Thursday, March 20, 2008

Never Quite Enough

The tactic I call "Never Quite Enough" is, essentially, a variation on the old carrot on a stick idea. It can be used in a church by the leaders or at home by parents.

In the church setting, it goes like this.
First, you are told what wonderful things are available to those who do things the "right" way. This can be anything from material possessions to greater wisdom and enlightenment to the perfect marriage and the perfect children. Often, it will entail promises of never having problems again. The carrot will usually be tailored to the group. 

Once the "ideal" has been established, they begin working on the things you need to change to reach this ideal. I understand that there is a legitimate place for instruction and correction. This is not what I am talking about. In this manipulation tactic, the promises are grandiose and the requirements ever more and more exacting.

Once they have you hooked, they continue to teach the elements of what the steps are to achieve the ideal, but add the element that if it isn't working for you, you aren't serious enough about doing it right. Ah, does this sound familiar to anyone? It is a classic tactic of abusers the world over. "If you aren't happy - don't have what you want - aren't getting what I promised you - it is YOUR fault for not doing it right."

The problem is, they are a little vague on the finer points of what it is you are or are not doing that is holding up the works - at first. They will keep it to a vague "live like the Bible teaches." But, over time they will begin to get specific. Things like giving more money, getting rid of anything that might be offensive to God. 

Some of the things promised included never being sick again. Never being poor again. They did not come right out and say that problems wouldn't come. In fact, because the Bible teaches that they will (Matthew 18:7, for instance), they would say that the problems would come but you could reach the level where you would be above it all, like being in a plane that is above a storm. They would also teach that it was possible to never be sick again.

Now, I don't want to step on anyone's doctrine here, but this leads, in my experience, to blaming the victim. They would teach that if you were sick, it was your own fault because your faith was not strong enough - you just weren't believing hard enough. It was actually stated from the pulpit that depression was a sin and Christians had no business being depressed. Again, this is a classic blame shifting tactic of an abuser. If it is coming from a pulpit, RUN!

Now, here is where it really starts to get sick. Many people who come to a church are coming because they have problems. There are a lot of wounded people in this world. When victims of abuse come to a church seeking help to heal - to find comfort and solace - and are told that if they have problems, it's their fault, this is not helping them. Most people who have suffered from abuse are ready to believe it was their fault because that is what their abuser told them. I actually know of more than one woman who went back to an abusive husband because they were told that if they just believed harder, it would all work out. This is criminal.

The other part of this is the constant "encouragement" that says, "Come on, we're almost there. Don't give up on us now!" The carrot on the stick. The problem is, the donkey that follows that carrot never gets to eat it. The more emotionally and financially invested in the "ministry" the people become - the more they believe they are "almost there" - the more focussed they become on not wanting to be the one holding the works up for everyone else. The problem is, no matter how much you give in, it will never be enough. If it worked, it would work. Period. It would not leave you feeling like you need to scrub your life with a bristle brush to find that little thing that God isn't showing you that is holding everyone else back. Never enough. If your pastor is yelling at you and you always feel like you're missing it, step back and look more closely at what is going on behind the scenes. Are they REALLY practicing what they preach? He was not. 

An example of this (I found out later) was to tell us what God has told them to do. "Now I'm not saying that God is telling you to do this, but He told me to get rid of all my 'fill in the blank'." The unspoken implication, through tone of voice and facial expression, is that if you don't do it, too, you will miss out on what God is getting ready to do. Bleah!

It is important that we all continue to grow, but this only truly happens in an environment where we are accepted as is and encouraged in love. What happens in the above scenario is a twisting of the emotions and self-image to the place where you believe that you don't deserve anything because you are never enough. You actually believe the abuse IS love. The Scripture that says the Lord rebukes those He loves (Hebrews 12:6) was used to reinforce this idea. This is criminal. 

Don't do things JUST because your pastor or leader told you that God said. 


Anonymous said...

Happy Easter! I just found your blogsite. Wonderful. Music to my ears and heart. "How long, O Lord....How long?" Just what I have been searching around to find. Thank you.

