Typically, “why” questions are ineffective in counseling, as people are more likely to blame their sin on the behavior of another. This is especially true in the case of abusers. Asking an abuser why he hit his wife will open the door for him to blame her perceived lack of respect or submission, her chastisement of him, or some other aspect of her behavior that provoked him. This is not what the biblical counselor is after. Instead, asking “what” questions provides more specific, accurate, and valuable data. For example, asking the counselee “What did you expect your wife to do after you began calling her those names?” can expose the true desires of the heart. Through “what” questions, the counselor can discover the lust for control, desire for power, and overwhelming pride that is generally driving abusers. With this step, the biblical counselor should begin to look out for true, biblical repentance.
I just think that this is really one of the most practical and helpful conferences that there is. IBCD itself is just a treasure trove of resources. You can go to the website there’s … You know you can just … You’re dealing with something, you can have people listen, you can listen yourself, and so I love what you guys do and, of course, love what George and Jim have built into this over the years. I personally have profited from it. People in our church have profited from it. We’ve done levels one and two for Sunday school, for the care and discipleship. I just see this as really just sort of a hands on equipping type ministry.
Thanks so much for your contributions to that content as well. Having you come and speak and the way you open the word on these topics. I know it’s always, it’s fun for me as we think about a conference theme and then you and I talk a little bit and what aspects need addressed and you’re always willing to tackle something and see what the scriptures have to say about that, especially with the pastoral one another component of it. That’s really helpful.
Then your writings, Viewings In Faith and Spiritual Warfare, they’ve just been really helpful in pastoral counseling settings. Really appreciate having you on the team that was as well. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’ll be talking about at this year’s conference?
Well, if you remember rightly, Craig, I tried to bow out of actually doing anything this year, but our mutual friend brought a little pressure to bear. The breakout session is going to be on pastoral lessons on dealing with addictions. Basically when you and I had talked about that as a workshop I though “Oh well that’d be great.” Well, then I started trying to put it together and it was really hard because there’s a lot of stuff that you realize we did that wrong, we did that wrong. So what I decided to do to kind of help prepare for this is three people that had been in drug or alcohol addiction that had, all three had been under church discipline. All three, or two of the three had actually been excommunicated. They ended up being restored, repented and restored to the church.
I sat down with each of them and just asked them a series of questions, just interviewed them. You know, how did you get into it, all the questions dealing with the sin itself to what did the church do that was helpful, what did the church do that was not helpful. Once I started to put that together and see the way that these answers were sort of jelling, then it became a little more clear as to the direction that I would take.
What are some of the things you come up against most frequently that they’re seen differently? What are some of the most common things, especially for people listening who just aren’t familiar with all the ins and outs of those dynamics?
The way that the world counsels is therapy and medicine. That’s what their hope is in and that, somehow, you’ll magically find the answers within your own self. We know the answers come from God’s word and by his spirit. That’s what changes one’s heart, motives, and desires.
They just believe that you help the girls, you get them on medicine, and you create a safe environment for them, which we want that, as well, but then their method of change is not one that brings, really, any lasting hope. It labels them. It gives them medicine. It keeps them, I think, from finding the freedom that’s available in Christ.
We’re going to do counseling. The world says do counseling. We’re going to do it in a Biblical way and offer them anger management skills, but do it in a Biblical way. Everything that the world has to offer, we can offer in a Christ centered, gospel-centric way.
I had a question. I’ve actually had the opportunity to supervise people who are your interns, I think, or one who’s your intern at Vision of Hope. One thing that impressed me is, those people are working … I gave the analogy, “You’re not working the maternity ward, you’re working in the trauma unit.” I would assume you’re dealing with addictions, you’re dealing with the really hard cases.
I guess I’d have two questions. One would be, how do you keep yourself and others encouraged, because I’m sure there are a lot of cases where people continue in their sin, which is not your failure, but how do you keep people going? What kinds of successes are you seeing?
Yeah, the first one is tricky, because we kind of ebb and flow. Whenever a resident leaves the program, whether they leave in rebellion or we have to dismiss them, and dismissals are usually for reasons where they’re not safe, or they’re not helping keep other people safe, they’re putting them in danger … Whenever someone leaves, it’s always a dagger to the heart of the girls that I supervise. It is tough.
