Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

The Abuser is Acting With Intentionality — It Takes us Normals a Long Time to Realize This

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)

I cannot tell you how many, many years I was blind to the fact that (1) I was dealing with abusers, and (2) They knew exactly what they were doing when they carried out their abusive tactics.  When they told me what I was thinking, they were intentionally abusing me, craving that power and control that is their diet. When they accused me, they were intentionally abusing me. When they lied and re-wrote history, they were intentionally abusing me. They knew exactly what they were doing and they knew precisely why they were doing it.
And yet, here comes Jeff the very next day after one of their attacks, running into them again and greeting them, being long-suffering, letting bygones be bygones — you all know the drill. Why? Why did I do this? I did it because I did not yet understand what they were and how they worked their evil. I thought I was dealing with a brother or sister in Christ who was simply “difficult.” How do you deal with a “difficult” person? Well, you are patient. You are forgiving. You respond to them as if they knew Christ but were still pretty rough around the edges. And there are people like that. The problem is, many of these “difficults” have been “difficult” for decades!! Where is Christ in them? Where is their growth into His likeness? One “Christian” lady I once knew even boasted of her “German General” stubbornness and then laughed about it, claiming to have been a Christian for decades.  I think not.
But, you see, when we wake up to the truth and realize that who we are dealing with is an abuser and that abusers KNOW full well what they are doing when they launch their schemes and attacks, that changes the whole playing field. Right? Now when I run into such a person there is no more smiling and forgetting and handshaking. Oh no. Now I hold them accountable because I know their wickedness is intentional and planned. I identify by the appropriate label what tactic they used on me — or tried to use.  It still isn’t a cake walk for me, don’t misunderstand. But you know what? I find that there are fewer and fewer of these evil ones in my circle of relationships now. In fact, I don’t know of a single one. You see, abusers tend to clear out when they know they are exposed.
Your abuser didn’t slip. He didn’t unknowingly do what he did because of some unconscious childhood event leftover in his psyche. He did what he did with intent. And that means he is culpable. Guilty. Someone to be held responsible.
He wasn’t just having a bad day.


The Mercy of God and the Right Handling of His Word


The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) is at it Again


  1. Debby

    And of course, people call you “bitter” if you DON’T “shake hands, smile, let bygones be bygones.” It’s the most difficult of life’s lessons and necessary 5 asks to develop a thick hide while keeping your heart open to touch the lives of others who really need us. We are SO taught ad nauseum (especially as women!) how Godly it is to always be gentle and kind. What we NEED is more lessons on the fact that not every person is safe nor is it prudent to do this with everyone. Great post, Pastor! I think I’ll get a t-shirt that says “Warning: I really WANT to be nice…but it’s not required. Your call” Lol!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Perfect! Debby’s t-shirts business. Shirts for wise people

    • Alison

      Debby, this is such a great expression! I also want that on a T-shirt. Velvet over steel, y’all!

  2. Sarah

    Once a person has revealed themselves as an abuser/bully, I deal with them as I would a rabid dog. I steer clear of them, limit any contact and if they attempt to attack me, people I love and/or the innocent, I defend, as instructed by Scripture.
    Ever read “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card? The main character, Ender, is the target of many bullies and every time he is forced to deal with this one, he always gives them a way out (“stay down”). If the bully persists, Ender ends it.

  3. Amy

    Amen! I don’t know how many times I heard, “He’s just had a hard childhood and hurt people, hurt others.”
    Poppycock! Not everyone who has been hurt in the past goes on to hurt others, my ex knew exactly what he was doing, there is no doubt in my mind these days. But yes, I spent too much time of my life thinking he was just a poor lost soul who didn’t know better. Yet, when we were with others and made a under-cutting comment to me that others may not have understood and then proceeded to give me his disgusting little smirk behind their backs so only I could see — he knew exactly what he was doing! And he enjoyed it. 🙁

    • Grace

      Amy, that smirk (and the hiding of it for only you to see) is the give-away that not only are they aware of what they are doing, they are also enjoying it, and seeing someone suffer and enjoying it is just plain evil. I, too, spent most of my life thinking that they were just hurting lost souls. Isn’t it a relief to see them for what they really are?

