Posted by: Botolff | February 16, 2009

Victims ALWAYS become perpetrators.

After having been a part of the community I ministered at for 3 years of a four year commitment, I was asked to put a proposal together that would reflect where I thought I fit ministerily within the community if we were to continue working together after that four years was up.  About six months before my termination I wrote that proposal and gave it to the pastor to be reviewed by the elders.  I shared a significant piece of information in there that ironically turned out to be much more true than I ever imagined when I wrote it.  After speaking very highly of the areas we as a community were strong in, I expressed some of my concerns.  Here is that section of my proposal…

“I don’t think overall that we are a very repentant group of people.  Not just a people who say “I’m sorry,” but a people who have hearts of surrender.  We are more likely to adopt a new theological idea or ministry approach than we are to surrender to the help we need individually and corporately to face the brokenness that we perpetuate and experience.  Although we are a group that speaks pretty honestly about what we want, we aren’t as much a group that is very honest about what’s keeping us from getting there, including our own depravity.  We carry a lot of shame still as a community that I think is based in things like a history of religious legalism and tradition, painful family upbringings and relational experiences, unaddressed relational fractures and tension in our church family, and a fear of being seen for the broken people we really are.  All this shame, if left uncared for, sooner or later will hinder us from being able to find the confidence to move forward and will erode our community more than it already has.”

I later found out that my proposal didn’t make it to the Elders until a couple weeks before my termination.  And even then, I’m not sure they got the whole thing.  I wonder if the pastor was concerned that he himself was mirroring the words I was expressing, or didn’t know how to address them.  Maybe he was threatened by my evaluation of the community.  Regardless, I’m saddened by the stark reality that my words were confirmed in their fullest sense through the leadership’s treatment of me, the students I worked with and their congregation throughout my termination.  Truly, their community is dying from it’s own brokenness, and their unwavering commitment to their own deception has become the millstone tied around their children’s necks.

A professor in my master’s program used to tell us that we will perpetuate abuse on other people 1000 times more than the abuse we’ve had done to us; unless we allow ourselves to become aware of the abuse that we have experienced, and how it is that we are inclined to continue those patterns of abuse in the lives of others.  The reality is that we are all victims and perpetrators.  The more we try to deny being either one, the more abusive we will become.   

It seems to me, our energy shouldn’t be spent trying to pretend that we aren’t victims or perpetrators.  Instead, we should invest in owning that we are both, and look for ways to change how it is that our own abuse plays itself out on the rest of creation, because it will.  It ALWAYS does on one level or another.




  1. Jamie,

    You and I met a year and a half ago in Seattle. I am a good friend of Josh’s and we had a long conversation then about what your were enduring…
    Little did I know then… I am a pastor and think we would both benefit from continued dialogue. Drop me a note if you are interested.

    I look forward to catching up.

    In Him,
    Mark Johnson

  2. This was tough to swallow…I know that I’m one, and fear becoming the other, but haven’t really gone down the path and seeing myself as such…not a pleasant place to go, but necessary!

  3. I agree, holding both is scary and difficult. I’ve just found the opportunity to do so to be so much more freeing. A lot less energy has to be committed to the fighting against either if I can accept that I’m both, and just be more aware. I’m also less bent towards narcissism, because I don’t have run from or deny the shame that comes with either label. I can own it and live into it and make decisions that promote me being less of either one. Sounds MUCH simpler than it is to live that way though :).

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