Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

They Never Admit Wrong: A Sure Sign of an Unsafe (and Unsaved) Person

1Jn 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Mr. Decker: “Captain, shouldn’t we take every possible precaution?”
Captain Kirk: “Mr. Decker, I will not provoke an attack.  If that order isn’t clear enough for you….”
Mr. Decker: “Captain, as your executive officer it is my duty to point out alternatives.”
Captain Kirk: “Yes it is.  I stand corrected.”
“Yes, it is.  I stand corrected.”  Words you will never hear from an abuser.
Pastor Larry Dean, a reader of this blog, loves to talk about repentance. He would tell you that it is sorely lacking not only in the world today, but in the church. And yet without repentance there can be no forgiveness of sin. A gospel with no call to repentance is no gospel at all.

I was raised in a home that professed to be Christian, but that was devoid of repentance. That is to say, I did not grow up seeing a model of people who readily said, “I was wrong” or “I did wrong, please forgive me.” The example set down for me was one of insisting you are right, blaming the other guy, and consequently learning that confessing sin or error is a sign of weakness. I think that this is one of the main reasons that I was ashamed, when I was in about the third grade or so, of coming home from an after school Bible club and telling my parents that I had made a decision to follow Christ. The only reason they ever found out is that my sister ratted me out – as she had been there when I put my hand up during the prayer time. Nothing was said to me except “Well…that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Now go wash your hands. Dinner is ready.” I felt ashamed and soiled. Fortunately for me, Jesus did not see it that way. I was as white as snow, but it would take me decades to really understand that. In fact, I’m still working on it.
You see, believing the Christian gospel necessarily requires admitting that one has been wrong. Grievously and fatally wrong. Wrong about oneself. Wrong about God. Wrong about most everything. That is why the Word of God insists upon us confessing these things. Confessing our sin. Confessing our rebellion against the Lord. Confessing all of the corruption that has proceeded from our heart. Confessing that Jesus is Lord, and not me. To confess means to agree with God. “Yes, Lord, You have been right all along, and I have not.” I never heard words like that when I was growing up. Not at home at least.
Not only can we not have a relationship with God without confession and repentance, but we will never have safe and healthy relationships with one another either. Most all of you that belong to our little blog family here are quite familiar with the sad fact that human beings who we call abusers have a trait that almost functions like a badge to identify them. They will not admit fault. They will never confess that they are wrong (unless faking it is to their advantage). They always lay the blame on others, most often their victims. This is another reason why I maintain that an abuser is not a Christian.
We would be very wise to watch for this trait in others. A person who will not repent, will not admit wrong, will not confess sin, is not a safe person to have a relationship with. The only “relationship” possible with such a person is 1) you must always be wrong, must always yield to their way, and 2) they must always be right. By this single characteristic, you can pretty readily discern if a person is an abuser, a narcissist, a controller, a sociopath, or whatever title you want to give these types.
When abuse victims come and talk to me and tell me their stories, it always, always, always comes out – “he will never admit that he is wrong. I am the one who is always to blame.” And what do I tell these victims? “That person is not safe to have a relationship with. They are not capable of functioning in a healthy, normal, biblical marriage. And they aren’t going to change, especially if they have been pretending to be a Christian all the while.” And that is hard reality.

Isa 1:18-20 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”


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  1. Zodok

    Or they admit to the mildest of offenses, run to their support group that consists of (mostly male who quote/interpret Scripture on women the same way) to extol their righteous virtues and to whom they send their wife for ‘counsel’ and then declare that THEY have tried everything they know to ‘lead’ their wife to Godly repentance and submission, but she refused.
    Everyone knows that the man is guilty as charge because THEY are guilty of the same, and everyone is willing to slander and defame the woman because THEY are in one accord and, therefore, THEY are, obviously, righteously offended.
    The woman must go and it is Scripturally sound to dismiss (divorce) her.

  2. no one down here

    not only do they not admit wrong, but often the fault they cast onto you has basis in some bit of truth. Enough truth mixed in with the lies that it is so hard to actually figure out. After years of being told that EVERYTHING is ALWAYS your fault… you might figure that out just by the sheer odds of it meaning that it just can’t be right. Or, you might believe it all and assume the guilt yourself.
    The other thing is if they get called out to the church leadership, they admit all the things that were called out and admit enough guilt to make the church leaders believe there is repentance… and then point the finger at you and your problems. Now, it is up to you to accept that he has repented, confess all the things and start working together toward a new future. Only, you are confessing in good faith, whereas, he is not actually demonstrating true change, so the repentance is 100% fake. You lose.
    Thankfully, I had help to stop that unbalanced trip into the depths of madness and did not actually confess anything to “church leaders.” Probably one of the many things that made the church leaders mad.