  4. Alison

    I inadvertently parked alongside my abusive narcissist boss at a grocery store. I had to decide whether to greet him with warmth as my family and church trained me, or to not greet him at all. I chose the latter. Like Alexander the metalsmith, he had caused me a great deal of harm.
    And the Holy Spirit did not convict me of sin for this action.
    Different situation, doctor parking lot. I yielded the parking spot to the overt narc in the convertible. Watched him swagger in. I lost that round, but I saw him doing attention seeking antics in the waiting room. Usually I’d smile and nod like a “church lady”, rewarding him. Instead, I ignored him and talked with my child. When our name was called, I saw him give me a desperate look, like “Why aren’t you LOOKING at me!?” It was amazing! I felt proud that I didn’t succumb to his manipulations.

  5. Praying Lady

    Amen, Pastor Crippen! “He wasn’t just having a bad day.” Amen!!
    And… THEY ARE NEVER SORRY and they will NEVER repent. These wolves wearing wool enjoy being evil. That will end when they die and end up in Hell. God’s wrath and justice are real.
    Thank you again, Pastor Jeff, for your continued postings on this pervasive issue in the “Christian” community. You are a BLESSING. May our Lord Jesus bless and watch over you and your family!

  6. Z

    I just got another of the false condemnations I face from so-called “christians” when they find out I am in No Contact permanently with my abusers (and anyone who enabled or lied for or smeared me for them..). “You HAVE to be merciful to them and do good to them or God wont be merciful to you. You won’t be blessed by God” they claim.
    My answer is that I’ve fulfilled God’s commands to forgive them and be merciful to them by not seeking revenge and by not keeping bitterness in my heart and by turning them over to God, having already prayed that they repent and stop walking on the highway to hell, as they continue to do. And my God wants me safe from their intended harm. I am precious to Him. Plus my PTSD recovery requires that I NOT keep my abusive attackers in my thoughts. Common sense.
    Their answer was more condemnation. What I’ve done wasn’t obedient to God’s commands for “mercy” so I am under God’s condemnation and I won’t enter heaven until I “do more”! As if more and more works and “merciful contact” with my dangerous, violent, criminal abusers can earn salvation-which has already washed me clean and indwelled me with the Holy Spirit Who would convict me if I were sinning. I am at total peace with my actions and my God. False teachers and condemners abound. Thank God for these blogs and Pastor’s sermons that have cleared up Scriptures about our “requirements” in dealing with unrepentant habitual depraved dangerous people.

    • Grace

      I appreciate your explanation of how you have forgiven your abusers. It’s given me peace. Your post made me wonder whether these so-called “Christians” would be willing to confront your abusers and their allies and ask them why they were not merciful and kind to you and hold them completely accountable for all they have done. My thought is that they would not be willing to do that, and that makes them hypocrites and they certainly have no right to stand in judgment over your salvation. If they knew anything about Scripture they would know that we are saved by grace, through faith and not by our works. Their condemnation is nothing but vain words.

      • Z

        Thank you Grace for your understanding of the situation faced by too many victims. Unjust, unbiblical condemnation by hypocrites. It’s no different now than in the days when Jesus walked the earth and very harshly called out the Pharisees-the main condemners and hypocrites of His time on earth. I’m also so glad you have more peace about the concept of “forgiveness” and “mercy” as it pertains to dangerous evil people.
        And, no, I KNOW that the people who appoint themselves judges of my “not good enough works” to measure up to THEIR idea of the proper level of forgiveness and mercy for my abusers, and therefore call into question my salvation, would NEVER confront the abusers and their allies-who continue brazenly to sin by their abuse-by-proxy, smear campaigns, lies, character assassination, mental abuse-about THEIR SIN! Nor about their complete absence of any mercy as they abused and still abuse me “mercilessly” and endlessly WHILE falsely calling themselves “christians”. They are cowards and hypocrites. Not followers of Jesus. And unless THEY repent, they are headed to the same eternal fiery pit as the wolf abusers they coddle and defend.
        God bless you sister Grace! 🙏🏽