I have some friends who are struggling with these issues, too. Can't wait to share.

Katherine Gunn said...

Happy Easter to you, too. I'm glad this has helped. I have come to understand that when Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free," it meant truth in all things, not just Scripture. It definitely includes the truth about abuse and abusers. When you find and accept the truth, it sets you free.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous here, again.....

Thank you for your reply. The church and its inculcations and indocrinations were a 'tool' used by my Narcissistic mother, whom I have suffered severely from. The 'hold' the church had on me was horrendous.

Also, I am thrilled that you listed Andrew Vacchs', "You Carry the Cure In Your Heart"! He was my first clue that something was VERY WRONG (besides ME!) Wow.

Katherine Gunn said...

I understand. I have only recently begun to realize that one of the reasons I was so vulnerable to the abuses by this pastor was that my narcissistic mother had worn the cloak of religion and that if I was out of line with her, I was out of line with God, Himself. It has only been the last year or so that I began realizing that the problem was NOT me. Freedom.

I pray your freedom grows as mine is and the 'holds' these people had over us are forever broken.

Anonymous said...

Easter is the great day of hope. Those things that bring us hope are manifest through freedom.

Great blog and thank you.

Anonymous said...

Kinda moving 'backward' here. I would agree that perhaps none of us would have been vulnerable to abuse by the church if our 'sense of self' had not been fragmented so badly by 'unfit' parents. Parents ARE our 'sense of self' for so very long....and if 'Good and Right' things are USED for all the wrong reasons...then...well? the child is left vulnerable to that very thing. God never intended us to devote our lives to ANYONE other than Himself....and self-serving parents (or anyone) knows just which 'tools' to use to manipulate and twist the truth. Torqued my Soul. My mind, my body, my emotions. I feel like I've been 'drawn and quartered'.

Thank God...He is who HE is...and is faithful to finish what HE said out to do. He 'used' them to introduce Himself to me.....and HE is still my Lord and my God....and will restore the years the locust has eaten. This I believe. This I cling to.

Thank you for giving us a format to express some of our anger, heartbreak, and sheer brokenness.

Katherine Gunn said...

I understand. I feel like my soul has been 'torqued,' too. God doesn't let go of us, though. He gently leads us into truth - into freedom - with love, not fear.

You are welcome. What you are feeling is normal. It is not 'bad' or 'out of line.' And yes, I believe He will restore the years.

James said...

How true!

In many abusive relationships victims are often told:

It takes two to dangle (classic one)
You must have done something to make (blank) feel or act that way
Maybe if you encourage (blank) more (blank) will do (blank)
Strange but (blank) never acted like that around me
A marriage is a long term commitment so leaving (blank) is a sin
Maybe if you listen more and try harder (blank) will change
Running away from your problems is never the answer

and many many more statements like these.

But what is really happening here is the victim is being revictimized also due to many reasons.

The person who you are talking doesn’t understand the nature of abusive relationships
It’s easier to find fault with the victim (who is seeking help) then deal with an abuser who is not looking for help and/or denying any fault in the abuse.
The person is burying their heads in the sand and doesn’t what to acknowledge this kind of abuse which might be happening their own relationships.
The listener is really not hearing and/or acknowledging the full side of the victim
The listener lack empathy and therefore have a hard time relating to the person
You are asking for help from someone who themselves are abusive and/or abusers

There are more of course but it give us an ideal what is really happening here.

This no doubt happens in our churches and other religious organizations when those who are seeking help only to be told “it must be something you have done”. “Maybe if you try this or that things will change.” I believe that the only way too solve any problem albeit in our spiritual and/or personal life one must first fully understand the problem(s) and then and only then can one go about to solve the problem and/or learn to live with it. Many times we are left with only our own resources and personal commitment to bring about true and long lasting change.

Ms. Gunn, thanks and it’s very insightful.

Katherine Gunn said...

James, you're welcome. I'm glad these are helping.