which Christ never did. Such behavior doesn’t count for anything and, to believe that it does, reveals nothing but a lack of discernment on your part.

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing; that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 5:3-4)

Jack Watts

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Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

 

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart . . . Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

—Carl Jung

People who have experienced religious abuse become “stuck” in their anger, remaining trapped for years by the pain of their wounds. Sometimes, they remain this way for the rest of their lives. Often, you will hear them say:

  • “It isn’t me. He’s the one that’s wrong. Let him apologize first.”
  • “She did this to me, and I’ll never go back until she makes things right.”
  • “I’m right; they’re wrong—end of story.”

Wearing their hurt feelings on their sleeves, abused Christians retreat from spirituality to pursue half-lives, where festering bitterness becomes their predominant characteristic.

Because we live in a society where bitterness is not condoned, they become masters of disguise, hiding their true feelings behind a facade of smiles and pleasantries, but it’s there—just below the surface, producing relational difficulties that take a toll upon everyone in the abused person’s life.

Does this sound like you? Have you had an experience similar to this? If so, you’re not alone. Nearly every abused person—whether it’s religious or spousal abuse—has had an experience like this.

The problem is that by allowing your wounds to fester, you become the prisoner of the person responsible for the abuse, and they don’t care what harm it’s exacting upon you. If they did, they wouldn’t have abused you in the first place. Although it doesn’t seem fair—and it isn’t—the responsibility for getting back on track is yours and not theirs. By waiting for your abuser to “make things right,” you’re wasting your life—not theirs, yours. It’s like saying; “I’ll get even with you by hurting me.” It’s illogical and ineffective.

To become whole again, you must make a conscious commitment to become “unstuck,” and the only way to do this is by acknowledging that the responsibility for getting back on track is yours and nobody else’s. This may not be an easy pill to swallow, but to achieve fulfillment in life, it’s the right medicine—no doubt about it.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Jack Watts   My Story

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Father,

When You want my attention,

You know how to get it.

There are times when I feel

Like You aren’t really there,

Like You don’t really care,

Like my life has little meaning,

And I am without value to anyone.

Then, through my circumstances,

You shake me to the core, and I am undone.

As You begin your relentless pruning,

At first, I don’t recognize what’s happening,

And I cry out, ”Why me, Lord?”

I don’t like what is going on.

It’s painful and uncomfortable,

Which makes me resist Your efforts

To mold me into the man I am supposed to be,

The man you are diligently reshaping.

I want to be your man. I want to be

Strong, resourceful, and resilient,

But I want it to come easily, without effort,

But it never does. I guess it never will.

You understand that, while I don’t,

So I chafe at Your pruning,

Which is focused and precise.

When I realize what is happening,

I bow me knee and acknowledge,

That Your hand is hard,

But Your love is unwavering.

When You finish, You seem pleased,

Realizing that my future will be bountiful,

And of greater value than what came before.

Jack Watts

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Father,

I am undone and badly crushed,

As those who seek what little is left,

Fight over scraps of my being—

Over pieces of my shattered soul.

How long will You leave me exposed

And vulnerable to ravenous predators—

To those who seek to destroy me?

Tell me, Lord, when will it be enough?

When will You protect Your wounded child?

When will You move Your mighty hand to help?

Question: Have you ever felt like this? Do you still feel this way? What other emotions does this touch inside you?

Character destruction is often what abusers intend. It hard to believe that there can be people who are so mean-spirited, but there are. To recover from such malicious treatment, the abusee needs to make a conscious, concerted effort to reject the castigating message, which has undermined their self-esteem.

 

Journal: Write about what you have done to try and counteract your abuse, paying particular attention to how it has impacted your self-esteem.

If I could have chosen my way, I would have chosen a softer, easier way, while God’s choice for me was much different. Like a good parent, He wanted me to grow up and be an adult.

Journal: Write about your life after you were abused, paying particular attention to secondary difficulties that added complications to your life.

The only way to avoid it is to become forgiving. It’s why Christ said, “Love your enemies,” which is the most difficult thing in the world to do. It’s requires God’s love in your life to do so; but once you have let it go, the pain from it will diminish and eventually disappear.

 

Journal: Write about what you have done to forgive your abuser. If you haven’t done anything, write about why you refuse to grant forgiveness. Remember to be as transparent as you know how to be.

 

Being Christ-like works; nothing else does. It draws people to the Lord much more effectively than a three-minute testimony from a stranger. The former is genuine, while the latter is little more than an infomercial—something contrived, forced, and disingenuous—something that never delivers as much as it promises.

Question: Don’t you prefer to be genuine than to try and be something you are not? Does reading this paragraph make you feel freer or more constricted? Think about your answers and how each makes you feel.

Jack Watts   Books to Help You Recover

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Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to provide me with the power to carry it out.

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us daily.

—Sally Koch

As a child of God, you are only expected to lift Him up—not push Him. Nothing more. That’s our entire responsibility. Isn’t it freeing just to read this and take it in, knowing that it’s okay to just be yourself?

I can’t save a person any more than I can damn them. Neither can you. We don’t have anything to do with it. We don’t have a vote in the matter—never have, never will. Those decisions are left up to God—where they belong. If that’s true—and it is; then, what is our part in the process?

It’s to lift up Christ, which we do every time we act out of the nature He has imparted to us, rather than out of our own, self-serving natures. If I act out of my own best interest and nothing more, I miss an opportunity to lift Him up. When I am Christ-like, I display love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruit of God’s Spirit.

When I suffer for the Lord, I’m also lifting Him up. When I choose His way over materialism, I’m lifting Him up. When I’m kind, expecting nothing in return, I’m lifting Him up.

When I seek my own way, I’m not. The greatest problem comes when we deceive ourselves into believing our will is God’s will, and we press for it at the expense of others. It doesn’t work, and it manifests a poor witness for Christ.

Being Christ-like works; nothing else does. It draws people to the Lord much more effectively than a three-minute testimony from a stranger. The former is genuine, while the latter is little more than an infomercial—something contrived, forced, and disingenuous—something that never delivers what it promises.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

Jack Watts   Resources to Help

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Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He desires, and I ask Him to heal my pain. Because God forgives us as we forgive others, I chose to forgive my abusers.

 

In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

—John Steinbeck

Some people are so offended with their abusers they assert, “I will never forgive them—never in a million years.” When they say this, it’s usually said with such deep, bitter resentment. They are crystal clear they mean what they have said. Their enmity is so engrained; they refuse to even consider forgiveness.

From their perspective, it’s easy to understand their refusal. After all, they didn’t do anything wrong; their abusers did. The offended person’s attitude indicates that if anybody needs to apologize, it is their abuser not them.

Many become so hardened in this position they become entrenched and immovable. Unable to recognize that their hardened hearts adversely impact them and not their abusers, they “hunker down,” nurturing their anger, which they adamantly believe is their right to do.

By feeding their bitterness rather than dealing with it, however, it doesn’t occur to them that abusive people produce more abusive people. That’s right; most people who experience abuse have been abused themselves. They simply follow suite, becoming just like the people they hate. Abuse begets abuse as inevitably as night follows day.

The only way to avoid bitterness is to become forgiving. It’s why Christ said, “Love your enemies,” which is the most difficult thing in the world to do. It’s requires God’s love in your life to do so. Nothing else works, but once you have let it go, the pain from your abuse will diminish and eventually disappear. At first, you will not feel the relief; but over time, you’ll realize it’s gone. Once it has, you will be profoundly grateful. I promise it you will.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Ephesians 4:30-31)

Jack Watts   Recovery Material

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