Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

We Have a Choice: Follow Christ or Become Cruella Deville

I don’t know how many of you have watched the new Disney movie, Cruella. We have seen it twice now and it really provoked my thinking.

Cruella was treated very wickedly as a child. Her name was Estella. There is a pivotal scene in the movie where Estella decides to embrace who she concludes she really is – Cruella. Thus the origin of one of the most evil characters in the Disney collection who sets out to exact her revenge.

When we have been on the receiving end of abuse, when we come to underestand this evil – its mentality and tactics and goals – we have a choice to make. We can follow Christ and walk with Him wherever He goes, experiencing all that He receives at the hands of a world that hates Him – and thereby walk into freedom. Or, we can choose to become Cruella and spend the rest of our life seeking vengeance and retribution, lashing out at anyone who misunderstands us, triggers us, or in some way causes the videos in our minds to replay. This latter path is the path to continued bondage and misery. It is the path to becoming a practitioner of the very evils our abuser utilized against us.

The Bible is what I like to describe as “condensed soup.” Its words are packed with wisdom and insight that we must, by the Spirit in us, “unpack” like a zip file so that the truths in even one verse can open up before us. Such a verse is this:

Rom 12:19-21 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (20) To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Estella was overcome by evil when she determined to be Cruella. Don’t go down that path yourself. Hunger and thirst for justice, yes. Appeal to Caesar as far as the law of this world allows. Take steps to get free of an abuser. But never permit yourself to be overcome by evil, so that you become an evildoer yourself.


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Right Back at Ya! The Abuser’s Tactic of Reflective Blaming


  1. IamHisBeloved’s

    Excellent! Amen and amen!

  2. Pat

    Such good insights from the Disney movie, “Cruella,” with life application from God’s eternal Word!

  3. Anonymous pastor’s wife

    Very good advice on how to handle abusive and destructive people. I loved the analogy of scripture being like “Condensed soup”- what you wrote is so true of God’s Word: it’s there for us to open like a zip file: open it, unpack it and apply it. Abusers want to ensnare us into replying to them so they can continue to pursue their attack against us. When we don’t reply or respond – they have lost! Our human nature is to want to respond and defend ourselves, but we must remember we are fighting the devil- he is defeated when we do not give him any power with a response. The devil is in battle against anything good working for the Lord- Jeff- your ministry is one of those good things. I thank you for standing firm! God will bless you for your obedience. Praying for you…Anonymous Pastors’ Wife

  4. lg

    I’ve noticed a trend of sympathizing / empathizing with the villain (the abuser) in fairy tales .

    When my daughter was in 6th grade she was also given a writing assignment prompting the students to sympathize with Cinderella’s wicked step mother, such as imagining her childhood and why she became that way.

    I was so angry that she was given such an assignment. I told her it is never the job of children to make excuses for a grown up’s behavior! It does not matter why Cinderella’s step mother is so abusive and wicked. She is a grown up and made her choices.

    This past year my daughter was overwhelmed with an increasingly toxic friend circle and was being bullied to make excuses and allowances for a very toxic and controlling friend who was blaming everyone for her “anxiety” and “tough life” (she is already on psych meds in middle school). I had to keep reminding my daughter that there are a lot of have people who have and had a tough childhood, but they aren’t mean to others. My daughter has since removed herself from that group and found a more studious / honors / AP level Asian friend group, with no drama.

    But it was really telling at how much reminding she needed that it is never okay to be mean or treat others badly, no matter what their life circumstance is and to not let anyone make you feel guilty for them when they make excuses for themselves.

    I really wish there were some videos series, etc geared towards middle schoolers / teens on how to identify narcissism / red flags in toxic people and abuse — like Dr. Ramani style 10 min clips but for middle schoolers / teens and Bible studies on same subject but geared for teens…..

    Does anyone know of any?

    • Noka

      Ig, I don’t know of any but I also like Dr. Ramani’s videos. I would think they would be great for a teenager too. She’s very knowledgeable and engaging.

      Also books like
      Boundaries by Cloud/Tounsend,
      Toxic Relationships and How You Can Change Them by Clinton McLemore,
      or The First Will Be Last by DC Robertsson might be good and helpful for a teenager.
      Also Fool Proofing your Life, by Jan Silvious

      The last 2 books are based on the biblical wisdom literature.

  5. Noka

    This is the part that’s most difficult for me right now. Like everyone else I’ve had to leave behind enablers and trigger people, all of them which I thought were my good friends.. As heartbreaking as that was, I don’t want to have anything to do with them, but I’m terrified sometimes what I’ll do if I have to interact with some of these people who made everything worse for me. I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep it together. I’m constantly on guard about how will I react. Thank you for this post. It gave me greater motivation to keep persevering in the right direction!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Noka. You describe it very well. Surprisingly what I have to be on guard against if those kind of people come around is behaving as if all is good. Because that is how they want us to behave. So I walk away.

      • Noka

        oh yeah! I know exactly what you’re talking about. They ruin others but can’t stand repentance or being confronted for their sin, so they just want you to “get over it” and hope that in time you accept them as they are, acting like nothing happened. — I experienced that as well, where this person should not have been able to sleep at night for how she acted, but instead acted like all was good.– No repercussion for their sin, they just want to get away with their behavior with no consequences.

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