Tag Archives: “people pleasing” behavior

Perfection

Ritual of spiritual cleansing at Hindu temple, Author Frazer Macdonald, Source https://500px.com (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Many abuse victims are tormented by perfectionism.  This is the unrelenting pursuit of perfection.  Perfection and perfectionism are not, however, the same.  One is, in fact, antagonistic to the other.

Perfection as a Standard

Perfection has special significance for abuse victims.  As children, abuse victims come under constant and unjustified criticism.  Harsh criticism may be accompanied by still harsher punishments, penalties far beyond anything a loving parent or guardian might administer for a childish infraction.

With time, victims conclude that perfection alone would satisfy their tormentors.  We strive to achieve that.  In reality, no amount of effort could attain the impossibly high standards set for victims.  But the effort is ingrained in us, as is the self-criticism.  So perfectionism begins.

The Need for Approval

As adults, abuse victims are frequently motivated by a need for approval.  We become “people pleasers”, conditioned “to feel bad about [our]selves and to please, appease, accommodate others” [1A].  Studies show that perfectionists of this type may “exhibit…‘a strong sense of duty, which masks underlying feelings of personal inadequacy’ ” [1B][2].

Dirt and Cleanliness

Sexual abuse can add another layer of torment.  Child victims may be too young to understand what exactly is being done to them, other than that it is a painful violation. The violation is commonly, however, associated with cleanliness issues.  This is especially true when children are accused of being “filthy sluts”, “dirty whores”, and the like.

Having been made to feel “dirty”, children may rub dirt onto their skin and clothing.  They may soil themselves, even if long since potty-trained.  In the alternative, they may wash unceasingly; may bathe and change clothes several times a day.

As adults, the victims of sexual abuse are likely to have difficulties with sex.  They may view sex as threatening and disgusting; themselves as soiled by it.  Some can feel nothing sexually.  Others treat sex as a commodity.  Far too many throw themselves into frenzied sexual activity, in a desperate search for the love of which they were deprived.

Most abuse victims do not grow up to become prostitutes.  A great number of prostitutes (male and female) were, however, abused as children

Washed in the Blood

Verses can be found throughout the Bible which refer to cleansing [3].   These are not concerned with soap and water, but with sin and repentance.  They convey something of the power of God to forgive whatever wrongs we may have done, and “cleanse” or rid us of the evil done to us.

The Bible’s cleansing verses are not meant to suggest that abuse victims are somehow filthy or defiled.  The child victims of abuse – even sexual abuse – have NOT sinned, sexually or otherwise.  And God, above all others, understands the extent to which their adult actions may have been impacted by the sins inflicted on them as children. Continue reading

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Beautiful in His Sight

“Face of Christ” by Claude Mellan (1649), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (PD)

Abuse frequently destroys the faith of victims, undermining our capacity to trust.  While we may reject God or despise Him, He loves and values us.  It can be difficult for us to reconcile God’s love with our experience.  But that love is real.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

Self-Worth and the Cross

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16).

As abuse victims, we were taught at an early age that we were worthless.  Our needs were insignificant.  Our feelings did not matter.  Our bodies were not our own.

These were the inferences we drew from our experience with those who rightly should have loved and cared for us.  God, however, sees things differently.  To Him, we are of infinite value.  He proved it by giving His Son, Jesus Christ over to a death on the cross for our sakes.

Our value is not governed by a predator’s opinion of us.  It was established for all time at the cross.  No one need add to it.  No one can detract from it.

God’s Unconditional Love

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps. 36: 5).

God’s love for abuse victims is limitless and unconditional.  The concept of unconditional love may be foreign to us.  We were taught that love was unreliable.  It had to be earned, over and over again.  Most of us paid a high price for a counterfeit version of love.

Sin and Our Relationship to God

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8: 1-2).

God’s love is not withdrawn when we make mistakes or fall short.  We grieve His heart at such times, but He does not turn away from or reject us.  We are His beloved children.  Even when our relationship with Him is rocky, He continues to love us immeasurably. Continue reading

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Perfection

“Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery” by Guercino (c.1621) at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London (Accession No. DPG282) (PD)

Many abuse victims are tormented by perfectionism.  This is the unrelenting pursuit of perfection.  Perfection and perfectionism are not, however, the same.  One is, in fact, antagonistic to the other.

