Tag Archives: safe people

The Wheel

It’s Narcissist Friday!  


I recently discovered something many of you may already know about: the Power and Control Wheel. This may be a very helpful tool to print out and share with others who are trying to understand the reality of abuse other than physical or sexual. It’s from a group in Duluth, Minnesota, called “Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs.” I know little about the group, but I think their illustrations look helpful.


I might have some things to add to the wheel. For example, under “Isolation” I would add moving away from family. And for our purposes, I might remove the words “Physical VIOLENCE Sexual” on the top and bottom of the wheel. I suspect their point is that these kinds of control often lead to violence, but it may be misleading for some. Many of the folks we deal with have experienced neither type of violent abuse, but are still truly abused by their narcissists. You might see other things you would add or change.

All in all, I think this could be very helpful as something to give a person you suspect is a victim.

Another wheel has been produced in contrast to the Power and Control Wheel. The word is overused and loaded with political connotations, but it is called “The Equality Wheel.” It gives a contrasting picture to show what a loving and reciprocal relationship would look like.


From time to time I hear from people who wonder if their relationship is abnormal. As they describe what happens, it is easy for me to see that theirs is a broken and, possibly, narcissistic relationship. But they can’t see it as clearly. When you are in the midst of this kind of relationship, perhaps for many years, you simply see what is normal for you. The verbal and emotional abuse is just part of your life. Or if you come from a narcissistic home, you may not realize that this kind of cruelty isn’t something everyone experiences.

But it isn’t. Many people have good relationships with family, friends, and spouses. The pain suffered in narcissistic relationships is not normal, nor is it right. Maybe these wheels will help someone to see that their pain indicates that something is wrong.

I could see someone giving these to a friend, perhaps to explain your own spousal or friendship relationship. Or maybe you have the opening to ask the person to examine their own relationships in this light. Maybe someone will have the courage to copy these and post them on the church bulletin board. 😉


You should be able to click on these jpg files to enlarge them or to print them for your use.   I would love to know your thoughts about how you might use them.


There is blanket permission on the website to copy and distribute these images. The site is: http://www.theduluthmodel.org/index.htm


Filed under Narcissism


It’s Narcissist Friday!   


“I just want to know everything about you!”


To the young girl who has, perhaps, been pushed aside by friends or parents, those words seem wonderful. She has met a young man who listens to every story she tells about her family, her school, her dreams, her failures, her secrets. It’s so easy to talk with someone who actually listens and so nice to talk to someone who cares. He is so sensitive, so loving, so intimate.

But five years later, or ten, or two—the young man is very different. His ability to listen is gone, along with his caring. Now he is mean and he uses her secrets to hurt her. He knows things about her family and her friends and he hints at using the information unless she does what he wants. Now, instead of intimacy, it’s all about control.

Those who have walked this path would tell the young lady that it was all about control from the beginning.

Narcissists are usually predators. They watch and they listen. They seek openings they can use to their advantage. It might be a marriage or family, it might be at work, it might be what seems like a friendship, or it might be in a church—but the narcissist knows things. Somehow he learns things he shouldn’t know. Somehow she pries secrets from others. Then there is power.

There is an old marketing saying that we should all remember when we meet others:

If I know more about you than you know about me,  I can control the conversation.  

If I know more about you than you know about yourself,  I can control you.


Few people notice how the narcissist controls the conversation from the beginning of the relationship: learning more and revealing less. Gradually and methodically, he gathers facts and stores them away, like the spider that stores its catch to consume later. When he has enough, his plan begins to bear fruit.

Many have related how they told so much to the narcissist, yet never felt like they knew him. He had their secrets, but they had nothing. I have known people who just never got around to telling a spouse about a previous marriage, even children. Knowledge is power and power is held by the narcissist.

Eventually, as the narcissist gathers information, his power goes beyond the controlled conversation to the control of the victim.

Most of us are good at deceiving ourselves about ourselves. We ignore things we don’t like and focus on fantasies about what we can do or what we might do. We go through life with a certain bemusement that allows us to look forward and get things done. But the narcissist wants to know all about the things we would rather hide. Then he feeds them back to us when we least expect it, when we are vulnerable.

When I was active in church denominations I asked pastors if they would take an embarrassing personal struggle to their denominational leaders, even those who claimed to be caring about the special struggles of pastors. Everyone I talked with said they would not, and I certainly knew that I would not. One told me, “Once you tell (the authority) about that, you can forget ever moving ahead. That will always be there in the background.” Perhaps we all knew that denominational leadership is often a haven for narcissists.

So be careful with your secrets. Tell your children not to share things they don’t want used against them, especially before they are married. If the conversation is one-sided ask why. Perhaps you are being set up.

I believe that Jesus is the one with whom we should share our secrets. He already knows and He already loves us. Nothing we share will shock Him and He will never use the information against us. In fact, there is an interesting statement in the Bible about what real relationship is:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.

Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

1 Corinthians 13:12


I shall know as I am known. The power isn’t on one side. The power is in the relationship. Real relationship is sharing knowledge and love. There will be a day when that is normal.


Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

“A Cry for Justice” – a resource

It’s Narcissist Friday!  


Perhaps one of the most grievous sins committed against the people of God comes in the suggestion that God should be found in the church. What I mean is that He should be found only or primarily in the church organization. So, when a victim of abuse needs to run to the “strong tower” of protection, she is led to the pastor or the elders or the church family. It may be the one place of safety, she thinks. They will believe her story, she thinks. They will help, she thinks. But the church is not that strong tower.

I have come to understand that a certain percentage of my love for books is actually a love for book titles. This one that I found a few days ago has become one of my favorites: “We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter” by Rachel Hanel. I know little about the book, but I love the title. There is a certain perverse irony in it.

The church often proclaims the message that it is a safe place for those who are hurting. We advertise the love and community, the acceptance and support. We want people to come to the church to find freedom and peace and love. And they should. If the church cannot provide the support the victim needs, if we cannot feed the hungry or heal the wounded, then what good are we?

Listen: if the church is unable to see the hurting from the perspective of Jesus, who loves them without judgment and condemnation, then it cannot be a place of refuge. Apart from the person of Christ, the church offers only a system of rules or standards or ideas, nothing to heal the heart of the oppressed. Jesus is the strong tower to which the abused can run to find comfort and support. If the church offers anything other than the love of Jesus, it fails.

Yet, those of us who read and listen to the stories of the abused hear over and over of the failure of the church. Victims come to pastors and elders and church families and receive judgment, blame, and neglect. If the leaders listen at all, they counsel without wisdom and without love. The victim so often returns to the same abuse, only now even more alone and weighted with shame.

That’s why I would pray that every pastor and church leader read Jeff Crippen’s book, “A Cry for Justice.” When I first started reading it, I found myself thinking that this is the book I wanted to write. Anyone who reads it should come away with a greater understanding of abuse and the church’s responsibility to help the victims. At the same time, you will come away with a sadness as you realize that the one place where the hurting should find help is often a source of more abuse.

“We’ll be the last ones to let you down.” That’s what the new church member hears. The church will be there in times of need. The church cares about you and your family. The church wants to help. But Jeff Crippen has learned, like many of us, that the church often offers its help wrapped in a message of: “It’s your own fault,” or “seven easy steps to restore your marriage,” or “don’t bother us with these personal things.”

Crippen writes about abuse in general, but says much that those who deal with narcissistic relationships will appreciate. In fact, without using the word, he describes narcissistic abuse very well. He covers many of the behaviors that we have talked about in this blog.

I especially appreciated the depth and breadth of Scripture used throughout the book. Like me, Jeff does not believe that Scripture addresses every life situation directly, but that we must reason from the foundation of Scripture to deal with our daily decisions. At the same time, you will be impressed with the careful and consistent use of Scripture throughout the book and the deep regard with which the author views the Bible.

The last half of the book got me even more excited. This is where Crippen directly confronts the church and its leadership. This is where he offers concrete suggestions for churches in providing real help for the hurting. This is what pastors should not ignore.

I know pastors. I know that they are often focused on things very far from hurting people. They are worried about church systems and church conflicts. They are concerned about reaching new people and keeping the ministry growing. They are concerned about what to say about their ministry at the next denominational meeting. These are not trivial things, but they do miss the point. Behind the scenes, the pastors cringe when they see Mrs. So-and-so in the outside office because they know they have little to offer her. They don’t have the time or the wisdom to handle such difficult problems. This is why I have counseled so many not to expect much from the church.

But Jeff Crippen would try to change that. He wants to educate pastors and church leaders. He wants to challenge their trite and formulaic answers. He wants to make them look at the victims of abuse and care. His advice is practical and potent.

With the support of and connection to Barbara Roberts, author of “Not Under Bondage,” Crippen offers an excellent perspective on the subject of divorce among believers as well. (I will be reviewing that book next.)

A Cry for Justice is more than a book, it’s a ministry. And I can see so much potential for the message of this ministry. I would encourage you to buy the book, read it carefully, and then give it to a pastor who will listen. Do I agree with every statement in the book? Probably not. That isn’t important. We will always have differences in perspective and style. But this message is important. I know of too many churches where the abuser is held in higher regard than his victim. Someone, someone of the church, needs to stand up for those who are being hurt.

