Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Accusation by Abusers to Victims: "You Cannot Keep Friends"

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:2-3)

Abusers are the children of their father the devil. So it is not surprising that they share one of his favorite tactics — accusation. And one of the very common charges that abusers level at their victims is something like this: “You never keep friends. Your friendships never last. You always reject them eventually. Or they reject you when they see how weird you really are.” Ever heard that line? I have. Plenty of times.

Of course the goal behind this lie is to make the accused feel worthless. If you believe this wickedness is true then you are going to see yourself as a person no one wants at best and at worst, someone who just uses people for a time and then dumps them. This is the kind of lying fog that helps abusers keep their victim under control. If they are in fact incapable of maintaining a friendship long term, no one is going to come to their aid if they ask, right?
If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, then the words quoted above from Isaiah 53 are going to be applied to you at some point. You will be despised and rejected by men, acquainted with grief. Others will see you as having no form or majesty, rather, you are a person who repels others and from whom they hide their faces. Sounds a lot like the very stuff the abuser tells us about ourselves.
Also, if you are a genuine, real-deal Christian, then some, if not many, of your relationships ARE going to fall apart. As you grow in Christ, superficial friends, some of whom claim to be Christians, are going to withdraw from you. Or you may well have to withdraw from them. We are, after all, not to be bound together in intimate relationships with unbelievers or with so-called “brothers” who live like the devil (see 1 Cor 5). It happened to Jesus frequently:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:66-67)

The real question becomes, you see, not why you experience broken relationships, but why is it that the abuser seems to be so popular with others?
One of the worst abusers I have ever known in my years as a pastor frequently launched this accusation at me — “you never keep relationships.” Of course I have many relationships with real believers who I have been close friends with for decades, but over the years I have indeed had to confront hypocrites and they almost always turn on anyone who tells them the truth. Yet this fellow who loved to revile us and make these accusations always managed to remain popular. How? He was like seaweed waving in the tides. He would take whatever position on issues that brought him the most favor and cost him the least. So he was the “go-to” man of the wicked and enjoyed popularity. Then he would level his accusations — “you never keep relationship. You dump people. You are too harsh. You hurt them.” That is how it goes.
It is all lies of course. It is the poison from those fangs that Paul says lie behind the lips of the evil man. Don’t believe any of it.


Grumbling When Good is Done is a Mark of Pharisees


She Came to her Own, But They did not Receive Her


  1. Stormy

    I experienced that same feeling when involved with the abuser. He turned everyone in the church group against me that he could.
    All of my acquaintances (which was the leadership team) shunned and avoided me. I had no idea why? I hadn’t done or said anything untoward to any of them. But the abuser was gathering allies behind my back.
    The abuser set it up that way so he could continue to malign, deceive and abuse and so that I would be discredited in advance if I ever started telling others about him.
    I remember the feeling of isolation and confusion. Asking myself what I did wrong? It was horrible. Like what did I ever do to these people to make them hate me? The questioning of myself was what was so despicable and hard to overcome. It was the instilling of self doubt that abusers do that makes abuse so demonic and vile.
    That’s what being abused does to your mind. Because your abused by a person who is smiling at you. A person who claims love but has a heart full of hate. It’s truly sick and twisted.
    Truth is I did nothing— the involved leadership was a bunch of phonies and abusers who colluded with my abuser to inflict emotional pain on me. I was the scapegoat.
    It’s sick. It’s hard to wrap your mind around people being so evil. It’s even harder when they are wolves in sheep’s clothing in leadership positions in the church. Praying long prayers, leading bible studies and Using spiritual sounding words. May justice come swiftly for all victims.

  2. Stormy

    Abusers are experts at marketing themselves within their social context, and if, at the same time, they can subtly undermine those they want to control, they get a double benefit. Often people think of grooming as something done to the victim, and that is true, but flying monkeys are groomed just as much, if not more.

  3. Norma

    This one touched a nerve. Brought back some memories. One goes from disbelief, to belief, to reality, to exposing, to confronting, to healing, to freedom. At least, I did. We have to recognize the truth before we can expose the lies. Helpful post. Thanks for addressing this topic.

  4. This is absolutely true, Pastor Crippen! Abusers are experts at grooming their “flying monkeys” (those who align with them against the victim) beforehand so that the victim is not believed and treated like she is the problem when the truth is that the abuser is an evil, wolf wearing wool. This is so pervasive in the “church” and many pastors and leaders are flying monkeys themselves if not actively abusing the victims who come forward.
    All of the above comments are so applicable and spot on. I tried to “like” them, but for some reason the like buttons were not allowing me to do so.
    Thank you again, Pastor Crippen for speaking the truth about such extremely evil people. May God bless you and your family!