Perfection as a Standard

Perfection has special significance for abuse victims.  As children, abuse victims come under constant and unjustified criticism.  Harsh criticism may be accompanied by still harsher punishments, penalties far beyond anything a loving parent or guardian might administer for a childish infraction.

With time, victims conclude that perfection alone would satisfy their tormentors.  We strive to achieve that.  In reality, no amount of effort could attain the impossibly high standards set for victims.  But the effort is ingrained in us, as is the self-criticism.  So perfectionism begins.

The Need for Approval

As adults, abuse victims are frequently motivated by a need for approval.  We become “people pleasers”, conditioned “to feel bad about [our]selves and to please, appease, accommodate others” [1A].  Studies show that perfectionists of this type may “exhibit…‘a strong sense of duty, which masks underlying feelings of personal inadequacy’ ” [1B][2].

Dirt and Cleanliness

Sexual abuse can add another layer of torment.  Child victims may be too young to understand what exactly is being done to them, other than that it is a painful violation.  The violation is commonly, however, associated with cleanliness issues.  This is especially true when children are accused of being “filthy sluts”, “dirty whores”, and the like.

Having been made to feel “dirty”, children may rub dirt onto their skin and clothing.  They may soil themselves, even if long since potty-trained.  In the alternative, they may wash unceasingly; may bathe and change clothes several times a day.

As adults, the victims of sexual abuse are likely to have difficulties with sex.  They may view sex as threatening and disgusting; themselves as soiled by it.  Some can feel nothing sexually.  Others treat sex as a commodity.  Far too many throw themselves into frenzied sexual activity, in a desperate search for the love of which they were deprived.

Most abuse victims do not grow up to become prostitutes.  A great number of prostitutes (male and female) were, however, abused as children

Washed in the Blood

Verses can be found throughout the Bible which refer to cleansing [3].   These are not concerned with soap and water, but with sin and repentance.  They convey something of the power of God to forgive whatever wrongs we may have done, and “cleanse” or rid us of the evil done to us.

The Bible’s cleansing verses are not meant to suggest that abuse victims are somehow filthy or defiled.  The child victims of abuse – even sexual abuse – have NOT sinned, sexually or otherwise.  And God, above all others, understands the extent to which their adult actions may have been impacted by the sins inflicted on them as children. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Never Mind

As abuse victims and as women, we frequently let ourselves get talked into things.  A pitch is made for our sympathy, and – without much resistance, without even voicing our concerns – we cave in.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be an angel of mercy.  As Christians, we are encouraged to be kind and tenderhearted (Eph. 4: 32).

This does not, however, require that we allow ourselves to be deceived and exploited by every con-man, hustler, cheat, and user who comes along. Here is what the Apostle Paul had to say on the subject:  “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10). Short and to the point.

Unfortunately, abuse victims are particularly prone to discounting their own opinions. We have been “trained” by the experience of abuse to ignore that queasy feeling in the pit of our stomachs.

And we long desperately to be loved.  That often translates into an overwhelming desire to please others. Afraid of rejection, we hesitate to impose limits or make demands. So we set reason and instinct aside.

Say, your boyfriend wants his brother to move in temporarily, with the two of you.  Ask yourself whether this exchange doesn’t sound familiar.

  • Just for awhile, your boyfriend pleads.

Never mind that his brother casually overstayed a prior visit.  Never mind that his brother is unemployed and will be unable to contribute to expenses, while you are juggling two jobs.

Never mind that his brother is the father of three children by two different women, none of whom he supports.  Never mind that one of his “baby mamas” got so fed-up she threw him out, herself [1].

  • His brother is turning over a new leaf, your boyfriend swears.

Never mind that there is no solid evidence of this.  Never mind that you do not know his brother’s friends, associates, or arrest record [2].  Never mind that the brother is unlikely ever to change his lifestyle (or drug habit). Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women