Morning friend,

I’ve been reading through the book of Proverbs this month. I read the chapter that corresponds to each day of the month. I’ve been doing this for years and I’d encourage you to do so as well. God tells us in Proverbs that there is nothing more important for you to get than wisdom. Wisdom will save you from foolish and wicked people as well as teach you how to recognize them. 

I’m doing a free webinar December 7th on How to Move from Victim Mindset to Owner Mindset. (CLICK HERE to register). In it, you will learn to write a new chapter to your own life story, even if the situation never changes. 

Question: My husband was abusive in all ways (physical, emotional, financial, etc.). I learned in counseling & support groups that abusers use the same tactics (e.g. injuring themselves before the police arrive, grooming, physical abuse without leaving marks, character assassination, isolation, gaslighting). Other than generational, how do abusers learn these tactics?

Answer: Let me begin by telling a true story. When my granddaughter was about 2 ½ years old, I was taking care of her and her baby sister. She was very drawn to her daddy’s computer which sat open on his desk. I knew he did not want her playing on it and she knew she was not to climb on his desk chair to pound on the keyboard. Yet when my back was turned, she climbed up on his chair, stood over the keyboard, pounding away. 

When I “caught” her in the act, and said, “Maya, what are you doing?” She looked at me, big tears rolling down her eyes, threw her hands up in the air, and cried, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know.” 

That wasn’t true. She did know she was not supposed to be up on that chair or playing with the keyboard. But where did she learn to lie and manipulate her Nana with her tears? Who taught her those tactics? No one. Sin comes naturally to all of us. It’s our parents, teachers, friends, religion, culture, and consequences who teach us what is acceptable and what is not. What is good and what is bad. What is right and what is wrong.

Ideally, when that happens, as a child matures those external standards become internalized into that person’s own personal conscience. Later, when that child or adult is tempted to lie, or steal or hurt someone else, those internal controls are operational and help restrict certain kinds of sinful behavior. Why? 

1. The person doesn’t want to feel bad about themselves if they violate their own conscience. 

2. The person doesn’t want others to think badly of him or her if they behave in those ways. 

3. The person doesn’t want to get in trouble or face the consequences if he or she gives in to temptation. 

This doesn’t mean we don’t sin anymore, but we have some internal brakes on what we would allow ourselves to do and what we would not allow ourselves to do under most circumstances. 

Proverbs teaches us to value wisdom so that we can become our best selves. It also warns us to stay away from temptations that will harm us, ruin our lives, and hurt others. However, Proverbs is also realistic about some people. It doesn’t whitewash evil or cover up for fools. Proverbs says that wise people listen to instruction, but fools and wicked people refuse. (Proverbs 12:15)

[Tweet “Fools don’t learn from their mistakes.”] They blame others instead of taking responsibility or disciplining themselves (Proverbs 12:1). The wicked are described as actually enjoying plotting evil and harming others. Yet they are good at pretense and image management (Proverbs 2:12-15). 

But your question is how do the wicked become wicked? Or foolish become foolish? Or abusers become abusers. Is it generational? Genetic? Learned? Here are a few of my thoughts. 

Science now tells us that the brains of narcissists and psychopaths are different from the brains of those who don’t have this problem. But we still don’t know why. Are these differences because of biology, or due to repeatedly making poor choices? 

There is evidence from neuroscience that shows us that the brain does change. For example, when you make repeated good choices, your brain forms new positive pathways, but when you make repeated negative choices, like with addiction, or repeated deception, or angry outbursts, those choices change the brain in negative ways. 

Therefore, when we look at the brain structure of a narcissist or sociopath that is different from someone who does not have these problems, we have to ask ourselves, are these differences because they were born that way, or has their brain changed in response to their chronic life choices and “thinking habits?” 

In Romans 1, the apostle Paul describes this process although he didn’t know anything about neurobiology. He writes, “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie” and as we read through the rest of that chapter, we see the consequences of God giving them over to a depraved mind. 

