Monday, July 15, 2013

What Is a Healthy Love Relationship?

I have been  examining love and marriage relationships since I lost a nearly 20 year relationship with a my first wife...if ever a couple could do it all wrong we did! Unfortunately it didn't stop there, the unhealthy dating  choices, motives, and ideas continued for more marriages. Bad Christian teaching contributed to quite a bit of it...it should have been HEALTHY BIBLICAL TEACHING NOT SOME DENOMINATION'S IDEA OF HOW MARRIAGE OUGHT TO WORK! Well I have since discovered that I was not alone in failed relationships and that included some by very high profile Christian leaders. REAL  Christian relationships have very little excuse for failure if done correctly, however in spite of the fact that we have Jesus Christ as our example...there is a fly in the ointment-we are sinful people, with sinful wants and desires! Even the holiest of us is a sinner saved by GRACE ALONE! Am I saying because that is our born nature that we have license to sin, NO! Quite the contrary we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and put on Christ. Again, there is a fly in the ointment, we have a battle to fight until we are with Jesus himself...but we must actively fight the battle. Christians are in a constant state of warfare according to the apostle Paul and he is right! That means Jesus must truly be at the head of our relationships so that we know what constitutes a healthy relationship. So let's examine WHAT IS A HEALTHY LOVE RELATIONSHIP:
Only a healthy heart(I'm talking spiritual heart here) can enter into healthy relationships. Healthy relationships are central to recovery for romance, relationship, and sex addicts. Recovery without healthy relationships only perpetuates the sinful self-obsession that led to addiction in the first place. In recovery we must learn to shift our focus, thus becoming free to share intimacy with others. If God is not first in both of your lives you cannot enjoy a healthy, loving relationship.
A healthy heart involved in healthy relationships is the precise opposite of addiction. Addiction maintains a secret life marked by fear and control. Genuine love, on the other hand, is marked by openness, trust, and the freedom to give oneself to another. Addictive behavior is a deceptive substitute whose effects last but a moment.
There are many contrasts between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Taken together they chart a continuum between the secular model and the biblical model. Understanding these contrasts can help us understand how healthy relationships work – and how we can grow toward them as part of the recovery process.
1. Reality vs. Fantasy. Healthy relationships are based in reality. Each person is aware of his own strengths and weaknesses. There is no need to hide or to try to fool the other. Each person is also aware of the other’s strengths and weaknesses. There is no need to pretend that problems don’t exist or to tiptoe around “unmentionable” areas. If the partner is weak in some area, he or she accepts it and helps accommodate or strengthen it.
Unhealthy relationships, by contrast, are based on fantasy. What could be or should be replaces what is. The elements of unreality become the focus. The relationship is built on a foundation that isn’t really there.

2. Completing vs. Finding Completion. In a healthy relationship, each person finds joy in sharing in the other person’s growth, in playing a role in “completing” the other.
In an unhealthy relationship the focus is on completing oneself. This selfish dynamic is at the heart of codependency. Too many people fling half a person into a relationship, expecting that it will be completed by the other. It never works. No one can ever meet such expectations. It is only a matter of time until substitutes are sought – either in the form of other relationships or in the form of dysfunctional and addictive behaviors.

3. Friendship vs. Victimization. A healthy relationship can be described as two good friends becoming better friends. The strongest and most successful relationships – even the most passionate and romantic marriages – have this kind of true friendship at the base. Where this base of true friendship is absent, the relationship is shallow and susceptible to being marked by victimization.

4. Sacrifice vs. Demand for Sacrifice. Few of the magazines that clutter the checkout counters of grocery stores publish articles extolling the joys of sacrifice. But no relationship can grow without it. Unfortunately, most of us are more accustomed to demanding sacrifice from our partner than to sacrificing our selves.
It’s one thing to love another when the going is easy. But character and depth are wrought in a relationship when love requires the surrender of preference and privilege. Nothing strengthens a relationship like sacrifice. Indeed, it often seems that the greater the sacrifice, the more thorough the death to self, the greater the potential for the relationship.
Our relationship with God requires sacrifice. His relationship with us required nothing less than the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. Building a relationship – or restoring one that has been ravaged by the effects of addiction – depends on the willingness of both parties to sacrifice for each other, without demanding anything in return.

