Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

**A Sure Sign of a Bully or Abuser: the Gnashing of Teeth

Now when they heard these things they were enraged,
and they ground their teeth at him. (Acts 7:54)

Recently I was reminded still once more of how the wicked react when their evil is exposed and they are called to account. The fangs come out. The bullying begins. They are like vicious, wild animals snapping at their prey. In this account here in Acts 7, Stephen has just confronted the Jews with their sins:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered. (Acts 7:51-52)

It sets them off like a pack of wolves and of course as we know, they murdered Stephen right there.
My recent experience with this sort was in regard to pastors who were rightly confronted with wickedness and spiritual abuse. They added to the oppression of victims and now it has come out. The response? Fangs. Gnashing of teeth. Direct assault against those exposing them. Vilification and reviling, demeaning and accusing. Of course they do all this in the name of “righteousness,” but they are anything but righteous. “Who are YOU to tell ME?” “How DARE you speak to me this way.” “You don’t know anything and I do.” “YOU are the guilty one here for slandering and gossiping.” See it? Fangs. Gnashing. It is characteristic of the wicked who are enraged when they are exposed. No hint of anything resembling repentance.

When a person, especially someone who claims to be “righteous” and who is in some kind of position of authority, responds in this characteristic manner, you can be sure you are dealing with at best a bully and perhaps even a sociopathic abuser. I am not certain, for that matter, if there is really a difference between the bully and the abuser.
If you look at Scripture and search under “gnashing of teeth” here are some things you come up with:

Psalms 37:12  The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him,
But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth. (Psa 35:15-16)
All your enemies rail against you; they hiss, they gnash their teeth, they cry: “We have swallowed her! Ah, this is the day we longed for; now we have it; we see it!” (Lam 2:16)

Pretty cool, huh? By that I mean, it is soooo revealing of what a person really is because this reaction is so consistent in the wicked. How many times have we seen pastors and writers and leaders of “notoriety” respond in just this way when their sin is put before them? They ooze hatred. They threaten. They demean and accuse. Oh, and often they throw in some words of “piety” as a cover.
Do they literally grind and gnash their teeth? Apparently in some cases yes they do. Their jaw is clenched. They set their teeth together and scowl hatred. They rail and rage through tightly clenched teeth. And they do this most intensely WHEN THEY KNOW they are busted. The truth is out. It is a murderous thing.
Incidentally then, we must rightly interpret this gnashing of teeth business in Scripture. Haven’t we often thought that when the Bible says the wicked will be gnashing their teeth when the Lord consigns them to hell that this teeth-gnashing business is an expression of their anguish and pain? I think that is wrong and misses the point. Gnashing of teeth in the Bible is an expression of hatred, of intense disdain, of “I want to kill you” mentality. With that in mind, consider these verses —

I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 8:11-12)
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mat 13:41-42)
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Mat 22:11-13)

See it? Don’t feel sorry for these characters. Even as they go down to hell, they want to murder Christ! They are beasts, actually, and thus it is appropriate that they are led by a beast —

And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. (Rev 19:19-20)

I say again then, one of the consistent marks of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is that when cornered, when confronted with the light of truth, the wool comes off and the wolf comes out. By that I mean that the “pious and godly” church leaders, the noted Christian conference speaker, the saintliest saint in the local church who is in truth a wicked person, will, when pressed with exposure, gnash their teeth. The bullying language and posturing will begin. When that happens, you can be sure that you are dealing with a child of the beast, not with a child of King Jesus.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1Pet 2:22-23)


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**A Surprising Ally of the Abuser


  1. No one down here

    This is 100%.
    The following were my thoughts on this topic some while back.
    Twisted words and unnumbered lies.
    Control and anger and hate.
    Someone’s got my back.
    Try to knock me down?
    Think I’m gonna sink?
    Go ahead. My Father is bigger…
    Think I’m not gonna see through
    The public face and private hell?
    Do you really think your words—
    YOUR words are going to reach through my Shield?
    So spiritually sensitive, someone said
    Someone doesn’t know godly doesn’t look like that.
    There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword.
    There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword, giving wounds like a poisoned asp.
    Someone doesn’t know godly doesn’t look like that.
    My God is a sun and a shield, giving grace and glory.
    The light shone, the shadows fled,
    The everlasting arms held me close like a child
    Send your words through that!
    Send your anger to the One who holds my soul.
    My dear one cannot be touched
    Not by you, not by the forces of hell.
    The three did not bow to the wicked idol.
    The three embraced the flame and found One already there
    I will not bow to your lies anymore.
    You plot and plan for my destruction.
    For a time, you may have won.
    For a moment, you may have a victory.
    You ride high on your lawn cutting machine
    You shear the blades of grass and laugh at the ruin…
    Times and moments and me…
    Under and growing still are the eternal roots
    Planted by the keeper of me.
    Twisted words and unnumbered lies
    Plans and plots and masterminded stories
    Designed to deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate—
    Before the beginning of time, One planned my times and moments and yours—
    Someone’s holding me in the palm of His hand, will never let me go.