Their very character becomes deformed growing further and further away from the image and character God intended them to have. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce that “the one who repeatedly grumbles becomes nothing but a grumble.” That’s who he is, not just what he does. 

We don't have a clear answer from science yet. But what we do know from science is that in addition to our own personal choices for good or bad, when someone experiences trauma, neglect, abuse in childhood, there are consequences in the brain. In other words, we know that trauma impacts the brain not only for the one traumatized but for that person’s children even if they didn’t experience that trauma or are yet unborn.

However, it’s important to also note that not everyone who experiences abuse, neglect, or trauma develops a personality disorder or becomes a sociopath or an abuser as a result of that trauma. We must ask ourselves what else is at work?

Our heart. [Tweet “Even after something traumatic happens to us, we have choices to make about what we will do with what happens to us.”] Will we hate or forgive? Will we curl up in fear? Retaliate or trust God? These particular decisions repeatedly made over our lifespan, create not only the particular neural pathways in our brain but our character traits of good and evil. 

Again C.S. Lewis writes….”Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.” 

The Bible speaks of pride, selfishness, envy, rebelliousness, haters of good, dishonesty, and laziness as part of a person’s character and not their biology. And, we also know that God is all about restoring someone’s character as they submit to him in the repentant and renewing process. (1 Corinthians 6:10,11; Ephesians 4:17-31). The bad news is that God never changes someone against his or her own will. 

The Bible is realistic. It tells us that darkness hates the light (John 3:20) and the foolish and evil heart rejects feedback and correction which are essential to change (Proverbs 9:7,8). Daniel tells us “the wicked will continue to be wicked” (Daniel 12:10).

Your question is how did he learn these ways? In summary, the ways we learn and choose to manipulate, control, express our anger, avoid conflict, or engage in conflict, are part personality, part family of origin, and part personal choice. 

For example, a quiet timid personality might engage in much more covert tactics to get his way than a more aggressive personality. Someone who grew up in a home with little teaching about morality or honesty might learn to lie or sneak or cheat much more than someone who grew up differently. However, each of us has an internal God-given moral compass, that knows right from wrong, love from hate, evil from good, even those who repeatedly choose to ignore it.

Friend, how do you learn that it was not okay to engage in some of these hurtful, abusive, and sinful behaviors?

29 Comments

  1. Moon Beam on November 17, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    I enjoyed reading this. Thank you. Yes, the neurobiological area for brain changes in narcissists is near the left frontal cortex. It can be identified on an MRI. Once I saw the MRI image, it helped me give up all thinking that my abuser could change or heal. His brain was, for lack of a better word, damaged. This aided in my ability to forgive him. On top of his foolish behavior and delusional thinking, he was brain injured by choice or hereditary. It was all beyond my control and not my responsibility to fix the unfixable problem. I could only protect myself from him and give up life Plan A and accept I needed to figure out Plan B.

    • Dara on November 18, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      I wonder actually about the statement that it is unfixable. You are certainly right that YOU cannot fix it for him, though the brain does have remarkable plasticity. Of course, the trouble with narcissism, is that it is the nature of the beast to be self-satisfied, smug, to not feel the need to change. Indeed most abusers do what they do because their behaviors serve a purpose for them, and they don’t want to give up those perks. You cannot make someone change who does not genuinely want to change. God gave man free will. That is part of giving them over to depravity, sadly. Oh, they’re good at faking they want to change when that tactic serves them too, but time will reveal when that is just another ploy. So all in all, you are right to move on and release yourself from responsibility for the sinful person. I did. However, even as I did, there was still a small part of me that held out hope that maybe one day with God never giving up, life circumstances would eventually teach him something, and just maybe my finally leaving him to be responsible for himself would help him wake up as well.

      • Moon Beam on November 20, 2021 at 4:39 am

        Dara, brain damage can not be fixed. The point of this article is that people with narcissism have measurable, identifiable, abnormalities in their brains. Hope is a beautiful thing, but it unrealistic in this situation. Compare the narcissistically damaged brain to Alzheimer’s dementia or Cerebral Palsy.

