Posted by: Botolff | November 10, 2009

In the Presence of a Wicked Man.

If you are a survivor of severe abuse, I would like to encourage you to pause and consider whether or not you are in a good place to read this post right now.  It contains a detailed description of my experience of one man’s deeply wicked reactions during an interaction we found ourselves in.   

Often the one who delights in evil is an ordinary, unassuming person who hides behind a facade of normalcy.  Few people who are evil ever appear evil, even after the evidence of their deceit, destructiveness, and hardness is exposed.” – Bold Love

One day, a number of years ago, I got dropped off to spend the afternoon with a student who was part of a youth group I was helping out.  The student was at their grandparent’s house.  It turned out to be a sunny Saturday afternoon and we had plenty of time to talk, play some games and eat together.  At the end of the afternoon, we wrapped it up and both prepared to head home.  Our means of transportation?  The vehicle owned by the son of the grandmother we spent the afternoon with, father of the student I was hanging out with.

The man (son and father) had a jovial but somewhat quirky presentation.  He was the kind of person who treated everything in life comically, but when his position or perception was challenged, more often than not he found a subtly arrogant way to shame you for your opposing opinion, or immediately dismiss you if he didn’t think shame was going to work.  But it was usually the kind of shame or dismissal that you didn’t feel until about 10 minutes later.  He had a real knack for being able to emotionally slap you, but make you feel in the moment like his attack was either in jest, or that you deserved it.  In other words, he was masterfully manipulative and highly abusive, but all done very subtly with a smile on the side. 

In my time interacting with this man, up until that day, there were a few “cordial altercations” as I cautiously but confidently and caringly questioned his beliefs, attitude, approach and motivations with his ministry, family and world.  I was almost always met with an indirect attempt to deflect my questions and concerns, if not a direct attempt to spin me around and create confusion surrounding my very words and thoughts.  In a blink of an eye he could make you feel crazy or ashamed of something that you were confident was his issue to begin with.  He was consistently crafty about his responses; never too direct so as to appear harsh, but if he couldn’t make a joke out of things, he could be just mean enough to make you feel like an ass for attempting to address anything to begin with.  But then one day, the day at grandma’s house, he finally got mad enough at my incessant challenging and disobedience to show his hidden colors.  Colors that were very bright, but incredibly well masked.  Why am I sharing this?  Because I think it’s important information in order to help you begin to brace yourself for what came next that afternoon. 

So, we were preparing to leave.  The student had put everything in the vehicle and we were saying goodbye as we walked out of the house.  The father’s last words to us as we were leaving the house were, “Now, give grandma a big hug goodbye.”  From what I could ascertain during our time together grandma seemed like a very nervous lady, easily disrupted, socially unstable, highly insecure, disoriented, even fearful.  She didn’t seem like the kind of woman who was even sure what to do with hugs, especially from strangers.  I was a little concerned by dad’s demand that we give her a hug considering my experience of her throughout the day.  As I watched the student hug her, the looks on her face suggested this was at best highly awkward, and at worst somehow traumatic.  I hardly knew grandma with only one afternoon together, and decided pretty quickly that a hug was out of the question for me.  Not only because she didn’t seem enthusiastic about the process at all, but also because this man told me that’s what I was to do.  Instead, I simply suggested that it didn’t seem like grandma was up for hugs that afternoon.  That’s when I saw a look and heard a one sentence response from the father that will forever be seared in my memory.

The father was beginning to walk towards the vehicle when I announced my concern.  He stopped in his tracks about eight feet from me, paused for a second, turned back towards me and gave me a look that I have only seen from a handful of people in my life.  I assure you I have seen more angry looks than I can begin to count, but I have only seen what I would consider to be deeply and truly evil looks a few times.  This is not the look you see when someone’s face is beat red and they are on the verge of screaming in order to relieve their own unmanageable tension.  I’m talking about a calm searingly cold toxic look that leaves you with a shiver.  It’s the kind of look that is enough to cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up on end.  If you are someone who has done the hard work of being able to name the abuse you have experienced at the hands and mind of a manipulatively and methodically wicked person, you know the look I’m talking about.  If you don’t know that look, I encourage you to find someone who does and have a conversation with them.  They may be able to help you to better understand the depths of evil that exists in this world, and help you to face and love the very people you feel you know so little about.

As if the look wasn’t enough, his quiet rage drove him to speak.  He couldn’t contain it any more.  This well-composed, jovial, “ministry” oriented “family” man, with the look of death in his eyes, calmly but very sternly announced to me these exact words in the presence of his mother, “They always say no, but they always mean yes.”  After flashing a very brief and devious smile, he turned away and headed toward the vehicle.  Grandma turned back in towards the house and closed the door behind her.

It took me but a very brief moment, time enough to exhale, to confirm the narcissism I had been experiencing in this man for a few years; and to ascertain that he had inflicted, and was still inflicting, severe amounts of harm on people, particularly women, in his life.  I was, and had been, in the presence of a wicked man.  A man so crafty that he was able to creatively camouflage his abusive attitude and approach towards women with his position as a falsely humble deceivingly spiritual ministry leader within his church.  He was hailed among many as a living example of the most sacrificial and godly man they had known.  His approach towards women?  Take what he wants…period.  And I am confident that with many of them he did just that. 

I think the story speaks loudly enough on its own that it doesn’t need much commentary right now.

If we’re willing to listen that is. 

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