I recently came across this post on Eric Schumacher’s blog site. I thought it was excellent and wanted to share it with you. This is a take-off from C.S. Lewis’ book, “Screwtape Letters.”
The Gospel-Centered Abuser
My dear Foolsgold,
I read your last report with great interest and not a little pride. Your great-uncle Screwtape will be delighted to hear of your success. (He will, no doubt, claim responsibility for your accomplishments—though these, we know, should be credited to my account.)
A decade ago, when your patient entered “the ministry,” I feared the worst for your assignment. His charisma (as they call it), rapid growth in spirituality, and skill in both teaching the Book almost guaranteed him a large following and much success in that wretched outpost of the Enemy—the church.
You did well to encourage it and to “assist” him in these endeavors. Once a human has started down this route, it is almost impossible to reverse. There is no going back. Instead, we adjust the trajectory ever so slightly and increase the momentum. This way, by the time he has gone off course, it is impossible to slow down or stop. The damage is certain. The destruction is extreme.
Congratulations are in order…
Our Father Below will be especially pleased to hear of your patient’s treatment of other humans—especially those under his “care.” If we cannot cause a human to dishonor the Enemy in out-right blasphemy, the next best approach is to entice him to destroy those made in the image of the Enemy. For how one treats the image of the Enemy reveals what one thinks of the Enemy himself. You have made him an abuser—this is good. But even better, he is an abuser on multiple fronts.
Verbally, he uses his words with excessive force—disparaging, threatening, manipulating those in his family and in his so-called “flock” to get his way. Exquisite! The Enemy made all things through his Word—and calls his Son “The Word Made Flesh!” To use words to destroy and to deceive is a most ironic misrepresentation of the Enemy.
Sexually, you have convinced him that seducing vulnerable persons (particularly those who trust him and those who come to him for care) is a benefit both to them and to his ministry. How delightful! The one-flesh union in marriage was designed by the Enemy to communicate something about his love for his people. To make sex the act by which a wolf consumes a lamb is a brilliance of the darkest sort.
But the crowning achievement in this abuse—which you would have, no doubt, been unable to accomplish without my skilled oversight—is the spiritual variety. Your patient is entrusted with the care of the Enemy’s flock. The Enemy’s Son suffered for the good of his sheep. But your patient believes his station exists for his own pleasure and manipulates the sheep to serve his own interests! They call him a “shepherd,” but you have developed his taste for sheep! Even better—all this has been done in the name of the Enemy! Our Father Below will screech with delight.
Do not rest…
But this is no time for rest, my dear Foolsgold. Not in the least. There was a time in which such a man might be safe for decades—for life even! (Perhaps that day is not lost. But we must be diligent to stand guard.) There have been disturbing developments in your patient’s culture. Movements are afoot to empower victims to speak, to share their stories, and to confront such abusers. We have done much in the church and the world to discourage them, to cause others to doubt them, to shame and silence them. But more and more continue to speak.
And now—curse the Light!—churches are taking more significant measures to prevent, uncover, and respond to our work. Staff and volunteers are being trained. Parents are talking to children. Safeguards are put in place. Even worse, churches are cooperating with experts outside the church (curse his “common grace!”) instead of letting their own untrained people fumble investigation and response. (Note: Should you encounter this, be sure to characterize working with experts in the world as a threat to the sufficiency of the Enemy’s instructions and to the autonomy of the local church. This is an easy and surprisingly effective ruse among the undiscerning.)
We do hope that all this abuse awareness business is nothing but a passing fad. These humans are so fickle with their causes. (Even if it is isn’t, Foolsgold, it is always worth convincing the humans that it is a passing fad. Such cynicism will, as they say, lead some among them to “throw a wrench” in things.) But, fad or no, it is a dangerous movement that threatens our destruction of the Enemy’s image bearers. We must respond shrewdly. We must fight this fad with an equal and opposite fad. We must harness the power of misapplied Gospel-Centeredness.
The Power of Misapplied Gospel-Centeredness
“The Gospel!” you are sure to cry. Yes, you read that correctly. I know how painful the word is to ear and eye. However, the Bad News—in desperate times and only by the most skillful of practitioners—may be employed in our cause. And this season may be one such occasion.
The Gospel is the Bad News of the Enemy’s love for these pathetic beings. These humans hate the Enemy and one another. They even—as in the case of your patient—destroy one another! As our Father Below (being the most skillful and accurate of accusers) has argued in the presence of the Enemy: these vile creatures deserve the full and eternal wrath of the Enemy. They are enemies—no less than we! Nevertheless, the Bad News proclaims that he sent his Son to take on their flesh and endure his wrath in death to purchase their forgiveness. (I cannot bring myself to write what reportedly happened on the Third Day, though I am sure you have heard reports.)
