Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

The Lie of Toxic Positivity – A Guest Post

Luk 16:25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.

“It’s all good and you need to get your negative thinking straightened out!” That is the lie of toxic positivity. It is toxic because it is poison to the soul like all lies are. It denies evil rather than being wise to it. It calls evil, “good.” Yes, God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, but the TP people twist this truth to guilt and shame and deny.

The following is an excellent essay written on this subject by one of our blog followers and online church members. Many thanks to her for writing and shining more light on this common “just keep on the sunny side of life” business. Here she is:

Recently you were preaching about toxic positivity.  That got me to thinking… 

Why in Luke 16:25 does Jesus say that the poor Lazarus was being comforted by Abraham, while the rich man was in hell?  I mean, if Lazarus was supposed to always “count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” then shouldn’t Lazarus’s life have been one big rollercoaster of joy because of all his trials?  Why would he need to be comforted after all the terrible things he suffered here on Earth?  The “you be joyful right now you loathsome sinner” crowd would say that Lazarus should have been over-the-moon to have been “chosen by the Lord” to suffer all that he did.  And according to them, Jesus should have been calling Lazarus out for his sin of “bitterness,” since he could not transcend his circumstances to reach a higher “joy” plane — either by using positive thinking, “keeping an eternal perspective,”  practicing some sort of christian-y Zen, or aggressively ignoring everything that was happening to him and forcing a smile.  


Like I was told by my “c”hristian counselors — while being stalked by my ex, my church putting me under church discipline and shunning, being thrown under the bus by my own lawyer, medical providers taking me to court to sue me for medical bills “himself” had not been paying for years, losing my home and everything I ever owned, “himself” confiscating our joint checking and savings accounts (even though I paid into them), “himself” refusing to pay child support, me having to move back in and live with my abusive parents, being harassed and shamed by my abusive brothers, losing my job, losing all my friends, and my daughter’s genetic, chronic illness suddenly making the full force of its brutal self known in her body — I was counseled to focus on their “train analogy” to help me find joy.  You see, the engine is your thoughts, the coal car is your actions, and the caboose is your feelings.  If you’re in a bad state, just think happy thoughts.  Change… your mind. Change your mind, change your life!  Repeat/(chant) pieces of verses from the list they gave me.  You know those memes… “if you’re feeling this, then read that piece of verse,” those things that go around on Facebook.  Happy, holy thoughts will get the engine turned around and get it heading in the right direction. And it will start to pull everything else onto the “right” track.


Then, make yourself do happy actions.  Make yourself sing praise songs (but not in the choir anymore because they kicked me out of choir and all ministry).  Read good Christian books (but only from their “selected authors and publishers” reading list).  Cook or bake (but don’t indulge the flesh or self-medicate with food).  Exercise (but don’t do it from the sins of pride or vanity).  Take extra good care of my kids (but do not inform them about abusers’ tactics, do not discuss their fear, rage, and anger for what “himself” had done to them and what pastors and church kids were still doing to them, do not read to them what I was learning from *secular* [*whispered tones*] Lundy Bancroft or have them listen to *angry* Jeff Crippen sermons on becoming wise to evil — because, even though they were heavily abused too, it was all just me “dumping my baggage” on my 17, 15. and 13 year old kiddos, poisoning them against the father who they “secretly loved [they didn’t — they were afraid he would carry through on his threats to kill them and collect their life insurance to pay off his credit card debts], and who they secretly wanted to see often [they were terrified of even seeing his vehicle across a parking lot], but I made them too afraid to say their secret desires out loud.”)  


But, if I think (their prescribed) happy thoughts, do (their prescribed) happy actions, then eventually my feelings would be dragged around into the opposite direction, get aligned to the “correct” position, and my happy train would get on the right track, and I would be joyous all the time.  Pain and suffering, even that of my kids, would no longer affect me!  My problems would melt away in the light of my eternal perspective….  Blush *squee….!!!!*   


    All that to say, Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus is being comforted in Paradise for all the trauma he went through.  And Jesus holds this formerly miserable man up as an example of righteousness in His parable — someone resting blissfully now and eternally.  Jesus did not use him as an example of failed faith or failed joy.  To quote the kids nowadays, Jesus “ain’t even mad” that Lazarus needed comforting and was being held in the arms of his father-in-faith, Abraham.  So if Jesus makes a man who needs comfort after trauma, out to be the protagonist — the hero, if you will — in His parable, then why does the “toxic positivity” squad think that they know better than the Lord they say they serve?