        Brain damage is not reversible. Accepting these truths and applying them to our narcissistic abusive unions saves us from the magical thinking your describe. Spiritualizing the situation helps us stay in denial of the truth and allows us to hang on to false hope. It is a coping mechanism, we use because we want our situation to change.

        I understand the thinking that with God all things are possible, yet in this situation God is not involved. The self absorbed, brain damaged narcissist thinks of himself about God despite whatever propaganda he says to the contrary. He worships himself and himself alone. It is important to remember God’s anger and wrath against those who behave in such a manner. That is our call as well, to hate evil and to remove ourselves from it.

        • Moon Beam on November 20, 2021 at 4:40 am

          Above God, not about.

      • Free on November 20, 2021 at 4:48 am

        Your comments are very loving Dara. Your evil former spouse lost a fine woman. Giving up hope is hard as faith is linked with hope of things unseen. Yet, sadly if you really think about it, you have lived with and looked evil straight in the eye. There is no change forthcoming. You did everything you could to create accountibilty and consequences by leaving the relationship. Your duty is done. Time to place your love and hope in more fruitful places. Blessing to you on that journey.

  2. Patti on November 17, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    This is an amazing article!! What a great job Leslie did in answering the question with such insight from our own personal development and conscience, God’s word and science. I’ll be sure to pass this on to some of my friends.
    Thank you,
    Patti

  3. Ev on November 17, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Wow this was very enlightening. My husband who grew up in a very “Christian” home with a pastor dad and Wednesday and Sunday night church besides Sunday School and regular Sunday morning worship service, chose to visit a prostitute when on a business trip to Nevada early in our marriage. This was only the beginning of years of infidelity that he acts like were not choices in his control, as he is sex addicted. Lies, manipulation, etc over the decades were more choices he made. Yet he acts again as if they were out of his control. I’m so confused because I believe that he had many chances to break out (Promise Keepers, accountability groups, marriage weekends, etc) but CHOSE not to. He is acting remorseful and repentant and pursuing recovery and sobriety very seriously. BUT I am looking at these things in the past as revealing his true character and extreme disregard for us, his family, all while being judgmental and hypocritical about church attendance and alcohol consumption etc. He is still self-defensive when questioned on something he doesn’t like and attacks me. I don’t think he can really change and have a soft heart toward others and the Lord. Am I being too hard in thinking he had choices everywhere along the way that brought us here?

    • Leslie Vernick on November 18, 2021 at 9:00 am

      The Bible says that our hearts become darkened over time. The more we refuse to listen to God, or obey his ways, he gives us over to our own cravings which then we become a slave to. So by the time we are a slave to those things it feels like we do have no control, and in some ways that’s true, but it’s due to our long term patterns that had hardwired that into our brain. Humility and accountability can lead to greater self-control, but it doesn’t sound as if he’s there yet.

      • Elisabeth on November 20, 2021 at 1:08 pm

        Amplified Bible
        2 Thessalonians 2:10-12:

        10 b: because they did not welcome the love of the truth [of the gospel] so as to be saved [they were spiritually blind, and rejected the truth that would have saved them].
        11 Because of this God will send upon them a misleading influence, [an activity of error and deception] so they will believe the lie,
        12 in order that all may be judged and condemned who did not believe the truth [about their sin, and the need for salvation through Christ], but instead took pleasure in unrighteousness.
        Greetings Elisabeth

    • JoAnn on November 21, 2021 at 4:27 pm

      My question to you, Ev, is why have you stayed with him? Infidelity is not only condemned in the Bible, but is it dangerous to the whole family. He could bring in STDs, his attitude will be harmful to you and the kids….so many negatives. Why have you stayed with him?

      • Nancy on November 23, 2021 at 1:26 pm

        Yes, why stay?

