I keep thinking about what a friend of mine said, “Rochelle, when we say we are God’s child – that means we act like Him, our behavior changes.” Of course! You would THINK that was true, I mean, the Bible says it right?! “…you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” -Romans 8:16 Just as we grow up and we repeat what was modeled for us from our earthly parents (whether mature or immature), we do have a new Father who models for us how to live out our mark of the Spirit, to be controlled by a life of peace and love rather than our own agenda, selfish motives and unrepentant behavior.
If only it were that simple. Sadly, conversion is not enough. What if the person who has been ‘converted’ doesn’t have the neurological attachment mechanism to bond? How do they bond to God in order to take on His likeness? So many people can experience ‘conversion’ and yet lack the brain skills to become the emotionally mature and safe friends of God and others. They continue to drink “milk” as Paul states, not only that – they drink it – then spit it up all over other people because of their own shame and inability to give and receive love.
This is deeply felt by victims when spiritual abuse and manipulation has been a part of our betrayal trauma – when the men in our lives have spouted off scripture, claiming how much they serve, love and trust God – but at home, live behaviorally in the opposite way… These scriptures lose all credibility. When it comes time to discern other’s actions towards her again – it can be very, very difficult to know who is real and who is not.
OF COURSE it is difficult for her to discern REAL from PRESENTED. What do I mean by real vs. presented? It is a FINE line between those who FAKE the fruits of secure attachment with God and those who AUTHENTICALLY know secure relational attachment with God and Self.
Here’s the data I have gathered from my own painful field experience thus far:
REAL: when someone is real, they are authentic. They don’t brag about loving the Lord, being obsessed with Jesus, and sharing all the things they do for God. They only DO, and they do it in their own quiet, humble way. When I look at my friends, the ones whom I see ACTUALLY loving others as Jesus loves – they’ve never once TOLD me that that’s what they are doing. They don’t have to. They know it and God knows it, and that’s all that matters. They don’t tell anyone, (unless they ask) because they don’t need the gold stars, outside accolades or the “atta boy” for loving others well. They don’t need to be SEEN serving and loving God with all their hearts. They just LIVE. Going out of their way for others, is their lifestyle, they know that loving others can sometimes be an inconvenience, but they STILL show up. It is not a moment in time for everyone to stop, listen to how amazing they are and then cheer for them.
If someone is telling you that they are “different”, “set apart”, “not like other men”, and that “no one understands them or their calling from God”, this is not REAL it is a presentation. THIS type of man is most likely to be deeply insecure underneath his exterior and needs to feel “ABOVE” and ‘SET APART” from others in order to feel validated and a pseudo-attachment. He needs others to see what he’s doing so that he can feel good about himself. Eventually, this man will serve himself and the glory that gives him a hit of serotonin and dopamine, rather than loving others selflessly in true humility. Sadly, Jesus serves them as the “hit” rather than them serving Jesus authentically.
My advice? RUN. RUN FAR AND FAST. No matter how real it sounds. RUN. They are not real – they are PRESENTING.
PRESENTING: it is the opposite of authentic. When I give a presentation, I pull up the slides on my computer that I WANT people to see, right? I don’t stand there talking about betrayal trauma while showing people all the pictures of my dogs. (although they are pretty cute) I am presenting visuals and information that I WANT you to see. This is the difference between authentic and presenting.
This man CONTROLS what he wants you to see and HEAR. So, if he WANTS you to see behavior that LOOKS and SOUNDS like the fruit of the spirit, he will PRESENT that to you. If he wants you to see a man who is emotionally mature – he will also give you a nice presentation on what “godly mature men” look like and sound like.
A presentation is a very limited view of a topic. The presenter controls the clicker -you cannot see any other files on their computer – ONLY what they WANT you to see. They decide how deep they will allow you to see into the area of study. Same with a man who PRESENTS (I will be referring to them as character impaired, abusers and/or narcissists for the remainder of this blog post).
The school of life has taught me that EVERYTHING can be a part of a presentation. This includes, Fruits of the Spirit, knowledge, wisdom, a servant’s heart, a man who talks about and demonstrates equality in the home… All of it. There is no “safe place”. To put it bluntly, this sucks for us who are trying really hard to be discerning.