  2. Amy

    Wow, just reading the title of this post brought an image to mind — that of my ex clenching his jaw with anger and rage — literally gnashing his teeth in rage. Although he always said to me, and others, how he didn’t have an anger problem, but he was the biggest bully of them all.
    And interestingly, several years ago I was contacted by a woman who was seeing my ex and she wanted to ask me some questions about him because of concerns she had. One of the questions referred to him clenching his jaw in anger when he didn’t like something she had done or was doing.
    I simply told this woman to pray and if she felt things weren’t right, then they probably weren’t.
    She ended up marrying someone else a couple years ago and appears very happy.

  3. Praying Lady

    You hit the nail on the head again, Pastor Crippen!
    “I say again then, one of the consistent marks of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is that when cornered, when confronted with the light of truth, the wool comes off and the wolf comes out. By that I mean that the “pious and godly” church leaders, the noted Christian conference speaker, the saintliest saint in the local church who is in truth a wicked person, will, when pressed with exposure, gnash their teeth. The bullying language and posturing will begin. When that happens, you can be sure that you are dealing with a child of the beast, not with a child of King Jesus.”
    That is exactly how my ex-husband would act every time he was caught in sin. Instead of being repentant, he would go into a huge rage at me. The evil that came out of him in order to throw up a smokescreen and defer the subject to blaming me was vicious and endless. His last rage ended with him being arrested for strangling me in front of a law enforcement officer. There was never even a hint of godly sorrow for any of the evil he committed. He was a child of the beast.
    Thank you again, Pastor Crippen, and may the Lord bless and protect you and your family.

    • sweethonesty7

      Praying Lady, just horrific! If he would do that in front of Law Enforcement, I shudder to think what you endured in private. Hugs to you!

  4. IrisJane

    I’m always amazed at how quickly their true, seething, naturally full of anger self raises its ugly head….in a split second they can go from a friendly & caring fake snake, to a deadly, striking poisonous snake when confronted or asked about anything – large or small… that’s why so many (actually all) of their victims ‘walk on eggshells, they’re just trying to avoid being bitten.

  5. Innoscent

    This behaviour of the wicked is a big red flag. I agree that the gnashing of teeth is a typical nonverbal communication sign of ungodly anger and rage in the soul. They want to annihilate, i.e. devour, the weak or those who confront and silence them forever so that they can continue their evil deeds, like their father the devil (1 Pet 5.8).
    Prov 30:14 – “There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men ”
    David prayed imprecatory prayers about his enemies within his own camp in Israel:
    “Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD.” Ps 58.6.
    And in Psalm 3:
    6 “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. 7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. 8 Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah”.
    After Job explained his life of service to the poor, the fatherless, widows, naked, blind and lame in Job 29.13-16, he adds that he would fight for them against their oppressors:
    verse 17 “And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.”
    But the wicked church leaders and allies pile up more abuse on the victims. That’s why they will end up gnashing their teeth because there will be no more ‘meat’ in their mouth to devour on judgment sentence day.

  6. sweethonesty7

    My abuser was E-X-P-L-O-S-I-V-E, when he was exposed! The venomous response was quick!, thunderously loud, and meant to intimidate me to recant my words. When we 1st dated he told me over the phone about something he was involved in and when I said it was wrong he instantaneously went berserk! I remember reiterating that it was wrong and then proceeded to end the conversation. I wanted nothing to do with him and was walking out of the room, when…the phone rang. Remembering that day is filled with regret wishing I had never I had not gone back to that room and answered! He apologized, he sent me a dozen roses…flowers, cards, and kissing would be his “go to”, after he was awful to me. Amy Carmichael’s words were some of the 1st to pull open the window of my mind and lead me to freedom: “Words are not the proof of love. They are the fragrance of the flower of love, but they are not the flower, nor even the proof that there is a flower, for fragrance can be imitated. “Judas kissed Him much.”” I was blown away, when I read this–it’s so amazing! how God leads us to what speaks so personally to us. Everything in Amy’s description was all too familiar to me. It pierced my mind in the best possible way.