Of late, there has been a resurgence of interest in the Bad News among the Enemy’s people. They call it “Gospel-Centeredness.” The best proponents of it see this Bad News informing, equipping, empowering, and motivating all they do. It is the most disgusting and repulsive of obsessions. We are working hard to end it. But, while Gospel-Centeredness is popular, there will always be self-serving glory-seekers who hope to catch a ride to the temple of Fame by hopping on this bandwagon. There is good news for us, my dearest Foolsgold: we can use the Bad News of the “Suffering Servant” to equip our patients to serve themselves.
Here, Foolsgold, are a handful of ways to form a Gospel-Centered Abuser.
1. Use the Gospel to Assuage the Conscience
It is difficult to discern whether a patient such as yours is a genuine follower of the Enemy. If he is a follower, the Ghastly Ghost is sure to be messing with his conscience. But even if he is a pretender, rest assured that he will feel—at least at first—some sense of guilt or remorse. (He is made in the Enemy’s image, after all!) That feeling may fade with time. But while it lasts, it is a dangerous thing. It can cause men to make sudden confessions, to repent, and to cry out for help to our Enemy. We must nip that in the bud.
Use a cheap and watered-down version of the Bad News to assure the patient that he is forgiven and all is done. Train him to think that the word “forgiven” means “immediately and fully transformed,” so that he actually believes he will not repeat his act. (He most certainly will.)
When he does repeat his behavior, bring relief so sudden and so full that he moves on without a second thought. Soon, he will be thinking of his forgiveness while committing his abuse. See that this continues until he thinks nothing of either the forgiveness or the abuse again. He will be peacefully enslaved to his own devices, deceived by a form of the Bad News that is emptied of its power.
2. Use the Gospel to Prevent True Repentance
In some cases, a false-peace will not be possible. The Ghastly Ghost will continue to prick and prod his conscience until he cries out for relief. He may even come to hate his behavior—sometimes enough to stop. In such rare cases you must, at all costs, convince him that stopping his behavior is sufficient.
Tell him that the Enemy is now pleased with him and that this means: he need not confess his deeds to those he has harmed; he need not confess his deeds to any other followers; he need not confess his deeds to other church leaders; he need not step aside from his office in the church; he need not seek help from other followers. This thinking will prevent him from receiving the ministry of other followers who may—I shudder to think it—pray to the Enemy on his behalf. It will avoid any appropriate civil or criminal justice. It will ensure a disqualified man still leads the church. Most importantly, it will make it more difficult for those he harmed to receive help and healing.
Note well: Under no circumstance should the patient characterize or speak of his actions as a rebellion (sin, evil) against the Enemy—particularly in public, especially before those he harmed. He may have convinced his victims that submitting to his abuse was an act of obedience. They may believe they deserved it. If so, they must never hear the patient say that he was in the wrong. In some cases, such a confession may assist them in recovering a correct view of themselves or of the Enemy. This is to be avoided at all costs. They must believe they deserved this, caused this, wanted this, and share the guilt. They must think this is normal behavior for people who serve the Enemy. Even better, they should believe that the abuser represents the Enemy.
3. Use the Gospel to Demand Forgiveness
In some cases—whether through the patient’s confession or the victim’s confrontation or some other discovery—the behavior will be confronted. Should this happen, run to the Gospel, Foolsgold! Yes, you read correctly: Run to the Gospel!
This is counterintuitive, I know, but extremely effective. At the moment that the patient is face-to-face with his rebellion against the Enemy, make him be the most eloquent proclaimer of the Bad News that has ever walked the earth. With tears in his eyes and a trembling voice, give the patient the power to say that he has confessed his rebellion to the Enemy, trusted in the Enemy’s Son, and received the Enemy’s pardon. This will give him the appearance of humility and spiritual high-ground. It may even cause the victim, confused and reeling from the abuse, to feel spiritually-inferior to the patient. This is a recipe for a destructive dessert.
Having paraded his piety and praised the Enemy for His grace, we can swoop in for the kill—a demand for forgiveness. “God has forgiven me (and you) for this,” the patient will say. He will look the victim in the eye, perhaps with a hand on a knee or a shoulder, and continue, “You have to forgive me.” The victim almost certainly will say, “I forgive you,” if only to relieve the tension and be released from the room.
This is a deliciously deceptive ploy. We use the Enemy’s words against him. In the Enemy’s Book, he commands his followers to forgive one another! How can the victim resist? Untrained and uneducated in a thorough doctrine of forgiveness, the victim seems to have no choice. Think of it: they either forgive immediately or leave the meeting as the one walking in disobedience! We use the Gospel to add insult to injury!
The long-term payoff of this approach is incalculable. Imagine the years of spiritual and emotional turmoil to follow as the victim—despite seeing no genuine repentance, no justice, and no restitution—struggles with guilt at their own perceived failure to forgive! Not only must they struggle with the harm done by your patient, but now they labor under the unbearable frown of a disappointed God.
