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What's New:

  • Our new website for counselors is live! I am excited to provide a place to support those who are counselors, pastors and church leaders. You can see the new website by clicking here

  • Leslie will be doing special free webinar on 10/10 on the 5 Red Flags That You Are In a Destructive Marriage. CLICK HERE to register


3 Ways To Spot A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

Leslie Vernick

One of the ways bank tellers and merchants learn to distinguish real money from counterfeit is by examining genuine $100 bills over and over again so that they are more likely to spot the counterfeit bills when they see them. In the same way we can learn to recognize destructive people by knowing what to look for.

Some may object to any attempt to identify wolves among us because it sounds uncharitable and judgmental to call someone a wolf. Only Jesus knows a person’s heart so who are we to judge? Yet, Jesus himself warns us that there are those who claim to be believers, they may even be leaders in the church, but they are vicious or ravenous wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).

The apostle Paul warns Timothy that there will be people who act religious, but are puffed up with pride, who are unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, and cruel (2 Timothy 3:2-9). Part of spiritual maturity is gaining the ability to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Why is this necessary? Because Paul reminds us that even Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Evil pretends to be good.

Sometimes we make a naive assumption and it gets us into terrible trouble. We assume that if someone claims to be a Christian and talks like a Christian, that means he or she is a Christian. That’s not true.

Just like there are counterfeit $100 bills that attempt to pass for the real thing, there are those among us who attempt to pass for Christians but underneath they are ravenous wolves. How do we tell the difference?

Jesus said by their fruit you will know them. A wolf can be an expert at talking like a Christian but when you observe his or her behaviors over time, they look more wolfish (aggressive). As the saying goes, the sweetest tongue often has the sharpest tooth. Here are three things to watch out for.

1. Wolves live for the love of power rather than the power of love. Wolves refuse accountability and resist submission to authority. You’ve heard the phrase lone wolf? Wolves in sheep’s clothing have themselves as their highest point of reference. They often use charisma and charm to “win” people over but they do not have mutual or reciprocal relationships. People are to be used, possessed, exploited or controlled rather than loved.

2. Wolves look like sheep and talk like sheep but they bite like wolves, especially when the sheep are disagreeing or dissenting. Winning and being right are their highest values and they do whatever they need to in order to stay “on top”.

When operating in church or religious settings their methods are often underhanded and cunning to seem less obvious or aggressive. They don’t want to look like wolves, that’s why they pretend to be sheep.

3. Wolves are experts at deceit. That’s why they are so successful at making us think they are true sheep. Jesus tells us that Satan, too, is an expert at deceit. That’s why he doesn’t go around with horns and a tail but as an angel of light.

Wolves pretend to be good and to care about the sheep but those closest to them (especially their family) know the truth. They’ve been bitten again and again and again.

But the wolf's ability to maintain his cover is one reason why it’s so difficult for church people to believe the person who has been wounded by the wolf. They fail to see him as a wolf and assume that the problem is two sheep biting one another.

That’s not true. Wolves have much sharper teeth and stronger jaws than sheep do. A sheep cannot harm a wolf. A wolf kills sheep.

It’s interesting that God chose a wolf as a word picture to portray this type of problem person. A wolf is a predator. It has a strong jaw and 42 sharp teeth designed to stab its prey to death.

As Christian counselors and leaders, let’s not naively close our eyes and think that there are no wolves among us. They are everywhere and we must learn to recognize and stop them from wounding and killing the sheep.


The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope

By Leslie Vernick

For any woman caught in an emotionally destructive marriage, Leslie Vernick offers a personalized path forward. Based on decades of counseling experience, her intensely practical, biblical advice will show you how to establish boundaries and break free from emotional abuse.

Learn to:

  • identify damaging behaviors
  • gain the skills to respond wisely
  • promote healthy change
  • stay safe
  • understand when, why, and even how to leave
  • recognize that God sees and hates what is happening to you

Trying harder to be a perfect fantasy wife won’t help fix what’s wrong your marriage. Discover instead how you can initiate effective changes to stop the cycle of destruction and restore hope for the future.

“Women in an emotionally abusive marriage do not need another book on how to have a good marriage; those books rub salt in raw wounds. No, they desperately need this book so that they can diagnose just how bad their marriage is and then, with Leslie’s clear expertise, develop a plan that will either begin to turn their marriage around…or give them a wise route of escape.” —Dee Brestin, author of Idol Lies and The Friendships of Women

If you would like to enter to win, you can click here to provide name and email address.

The winners of The Lies We Believe about God: Knowing God for Who He Really Is are Shirley B and Lori Y.


Upcoming Events

September 27th – 30th, 2017
AACC World Conference
Nashville, TN

October 27th, 2017
Agape Christian Counseling
Charlotte, NC

Want to have Leslie speak at your event? Click here to find out more information.

Can I Reach Out To My Daughter Even Though My Husband Forbids It?

Question: Thank you for all your blogs and books–I have learned so much since discovering them! I especially appreciate the sample conversations you include; they are so helpful in illustrating what a healthy one looks like.

Nine years ago our eldest daughter moved out in part because of my husband’s emotional and verbal abuse of her. He disowned her and coerced me to also. I agreed in part because I had had an alliance of sorts with her and felt guilty about it.

My husband forbade me and our other children to talk about her ever again. I told him recently that I want to try to reconcile with her, and he said he would leave the marriage if I contacted her. He sees it as being disrespectful and disloyal to him. I doubt he’d actually leave, but I would be made to pay somehow. I also doubt his heart will ever soften towards our daughter.

For the past two years, I have been working on my CORE, but I am unsure of my responsibility to him in this situation. Would it be wrong to contact her anyway?

How does “forsaking all others” from our marriage vows apply to this situation? I also am concerned about how the resulting unpleasantness would affect our teenagers still living at home. I could sure use your insight! Thank you.

Answer: Wow, what a horrible dilemma your husband has put you in. I don’t believe that your marriage vows include forsaking your own children in order to stay loyal to your husband or to preserve your marriage.

I do think marriage needs to be a priority, and in many homes, children take center stage. But I also don’t believe that being “marriage-centered” is any less problematic or unwise than being child-centered. We are called to be God-centered people.

Therefore, one question I usually start with when I feel spiritual confusion around an issue is this: What course of action honors and glorifies God the most?

What Other People Are Saying About
Leslie's CONQUER Support Group

“Before Conquer, I was becoming physically sick from many years in a destructive marriage. I had been badly manipulated for many years and was living in a cloud of confusion and false guilt under the guise of being a “good submissive wife”. After a year of Conquer, I'm proud to say that I'm a brand new healthy and confident woman. I went from being a marriage centered woman to being a God centered woman. Now, I know I am capable of making good Godly decisions on my own. I have a full time job, and I'm flourishing as a mom like never before. There is no doubt that Leslie & the Conquer group's care and love have sped up my healing and growth tremendously. The impact of conquer is life altering positive change for me, my children, and generations to come!”

~Woman in an Emotionally Destructive Marriage


Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.

Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.


Leslie Vernick PO Box 5312 Sun City West, Arizona 85376 United States