Shame, Inferiority Thinking, and Victims

1Co 12:20-25 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (21) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (22) On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, (23) and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, (24) which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, (25) that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Over the years as I have worked with victims of abuse – the majority of whom are Christians – I have seen a very damaging dynamic at work with some frequency. Victims of domestic or sexual or some other brand of evil we call abuse often find themselves loaded down with shame. They regard themselves as damaged goods, inferior to other people who have never known abuse.

  • As a Christian, my marriage was supposed to last a lifetime and be a model to others. It was in fact a horror of horrors
  • Perhaps some of the accusations my abuser made toward me contain some truth
  • Unlike others, I was foolish and allowed myself to be duped by evil
  • My children were harmed and, unlike other people’s kids, still bear the scars

This is how the thinking goes. I am sure that abuse survivors could easily add to this list, but you get the idea. Shame. Guilt. Seeing yourself as inferior to others and therefore, generally, unwanted.

I think that the Apostle Paul had this kind of thing in mind when he wrote the Scripture above. There were people in the church who did not possess the more visible spiritual gifts others had and who (perhaps helped along by the sinful arrogance of others) were tempted to regard themselves as unneeded, inferior, and unwanted. This kind of thinking, says Paul, is entirely false.

Using the human body as an analogy of the church, Paul reminds us that every real Christian is indwelt by the SAME Spirit, and that all spiritual gifts are given for the very same purpose – the building up of the church to the glory of Christ. No one is inferior. No one is to be ashamed or feel as if they are not needed. Consider, for instance (as Paul reasons) the little finger, or little toe. Small parts in comparison to say the nose or eyes or hand and yet without them, the body would not be complete. And when any part is hurting – well, have you ever smashed your little toe? The whole body suffers.

And there are body parts that are not seen (at least where there is proper modesty, something increasingly lacking in our day). But are those members that are out of sight therefore unimportant and unneeded? Let’s see, without them there would be no human reproduction – and you can think of other examples yourself.

When an abuse survivor is weighted down with guilt and shame and sees themselves as rather worthless in comparison to others, relationship problems crop up. How long, for instance, are we going to last in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ if we are overcome with these kinds of false ideas?

  • She thinks she is better than me, and maybe she is
  • No one wants me
  • My presence causes people to think about what happened to me and they really don’t want to
  • This church would be better off without me

These thoughts are not from Him who called us! They are from the enemy. They are based on the false notion that anyone who is targeted and victimized by an evil person is weak, foolish, marred, and broken. But Christ Himself had all kinds of evil abuse hurled His way. So did all the Apostles and in fact the Bible makes it plain that ANY true Christian is most certainly going to be abused by the enemy. Really then, we are ALL in the same boat.

  • So perhaps we have our thinking all turned around on this thing. While not all of us are going to be targeted by a full-blown sociopath abuser, anyone who stands for Christ in this evil world is going to be abused. And if we are thinking that a person who is so abused is somehow second rate or inferior, then we need to get our heads screwed on 180 degrees opposite to what they are!

Mat 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

When we Call Evil Out, We Will be Accused of being “Radical” and Faithless

Joh 8:12-14 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (13) So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (14) Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.

Years ago when I was a police officer, smoking was allowed in the workplace. The chief’s secretary had ashtrays on her desk right outside his office and chain smoked there throughout the day. So it was all through city hall and even in the police cars. You went home having breathed all that corruption and your clothes smelled like stale smoke.

One day a lieutenant approached me (himself a non-smoker) and asked me if I would like to sit on a city-wide committee that was being formed to formulate a new policy about smoking in the workplace. I said that I would, but that the fact was the solution was plain and simple – no smoking would be allowed in offices, in city vehicles, or anywhere else that second hand smoke would be sucked up by others.

He told me that I was way too radical and that he had better find someone else.

Years later, what conclusions have we arrived at? No smoking in the workplace, unless it is at some designated area out of breathing shot from others. My “radical” idea was in fact the solution.

My point is not to tell a story showing you that “see, I was right,” but to illustrate for you what happens when an issue is seen for what it really is and a real, proper solution is proposed. Those who are, shall we say, ahead of their time and who understand what must be done are typically criticized and shut down for being “too radical.”

And this is exactly what you can expect is going to happen when we call for substantive, corrective action in dealing with evil among us. Let me give you another example.

Winston Churchill understood early on in WWI that the horrid policy of winning the war by “attrition” (ie, wearing down the enemy over the long haul) was totally wrong and would lose the war for the allies if persisted in. He called for action to break the stalemate in the trenches on the western front. He wanted tanks designed and built. He wanted new weaponry for cutting through the barbed wire. He wanted a new air ministry established. But at each point he was shut down – for years. All the while over one MILLION English soldiers (not counting the French or Americans and other allies) perished, went missing, or were horribly wounded.

