Abuse, Narcissism

Be more loving and other bad advice

I completed a crossword puzzle tonight. Well, that is not completely true. There is one last clue I cannot figure out, so one little white box has been left empty. 

33 across – Monica Seles, by birth

SER_IAN

Could I look it up? Sure. But that is most definitively cheating, so incomplete it will stay.

(*I actually know the answer now thanks to the little blurb at the bottom of the page that I noticed while doing the Sudoku puzzle. I still can’t put it in though. It’s still cheating. For those of you who need to have all the boxes filled in, the answer is at the bottom of the page.)

So what is the significance of completing a crossword puzzle and why is it blog-worthy?

The puzzle is from a newspaper that is dated February 27, 2014. I just started the puzzle yesterday, over 4 years after its print date.

Why?

It is from my stash, the ones I hid because my ex-husband would get mad at me for completing them and would tear them up or throw them away. I had to hide crossword puzzles if I wanted to work on them. Life has been crazy for the last two years, however, and I stopped doing them. I had a little extra time this weekend, so I sat down with a cup of coffee and the Aaron Copeland station playing on Pandora and worked on it until one last (almost last) stubborn clue clicked for me.  (Yes, I know it’s not really complete but I am just going to pretend it is because really… who knows that kind of random trivia about tennis players from the 80/90’s?).

Anyway, besides going back to school, working crossword puzzles was another one of those things that I was not “allowed” to do. A big thing? Maybe not, but today I talked about it to a friend. As an aside, I know I blog about this stuff, so it is open for the world to read, but it is not really something I talk about much. I have moved past my past, though on occasion I do discuss it with some select people. When I mentioned the crossword puzzles to him, he shook his head as if to clear some mental fog and said, “Wait, WHAT?” incredulously.

I do realize that this is not a huge deal, not being able to do crossword puzzles, but it is more about what it represents. The jealousy and control that pervaded the marriage. It didn’t matter if I enjoyed it, or wanted to do it, it made him feel insecure, therefore I was not allowed to. This was characteristic of my marriage and got worse over the years.

So if I have moved past all of that, why bring it up? While completing this contraband crossword puzzle brought it to mind, my friend’s reaction made me think about how this may have been handled by Christian leaders. Instead of dropping their jaws at behavior they cannot even fathom, as my friend did, they may be tempted to jump right to I Corinthians 13.

Would foregoing a crossword puzzle for the sake of putting my husband first have been a big deal? No. Did I do them in front of him? No. Did I try to reassure him that my ability to complete crossword puzzles did not mean that I was smarter than him (as this was his reason for getting angry)? Yes. But none of that is the point.

Why is the woman often counseled to avoid doing things that make the spouse upset, insecure, or angry over things he has NO RIGHT to be upset about. Why is the onus on the victim to make peace? Why are victims counseled to be forbearing, and be the bigger person, and show love when this is really not about love. If that is showing love, then the sky’s the limit where demands are concerned; “I hate the color purple and you have to show me love by not wearing purple.” Where does the line get drawn and who gets to decide what is ridiculous or reasonable?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

There is a lot about this that is difficult to apply in an abuse situation. I understand that. Like “keeping no record of being wronged,” how does one go into a counseling situation without retelling conversations, events, or patterns of behavior? Love is patient. Does this mean you just put up with all bad behavior in the name of love? If not, how do you differentiate? Who gets the final word and who is right or wrong if it is disputed? Love endures all things? Quite honestly, I am not even sure how to comment on this one.

I am not purporting to know the answers, but I do believe this: the Bible should not be used to give bad advice. Telling a woman to just keep giving in to selfish demands made out of jealousy, control or manipulation in order to show love is bad advice. Those demands will not stop. For each one she gives in to, a new one will be made.

Are we all selfish sinners that do things that must be overlooked in love sometimes? Yes, sometimes even daily. But in a relationship where one person is making all the demands and demanding outlandish or unreasonable things, the one counseling should stop and consider that this may not be a “normal” situation of a sinner married to a sinner. Overlooking-faults-in-love advice may make a situation worse.

The problem is not the Bible, it is its misapplication. It is astounding how good manipulative people are at using the Bible as iron-clad cages and how Biblical counselors too can fall prey to it. Guilt, the foundation this manipulation is built on, is excellent material for the bars of a cage.

I will be honest, I still struggle with this concept. The lines are undeniably blurry. While I would not necessarily advocate for a woman to seek a divorce in a situation where she is controlled and manipulated (of course dependent upon the circumstances), I certainly would not counsel her to forbear this kind of behavior and tell her she is loving by doing so.

This may sound unorthodox, but I have to be honest here. I do wish the Bible was more clear on how to handle this.

For you who are trying to be more loving by giving in to outlandish, selfish, or controlling demands, this is not love and sometimes the best way to show love is the same way we show our children love; by saying “no.”

No, I cannot allow you to behave or treat me that way and it would not be loving for me to do so. Giving in to your demands is not love.

For those of you counseling women in this situation, please do not counsel her to go back home and “be more loving.” If you do, you have just added another bar to her cage.

God grant us wisdom.

Becky

 

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2 Comments

  • Reply David May 28, 2018 at 12:13 am

    A very great read.

  • Reply Rachel July 10, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    I think this has application even beyond abuse situations. There have been a number of times when I have experienced extreme bullying from people in my church, and that same kind of advice was given to me by the leadership. My reaction was almost exactly what you said – why is the person who is being bullied always the one who needs to “esteem others better than themselves” while the bully gets a free pass to do what they want? The Bible’s commands about love aren’t intended as a cop-out for people who don’t want to fulfill their responsibilities in dealing with problems.

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