Come close and let me tell you a story. It is a sad one and there are things that happen that tend to disturb people but it is an important story about our times and modes of operation. Make no assumptions because it is not what you might think……
Years ago, a lady moved to a new town for a man. She was excited thinking that they were going to be good together and build a good life. She had heard stories about him but decided to go with an open mind and allow him a clean slate. In the first few months, there were a few warning signs but she chose to ignore them and focus on the good and on the potential. Then, one day, she challenged him and made a decision that seemed to be the best one for many people. She had explained it for months and tried to draw him into the conversation but he, in his arrogance, would not take part and instead simply ignored her. The day came when a decision had to be made, so she made it. The resulting response was instant and ugly. He blamed her and accused her, undermined her decision and went behind her back to do his own thing causing a division in the family. Those he took with him, he encouraged to keep it a secret.
Things began to get tense and he began to avoid her. He started telling mutual friends that she pushed him out of the family and that she was jealous and insecure. When she tried to have a conversation with him, he made excuses until finally a meeting was scheduled. At the meeting, he arrived 45 minutes late and then blamed her for all that had occurred telling her that she had told him now to do what he considered to be his job.
After the meeting, he began to watch her social media and whenever anything was present he used it to go to friends and family to tell them that he was worried for her and thought her to be unwell, inappropriate, and that everything she was posting was all about him and his family. He even went so far as to hack her account and put bits up to make it appear as if he was correct. He began to encourage the family to take sides and kept a running commentary of negativity about all that she was doing wrong. He pounced on any action taken or not taken and found fault with every decision, action, and thought she had. When she defended herself, he said she could not take criticism. When she told people about what was happening, he denied it and said that she just didn’t fit and was causing too many problems. He set her up to fail by not helping, not taking part, and not begin actively engaged. He would, instead, plot and plan behind her back convincing people to manipulate facts, find fault, and gossip.
He would have friends send letters to her boss accusing her of making them look bad, harming the children, and whatever else they could think of to write. He would tell her that she was the problem and was what was wrong while he had secret meetings with family and friends to discuss how they could get rid of her.
Multiple times, he sat her down and told her all that she was doing wrong, all that was wrong with her, and would accuse her of whatever he could think of at the time; being controlling, being jealous, making him look bad, being unkind, being uncompassionate, and the list goes on. The lists of transgressions and faults were pages long. The intent was clearly to hurt, manipulate, and control but knowing the intent did not help it hurt any less. He would go visit friends and family to share his concern about her, her health, and her ability all while manipulating them to believe him and side with him. Again, if she defended herself, she was the problem. If she ignored it, they gained speed. If she just went about her business, they found ways to tangle her up and make her fall. For years, she tried to focus on only the good and to keep moving forward. But, as is true in any relationship, one person cannot work on it and make it better. She kept trying to do good and do right. Then they would undo all that she had tried to accomplish with what family and friends did support her. She began to realize that it simply did not matter what she did, it was not going to be enough and it was not going to be right because they were too toxic and he desired power and control above all else. He also took pleasure in the hurting. He worked hard to make her look foolish, incompetent, and unworthy. He took every opportunity to hide details and decision from her, to undermine her work and talents, and to make her look as if she were the bad one.
She worked hard to make their home a welcoming place and constantly brought in people who needed care and love. The people would see how he treated her or hear something derogatory he said about her and they would leave never to return. He told her that she wasn’t letting people help her even as he was running people off and convincing people that she was a horrible abusive dictatorial person.
He would become angry with her for not being where he thought she should be, for not being with him as much as he thought she should be, and for not dressing a certain way, for having her hair a certain way, and for not making the decisions that he thought should not be made. When she asked for direction or input, he would not respond and would get his family and friends to behave in the same manner.
She asked for help repeatedly. She went to her pastor and was told, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake,” “do unto God, not unto men, “ “Jesus went through that and worse,” “you just need to see the divine in them,” “you are running away from your duty” “we know he is highly manipulative and we know the continuous cycle of behavior but all you need to do is just love him enough.”
She would try to speak with him but would be rebuffed. She tried to address it with the family, but they were not interested in taking responsibility or changing. They would simply not show up, not take part, and continued to use it to gossip maliciously.
Her friends and family began to get concerned saying that they could see what was happening and its effect on her. They became deeply concerned and yet were helpless to do anything.
Her husband and his family then went after her family with accusations and impossible situations. They continually set her up for failure and took great delight to gossiping about it and undermining her and all that was good about her.
She began to track down the exes and they confirmed the toxic cycle of behavior he and his family were stuck in. They all told her to leave and there was nothing that was going to work and make things better. It was a continuous cycle that would be unending until an extreme event or their death.
One day, he asked her to do something that she did every week. But this time, he had a trick prepared and after she performed the task he threatened her with a lawsuit. Every day, every week for years he verbally, emotionally, and mentally abused her. Finally, she realized that staying was going to accomplish nothing but her own death. She was to the point where she was beginning to believe their lies and even to contemplate suicide because if she was such a terrible person, why should she continue to live and work and take up space? If all that had occurred was her fault then why should she continue? She quickly recognized their lies, realizing that she was being used as the scapegoat for problems far greater and deeper than any one person is responsible for and decided that while she was strong enough to stay and take it, she was wise enough to walk away. A path to destruction going nowhere but down was a path she was not interested in. She had worked too hard to be beaten daily and watch all she was be destroyed by hate mongers who enjoyed hating and hurting. So, one summer, she began to formulate a plan to leave by the end of the year and make a new life where she was safe, accepted, and valued. As in most abusive situations, it had to be done carefully, planned deliberately with great precision and study, and she had to play her role to the fullest so he would believe he was not going to get caught. After she left, he got a new wife and things have been great – he is healing and getting better. Yet, he has repeated the pattern over and over with every partner.
Many of us will read this and say, “O, that is so typical of stories of abuse. Why does she stay?” Some of us will read it and say, “Why do we continue to let abusive people treat others like that?”
The story is true – with one difference: It is not a husband and wife. The husband is a church and the wife is their pastor. Now, what do you think? Abuse is abuse.