Guess what was ultimately one of the key factors in giving the allies success (besides the arrival of the American “doughboys”)? Tanks. Tanks that were finally built. Tanks that should have been built years before. The tanks for which Churchill was called a crazy man.

And I will give you still another illustration. Years ago I told our church that we needed to have armed (yes, armed) security in our building, particularly on Sundays. Having been a police officer, I was quite comfortable with this measure and I implemented it. We had one elder at the time who loved to play the “most holy saint” role (we removed him years ago and sent him down the road). He mocked. He criticized. He accused us of not “having enough faith” or of being “afraid to die for the gospel.” He said, in other words, that we were too radical. But what has time demonstrated? It has vindicated our policy as we read far too often not only of school shootings, but of murderous invasions of church services where people find themselves at the mercy of an evil devil set on killing.

And here then is my point in the article. You can expect, when you confront evil and call it out and call for proper measures to deal with it, to be accused of being foolish and extremist. When this happens, you must not yield to those charges. You must cling to what you know is right and proceed. Evil uses these accusers to protect it and let it continue to have unhindered access to innocents. You will run into the very same thing when you call for your church to do background checks on newcomers, especially those who want to “serve the Lord” and work with children. We have had some newcomers never come back once they learned that we do such background checks. “It just isn’t faith. It isn’t Christian” they say.

Really?

1Jn 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

A Common Accusation Made by Evildoers Against the Righteous

1Co 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Isa 28:13 And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

In my three decades plus years as a pastor, I have experienced a particular phenomenon numbers of times. It took me quite a long time to sort it out and see it for what it really is. It is evil.

Let me explain. Listen to “Jack” as we will call him as he comes into my office. “Pastor, you are very difficult to talk to. You won’t listen to me. And I am not the only one in this church who feels this way.”

There it is. Jack would lay that same accusation on me in a hallway, at a social event at church, sometimes at an elder board meeting. But generally he would level this charge when I was the only person there besides himself.

Now, when you are young and you really want to serve the Lord, when you want to be humble and be a true shepherd of Christ’s people, you are open to examining yourself. To hearing criticism. But this can be taken way, way, way too far. In fact, this is what I was taught in seminary, in “Christian” books I read by supposedly experienced and godly people and so on. Always listen, they said. There is always, always, always something of truth in any criticism that comes against us. No matter who is saying it, you need to listen.

And so, I did. For years. And years. And years. Just like so many of you who have been targets of wicked, evil, domestic or other kinds of sociopathic abusers. We listened. And that was our problem. The result? Discouragement. Feeling like you just want to quit. Feeling like a failure.

It makes me angry at myself now when I think how foolish I was to listen to that garbage for so many years. But then, evil is quite deceptive, isn’t it?

Ultimately as the Lord “turned on the lights” in my mind (in the course of my study of domestic abusers hiding in the church), I realized what was really going on. YES! I WAS hard to talk to! At least it was hard for Jack. Why? Because I would not just obey him. I would not do what he said. There was still within me this dissonance between the words he spoke and how I felt about what he was saying in my spirit. That is to say, Jack was not able to control me like he wanted. And that is why he would regularly accuse me of being “hard to talk to.” What Jack really meant, let me translate, was – “Jeff, why won’t you just do what I tell you to do?”

Ultimately, as so often eventually happens, Jack’s real motive spilled out of his mouth. We had to deal with a wicked sin in our church that was very devastating. As I look back on it, I know we did what was right. But what we did was not what Jack had insisted we do (namely, feel empathy for the perpetrator and tell the victim to suck it up and get over it). And as is so typical in such situations in a church, some people (already alienated by Jack) left the church. At a subsequent meeting, Jack announced to me and the rest of our leadership team, “You never listen to me. You never do what I say. If you had only listened to me and done what I said, everything would be much better now.” Yeah, right, Jack. The victim would be further blamed and victimized and the perpetrator would be embraced and “forgiven.”

See it? Jack’s habitual accusation that I am difficult to talk to stemmed from several planks of Jack’s worldview rolling around in his head:

  • Jack knows.
  • Jack is more godly than anyone else
  • Therefore, everyone must listen to and obey Jack

A “Jack-o-Centric” worldview, you see.

The righteous are indeed hard for the unrighteous to talk to. Our words are stinging to the wicked. The truths of Christ’s word that we proclaim expose the darkness of evil.

And the Jacks of this world hate us for it. Do not listen to their accusations.