So, I do not really believe that you attract abusers. You are not the problem. Abusers are. It is on them. But, I wanted to catch our readers with this title because it is a question we hear often. We hear it from our mamas, from friends who are dating and from others in caregiving occupations.
“All we want to do is live and love like Jesus loves and yet we attract people who just want to use us and hurt us.”
Please let me reframe:
“Broken people who have given into sinful lifestyles are hoping they can use you to fix themselves because you live and love like Jesus.”
Your kindness, your caring, your compassion and your sense of empathy is attractive to anyone and everyone. But, an abusive person is so incredibly broken and completely unable to look outside of him/herself that he/she uses surrounding people to give themselves a daily boost, to fill their never-ending emotional bucket and to try to make themselves feel better about themselves. Sometimes, this is quite intentional. And very abusive. Some people believe they are entitled to use people . . . . especially women . . . and especially if these men view pornography and have chosen and conditioned themselves to believe women are to be used.
If a person can no longer be used for this task because she is completely exhausted or she refuses to be abused, anymore, the abuser simply moves onto another person with a lovely spirit (discarding) to try to use him or her. I cannot imagine how miserable this is — but it is not our job to take care of people in this way. Trying to fix people is not actually serving or loving.
After all of my years in this ministry, I have come to understand that abusers think this way:
I ‘love’ her. I want what she has. I want the joy, peace (fill in other fruits of the Spirit here) and I don’t think she should enjoy herself because I cannot. I don’t think she should celebrate who she is because I cannot. I want to enjoy that. I want to take that goodness from her. I want to ruin things for her. I want to live in such a way as to ‘take on’ her beautiful qualities and draw them all in for myself. I want her to fix me. I want to use her. I actually hate her. And if I cannot have who she is for myself, I want to destroy her.
Strong words; true words. Take a moment to let that sink in.
The challenge, beautiful child of God, is not to allow others to perform their soul-sucking, abusive projections onto you. Because of your place in God’s kingdom (part of His Bride), it is wrong and sinful for others to use you for such gain. Your gifts are to be used to glorify God — not to be dominated by another. What you have will never be enough to transform him, dear one. Only Jesus can do such a miracle.
So, we will walk through our lives, shining brightly for Jesus and people will want to dim our light — for the rest of our lives. But God told us this would happen. How will we handle this? How will we battle this?
I have some thoughts:
- First, know that this will happen, again and again. As counterintuitive as it is, our desire to rush in and help another person may not always be the best for said person. We cannot be rescuers in that way. If I encounter someone, at my job (as a chaplain), who wants me to affirm him over and over and over, I simply will not do this — even though I know it would make him happy in the moment. Because it will take all of my energy and I will not be able to serve others adequately. He will have to go without that “encouragement” from me. It would be an easy fix for a few hours, but what he needs is Jesus to meet all of His needs — not me.
- Boundaries, boundaries and more boundaries. There is absolutely a way to be kind without allowing ourselves to get pulled into an unhealthy situation that will play with our empathetic minds. If we sense a truly unhealthy person, we can give in, we can get over-involved or we can differentiate. Differentiating often means pointing a person to what can actually help him or her — Jesus, therapy . . . well . . . both.
- Do not allow the put-downs. The dulling of our light. The trying-to-make-you-into-a-little-girl-so-he-can-be-your-authority-syndrome. Not acceptable. You have the Holy Spirit living in you. You have been given a sound mind. You do not need an abusive person to cause you to doubt yourself, the truth and who you are in Christ. A lot of spiritual abusers love to cut women down in order to build themselves up. As hard as it is, say something. Assert your authority, as a child of God. Here are some examples: “I do not need you to be an authority, in my life.” “I need you to stop putting me down. If you cannot, we will not be friends.” “If you would like to be a part of my life, you will need to see me as your equal.” “I believe you owe me an apology for thus-and-such.”
I could go on and on. Friends, let this be an indelible mark on your soul: You are created in the image of God, dignified as His Child and invaluable to Him. Broken people will want that peace and joy in incredibly unhealthy and abusive ways. Don’t let them have it. You have a job to do, on this earth. A call to love God and others with all your heart. You cannot spend what little breath of life we have . . . what a tiny bit of time we have trying to serve people who will use you and distract you from the goodness God has . . . from the true ministry He has for you. Be wise with your time. Be a good steward of the incredible gifts He has given you. You are growing; you are godly, and you are too precious to be snuffed out!