Is Your Spouse or Pastor a Serial Bully?

This information blew my mind. It describes my ex-husband so precisely, it’s just spooky. I’ve known quite a few pastors who fit this description as well.

Please note, this is not a gender-specific problem. The gender of a serial bully can be female or male. This applies in marriage – the bully could be a wife rather than a husband. It also applies in church leadership. The female serial bully may be a Sunday School teacher, pastor in some churches, elder/deacon/board member, women’s leader, etc.

The serial bully:

  • is a *convincing,* *practised liar* and when called to account,
    will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment
  • has a *Jekyll and Hyde nature* – is vile, vicious and vindictive
    in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses;
    no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive
    nature – only the current target of the serial bully’s aggression
    sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as “charming”
    and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a
    tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as “evil”; Hyde is
    the real person, Jekyll is an act
  • excels at *deception* and should never be underestimated in their
    capacity to deceive
  • uses excessive *charm* and is always plausible and convincing when
    peers, superiors or others are present (charm can be used to
    deceive as well as to cover for lack of empathy)
  • is *glib, shallow and superficial* with plenty of fine words and
    lots of form – but there’s no substance
  • is possessed of an *exceptional verbal facility* and will
    outmanoeuvre most people in verbal interaction, especially at
    times of conflict
  • is often described as *smooth*, *slippery, slimy, ingratiating,
    fawning, toadying, obsequious, sycophantic*
  • relies on *mimicry, repetition* and *regurgitation* to convince
    others that he or she is both a “normal” human being and a tough
    dynamic manager, as in extolling the virtues of the latest
    management fads and pouring forth the accompanying jargon
  • is unusually skilled in *being able to anticipate what people want
    to hear* and then saying it plausibly
  • *cannot be trusted or relied upon*
  • *fails to fulfil commitments*
  • is *emotionally retarded* with an *arrested level of emotional
    development*; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that
    of an adult, the bully displays the emotional age of a five-year-old
  • is *emotionally immature* and *emotionally untrustworthy*
  • exhibits *unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters,
    sexual behaviour and bodily functions*; underneath the charming
    exterior there are often suspicions or hints of sex discrimination
    and sexual harassment, perhaps also sexual dysfunction, sexual
    inadequacy, sexual perversion, sexual violence or sexual abuse
  • in a relationship, is *incapable of initiating or sustaining
    intimacy*
  • *holds deep prejudices* (eg against the opposite gender, people of
    a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious
    beliefs, foreigners, etc – prejudiced people are unvaryingly
    unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial
    aspect of their personality secret
  • is *self-opinionated* and displays *arrogance*, *audacity, a
    superior sense of entitlement* and sense of *invulnerability* and
    *untouchability*
  • has a deep-seated *contempt of clients* in contrast to his or her
    professed compassion
  • is a *control freak* and has a *compulsive need to control*
    everyone and everything you say, do, think and believe; for
    example, will launch an immediate personal attack attempting to
    restrict what you are permitted to say if you start talking
    knowledgeably about psychopathic personality or antisocial
    personality disorder
    in their presence –
    but aggressively maintains the right to talk (usually
    unknowledgeably) about anything they choose
    ; serial bullies
    despise anyone who enables others to see through their deception
    and their mask of sanity
  • displays a *compulsive need to criticise* whilst simultaneously
    *refusing to value*, praise and acknowledge others, their
    achievements, or their existence
  • *shows a lack of joined-up thinking* with conversation that
    doesn’t flow and arguments that don’t hold water
  • *flits from topic to topic* so that you come away feeling you’ve
    never had a proper conversation
  • *refuses to be specific* and *never gives a straight answer*
  • is *evasive* and has a Houdini-like ability to *escape
    accountability*
  • *undermines* and *destroys* anyone who the bully perceives to be
    an adversary, a potential threat, or who can see through the
    bully’s mask
  • is *adept at creating conflict *between those who would otherwise
    collate incriminating information about them
  • is *quick to discredit and neutralise* anyone who can talk
    knowledgeably about antisocial or sociopathic behaviors
  • may pursue a *vindictive vendetta* against anyone who dares to
    held them accountable, perhaps using others’ resources and
    contemptuous of the damage caused to other people and
    organisations in pursuance of the vendetta
  • is also *quick to belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit*
    anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call the bully to
    account
  • *gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to*
  • is *highly manipulative*, especially of people’s perceptions and
    emotions (eg guilt)
  • *poisons peoples’ minds* by manipulating their perceptions
  • when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of
    others, responds with *impatience, irritability and aggression*
  • *is arrogant, haughty, high-handed*, and *a know-all*
  • often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic
    *attention-seeking
    need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and
    compassionate person
    *, in contrast to their behaviour and
    treatment of others; the bully sees nothing wrong with their
    behavior and chooses to remain oblivious to the discrepancy
    between how they like to be seen and how they are seen by others
  • is *spiritually dead* although may loudly profess some religious
    belief or affiliation
  • is *mean-spirited*, *officious*, and often *unbelievably petty*
  • is *mean, stingy*, and *financially untrustworthy*
  • is *greedy, selfish, *a *parasite *and an *emotional vampire*
  • is *always a taker *and *never a giver* [Note from Danni: On this one I would say, never a giver unless there is a hidden motive of manipulation to gain.]
  • is convinced of their *superiority* and has an *overbearing belief
    in their qualities of leadership* but cannot distinguish between
    leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, co-operation,
    trust, integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness,
    aggression, manipulation, distrust, deceitfulness)
  • often *fraudulently claims* qualifications, experience, titles,
    entitlements or affiliations which are ambiguous, misleading, or
    bogus
  • often *misses the semantic meaning of language*, misinterprets
    what is said, sometimes wrongly thinking that comments of a
    satirical, ironic or general negative nature apply to him or herself
  • *knows the words but not the song*
  • is *constantly imposing on others a false reality* made up of
    distortion and fabrication
  • sometimes *displays a seemingly limitless demonic energy*
    especially when engaged in attention-seeking activities or evasion
    of accountability and is often a *committeeaholic* or apparent
    *workaholic*