        The beauty of the process that Leslie teaches is that as you set boundaries and hold him accountable, you then observe his response. His response to the boundaries and accountability will tell you exactly where his heart is.

        If he defends himself when confronted, he’s unrepentant.

        Don’t listen to his words. It’s his actions that will tell you where his heart is. Then it’s up to tou to make an adjustment based on his response.

        Eventually it will lead to separation if he continues to be unrepentant

  4. Leftymomof4 on November 17, 2021 at 11:41 pm

    I was taught Biblical principles of right and wrong all my life. I saw wrong behavior throughout elementary public school and we discussed these topics thoroughly at home with my parents. Christian jr high & high school helped but there were still evil ways present-in some ways more covert but there. My parents gave me space in high school to mature & figure things out. Attending a Christian college 1 year far from home helped too. But then it was up to me. Most decisions were good and some were not but I learned through consequences. The key for me was my walk with Christ continued. My faith has sustained me. It helps me with self control. I was given tools of how to live and used those tools. Many have not. I lost a classmate to alcoholism. He chose not to follow God’s path for his life. My class is truly divided on the life path. God knows their heart; they were all taught right from wrong but it’s their choice.

  5. Chan on November 17, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    Wow, Leslie. Thank you for such a clear understanding of what I’ve been telling my husband for years. Sadly, he still refuses to learn or self-reflect.

    I come from a very abusive and traumatic childhood and I remember clearly making a cognitive decision to never, ever raise my children the way I was raised and to never turn out like my parents. I was 16 years old when I became a born-again Christian and one of the first books I recall reading when I was in grade 11, was called “Adults Sow the Seed and Children Reap the Harvest”. And I vowed to never repeat my parents mistakes. Through and by the grace of God I was able to break those generational curses and am thankful for being able to raise my kids in a healthier way. That said, I had to do a lot of damage control as they were growing as unfortunately and sadly, I married a man who was a wonderful Christian (he led me to the Lord) and I thought we’d live happily ever after serving God, each other and raising our beautiful kids. Little did I know that he was and continues to struggle with sexual addictions which eventually led into him abusing me covertly and overtly. And that every time he would be found out he would become a good Christian for a while and when things returned back to normal he would just begin all over again. And the sick cycle would continue and still continues 39 years later.
    I studied psychology and criminology and shared so much with him throughout the years, I went to Bible college and learned so much (so did he) yet he has never managed to take all that he knows and put it into action in his own life. He continues to be passive aggressive, angry and double-minded, especially with me and now that I have finally been able to put boundaries in place, he has just become so much more passive aggressive, yet is such a people pleaser and he ensures that everyone else sees and knows what a great guy he is. Sadly he lacks emotional maturity and will never discuss any of the issues we have nor ever apologize or show any kind of remorse. His lack of empathy still shocks me and I made the mistake of telling him and showing him and sharing with him all that I’ve learned and understand about destructive marriages and abuse, etc. This just made him better at hiding his sins and better at pretending. He now knows what to say if he gets caught acting out sexually, etc but man, that heart-wrenching awareness of what a sinner I am, never seems to have taken place in him. As I write this, I realize that I have enabled him in so many ways and now I’m stuck. I walk around in shell shock as I’m continuously flabbergasted that he will not do his work or be held accountable or seek help to change even after promising me he would. I told him he has to do it for himself and no one else. And he still can’t do it. Yet he professes to be a Christian and prays and reads his Bible every day. This has had such a negative impact on me and my relationship with the Lord. Huh? How is this possible? How can he be so unaware, so uncaring, continue in his sin, continue justifying and excusing his sin, and still pray? How many times I’ve told my kids and him that nothing evil ever stays hidden, that your sins will find you out, that bad company corrupts good character, and my kids could learn and take in what I told them throughout the years yet not their dad?

    And here I am, writing this a two days before our youngest daughter gets married and the week has been terrible with him and no one even knows. They all think we’re this happy couple who’ve been married for so long and are such an example! Makes me sick and I feel like such a fraud. I so desperately want to send him this blog post in the hope he’ll finally “get it” but I’m kidding myself, he never has gotten it and never will.

