Dear Anonymous Mennonite Friend

IMG_2128IMG_2129Dear Anonymous ,

I’m sorry for whatever happened in your life to make you this bitter and hateful. The letter speaks for itself, and for you–as all anonymous hate letters do–but I will let the readers make of it what they wish. I see no need to respond to most of it.

I will, however, address (with evidence) one item of misinformation regarding the ‘lie’ you claim I told. Evidence, for the second item I will address, would be documented at Family & Children Services (F&CS).

The minister I spoke to is from local church, along with another staff member as a witness.   (If you are involved in this case and would like to have their names/contact information, please email me using the Contact Trudy page and I will connect you with them.)I shared the details of what transpired the night your friend fled home in terror, leaving a child in the care of a man she feared, and I was encouraged to call F&CS, even months later.  (You will note in the text screen shot below that I never hinted at it being a Mennonite minister. I have the other texts as well, and there is no harassment.)
text to friends of anonymous letter

At some point, after speaking with them, I called F&CS using a hypothetical situation, to find out what my obligations are for reporting, months after the fact. They said they have to investigate and determine the danger/risk, it is not up to me. (I told them I hesitate to answer because I am concerned about backlash from the Mennonite community–see letter above for evidence/reason for such concern) They questioned me until they got enough information to make a house call, but even looked up the address themselves and guessed at the child’s age, because I did not know. (This, I presume, would all be documented at F&CS and is the extent of my ‘harassment’, as you and your police officer friend call it.)

I’m sorry that your friend cannot face the truth of what happened that night. Abuse only ends when confronted, regardless of what tragic past experiences trigger the abuse. And I hope she and her husband go for counselling and get the support and healing they both need.

Having said all that, your letter begs one question–what truth are you afraid of having exposed, to react this strongly to something that has nothing to do with you?  (And to which you clearly do not have facts. Harassment charges never come from a citizen doing their duty and calling F&CS, especially when advised by a church leader to do so. )

I offer my forgiveness for calling me a ‘BEAST’ and a ‘loser’. And, again, I am truly sorry for whatever it is that causes such darkness to spill from your soul onto paper.  I pray you will discover just how incredibly much Jesus loves you, and find peace.  I have nothing but love and compassion in my heart for you, and for your friend.

Sincerely,

Trudy

Ps. Mark, Stuart, Glen, Kenny and other pastor/minister in your church(es) are welcome to contact me about this or any other Mennonite abuse cases. I respect the three that I know and have heard many good things about Glen.  I’ve already met with other Midwest leaders and, in all but one situation, everything has been handled with grace and integrity. When one leader got angry, he later apologized, in front of two fellow ministers, his wife (I believe was there) and one other individual, and then thanked me. That takes humility.

© Trudy Metzger

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Musings of a Weary Warrior

In a recent post, wherein I revealed what dreadful secrets lie buried in my cultural background, I made the comment that sometime soon I would need to think about posting a blog about all the things I love about my Mennonite heritage. And a host of things floated through my mind, of what I might, and ought to share.

Since then I have heard quiet murmurings, here and there, some spoken, some written, that my blog seems to exist mostly to express my hate for my cultural heritage. (Thank God I prayed for a thick skin and a tender heart, else I might well be standing beside Pontius Pilate washing my hands of the truth I know, hoping that some other fair judge will fight for it.)

So the sweetness of that intended blog, and the romantic musings of one enthralled by an idyllic setting, known to the more fortunate in that culture, and shared with me through stories and observation, will be less so than originally intended.

Not because I don’t believe it exists. I do. And I have been so fortunate as to have experienced it, and known it through visiting some of my dear friends, like the Weavers, whom I have written about in the past. And others.

But, unfortunately the romance is tainted by fatigue, and simply not having any desire to convince anyone of anything right now. Not the beauty and serenity that I saw in a few homes–including my time with Peter and Rita Steckle, at Lakeview–nor the evil that lurks in many other homes, hidden behind the pretences of ‘all is well’.

