How have You Learned to Stand up?

Morning friends,

I am sitting here in sunny California with my dog, Grace. Yes we both made the long five day trek from Pennsylvania to California and she was an absolute angel. She slept quietly in the backseat, went pee on command at all the rest stops, and stayed in strange hotels without barking like crazy and scaring people. Overall, it went really well. Thanks for your prayers. Now that we’re here though, she’s having a hard time adjusting and feels anxious that her regular home has disappeared. She clings to me like a child and scratched the door when we were out last night. I might have to put on her thundershirt while we’re out to keep her calm.

Last month, we looked at our shadow side. Today I want to add the concept of projection. Sometimes we can see our own shadow by understanding our projections. Projection is a psychological defense mechanism people use when they can’t face or accept certain parts of their own emotions, impulses, or thoughts and instead project these unacceptable parts onto others. It is also important that we recognize that other people often project their own unacceptable parts (their own shadow or other stuff) onto us.

The Rorschach test is a series of different ink blots on cards. When psychologists show these ink blot cards to people, they’re asked to say what he or she “sees” in the ink blot. There is no right or wrong answer. The ink blot is whatever you want it to be. But what we “see” in the ink blot, is often a projection of what is inside our own selves.

Here are some common examples of projection: When we can’t accept or own our anger, we project it onto others and may say, “You’re angry with me” or “I feel a lot of anger from you” or “You have a lot of anger inside.”

Or, we don’t acknowledge our own rude behavior or flirtatious gestures but instead accuse someone else of being rude or flirtatious. Bulling behavior is often a projection of one’s own vulnerability and insecurity. Instead of owning those feelings in themselves, bullies mock, criticize and ridicule the weaknesses and imperfections in others.

Another aspect of projection is called complimentary projection. It’s when we automatically assume that other people are just like us. For example, because we have a strong moral compass or conscience, we assume the same in others. Or because we have strong empathy for others, we assume that others are also empathetic, when in fact they may not be. That’s why my post on the Five Characteristics of Evil People is so hard for some people to really grasp. It’s hard for us to imagine someone without empathy, integrity, or compassion for others because we project our own traits of these things onto people.

Today I read a quote that caused me to pause and ponder. It says, “In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are” – Kristin Hannah. I might say it a slightly different way, “In love we find out who we want to be. In adversity we find out who else we are, both good and bad.” (tweet this)

Today is our last part on our series of one woman’s journey through standing up and speaking out against bullying at home and spiritual bullying at church. Next week I will resume answering your questions.


Implementing The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:
Is It Worth Church Discipline? Pt. 5

My husband sunk his arrow deep into my spiritual identity recently, “So you have an intransigent husband; what does the Bible require of you?” This was a clear allusion from 1 Peter 3:1-6, which opens, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” Let’s consider the context of this message of the Apostle Peter to believers who have been dispersed because of religious persecution.

In the opening verses of the book, Peter appeals to the believer’s identity as rooted in the Trinity and the living hope to which we have been called. Before giving practical application to our roles within households, he instructs believers to use their freedom in Christ, not as a cover-up for doing evil, but to serve God while being subject to the authorities he has allowed to be put in place. Peter himself understood first hand that, as believers, we would not always be able to comply completely with those in authority because our first allegiance is to fear God. If we honor Christ and his message and suffer for it, that mimics what our Savior has done for us to bring us to God.

The main thrust of these instructions to servants, wives, and husbands in chapters 2 and 3 is to communicate the truth of Christ’s message in a way that can be received by others, utilizing our obedient lives and calm, reasonable explanation if given the chance. We are exhorted to be holy, different for godly reasons, so as not to detract from the amazing story of redemption.

It’s not likely that “won without a word” is any more prescriptive than the “braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear.” In other words, rather than requiring compliance without disagreement and prohibiting braids, gold jewelry, and other showy clothing, Peter’s focus is on a spirit that demonstrates submission to God above all without using churchy language.

Given our identity in and allegiance to Christ, it’s ridiculous for a believing spouse to use “be subject to your own husbands . . . without a word” as a cover-up for evil to justify his hypocrisy and to spiritually coerce his wife into doing what he wants.