Has Economic Downturn Caused Increase in Domestic Violence?

In the course of my on-going research on domestic violence I keep an eye on the news. Right now there are articles literally every day about how the economic downturn is sparking a rise in the rates of domestic violence. DV rates are usually up this time of year and with the additional stress of people losing jobs and the overall economic recession, marital abuse rates are even higher than usual.

It occurred to me, however, that for women walking in this situation it would be very easy to see the reality backward. I would have seen it that way — I did see it that way when I was in it.

We had some very bad financial reverses. And the violence and verbal abuse always escalated during those times. The holidays were a nightmare every year – both because the rages increased and because my ex had to control every single moment and breath in his own special way. My ex lost his job in 1996 and his resultant violence led to our first separation. He retrained in the computer tech field — just in time for the bottom to completely drop out of that industry. While he, fortunately, did not lose his job, he did not get a raise for seven years up through the time of our divorce. He stayed at entry-level even though he had some promotions. This, of course, led to significant financial stress, since the cost of living didn’t remain stable but increased by approximately 1/3 in our area during that time (I’m trying to remember what I figured out at the time; that’s not an exact number).

My perspective of it from the inside at the time was that his anger was because of his stress, issues at work, because he lost his job, because he couldn’t provide for his family like he wanted to, etc. But here’s the nugget — I excused, or made excuses for, his rages and actions, based on the circumstances. This is the same thing he always did. His rage was always because I did…, the kids did…, if you would only….

Rage and other personal emotions and actions are always a personal choice. They are not something that happens to a person against their will. They choose to behave that way — even if they genuinely believe otherwise. They can choose NOT to behave that way — even if they genuinely believe otherwise.