  7. walkinginlight

    If I had a dollar for every time the anti-husband “promised” to stop being “mean” to me, I would be a millionaire now! I believed him all those years that he really wanted to be the person he displayed for me those six years of dating. Always holding the carrot on a stick in front of me. He was a pure Jekyll and Hyde. I thought I was loosing my mind the way he would “re-write” the latest episode of his mind twisting abuse. And yes, the bum was always telling me what I was thinking and how “I shouldn’t feel that way”, you know, I should not feel bad concerning his dismissive behavior toward me.
    I remember one time we were in a parking lot and I decided to just wait in the car while he went in the store. I had my window rolled down. He came around the vehicle to my window and leaned in like he was going to kiss me, and just as he got close he pulled away and walked off! I sat there thinking “what in the world was that for”? The closer I got to the Lord the meaner he became. I was always being accused of “yelling” at him when I would try and talk to him about his abusive behavior. I remember one time when our daughter was in middle school he screamed at me this day. When I answered him I was accused of “yelling” at him. Our daughter witnessed it and she said to me “mom, you did not yell at dad”. That was when I really knew he had a screw loose!
    We had gone to four different marriage counselors back then including my pastor who he would exasperate. Back then in the late 90’s, my pastor told me he did not believe in divorce but that I should get a separation from him to wake him up. The last counselor we saw had a masters degree and she was a Christian counselor who specialized in abuse. She told me after counseling us for quite some time, that the anti-husband was a angry man who is emotionally and mentally abusing me. Finally, some validation from someone who knew what he was doing to me.
    God had then taken him away to work overseas. The Lord about six years ago now had put Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That”? in my hands. That is when the lights really went on for me and all of the fog lifted. It was like reading a manuscript to my so called marriage. I learned so much. All of the “why’s” that kept me up all night trying to figure everything out. I am now at the place in life that I can spot a controller a hundred miles away and they will not fool me ever again.
    Thank you Pastor Jeff for the books you wrote and having this ministry. It truly has been and is a HUGE blessing!!
    P.S. No need to delete any info. I have written. I am positive no one that knows me will read this.

    • Jeff Crippen


    • Praying Lady

      I can totally relate to your comment, walkinginlight. Those carrots of “I want to be a better person and godly husband” kept me hoping and trying everything possible to “help” him. It was all a waste of time, but I learned volumes in the process that I can now share with others.
      And, yes, the closer I got to the Lord, the meaner my ex became towards me. The darkness in him HATED the light in me.
      My ex (“Christian” ordained minister) actually had the arrogance to tell me to my face during the last year of our 36-year relationship (35 years married) that he “sat around trying to think of ways to hurt me!” That was proof that his abuse was INTENTIONAL.
      He also told me one day that he wanted to do whatever would hurt me the most. Well, he fulfilled his word and tried to kill me by strangling me, but praise God, I had called 911 when he started raging and I was rescued by a policeman. He was and still is pure evil.

  8. GypsyAngel

    I cannot help but remember all the times that the ex-abuser would berate me and make abusive demands and/or beat me to the point that I was a hysterical wreck (I would be disciplined daily with a belt), he would then call the police and claim I was threatening suicide (understand that I never have EVER been suicidal). He had forbidden me from ever talking to police unless he was in physical contact with me. So when they would come all I could do was be silent, as he would intentionally never be near me or in contact with me…so I would be baker acted (involuntarily committed). Since he had beaten me badly for mistakenly talking to an officer shortly after he gave me that order (I said excuse me when I bumped into an officer in line at the grocery store)…I had become scared to death to ever talk to the police. Thankfully, on the 6th incident, he showed his true colors, and they (the police) became wise to what he was doing. That last time it happened, the female officer that responded very skillfully got some of the truth out of him, and he got arrested for battery. Equally, as thankfully, the second time it happened he showed his true colors while visiting me during that commitment and it was videotaped (yes it was that long ago), so the fact that he was abusive became a permanent notation in my file. Also, he hadn’t told me I couldn’t talk to the staff, so I told the truth and was never kept more than a few hours after that which really made him mad, and of course he held me responsible. One of the amends he demanded that I make (he had a list that continued to grow) for telling the truth was to slit my wrists badly enough to be committed but not die from. I never did, but I paid for that “disobedience” often and painfully. He would stand over me, and yell at me to slit my wrists while holding out his knife, and would start hitting me when I wouldn’t/couldn’t follow through. This all happened during a time while he was a member of a church that had put me out as a disobedient and unrepentant wife. I often wondered if they counseled him that beating me was proper and his right as he said they did. Based on our marriage counseling sessions before I was put out, I have reason to believe they did.
    That Smirk that was mentioned by Amy in a previous comment…He had it. I still see it in my nightmares. His eyes were the eyes of satan. He knew EXACTLY what he was doing. It was all quite intentional.
    Please don’t feel that you need edit to protect me. There is no risk that this blog will be seen by anyone who knew either of us. However, I will understand if you do. The facts of my life story can be triggering to some, and I don’t wish to cause pain to anyone.