As if all that isn’t enough to rejoice in, there is more! The patient may even remain free to continue in their position of ministry, enabled in their abuse. They can henceforth raise a scolding finger and speak a warning about forgiveness should the victim (or anyone else) express a concern. That brings me to our next point…
4. Use the Gospel to Demand Silence
No one must learn of the patient’s destructive behavior. Public knowledge, or even knowledge among church leaders, may result in his removal from ministry. A person who abuses others in the name of the Enemy through the ministry of the Bad News is an invaluable resource in our cause. We cannot afford to lose such a key asset.
Likewise, though humans fear it above all else, the exposure of evil sometimes diminishes its power. The victim receives care. Justice is served. The patient’s evil is addressed, along with his heart. The church prays to the Enemy and is conformed to his likeness. The exposure of evil leads to nothing good, Foolsgold. Silence is golden.
Once an expression of forgiveness has been procured, proceed to the obligations of forgiveness. (For full effect, call them “Gospel-Obligations.” Putting a “Gospel-” prefix in front of a word makes whatever is said seem legitimate and more difficult to question. After all, what follower of the Enemy wants to oppose the Gospel!?) Put the full burden of responsibility and action (or inaction) on the shoulders of the downtrodden. Tell them this is what the Bad News demands. Have the patient insist on secrecy, saying things such as, “Forgiving means forgetting. Now that you’ve forgiven me, you can never bring this up again. In fact, you can never tell anyone that this happened. If you do, you haven’t forgiven me. And God says that he will not forgive those who do not forgive others. You do believe the Gospel, don’t you?”
In specific contexts, it can be quite useful to insist that the work of the Gospel depends on silence. Lead the patient and his victims to believe that he is “too big to fail.” Have them think that if his actions were to become public, the ministry (and all the benefits of it that they enjoy) would end. “If you tell anyone, it will distract from the work of sharing the Gospel. Think of all the people who will be confused, hurt, or unreached. You don’t want that on your conscience, do you?”
The Enemy’s people have seen what a scandal can do to the local church. The harmful effects of one church split continue for at least a decade. A good scandal can destroy the funding of a ministry organization overnight. For this reason, they are terrified of controversy. Use their supposed love for the Gospel as a justification for hushing things up and sweeping it under the rug.
Make them forget the Enemy said that the Gospel is his power for salvation. Make them believe that secrecy, public relationship, and image management are what give power to the Gospel. Cause them to believe that thorough investigation and proper response actually threatens “Gospel-ministry” instead of being a true Gospel-response.
Be patient, Foolsgold. It is at this point that inexperienced young devils are quick to create a scandal, thinking to distract and end the work of a Bad News outpost. Such foolishness! With an abuser in leadership, the fallout is sure to come. It cannot be hidden forever. (The Enemy himself promises to expose every secret thing.) Rest assured, we will enjoy those thorns in time. Why rush it? The damage is compounded the longer we keep the abuser in the ministry, preying upon and devouring image-bearers on our behalf! In fact, the more “successful” he appears in ministry, the stronger their doubts and bewilderment will be when he is exposed.
5. Use the Gospel to Forget the Victim
Our Father Below came to steal, kill, and destroy—that is what this is about. So, whether there is a public scandal or delicious secrecy, do all you can to ensure that the wounded one is not cared for. In particular, convince your patient that the Bad News releases him from such an obligation. Help the patient believe and say things like, “Through the Gospel, I am released from all my debts,” insisting that this includes the responsibility to help his victim. (This is why it is essential to secure an expression of forgiveness. Once the wounded one says, “I forgive you,” the patient may use that statement to find release from any and all obligations.) Keep him from reading all that the Enemy’s book teaches by command and example about the restoration of victims. Leave the bruised reed to heal itself. Trust me, it won’t.
There is more I could say. But for now, remember your name, my son! Foolsgold sparkles and shines like the real thing but is void of value. Get them to have some empty form of the Gospel, something that looks like the Gospel but denies its power. This will all but guarantee that those abused in the name of the Gospel will never stop to listen to it again.
Your proud father,
So, as a child abused by adults in authority, what is my responsibility as a Christian in terms of forgiveness?
I am not trying to stir up any argument here. I really need to know.
I would be very interested in what other readers think.
Earlier today I happened to read a blog comment (by Chuck Smith from the great beyond, of all things) about a very long-time abuser. “ Go ahead and prove to me this guy isn’t proclaiming the faithful gospel message in his teachings. You have done NOTHING to bring into question his doctrinal positions. And as such, God will continue to use him until his time is done.”
So the scoundrel’s diabolical actions mean nothing— “he gets the gospel right!” To quote Pastor John.
Papa Chuck commented over 5 years and 564 comments after the original post- even though in life he’d had his own difficulties with the gospel-centered abuser.
We are to forgive those who have sinned against us. That is clear Biblical teaching.
But forgiveness does not mean that the sinner is let off the hook. Ideally the best outcome (apart from the sin not being committed in the first place) would be for the perpetrator or abuser to acknowledge their sin, to ask forgiveness of the person they have sinned against and to do everything in their power to make up for what they did. That is their responsibility, and has nothing to do with they are forgiven or not.