    • Jeff Crippen

      So in essence such church leaders are Roman Catholic. They demand confession must be made to them or they will withhold the Lord’s forgiveness.

    • Mhiggins

      I second that comment from “no one down here”. The crocodile tears would just flow at will and it would all sound so good. But it was 100% fake. You really hit it on the head.

  3. Joy

    “TRUE Repentance” would be a more accurate term. One of the patterns of the Malignant Narcissist is that they ‘mirror’ their victims. They worm their way into your life by watching and doing what you do. It’s why you find them, in the beginning, to be your soulmate. They may apologize or admit they are wrong, but it is artificial. They copy what they see other’s do and they are very good at it, having been practicing the art of ‘mirroring’ since childhood. They will do what they need to do to keep their fake persona intact until they have trapped their victim. Abuser’s have, over time, allowed their hearts to turn to stone and are emotionally handicapped. They are incapable of sincere repentance because they are unwilling to submit.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Nailed it. And until we learn and BELIEVE these truths we will continue to fail being wise in regard to evil.

  4. Change Agent

    An interesting spin on a feigned apology is the use of the royal we. We are both at fault here, they say. At first you think it is based in some truth. After all there are two sides to each exchange. Then after a series of occurrences and deep soul searching you are not sure how you can claim responsibility for someone else’s behavior. Finally, the light turns on.

    • R

      It can be very confusing to figure out exactly what you’re dealing with. My h never admits wrong in the moment, and he gives me the silent treatment when I suggest he might be in the wrong about something. Days later, he might circle back and say he was wrong after all. I rarely see any change, though. But then I think about really entrenched sins in my own life, how they keep showing up over and over, and I wonder if others would say I’m guilty of not changing too. I do admit guilt when it’s pointed out to me. But overall I don’t really know how to evaluate what he’s doing… It’s just confusing and I’m tired.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Well one thing is certain- he is sinning habitually without repentance in order to punish you.

  5. Change Agent

    After 6 years of divorce and 1 of separation having abusers by proxy harass, character assassinate and assault are the only reasons I have to think about the ex. I thought with the references to his relationships with other women meant that I was safe to live finally. When the connections are toxic there is an attempt to continue to abuse even when you think the relationship is over.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I recently had one approach me in a public place. He caused all kinds of grief starting 20 years ago and has clearly been told to stay away. But here he came, wanting to chat and act as if there were no history at all. Of course all of this is nothing less than continuing harassment.

  6. eagerlabassistants

    A mere confession isn’t repentance either. As others have pointed out, boo hoos, tears and half truths, when there is NO change, there is no repentance. It’s just a trap to accuse the victim that they’re unforgiving. Well .as for me… YEAP I AM unforgiving and GLAD about it. 🙂

  7. GypsyAngel

    Oh my goodness, If I had $10 for every time I’ve been told…” but you have to accept your responsibility for the failure of the marriage and what He did to you,” I’d be able to pay my rent for at least three years. Why is it that when I speak to individuals about my life experiences and the bad choices I made because I didn’t want to get beaten or raped again…I hear nothing about accountability on his part, but only about how I have to be personally accountable for my bad choices? I understand about victim-blaming…but I’m SO TIRED of hearing it. Even from those in the field of DV/IPV. I’ve worked so hard to dig myself out from under him and the fall out of that abusive marriage. But all I get is how I’m at fault. I’m working on my fourth degree with honors (Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice), and still can’t get a job in the DV sector because of my past. One would think that “they” would understand. But no. I’m unwelcome in all circles. 7 years out, and I’m still garbage in the eyes of those who make choices regarding my life. God help me. I’m ready to give up. All I want is to be a light to others, and yes I need a paycheque. I need to be able to support myself. I can no longer work in my chosen field/ the horse industry, BECAUSE of the abuse and the damage done to my body. Why am I still paying for being a victim of abuse? How is it that he is a golden boy with a good income and an inheritance when my family has thrown me away, I can’t earn a living, and I am nothing but garbage in the eyes of so many?
    God forgive me…please! I’m angry and I’m tired. I’m tired of living in physical pain, and tired of having to defend myself and my choices.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Nothing wrong with anger about wickedness. For myself I don’t need to defend myself because i stay no contact with people who lay that garbage on me. Most “ministries” aren’t worth working with. Maybe get yourself a job just for income and keep commenting right here as you just did. Its a huge help to many. 👍👍

