Real Repentance Changes Behavior, But Pseudo-Repentance Stops at Remorse

SOURCE: Twitter Thread of August 30-31, 2019, posted in response to a Wade Mullen tweet of August 30, 2019.

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WADE MULLEN: A common tactic used to manage a scandal is to give the appearance of transparency by selectively disclosing less scandalous details in an effort to keep people unaware of secrets that would cause greater disruption. People then applaud a transparency that is actually obscurity.

BRAD/FUTURISTGUY: Similarly, I’ve observed malignant individuals slant personal stories to where they’re the victim, to elicit compassion from empaths. Makes for easier pickin’s for predators, just like in the 2007 movie The Invasion, where showing emotion tips-off to the aliens that you are a human.

WADE MULLEN: One of the greatest challenges I have faced is communicating truth about an abusive person to those who have heard the abuser’s tearful, but partial, confession, have extended empathy and grace, and are ready to move on. I’m still learning how to handle such communication.

BRAD/FUTURISTGUY: This is indeed one of the more difficult issues. If we say anything, it opens the way for us being accused of bitterness, lack of forgiveness, etc. If we say nothing, it leaves the gate open for the abuser to get to yet another round of victims. Exactly the set-up intended! /1

Here are a few key lessons I’ve distilled from working long-term with case studies to help counteract that double-bind set-up.

(1) Pseudo-repentant abusers want to engage people’s emotions to deflect attention from harmful actions. Focus on filling the intentional gaps in the abusers’ self-profiling with FACTS about their BEHAVIORS. /2

Remorse = feeling bad about what one did.

Repentance = changed behavior patterns.

[Judas Iscariot felt bad about betraying Jesus, but didn’t repent.] Emotional-sounding regret may be an actual starting point of a new path forward, but evaluating whether it is genuine repentance or not takes time. /3

(2) Pseudo-repentant abusers want to suggest they’ve changed course and are on healthy trajectory. Part of counteracting that false impression is to highlight past patterns of abusive behavior and show how any new instances fit with toxic old habits. In other words, same old orbit. /4

It’s like tetherball: It involves lots of movement by the ball, but it’s still attached to same old pole. There’s no new trajectory, just same old circles back and forth. Repentance is a change of course that sets us on a new trajectory away from the past. Deception is not untethering. /5

Also real repentance takes ownership of actions, connects damaging deeds done to specific people harmed, and accepts consequences. Fake apologies are conditional (for instance, “If anyone was hurt by this, I’m sorry,” puts responsibility on the victim). Fake apologies are also vague about actions and generic about victims. /6

So, I try to help people understand differences between full biblical repentance, repair, reconciliation vs versions that are partial, emotional, vague, non-accountable. Plus use countering facts, and point out behavior patterns. and not lose heart. Some will see the light over time. /7

So: robust theology, focus on actions and patterns, specifics of harm. Survivor/advocates used these “authenticity indicators” in noted macro-cases where abusers or enablers/protectors gave tearful/partial confessions that elicited empathy/forgiveness but were disconnected from victims and damages done. /8

Example #1: Tullian Tchividjian. Genuine sounding expressions of regret, but no admission of spiritual abuse of authority aspect of his sexual misconduct. Generic apology to those harmed, but no personal apologies to specific women he victimized. Apparent predatory patterns unbroken. /9

Example #2: Willow Creek Community Church leaders. Expressions of regret and desire to reconcile, but no retraction of labels or lies about the victims. No acceptance of consequences, as shown by their attempts to control how reconciliation happened rather than accept processes required by those they enabled victimization of. /10

My Twitter friend @CrenchF asked about articles on this. This thread is most extensive I’ve written so far regarding set of principles + practices to counteract “deflection confessions” that @wademullen talked about. Some wise, trustworthy role models of this to follow and learn from about real versus pseudo-repentance are @Chelseaker, @Rachelshealing. /11

Be encouraged! It does make a difference to tell fullness of truth to show how regret/remorse + partial confession still lies in darkness. In one situation, it took a particular friend of mine three years after I’d pointed out his abusive pastor’s false trajectory, damaging actions, toxic patterns, and fake apologies–but my friend finally got it and got out, and told me he was grateful for my warnings and my perseverance with him. /12

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