Likewise, when our former counseling elder declared that I was “straying into moral failure” because I was imposing consequences on my husband’s unreasonable demands for control, using 1 Peter 3:1-6 is equally ludicrous, apart from the elder’s enforcement of the rest of Peter’s instruction. If I am to win my husband “without a word,” this would imply that he’s not obeying The Word. Why, then, am I the one being disciplined by our former church and declared to be apostate? It’s as though the elders of this church have prescribed different rounds of antibiotics for scoliosis and then taken me to court for recommending surgery for a situation that is still deformed and is damaging vital organs,

Besides destroying our marriage, my husband’s adherence to his self-serving interpretation of doctrine is impinging on my daughter’s emotional and relational health. Using Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” my husband attempted to control our teenaged daughter to attend the youth group of his chosen church in addition to her preferred youth group at mine and for her to relate to him in a more warmly communicative way.

Despite my calm and private attempts to bring verse 4 of that chapter to bear on the situation, pointing out that he indeed provokes her to anger when he places super-biblical demands on her behavior without considering how he is relating to her as a maturing believer, he insisted that he was being loving in imposing consequences that were, in his and the former counseling elder’s opinion, commensurate with her “defiance and rebellion.” I pointed out numerous ways that she was actually being humble and obedient to no avail. With my husband, to disagree, even calmly and reasonably, is tantamount to rebellion. Just because my daughter isn’t completely compliant to my husband’s wishes doesn’t mean she is rebellious to authority.

As little girls, most of us grow up enjoying stories about helpless women being saved from trouble by a “prince charming” figure. Because of our longing to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, we are drawn to human figures who promise some modicum of protection and deliverance. I too ascribed to the “prince charming” paradigm when I chose to marry my husband. His capability and cleverness captivated me, and I believed that I needed him to be complete in myself. I was erroneously taught that he would be lovingly devoted to me all his life on the basis of his profession of Christ two years previous.

As I have reflected back on that time of dating and engagement, I realize that he declared from the start that he saw me as valuable to him only for what I was willing to do for him. Now that he has lost my admiration over the years and I realize deep in my soul that I do not need anyone but Christ to be whole, the basis for marriage on which I was counting has completely disintegrated. My husband has no respect for my equal standing with him as a believer and expresses distrust of me in every area of our lives.

I kept searching for a human agent to deliver me from the poor choices I had made in my marriage, but in looking to someone else to accomplish only what I had the power to change, I gave up the ability to make decisions based on the most accurate information available. In depending on someone in authority over my husband to make things right, I relinquished the right and responsibility to prayerfully learn how to live in obedience myself.

I have to somehow find a way to thrive, despite the consequences of my choice of a lifelong partner, but I won’t survive if I continue to live under the shadow of my husband’s self-righteous expectations, self-serving disapproval, and veto of my thoughts, desires, convictions, and needs. I also don’t have to elect any longer to submit myself to spiritual tyranny of an elder board that disregards my viewpoint and requires compliance to their convenient standards of a godly wife. I would rather be publicly ostracized for what I believe Christ wants me to do than to live with the internal humiliation of pretense.

Friends, How has this woman’s story encouraged or empowered you to stand up straight and strong in the face of increasing intimidation and pressure to comply?

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  1. Angela on February 4, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    God bless you and Amen. Each and every one of your articles make my heart glad! My heart has someone to identify with and that brings comfort to me. The Alford has equipped you with a marvelous ability to communicate a very spiritually difficult issue. I will look for more of your articles to follow your journey! Thank you. In Christ’s ultimate love….