    • Z

      Dear GypsyAngel,
      I read your account of only a few examples of your life as an abuse victim and, though it was triggering to me as a fellow abuse victim, I HAD to read it since you were so brave to write it. And you lived it. I want to bear witness and validate that although you lived with such unspeakable horrors, you ARE speaking/writing about them. You need to get those horrors out in a safe place like here and not keep them stuffed inside. And you have support here in this community. How my heart grieves for you. The cruelty some human beings are capable of inflicting on other human beings is unimaginable. Most all of us in this blog community know this to varying levels.
      Thank God, though, that we can KNOW that our Lord saw, heard, grieved every single hurt. And not one of our abusers will get away with their abusive acts, speech or mental tactics.
      Not with our Lord as our Avenger!
      They will be repaid with the Wrath of God and His promised punishment-exactly as their deeds call for.
      I wish all the healing Jesus has for you to come quickly. May your nightmares be turned into dreams of joy and all the blessings the Lord has in store for you. ❤️

      • GypsyAngel

        Thank you Z,
        I’m sorry that what I wrote triggered you. That is the last thing I wanted. But thank you for understanding, and I appreciate the validation and being heard.
        As a mentor/advocate for men and women escaping abuse, I try very hard to skirt the fine line of putting enough out there so others know that they are not alone, while at the same time not too much so ones new to healing don’t run and hide emotionally because my life story might cause them pain. I try to create a safe place for them while keeping the focus on their personal healing. I don’t often share my own painful yet gloriously Blessed healing journey. I appreciate having a place I can come where others get it, and mostly I’m grateful that there is a place with godly counsel, where I can ask questions and have a safe place to share my struggles, and I’m not expected to have answers. Sharing with other survivors such as you Z is a HUGE blessing to me. Thank you ALL.

        • Z

          Dear GypsyAngel,
          Please don’t apologize for my being triggered by the horrors of your story. As victims, we all get triggered when we read or hear of the cruelty humans inflict on other humans. My abuse was very physically violent from childhood on through adulthood by both parents and later abuses by codependent siblings and other relatives in retaliation for exposing them. And pretty much all the “christian” friends I thought I had. Nowhere to be found. Abandonment by “Christ’s followers” hurt almost as much as the abuse.
          So, I WANTED to read your post and I didn’t care if it triggered me! Don’t ever feel you have to hold back telling your story to appease others or to not offend or trigger others. We all know this is a forum on which abuse victims tell their stories. We read them because we are a community of survivors who support each other wherever each may be on the healing journey.
          I’ve learned to better handle triggers by going straight to my Scripture affirmations. I try not to linger in the intrusive thoughts but to call out to Jesus to “Help me.” And He does!
          I just felt your pain so deeply by your description-and I know there were more, worse things that you didn’t write about. I wanted to just let you know I heard you, I felt your pain, I grieve for you. And I am so glad you are on your path to healing in Jesus. I’m sorry if I led you to believe that my being triggered by reading about any story of abuses was unexpected and harmful. It wasn’t either. My choice and gladly so. No apologies from you warranted, ever, dear sister!

          • GypsyAngel

            Oh my…Dear One, you don’t need to apologize either. Sisters in Christ, and Sisters Through adversity.

  9. anonymous

    The smirk — I know it well. Didn’t realize others experienced it too. I’m just beginning to understand things. Reading here has been very enlightening.

  10. Ms.N.

    I think it’s hard for others to see through the abuser’s feigned innocence, and this can be incredibly frustrating for the victim.

    • Jeff Crippen

      As children of the devil they share his ability to masquerade as an angel of light.

  11. Ms. N.

    P.S. I’ve experienced “the smirk” too. Since a few people commented on that, I wonder if that’s a common behavior among abusers. In any case, it’s hard to believe that a person displaying such sadistic pleasure is “unintentional” with his abuse.

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