      • Judy

        I am struggling with this mightily right now. My husband has apologized specifically for many things and I truly believe he is broken. Not until I said I was done, though. He has gotten a whole group of people (mostly my dear friend’s husbands) to be accountability partners,(interestingly enough they never ask me how he’s doing), pretty much only listens to worship music, YET still cannot seem to even help himself in conversations with me… constantly pointing out where I am wrong, how I don’t understand the gospel, how reconciliation is mandated and that if I don’t at least try to reconcile that he will tell the kids that the divorce is my doing. All his accountability partners (which are all my friends) believe him and are begging me to have hope and to believe that God will redeem our marriage.

        • cindy burrell

          Hello, Judy. Dear woman, I am grieved to read what you shared.
          I have been where you are… a kind of bizarre world of half-truths and spiritual pressure. But words are just words, simply a weapon for an abuser. Apologies and promises and the image of change do not necessarily represent true repentance or change. What he has done is to bring alongside himself allies who will advocate for him and keep the pressure on you to accommodate him. But a genuinely repentant man would not shame or manipulate his wife, but rather he would be humble, patient and understanding of the legitimate need to re-earn your trust rather than to (again) spiritually bully you into submission.
          Don’t let anyone tell you what you must do. If the man has not genuinely repented, you have every cause to separate and protect yourself from him no matter what anyone tells you. This is not about pleasing others, it is not about image, and it is not about you having to prove yourself faithful. This is about what is true. And you know the truth.
          I’m sure you know that failing to accommodate other believers’ expectations creates even more stress. I’ve been there, too… But God is your witness, and He will make a way for you.
          I just want you to know that many of us understand what you are going through. You are not alone!

  8. Suzzie

    Test comment. I have to get the little red icon or this won’t post correctly it seems.

    • Hi Suzzie,
      There are others who have had glitches with wordpress. Feel free to contact me if issues continue. Usually it is a glitch on wordpress end, but sometimes we can fix it.
      You can reach me at unholycharade@gmail.com

  9. Suzzie

    There it is. Seems I have to post something in comment section on screen when blue icon is showing. Once I do hit “post” I get to page were I have to log in. After that I can successfully post. Must be a glitch.
    Anyway, yes, the inability of an abusive person to admit wrong is classic. I heard on Christian radio that “defensiveness” is very damaging, or most damaging, to a relationship. Might I just say that “defensiveness to the max” indicates an entire lack of any intent on the part of an abuser to see his sin and responsibility in a matter. It just amazes me that the one being abused so often will “confess” their part, even when their “part” is nearly non-existent just so they can “salvage” the relationship. Always being in the wrong, always having to yield to the abuser’s demands and preferences just gets so incredibly old. It’s not relationship at all!

  10. Susan

    Thank you Pastor Jeff for the work you are doing on this blog. It has helped me so much to stay in focus and see my marriage for what it is. The marriage journey can be very confusing when the husband continues to neglect his wife and be financially manipulative and at the same time makes the effort to prepare breakfast and tea and takes the kids to school in the mornings so that the wife can sleep in late.
    I am trying to live well with him although there are days when the craving for love and companionship is so overwhelming.
    God bless you for reaching out to people like me.

    • Jeff Crippen

      And thank you Susan for encouraging us all👍

    • Stormy

      Sue what you are describing is classic abuser behavior. I think it’s another form of manipulation. Abusers are always giving for an ulterior motive.
      The abuser I knew threw birthday parties for me (to look like a good guy for all his flying monkeys) then would abandon me after his show was over.
      The nice guy act is definitely part of the cycle of abuse. It’s crazy making for the victims. I completely can relate to the confusion this causes. Just enough confusion to continue the charade.

  11. Change Agent

    The hardest part is not riding the roller coaster of popular opinion. Choosing to set and regularly defend your boundaries and your truth is crucial to survival. You alone know your experience and that is all that matters. The abuses of the past and present are powerful enough to reinforce your resolve. No amount of slander or smear campaigning can erase the truth. Your worth and identity are not open for debate.