    • Angela on February 4, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      “The Lord”

      • Sandra on February 4, 2015 at 1:56 pm

        My husband isn’t a believer and abandoned me over a year ago. I’ve requested member at my Baptist church since then, but I think the pastor believes I should reconcile, and hasn’t mentioned membership. Now my husband is threatening to move back near our daughter, only an hour away from me, and I’ve now decided I need to finally file for divorce, for closure. However, will the church ever accept me, and what if I should decide to remarry (not biblical, as long as my husband is still alive)? My heart and prayers are with you, and God will bless you, as you trust in Him alone. Sandra

        • Valerie on February 4, 2015 at 8:03 pm

          Sandra, I would like to recommend to you the book “Not Under Bondage” which breaks down the scriptures regarding divorce and remarriage. As you read it (along with the Bible) and pray for discernment God will make any truth that you read clear to you. There is a great deal of misinterpretation and man made rules regarding these issues.

        • Sandy on February 12, 2015 at 5:57 am

          I just read yourxpost, you say he is not a believer and abingdon you. That is biblical grounds for divorce you would be free. Seek a biblical councilor.

    • Guest blogger on February 5, 2015 at 11:49 am

      Thanks so much for your encouraging words. I have several other topics I’ll be working on over the weeks and months to come.

  2. J on February 4, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    this article spoke to me…recently my husband and I got into an argument. He can be very verbally abusive, and in front of children. He was calling me horrible names and bashing me and I reacted in defense and smacked him…and then pushed me back. It’s so hard to do what jesus would do sometimes…how can I show christs love in these situations without looking like a weak and wimpy woman. I don’t think it’s right and refuse to let my children see me get yelled at and called horrible names. I feel trapped and overwhelmed at times

    • Leslie Vernick on February 5, 2015 at 12:08 am

      Yes we are often “provoked” to react in destructive ways ourselves. However, this is the worst thing we can do because then we look like “co=sinner” and equally responsible for the problems in our marriage. It’s so important to develop that CORE strength so that we respond rather than react.

    • Belle on February 5, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      J, I understand as I often reacted as well. I would try so hard not to, but he just kept pushing harder and harder until I would snap and sin. The Lord has helped me do much better, even though I sometimes still fail. Here are some things that have helped me: 1. Reading books about abuse. It helped me to see what was going on so that I wasn’t so confused and overwhelmed by it all. Leslie’s book is really good and there are others. 2. I realized that I have no ability to make things better. I was trying so hard to make our home a God glorifying one. I can’t do that for him. I have to let him rage and entrust myself to God. 3. I can trust God to take care of me. I can know God loves good and hates evil. Knowing God will bring judgment to the evil helped me. When I finally applied the Psalms to myself it helped me immensely. I never went to them for comfort before since I figured they couldn’t apply since my husband is a “Christian.” 4. Praying after accusations mount. I pray for God to show me my sin. If He does show me my sin, it is in such a gentle way, so unlike the accusations.

  3. Mimi on February 4, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    When my husband borrowed monies from our home without telling me, I was upset. When I found out my husband was communicating with an old high school girlfriend for months, I became upset. When I had an emergency hysterectomy and he worked then went to his mother’s for a long weekend knowing I could not drive for 10 days, I became upset. When he refused to take a family vacation in order to take a vacation with his friends as he has done for the past 20 years, I became upset. In the last situation, I asked him to seek the counsel of a Godly friend so he went to a friend who also serves as an Elder in our church. The Elder advised my husband that not only would he not go on vacation with me and my children but he would find something to do every night of the week in order to teach me to be obedient and respectful of his leadership in our home. In return, my husband is gone at least 4 nights a week…playing basketball, hunting, trips, etc. When I recently discussed separation, he told me the same Elder advised him that I did not have biblical grounds. When I asked if he continued to be emotionally absent from our marriage, he said that in fact, he plans to travel more. He has two trips planned this month alone. When I try to tell him, he has emotionally abandoned the marriage, he accused me of being disrespectful and left the house until 1:00 am. We still have two teenagers in the home….a junior and a senior. This has caused a great strain on me as a parent because he is not here. I have gone to our pastor in the past; and he tells me he sees my husband’s selfishness; however, he is not equipped to counsel. Our pastor is more concerned with international missions than church affairs. Our church sponsors two events each year supporting international missions; yet, they have not had a marriage conference in 6 years. I look forward to reading how others have stood up despite being supported by their Elders/Pastors.

