Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Abusive Tactics: The Claim to Know Our Thoughts

1 Corinthians 2:11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

In the course of my experience with controlling, abusive individuals, I have learned the hard way that a favorite tactic of such people is that of telling us what we are thinking and what our motives were for doing something.  This has happened to me many times and I am sure it will resonate with our readers.  You do something or say something and in an attempt to control you and/or instill self doubt and false guilt in you, these kinds of people will then announce to you why you did it.  This is impossible of course.  And yet we often fall for it.  Oh, and the motive the abuser attributes to our action will never be a good motive.

Once many years ago my wife and I purchased our home.  After the deal was closed, an individual who professes to be a Christian announced to me, in front of others, that the reason I had chosen that particular home to buy was because I wanted to get away from people.  He made this statement in a negative light, trying to get me to doubt the purity of my motives and also to cast me in a bad light in front of the others.  In fact, we purchased the home because we liked it and got a good deal on it.  Of course he was also implying that I had not consulted him before making the purchase, as he would have disapproved of it. Abusers are notorious boundary trespassers.  As if myself or anyone needed his permission! But these kinds of statements, this so-called mind and motive-reading, works to cause us to doubt ourselves and our actions, thus making us easier to control.

  • You cooked this kind of meat because you know I don’t like it.
  • You said that just to put me down in front of the children.
  • You were trying to hurt your co-worker when you said that.

Another time, and this time the abuser was a woman, I decided it was time to end a Bible study that I had taught for some years in a neighboring community. I had good reasons, but this woman didn’t see it that way.  About one year later, she said to me (and really, right out of the blue, as it didn’t relate to what we were then talking about), “You know, Jeff, when you decided to stop the Bible study you were just taking the side of people who didn’t want you putting your time into us.  You really hurt me and I will always remember it.”  She then moved on seamlessly with an entirely different topic.   These kinds of pronouncements about our motives and thoughts are designed to control us, to instill doubt and false guilt in us, and to hurt us.  They also tend toward the purpose of trying to make us turn to the abuser for approval before making any future decisions.
Still another such incident involved an individual telling me how I was thinking about someone else, how I was acting toward them, and what my (sinful) motives were in doing so!  It is amazing how much confidence such people can display as they make these accusing pronouncements to and about us!  “I know. I know what you are thinking.  I know what your reason was for doing/saying that.”  Oh really?
We must learn not to fall for this tactic.  In particular, Christians must understand that we are a mystery to the natural man:

1 Corinthians 2:15-16 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. (16) “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

We are not judged by anyone.  That means that we are not understood by the world.  Christ is in us and at work in us.  He is causing us to have His mind on everything.  No one who is outside of Christ is going to understand us.  And it is a very common ploy of the enemy to interpret what we say and do, and then condemn our motives.  Don’t believe it. Don’t yield to this wicked scheme. Enforce your boundaries and stop such trespassing.  “You need to stop. You do not know what my thoughts and motives are.  I will not permit you to pretend that you do.”

Acts 6:9-11 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. (10) But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. (11) Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”

No, not blasphemy.  Truth.


Playing the Victim – Always Remember this Tactic+


This is Why Most Pastors and Churches Ally with the Abuser


  1. Thank you Pastor Jeff. This is a very confusing tactic to sort out. This is post is spot on, these people leave us gasping to defend ourselves or to formulate a response. Thanks for pointing out that we can confidently say no you do not know what I am thinking, no you do not know my thoughts and no, the motives you have suggested are not true at all. I am separated from a man who did this all the time and I realized it is a huge deflection from focusing on the truth or what their motives are! Often the suggested motives are his!
    Now I have another person that tells me they know what I am thinking or what I am going to do.
    I simply tell him, no you don’t!