So, get this book! You know that I rarely say something like that. I get nothing from the sales, not even an affiliate commission. I did receive a free copy of the book from Jeff because he saw that our hearts and ministries connected. You will have to pay for yours—but it will be worth it. In fact, whatever you pay will have twice the value if you pass the book on to a church leader with your strong encouragement to read (and heed) its message. When you get it, let me know what you think.

Here’s the link to the website:


Here’s the link to the book on Amazon:




Filed under Narcissism, Uncategorized


Grace 101

There are words in normal church vocabulary that are supposed to be fully and easily understood by those within the church.  Those same words may have different or puzzling meanings to outsiders.  We don’t often think about church jargon, but we certainly have it.  If you tell your unchurched friend that you were “really blessed by the fellowship during the mission fest last night,” she may have no idea what you are talking about.

I think “fellowship” is one of those words.  I’m not even sure that most of us know what it should mean.  I have heard all kinds of messages on how important fellowship is, but in the same churches I have seen very little evidence of any real fellowship.  Oh yes, the people who like each other get together and have good times, but that happens outside the church as well.

Yet, when you open the amazing box of gifts that came with your salvation, you will find something that could be called “fellowship.”  Basically, it means that you are now part of a community, with all the benefits and privileges thereof.  In fact, it means that you are part of a body and all parts are important and connected.  Since you are an important part of the body, the rest of the body loves you and accepts you and supports you.  The church needs you, not to do work, but just to be who you are.

Honestly, the church hasn’t done very well with this part of salvation’s gift.  We seem to be much better at making people feel separate or unwanted.  The church often fosters competition and judgment that are inconsistent with the character of Jesus.  Some would go so far as to say that they have found more friendship and acceptance outside the church than inside.  That’s very sad.

But those who seek love in the body of Christ will find it.  There are good people among the believers.  There are people who will help and encourage and love.  Their love might be challenging sometimes, as they refuse to allow you to keep hurting yourself or deceiving yourself.  But there are people who care.  They care because Jesus cares and they are filled with His life.

Just understand that other believers are just as hesitant and immature and compromised as you are.  They struggle too.  They are failures who need a Savior.  I know that some of them act like they have it all together, but that’s also part of their struggle.  They are afraid to relax and let others know the truth.

I have been in full-time ministry for over 35 years.  I have known a lot of believers through that time.  Some of them I call friends.  A handful of them are people who share life and support.  Those few are precious.  They are not users or judges or critics.  They are just friends—and brothers and sisters in Jesus.

I know that some unbelievers are good friends also but my Christian friends are especially important because we share a common life, the life of Jesus.  We draw from Him a common strength and understanding, a love that goes beyond this life and this world.  As I look around the church I see many people that stretch my belief that we will all enjoy each other in Heaven.  I believe it, but I can hardly imagine it.  But these few friends—well, let’s just say that they are evidence that Heaven isn’t just a place far away.  A little of the love and acceptance of Heaven is mine when I am with them.


Filed under Church, Grace 101, Uncategorized

How can I protect my heart?

The key to protecting your heart is to only give it to one person.  If there is one person you can trust completely, who has only your best in mind, who will never betray you or leave you, and who is strong enough to never fail you—that’s the person you want to give your heart to.  Anyone less than that is risky.  Of course, there’s only one person like that I know.  Only Jesus.

In a world like ours, we talk about safe people.  They are harder and harder to find.  Part of the problem is that we expect too much.  We expect others to be like Jesus.  But they are not and cannot be.  They will fail us.  Some will be mean and cruel and hurt us on purpose.  Others will hurt us just because they are weak and broken themselves.  No one has what we need—except Jesus.

So, will Jesus always do what you want?  Will He always have a miracle handy to bail you out of trouble?  Yes and no.  Probably more than you would guess, but less than you would like.  He is generous in His love, but He will not be commanded by anyone.  The thing to remember is that He loves you.  He is wise enough not to give you everything you want, but He still loves you.  He will always love you.

The Scripture says that the Lord is a strong tower and we can run to Him and be safe.  Knowing that we always have Him allows us to risk relationships with others.  Not expecting them to give us what we can only get from Him allows us to relax as we relate to them.

Two facts change everything.  We are accepted by Him and we do not have to be afraid. 

Those who do not know they are acceptable will often compromise to feel accepted.  They will allow their hearts to be manipulated and controlled, just so they can fit in or feel loved.  But if you are already accepted by the One who really matters, then perhaps you have some protection against the manipulations of others.

Those who live in fear will sometimes do terrible things to themselves and to those they love just to find some peace.  They will give themselves over to almost anyone who will make them feel safe.  Sadly, the ones who offer protection and formulas for security are often the ones who do the most harm.