For the person sinned against, as a Christian, they should forgive, regardless of whether the person has repented.
I say this as someone who has been sinned against by those in the church. I worked in a Christian school as a teacher 20 years ago and was subjected to emotional and spiritual abuse. It ruined my teaching career and, eventually, my emotional and physical health. When I pray the Lord’s prayer I say to God “Lord, I forgive those who have sinned against me. This is really hard to do, so give me strength to do it.”
There is no guarantee that we will receive recompense in this life for the sins committed against us. If it happens, that is good. And in recent times the issue of abusive leaders in the Christian church is gaining traction which should, hopefully, result in exposing the sin of these unrepentant leaders and getting leaders in position who actually fit the Biblical qualifications in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5.
(BTW I’m also a Calvinist)
Molly245, as someone who experienced sporadic abuse as a child and teenager, I can only speak to my experience, and no one else’s. First, forgiveness doesn’t mean letting someone off the hook for what they did. It was wrong. I also had to realize that a “root of bitterness” only harmed me, not my perpetrator. Forgiveness takes time. It wasn’t a “one and done deal.” Anger and bitterness surged up for years. I ranted and screamed at God. Why didn’t He DO something? While I did have therapy, I didn’t find it particularly helpful.
I guess I had to ask myself what forgiveness looked like for me, and no one else. I realized this person didn’t care; I was only tearing myself apart, dwelling on the past and my sense of helplessness, so what was the point? Speaking for myself, I came to realize that God had to deal with this individual, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do. It was up to God. Did I trust Him to take care of this individual, even if it’s on the other side of this life?
All I can say is that when I realized I had to leave it in God’s hands (and I had to do it over and over), I achieved a deep sense of peace. It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God, and He will deal with him far worse than I ever could. Now when his name comes up, I feel indifference, and sadness for his wife. I always wondered how much she knew.
Molly, I pray God’s healing for you regarding this situation, knowing it will take time. It took me years for the worst of the anguish to dissolve.
It is critical, Foolsgold, that you keep your patient attending diligently to building up his human guardians. If he becomes skilled enough at this, he will have a battalion of zealous defenders should a sheep whom he’s bitten ever speak up. Barring a catastrophe, this will keep him from ever being displaced and will save us the work of cultivating a suitable replacement. Efficiency, my young protégée!
Train your patient to be exceedingly careful at first so that his guards only see him in the mask he dons that has a shepherd’s face on it. Though the Enemy has warned them repeatedly in his Book that even our Father Below can disguise himself as an angel above, they are ever imagining that they can spot a wolf on sight. It is such an advantage to our side!
Train him to flatter and to woo, to invite them to feast on the delicacies of being part of the coveted inner circle. Be sure that he subtly communicates that it is thanks to him that they find themselves in the warmth of that circle, so that they also recognize that he also has the power to wall them out.
Once they are enjoying the benefits of the inner circle, your patient should be encouraged to occasionally show just a flash of his wolfish side. I have been training your fellow junior tempters so that their own patients in the inner circle are learning to deceive themselves. They have experienced no small degree of success in teaching their patients to disregard what they have seen with their own eyes and substitute alternative explanations for the wolfishness they witness. They are becoming blinder by the day! It is important that your patient never lets them see too much at once, however, even now. If they see clearly, they could still rise up.
If they have a moment of seeing clearly which they cannot shake off, their tempters can fall back on whispering to them about how much good is being done by your patient and how good his sermons are and how if this gets out, it will harm the Reputation of the Church. Yes, Foolsgold, you laugh. It is indeed amusing how easily humans fall for this suggestion.
Your patient must learn to maneuver his guards into a position where they have turned their eyes away often enough that they themselves have gradually become complicit. Then any revelation of what your patient has been doing will implicate them as well.
If your patient is somehow caught furthering our work, he should be ready confess something so that he appears humble. Coach him to offer confessions about acting “inappropriately” or being “overly friendly” or “unwise” or “overzealous” or “overworked” or “shy” or whatever alternate narrative will be convincing. These alternative explanations will be readily accepted as a substitute for confession of sin. We want to keep it that way or else they might embrace the Enemy’s Way and break free of the chains with which we have so carefully bound them.
There is a particular deliciousness in seeing shepherds become the guardians of wolves. Scrumptious.
This is simply brilliant writing, I must say.
As far as to Molly’s question, let me respond:
God has said “Vengeance is mine.” So one thing that is important, regardless of rather or not you ever get a sincere apology from your abusers, is to let go of the desire for revenge. Leave that to God. Believe me, God can do things that go well beyond merely human revenge. In anger it is tempting to let imaginations go wild with what revenge you could be doing. It takes self-control to not go down that path.