We have a weekly staff meeting, which I think is as important for relationship and encouragement as it is to cover the business of the week. We communicate well. You have to stay on the scriptures. You have to understand that some people get more connected to certain counselee in our place than others.
I think that’s my role, is to shepherd this group of ladies to help them to not take it so hard when someone leaves or there’s a failure. We do see a lot of that. We do have about a 30% graduation rate, which is great. I compare that … The world’s graduation rate, there’s a 45% success rate for 90 day programs. Typically, our girls are in our program 18 months or so, so we’re talking about a year and a half versus three months and we have a 30% graduation rate.
We think that’s a tremendous success rate and we’re thankful for that, but you do have to encourage each other. Hebrews talks about that, encouraging one another every day, exhorting one another daily. I think that has to happen in an environment like you described, because you nailed it on the head. That’s exactly what we deal with.
A heartbreaking trend began recently on social media. In the wake of the abuse exposed in the entertainment industry, women across the globe started speaking out about the harassment and abuse that they too have endured.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are virtually overwhelmed with the hashtag #metoo, identifying people who have suffered at the hands of an abuser. As each high profile case hits the headlines, our hearts are burdened by the victim’s suffering and we long to help.
Over the years, IBCD has invited pastors and counselors to share with us how to speak the truth of God’s love tenderly to those who have been abused. The Word of God is a powerful comfort that rescues the weak and needy (Ps 82:1-4). We want you to know that these solid, biblical resources are now located together in one place and can be easily accessed as you seek to minister the love of God.
Some Things to Consider
- Power and control are at the hub of the wheel because they are at the center of violent relationships. Domestic violence is not caused by one or both parties being drunk, high, stressed out, or angry. Abusers want power and control over their victims and they will use any means they can to do so. (James 4:1-4)
- Each spoke of the wheel represents a category of abusive tactics, ranging from emotional abuse to economic abuse to use of children. Although every violent relationship is different, they share many of these tactics in common. (Luke 6:43-45)
- The rim of the wheel represents physical and sexual violence. Although some abusive relationships do not include the reality of physical and sexual violence, the threat is always there for the victim and the fear that goes along with that threat can be a powerful motivator for the victim to stay in the relationship.
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25
I’d like to have a follow-up question, Ed, because sometimes ordinary counselors like ourselves, where they go, this is the guy that’s written all the books, he’s at CCEF, so probably all of his cases at least goes well as you just described. But I would guess that there might be some cases that don’t go as well, and how do you handle that?
That’s a nasty question, Jim.
But you said his questions were nice, and now mine is nasty.
Yeah. It’s … Yeah, that’s a great question. I have a drawer that I lock that has a lot of files in it from people that I’ve seen. I do different things with that file cabinet. One is sometimes I’ll call people, if I have a few extra minutes, people I haven’t seen for a couple of years I call just to see what’s happened, and more often than not, you see him who began this good work has continued it.
Yet, at the same time, there are a lot of files there where people I’ve seen once or twice and didn’t come back or people I saw for a longer period of time and they didn’t go back. It becomes an opportunity to pray for frankly lots of people. I couldn’t give you percentages of how that goes, but that’s certainly … I should say my particular counseling, there’s two different ways I do counseling. One is in the context of my church where it’s pursuing people, it’s having them over for a meal, it’s getting together for coffee, it’s getting together before church or after church. The other counseling is the actual more professional, people are paying. And you would think when people are paying to come, they would be fairly eager to really do something, and they’re coming to a Christian counseling center, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Going back to what I said before about how there’s probably not a day that goes by without me being encouraged by seeing the spirit and moving somebody’s life, there’s probably not a day that goes by without me being weighted down by a person who’s unmoved by the truth of Christ and persist typically in a habit of blaming everybody else around them.
I’m intrigued as well by you talking about batting average. And I’ll sometimes tell people that even one blade of grass on the moon is a miracle. And even one person like this transformed from a person of anger and judgment to becoming a person of grace and love is a miracle. So tell us in terms of what kind of positive results do you see? I don’t know if you have percentages? Or instances of … How have you seen this happen since a lot of us probably haven’t seen many cases where it’s happened?
So I think you’re going to look at a few different things. So let’s just do the statistical rubrics which don’t tell us a whole lot about the heart. But interventions, statistically, has a higher or I should say a lower rate of recidivism. So a man convicted of a crime who completes a course similar to ours in anything, even biblical or not, has a lower rate of recidivism. Even self-reflection helps the behavior.
