Human nature being what it is, we are often presented with cases where one person has caused harm to another.
Many of the cases we deal with are marital situations where husband or wife has grievously sinned against the other and have broken a sacred trust, violated the marriage covenant, or become untrustworthy in any number of ways.
A few examples would be adultery, catching your husband using pornography, violating financial trust by over-spending or running up a credit card. In these situations there is always a victim. The heart of a person who has been victimized is focused on protecting self from being hurt again.
The heart is the biblical term Jesus Himself used to describe the inner man. It contains your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, mind, thoughts, spirit, desires, soul, will, and every other immaterial thing about you. Your heart is the place where the essence of who you are resides. In the center of every heart that has been hurt or abused the desire to protect “me” from being victimized again.
When the goal is to protect yourself your will have various thoughts that you believe will prevent you from being hurt again. Those thoughts, beliefs, and desires might look something like these:
• I must protect myself
• I must look out for myself
• I must not ever let this happen to me again
• He/she is not trustworthy
• I must check up on everything he/she does
• I must not be fooled again
• Verify, verify, verify before trusting
This makes a person suspicious of everything the other person does and says. They have a general lack of faith and trust in them that is evidenced by disbelief of their actions and words. They may also demonstrate anger and even bitterness that plays out in a living desire to “make him/her” pay for what they did.
I have seen this play out over and over in numerous people’s lives and it is a sorrow to behold. In some cases, when there is no repentance on the part of the offender, we can allow the victim to seek a divorce after other means are satisfied and it is clear that hope for reconciliation is gone.
When we have the opportunity, our goal is to the one who was victimized how to live with the offender in a Christ-like manner, bearing up with the strength of God.
However, the majority of our cases of this kind are marital and they involve two believers who say they are willing to submit to our counsel and who say they are willing to change. What we find through the counseling process is that even when the presenting issue of the offender is dealt with biblically there is much work yet to be done.
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. The offender recognizes his sin and through the counseling process has experienced true heart change and has begun to live these changes out daily. He has confessed his sin against her, and asked her forgiveness.
The victim is not at all sure this is for real and she does not trust his words or his new actions. She is always looking to catch him in some act of deception. She is critical of his profession of change and it shows in everything she says and does concerning him.
What has happened is that 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 his, and almost literally peers down her nose at her spouse “The Sinner.”
Incredibly, the two people have switched rolls and the one who was a victim 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. She is always looking for that one shed of evidence to prove to herself, the counselor, their friends, but most especially to her spouse that he has not changed one little bit.
Monday we will look at how to handle this problem of the Victim's Heart