In cases where a person as been victimized what we frequently see is that even when the offender confesses his/her sin and repents it is not perceived as “enough” by the victim. For clarity purposes, today we will call our victim “Carol” and our perpetrator “Bob.”
Bob has recognized his sin against Carol and through the counseling process Bob has experienced true heart change and has begun to live these changes out daily. He has confessed to Carol his sin against her, and asked her forgiveness.
Carol has been down Apology Lane before with Bob, more times than she can remember. She is not at all sure this is for real and has even said to the counselor that she doesn’t know why this time will be any different. She does not trust Bob’s words or his new actions. She is always looking to catch Bob in some act of deception. She is critical of his professions of change and it shows in everything she says and does concerning Bob.
Carol, the once-victim, often perceives herself as the righteous, wounded party. She has adopted a position of self-righteousness and her pride in that is evident. She appears to believe that her spouse is not as spiritual or as acceptable to God as she is. She communicates through verbal and non-verbal communication that she has no sin, or certainly none as egregious as Bob’s, and almost literally peers down her nose at her spouse “The Sinner.”
What has happened here is that the two people have switched rolls and the one who was a victim (Carol) now becomes the offender. If this at all describes a situation you find yourself in, please don’t tune me out now!
This is displayed in ongoing bitterness, hard heartedness, critical spirit, condemnation and in general, a “raising the bar” lifestyle. “It” (whatever change has been made, whatever accountability is in place, how ever many hoops to jump through) is never good enough. Carol is always looking for that one shed of evidence to prove to herself, the counselor, their friends, but most especially to Bob that he hasn’t changed one little bit.
In these situations the person (in this fictitious case, Carol) must be confronted about her sinful attitudes toward her husband. She must be called to account on these numerous levels.
Often, someone like Carol would come to counseling with the expectation that the former offender (Bob) be the only one challenged, rebuked, corrected or the only one who is in need of any kind of change! She is often very offended when confronted about her own sin, believing and saying things like, “This is not why we are here” “Why are you picking on me?” “What about him/her?” This position of self-righteousness leaves little room for examination of their own heart, and little room for accepting any responsibility or contribution to the problems that led up to the violations. There will be some admission that “I am not perfect either” but there is much more concern toward pointing out their spouses wrongs. When challenged in the counseling process, their responses often begin with, “Yes, but he…..” “Well, I did (blank) and she ….” in an attempt to shift any blame away from themselves.
In situations where someone like Carol does say she forgives, I see another common issue arise, the demand for “love” and “understanding” for how long it is taking to get over the offence. This is displayed by radical mood swings, crying jags, silent treatment, reminders of the past offences that she is quick to assure him he is forgiven of!
The demands for love and understanding and time to heal are often impossible to meet because no matter how much love, time, and understanding is given it is never enough! The former offender (Bob) is forever held as an emotional hostage by his deeds of the past.
These responses are often confusing to the former offender. For example, things at home may be going just fine, they may have enjoyed the day of companionship and then apparently out of the blue the victim (Carol) suddenly becomes angry and nearly hostile toward them. Sometimes no amount of asking or pleading will pry from their lips what happened. Their questions and attempts to understand are met with silence or responses like, “You should know!” or “If you loved me, you would know!”
Intimacy is mostly non-existent between the two. There may be sex, but no intimacy because she is not going to allow herself to be vulnerable again. Her heart becomes a closed room to him.
Small and insignificant matters balloon into major confrontations, and there is little peace in the home. Over time every word and deed is analyzed and becomes cannon fodder for arguments that degenerate into hostility on both sides.
If there are children involved, the victim may enlist the support of the children against the offender. I would say this especially true in situations when the husband is caught with pornography. Because the wife is experiencing such betrayal on such an intimate level she strikes out toward the children to ruin their opinion of him and to shame him into stopping.
What is quickly evident in our fictitious case is that while Bob was responsible for the sin that brought this couple to the table, God has used it to reveal some areas in Carol’s heart that need to be dealt with also.
Does any of this sound familiar to you dear Reader? If this describes you and your marriage, or that of someone you love, than can I encourage you to return here next time? God surely has a plan for even this trial and time of your life and we will look at it then. May I remind you- there is HOPE!
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