So trust Jesus.  He is strong and good and He loves you.  From the relationship you have with Him, you will be able to reach out to others.  Love your spouse and your kids and your friends, but don’t expect more from them than they can give.  Don’t trust your heart in their hands.  Jesus will keep your heart safe.


Filed under grace, heart, Relationship

Guard your heart

The legalist organization in my past talked a great deal about protecting our hearts.  They referred to Proverbs 4:23,

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.


I suppose that isn’t bad advice, if we understand it correctly.  The passage does tell us to protect our hearts because that’s where our lives take place.  So, be careful.

But legalism is a deceitful creature.  Who are the people who come into legalism?  What kinds of people get involved in legalistic organizations?  In my experience, there are three kinds of people found in legalistic churches or groups.

First, there are those who have been raised in the system.  Their hearts are already dysfunctional.  They don’t know who to trust or how to love.  In their lives, almost everything is tied into the system of shame and comparisons and frustration.

Second, there are those who came into legalism because of fear.  As they started to raise their children or began to learn about the evil of the world, they looked for a place to hide.  They searched for rules and guarantees and promises.  Their hearts were already vulnerable because of their fear and they were willing to give control over to those who promised protection.

Finally, there are those who have messed up their lives and want to find a way to make up for their sins.  They became pregnant before being married or did drugs or lived a promiscuous life or something.  They found it hard to live with the guilt and shame and believed the lie that said they could atone for their sins by legalism.  Their hearts were already broken because of the pain of what they did and they were willing to endure almost anything for the opportunity to feel better about themselves.

All of these people had heart issues.  Those raised in the system didn’t know any better.  Those who came in from the outside were lured by the false promises of hope.  Seeking to protect their hearts, these poor people opened themselves to a different group of abusers.  The rules and regulations, the comparisons, the shame and condemnation—these things do nothing to protect the heart.  They just bring more bondage and pain.

I really should add a fourth group to the above list.  The fourth group consists of the abusers.  The rules don’t apply to them.  They live apart from the requirements of the system because they are the ones using it to manipulate those look for help.  They take the money, the popularity, the praise—and they feed on it.  They live on the trust of others without giving anything of value back.

Looking to legalism to protect your heart is like looking to the strange man who offers you a ride in his car to keep you safe from the people on the street.  It is right to want to protect your heart, but there are those who will use your vulnerability against you.

So how do you protect your heart?  Tomorrow…

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Filed under heart, Relationship

The Heart is not the Brain

No kidding!  If there was a competition between the heart and the brain for who could gather more information, which do you think would win?  I think the heart would win easily.  The heart is a gatherer.  It remembers things your brain has long forgotten.  Its nature is to gather information, classify it, and store it.  And it never forgets. 

Why do you dislike certain people, even before you hear them talk or know anything about them?  Why do you collect certain things?  Why do you open yourself to someone so easily when you know better?  All of these things are based on the categorizing and evaluating done in your heart.  Your brain has little to do with it.

Of course, I am not even trying to be anatomically or even psychologically correct here.  I am trying to tell you what you have already experienced and why.  You already know what I mean when I say that your heart is not your brain.  If it were, you would not have done some of the things you knew you shouldn’t do.  No, the heart is a different creature.

The heart is filled with fears, anxieties, successes, pride, shame—and all kinds of things it has picked up through your life.  I have written about the flesh in previous posts.  It seems to me that the heart is the place the flesh stores all its stuff.

Years ago, when you were a little baby, something happened that frightened you.  Your heart stored that event and all the little details.  Today, when something happens that connects to that event, you become afraid.  Your brain doesn’t have a clue what’s going on, but your heart knows.  In fact, it is hard work to convince yourself that you don’t have to feel that fear.  You believe it is irrational, abnormal.  People think you are being foolish.  You don’t want to be afraid, but it just happens. 

Then along comes someone or some teaching that uses that fear to manipulate you.  Maybe they cause the fear to rise so you will do something.  Maybe they offer hope that the fear will be conquered and you open yourself to them.  And they get you to make commitments and do things you would never do if you were thinking clearly. 

The heart can be manipulated.  It can be deceived.  It can be damaged by those who reach in and try to control it.  The heart is vulnerable. 

There is so much more to say, but I will just add two more points.  First, this is why you feel this combination of anger and grief and fear about some of the relationships in your life.  Your brain says you were stupid, that you knew better.  But the problem wasn’t in your brain.  The problem was in your heart.  Now that your brain is (sort of) aware of the situation, you will be more careful; but you don’t know if you can trust yourself.  Your feelings get mixed up because someone has messed with your heart and you don’t know what to do about it.

Second, there is more than hope.  There is victory.  “God is greater than our heart,” the Bible says.  In fact, there is an opportunity in Christ to look past the input of the flesh and the feelings of the heart to the truth about yourself and the world around you.


Filed under heart, Relationship