  5. Aimee

    Yes. I used to hear this sort of thing from a young age from my mother.
    Still trying to get divorced from an abusive husband who is contesting the divorce, not complying with court orders. It’s costing a fortune. Have been a nomad for four years.
    Mother (92) even today called me scum. She still wants to have everything her way. There is a place available in a home she has seen and likes but prefers to have me at her beck and call. I feel so angry. I’m so sick of the difficulties that plague me and don’t know if there’s a future for me. I love the Lord. He understands.

    • Z

      So sorry for your situation. It’s so common for adult children of abusive parents to hate that life but then find themselves in an abusive marriage. I did. We weren’t raised to know the “red flags” normal children are taught nor do we know what a “normal dating relationship/marriage” looks like. Or we think we aren’t worthy of happiness due to the maltreatment of our own parents who should have loved us. We think we must be “bad” to be so unloveable. But it was THE ABUSER’S Character Disorder driving the abuse all along. But that feeling in us carries over into adulthood and our intimate partner relationships. It’s great you are getting free from your abuser husband. I had to walk away from all my possessions and equity in the house I paid half for just to get away. He wanted to prolong the torture-by trying to stay in my life in any way he could. But it ended eventually. My abusive parents are still abusing and putting on their “Christian sheep costumes” and fooling the churches they bounce around to and from. But I went No Contact with all abusers and their allies so it’s not my problem anymore.
      I’m so sorry your mom treats you so badly. Maybe she will decide to go to the home she likes. I will pray. May God give you strength.

    • J. D. Gallé

      I do hope that you will soon be able to wash your hands of the wicked, oppressive people in your life, Aimee. It is helpful to be as proactive in this respect as much as you are able to manage.
      A biological parent, regardless of gender or age, is no more entitled to abuse his or her offspring than a marriage partner, grandparents, siblings, or persons outside the familial context (e.g. an employer, colleagues). Sadly, it is often blood relations who believe they have licence to treat members of a family in a despicable manner.
      Abusers especially enjoy abusing people in environments in which they are permitted to carry out their evil with relative impunity. Abuse is facilitated by turning a blind eye to it, minimising and/or excusing it, attempting to mitigate it in some way, blame-shifting, apathy, cowardliness, and, perhaps most fundamentally, lack of love for justice. 
      Abusers hold people in bondage through fear, deception, false guilt, and false obligation. A large hurdle to overcome for abusees is the desire to placate the whims and incessant demands of evil persons in order to avoid their wrath. But we are rather to fear God and aim to please the Lord Jesus Christ than wicked, unreasonable men and women (2 Cor. 5.9a).

  6. Beth

    I just wanted to let you know, Mr. Crippen, that I recently read your book, A Cry For Justice and I so appreciated it. It shed more light on the difficult, sometimes abusive marriage I am in. And I will recommend it to others, it seems like so many of my Christian friends don’t understand this subject.
    I have been wanting to read your books for some time but didn’t want to spend the money. And then I remembered that my local library allows their cardholders to request books and often they will purchase them. So that is what I did and I got to read the book and feel sure others will benefit from reading it as I did. It has a most needed message! I don’t know if most libraries do this or not, but your readers could certainly check with their libraries. And now I am going to request the next one!
    Also, I was wondering if sometime you would address the physical effects emotional abuse has on a spouse? I have been really struggling with anxiety issues the last couple months. I don’t feel like my situation is as severe as many women’s, but nonetheless it seems to be taking its tole on me. I have cried out to God so many times begging Him to help me get through this rough time. But there are no easy answers and the way out is not clear to me. It is easy to feel like my back is against the wall and there is nothing but suffering in store for me. BUT, I am holding on to the promises that God has given me, such as “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

  7. Mhiggins

    So very helpful. I was only married to our abuser for two years but he did a lot of damage in that time. The accusations were endless. Every day was a constant stream of them. In the beginning I would try so hard to listen to each one and talk it through but it was mind boggling because they would be so rapidly fired you couldn’t keep up. I used to feel like I was in the batting cages with a pitching machine that went berserk. I was trying so hard to hit home runs and the “machine” was defective. Thank you for this puzzle piece. Each one helps to reconstruct me and make me even stronger.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Mhiggins- you are very welcome. Pitching machine. Yep.

    • Stormy

      Mhiggens —Oh my gosh-the batting cage analogy is right on !! Your right the accusations came so quick. Rapid fire!!!
      There was no way I could keep up or address each one. The verbal abuse was horrendous.

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