    • Valerie on February 4, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      While the details of our stories are vastly different, your story brings me back to that same black hole I experienced when trying to reach out for support in places that were “supposed” to be filled with godly people. The quote Pam cited below is one I found to be true as well:
      “I kept searching for a human agent to deliver me from the poor choices I had made in my marriage, but in looking to someone else to accomplish only what I had the power to change, I gave up the ability to make decisions based on the most accurate information available. In depending on someone in authority over my husband to make things right, I relinquished the right and responsibility to prayerfully learn how to live in obedience myself.”

      I was working so hard to be obedient to my husband and others in authority that it became my focus much more than whether I was being obedient to Christ. I falsely assumed the counsel I received would be in accordance with Christ. The way I finally learned to stand up to these wolves in sheep’s clothing was to know my truth. I had to know what I know what I know. When I let go of the trapeze and allowed God to catch me midair I found this to be true: “I shall hear a word behind me, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever I turn to the right or the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) God indeed has directed my steps. His faithfulness He’s shown to me through this has changed my life forever.

      I have learned from my own experience and from other survivors that when you stand up to abuse you will experience push back from far more people than your abuser. I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting others to be outraged and comforting. They were neither. Actually they were more outraged at my truth telling. I kept treating the people in my network the way I had dealt with my emotionally abusive stbx- that if only I said things a certain way they would get it and the problem was a lack of understanding. If a lack of understanding is the issue, the person will seek information to try to understand. Within 60 seconds of many conversations I think you can tell if a person is actually looking for that information or merely cutting you off at every attempt to give them understanding. Leslie asked me once why I was trying to get support from people who have never been supportive. Palm to forehead—duh?! Why was that? It was a light bulb moment for me to change my approach and it made all the difference. When I came out of the FOG of abuse I was so incensed at the truth of it all that I was starving for the validation I had been waiting for for years. After numoerous emotional car wrecks I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Come to places like this for validation from fellow survivors because those on the outside (who have never exp abuse) will at best be moderately considerate and at worst inflict further trauma.

      Someone has said, “You have survived the abuse, you will survive the healing.” I hear a sense of outrage in your post…and that’s good. You should be outraged at the injustice of this response you’ve received! Since no one else I knew was outraged by my years of abuse or the response I got from my Job comforters, I used my own outrage as fuel in part to be my own attorney so to speak. I could have never done it on my own, however; it all came through God’s wisdom and strength and the people He put in my path to encourage me (like Leslie!).

      I would encourage you to know your truth- and that truth comes from God’s Word alone and not man’s interpretation. God promises to guide those who seek Him and He does not lie! 🙂

      Blessings and strength to you, Mimi, on the next part of your journey. When you’re in the tornado of abuse you can’t see the full devastation the tornado has made. There will be a day, however, when you will be able to stand in the calm.

      • Mio on February 6, 2015 at 12:26 am

        Thanks for that comment I really needed to hear that as I only have the support of my therapist and God of course. Thankyou

    • Gail on February 18, 2015 at 12:40 am

      Pam, I’ve been dealing with my husband’s abuse for 20 years; Praise The Lord He has given me supernatural joy; unfortunately when I approached my elders for help, I wasn’t weak and tearful as I had been in the early years of my marriage, so their response was that I didn’t “look like an abused wife”. Also, my husband, being the master manipulator, is able to cry on cue. My pastor referred to me as the Pharisee and to my husband as the tax collector in the parable found in Luke 18. Referring to me as arrogant and self- righteous and him as repentant. It has been extremely painful to forgive and to love them, but God has given me the grace. I have kept it to myself since then. Thankfully, The Lord has provided other loving, supporting Christians to pray and counsel me through this. I haven’t mentioned it again to my elders and they haven’t mentioned it to me. It’s like I broke “the guy code” by asking for help for myself and children from an abusive husband. Many times God delivers apart from men to show us His sovereignty and grace, in Him alone.

      Much grace to you, hurting one. God will be your husband. He is very near to the brokenhearted.