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4 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    So becoming mentally ill is a coping mechanism according to the “c”hristians?
    Dissociative disorders are mental disorders that involve experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and identity. People with dissociative disorders escape reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy and cause problems with functioning in everyday life.
    Dissociative disorders usually develop as a reaction to trauma and help keep difficult memories at bay. Symptoms — ranging from amnesia to alternate identities — depend in part on the type of dissociative disorder you have. Times of stress can temporarily worsen symptoms, making them more obvious.
    Treatment for dissociative disorders may include talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication. Although treating dissociative disorders can be difficult, many people learn new ways of coping and lead healthy, productive lives.
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dissociative-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20355215
    No thank you! I chose to remain clear headed and continue to educate myself to the reality of who this predator is and how he functions as my survival coping skill.
    Thank you for this post, it is very helpful to have a clear observation of another not helpful/dangerous widely pushed perspective.

    • lg

      I agree with your point, “I chose to remain clear headed and continue to educate myself to the reality of who this predator is and how he functions as my survival coping skill.”
      That is the best mental health therapy: educating ourselves on the reality of evil and the nature of abuse and narcissistic tactics. God’s word tells us: “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7).”
      Instead of being educated on the nature of abuse, the victim alternatively so often gets pathologized in her response to the evil of abuse and the cultures’ toxic positivity messages, “live and let live” “move on” “be thankful for all that do have” while the abuse and the abuser becomes irrelevant.
      I am reminded of a Jackson Katz TED Talk called, Violence Against Women, It’s a Men’s Issue. At one point on the talk he diagramed in sentences through a series of active and passive voice sentences how the abuser initially was an active participator, but then quickly become passive to completely irrelevant while the victim alternatively gets pathologized and labeled.
      I wonder how many mental health issues would disappear if the abuse to the victim or patient was clearly, addressed, clearly named and identified and remained the central focus during the therapy with the point to educate the patient. A lot of so called “mental health” issues seem to me like normal response to being overwhelmed and traumatized by evil and all kinds of narcissistic abuse or neglect. it is disturbing how the victim then not only bears the burden labeled and pathologized in response to the abuse, but often remains in the dark and in the fog of confusion with unhelpful and demoralizing from all the toxic positivity messages.

  2. emmellkaycee

    First, may I say how very sorry I am for what this guest writer has gone through, especially at the hands of those that have likely expressed their “love” for her—at least, at one time, if not many times. Such ‘love’ one can easily get from an enemy. :{
    To the writer: Brava! Brava for speaking truth plainly and directly about the all-too-often mush-mouth christianese saccharine sentiments that come from goats and tares and rocks; those who profess our Lord’s name, but glaringly obviously have no understanding of Him. At all.
    I pray for you and your children’s full healing in the Spirit of the Savior. May His Peace be yours. May His Joys abound for you all. May His Comfort be everlasting. And may His Justice prevail.

    • Prayers for you

      This post was great!!!! Toxic positivity squad – that’s a PERFECT name for them and how it plays out in the modern day church! And the summary of all the do this – but can’t do that, absolutely what it is! Thank you for sharing this post and to the author who was willing to share.
      I am so sorry that the ever so true depiction of how it is is based on a true story – in reading through it, it was an astonishing amount of abuse from so many angles, and ceaseless. As I read it though it was also striking at how genuine and clear-minded the points were – please, whoever wrote this, hold on to that – your sharing your very valid points was a blessing to those that have experienced some or part of what you mentioned.
      Prayers are for you. May you find your freedom from the abusers (in your short post there were already many pointed out!), and soon. May you be abundantly provided for, in all ways. And may the Lord bless you and your three children with a safe new beginning and the continued strength, wisdom and understanding of what needs to happen in this day and those here foward. May you literally be shielded from the abusers attacks – shielded in all ways, and finally, may you and your children have rest, abuser-free calm, full restoration and healing time in your safehaven.

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