  2. walkinginlight

    After becoming educated about the abuse tactics these “controllers” crave I came up with a line that stopped him in his tracks. When the anti-husband would tell me what I was thinking I said “oh my gosh, you must have a spirit of divination to think you know my thoughts”!! If you could have seen the shocked look on his face, it was hysterical. I then firmly said “only God knows my thoughts, and you are not God”! He seems to be backing away from this tactic. Also, they will tell you “what you feel” as well. As in, “You shouldn’t feel that way”. I asked why not? after all they are my feelings and not yours. It amazes me how these children of the devil will try just about try any tactic to control their wife or girlfriend.

  3. Oh yes, my ex and I were in FL a couple years ago. We needed to find a place to stay one night before we came home. I suggested we find a place overlooking the beach. He then lit into me how selfish I am. I’m always thinking of myself and one of his favorite comments, “It’s all about you”. No, we didn’t stay in a beach house. Several months ago he was saying he was thinking of going to fL and get a place overlooking the beach. I reminded him of the time I made that suggestion. He said to me….”We didn’t stay in a place on the beach because you were too worried about all the money we were spending.” He knows that’s not true but I am always amazed how fast he can come up with something to make me doubt myself and what really took place. This is just one instance.
    Another time this fine church going Christian man raged at me in the car for about 20 minutes using vile language. I just sat there stunned. Later I brought it up. He told me I used those words first! That happened twice.
    I’ve always journaled and he hated it and has threatened me to stop or ….It’s pretty obvious he didn’t want me keeping records I could look back on the prove I wasn’t insane like he said. Thankfully i continued to journal and they have come to be very helpful.
    Another time He was raging after church because I asked him to pick me up at the door as it was raining. Other husbands were doing the same for their wives and I waited with them. When I got in the car he drove home raging and driving erratically the entire way. He was angry I asked him to pick me up and I was really punished for this. When we got in the house I was afraid and he told me to call anyone I wanted. He dared me to. I got my phone out and was going to call police and he came after me. Shoved me to the floor. Took my phone. When I got my phone later I called church elder and his wife. They spoke to both of us. To him they asked if he was not being a good husband. To me they asked if I couldn’t have just went with him after church and not asked to be picked up to avoid a making a conflict. Nothing else was said to him but to me they said we probably should not sleep together that night. I said I didn’t think he’d leave and I was told…then you should invite him into bed. He did come to bed and put a pillow between us. I ended up going to a doctor. I was bruised all around my low back and in pain for several days. When I showed him the bruises he said he never shoved me. He said I was crazy. He saw me fall. The elders also saw these pictures but of course, it really had been my fault for even asking anything of him.
    He never would nor will he ever admit that he shoved me.
    After many more incidents. Many more sessions with the elders, I am divorced. I am in a new church where abuse is not condoned.
    My ex always knew what and why in every case. It was like I myself had no correct memory of anything.
    Crazy making. He is still in his church claiming to be a believer. He learns scripture so he can use it to deceive. That is how he won my heart in the beginning. He appeared to be an outstanding Christian man and I fell hard for him. After the honeymoon, the wolf came out.
    Pastor and elders will always side with him, regardless. I’m still counseling and working on unraveling my mind from all this. I used to try so hard to please him and be a better wife but I was uneducated and now I’ve read, studied, counseled and I know I have been dealing with a personality disorder. Narcissist or social path. They all have the same pattern and do the same things.

    • Jeff Crippen

      DeLane – I am SOOOO glad he is your EX now. You have grown very wise in regard to this evil. Your story contains just about every tactic the abuser uses and the inactions/actions of your old church elders and pastors makes be so very angry. I never cease to feel anger when I hear these accounts. Those church leaders broke the law by not reporting. They could have gotten you killed. Thank you so very much for sharing this with us.