There is no medical condition* and no circumstances that excuse anger, rage, violence, verbal abuse, name calling, etc. You may doubt me, but this is a fact. It took me a very, very, very long time to learn this myself. Somehow a whole lot of other people in the world, even people with bi-polar disorder (a common excuse) or other medical conditions, manage to learn to be responsible for their behavior under even worse circumstances, without abusing those around them. Somehow other marriages, comprised of two imperfect people, manage to exist for entirely lifetimes without rage, anger, disrespect, violence, etc.

There is no excuse, EVER. Grasping this fact is the very first step to getting free of marital abuse. Once you know with absolute certainty that no circumstances are bad enough to excuse this behavior you can see past it and stand for truth. That gives you options and it gives you strength.

No matter how much the holidays may bring additional stress or how much additional stress the economic recession may cause, these are not an excuse for marital abuse. All these circumstances do is provide an opportunity to reveal a person’s choices to be an abuser. The abuser is an abuser because that is their choice – the circumstances just give them another chance to show it.

[*Let me state, it is possible for a person to experience brain damage or defect which results in the loss of ability to control impulses, leading to uncontrollable violence. However, this is medically diagnosable and these individuals must be medicated and/or institutionalized. They are not free to hurt people at random because they have a medical excuse. This is an entirely different situation than domestic abuse. I rather doubt that a domestic abuser would be willing to undergo medical testing and receive a diagnosis of brain damage and then accept the medical treatment for it. That ought to be a good enough litmus test right there. Another key to this – the violence is random for an abuser. A person with brain damage or defect is not able to miraculously control outbursts so they are targeted toward certain people and able to be contained at times when it would not be advantageous – such as before the new boss who is considering bestowing a raise.]

What Would Your Church Do?

If you’re a Christian in trouble, who do you reach out to for help? Your church, of course.

Reporter Liz Hayes recently shared the story of “Elizabeth” who did just that after her husband attacked her, throwing her onto the bed so hard her head hit the wall and then proceeding to beat her with his fists. When she screamed for her daughter to call 911, her husband ran to the base and unplugged the phone. She persisted in contacting the authorities and her husband was arrested.

Do you think your church would have reached out to “Elizabeth” with help and encouragement?

Really?

Elizabeth’s church has asked her, “Are you sure he hit you?” (Well, let me think, maybe those weren’t his fists after all. Exactly how can one make a mistake about that?) They have, in fact, persisted in not believing her in spite of the fact that her husband has pleaded guilty to battery and been sentenced to one year of probation and counseling. They have persisted in their disbelief in spite of the fact that she has to have on-going physical therapy as a result of the severity of her injuries (are you sure he hit you?)

Elizabeth has lost her friends, her church and her position. Because she reached out to her church for help in her time of trouble. And because her husband – was a deacon.

Do you think your church would do better? It might be interesting to see if there is a way you can actually find out – for real, not by asking a transparently hypothetical question to which any pastor will give you the answer you want to hear.

Ironically, churches will have hearts of gold when they are focused on “the lost” or the poor and needy outside their doors, but when it comes to people they know inside their doors, they shut down if they have to see one of their own as a perpetrator. They just can’t make that leap, so they leave the poor and needy inside their doors wounded, battered and dying -passing by on the other side, leaving her half dead (Luke 10:30-32).

Touch Not God’s Anointed

As the saying goes, if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times –

Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.

This verse is quoted at me often here on this blog when I write about pastors who have been accused or convicted of sexual abuse. This verse is quoted at people who question spiritually abusive pastors in churches everywhere. In fact, I’d venture to guess, this is probably the most popular verse used when anyone questions someone in authority in a church anywhere under any circumstances.

I have long known the verse was being misused, because the Word says we’re responsible to take what we are being told by anyone back to the Word and the Holy Spirit for confirmation. If the Bereans were applauded for taking the word of the Apostle Paul back to the Scriptures and the Spirit for evaluation and confirmation, then there is no pastor on earth who is exempt from the same.

