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What's New:

  • NEXT WEEK: I will be doing a special training on May 22nd. The topic will be “How long should you hope and wait for your spouse to change? And is it wrong to finally give up on that hope?” You can secure your spot right here.
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The Power of Positive Peer Pressure

By Leslie Vernick


I recently read two books describing the mindset of the people and culture in Germany and the United States, just prior to World War II. One was Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas, and the other was In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson.

It was hard to comprehend how an entire culture, including the Christian church, closed their eyes to the evil that was happening, especially to the Jews. Reading both books helped me to see how “sheep like” we are. We become brainwashed by charismatic leaders that convince us that it is better to protect and promote allegiance to the country than to care about what happens to the individuals in that country.

The same process has happened in much of the Christian church. The idea that loyalty to the Church is more important than the safety and protection of the children entrusted to it’s care led to the sexual abuse cover up scandals we read about today.

Victims were sacrificed on the altar of protecting the institution. And those who refused to be silenced were shamed. They were labeled as troublemakers, instigators and accused of slander, gossip and trying to ruin a good person’s reputation.

Today most churches are more alert to the reality of children being exploited. At a minimum they have policies in place are to handle allegations of child sexual abuse. I hope this change is because they are truly repentant rather than because they fear lawsuits with huge financial ramifications.

Sadly I see the same pattern happening with abused spouses. Churches often value protecting the institution of marriage over the safety and sanity of the individuals within that marriage.

When a woman goes to her church leaders for help because her husband is raging out of control, addicted to pornography, lying about everything, or scaring their children with his discipline, the help that’s offered usually revolves around keeping the marriage together, not getting the abusive behavior to stop or getting the women and children healthy and safe.

The mistake churches make in these instances is defining these problems as a marriage problem. Repetitive abuse (of any kind), addictions, chronic deceit or adultery are NOT marriage problems. They cause marriage problems for sure, but at their heart, they are personal sin problems. Individual character issues that must be addressed before the damage of those issues within the marriage can be repaired.

Marriage counseling for serious personal sin issues doesn’t work. Why not? Because the problem isn’t the marriage. The core problem is misdiagnosed. It’s like giving someone with lung cancer an antibiotic because you misdiagnose their nagging cough as bronchitis. Antibiotics are great for bronchitis, but impotent for lung cancer.

It’s easier to tell the wife to stop pushing his buttons so he won’t act that way rather than turn to the abuser and tell him “How you behave is sinful, cruel, and inappropriate no matter what your wife does or says that push your buttons.” We don’t want to confront the abuser or “label” sin as sin. Or if we do, it’s the wife’s sin for not forgiving or not reconciling because we value protecting the marriage rather than the person who is being abused.

By our collective silence we empower the emotional (or political), or sexual bully to continue sinful behaviors. Jesus was never afraid to speak out about injustice, about oppression, and about hypocritical law keeping to those in power. As his church we must speak out too.

There is a good deal of research on the powerful impact of positive peer pressure on a community, workplace environment, school, and even a church.

For example, in the book The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander, the most influential person in this triad is the bystander. When bystanders speak up for the bullied at school, the bully looses face and power and the bullied feels supported and valued. When the bystander is an influential person such as a star athlete or a popular student, it has an even greater impact on the culture in the school.

However, when the bystander stays silent, the bully is empowered to continue his or her bullying behaviors. When bystanders stay silent in the face of evil, oppression and injustice, it implies acceptance, agreement and alignment with the bully.

A number of women have told me that they have begged someone in their church leadership to speak to their husband about his bullying and controlling behaviors. Rarely has that happened.

What might change if a courageous pastor stood up for victims during Domestic Violence awareness month? What shifts would happen if Christian leaders, when talking about marriage said, “If you are raging, or cheating, or lying or verbally battering your spouse, understand this, it’s sin. It’s not your wife’s fault you act that way, it’s yours. And if you don’t ask God to help you change, you will ruin your marriage.”

Instead of being protected by the church, wives in these kinds of marriages are often pressured into long suffering, silence, forbearing, and endless trying harder to appease her husband so he doesn't behave that way. Why? Because the sanctity of marriage is held to be more important than the safety or sanity of the individual in that marriage.

Dietrich Bonheoffer a young Lutheran pastor during World War II was horrified at the church’s silence at what was happening in the culture. He wrote, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

The foundation of any marriage is safety and trust. Both are destroyed when there are patterns of destructive and abusive behaviors. Until the damage is addressed the relationship remains broken even if there is no legal divorce. I don’t believe that glorifies God.

Please, let’s not repeat the past by valuing the institution of marriage, over the safety and sanity of the people in it.

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Bless Your Socks Off: Unleashing the Power of ENCOURAGEMENT

by Sandra Aldrich

Could a few words change your life? POWERFUL, LIFE-AFFIRMING WORDS CAN. Sandra Aldrich knows. When she was just twelve, Doris Schumacher, a woman she had never met before, took the time to talk to her and encourage her. That short conversation inspired Sandra to pursue education and become a teacher and to devote her life to giving the gift of encouragement.Let Sandra’s stories, humor, discussion questions, timely truths, and biblical insight encourage you today and motivate you to bless the socks off someone who needs encouragement.

Two winners will be selected in our next newsletter (giveaway only available to US residents).

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

The winners of "Forging a Strong Mother/Daughter Bond" by Leslie Vernick are Melanie B and Pam L


What is Verbal Abuse?

By Leslie Vernick

Question: What exactly constitutes verbal abuse? My husband denies being verbally abusive but I believe he is. Can you give me specific examples that are considered verbally abusive? He never uses four letter words towards me but his words, tone and constant criticism feel abusive to me. Am I just overreacting or being too sensitive?

Answer: Cursing someone out is bigger than just using four letter words. Cursing someone is condemning him or her as if you’re their judge or even their god. When someone does that he (or she) believes they’re the superior one and as such have the right to cast “judgement” on another’s character, personhood, or even actions in a demeaning or derogatory way. The Bible speaks to this kind of person when Jesus says, “If you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:22).

Here is What People are Saying About Leslie's Conquer Support Group

I completed one year in the Conquer program and found both peace and community here. Joining the Conquer group was a way for me to immerse myself in a supportive community of women who understand the patterns of a destructive marriage. Within our safe and private Facebook group, we shared inspiring scriptures, educational resources, and our lives.

During my membership year, I also focused on my own recovery and I prayed for guidance from God. I prayed for the strength and resolve to make the changes required to find peace for myself and my child. I decided that I could not stay in my marriage, and by the mid-point of my program, I had moved out of my home and filed for divorce. I am at peace with my decision, and it truly is a peace that passes human understanding.

There are women in the program who decide to stay with their husbands and those who decide to leave. There are those who know they’re just not ready to do either. Within our group we are free to discuss our personal decision-making without a sense of judgement.

In closing, I highly recommend Conquer. I am better educated and I have gained a sense of validation. I needed to know I was not crazy, and not alone. ABOVE ALL- I'm so thankful for each one of my Conquer Sisters. For their transparency, kindness, willingness to read, to listen and to share. I will continue to pray for Leslie, my Conquer sisters, and this ministry.

~ Stacey

LESLIE WELCOMES YOUR QUESTIONS

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.

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