No. I don’t wish to defend either truth in my writing. Because it occurred to me, as I contemplated the accusations against me–of being hateful towards Mennonites–that neither truth needs a defense. Each truth stands unwavering, with or without my support, my applause, or my proclamation. And each truth is very well known by those who live in it. And those who most furiously rise to defend the ‘good’, and declare me the enemy, are most likely to know better of the hidden things than any one else. Because if there is one thing I cannot be fairly accused of, it is hate.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not upset by it. Discouraged? Barely. Exhausted? For a time, yes. Because I feel as though I shovel constantly, and still the heap never grows smaller. I recall, as a young girl, who was more a tomboy than a lady, how I loved to spend time in the barn with the animals. Their warmth in the winter was kinder than the smells they produced, and I endured one, for the other. I loved the animals. But the manure pile seemed never to shrink, no matter how much we shovelled.

That, quite frankly, is how I feel in all of this. I love my cultural background. I love the people there. And I love how some are sold out for Jesus. But, more and more, I feel as though the manure pile grows faster than I can shovel it. And it’s not the abuse I’m speaking of. I have yet to find one victim, who is in the Mennonite culture and interacting with me, who does not serve as my cheerleader. I get many messages from those dear, wounded souls, who have not been heard. Those who have been silenced by leaders for wanting to be free. Those who have tried to establish some help for their own, only to discover they will be shut down by those same leaders. Those who have been told, “We don’t want them (the abuse victims) here’, and ‘it’s not our problem. Those who have been told not to speak of it outside of their families. And those who have cried out and been told, “you don’t need help”, and then are counselled to read their Bibles and pray more.

It has never been my wish or desire to fight against a culture. My heart, my goal, my passion and my desire have been to help people within their culture. Not to remove them and ‘fix them’, but to walk them through to healing within that culture. But the resistance is strong from some. And when all else fails, and the truth gets too dangerously close, we human beings have a habit of resorting to judging motive, regardless what lies we must conjure up to do so.

So my words are less sweet than intended, because I am not one to slather on pretences or niceties to tickle the ears and polish image–neither mine nor yours. I am forthright, yet try always to be gentle. I love deeply and compassionately. But flattery I try to avoid.

But I will say this. There are some, even in leadership, who represent God well, and reflect Him well, with a heart that is true. My prayer is that they will see…. truly see… the plight of the countless victims. My prayer is that they will open doors for true healing, without judgement and the hypocrisy of ‘secrets’ that force the victims of abuse to carry shame.

Other leaders have buried themselves in their own sin and shame so long, that their only agenda is to keep the hidden thing down, at any cost, and always with a religious guise. To you I say, May God have mercy on your souls and devilish conniving.

And to every victim of abuse, who has never had a safe place to go, I simply say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have suffered. I’m sorry you have not been heard. I’m sorry you are forced to carry in secret, your burden of pain and shame. I’m sorry that you have been made to feel guilty for disclosing what your fathers, brothers, uncles, friends and even leaders have done. I’m sorry that you have not been believed. And I pray that someone, somewhere will offer you a heart that is true. A heart that will listen, acknowledge your grief, and not judge you for the crimes committed against you. I pray that someone will exemplify Jesus in your life, and thereby lead you to Him for that ultimate healing.

One day, maybe soon, I intend to write that post that tells of all the wonderful things I know and love about my Mennonite heritage…. but for today, suffice it to say that I wouldn’t get my hands this ‘bloody’ for anything but love. If I wanted revenge, there are countless damaging ways to get it, and they would include  court cases, lawsuits and vile public exposure, not ministry, and certainly not the painful truth intertwined with forgiveness, whether publicly or privately.

The Apostle Paul exposed sexual immorality–incest being one of them–in the Corinthian church. He did so publicly, having published the letter in a book more read than any other. He was forthright. I presume he, too, was accused of many things. And a few nights ago I spent some time reading the writings of Menno Simons. It stood out to me how much of his writing was responses to attacks. One might expect these things, I suppose, and if they can publicly respond to those accusations, I will do likewise.

…these are the musings of a weary warrior. But to my adversaries, don’t get your hopes up… I’m not going to lay down and die, or abandon my passion.

© Trudy Metzger

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A Haunting Dream (Warning: May Be Disturbing for Some)

Tim stepped in the house, looking quite shaken. I had watched from a window, as a strange man, apparently a neighbour we didn’t know personally, had paid him a visit. Tim told me the man had come with a warning that they were watching us.

The man, slightly built, yet muscular, and scruffy–as though not having shaved for some time–had that ‘worn’ look that comes from smoking, drugs, alcohol and hard living. He looked physically strong, in spite of his size, and tattoos decorated his arms and neck. His eyes. Evil. Daunting.

We were packing both of our vehicles, as we always do, to go on family vacation. A much-needed, rare treat, escaping from the busyness of life and the demands of work and ministry. We had looked forward to this, but now a dark cloud loomed. I could feel it.

Tim looked pale as he spoke. “He said they are going have a cabin near us. They’re going to be there all week, keeping an eye on us.”

We didn’t know what it meant, but the heaviness left me with a sense of dread. Our time of rest, now becoming a time of survival.

We arrived at the cottage and settled in. It was simple, but nice. Tim and I chose an upstairs bedroom, where the morning light greeted us, with its warmth each morning. How I have always loved to lie in the sun and feel those rays, since early childhood.

True to his word, the neighbour who had confronted Tim–and it really had felt like a confrontation, though we had no idea why–showed up directly across from us.

There were only two cottages in this lovely wooded parcel of land, and somehow they had known we would be here. The thought was not a comfortable one.

On about the second day, we took our family to McDonald’s in the evening, and were about to leave, and return to the cottage, when the neighbour–who obviously had followed us there–walked over. He pulled out what looked like an over-sized razor blade, but with only one sharp edge, and one heavier side, for better grip. I saw it, but had no time to react.

With the same threatening intimidation I had observed through the wind in that initial encounter, he swung the blade, cutting Tim. I wanted to scream, to fight back, to stop him. But I could do nothing. I stood, frozen in place.

I couldn’t make out the words he said, still clearly intimidating, before he walked away. Tim remained calm. But whether it was shock or resilience, I couldn’t tell.

The next few days passed, without incident. It was as if the intruders were not there.

That last morning at the cottage, I awakened to the sun spilling her light through the window, onto our bed. Tim was awake, sitting up and leaning over me. He kissed me. I closed my eyes and smiled. Stretched. And opened my eyes again. A perfect morning.

My eyes fell on the neighbour’s cottage. And that’s when I saw her, at the window, watching us. Her face, though emotionless, communicated so much. She was a beautiful young woman, with long auburn hair falling around her face and shoulders. The expression was a blend of jealousy, hate, longing, grief, and rage.

Was she the neighbour’s wife? His hostage? A girlfriend? What did it all mean? Her expression confused me.

Our eyes met in that split second.

She turned, a look of resolve overtaking all other emotion. Instinct warned me. I said something to Tim. Told him that she had been watching us, that something wasn’t right. I feared she had watched us all week, and we didn’t even know she was there.

And then we waited. My heart was sick with dread. The sun had promised a lovely day, but the heaviness warned me that it was a day of survival.

I heard the footsteps, moving up the stairs, followed by a knock. Tim immediately opened the door. I crawled out of bed and moved toward the door. Something wasn’t right.

And then, as a glint of light caught it, I saw that sharp blade, just like the one the neighbour had used to cut Tim. She said something, but I couldn’t make out the words. I wasn’t listening. I saw what Tim couldn’t see.

I dove forward, took her off guard as I grabbed her arm, and snatched the blade from her. I gave it to Tim, then wrestled her onto the bed. Then I calmly I broke her arms. This was survival. I had no choice. Everything in me resisted harming her, but I feared if I did not, she would stand up and fight. I used the blade. Not to inflict extreme damage, just enough to ensure our safety.

And then I left here there, on the bed, in agony, and walked out the door, and Tim with me. She didn’t move. Didn’t attempt anything at all. She simply lay there, defeated.