    • Cheryl on November 18, 2021 at 10:16 am

      Chan, I am so sorry for how you are suffering. Your husband and mine are so similar. It amazes me that they can read the Bible every day but remain so evil. We have separated so many times and had so much counseling over the past 27 years. I asked him to leave about 4 months ago. I had so many mixed emotions at first. I was angry, sad, lonely… I also had a little hope, maybe this time he would change (there is zero evidence of that). Leslie Vernick has been a blessing to me. So grateful for her. I am now full of joy and grateful he is no longer living with me. I am not fretting. I have made the choice to think about “whatever is lovely” and let our Lord deal with my husband. I pray you will be courageous and separate also. At first, it feels strange so you will be tempted to let him back into your life but keep relying on God’s strength. There is freedom on the other side. I am amazed at how quickly it came for me. God bless you and give you all the strength to do His will.

    • Sonja on November 18, 2021 at 10:45 am

      Dear friend, I connect with your story. I have been separated for nine months now from a 39 year marriage. I so desire affirmation from my husband for his wrongs. He professes to be Christian yet is an alcoholic and narcissist. His worldview is, “How does this ___ affect me?” He has put himself, his business, his money, his possessions, and his alcohol all before me. We are in divorce proceedings and spoke on the phone this week to attempt to agree on things to reduce time and cost of legal mediation. One of the first things he said was, “I’d like to get back together. I won’t quit drinking because I love beer, but I will cut down.” Like he hasn’t said that hundreds of times. He doesn’t listen. He refuses to change. I was so saddened to hear this, but it was yet another confirmation I am on the right track and in God’s will. I believe God is in the process of “giving him over” to what he claims he loves. How sad is that? I encourage you to pray asking God what he wants you to do, and gives you the courage to carry it out, whatever course that may be. I don’t believe there’s a blanket formula for everyone. In fact, three years ago, I asked God that and he gave me Jeremiah 29, particular verses 5-7 & 10. Basically, he told me to sit tight, make a life because my deliverance will come. And, it has. I am on my way.

      Praying for you!

    • Timothy on November 18, 2021 at 11:25 am

      Chan, I am so sorry to hear about your situation.
      As both a sufferer of marital abuse and someone who is working to address my own sexual sin, I know something of both sides of your situation. It’s not clear whether your husband is unable or unwilling to learn from his sin patterns, to the extent that he isn’t responding to your boundaries in the way that you hoped. I can’t say whether it will just take time for him to realize that the new way you are living life is healthy and something he wants to join in on, or if he’ll never get there, but I want to commend you for putting boundaries in place. In my marriage, I didn’t learn how to do that healthily until I was too wounded to wait to see if my then-wife would see the new me and change or not.

      Now, when it comes to sexual addiction, I don’t know who you’ve talked to and what you’ve heard, and I know that there is a lot of unhelpful “advice” being given out there, even in the Christian sphere. No matter what you have or haven’t done, you do not deserve to be betrayed in that way, and you haven’t caused his behaviors. I want to affirm you in that. And while it is possible, with help and with the right dedicated desire, for someone in your husband’s shoes to change and heal from sexual addiction – it does take a commitment to change, and it doesn’t sound like you can expect that any time soon.

      Regardless of what your husband does, I would recommend that you seek out healing for the pain and trauma of the betrayal you have suffered. I know that Pure Desire has a program called Betrayal and Beyond that helps women in your situation engage in healing, and I’m sure there are other sources out there. It would be amazing for you, your husband, and your marriage if he would focus on his own healing, but that is out of your control. And even though you don’t deserve the pain that you have suffered, it is your responsibility alone to heal from it, regardless of what he chooses.