5. Forgiveness vs. Resentment. Forgiveness is a miraculous gift between two people. A relationship flourishes when we are willing to forgive past hurts and disappointments. Refusing to forgive is like carrying around a garbage bag full of hurts of the past. Every time someone makes a mistake, we toss it into the bag and carry it with us forever.
There are no garbage bags in healthy relationships. Out of love, the partners take the hurt and disappointment of the past and burn it up in the flames of forgiveness. What greater gift can we give someone than to set them free from the weight of their mistakes? When we unlock others from a past they cannot correct, we free them to become all they can become, and we free our relationships to become all they can becomes as well.

6. Security vs. Fear. Security is a rare commodity in our world. Often people come from such insecure childhoods they can only hope that their adult life will include a relationship that allows them to rest in the arms of someone who really cares. So much of life is lived on the edge of risk, we feel an overwhelming need for at least one relationship to make us feel safe. If one is walking all over the other to get what they want, to elevate themselves above the other, to cause fear in order to be the head, that relationship is doomed to  failure and the persecuted are going to suffer severe harm. If you are the kind of person that cannot be trusted because of foolishness you will fail at everything you attempt eventually.
The Bible says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). When we shift from trying to use others to satisfy our security needs to trying to meet the security needs of others, we find ourselves in a new dimension. We are focusing on their needs, not ours. We are filling their doubts and fears with the reassurance of our consistent behavior. We calm their fears by being reliable. We become, in a word, loving: other-focused and totally selfless. That is the kind of love that drives out fear and provides genuine security.

7. Vulnerability vs. Defensiveness. In a secure environment, a person is free to open up and be vulnerable. It is wonderful to be vulnerable, to do an emotional free fall and have someone there to catch you. That delightful taste of vulnerability enables you to open up even more, discover more about who you are, appreciate all the good that God has created in you.  
In a relationship characterized by fear, just the opposite happens. There is a need to build up a wall of defensiveness. If you do not protect yourself, after all, you will be violated, robbed of your identity, controlled, or smothered. The dynamics of defensiveness lead to death rather than to life and growth.

8. Honesty vs. Deception. There is no way to build a lasting, healthy relationship on a foundation of dishonesty. Honesty must be at the core of a relationship; there is no substitute for it. It is fashionable in our day to paper over unpleasant truth. We deceive those we love, rationalizing that keeping secrets is really for their good.
Virtually all addictions in life are maintained under the cover of some sort of deception, which eventually is woven into a vast tapestry of lies and cover-ups. Dishonesty is a very hard habit to break. One of the main functions of a recovery support group is the accountability it provides, holding the recovering addict to rigorous truthfulness. Without accountability, trust and the restoration of intimacy in relationships is impossible.

Excerpted from Addicted To Love by Steve Arterburn. Used by permission of New Life Ministries. New Life Ministries has a variety of resources on men, women, and relationships. Call 1-800-NEW-LIFE or visit www.newlife.com.

See you next blog,
Ted

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to Use a Woman’s Faith & Trust to Make Her a Willing Accomplice to Her Own Abuse

I have read more articles about abuse of Christian women than probably even most so-called experts, but Vyckie really nailed it in her retort to Darcy Ingraham's ridiculous article. I read it too and wanted to puke. Theologically it is absolutely unsound! Morally it is disgusting, as it reduces an already traumatized and victimized woman to nothingness! There is nothing more ludicrous than suggesting a woman of God allow herself to be victimized over and over again by a malignant, sadistic, narcissistic, maniac. Frankly, when you are in a covenant relationship with a man or woman, there is nothing saying you have to put up with constant abuse. Yes, there are abuses that occur out of angry moments(NEVER PHYSICAL)! We are people and have a fallen nature that has be put to death, but that never meant you are allowed run roughshod over a person's feelings for your own kicks!!! Pardon me while I cheer Vyckie on...Go Vyckie GO!!! Three cheers for Quivering No More!