  7. Z

    That murderous, violent gnashing of teeth that an abuser shows especially when exposed or when boundaries are placed on them and enforced is very familiar to me.
    Books about abusers and statistics say the most dangerous time for an abuse victim is when she leaves her abuser. When she makes some kind of stand and sticks to it. Her life is in danger because the hallmark of a “dangerous, unsafe person” is that they ESCALATE their abuse when left, confronted, exposed or boundaries are enforced. They retaliate with MORE abuses and even worse violence. That’s why they gnash their teeth. Just like Jesus’ murderers. Plotting how to murder Him when He called out their hypocrisy.
    Be careful, all my fellow victims. Plan, plan, plan your escape carefully. Have help from an ally ready. Have a stash of money and clothes and maybe even a safe place to stay set up in advance. And don’t wait for a final confrontation or even a logical conversation where the abuser has a chance to seethe and gnash his teeth and possibly do more in retaliation. They don’t “self-reflect” when they are at risk of losing their family. They try to get even! Silently get away when you can. But get away! He won’t change.

    • Cara

      I’m with Z. The abuser is most likely going to harm you. Acid attacks might not be common here, but in essence, that is the ‘how dare you leave me or defy me – I shall ruin you so nobody else wants you’ maneuver.
      Brain injuries are common in battered women. And once you’ve sustained a brain injury, or series of brain injuries, your life will never be the same. So, please be careful and do it as stealthy as possible.
      Despite a multitude of books and advice aimed at battered and abused women as to ‘you teach people how to treat you. Stand up for yourself. Set boundaries’ this is foolishness because of the violence, abuse, and escalation that is inherent in the situation. Standing up for yourself is dangerous with an abuser. You might be beaten unconscious, you might be strangled, you might have your head violently bashed.
      So, there is good reason for you to ‘go along to get along’ while secretly planning escape. But escape doesn’t have to be perfect and escalation is a real concern. The abuser’s appetite for violence, cruelty, and abuse continues to grow and the longer you are there, the greater the progression, the ‘natural escalation’ (for lack of better terms) and the greater the danger.
      Lastly, never ever believe it is your fault. There is a brainwashing that occurs where the victim is forced to believe she causes it and deserves it and if such has occurred to you, be rest assured these are lies. Instrumental, strategic lies. The abuse is never your fault. Doesn’t matter the details. Seriously. Because it took me a long time to see that, and it only started after getting out. And I really had been led to believe it was all my fault, that I caused it, and I deserved it, and finally that the abuser was the victim and I was the victimizer. It’s messed up, but when you’re in it, that is what is brainwashed into you. At least, that’s what my abuser did. He’d attack me and I’d apologize for it. How backwards. And I felt guilty and that I was wrecking his life. He’d tell me “look what you made me do!” And I’d feel even more awful about myself and pity him even more and be more apologetic and placating. So, please, trust me when I say it – it’s not your fault. You didn’t go out and pick an abuser. You don’t force him to beat you. You don’t deserve to be violated. It is not your lot in life. You don’t deserve it.
      And above all, the danger is real. You’re dealing with a criminal. A child of the devil. If he viciously beat you for no reason while in the ‘relationship’ (there are no actual relationships with abusers, just illusions and counterfeits, it’s bondage and entrapment in reality) and all sorts of other things, please be assured it will continue and possibly worsen when you attempt to leave. Brain injuries are for life! You might live, but it’ll feel like a living death because you’ll struggle so much more and be that much more vulnerable and you’ll painfully recall when it was not so – before the batterer made sure to ruin you.

      • sweethonesty7

        So very true, Cara. I was shaken *violently* 2 weeks after a C-Section; my scar tissue was torn and I suffered panic attacks 24/7 for at least a year. He would scowl at me, when I was in the middle of an attack and tell me the reason I had panic attacks was, because I did not trust God. I was never treated for what happened to me. Recently after leaning about some of the best neurologists in the country I started reading their writings and sure enough I had many of the symptoms of what is a concussion. I even had the opportunity to have a short phone conversation with one of the doctors and he confirmed that you can lasting effects of an untreated concussion.
        I also suffer from an incident in my home, after the divorce, but days before the final sale of it; the circumstances surrounding it and an act of more cruelty following all point to a well thought out plan to make it happen; it has contributed to worsening cognitive skills. In the meantime he was going to church and Sunday School every week; he’s premeditative, deceptive, and cruel as eternity is long.
        As fellow suffers what was done to us is so far greater than incidents we list here.It’s so angering to hear other people say, “Just put it, behind you, forgive him and forget about it.” How can I forget about something I lived through for almost 30 years. How can I forget, when I look in the mirror everyday and see and feel the physical reminders of what he did?! I use the remembrance to never allow myself to be in his company or think for one moment that if he had the chance he would “finish the job.”