Forgiveness is not a stupid thing. To forgive does not mean to open one’s self up again to be abused all over again. Jesus is our role-model. You never see Him doing that. The Word says to do all that we can do to be at peace with all men. Sometimes that means giving a certain person a wide berth, blocking certain numbers and whatever else is necessary to stay a reasonable distance away from them. Sometimes you cannot be near someone without WWIII erupting. When it is they that always start it, then peace will be between you whenever you are not together, so make that happen more often.
Jesus said to love your enemies by praying for them. This is an alternative to the revenge fantasies I mentioned before. Praying for help from God to release the anger also helps. The anger does not help you and some bitterly hold on to it. The trick is to do this while also releasing them of expectations. They may never apologize. You may never be family again in ways other people’s are. There is a whole lot of letting go required, but you do not let go of God and you do not forget the wisdom of how to protect yourself. There are other things I could say, but I am sure that someone else here will add those things.
“The Holy Spirit teaches us to love our enemies in such way
that we pity their souls as if they were our own children.”
(St.Silouan the Athonite”
What do I think?
You are in no way ‘responsible’ for a gall-dang thing.
The abusers are, plain and simple.
I am so sorry you experienced this, especially as an innocent child.
I was spiritually and emotionally abused as an adult, so this may or may not be helpful, feel free to glean what is useful to your situation and ignore the rest.
In my experience, forgiveness is a process. It’s ok for it to take time. And I think it’s done more for YOUR sake than for the sake of the one(s) who abused you, more for YOUR mental and spiritual health. For me, it meant I stopped spending all my free time ruminating over the hurt; it meant I stopped being afraid of running into them in public; it meant I stopped giving in to fear and anger (as much, like I said, it’s a process).
I still think those who hurt me should be held responsible for their actions and removed from the position of being able to hurt others in the same way. If a safeguarding organization or the appropriate church leaders were to conduct an inquiry, I would not feel obligated to be silent; the truth is what will set us free, not silence. I also think there is no obligation for reconciliation, unless there is actual repentance (see note below) on their part and you think it would be more helpful than not on your own healing journey.
Regarding repentance, I like Rebecca Davis’s definition, that it means more “come to your senses” than merely “be sorry that you were caught” (my paraphrase).
If you are a reader, maybe consider “Redeeming Power” by Diane Langberg or “Something’s Not Right” by Wade Mullen. They both approach abuse from a Christian perspective, and I found their books helpful. While it wasn’t so helpful to my particular situation, Aundi Kolber’s “Try Softer” may also help with your question.
Praying you find peace on this journey.
First of all, I am so very sorry for what you suffered as a child at the hands of those who should have been protecting you. It was wrong and Jesus said it would be better for them if they had millstones tied around their necks and were thrown into the depths of the sea. In some mysterious way, he bore it with you and counts what was done to you as being done to him as well. “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.”
He is your ultimate Healer.
Forgiveness often comes in layers, especially for wounds that we sustained as children. Trauma memories circling around in your brain are not evidence of lack of forgiveness but of need for further healing. A licensed therapist who specializes in trauma can be a means Jesus uses as part of your healing. You do not have to go it alone.
Forgiveness is not giving up the hope for justice, and often justice for one who has been wounded results in justice and healing for others , or the prevention of harm for others. In God’s character, Justice and Mercy come together.
I have found the translation of the Lord’s Prayer that uses the words debts and debtors particularly helpful. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
If you are in bankruptcy and owe a creditor, any money you might receive from a debt owed to you will automatically go to your creditor.
Forgiveness can be thought of as something like turning the debt owed to you over to Jesus, your creditor. When you turn debt collection over to him, the debt is then his to collect in the judgement or to pay in his own blood. He will know the right combination of justice and mercy because he alone can see the hearts of the ones who harmed you. The injured person is then free of that burden.
I have found Rachel Denhollander’s witness impact statement in the trial of Larry Nassar to be a very powerful example of the meeting of justice and mercy. She pursued justice vigorously at great cost to herself and yet she offered forgiveness. I am fairly certain that that is online and you can find it by googling.
May you find peace and healing and wholeness and may God give you compassionate and wise friends to accompany you on the journey.
This is a quote from Wade Mullen’s book (reference below). I don’t feel qualified to tell a survivor anything about forgiveness, so I hope you find this helpful.