      I hear the pain in your words, and you sound so isolated in it. Please find someone to share this with, whether it is a trusted friend, a recovery group, or a counselor. I know just how painful it is to be isolated in the pain of abuse (I developed thoughts of self-harm before I reached out for help). Your husband may never change and become a safe person for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find another woman to share your vulnerability with.

      The bible has a constant arc of condemning abusers regardless of their outward religious actions, especially in the prophets. Read some of what they say about Israel, or what Jesus says in Matthew 23:23 about the Pharisees – they are doing the outward religious actions (praying, in your husband’s case) but neglecting “justice, mercy, and faithfulness”. James 1:22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” It sounds as though this is where your husband is. Later, James points out one way that so-called “religious” people make their “religion” worthless, and that the true practice of faith in God is in looking after the oppressed and marginalized in their distress. I can’t see how oppressing someone, the way your husband is abusing and betraying you, meet’s James’ definition of “pure and faultless” religion. So even though your husband is taking the actions to pray, is he really hearing God or engaging in His commands in his whole life? It really doesn’t sound like it. I pray that you will continue to trust in a loving and truly good God who sees your distress, who sees your pain, who has experienced betrayal and abuse and pain Himself, who can see through the lies that hypocrites tell Him. I totally see why you would have doubts here, and doubts aren’t fatal – or even necessarily bad. See your doubts as ways to think further on how Jesus would respond to you, or to your husband, in this situation.

    • Shelli on November 18, 2021 at 11:53 am

      My heart goes out to you. My sister is married to a narcissist and while it was done unknowingly and unwillingly, she became his greatest enabler. She bore the consequences of his behavior. After 10 years of Christian counseling, working on herself and trying to set healthy boundaries that he repeatedly crossed, she came to the sad realization that his love of self will always exceed his love anyone else, including her or the Lord. She is now going through the painful process of ending her 39 year marriage. Now matter how hard you try, your eyes can’t see for him. As long as you are willing to pay the price for his behavior, he has no incentive to stop handing you the bill. Even God, after a time, will give us up and leave us to our own devices. Psalm 81:12, Romans 1:26, Job 8:4, Psalm 106:43. Praying you find our way to health and healing, even if it’s on your own.

      • Autumn on November 21, 2021 at 5:59 am

        Something I learned was that if he wanted to change it wouldn’t take ten years of counseling to do it. My abuser heartily participated in counseling sessions in order to get more information to help him better control me. If he wanted to change, it would have taken a session to confess his manipulative, entitled agenda and a few more to start a plan and set up his growth journey and accountibilty. Ten years of counseling is a ridiculous sham for all involved. Nice work, abuser, you really fooled them!

        Great point Shelli! Thanks for bringing up the “red flag” of an extraordinarily long counseling experience. I don’t think we have discussed that yet.

    • Free on November 18, 2021 at 12:13 pm

      Can you make a plan to leave after the wedding? The hypocrisy will be revealed and it should be. Bless you as you choice to be loved and respected rather used and demeaned.

      Watch some Patrick Doyle you tube videos and stick with Leslie’s wisdom too. You can do this girl. Enough is enough. Build your support team and start getting educating yourself on abuse. Be gentle with yourself as you are a victim in this marriage, not a respected partner.

      Be strong. You deserve better. Blessings in your journey. Read Lundy Bancroft and find the Duluth power and control wheel. Listen to your gut.

    • JoAnn on November 19, 2021 at 4:28 pm

      Oh, Chan, this is so sad. I’m so sorry for what you have lived through. I know you are having a wedding with lots to do, but I hope that after that is all over, you will give some consideration to separating from this man. He is a fake, a hypocrite, and an offense to God. His sexual addiction equals adultery, and it gives you plenty of scriptural ground to divorce from him. Whatever doubts or fears might try to prevent you, please seek godly counsel to work your way through them.
      Again, my heart breaks for you. May God strengthen you to follow His lead.