Downstairs the neighbour greeted us. Asked if we had seen his wife. I said we had not. Tim didn’t say anything. The man walked past us, upstairs to our room, where she lay. Tim followed him.

I looked for our children. I had to take one of our vehicles and get the children to safety. How I wished Tim had not followed the man. I was no match for his strength, and to pursue them would only increase the risk. I was the one who had harmed her. I had no choice but to leave.

I found three of our children and rushed them out to my car. It was already partially packed with items to take home again and left only enough room for the three. The other two would have to stay and come with their daddy. I could only pray for safety.

I sped down the road, watching in my rear-view mirror, to make sure no one followed, yet praying that Tim would follow. I didn’t see him.

Afraid of returning home, I stopped at a friend’s house, where family and acquaintances had gathered for an event. Maybe Tim would escape and remember the gathering, and find me. I prayed he would. My heart felt sick at the possibilities.  And the guilt. How I hated the guilt that consumed me for having left two children and Tim.

What if…

I pushed the dark thoughts and images from my mind. Willed myself to reach for hope. This was no time to give up.

I waited for hours, pacing. Everything was so very wrong. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to us. We’re a peaceful family. I tried to engage in conversation, but the thoughts distracted me.

My brother came over to me, then, and started to talk. I told him everything. I tried to be positive, but the dark possibilities spilled out. My deepest fears–that Tim, and our two children with him, were murdered. I shifted to survival. How would I get on with life, if I never saw them alive again?

My brother tried to be positive, to not think the worst. Well, I had tried all day, but now, as evening approached, hope faded fast. It had been too long. If he was alive, he should have been here by now, or contacted me in some way.

The sky grew darker. The day was coming to a close. What started off so filled with hope, love and life, grew increasingly ominous with every passing second.

There was a knock on the door. I ran, opened it.

Tim stood there, pale, worn and exhausted. He had talked the neighbour down. It had taken time and patience.

I looked around. The children. Where were they?

Tim looked the more exhausted.

Had he found them? Or had the neighbour gotten to them first. The pain in Tim’s eyes stopped my heart. Fear.

Images and scenes, unpleasant, unbidden, flashed through my mind. Not my children! I would have sacrificed my life for them….

Tim shook his head. Whatever had happened, he could hardly speak. “They’re tired. They didn’t want to come in.”

They were alive! Relief. Pure, sweet, welcome relief. Whatever had happened, they had survived. I could see in Tim’s eyes that it had not been good, but he offered no explanation. He didn’t have it in him to relive it verbally. What mattered, for the time being, was that we had all survived. No one had lost a life, but all of us had been touched by trauma and evil.

It would take time to recover.

For just a moment I felt as if it was all a dream. That maybe Tim wasn’t really back and I was hallucinating.

I looked at him, reached out to touch him…..

And then I woke up.

It was 6:50am, Tuesday, October 24, 2012. My heart raced. My body trembled. It all felt so real. Too vivid. Too orderly. Too possible, and yet not possible at all. What did it all mean?

As the fog lifted from my mind, I prayed. Whatever had triggered the nightmare, I wasn’t about to dwell on it, or let fear move in.

****

And that is the graphic ‘survival’ dreams/nightmares I encounter, from time to time, when ministry is at its busiest. Yesterday many people wrote, offering prayer and support. One woman even committed herself to fasting, as Esther requested of the Jews, and praying safety for our family.

I recognize that this is war. And if that dream told me anything at all, it is that we are in a battle against evil. It is not a battle I fight. It is a battle we fight, as a family, even extended family and friends.

Thank you to all who pray for us. It means more than we can express.

© Trudy Metzger

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Will You Forgive Me?: Forgiving, Releasing and Blessing My Father

“What do you have there?” Dad eyed my Tim Horton’s cup suspiciously.

“Iced Cappuccino,” I said.

“What kind of drink is that?” he asked.

“It’s a slushy frozen coffee,” I said, knowing that ‘frozen’ and ‘coffee’ would not work well in a sentence, for Dad.

Dad furrowed his brows. “Cold coffee?” He was clearly unimpressed. “That doesn’t sound like it would taste very good!”