  4. Pamela on February 4, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    I love this painful, powerful quote: “I kept searching for a human agent to deliver me from the poor choices I had made in my marriage, but in looking to someone else to accomplish only what I had the power to change, I gave up the ability to make decisions based on the most accurate information available. In depending on someone in authority over my husband to make things right, I relinquished the right and responsibility to prayerfully learn how to live in obedience myself.”

    Oh that’s so well said! Making those same choices deeply effected not only my marriage, but my relationship with my children. In the past year I realized I could no longer stand back and watch and wait anymore. Although we live separately in the same house, I began parenting as if I was a single parent and doing what I believed needed to be done. Instead of tearing the children further in two the way I feared it would, there’s been stability and a step forward emotionally in the lives of the 2 younger children who are still living at home… But by far the progress is inside of me. I feel like I’ve taken off one t-shirt with: ‘Powerless Human Being’ written on it, and put on another one saying: ‘Imperfect Human DOER!’ All I know is that the doing is so much more rewarding & freeing than my former role of ‘silent observer…’

    • Leslie Vernick on February 5, 2015 at 12:06 am

      I loved that quote too. When we give up our right to think things through for ourselves, to listen to God for ourselves, to make decisions for ourselves, we have given up one of the most fundamental God given gifts.

      • Belle on February 5, 2015 at 4:39 pm

        I have always been taught that we are to be humble and listen to godly counsel. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. I have a hard time seeing my way through going my own way against the tide of my church etc.

        • Leslie Vernick on February 5, 2015 at 5:20 pm

          You’re not alone in your fear and apprehension, and we don’t do that likely or without the wisdom from others. But those who stood up against slavery also went against their church, even Jesus was going against the “organized church” of his day.

        • Leslie Vernick on February 6, 2015 at 2:07 pm

          For many reasons women – especially Christian women have been taught to be nice, accommodating, submissive, willing to ignore what they “see”, not ask questions, not press or challenge authority, and to stay blind (naive) quiet, and dependent – and somehow all of those qualities are defined as feminine godliness.

  5. Melinda on February 5, 2015 at 12:03 am

    Thank you SO MUCH for these encoraging articles – a lifeline to those of us who are in Destructive marriages – with no way out!!! As I live in South Africa there is little (if any) resources to turn to and not easy for me to connect to your online courses – I have read your book and trying to acquire the others and am so grateful for your generosity and compassion that has made it possible for us to receive your ‘life coaching’ – Thank you!!!!

  6. Pamela on February 5, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Leslie, how do we know when we’re projecting onto others and when others are projecting onto us? This is the sort of ‘psych. stuff’ that has always made me feel a bit like I was the end player in a game of ‘crack-the-whip’ on an ice-skating rink and– Oops! suddenly spun off at the turn.

    • Leslie Vernick on February 5, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      You always have great word pictures Pam. I don’t think you always know for sure whether someone is projecting their own stuff on us, or they see something we don’t see, but when you are left scratching your head at accusations thrown your way, projection is certainly a legitimate way of looking at what’s happening. Or if you notice patterns in relationships that are repeating – for example, I had a client who always asked me if I was angry. I began to realize that it was she who was angry but she couldn’t admit that to herself.

      • Pamela Brooks on February 5, 2015 at 7:30 pm

        Thanks. Projection sounds like something that could be frequently involved in destructive relationships but that without knowing yourself well, being aware of what’s true? It would be difficult to practice the O of CORE safely. I want to be open to owning my part of a problem without being overly responsible for someone else’s projection.

        Yeah. This stuff makes my head hurt.

  7. Valerie on February 5, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Do you believe projection can be used both as a defense mechanism and an offensive one? I read an article by George Simon where he explained that a defense mechanism is one used to avoid attack or injury whereas an offensive (mechanism) is one use more strategically to secure a goal. Similarly, being silent with your spouse could fall under both offensive and defensive. For the target of abuse she may be silent to avoid being punished somehow for her words, whereas the abuser chooses the silent treatment to accomplish his goal of eroding her confidence and security thus making her more vulnerable to control.