“Forgiveness and Advocacy
And I forgive you. I could hardly believe I had just written those words. It was around 4 a.m. on Monday morning, February 15, 2016, and I was staring down at around seven pages covered with sentences that each began with the phrase “I was angry when . . .” I hadn’t planned to write for most of the night. I simply wanted to do something with the question the senior pastor had asked me: “Where did this anger come from?” It was lodged in my soul like a deep splinter, and I could not ignore the throbbing pain it caused. Perhaps that was the point. So I decided to list each of the reasons I was angry. Injustice after injustice filled the pages. I have every right to be angry, I thought. Everyone ought to be angry. This practice of taking an inventory of wrongs was both validating and crushing. Something wasn’t right. And grief and anger were a natural response to that realization. I had no idea my list would end with the words, “And I forgive you.” To be honest, I’m still trying to make sense of that response. That moment of forgiveness liberated me, not just from the hold another’s wrongs had over me, but it liberated me to a place where I could oppose the abuse without the motive of personal revenge. The act of forgiveness didn’t shut down my advocacy. Rather, it spun me back into the fray with a clearer mind and a strengthened resolve. In some ways, this moment marked the beginning of a new stage in my efforts to combat evil. I’m still seeking answers to the mystery of forgiveness. I do know this: I would not have wanted someone to say to me, “Have you forgiven him yet?” I’ve encountered too many people who push forgiveness on others as a way of dealing with their own discomfort. For me, the choice to forgive was intensely personal, and its occurrence had a unique place in my unique story. I don’t know if this will be true for you, but the path I took to forgiveness was lined with painful memories that were difficult to walk through. It would have been much easier to take the path that tramples the memories deep below ground, never to be surfaced. The act of telling and remembering somehow led me to an unexpected forgiveness. I’ve since come to believe it is better to remember and forgive than to forgive and forget. A week after I wrote the words “And I forgive you,” I informed the board that I would stay only if they hired a top-notch independent party to investigate my claims, that the entire board needed to be subject to investigation, and that they had one week to respond or I would resign immediately. My forgiveness did not call off my pursuit of truth. If anything, it accelerated it. Whatever you are facing, I hope you can take the next step. People might try to tell you that the next and only step is to forgive and “move on.” The next best step toward freedom and healing is the one that you choose. The next best sentence in your story is the one you write with your own pen. As your eyes are opened, you will see more clearly and will come to a deeper understanding of what happened to you. Only then will giving up the desire for revenge or a different past be done in a meaningful way. Only then will you know what you are forgiving if you make that choice, what you are seeking justice for if you pursue it, and what you are committed to preventing in the future.”
Mullen, Wade. Something’s Not Right: Decoding the Hidden Tactics of Abuse–and Freeing Yourself from Its Power (pp. 184-186). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Clear as what?
Child sex abuse is a felony in all 50 States and those who are convicted of such in a court of law go to prison.
How’s that for an outcome?
Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight),
Thanks for your comment, Neil. You’re welcome here.
Great addition, Eyewitness!
Forgiveness by the victim means no vengeance. All crimes should be reported to LE for DOJ due process, to protect ourselves, and our community and prevent more crime. God will take vengeance, “‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord.”
Repentance by the predator is indicated by the predator’s fruit of repentance (Luke 3
8 & Acts 3.8), like Zacchaeus, who repaid x 4 what he had stolen. Anything less indicates no repentance.
Forgiveness by the victim means no vengeance. All crimes should be reported to LE for DOJ due process, to protect ourselves, and our community and prevent more crime. God will take vengeance, “‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord.”
Repentance by the predator is indicated by the predator’s fruit of repentance (Luke 3
8 & Acts 3.8), like Zacchaeus, who repaid x 4 what he had stolen. Anything less indicates no repentance.
Thanks for this post, Todd.
Thank so much to all who took the time and effort to write sensitive and thoughtful answers to my question.
There is much wisdom and gentleness in your replies and I sure I will benefit as I reread and ponder what you all have shared.
I was so screwed by abuse and then my own mother’s ongoing gaslighting about this that I am no longer a Christian but will give a perspective.
I am suspicious when people who have been abused are expected to forgive. I think the best comparisons are South Africa (apartheid) and Germany (the shoah). In both cases terrible things were done by people to other people, both countries have tried at length to deal with the terrible things that have happened, and in both countries the events are very much alive.
The sessions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission make truly awful viewing and I particularly remember a woman collapsing and screaming that she could never be reconciled with the police officer who admitted murdering her son.
I don’t think that is incompatible with wanting to forgive him, though.
In Germany you literally can’t escape holocaust history, so determined are they that it won’t happen again.
Some people make out that forgiving also means forgetting or giving people a pass – in reality it means it being put right between you, and this often can’t happen. None of this wouldn’t detract from your wish to forgive, and honestly if God would consider it a sin that you can’t, well he’s going to be hearing from me.
Personally I don’t feel an obligation to forgive my abuser and have done what I can to put it right. I and others are waiting for the news to break and will come forward to say that the church authorities knew. Until then the papers won’t publish because there’s no proof, and so far the police have not been interested because there hasn’t been a case which would get to prosecution.
As regards my mother our already fractured relationship deteriorated towards the end of her life and we spent the last decade of it estranged. She bad mouthed me about this and stopped everyone else talking to me.
But honestly? Breaking contact with my mother was the best thing I ever did. People say you miss them when they’re gone, but sometimes you realize that life is much better without them.
I am obviously not happy that things ended like that but I tried over a couple of decades and nothing would put it right. Forgiving her without changing the relationship would have just been a free pass to continue.