How the HELL are we supposed to know if this is a healthy mature man or not? THEY CAN FAKE IT!
So here’s what I’ve decided:
- I DO NOT BELIEVE WORDS. I DO NOT BELIEVE BEHAVIOR. I will watch for patterns!
Is this sustainable? Do you show up vulnerably? Have you been the SAME yesterday and today over 3 months? 6 months? 3 years?!
2. I will heed the advice of my body, for SHE is good. EVEN IF MY BRAIN cannot find a logical reason that you are dangerous, immature or toxic – I WILL RUN because MY BODY is screaming at me. It takes the brain a lot longer to catch up to what the body already knows, so I can trust that she’s sending me a signal that I need to take seriously.
As Gabor Mate states, “We have lost touch with the gut feelings designed to be our warning system. The body mounts a stress response, but the mind is unaware of the threat. We keep ourselves in physiologically stressful situations, with only a dim awareness of distress or no awareness at all. “
3. Compare consistencies with inconsistencies. This is discernment with a fine tooth comb!
Does this person show up CONSISTENTLY when I need help? Not just sometimes. Does this person give to the same level that I am giving? (in word and deed, do I get back what I am putting out? is there mutuality?) Does this man display a double standard by what he “preaches” to others on stage, and then does differently for me? Can this man receive my compliments, goodness, and encouragement, or does he disregard my input – yet receive it from other women? (that one is super painful!) Does he consistently stand by the same values, wants and desires for his own life, or is he CONSTANTLY changing his mind, keeping me destabilized as the goalposts continue to move? Does he talk about the importance of community but disregard/ignore mine?
An abuser can make us feel like shit. I mean, honestly – they break you down systematically a little bit at a time. In certain character- impaired men, the inconsistencies are so subtle, yet lead to the ultimate demise and discard. They literally do not care about their intimate partner, while any talk of commitment and investment is a farce, only to serve his self-centered motivations. When the woman stops meeting his agenda, ‘feeding his ego’, or ‘socially advancing’ them in their image or career – he will toss her out with the garbage (‘Hi’ I’m exhibit A).
“But this man spoke so much about Jesus!! He serves in a ministry!! He is in an important role, preaching, counseling, writing curriculum, writing books, traveling and preaching the gospel, serving the homeless, running an orphanage! But, he’s a deacon!! He baptized me! He led me to the Lord!!! He believes in GOD!!! He reads his Bible everyday!! He spends HOURS in prayer and crying out before the Lord!!!”
It is unfathomable to us and we didn’t know! Why!?
Because he did such a good job giving us a PRESENTATION.
James says it like this: “The life of a man with divided loyalties will reveal instability at every turn. If anyone “APPEARS” religious, but cannot control his tongue, he deceives HIMSELF and we can be sure that his religion is USELESS.” – James 1 (Phillips translation)
The sad part is, these men believe their own presentation.
4. ALWAYS GO BACK TO THE GOLD STANDARD: JESUS – THE MAN AMONG MEN!
How did Jesus treat women? How did he speak to them?
I must go back to an AUTHENTIC source and there is no one better than the man among men. I have taken so many “hits” the last 2 weeks that I had to pause today and return to the story of when Jesus intervened for a woman who was pulled out into a large crowd, as pharisees accused her of acting in adultery. Isn’t it interesting that she was caught in the act of adultery alone? Where was the man who was “supposedly” participating in this?
Having recently survived a ‘NEW to me’ form of abuse, I have spent a lot of time untangling the most deceptive accusations about myself. Clarity is coming back and I had to go to the only man who gets to speak ANYTHING into my life.
“Jesus, what did you do when accusations were hurled at a woman?”
“What did you do when people tried to ‘confront’ someone in their ‘sin’?”
If you remember the story, the men in power wanted to stone this poor woman, because that is what the Law of Moses taught them to do. Did they care about the Law? No. Their motive was to trick Jesus so they could ACCUSE HIM! huh! That seems EXACTLY like what an immature, self-serving, narcissistic man would do. Make a PRESENTATION for other people to believe, when REALLY it’s only to serve THEIR AGENDA.
What was Jesus’ response to the false presentation? He silenced the men and defended HER from accusation.