However, I bumped across the verse in context this morning and I literally had to laugh. Once again, a myth is exploded and a tool to keep people in bondage is revealed to be a complete and utter hoax.

Let’s take a look at Ps. 105…

vs. 8 He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations, (vs. 9) the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac..(vs. 14) He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes: (vs. 15) Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.

This verse (Ps. 105:15) was written to the children of Abraham – not to the priests of Israel. It was written to those with whom God had made a covenant, the seed of Abraham.

With whom did God make that covenant? Just to be perfectly clear, let’s take a look at Rom. 4:13-25, where for the sake of brevity I will summarize (but read the entire context, please!) that the seed of Abraham are those who are “of the faith of Abraham” (vs. 16).

If we are to take Ps 105 literally, it is speaking of the seed of Abraham, which includes his children of faith. Anointed ones are simply those who are set apart. In this stated context, that does not refer to pastors, preachers, evangelists, and Sunday School teachers! Look what it says. It very specifically refers to Abraham’s seed – his seed is by birth and by faith – those are the anointed, set apart, ones.

Now, in light of this reality, look back at verse 14.

God “permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sake.

What this verse is actually saying is God does not permit anyone, including people in authority, to oppress, or “touch,” those He has set apart – Abraham’s seed by birth and by faith. That means God does not permit pastors to sexually abuse their church members. He does not permit husbands to oppress their wives and children. He does not permit spiritual authorities to lord over those in their churches (Luke 22:25-26, I Peter 5:3).

So, you tell me, does it matter if church leaders abuse the people in their churches? Does it matter if husbands and fathers in the church abuse their wives and children?

You better believe it does. God says He DOES NOT PERMIT IT.

The correct interpretation of this verse is the exact opposite of the way it is usually used!

And for all that, a prophet is, quite simply, someone who speaks the truth of God.

Is what I have written here the truth?

Are those of us who dare to speak out against this evil being done in the church speaking the truth?

So when we are railed against, who, exactly, is doing God’s prophets harm?

Beware of calling good evil, and calling evil good.

Diana Stores – One Woman Making A Difference Against Domestic Violence

I saw this article, courtesy of the Star Tribune, today, and thought it was so appropriate during Domestic Violence Awareness month. For anyone who thinks that one person can’t make a difference, here’s proof to the contrary. Particularly to churches who think their hands are tied, the words I’d like to say aren’t fit to print. I’ve copied just the beginning of the article below. Please take the time to read the entire piece.

~~~

By Jean Hopfensperger

Diane Stores endured a violent relationship with her former husband for more than 20 years, unsure where to turn. A conservative Christian woman, she found that her church didn’t know how to help her and the community services for battered women didn’t feel right.

“Several times I’d leave, but I had nowhere to go so I went back home,” said Stores, of Forest Lake, who said she wanted services that offered not just physical safety, but food for her soul.

That yearning prompted Stores to create the Dwelling Place when she recovered from her abuse. The St. Paul domestic violence shelter holds a unique niche in Minnesota. It is the only faith-based shelter in the state, a place where daily devotions and Bible study are the foundation of recovery, said shelter staff and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

This month the Dwelling Place marked its 10th anniversary, with a record of housing more than 1,000 battered women from across Minnesota and the nation. It also offers counseling and referrals to another 1,600 women a year.

Conservative Christian women, in particular, face spiritual obstacles as they grapple with leaving their husbands. Because they don’t want “to put asunder” God’s plan for marriage, said Diane Anderson, the executive director of the organization.

“They [the women] believe God hates divorce, and they believe if they do divorce or leave, they will commit a sin,” Anderson said. “They think they need to stay in the marriage, make it work. I’ve even heard women say, ‘Even if I get murdered, I need to stay in the marriage.’ ”

Understanding that logic, staff members counsel the woman that the sacred covenant of marriage of the Bible is not the same violent relationship they were enduring at home.

“They don’t see that God hates abuse,” Anderson said, “or that the marriage covenant is broken by that treatment…”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Adventist Church’s Annual Abuse Prevention Day

Today is the Annual Prevention Emphasis Day, and another blogger whose site I enjoy found an article an Adventist News Network that I wanted to share, too, because it serves as an excellent example for other church groups to follow.