Yes you are correct. If a truly repentant sinner has committed a crime, they will go to the authorities, admit their crime, and accept the punishment.
Words without action, in the case of the perpetrator, are meaningless. Words mean NOTHING. 0.
Sadly, certain corners of the American pulpit resemble this. If this piece doesn’t convince you how much Foolsgold is in ministry, nothing will.
“Get them to have some empty form of the Gospel, something that looks like the Gospel but denies its power” characterizes much of today’s preaching … it’s another gospel which is not ‘the’ Gospel at all.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Nah, the wolves have found it more profitable to dress in shepherd’s clothing.
As they say at my favorite fast-food restaurant, my pleasure!
Another thought on forgiveness and debt that might be helpful. Sometimes the debt we are trying to collect is the debt of love. Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Each person owes another love. You were owed love as a child (and now.)
It is hard to release a debt when you’re broke yourself. It can be easier for someone to release the debt of love owed when they really truly come to believe the love God has for them. People whose childhood has included abuse often struggle to believe they can be loved. When that is the case, it can be helpful to soak in passages such as Romans 8:31-39 (really all of Romans 8) or to pray for oneself Paul’s prayer in Eph.3:14-21. Once you realize there is an infinite inheritance of love in your “bank account,” it becomes easier to release even a very large debt because you no longer need it.
But forgiveness also does not mean reconciliation. Forgiveness means that you release the personal debt. Forgiveness can be one-sided. A person can forgive another who has never repented while breaking ties with that person. Forgiveness does not require that the relationship be restored. Some people are not trustworthy, safe people. Some may actually feel remorse (or at least look like they do) but not change their harmful patterns of behavior. They remain unsafe people. There is no biblical requirement to maintain relationships with unsafe people. And no biblical requirement to reconcile.
Consider this passage from 2 Timothy 4: “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.”
Paul is not reconciled with Alexander. He is not trying to collect the debt either, but has turned it over to God. He recognizes that Alexander is not safe and even warns another person about the offender to protect that person from being harmed like he was.
Speaking of unsafe people…People who browbeat you to forgive are not safe people for you —at least for now. Often they have a simplistic and formulaic or even distorted understanding of healing from woundedness, and how forgiveness and reconciliation fit in. (Perhaps they will grow wiser in time.) There are also those who “treat the wound of my people superficially, saying peace, peace where there is no peace” Jer. 8:11–often that is for their own sense of peace. And some are just judgmental.
Instead, look for the physicians, the healers, who have the balm needed. Jer. 8: 22 They will be the people who weep with those who weep Rom 12:15, who are quick to listen, and slow to speak. James 1:19
I have seen this happen in circumstances near to me. It can happen though it is very rare to find criminals that actually have working consciences. What is common is the con for those in prison. Many can pretend to have a conscience and can fool many, so it is in the actions and not words.
It’s amazing how many convicts “get Jesus” in prison and are released early on good behavior … only to live like hell when they hit the street again. But, it’s the cons in the pulpit that show up on TWW posts who really bother me!
Yes! Exactly that! Thank you so much. The verses will be very helpful.
The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing,especially when they are fellow heirs of Gods grace.
IOW … only to live like h*ll when they hit the pulpit again.
Too bad it doesn’t bother their funders. The pulpiteers are often not wage-earners like Paul was, but on the dole.
Forgiveness and what it means to you is entirely your decision.
What that means for me is you can press charges, you don’t need to meet with your abuser, it means that you did nothing wrong and not feel any guilt or obligation. Not to your church, not to god, not to your pastor, and sure as shoot not to the abuser.
You don’t have to be “the better person”, you already are.
You don’t owe anyone anything.
I can’t speak to the Christian part but you’re a free person.
Beware of DARVO.
“DARVO (deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender) is what perpetrators, such as sexual offenders, do instead of being accountable for their crime. Researchers indicate DARVO is a common manipulation strategy of abusers.”
Perhaps this helps…
Purity of Ideology, comrades.
Purity of Ideology.
TL:DR “Nowhere do we corrupt so effectively as at the very foot of the Enemy’s altar!” — Screwtape
There have been many attempts to reproduce Screwtape Letters.
(Even one My Little Pony fanfic, “Letters from a Senior to a Junior Changeling”.)
None have really been able to hit the mark like Lewis.
The main thing that stood out in this one is the mentions of Love. Screwtape Devils are utterly incapable of understanding Love or any other Virtue. According to Screwtape himself, Hell has huge research think tanks trying to figure out the REAL con behind this “Love”. What the Enemy’s REAL agenda is. “Alternative Facts” worthy of the most X-treme QAnon fanboy. “Alternative Reality” as total as the Dwarfs in their filthy stable in the midst of Aslan’s Land. Like the Dwarfs for the Dwarfs, they will NOT be taken in. At all.
Screwtape devils are also incapable of understanding sex. To them, it is just some filthy animal thing, unworthy of Spirits like themselves. They’re more Spiritual than Over-Saved Uber-Christians, totally uncontaminated by anything remotely Physical. And just as Proud of it.
