Many of us know people that are manipulative, abusive, and unstable yet put on a good façade and trick many people (even in the church). Good questions arise: what is the mentality of an abusive person? How can we spot him? What type of thinking, speaking, and acting do abusers display? Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood give us some great help in answering these questions (which I’ve summarized/edited for length):
1) The abuser often uses unbelievable exaggerations but makes them believable with remarkable certainty. For example, in his efforts to convinces us that his wife/victim is to blame and that he is the victim, he may invent ‘facts’ that are simply bizarre. However, his ability to do so with such conscienceless conviction makes us conclude that it all must be true. …The way he presents the claim is so convincing.”
2) He distorts reality and rewrites history for his own purposes. He tells some story and claims it took place, yet you have no recollection of the event; he’s so certain and confident that you doubt your own memory.
3) He is not bothered by inconsistencies in his statements. Abusers will, without hesitation, present contradictory facts and do so quite convincingly. Their stories evolve as necessary and if they meet some objecting in us to the logic of what they are saying, they can simply change the storyline. Again, they speak with such certainty we may be tempted to believe the evolving story.
4) Abusers often act like experts on the subjects they speak about. When they are questioned further, it becomes evident that their knowledge is actually quite superficial, though they still will not admit it.
5) The abuser uses our own conscience against us. When he is confronted with the facts about what he did to a victim, he skillfully manipulates what we are saying so that we find ourselves feeling that perhaps we have been too harsh or judgmental of him. We wonder if we owe him an apology.
6) The abuser plays by double standards. He will condemn his victim for something, and then, even in the very next sentence, reveal that he does the very same thing (Rom. 2.1). For example, the abuser sees his wife as a horrible, selfish spendthrift because she spent $50 at the grocery store on food, but his purchase of coke, candy, alcohol, cigarettes, and lottery tickets is quite alright.
7) Abusers are typically immature. Like a baby, the abuser often screams when his wants are not met, or throws a tantrum when confronted, or displays rank selfishness.
A few others Crippen and Wood list are these: abusers are typically into pornography, rarely understand or consider another person’s point of view, rarely show shame, often demand forgiveness while seeking pity, display charm at times, and are able to violate rules and laws without any pain of conscience. In my own experience, these points are very true (and also can apply to those denying addictions)!
As I said earlier, if you’re a pastor, elder, or if you are dealing with an abuser, I highly recommend this resource: A Cry For Justice by Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood.