Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Call Evil Good: The Error of Couple Counseling for Abuse

Job 30:26 ESV  But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came.
Psalms 52:3-4 ESV You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.

Couple’s counseling (and I would add marriage “intensives” – a kind of focused retreat for a couple) is anathema when it comes to abuse. It goes wrong and works as a tool to further enable and empower the abuser. I won’t go into all of the reasons why this is the case, but it is true.
What I do want to discuss here is a very similar experience that I have had personally and which I have seen played out in the experience of others many times. It is the fallacy of calling evil, good, and good, evil. Here is how it works:

Sometimes when there is serious division in a local church, the suggestion is made that outside “help” be called upon. A denominational representative, an regional bishop, a presbytery, professional conflict resolution types, and so on. The idea is that what is needed is someone to facilitate two estranged parties by helping them deal with their fundamental issue – a lack of communication and understanding. Our own church’s confession of faith even addresses this:

In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; [London Confession of Faith]

This sounds all well and good. And so it should be, IF the people who are called upon for help are WISE. In the vast majority of cases that I have observed, this has not been the case. What has happened is that evil has been called good, and good has been called evil. The same dynamic works against the wronged party as in the couple’s counseling we are warning against. Let me explain further.
The typical goal of those called upon to “help,” is the preservation of unity, the reconciliation of relationships, the extending of forgiveness, and the attainment of true understanding of the other by each of the previously estranged parties. Peace.
Harmony. Unity = Success. That is the mindset. For this reason, I would never recommend that a local church, for example, call upon some outside facilitator for help when division in that church is resulting from the actions of an evil person. Because the philosophy embraced by such “helpers” is not going to be one of doing justice for the wronged, calling evil for what it is, and justifying the good and righteous. Indeed, such people don’t really even acknowledge evil. They assume that everyone in the matter surely has a good intention, but there has merely been a breakdown in understanding. So the answer is to facilitate comuuuuuunicaaaaaaation (extended for emphasis of sarcasm). Blame will be put upon the good as well as upon the evil party. In fact, often MORE blame is put upon the innocent party! And when it is all over the evil person will be able to use the decree of these outside authorities to further enable his evil. I have NEVER seen a regional minister/district overseer in a denomination who was willing to stand firmly for the right and call evil for what it is. Never. I mean, think about it. You don’t get into one of those overseer of churches positions by standing firmly for truth. You get there by compromise. Apologies to the rare area minister who is just and right and good.
So that has been one of my primary experiences with this issue of “couple’s counseling,” although the “couple” involved in these cases were parties in a local church. The wicked end up being justified because no one is willing to stand for what is right and pay the price for doing so. Peace, peace, when there is no peace.
And so it is in couple’s counseling. The very starting premise is that there is evil on both sides (though it wouldn’t be called evil). “Everyone is a sinner.” So if the husband, for instance, has been raging and angry, well — the wife surely is at fault to some degree. She dare not say she is not to blame, for that would be rank arrogance. So she thinks, and so she has been told. She will be called evil, and the evil abuser will be called good. At least half and half. And that is all the justification the abuser needs to feel that he has been backed up by the pastor, counselor, or whoever.
Now, compare all of this mess with the clarity of God’s Word:

Isaiah 5:20 ESV Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Proverbs 17:15 ESV He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

And our Lord Jesus’ own words to the abusers of His day:

Matthew 23:25-28 ESV “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Just imagine it. I mean, imagine a couple’s counseling session that is conducted like the one Jesus had with these Pharisees. Couple comes in, sits down, abuser begins weeping a bit perhaps when the victim rather haltingly begins to state her case. But instead of the counselor feeling sorry for him, when the victim is finished, the counselor stands up, points his finger at this poor, weeping, so-sorry fellow, and shouts – “Woe to you, hypocrite! You whitewashed tomb! You dare to pretend to be a Christian and behind closed doors you practice this evil! Go! Begone! Leave her and don’t come back until you’ve truly been in the prodigal’s pig pen! And don’t try to fake it. We are quite familiar with counterfeit pig poo.”
No, I’m not saying this should be exactly how it goes down, but well, why not? What is wrong with calling evil, evil?  What is wrong with justifying the righteous and oppressed? What is wrong…with what Jesus did?
Don’t hold your breath however. It’s going to happen one day, on the Great Day when Jesus comes back. But most likely not in this life. So for now, forget couple’s counseling. It will only end in you being called evil, and the evil person declared to be good. And that is never a good thing.


The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 4)


America Celebrates Divorce from an Abuser on the 4th of July – Independence Day!


  1. Krikit

    This, as you describe, was my personal experience with church led marital counseling. It cost me eleven years in a marriage that should have ended before the first abusive 12 months was up. And it cost me 7 more years after the divorce to find God’s actual discernment and wisdom on evil with marriage…and the “church.” Thank Him, I did learn. Thank Him, I can now recognize Wolves from a safe distance. And thank Him, I now have the boldness of Spirit and soundness of mind to call them out.

    • eagerlabassistants

      Exactly what I’ve gone through…with ZERO defense…and countless excuses..” oh it’s too late”(uh huh) blah blah while all the while the point is..and has been..to take focus off Christ and even stupidly admit their solution isn’t complete…
      Forget Christ is the ONLY way truth and life.. oh nooooo…can’t have that cuz it shines the light on THEM. I have and most recently was in an exact situation. It didn’t even go as far as hearing though… It came after a so called leader said he “didn’t understand”, whole claiming he was a victim of what he didn’t understand…and a judgment of ME being “disrespectful”.
      Um… ignore the 24+ years of abuse..what they “don’t understand” and three more weeks of silencing abuse to instead claim disrespect *only* because I wasn’t the one who made the final appointment. (Add some richness to it..the abuser, who admits such, says it’s too late to defend). Ohhh nooooooooooooo…what stupid EXCUSE do we think they will tell Christ on that day and He won’t believe either? The same. But not what they want to hear…it’s too late.

    • eagerlabassistants

      Yeap!! As soon as it costs THEM something. Whatever state..whatever country..it doesn’t matter. There is only one body of Christ:) love you:)

  2. walkinginlight

    And this is exactly what went on in my extended family two years ago. I was “evil” just because my deceased uncle had the “audacity” to put my name in his last will and testament. My aunt, his wife was right and “good” for sneaking around behind my back in the state and unlawfully had me name removed from the will. She had the extended family deluded that what she did was right and good and I was evil and greedy and materialistic because I dared to be upset at what they were doing to me. Also, they tried to convince my mother they were doing right and turn her against me as well. Thank God my mother actually reads her bible and knew it was wrong to not honor a deceased persons wishes. I was in emotional shock as I thought these relatives truly loved me all my life. They betrayed me and actions said it all.
    Isaiah 5:20 and Proverbs 17:15 are a few of the scriptures the Lord has given me along the way that would relate to my circumstances. Another one for me is – WHO SILL STAND UP FOR ME AGAINST EVILDOERS? WHO WILL TAKE HIS STAND FOR ME AGAINST THOSE WHO DO WICKEDNESS? PSALM 94:16
    Sadly, most people will not take a stand as they do not want to pay the cost. We go through this life and find out that Jesus is the only one who is faithful and will stick closer then a brother. He is the only one I will ever look too and relie on.

    • eagerlabassistants

      It’s the Holy Spirit who ministers the truth to “those who love him”. Galatians (sorry I’m so upset I forget).

  3. Praying Lady

    Amen, Pastor Crippen!
    I could tell you numerous stories of the many failed attempts at “counseling/marriage intensives” that I tried over the 35+ years of my relationship with my narcissistic, sociopathic ex-husband. The hair on all your bodies would stand up if I did. So, I will spare the horrific details, but suffice it to say that I was always the problem, including the day that my ex broke a door down inside our house while he was in an uncontrollable rage. Oh yes, I was also counseled to ask the Lord how I had contributed to the breakdown of the relationship after he tried to kill me by strangling me. That was also my fault. NOT!
    You are absolutely correct. Couples counseling/marriage intensives/ marriage conferences/marriage classes DO NOT fix an abusive spouse. It is much easier to blame the victim/survivor than to honestly deal with the evil wolf. The only thing that works is ending the relationship. Period.

  4. Sarah

    “You don’t get into one of those overseer of churches positions by standing firmly for truth. You get there by compromise.”
    or by failing up – meaning you ran your own church into the ground and can’t be trusted to run another, so are promoted via “The Peter Principle” (you rise to your own level of Incompetence) to a position with a great title yet no congregational responsibilities.

    • eagerlabassistants

      Yeap..right on Sarah. Let us not compromise also…;)

  5. eagerlabassistants

    Paul says rebuke …defend the weak(sheep) and screw the wolves in sheep’s clothing … 🙂 Thank the Lord for Paul, pastor Crippen and all who LOVE his truth throughout the ages He has preserved!! 🙂

  6. GypsyAngel

    You are absolutely correct on both levels of which you speak. I can remember a time when an outside mediator was brought into a church I was in as a teenager. At the close of the mediation there was a “reconciliation” service…a lot of flowery speeches, and when the dust settled…it all went right back to the dysfunctional way of doing things that created the need for intervention in the first place. Much like an abusive marriage.
    Then there were all the times during my 30pluse years of marriage that we tried “counseling.” More often than not I was bullied into taking total responsibility for the downfall of the marriage. The few times I attempted to tell the truth I was either talked down to by the counselor, or beaten badly after, and we never went back. The worst was when both happened. Honestly, if it weren’t for my present church family, and a truly Godly counselor/pastor/brother who believed me; I have no doubt I would be gone from this earth by the hand of the ex, or maybe even my own.
    These misled counselors have no place in the field of marriage counseling unless they have had EXTENSIVE training in narcissistic abuse and domestic violence. The damage they do through that lack of knowledge is immense and deadly.