They would also not use the Enemy’s actual phrasing “We come to steal, kill, and destroy”. Remember their “morality” is completely inverted; they are merely Feeding on Prey, cultivating domestic animals for the slaughter and stewpot. Prey. Food. Nothing more.
The climax of an SF horror story by my other writing partner (the self-educated son of a steelworker) put the attitude this way:
“Deception is my hunting spear, deception and ambition. You but Use and Discard – I USE AND DEVOUR!”
Sometimes there are NO Good solutions and the best you can do is the least Bad of a choice of Bad solutions.
There are important questions that need to be answered WAY before this “victim – but have YOU forgiven your abuser?” guilt trip. That’s all it is. DARVO. Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim & Offender. Very stupid question, IMHO. Just rush to have victim forgive, shove the crime under the rug, and the predator goes on preying?
The most important questions to ask victims:
1. Are you safe now?
2. Are others in danger?
3. Do we have an obligation to warn?
4. Have you reported the crime & criminal to LE?
5. Are your needs being met- physical, emotional, spiritual, social (friends in support)?
6. Can I assist in connecting you with resources?
7. Is there anything else I may do to help?
The closest thing we have to first century pulpiteers are “bi-vocational” pastors who work full-time day jobs and part-time at the church. I’ve been in churches where some of those servants worked long hours to minister to their congregations.
Hopefully in a pastor’s teaching, he brings the other 17 gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Body of Christ on board, with all actively offering their gifts just like the pastor is doing. 18 gifts. Pastoring is one gift out of 18. 17 more to share the work.
Is a pastor afraid others may have to get paid like him?
Is he afraid others will screw things up? Is he afraid they won’t know what they’re doing? Or they might infringe on his leadership? They might wanna be boss? They might want credit? Steal his shine? Steal his thunder?
“ Breaking contact with my mother was the best thing I ever did. People say you miss them when they’re gone, but sometimes you realize that life is much better without them.
I am obviously not happy that things ended like that but I tried over a couple of decades and nothing would put it right. Forgiving her without changing the relationship would have just been a free pass to continue. “
You had no control over the situation. In the end, you did the only thing you could do, and I think it was the right thing to do.
Forgiving someone does not mean that you have to continue to tolerate abuse.
If I were in your situation, and she had profusely apologized and showed all of the outward signs of attempting to change her behavior, I could not have helped but keep my guard up, always.
I am very sorry you were hurt by adults (I imagine, to some degree, “trusted” adults!). I have been very impacted by a book by Lewis Smedes, “The Art of Forgiving.” He doesn’t soft-pedal forgiveness into something that re-abuses victims and empowers/excuses abusers but also does not rob forgiveness of its power and meaning. He makes it “doable,” without violating conscience or glossing over the trauma. His take on forgiveness is to openly acknowledge the abuse; don’t explain it away or take some degree of responsibility for it. Then, begin a process of abandoning vengeance fantasies and hatred, although anger is not to be suppressed or glossed over. Along the way, an appeal for justice is important, both immediate justice (such as reporting abuse to police/authorities, etc.) and trusting in God’s consistent hatred of all abuse, love for victims, and the certainty of His justice (though frustratingly, often delayed!)
Smedes model really worked for me, as it does not demand or expect some sort of forced reconciliation without repentance, and also avoids all suggestions that the victim is somehow responsible to be chummy with the abuser, or that forgiveness is something to be done for the abuser. Smedes sees forgiveness as something a victim does for him/herself, for their own healing, NOT that of the abuser. Blessings, Ken
Reading here…I’m reminded of the hard won, gentle, yet fierce wisdom of those who’ve been grievously hurt while trying to walk with Jesus. So often, those souls emerge wiser, more loving and compassionate, yes, more Christ-like than before. It can only be produced by the Spirit of the Living God. Thank you Lord Jesus!
Kenneth J Garrett,
I inferred that forgiveness is letting myself off the hook for “not doing the salient thing about” the wrongdoer e.g church betrayer (Holy Week theme).
Yes report. Yes warn others. None of this will touch the wrongdoer except invisibly help remove some of the further occasions of sin from their path.
Dan Allender in Bold Love describes the very different forms that practical forgiveness should take towards:
– evil people
– the codependent
– ordinary sinners
Sometimes by our prayers – even unwitting ones – an evil person slides with difficulty into the codependent grouping. Sometimes a codependent person, with difficulty, into the ordinary sinners section.
I think a better phrase is “move along” as a prophetic member of one of my churches told me. I think: hopping sideways on the branch and leaving plenty of room for Peter and Paul (affected differently or not directly) to fly away in their own right time. My memory might stay with me to gain further insight into but my attitude will con tin ue supportive of everyone else’s ministry.
Predators on top taking instead of producing, straight out of Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class.
(Veblen was a little-known but probably THE WEIRDEST Economist of the late 19th Century.)