This is what I notice and observe when I ask Jesus about this situation and then read it. (this is only my opinion)
First, Jesus directed ALL ATTENTION back onto the accusers. Just like Narcs and addicts, they tried to keep the spotlight OFF of themselves and place it onto the woman. “Well what did SHE do?” And I imagine Jesus thinking, “Oh here we go!”
His very first response seems very compassionate and PROTECTIVE of her, because instead of letting the whole crowd continue to yell, slander and gawk at this precious woman – Jesus instantly takes center stage and directs all attention onto himself AND back toward the accusers. He knows that this has NOTHING to do with her. It is all about them, and their ‘presentation’ to get what THEY want: accolades, and advancement in their system of religion.
It is interesting to note that Jesus LEANED DOWN in the sand. Later in the text it states that she was standing after all the men left and he was kneeling – he had to rise up to speak with her. That shows me that by bending down to the sand – he got all eyes to focus on what he was doing, rather than the woman, who was probably in a very vulnerable state and terrified. This SCREAMS protection to me, perhaps he didn’t want men visually devouring and blaspheming his daughter – so he created a diversion with his own body, in front of the whole crowd.
He takes it one step further after addressing physical sight by kneeling down to the sand, but then spiritual sight by demanding they look inside at their own self. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Another act of protection: quit looking at this woman and focus on yourself, cuz you and I both know that this has nothing to do with her.
I don’t know what Jesus wrote in the sand but, DAMN! For a bunch of men to drop stones and not even ATTEMPT to save face in front of a crowd??! Whatever he wrote must have been something VERY serious. I have heard different theories over the years – one being, that Jesus wrote the names of the men’s manipulation, abusive, or adulterated behaviors. Another, and my favorite perspective, is that Jesus knelt down to write a reassuring message to the woman being falsely accused. Maybe, he was writing a note telling her, “I got this, this has nothing to do with you – they are using you, to get to me. And I will handle this for you.”
No matter what he wrote – we do know that the men left, and I’m curious as to why the text states the men left in ORDER of eldest to youngest? Maybe the elders had a longer list of “sins” written in the sand, and they had had enough exposure to cause them to leave.
This leads me to my next observation: He silenced them. The humiliation, the accusation, the discussion, the condemnation, finger pointing, shaming, assumptions, and mind reading – it ALL STOPPED. Within minutes.
This point makes me tear up. How long have I been sitting in a pool of false accusations? How long has it taken me to crawl out of the sea of shame and know that I am NOT ‘too much’ of anything. The accusers in our lives, whether an abusive ex, family system, friendship or marriage – it can take us YEARS of rewiring to make their accusations STOP. And Jesus did it in THE MOMENT. My body breathes a sigh of cleansing relief for this woman.
Next, her abusers walk away, Jesus stayed. I think she was brave when she stayed too. Who wouldn’t want to speak and look into the eyes of the man who just made everything stop and come to silence? Who wouldn’t want to be in the presence of the man who just saved your life? I would have stayed too.
This beautiful moment shows me that Jesus doesn’t have a presentation – he shows AUTHENTICITY, because it says he comes to her level – stands up with her, eye to eye. He was happy to be with her. He doesn’t brag about what he did, give her a lecture, or give her the third degree.
One thing that was so destructive in my relationship with the manipulative, self-absorbed man, was I was frequently peppered with questions, and questions can quickly turn to accusations. “Why Rochelle?” “But why do you feel that way?” “Why do you always have to go to the negative?” (that’s code for me processing normal emotional responses) “Why do you think that way?” “Why can’t you just…”
When you are grilled with a ton of questions about your decisions, the way you feel, or your opinion/belief about something – it is a form of ‘crazy-making’, minimizing, demeaning, and all around lack of respect for your dignity and agency – especially when it is coupled with an accusation about some way you are inherently “wrong”. It keeps you destabilized and focused on self-doubt, rather than the one who is abusing and accusing. (I guess that’s why they use such a sneaky tactic)
Jesus proceeds to restore her dignity – rather than breaking it down thru condemning questioning.