~~~

The Adventist Church’s annual Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, held August 23 this year, is part of a wider effort to curtail abuse within and outside of the church by changing attitudes, says Heather-Dawn Small, Woman’s Ministries director for the world Adventist Church.

Excuses cannot be part of the church’s message against abuse. So says Heather-Dawn Small, the no-nonsense Trinidadian who helps craft the world Seventh-day Adventist Church’s formidable yet sensitive approach to abuse prevention.

Since she began directing Women’s Ministries for the world church in 2001, Small, 50, has fought reluctance by some within the church to admit the reality of abuse. She applauded the church when it voted to add an Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day to its calendar of special Sabbaths, now held the fourth Sabbath of every August. But with local pastors telling her that 70 to 80 percent of their home counseling focuses on domestic abuse, she says the remaining 364 days are just as vital.

Given her ambitious travel schedule, luckily the former director of Children’s and Women’s Ministries for the church in the Caribbean is fond of flying. But helping church members respect each other and become partners in the church’s ministry is what propels her.

In the run-up to the church’s seventh annual Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, August 23, Small spoke to ANN about the church’s responsibility to convince every member that abuse is unconscionable, regardless of culture or upbringing. And, she explained that while the church is not equipped to comprehensively handle abuse, it can and should serve as a conduit, connecting abused women to local legal and counseling agencies. Excerpts:

Adventist News Network: Since the Adventist Church established Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, what specifically has been addressed?

Heather-Dawn Small: We’ve focused on child abuse and domestic violence, particularly spousal abuse, which is a big problem in the church. During the first couple of years, most of what we emphasized was creating an awareness of abuse in general. It’s only in recent years that we’ve begun to deal very specifically with topics, such as Abuse of Power, which is this year’s theme.

ANN: Are your efforts well received?

Small: We’ve generally gotten very good feedback. There are those people who still think, ‘Well, do we really need to handle this in the church?’ or ‘Do we have to bring this up on Sabbath?’ But that attitude is getting rarer. It’s more like it was long overdue that the church would actually have an abuse prevention day and that materials would be provided.

ANN: You travel extensively. Where do you find that the church’s anti-abuse message is best latching on and what tactics seem to be most effective?

Small: I just got back from Uganda and Kenya. In Africa, there is definitely a lot of progress being made. Because of the culture in some of these countries, abuse to some extent is almost regarded as a “right” of the husband. I know in the Caribbean, where I come from, that was a longstanding problem. It isn’t now, but it took years and years to reverse that thinking. In countries where that mindset is still pervasive, the church is partnering with governments and other churches to speak out against it and launch programs that will sweep through the community, not just within the church. It’s more effective than for us to try to do it on our own. If there is a community-based program or government initiative against domestic violence already there, why shouldn’t we join them?

ANN: What would you single out as one of the biggest challenges the church faces in working to end abuse?

Small: There’s very little we can do to immediately change the mindset of the man, and sometimes even the woman. As we keep talking about [abuse prevention], attitudes slowly change. You see, it doesn’t happen overnight. Some people may think, ‘OK, fine, we’ve talked about abuse,’ and then forget about it, but it’s only as we reiterate our message and keep it at the forefront that things begin to change.

ANN: How far-reaching is the church’s message against abuse? Are there limits to what the church can accomplish?

Small: Our goal is to create environments where women feel safe opening up. I think that’s one of the roles that a Women’s Ministries department fills — it’s a place where women can feel safe approaching a leader or another woman and saying, ‘Listen, I have a problem.’ This has happened to me countless times as I’ve traveled and I always try to connect these women with a social worker through the local Women’s Ministries director. As a church, we are not equipped to properly handle addressing the abuse itself, even though we are creating an awareness of the problem. That’s why we have to partner with legal and counseling agencies that are already in the community.