I laughed. “It does if you like it.” I was talking to a man who only drank piping hot instant coffee. The kettle had to be boiling when the coffee was poured, and if he didn’t have to pour it into a saucer to sip it, it wasn’t hot enough.

I offered to bring him one to try on my next visit, but he declined. “I don’t think I would like cold coffee.” When I offered a regular coffee, he said the nurses served coffee with his breakfast each morning, and that was enough.

It was chitchat about family and health for a while Life stuff. And then we got onto deeper talks… God…  faith… religion… And finally we talked about our home. About his rage. About what life had been back then, in those broken years at home, when I was still a child.

Dad’s eyes filled with tears. “Trudy, will you forgive me for all the ways I sinned against you?” he asked.

I looked at him, now an old man… empty, broken and weak, and my heart felt sad for him. Sad for the years he had lost. Yes, I carried scars but my life was full. His life was empty. Many of his relationships with his children were strained. Distant.

But I saw something deeper. His eyes had softened. His spirit mellowed. He was no longer invincible. No longer defensive. Whatever wrongs he had committed, he could only reach for grace and forgiveness.

“Dad, I forgave you a long time ago. Yes, I forgive you.”

He wept. I reached over. Touched his hand. He had been so strong. His giant hands had felt like steel, back then. Frightening hands that triggered fear if ever he clenched his fist, or raised his hand to strike.

I had stood face to face, practically nose to nose with him at eighteen, in defence of my little brothers. He had drawn a fist then, preparing to punch me. I had leaned in a little closer then, and calmly defended them, keeping eye contact.

He had lowered his fist then, and mumbled something before walking out the door. At which point my body started to tremble, only then realizing what I had done.

Now, sitting beside him in the hospital, I knew the time was short. How short, I wasn’t certain. But it was short. His hands looked weak, and worn. Even in my pregnant state I would have far more strength than he. How times had changed.

There was deep emotion. Grief. Sorrow. Loss. But accompanying those emotions was something I had not seen in years gone by.

“I am so thankful God has had mercy on me in my old age,” Dad said. He told me how he had finally learned that it is through grace that we are saved. That it is a gift he could never earn. One he did not deserve. His pride and strength were shattered. He had only grace to fall back on. And in that failing health, in his weakness, he had the humility to say, “I was wrong. I sinned.”

Although I chose to forgive my father when first I started to work through abuse, it was a wonderful and freeing thing, to have him ask for forgiveness. And while my freedom didn’t depend on it, that confession was a gift that I treasure.

© Trudy Metzger

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Spiritual Abuse: Introduction

Tears literally poured down her face as she spoke the words, sheer desperation in her voice, yet with hope and confidence in her words. “Trudy, they want me to repent and come back to believing what they believe. But I can’t do it. I just can’t do it now that I know Jesus.” These were the words spoken by a young woman–meaning my age or younger–who spent her entire life going to church, practicing a religion. After one encounter with Jesus, she saw that her congregation didn’t teach Jesus, but taught religion.

She went on to tell me how her family felt she had shamed them by leaving. They felt rejected even though she repeatedly told them she cared and loved them. It wasn’t good enough. If she refused to return to her congregation, she was not welcome in the family. She was shunned.

The church pursued her as well, telling her she would go go hell if she did not repent and reinstate her membership. By all external appearances she still held to every rule, every standard. What had changed was her belief system. She traded religion for relationship and she could not keep silent about that relationship with Jesus. She spoke with respect and honour even though she was deeply wounded by her family and the church.

Eyes pleading, she asked, “Trudy, what do I do? It hurts so bad!”

It is difficult to look into that depth of pain and know there is nothing that can be done to resolve the circumstances. The circumstances may never be made right. In that moment the only thing I can offer is to bring Jesus to the pain, and the pain to Jesus. The only thing I can do is help people in this situation understand how God sees them, how He loves them, how He grieves with them, and help them see in the Bible, that God is not like that!