    • Jeff Crippen

      When we draw firm boundaries in order to deal with narcissists, abusers, sociopaths, or any other toxic people who would, if permitted, keep wreaking havoc and pain, it is a sure bet that we will be criticized and accused not only by the toxic person but also by….how shall I put it….fools. Fools because they insist that they “know.”
      But they don’t know. They have no idea and furthermore they don’t want to know how evil the person abusing you really is. So they put it all back on the victim. It’s your fault and therefore it is your duty to fix it.
      Nope. Nope. Not gonna get sucked into that.

  12. Change Agent

    There is something called selfish giving. It’s giving irrespective of the receiver’s needs or wants. Honestly it’s a convoluted form of taking. Abusers often practice this form of giving because it is self inflation. You don’t have to participate in their delusion. They experience other’s real needs and wants as impositions and respond with annoyance, distancing or contempt. They may also try to convince you that you don’t need what you know you do. This type of gaslighting is best overcome by a strong sense of self awareness.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Selfish giving. Yep. Numbers of times wicked people who we have confronted gone no contact with have kept sending birthday gifts or cards in the mail. It really is a way they continue to trespass. All such gifts go immediately in the trash unopened.

    • Breathe Again

      Oh my gosh, your words here give me clarity on something I’ve seen in my family for years. A certain person would ‘do something nice’ for another family member, and then blow up with anger when the person did not seem to appreciate it enough to satisfy him. What you wrote here is the answer. Thanks.

    • cindy burrell

      Wow. Your explanation provides so much vital clarity with regard to this dynamic! Thank you.

  13. cindy burrell

    Unfortunately, more often than not, church folks teach us not to trust our instincts but instead to override them. The guy says he’s sorry? Sheds a few tears? Immediately, victims are pressured to forgive and reconcile.
    Trust should never be demanded; it must be earned. And time reveals truth.
    Real change is voluntary; compliance is obligatory.
    Real change is sincere; compliance is half-hearted.
    Real change is permanent; compliance is temporary.
    Christian counsel should always defer to the victim’s instincts as well as her need for safety, which requires plenty of time, distance and healing as well as coming to an understanding of how abusers operate and the sanctity of marriage, which does not accommodate abuse. Unfortunately, too many counselors want everything fixed immediately. It’s about creating a perception that they “saved the marriage.” Instead, they probably just shamed another victim back into an unsafe situation, and it won’t be long before the abuser is back to his old habits and the victim doesn’t know where to go for help.
    And that is the way it goes.

  14. sweethonesty7

    Abuser: “I was a bad husband for 10 years.” I0 years?–try 27!
    Once I asked, “Expound on “bad”–I want you to *name* what you did.”
    Abuser: “I was a bad husband for 10 years.”
    I once called a counselor I had worked with over the years and said, “Is it ALL my fault?”
    The truth is, NONE of his behaviors towards me were my fault.
    Plainly, he’s a horrible, evil man masquerading as a Christian and has caused far reaching harm to myself and my children. I don’t call them “his” children, because he *uses* them to look good; they are his pawns and because “daddy” makes a lot of money they follow him around like their in a spell.

  15. suzzie

    I was interested in a post that mentions “gaslighting.” Yes, this form of abuse is also called “crazy making.” The victim ultimately questions her own perceptions of just about everything if it is allowed to go on long enough.
    In my case it resulted in a mental breakdown that lasted about two long, horribly painful years. I was suicidal, was hospitalized several times and was barely functioning in life. Once I regained my footing (by completely trusting in the Lord), I acknowledged that I was extremely angry about the abuse and my new fear that I might not be able to forgive. I prayed all the time to be able to forgive the (ongoing) abuse.
    The answer came in the form of getting out! God definitely made it possible and even showed me in many concrete ways that He made the way out and that He was with me!

  16. sweethonesty7

    When I was going through the divorce process I subpoenaed the abuser’s work records. He was fired–the reasons–he asked others alter information that made things appear better than they were and treated his fellow employees and vendors with contempt, disrespect, and had half the people under him *fearing* they were going to be fired. He was confronted by higher ups to apologize to everyone—he did not. He did all the damage in 5 weeks.

    • Jeff Crippen

      But of course to this day nothing was his fault.

      • sweethonesty7

        Pastor, in 27 years all I ever heard was that his bosses were jerks and he could do a better job than any of them; both military and civilian. *Arrogant* is one of his chief characteristics.

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