      • DeLane

        Thank you. Yes, I know that now I should have went to police right away. My attorney told me if I had, there would be proof enough to have him evicted. As it was, going to the elders and enough time had elapsed, that they couldn’t use the photos as evidence. Another lesson learned. Report to the police. Not church elders.
        I could write my own book of all the heartaches. I worked with church elders and their wives for 2 years trying to make them see. They do not allow counseling. Only through them because they are biblical. It all starts at the top with the pastor. I saw him twice also and got no where. He told me to learn from the trials and made a huge point of the abuse Paul endured. They all told me I was not suffering as bad as many others. I mean, there are children in Africa starving. I came away from these sessions feeling guilt for even bringing up my minor issues. The most most confusing was they are an expository preaching church. He’s written books. He’s actually fairly well known. Their answer was to get more involved with the church. Why wasn’t I in the quilting group,etc. Could they not realize it was all I could do to make it through the day with this abuse going on? Their abuse was actually as bad or worse then my husbands. All done in the name of Christ. Now I look back one year later and my head has cleared. God brought some wonderful people into my life to help me sort through all this.

        • Jeff Crippen

          And the big question for that evil pastor – why did he not put the wicked abuser out of the church as Scripture commands?!

          • DeLane

            Jeff, at one point the elders had started church discipline on my husband. I knew my husband, if he would listen to anyone, it would be the pastor. Why was he not involved? My husband was so sure of his standing with the pastor he would actually tell me to go talk to him. The elders never lined it up so I prayed for days and weeks for courage to go to him myself. That’s when he told me about all the suffering people in the Bible went through. He even went into great detail of Paul’s sufferings. I left defeated. After I saw him the elders stepped out. Discipline was over. My husband told me pastor told them to not listen to me. Seems he was telling the truth.
            I’ve been reading and listening to your messages. Thank you. What we really need is to be validated.

          • jessicanotadoormat

            Thank you so much for this blog highlighting the epidemic of abusers running around in the church. I had gotten to the point that I had all but given up on even finding Christian resources about domestic abuse until I heard about Justin and Lindsay Holcomb’s book, Is it My Fault? about domestic violence. Besides your ministry, and their’s, there are very few resources that validate and cast a true, and honest light on the misery of someone living with an abuser goes through.

    • Praying Lady

      Thank you for sharing this, DeLane! The situations you described happened to me as well in one way or another. I am so glad that you are now divorced from that evil man. He sounds so much like my ex, a narcissistic sociopath.
      It was very important that you said, “I’ve always journaled and he hated it and has threatened me to stop or ….It’s pretty obvious he didn’t want me keeping records I could look back on the prove I wasn’t insane like he said. Thankfully I continued to journal and they have come to be very helpful.” I would highly recommend that anyone in a relationship with a wolf in sheep’s clothing do that.
      Journaling helped keep me sane as well. I began writing down dated, short descriptions of his abusiveness about three years before my ex was arrested for strangling me in front of a policeman. During our divorce negotiations, my ex demanded that I give him all the notes that I had written about him. My attorney laughed, saying that those were my personal property. I did not turn any notes over to my ex. Of course, when he realized that I had started to keep a journal regarding his behavior, he quoted the Bible about “not keeping a record of wrongs.” Those notes have helped me many times when I started to doubt the reality of what I had been living with my ex.
      I can also strongly relate to your comment, “Crazy making… After the honeymoon, the wolf came out.” I told my ex more than once that he treated me so much better before we were married. These men trap unsuspecting women with their charm, lies and deceit, and then once their victim is completely in their clutches, the abuse begins. The devil uses the same tactics over and over through these evil men.
      Pastor Crippen, I thank you again for having this place for us to share our experiences and hopefully help those who are struggling in current abusive relationships with wolves in sheep’s clothing and those who have escaped and are recovering from their traumatic experiences.

  4. Ruth

    Thank you so much for this blog Pastor Jeff that you take the time and effort to reach out to those abused and facing trauma. I do not know if I can leave my marriage and what plans God has for me but my trauma is lightened when I read your blog knowing others have walked the same path and the counsel given by you and the readers are so comforting to my soul.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Ruth – I am very glad you have found us and that we can be of help. Thank you for sharing and encouraging us.

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