    • Aly on January 4, 2022 at 10:02 am

      Chan,
      Heart wrenching pain you have been surviving. I’m so very sorry for your situation. The good news is that you have awareness in what ‘is’ with your marriage and who you are married to.
      You still have choices – I’m not saying I’m right, but from what you describe, just your physical presence alone creates an atmosphere of acceptance to ‘the abuser, lier etc.person’ in your life.
      They don’t care that there isn’t authenticity in the relationship. It’s enough that the world/neighbors sees a family (husband /wife) under the same roof.

  6. Grace on November 18, 2021 at 9:54 am

    Thank you. This is so apropos. My teenager has been saying that he feels like he is being asked to give up all the things that make him happy, more recently, to give up who he is, because who he is, is hurting other people. I realized that this is the same argument that his father was giving me. Yesterday I told me son that he was believing a lie. I repeated to him what he had said, “I can’t be myself because it hurts other people” and I asked him to think about it. I had to let it go there. I hope he thinks about it. This is spiritual warfare. I am starting to see now how my husband’s selfishness has hurt the kids. He taught them by example that it was acceptable, even good, to be selfish. It took me years to realize that the encouragement of the selfish attitude was not just coming from outside but inside the home. Thank you for treating this subject with such attention, not making it simple. You give hope that even when God has given someone over to their own poor choices, he will still redeem if they turn back. I can see that in myself. I hope to see it in my children. I even hope to see it in their father. For his sake and theirs. For the glory of God.

  7. Alyson on November 18, 2021 at 10:32 am

    In your blog “what makes a person an abuser” you mentioned many aspects that I relate to. I am currently in the midst of my own recovery seeking healthier boundaries. For 3 decades with 3 different husbands I have believed “if they just read this article, if they just went to church, if they just would let me help them see the error of their ways…”. I’m recognizing in tangible ways it isn’t about me. My heart aches for my current husband and the other day the Lord reminded me of the word foolishness to describe my husbands behavior. He refuses instruction or discipline externally or internally. Please join me in prayer as I let go of my own ways and cling to God while I keep surrendering to my own recovery and leave him in reach of Gods will for his life.

  8. Sonja on November 18, 2021 at 10:33 am

    This article is immensely helpful in understanding narcissists. Thank you!

  9. Rae on November 21, 2021 at 11:53 am

    Oh, Leslie, this article is SO good! and so essential! – because it is so pervasive amongst Christian and non-Christian therapists and pastors to excuse sex addicts and otherwise abusive men (see psychologist and sexologist Dr. Omar Minwalla’s website for his superbly scientifically explaining in detail how sexual sinning is multifaceted abusive for wives – though no, Minwalla doesn’t refer to it as “sinning”) that their sexual and other sinning is all because of their childhood wounds. You stated the OBVIOUS REALITY in your article which I have been trying to tell people for years and which Pastor & CSAT therapist Dr. Magness also wrote –> there are MANY people with deeply traumatic childhood and adulthood wounds but yet who do NOT indulge in sexual and other sinfulness! Not only is this belief unbiblical, it is also unscientific…i.e. just put the childhood wounds excuse theory into the Scientific Method 101 “box”…and right away it is blown out of the water because of the obvious reality of the variable of so many people having a deeply traumatic childhood and maybe also the same in adulthood (i.e. years or decades being in an abusive marriage), who yet are NOT deeply living in sinfulness. Thank you! for stating this such obvious reality.

    The quote by Lewis was very good.

    And, yes, as you stated, God designed the brain with neuroplasticity throughout one’s entire life (although, yes, neuron production and thus neuropathway construction slows down as we age, and good nutrition & supplements also impact the of either evil or good neuropathways, and a godly heart and spirit. As God’s Word states: “As a man thinks within himself, SO HE IS”!

    I highly recommend for people to read Pastor Tim Keller’s books “Prayer” and “Walking with God through Pain & Suffering” (though ignoring his few pathetic quotes regarding the psychological world – which Keller is obviously so completely ignorant of and he also quotes psych professionals who obviously have zero understanding of the brain being organically impacted by trauma). There is a whole lot of spiritual-biblical truth and encouragement in these books – but again, especially trauma victims MUST IGNORE! all what he wrote of the psychological baloney he includes (but there’s very little of it).