So, in this moment of authenticity, Jesus meets her eye to eye and next, does the OPPOSITE BEHAVIOR of the men who accused her. He stands before her, as a man (opposite experience to heal her neural pathways) and reassures her that he is NOT accusing her. He says, ” Woman, where are those that accused? Has no one condemned you?” She probably answered with shock in her voice (I know I would be stunned), “No one, Sir,” and Jesus replies, “Neither do I condemn you, Go now and do not sin anymore” I never saw it until now, but I think this conversation happened because he REALLY wanted her to know that NONE of this was about her. These were not accusations that existed for her or about her. Remember, they were USED as part of a presentation to TRAP JESUS. They used her, and Jesus wanted her to know that none of these allegations were about her character. This was truly about the EVIL in men’s hearts in order to get what they wanted.
So, just like that: no judgmental statements, no lecture, or need for her to apologize. Jesus was His AUTHENTIC self in the face of men trying to accuse him too!
Of course, my growing up in a patriarchal culture and Baptist Religion taught me that this story is about the WOMAN and HER sin. How SHE was the one that was displeasing God, SHE needed the lesson and it’s all about looking at her sin. In my opinion, that interpretation of the story belittles Jesus – it makes him one dimensional, when in reality he is MULTI-DIMENSIONAL. Why can’t he call the accusers sin out AND be a kind and gentle protector all at the same time?
In the very first section of the story it says, “They said this to test him, so that they might have some good grounds for an accusation.” and put another way, “They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him.” OH MY WORD!!! how many times did the narcissist twist my words in order to “trap” me in a lie, that didn’t exist, or use my words in order to prove his own point…light bulb moment!
In my opinion, this story is about the exposure of men, not the woman. The men who were giving a PRESENTATION in front of the whole temple crowd, with the purpose of meeting their OWN AGENDA, to advance THEIR status and image: to trap and accuse Jesus. It shows Jesus as his authentic self – who has no selfish motive, defending, protecting and meeting this victim eye to eye, because He knows exactly what she is feeling. *Can you say EMPATHY?!!! Something the accusers CLEARLY knew nothing about – if they had ANY kind of empathy – they NEVER would have dragged, cursed and accused this woman. Oh look! It’s another thing these men have in common with narcissists and abusers!
Jesus and the woman are in the SAME BOAT. They are experiencing the SAME THING by the SAME MEN. He knows how it feels. This means, JESUS can ATTUNE to the victim, and that is hope for you and me!
So much goodness in one single act of authenticity. It gives me shivers just to think of how selfless, romantic, honoring, respectful, kind and gentle Jesus was to a woman who was also being accused by the very same men. Jesus put his own needs aside and came to her aid, he could have handled it way differently – but he didn’t, I believe he put her safety and emotions first, and in turn, it advanced the kindness and message of love he was there to share with all people. In a unique way, this story is a foreshadowing of what Jesus did on the cross. He took ALL the angst and injustice in that situation upon himself, and spared her. THAT is the definition of a ‘godly man’.
My Dear Friend,
Do not rush or force trust in a relationship.
If something is condemning or a shaming accusation in relationship – this is not of God.
Jesus; the calm in the chaos, the comforter, defender and advocate– He does NOT accuse or condemn. He does not judge you for doubt, fear, anxiety, or whatever mistakes you think you have made. He does NOT question you relentlessly causing you to self-doubt or gaslight yourself. He does NOT blame or shame you for the way your body responds to protect you when you feel a threat or you sense hypocrisy. He is NOT okay with those who accuse and abuse you.
Listen to your Jesus.
“Jesus will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public.
Jesus will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. (Matthew 12:19)
Jesus will give you rest.
Jesus will teach you because He is humble and GENTLE at heart.
Jesus gives light and speaks life” (Matthew 11:28)
Will NEVER let you down.
God will NEVER walk off and leave you.
God IS there with you.
God IS ready to help
God is fearless NO MATTER WHAT. (Hebrews 13:6)
This is the standard. If someone is adopted by God as His kid, their behavior will reflect AUTHENTICITY and humility and it will be CONSISTENT.
Trust your gut. Your body is good – filled with the Holy Spirit, guiding you and leading you into all truth. Listen to the sensations in your body, an authentic person will leave you feeling calm and peaceful – a man or woman giving a PRESENTATION will leave you feeling “off” or “anxious”.
We can do this!
Katie, this is really helpful
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