  7. Amy

    The one marriage counselor I ‘forced’ my then-husband to go to years ago, turned out to be a joke. I was talking with a woman counselor at the time but my husband said in no way would he see a woman, it had to be a man. So, my counselor recommended a colleague of hers and it was the worst experience. At the first meeting he made it clear that he too had been harsh for years with his wife but with the Lord’s help was able to change – red flag #1.
    Then he starts with my husband asking basically what it is he does — red flag #2 — and my ex of course explains how nothing he ever does makes me happy and I set the bar higher and higher each time so he can never ever meet my expectations.
    The counselor then turns to me and asks what I see the problem as and I stammer and stutter, and just say very little, mainly for fear of the repercussions later once we’re home. I then timidly asked if I could speak with him privately one session and he turns to my husband — red flag #3 — and ask him if that would be alright! I knew right then and there I was doomed.
    I did end up seeing him for one private session and honestly don’t even remember much except letting me know once again, how he changed and basically my husband could too.
    Then the ultimate happened at the second session with my husband. My husband and the counselor spent the first 10 minutes of our 50 minutes talking about fishing and whatever else — red flag #4 — and then my husband of course continued explaining how he tried, he really did, but I was just too hard to please. I was sitting on a couch across from him and had to hold my hands because of shaking so badly I knew he could see it and was smirking.
    When it was my turn to speak, I just couldn’t, I was so emotional, so angry and felt so trapped, but when I did regain my voice I told the counselor about my husband keeping this stupid pad of paper in which he writes all these bad things about me. (My ex had one of the yellow pads of paper and once left it laying on the counter, along with his bible, no doubt for me to see. Of course, I read it and it had so many asinine things written on it, even down to me being a controlling woman just like my Mom.) And my husband happened to have that pad of paper with him.
    My husband then did the thing he did best to appear caring and sympathetic in front of others — he actually had tears in his eyes and handed the pad of paper to the counselor and told him he could shred it, he didn’t want it and was sorry he had kept it. The counselor took the paper and then it happened — makes me shake to write this:
    My husband got up, came over and kneeled down in front of me, and said he would try harder, he was sorry, AND then the counselor came over and sat next to me on the couch — I was trapped! I felt ready to explode with angry and confusion and all kinds of emotions, and finally bolted from the room crying! By the time I got to my car I was shaking uncontrollably and crying, and just knew this was it — if a counselor bought his story and even got led into his fake compassion, I knew there was no hope. I finally said I wouldn’t go back to counseling and my husband, good, but don’t ever do that again.
    It’s a much longer story, but 2 1/2 years after this incident my husband walked out in all this fanfare. He had devised a plan to try and destroy me, make me look like a ungodly woman who kicked him out and was having an affair and sadly many at our former church believed him just like that counselor.
    I saw that woman counselor the year my ex walked out and told her the story of the counseling session with her colleague. She told me that her colleague had actually come to her and told her later that he messed up with us, that things were really bad in our marriage and he felt terrible. Interesting that he actually realized, although a little too late for us. Or not. God’s timing is always best.
    I cringe when I see friends put up FB posts about marriage intensives or Focus on the Family marriage advice, and I’m not shy these days to tell woman in abusive relationships to skip joint counseling because abuse is NOT a marriage issue, it’s a personal issue in which the abuser needs help whether they choose to or not. I tell women to seek out counseling for themselves and to get out!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Amy – yes. Cringe. Focus on Family and other “experts” who keep victims in bondage. I detest them.

      • jessicanotadoormat

        Wow, this is the very reason I will never go to a Christian Counselor or Christian lay counselor with my abusive husband again. Somehow he plays an act of false humility with whomever is counseling, and even though he admits to calling me obscenities and abusive actions in front of our son (to the extent that I have called the police), parental alienation, making sure I have no access to money even for groceries and necessities, a porn addiction, abuse by proxy and taking no responsibility for partnering in domestic duty like laundry or household chores, somehow things ALWAYS end up being my fault for any marriage problems.
        In every last one of our five attempts at so-called “marriage counseling” we ended up walking out with a game plan for ME to change, and be more “submissive and respectful” and him responsible and accountable for nothing. The sum of the whole experience has left me feeling very jaded and mistrustful of even professionals if I know my husband will be involved. During the last experience, he even turned my own family against me in spite of their knowledge of the long list above of things he has done to harm me and our son. I could only cried out to God for justice at this point because I literally had just one friend left who would help me because he’s isolated everyone else.