    Two superb books on trauma are: “The Body Keeps the Score” by trauma guru Dr. Bessel van den Kolk; and “Trauma Treatment Toolbox” by Dr. Jennifer Sweeton. From these two very easy-to-read books, one learns the crucial info of how trauma affects both and the brain and the body, and especially Sweeton’s books, she gives gazillion of practical exercises trauma victims can employ in their daily life to help heal the 4 unconscious areas of their brain impacted by trauma. In the first part of the book she clearly explains how each the 4 areas work and how they are impacted by trauma. she also addresses the 5th area of the brain involved in trauma: the conscious part, the prefrontal cortex.

    Anyway, great article and please continue studying Complex-PTSD (which is that of: repeated and accumulating traumas) and combining that with God’s Word’s truths! Please realize that you are very largely alone in this pursuit.

  10. Dawn on December 7, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Dear Shelli
    How very correct you are.
    This week marks the 2 yr anniversary of my leaving a christian marriage due to mental abuse. It has been raw and painful at times and I can not tell your sister it will be easy but it is well worth it to cling to the truth of who God is, allow him to walk with her through the days to come in a closeness she has never felt before. He restoreth my soul……..true words to anticipate. I cried just this am considering all that God gifted my ex husband with and the thought that he would chose to throw it all away for his selfishness.
    He chose himself before everything and left a path of destruction and confusion in the wake of our 26yr marriage.
    BUT GOD….was there as I kept clinging to the dream. as I kept hoping he would change, as I lost more and more of myself till there was nothing left and I was at my Wits end.
    God was there in the beginning when I stepped out of his will, he was there each time I walked through the doors he opened to take me away from the abuse but went back in hopes it would change and he was there on that day 2 yrs ago in October when I decided it was enough and life would never change unless I stepped out of the boat and trusted him in a way I had never allowed myself to do before. Christ did for me once again, what I could not do for myself. The Holy Spirit took my emotions captive and allowed me to drive away from a destructive and unhealthy circumstance and he will give her the strength as well.

    • Moon Beam on December 11, 2021 at 8:35 am

      You did a beautiful job of capturing the intensity and struggle of leaving abuse. The psychological complexity of abusive relationships among Christian partners is a new frontier for growth in the church. The silence suffers need to speak up and be heard. A movement needs to come from MEN who no longer shield perpetrators and hide from such discussions. Our theology supports protecting women and helping them escape, it just hasn’t been preached.

      Good work leaving Dawn. The pain is unimaginable unless you live through it, yet God stands for righteousness and loves people like you and punishes people like your abuser on judgement day.

  11. Minnie on December 8, 2021 at 10:24 am

    My husband goes to marriage counseling with me. It’s almost as if he has multiple personalities. One is a great dad and a calmer person. The other is a dark, aggressive and irritable personality. Some of my kids have inherited this, whatever it is, Dr. Jekyl Mr. Hyde I call it. My counselor calls his behavior narcissistic, but our marriage counselor claims he isn’t because he apologizes. He apologizes when he’s in the nicer calmer state. And it looks genuine. He is medicated and sees a psychiatrist and is constantly doing breathing exercises and the wim Hoff method in an attempt to keep himself calm. I’m wondering since he works hard on improving himself if he is a narcissist or if there’s truly multiple personalities I’m dealing with. I feel like it’s good role modeling for my kids with the Same issues to see their dad working on himself. But he’s not perfect and slips back into the ugly behavior on occasion. Is it true he’s not a narcissist if he apologizes?

    • Free on December 9, 2021 at 6:07 pm

      No. He is still a narcissist. Narcs apologize if it benefits them or it will further their manipulative agenda. Everything is a con. The anger is to control you, the nice times are to control you. It is all fake. Neither Jekyll or Hyde, rather, sadly, an evil fool.

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