Abuse, Vindication, and the Fear of Man

My first degrees were in music performance. Unfortunately, I soon discovered I was a nervous performer. In my early years, my nerves would nearly ruin my playing. Very frustrating for a performance major.

During that time, a pastor directed me to a passage in Proverbs that says,

The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Proverbs 29:25 (ESV)

I was deeply affected by this verse. I realized that my nervousness about performing was welling up from a fundamental fear of what others thought of me.

Some time ago I wrote a blog on the need for vindication by those who share in the suffering of those under abuse. I related a story of how friends of mine had praised a toxic leader, I served under, when he died. Following that blog, these friends contacted me to apologize. I was deeply grateful for their care.

This blog is going to take another tack.

Recently, I have received abusive messages from an individual in a group text. I realized that when I had received those kinds of messages from this abuser privately, it did not bother me nearly as much. When it was more public, I found that I wanted vindication from the others in the group.

But I also realized, that is no way to live my life.

To Vindicate or Not to Vindicate

I stand by my belief that we need to “vindicate” those who are suffering under abuse. They need to know others understand, love, and will stand with them. Abusive leaders (at home or workplace) will often seek to isolate their targets. They will try to bring co-workers along their side and demonize the target of their abuse. Abusive husbands will “pocket” their wive’s friends.

So, it is very important for bystanders who the abuser seeks to manipulate this way do not fall for his or her evil maneuvers. They need to vindicate the target.

However, as I speak to targets of abuse, I believe it is important to point out that seeking that vindication can kill your soul. It is ultimately a desire to please man…to get them on your side. And, that only adds to the trauma created by the abuse, because it is very rare that you will receive vindication as studies suggest.

“Research in the United Kingdom found that more than one third of witnessses wanted to intervene to help victims but were afraid to do so. Bullies drive witness and bystanders out of their jobs, just as they do to ‘firsthand’ victims.”1

It is likely you will not receive those encouraging, understanding words from others.

Where does your vindication lie?

Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.

Psalm 55:22-23 (ESV)

The Lord is our vindication and in a world that is racked with sin, we can only truly trust in His provision. In his sustenance. In his vindication.

It will come. It may not be in the timing we want. But ultimately, God is just and He provides for the oppressed. His goodness is sure.

If you see someone abused, support them. If you are abused, cast your burden on the LORD. He knows your suffering more than any co-worker or family member.

Stories of Africa

My family of six arrived in Malawi, Africa in August of 2003 to a wonderfully hospitable group of fellow missionaries. I was not really prepared for what awaited us. Our family had not done any significant homework on Malawian life but were nonetheless excited to get started with it.

What a wonderful book!  You have beautifully combined storytelling of your and your family’s journey and experiences with scripture, spiritual experiences, music, and observations of Malawian and Western cultures. It is a great reference for anyone working and living in Malawi or those who support programs in Malawi.

Jeanine Jackson
Former United States Ambassador to Malawi
State Department Leadership Consultant

As I read at times, I felt I was reading the travel log of a missionary tourist, the insights of a musical theorist, the confessions of a cultural imperialist, the wisdom of a cross-cultural missiologist, and the reflections of journalist investigating a mystery cult. [Dehnert] presents a childlike wonder as he speaks about strange and stranger things in a strange and beautiful land. It was great how he expressed his fears, weaknesses, and misconceptions as part of the path to a gradual awakening. Dehnert didn’t go to Malawi with an agenda and he loves people; I think that enabled him to learn so much. In the end the book comes across like a fun travel documentary with some sage-like wisdom thrown in.

Rev. Jay Stoms  
Missionary with National Christian Foundation
Stellenbosch, South Africa

NOTES:

Sutton, Robert I. The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. 1st ed. New York: Business Plus, 2007.

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