    With my husband I used to believe his actions were defensive…that deep inside he was a wounded child and was “acting out”. As I came to investigate his particular behaviors, however, I saw that they were more offensive in nature. He would often exhibit these “mechanisms” not as a reaction to me but more strategically to try to change my thinking or behavior (ultimately to be more submissive).

    I would love to hear your thoughts on that theory, Leslie.

    • Leslie Vernick on February 5, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      I agree with George Simon – evil is always offensive. And when we “believe our goal is a righteous one, or a God sanctioned one” who hasn’t been on the offensive, rationalizing their actions because the ends justify the means.

  8. Remedy on February 5, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Curious…..what is the status of guest blogger? Did she leave or trying to find a way to survive and remain healthy in an unhealthy relationship?

    • Guest blogger on February 5, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      For now I’ve chosen the route that Pamela has, that of being a redemptive agent in my children’s lives while they are still at home. As long as I can “stay healthy,” I will continue.

      • Shan on February 5, 2015 at 6:14 pm

        I hope you can be successful at that. I’m praying for your strength.
        I think anyone can find a bible verse that supports what they believe already and works to their advantage, and that is much different than living with Christ in the home and the marriage. I don’t think the bible was ever intended for repeated arguments like that, to prove “I’m right and you’re wrong so you have to immediately change to do what I want”. How infuriating. I think if you are walking with Christ every day you don’t need a book of “rules” that tell you how to act and you don’t need to enforce your interpretation of those rules on others. If it was me, I think I would stop trying to fight back with bible verses and technicalities, it will just go around and around in circles. I would just build my own life with my own hobbies and friends.
        So if he was going to rob a bank and he asked you to drive the getaway car, is he saying you should submit and try to win him over without a word? 🙂

      • Pamela Brooks on February 5, 2015 at 7:46 pm

        Oh Guest Blogger… After going a few rounds with my daughter’s counselor this morning? The words ‘redemptive agent’ are a balm to my soul tonight…


        Let me know when you and Leslie write that e-book on how to 'stay well' huh? (I'd like an autographed copy please.) My church has scheduled another date for a meeting between my husband and — and thanks to this conversation? I feel a little more prepared to keep my expectations on God and not on those 'human agents'… I think… After this morning? I wonder just how well I actually *do* that in real time… I feel as if my 'redemptive agent' t-shirt simply says "Mommy MESS!" on it tonight…

  9. Angie on February 6, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    These posts have encouraged me so much. My divorce was final this week so I would appreciate prayers. It’s so difficult to know how to handle everything withmy teenage daughters. I need discernment and strength.

    • Amy on February 9, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      Praying for you, Angie.

    • Lynn on February 11, 2015 at 7:52 am

      My divorce was final 1 1/2 years ago, the first year was very hard but as time goes on I am healing from the abuse. My teenagers are healing too. When you are in it you are just surviving and so are they. There are so many things that have to be unlearned from living in such an unhealthy environment but I am so thankful that I am notin that pressure cooker every day. You will heal and so will your daughters even though some days you will wonder if it will ever get better. Reach out to friends for help, don’t try to get through it alone. Praying for you.

  10. Angie on February 6, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    This week was mission conference and with out knowing a gave a missionary my testimony and it was very similar. I done so many things in my life that God finally put it out in the open to let me see the entire picture. Is hard to move on and face everyone but I know I’m redeem. I tried to find love and acceptance in others and the entire time it was right in front of me. The first act of love from anyone or any man was done long ago in the cross.

  11. Monica on April 20, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    I like coming and reading through some of the older posts it always seem to be the right one at the right time. reading this just confirms in my soul that I have made the right decision to move on from my husband. My daughter is on 12 months now, and I can see my husband being this way with her in the future. In the begining I have been tempted to go back on behalf of my daughter so that she can be with both parents, but ths would do more harm to her. I want to save her from that. Jesus is mine and my daughters redemptive agent. I thank God for that. There is no way I could stay healthy with my husband. And thats the crazy part, I probably would’ve been still sitting in a pot boiling if not from certain events that took place prior to my Exodus.

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