10 indicators that you are being verbally abused

"Preaching Face" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Preaching Face” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

I’ve been verbally abusive in the past. I’m not now. So say those who speak into my life.

But I’ve also been verbally abused. In fact, I get verbally abused nearly every day. So I’ve learned from my own personal experiences and observations how to recognize when I’m being verbally abused and when someone is being verbally abusive.

Here are 10 easy indicators. You are being verbally abused when…

  1. you can say “I don’t think I deserve this!”
  2. they are shouting, pointing fingers, turning red, and using all caps.
  3. you can say, “I would NEVER speak to anyone like this!”
  4. you’re thinking, “What they’re saying isn’t true!” but there’s nothing you can do
  5. you doubt yourself while they’re talking
  6. you don’t feel free to respond and they won’t hear you anyway
  7. when you express your hurt, you’re blamed for being too sensitive
  8. they say horrible things to you but add “I love you” or a smiley emoticon
  9. they use words like always and never
  10. you actually fear that this could escalate into something worse

I’m sure you could add to this. The list is by no means comprehensive.

And you and I both know this can happen a lot during sermon time.

One of the most important books in my life that helped me recognize when I’m being abused (because sometimes we are so entangled and enmeshed in a toxic relationship, or codependent in a relationship, that we can’t recognize it), is Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. Wow. It really opened my eyes. If you haven’t read it, you must!

So when you’re being verbally abused, what can you do? Sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes it feels impossible. But here’s what you can do:

Walk away! Block them!

You could also join The Lasting Supper. We are learning together to become independent and whole. Please join us. I’ll personally welcome you to the table and do everything I can to make you feel comfortable.


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9 Responses

  1. Ducatihero says:

    David, when you say you get verbally abused nearly every day, can I ask for an example of it?

  2. Caryn LeMur says:

    Verbal abuse from the pulpit is so similar to textual abuse on the Internet.

    The defender becomes the bully.

    As an analyst of human patterns within security, I ask myself ‘What is this morph like?’ How does a good church became ‘bad’? How does a good blog become so filled with riot and anger? How does a family become dysfunctional and destructive for years to come? ‘

    I ask this from a system perspective… rather than from other perspectives.

    At this time, I see the ‘kick off’ that starts the game. Perhaps a blog thought, or one of your cartoons, or even an article in a magazine — but the ‘kick off’ sends the ball into one of two geometric planes:

    The constructive plane: There is an exchange of opinion and thought, the mutual respect grows, questions are asked and many different answers given. Different views that pertain to the subject are posted. Disagreements are handled without insults or taunts. Decisions (if needed) are made with multiple paths/targets and consensus dominates. We move on to new subjects and new discussions. The lightest bonds of friendship hold them together as an entity. These are not phases, but more like overlapping circles in a Venn diagram. Think of this as a higher plane.

    The destructive plane: In a similar manner, but on a different geometric plane, there is one-way opinion/thought/or truth stated. Mutual respect gives way to power hierarchy. Many answers give way to singular ‘answers for all time’. Different views are deleted or denigrated. Disagreements include insults and taunts. Decisions (most often ‘needed’) are made within singular paths/targets and without consensus. Labeling of the ‘aggressor’ and pursuit of him/her continues – – the pursuit cannot be dropped. The need for a shared enemy – a very strong bond – holds them together as an entity. These are again overlapping circles (like a Venn diagram) on a lower geometric plane.

    The higher plane contains what I call ‘temporary constructive energy’. The sense of justice is there… but the movement is towards construction.

    The lower plane contains what I call ‘long-term destructive energy’. The sense of justice is there. But the movement is towards destruction.

    But both are energies… the destructive energy is very powerful, life-fulfilling, and gives a sense of power… but ultimately consumes the person, be he/she a blog owner or a preacher. They burn out. They must take breaks. Or, they develop a cynical mindset that is ‘locked and loaded’ and poured out on everyone, even upon family and friends. If the leader changes course, it is too late… the group is so cohesively destructive that they will guillotine their former leader and appoint a new one.

    Many churches and many blogs operate on this lower plane. It is the nature of the dynamic geometric plane to morph people. That is why they morph from defenders into bullies…. and why the preacher swings out of control … or why the pulpit is filled by those with NPD. That is why blog owners do the same morph from a blog that was wonderful years ago … to a blog that produces riots and fans flames of hatred.

    If churches wish to survive as constructive elements, they must learn to operate in the higher plane every Sunday, and every board meeting, and every teaching class, and every home meeting.

    If a family wishes to survive as a constructive (rather than destructive or dysfunctional) element, they must learn the same – always operate in the higher plane.

    Same for a blog. Same for FaceBook pages that start well… and devolve into the lower plane.

    This is, of course, my opinion. And this is again, a systems view.

    Sincerely; Caryn

  3. I do appreciate the systems view Caryn.

    In terms of what kinds of emails I get, or messages, or things people say elsewhere… just imagine any insult. I’ve probably received it. But I’m not alone in this. Many have.

  4. Ducatihero says:

    I hear you David about insults with messages and what people say.

    I am dyslexic, sticks and stones may break my bones but it is words that really hurt me.

    If I feel offended or upset over words, does it follow that someone has been abusive? When I think of abuse it conjours up thoughts of destructive conduct to the point of severely impacting one’s life negatively. That’s somewhat more than feeling upset or offended.

    Perhaps we have a different understanding of the term “abuse “.

    I would defend anyone’s freedom to speak in a manner that I find offensive. I don’t have a right to not be offended. However I have the same freedom of speech as anyone and nobody has the right to take that away.

    I have to believe that in the midst of all of this, there must somehow be room for compassion and grace to one another.

  5. I am a starch defender of the freedom of speech. And I agree that people are free to be offensive. However, I think I am talking about bullying… when people say things that fall under those 10 signs of abusive speech… the kind that is intended to belittle, threaten, and even destroy another. It is intended to hurt them, diminish them, and sometimes even eliminate them. I’ve get that a lot. Sometimes more than others. You recognize it when you hear it.

  6. Ducatihero says:

    I hear you about bullying. That could come under what I talk of with severe impact on ones life negatively.

    However I don’t imagine that happening to you but by now you having enough weapons in your arsenal to engage with it when it turns up without your life being destroyed by it.

    When I was faced with bullies growing up, my mother sent me out to confront them, saying I had a responsibility as the eldest sibling to my brothers and sister to do so. It felt good to do that and I learned an important life lesson.

    Gets me in trouble these days at times with people in power but I am OK with that. I am not a victim.

  7. Caryn LeMur says:

    Ducati: I view bullying as a very interesting dynamic. I think of bullying as a subset of abuse.

    Ultimately, the victim must indeed ‘own’ the situation, and resolve it in some manner. Especially when they become an adult and mature into adulthood.

    I think one of the deeper challenges is the ‘script’ or ‘tape’ that replays within the victim’s mind. I offer that there are adult scripts, and there are ‘child-level’ scripts.

    – In my adult mind, I look at bullying as vindication that I have won the debate, and thus the ‘other person’ is resorting to stalking, scripture-based insults, ‘fuck you and him’ statements, or silly faces/pictures. The dialog has been forsaken because my opponent has nothing left in their rational adult-level arsenal. I walk away from their destructive communication, and smile.

    – In my child mind, I ‘react’ to bullying as a reminder of my softer male persona inviting physical attacks many years ago, at ages 12 and 13. There was no one to defend me. I was beaten upon many times.

    Both ‘tapes’ play simultaneously.

    I then have to mentally ‘fast-forward’ the child-level tape to the ending, wherein I learned to be alone, to embrace being alone, and became a long-distance runner. This ability would serve me very well as a military officer and then as a civilian computer security specialist. I am not proud of the first part of the ‘tape’s music’, so to speak… but the ending of that music is sweet indeed.

    My observation is this:
    – not everyone can play both tapes simultaneously – some people under stress only hear the child-level tape;
    – not everyone can create a new ending to the child-level tape – some people only hear the destructive first part of that tape;

    thus, I tend to think that a person can have many ‘weapons in their arsenal’, and yet find themselves unable to put their finger on the trigger, and launch the missile.

    I believe that learning to handle the child-level tapes, and to build adult-level tapes/scripts, is one of the great endeavors of adult life. And those that succeed, do exceptionally well in having peace, being creative, and engaging life at its fullest.

  8. VanPastorMan says:

    I get made fun of just about everyday online. It’s because my nic is VanPastorMan. Since I let people know that I am a pastor then they feel like they can call me stupid,moron etc because of my Christian faith.

  9. Caryn LeMur says:

    Van: if your Nic is causing people to make fun of you, why not change it?

    My real name is Caryn LeMur. You could use your real name, if you wish.

    And… in some circles, calling yourself ‘pastor’ is waving a red cape… and inviting strong dialog.

    Is it that you wish strong dialog?