        • sweethonesty7

          Correction on last paragraph: I use the remembrance to never allow myself to be in his company and to never forget that if he had the chance to “finish the job” he would do it.

        • No one down here

          Oh my dear, sweet honesty… I am so sad for what has happened. It is my dream that some day churches will have knowledge and understanding and not allow this type of blasphemy. It is blasphemous, after all… to go to church, sing the songs, partake in the Lord’s supper, preach sermons, teach Sunday school, pray, work in ministry….. and also beat your wife. Or demean and destroy her. Or bully her. Or any of the horrors that go on privately. This is blasphemy. God sees, hears, and will mete our judgement. Grace and peace to you.

        • Cara

          Violent shaking is so common. Acceleration and deceleration injuries. It tears the blood vessels. It produces a shearing effect. And the damage is not localized. And brain injured wives fatigue easily, struggle to make decisions, all sorts of stuff. Just how the batterers want them. It’s ‘smart’ of the batterers because the victim doesn’t have a marked up face or broken jaw or missing teeth, but rather a greater inability to function, a diffuse brain injury (or series of brain injuries), a struggle to cope. And said invisible injuries are perfect because law enforcement and courts tend to care about blood, broken bones, and external bruises. Injuries that photograph well.
          Brain injured wives are that much more susceptible to additional concussions, and additional brain injuries. Brain damage is cumulative and irreversible. And being battered and abused also dramatically ages your brain so the natural cognitive decline that comes with advanced age occurs much earlier. Depending where the injuries are, the battered woman can lose her verbal recall and expend extraordinary effort and energy in simply trying to communicate and remember words and select the right words and nobody knows (outside of the batterer) how or why this is the case, but rather pass harsh judgment on the battered woman for not being up to par, or see her as lazy since so much effort is used in simply trying to verbalize what has happened and what her life is like now.
          Being thrown on the ground adds up. Being thrashed about adds up. Being slammed against walls adds up. Then add in the actual injury sustained in PTSD (which, for battered women is more accurately described as CPTSD as it isn’t a single traumatic incident, but a prolonged, chronic, multitude of traumas) is also brain damage. The trauma actually shrinks your hippocampus. Volume losses in soldiers with PTSD were at least 20 percent and that’s one trauma. CPTSD is worse and the damage (injuries) shown on brain scans is not pretty. Your hippocampus is your brain’s memory and learning center. Processing new information, retaining new information, your working memory (short term memory) all that goes south.
          Suffocation causes brain injuries, too. Deprivation of oxygen causes brain damage. Somehow it seems battered women’s injuries aren’t seen as legitimate.
          It all adds up. Abusers are murderers. Abusers are of the devil. I cannot say enough how evil abusers are. I cannot say enough how murderous, evil, and sadistic they are. I cannot say enough what a true horror wife-beating and wife abuse actually is. But it almost invariably is done to women and thus the world cares not. I’m going to be especially contented when I see the world’s batterers being thrown into the pit. Too bad the damage they inflict mars the present lives of the victims. Thankfully, we have a life to come, and that’ll contain no abusers, and we’ll be with God. No more tears, no more pain, no more predators. No more victimization. No more abuse.
          Finally, I’d like to have it be where the abusers have their brains injured to the degree that they injured their victims’ brains. Make their lives here on earth one endless struggle. Let them live out lives of needlessly greater difficulty. Same goes for acid attacks. Throw the acid into their faces. Make them wait for treatment. Ensure they feel and experience and live with the same injuries and effects.
          Good for you, Sweethonesty for your remembrance. My abuser, too, would surely “finish the job” if he thought he’d get away with it. I’m tired of so many people giving such bad advice and passing such wrong judgments against abused women. So tired. So, so tired. It’s vile. Abused women should find other abused women and only listen to them, as it seems one must live it to be able to understand it. Even then, it’s dangerous because some abused women were dramatically less abused and had greater options or their abuser had more to lose so he kept the abuse more restricted. But for those women who have gone to the extreme end, it’s helpful to meet and share with others who have suffered extreme injuries, too.
          I pull for all you women. I hope you have good lives, although for many, I realize it’s very unlikely.

          • Cara

            Abusers never stop being evil, so deterrence isn’t likely, however, they’d be weaker, as abuse and cumulative brain injuries and prolonged trauma and extreme, unremitting stress definitely dampers a person.

  8. Anonymous

    Oh my goodness. My husband quite literally reminds me of a wolf when his lip curls, he clenches his teeth, and spit starts flying when he’s in a rage. I keep learning more and more. Thank you.

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