An abuser lies. He tells outrageous tales to promote his own sense of value and forgets to mention certain details that might detract from his exaggerated sense of self. He lies to get out of trouble or to gain favor with his boss or neighbor. An abuser lies even when it might serve him better to tell the truth. His most outrageous lies, however, are those he tells his target in an effort to diminish her sense of value. These lies are typically aimed at her strengths, her most cherished values and the tenderest places of her heart. His power is made mightier when her strengths are made weaker. These lies are so powerfully spoken that many targets hear them years after leaving their abusers. Long after the target has acknowledged the words of her abuser as lies she continues to stumble when the evil words of her abuser replay in her mind.
I have discovered that one step in the healing process is to actively counter these lies with the truth of what God says about me. I must replace the evil spoken about me with what God says about me. Abusers center their lies on three common themes but tailor the details to most effectively weaken their targets of abuse. These lies are:
1. Your greatest strength is no big deal
2. You are incompetent
3. You are replaceable
These lies tear at the very soul of a woman and too often render her incapable of leaving the man who treats her so cruelly. She becomes his weakened victim when she begins to believe his lies. She is hopelessly tangled in his web of deceit until she begins to replace the abuser’s lies with the truth of what God says about her.
Denial of My Greatest Strength
One of the most demoralizing lies an abuser tells is the one that convinces his target that her greatest strength is nothing special. My greatest strength is my capacity to work. I find great joy in setting and achieving goals. I am purposed and dedicated to the tasks set before me. As abusers do, my own abuser noted my strengths and then systemically tore them apart. He raged at me with the words, “You do not know what it is to put in a day’s work,” followed by berating comments that after the children are grown he will stay home and enjoy my easy life while I enter the “real world” and learn to work. I absorbed his words as truth and worked ever harder in the hopes that one day he might throw me a bone of approval and appreciation. His approval never came. His appreciation was never expressed. It is not an abusers intention to encourage his target’s strength. An abuser is compelled, instead, to diminish his target because his power is made mightier when her strengths are weakened.
I Am Incompetent
The second lie an abuser tells the target of his abuse is that she is incompetent. She is not able to achieve what she sets out to do unless he directs her in the process. His target, in short, is lacking in the skills necessary to complete tasks. My own abuser’s favorite lie was, “You could never make it without me.” Sometimes he followed up his lie with a detailed explanation of my shortfalls and inability to “make it” in the “real world.” I slowly absorbed this lie and even resisted leaving his abuses for a number of years because of the fear that it was true. I could not make it without him and would not be able to fend for myself and my children outside of his provision. It is imperative to an abuser that his target absorbs the lie that she is powerless without him. Her strength lies in her abuser. An abuser presses his target to believe this lie because his power is made mightier when her resolve is weakened.
I Am Replaceable
The third lie an abuser throws upon his target is that she is completely replaceable. If she does not meet his expectations in some way or if she is less than pleasing at any time then she can be replaced; she is nothing special. His goal is to impress upon his target the notion that she is expendable and she had better not fall short of his expectations. If she does then he can toss her aside and replace her with a new model. My own abuser relished the lines, “Do you know how lucky you are to have me?” and “There are plenty of other cows in the pasture.”
If a target has absorbed the lies that she has no significant strengths and is incompetent then she easily falls prey to the lie that she is replaceable. She knows that if she fails to please her husband then he will not simply enjoy a few dalliances with some of the “cows in the pasture” but he will actually replace her with one of them.
The target of abuse is frightened into meeting her abuser’s every demand because of her fear of being replaced. She knows she is not capable of supporting herself and the children because her abuser told her so. The abuser tells this lie because he believes his power is mightier when her sense of security is threatened.
The Truth God Tells Me
An abuser’s lies are powerful and difficult for the target to dispel even years after she last heard him utter his evil words. His contempt is fresh and strong in her mind until she replaces her abuser’s lies with God’s truth. Even then, a target has to remind herself daily that she is a daughter of the Almighty and He does not approve of the lies her abuser placed upon her.
My own journey of replacing my abuser’s lies with God’s truth began when I learned that God loves me with an everlasting love and that I do not ever have to fear because He promised to never leave me or forsake me. I am secure in His love and never have to fear that He will replace me. I know God’s mighty power when my security lies in Him.
God next showed me that I am “His workmanship created for good works in Christ.” God created me and He created me adequate to do the work He planned long ago. I am not lacking in the strength I need to do His work and I am not incompetent. I can boldly enter into the work God planned for me because He made me adequate for the task at hand. His power gives me the resolve I need to do His work.
Perhaps most comforting of all is the knowledge that when I am weak then He is strong. His light shines through my weaknesses and all the chinks in my armor far, far more that it will ever shine through my strengths. I can rejoice in my weaknesses, knowing that God is sufficient. His power shines brighter through my weakness.
I might never be completely free of the lies my abuser told me but I do know how to render them powerless. Simply speak God’s truth and the abuser’s lies are silenced.