But as far as transformation, that’s something that is observed over time. So one of the passages I like to use when I’m talking with pastors about this because one of the things in biblical counseling is that, I think, some of us have been pre-programmed to, “Well, if this takes longer than eight weeks, then it’s not worth my time.” And this type of work is not an eight week work.
I mean I tell pastors, when we’re doing consulting stuff, that we should plan for at least a year of work. That’s really a conservative estimate. Because I like to use Ephesians 4, the idea of, “When’s a liar no longer a liar? When’s a thief no longer a thief?” Paul communicates that, for instance with the thief, he’s no longer a thief when he has a job and he’s become generous. That doesn’t happen after a couple weeks of counseling, right? He’s got to build an income. He’s got to be demonstrative in his generosity so over time, people can see it. I think the same’s true in our work.
So we can look at recidivism and say, “Okay, it works that way.” We can look at behavior change and say, “Okay, he’s not as violent and people at home seem to be safe.” But the really filter has to be transformation. In order to see that, we have to watch over time, as you just said a second ago. Has he moved from a person of violence to a person of gentleness? Has he moved from a person who exercises privilege as a husband to somebody who exercises leadership as a husband? And that’s only going to be observable over time.
I think those are the marks of transformation, is giving him every opportunity to succeed and then holding him accountable when he doesn’t.
One problem I’ve seen in cases of angry and violent men is worldly sorrow too.
Where you get enough pressure and for a period of time, the behavior will change but it’s only the Spirit who can move someone from the deeds of the flesh to the fruit of the spirit.
That’s a good observation. So two things there. One as I’m doing training, I often talk about the pivot point of repentance. We tend to like that in the Church when someone says, “Yes, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” And we can be guilty of then dropping the ball there in saying, “Oh good, everything’s good.” But that’s just the turning point and we need this eventual, observable repentance, that fruit of repentance over time.
The second thing that I like to say is that pithy little statement, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” And then I say, “But you can’t feed him crackers.” We can’t force anyone to do anything and that worldly sorrow can come by pressure along. But Godly sorrow comes only after a man is thirsty enough to see not just the how dastardly his choices were in the past, but how amazing the opportunity is in the future. And so I want to see men become so thirsty to be the type of man that God’s designed him to be that they abandon that old way and they embrace the new way. So yeah, that’s a wonderful observation.
And the key to that in many ways, is time and then avoiding hoops for an individual to jump through. So we don’t just want things to check off the list when we hold men accountable. We want concrete measurable, observable steps in spiritual development.
So yeah, he might be a Bible scholar now because he’s reading his Bible every day but is there a gap between that as practical theology? Evaluating that, and again guys, this comes back to how positioned biblical counselors are at this. We’ve been doing this with other things for so long. We’re really positioned to speak into this maybe better than any other field I know.
Guys, as you hear that and especially this idea of verbally abusive, what comes to mind of how we should approach it?
To begin, God’s word is not silent on the topic of verbal abuse, emotional abuse. In proverbs 12:18 it says, “There’s one who speaks rashly like the thrust of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” In proverbs 11:9 it says, “With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor.” God is well aware of the severity of verbal abuse and he likens it here to the effects of physical abuse. If you talk to women who’ve been legitimately verbally and abused over the years they’d said, “Rather he hit me than to put me through this kind of thing.”
God is well aware, but I think the church can grow and mature and be much more aware of how to handle these things. We can handle the typically marriage issues and we can handle the physical abuse, but there is lots of room for growth in the area of handling verbal and emotional abuse. God knows and God’s words are efficient for it, we just need to develop that area. It is happening, people are speaking on it, there’s a book out called The Heart of Domestic Abuse by Chris Moles and it is an excellent resource for this very topic.
I think when you are addressing abuse of all kinds, a good place to begin is in Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “If you hate your brother, you’re a murderer. If you call him a name you deserve the punishment for a murderer.” As Tom said, the Lord takes these sins very seriously, and yet, there is a degree, there’s a spectrum of how bad this is. It’s like in the very next section Jesus said if you’ve lusted you’ve committed adultery. A man who has literally committed adultery, or worse, raped somebody or something, that’s one absolute end of the scale. The guy who was walking down the street and saw a girl with shorts on and glanced and looked away, he was still in that range but it’s a much different degree.