    • jessicanotadoormat

      That smirk is a very common thing with narcissists. I have seen it too many times to count with my husband and my own mother. It is hard to put into words the combination of rage, hopelessness, and helplessness welling up inside when I see that expression, because it is only visible when they are doing something hurtful and feel powerful doing so.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Wisdom jessica! I have seen the same things repeatedly

      • Amy

        Yes, I hated, hated, hated when my ex would give that smirk, usually in private but sometimes when we were with others but they couldn’t see him. I despised him for it. It made me feel so stupid and he loved it.
        These men are pure evil.

  8. eventhesparrow

    Going through this now in a way. Xh is lead pastor, leadership knows why I left, yet standing in support of him and probably wondering why wouldn’t confide in them any longer , (safety? Trust? duh?), and thinking mediation would work and I could just come back to marriage and church like nothing happened. I don’t get it. The legalism around marriage blinds people to the value of women, that and ministry platforms/reputations held higher than what is right and just. They keep choosing the wrong thing over and over. I’m so glad God sees and we can take heart in that.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Excellent! Thank you for sharing. I know many wives of abusers who are pastors.

  9. I have only been married to this man for 2 years at this point, and I have been living away from him for 6 months. finally feeling a bit of sanity and peace as i am currently living with my sister and brother in law and they are awesome. i will be filling out divorce papers this week, and I am going to go for the equity in the house we are selling. within 2 months into our marriage, the mask was beginning to slip, and by the time i threw some clothes in the back of my car and headed to my sisters in another state those escapades had ramped up, and more intense. but the worst issue, i found crystal meth in a cupboard in our garage, along with some very interesting sex toys that made me wonder who he was, and where he goes…the best thing i have ever done was to leave him, and I am glad that i didn’t stay longer than i did.
    leave ladies…just leave…you are far more valuable than that

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Jeri. Very glad you got free. Of course many if not most cases of marriage to an abuser are more complicated. Once there are children in the picture, leaving gets more difficult. And many abuse victims have no economic means to leave. Abusers, as we define them here, are most often manipulative, deceiving sociopaths who use an arsenal of tactics to rob their victim of self-confidence and even a sense of personhood. Throw in the claim to be a fine Christian and the mask gets even more deceitful.

  10. CSI

    I completely agree with you. Too often pastors give advice (which suits their beliefs and worldview) rather than actually counseling in an accepting, empathic, non-judgmental way. Very few have studied counseling or been observed and critiqued in their work. This can cause a lot more damage than good.

  11. sweethonesty

    20 years of marriage counseling = 20 years too many.
    The abuse began even before I was married–in the dating phase.
    For example: He as talking and all of a sudden!: S-C-R-E-A-M-I-N-G in my face out of the blue. It was so loud and intense it left me feeling I must have done something, because why else would a person be that upset?! I never even said, “Why are your screaming at me, I didn’t do anything wrong.” And right then and there he knew he could accuse me of anything and I would just take it. (The truth I learned some years down the road was that another man/men looked my way and my boyfriend/future husband was jealous and took it out on me.) But from there on out I was to blame for EVERYTHING–even non-existent things. And immediately was be dragged from one counselor to another, either layperson or clergy.
    Every counseling session = fishing expedition for the evil man I married so he could learn my weakness and use them against me. I’d even been abused my counselors. The last one I went to was a woman–I met her alone and for the first time spoke of the abuse. She seemed “on my side.” Then she has the monster come a few sessions down the road. The last time I went to a session, when I went to open the door, it was locked–never was before. Took about 5 minutes, before it was opened (had to get the secretary to do it). Inside was the monster and the counselor. He had lied about the time the session was going to be; he had already been there 1/2 hour earlier. The next thing I know she’s telling me I have to stay on the anti-depressant I had worked so hard to wean off (I had about another 6 months and would be finished.) She told me I would have to try another, while coming off of the one I was on, because she couldn’t continue to counseling me and take the chance that I that I “would go crazy!” I didn’t say a word. BUT! in my heart I said, “NO CHANCE! I will NOT take more of these horrible drugs-I’M GETTING OFF FOR GOOD and YOU CAN’T STOP ME! I never went back to her. He saw that I was becoming myself again having weaned so far off and I was getting my voice back as well as my figure and he couldn’t stand it! He wanted me to be the zoombie I had been for 5 years prior so he could get away with his adultery. She’s also the person he scheduled one more attempt “to save the marriage”–while all the time–5 years worth he had planned to divorce me and this would look good for the Judge. I never went. I despise both him and her! She’s the one the monster sent one of your adult children to, when he got caught taking drugs and her advise at the time of his birthday: “You don’t owe it to your mother to see or be with her on your birthday–you do whatever makes you feel happy.” I hadn’t seen him in over a year and that was her “guidance.” I DESPISE that woman and the monster!

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