How to Use a Woman’s Faith & Trust to Make Her a Willing Accomplice to Her Own Abuse

Can you say, "Stockholm Syndrome'?
by Vyckie Garrison
After stumbling across yet another piece of alarmingly dangerous advice for abused women of faith titled, Surviving Emotional Abuse Six Steps by Christian author, Darcy Ingraham, I am wishing I had more middle fingers with which to express my extreme irritation. Ack!(OK she could have done without this part of the retort)

I will try to calm down long enough to use my words rather than profane gestures to talk about spiritual abuse.

To begin with the author assumes that only those husbands who abandon their faith become angry, bitter, and abusive – and she offers no help for women whose abusive husbands are fully committed Christians acting in accordance with patriarchal teachings derived from the bible; she quotes random bible verses out of context to convince abused women that they are safe from actual violent abuse so long as they remain close to God; she appears to believe a woman’s display of piety (praying out loud for her abuser and telling him that she is giving him over to the Lord, for example) is the way to truly intimidate her abusive husband and get him to back off; she advises victims not to “make the abuse worse” by reacting to their abusers’ anger (followed by the whiplash-inducing about-face when she admonishes victims to never allow anyone to convince you that the abuse is your fault); and to top it all off, the author encourages abuse victims to take charge of their lives by finding a hobby.
When we write about “surviving” abuse at No Longer Quivering, we mean living through it, getting help, getting away, processing, healing, and moving on with our lives.

To the “Six Steps” writer, “Surviving Emotional Abuse” means living with the abuser and “finding contentment” in a situation which, in fact, should not be tolerated.

If you are constantly exposed to emotional abuse, then you are probably humiliated and and criticized often. You may not be able to change the abuser, but you can make positive changes in and for yourself. Emotional abuse can only hurt you and hold you back if you allow it to. The Lord has a way of using the most difficult times of our lives as the greatest time of growth.
When I was experiencing some struggles of my own, a dear friend reminded me of that truth. She said, “When you have nowhere to turn, but to the Lord, it is then that you experience a great strengthening of your faith and untold spiritual growth.” These words were just what I needed to hear.
“Emotional abuse can only hurt you and hold you back if you allow it to.” Really?
Really?!

I understand that not every abused woman is in a position to immediately leave her abuser – however, the advice in this article goes beyond merely offering trapped women coping strategies – it is encouraging women to believe God has a good purpose for their suffering; an idea which often results in confused and desperate women embracing the abuse and even cooperating in their own oppression.
As we share our stories at NLQ, one question that is frequently asked is, What is spiritual abuse? What distinguishes “spiritual” abuse from regular forms of physical, emotional, and mental abuse?
In spiritual abuse, a person’s faith and ideas about God, the supernatural, and the afterlife, get intermingled and entwined with relational and behavioral choices so that the situation is not only about the way a person thinks, acts, and relates – it is primarily about the condition of your soul.
Let me give you an example from the article:

No one wants to be in an abusive marriage, but if you are a Christian woman the decision to leave or stay is not yours alone. The Lord has a plan for you and if you seek His wisdom, He will show you the way. Just know that if He leads you to remain in the marriage, He will be your strength. In “Our Daily Bread” by RBC Ministries, this sentence brings it home. “Assignments from God always include His enablement.”

Here the author maintains that the decision to stay in or leave an abusive marriage should not only take into consideration unhealthy relationships and safety issues, but must also include “the God factor.”

Abusive situations are disconcerting enough – but when an abused woman is also required to figure out what God would have her to do, the result is an overwhelming entanglement of spiritual discernment, hermeneutics, theology, faith, trust, devotion, spiritual discipline, eternal rewards and judgement, divine intervention, hierarchical authority, angels and demons, sacred vows, and spiritual-mindedness which thoroughly complicates and convolutes and radically reorients the perspective of literally every practical consideration.