ANN: The church doesn’t cite abuse as a valid reason for divorce. How do you advise women who are in dangerous and unworkable situations?

Small: Being a pastor’s wife for many years, and now directing Women’s Ministries, the immediate concern is for the wellbeing of the woman and her children. In many cases, the woman has to escape. Of course the challenge is that if there are no shelters, where does she escape to? Church members are sometimes afraid to open up their own homes in case the husband comes and harms them as well. Sometimes the church will help the woman relocate. I know the question of divorce can get quite complicated, and while I don’t see it being an immediate option, I’m not going to rule it out because there are women who have resorted to divorce when their husbands refuse to get help. But our immediate concern is that the women get out of the environment if it is harmful or hurtful.

ANN: You’ve said that it’s difficult to change ingrained attitudes toward abuse. At what age can children begin to learn appropriate behavior patterns so that new generations can hopefully reverse old thinking?

Small: In South America, the church has a program targeting elementary children. They create characters and stories with pictures that teach kids about child abuse and domestic violence. There are materials available, people go into the schools dressed up as these characters — they sing, they act, they dance and the kids learn how to respect others and how to respect themselves. Their theme right now is Abuse of the Elderly. I visited Brazil earlier this year and was amazed by how well thought-out the program is. And when we start with the children, we’re looking at the next generation coming up. When we put into their minds the importance of respect for others and themselves, I think that message is going to stay with them, and it’s impacting their parents as well.

ANN: Have you noticed any factors that seem to influence attitudes toward abuse?

Small: Social standing and education levels, unfortunately, mean nothing, whether we’re talking about the abuser or the abused. This is such a big challenge. We’d like to be able to say education level changes things, that people begin to see that this is wrong, but we don’t see that happening.

ANN: For Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day resource materials, you’ve said that you’re now honing in on specific abuse topics rather than the more umbrella-like treatment of previous years. What themes have yet to be addressed?

Small: While we’ve talked about child abuse, we’ve not specifically targeted child sexual abuse, but I think that — as you can see from the news — this is a huge problem. Similarly, when we’ve talked about spousal abuse, we’ve not talked about the abuser. I think that’s something we’re going to have to deal with. Do we just condemn these people, or do we still consider them children of God? After the abuse itself has been addressed, after the law and social workers have gotten involved, do we seek to rehabilitate the abuser? We also need to find what it is that causes young women to stay with a man who is abusive, even before they’re in a marriage. We’re discovering that quite a lot of domestic violence begins long before the vows are said. We need to ask how we can help young women make the right choices and see themselves as being worthy of something better.

ANN World News Bulletin is a review of news and information issued by the Communication department from the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters and released as part of the service of Adventist News Network. It is made available primarily to religious news editors. Our news includes dispatches from the church’s international offices and the world headquarters.

________
Reproduction Requirements:
Reproduction of information in this article is encouraged. When reproducing this material, in full or in part, the words “Source: Adventist News Network” must appear under the headline or immediately following the article. The words “Source: Adventist News Network” must be given equal prominence to any other source that is also acknowledged.

Ground 7 News Podcast:
Ground 7 News is a review of news and information issued by the Communication Department from the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters and released as part of the service of Adventist News Network. Reproduction of the ANN podcast is encouraged. When rebroadcasting this material, in full or in part, the words “Source: Adventist News Network” must be mentioned before and after the podcast.

ANN Staff:
Rajmund Dabrowski, director; Ansel Oliver, assistant director; Elizabeth Lechleitner, editorial coordinator; Megan Brauner, editorial assistant. Portuguese translation by Azenilto Brito, Spanish translation by Marcos Paseggi, Italian translation by Vincenzo Annunziata and Lina Ferrara and French translations by Stephanie Elofer.