The question which the victim asks herself is no longer, “He is hurting me – what should I do?” – instead, it becomes, “He is hurting me, but God loves me and He knows what is best for my life – if I take matters into my own hands, am I really trusting the Lord? Does God have a greater purpose for my suffering? Does God want to use my patient endurance as a witness to draw my husband to Himself? What is more important – my immediate personal safety – or the eternal salvation of my husband’s soul?  Is self-preservation godly – or am I seeking instant gratification and the comfort of the flesh? How will I ever be made pure in the refining fires if I remove myself from the heat? Does the clay say to the Potter, what are you doing with me? Is there any biblical justification for leaving my husband when he hasn’t actually hit me or committed adultery? Have I prayed enough? Is my heart right with God? Is Satan deceiving me into destroying my own family?  Maybe I just need to have more faith and to be long-suffering and try to submit more wholeheartedly and sincerely? What would Jesus do? Would he defend himself? Would he give up and walk away? Would he withhold his love and forgiveness?” … and on and on and around and around … until the woman is thoroughly overwhelmed and paralyzed by indecision. She cannot even say for sure whether or not she’s being abused, and she never gets around to addressing the only truly relevant question: What should I do?
Of course, the victim is given every assurance that God loves her and wants only the best for her and will supernaturally intervene on her behalf – plus, He will provide the strength she needs to endure the abuse:

God loves you so very much and you are of great worth to Him. You must look to Him who created you as the unique and wonderful person that you are; to Him who has a plan for your life. First, trust Him by claiming the promise of Jeremiah 33:3 (KJV), “ Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” Then trust Him to see your through with the words of Philippians 4:13 (KJV), “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

The most insidious spiritual abuse occurs when Believers begin to not only “find contentment” in their abusive circumstances but to find spiritual meaning and divine purpose in their sufferings. This sort of mental gymnastics can easily manifest as a form of Stockholm Syndrome when victims who believe that they have no options – no way out – delude themselves into feeling they do have a certain amount of control when they “choose” to embrace, support and defend their abuser. It is oddly empowering to an abused person to say, “This is what I want – yes, it may be painful, but it is actually beneficial to my spiritual growth. I thank God for this and rejoice in my sufferings because in the end, it all brings glory to my Savior!”

Insert puking smiley here.
It is at this acute degree of absurdity that the spiritual abuse victim will begin to participate in and even facilitate and inflict abuse upon herself. After all, she “reasons” (though in truth, little of this dynamic is consciously understood) that if God wills her suffering, it must be right and ultimately good, and therefore, why would she want to alleviate or prevent it? Rather – she looks heavenward for the strength to endure and her mind seeks the eternal vantage point from which her present trials seem petty and insignificant.

She stops looking for a way to escape the pain, and instead – she learns to live with it, welcome it, and even thank God for it.

Yes, reading this Christian writer’s irresponsible and dangerous advice to abused women made my blood boil. I feel angry  and anxious and re-traumatized. Most disturbingly, I also feel disoriented and flustered because as I read the article – which I could easily imagine myself writing only a few years ago (only, unlike the author, I would have encouraged women to emulate Jesus’ example of martyrdom) – all the old faith-based confusion crept back in to muddle my thinking and I found myself second-guessing everything I’ve discovered about reality, mutuality, boundaries, self-preservation, equality … My brain momentarily reverted to its religiously-conditioned comfort zone of self-abnegation and the abdication of choice and positive action in favor of “spiritual” rationalizations for hand-wringing and overwrought inaction.
Ugh. I hate that. ‹(ô¿ô)›

It still amazes me how twisted, abusive men make a Christian woman feel guilty by using her own real beliefs against her. What amazes me even more is that the women fall for it, feel pity for that FOOL, and shame for wanting out, then go back to being willing victims!

See you next blog,
Ted

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