I have heard these testimonies of pain frequently. The above story is not a one-time event, but a blend of repeated cries from women and men, deeply wounded by, typically well-meaning, religious leaders. Usually the leaders—be it Bishops, Priests, Elders, Ministers, Preachers, Pastors or other leaders—are only trying to ‘protect the flock’ from what they perceive to be deception or sin. That never makes it right. Spiritual abuse is wrong in every way, regardless of the intent of the heart, because it completely violates the heart of God and misrepresents who God is!

God called leaders to ‘shepherd the flock’–using biblical terminology, 1 Peter 5:1-3–not to control through manipulation and abuse. Never did the right to control enter into the equation in God’s leadership guide and it is not to be part of New Testament church life. Never can it or should it be accepted or blessed as such. We’ll touch on that again in another post.

Does this mean a church should be a ‘free for all’ and ‘do as you please’ with no one to hold the church accountable? By no means! But that’s a topic for another day. Today is merely an introduction to a very complex and multifaceted problem.

John 3:16-17         16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.     17. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through

The topic of spiritual abuse has been on my heart for weeks, but how does one go about tackling it? I’m not certain… but I’m about to find out. I want to spend a few blog posts looking at some of the ways that often well-meaning humans misrepresent the heart of God, especially within the context of spiritual abuse either in churches or Christian organizations.  Iwill not attack on them—that would serve no purpose whatsoever—but rather looking honestly at the pain, and then hearing what God says in His Word, for the purpose of inner healing. In the process we will explore the impact abuse has on victims because of lies they believe about God and themselves, and find God’s truth to break down the lies.

We will look at what we do know about God, based on stories in the Bible and especially drawing from the life of Christ, and explore the mystery of His heart and His character. Since He is Emmanuel, ‘God among us’, it seems most appropriate to watch God and learn the right way from Him. The best way to become like someone is to study the individual as closely as possible on a personal level. Jesus is ‘God in the flesh’ and therefore the best example and role model.

When we know someone personally and someone else comes along and tells the untruth about them, we are much more likely to take a step back and say, “No… I know that person. That can’t be right.” So to know Jesus, and know Him intimately, equips us to stand against the damage of spiritual abuse. Ultimately, spiritual abuse is rooted in misconceptions about God. If we know God intimately and personally, we have nothing to fear from Him or people around us—“…there is no fear in love…”—but when we don’t know Him we can be tossed about by the control and misrepresentation of men and women who profess Christ, but live out of selfish ambition.

Knowing God is the key to standing against spiritual abuse, manipulation and any form of spiritual control. God placed us here with the freedom—or God-given right—to choose our path, our faith, our allegiance. It is wrong that any human would try to take away what God has given us as a gift, and attempt to control and manipulate the mind through fear. God did not. Why should they?

That does not, however, remove God’s Word as Truth and authority. It doesn’t mean we should disrespect leadership. That is also not biblical.

In this series, as always, but especially here, I welcome feedback, suggestions, questions, thoughts challenges and anything you would like to share. I don’t have all the answers, but God’s Word does, so that is where I will go for answers. My one request is that we speak kindly and respectfully when we disagree, and that we don’t do any personal attacks. This can be a very sensitive topic and stir up a lot of anger in those who feel violated. The anger is not surprising or wrong, but what we do with it is critical. If you have suffered spiritual abuse, please don’t name the individuals responsible—I can’t approve that for my blog. If you need to vent or get something personal off your chest, or if you need prayer, email me at info(insert ‘at symbol’)faithgirlsunleashed.com and I will respond and will pray for you. Alternatively, if you would like contact information for a professional counsellor, I will be happy to do my research and try to connect you with someone in your area. (Canada and USA only) I am a certified life coach, speaker and trainer, not a counsellor.

As much as possible, I will post at least once a day—on a good day twice. If you share a story or a question, I may refer to it in my blog but will not share your name, location or any details that would expose you or make you vulnerable. If you do not wish for me to refer to it, please explicitly say so.

I look forward to finding God’s light, in a dark and painful journey. There is hope in every dark experience.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Nobody’s Doormat

I have been pondering ‘authority’ in relationships and the need to set healthy boundaries. Specifically when the person with whom we need to establish those boundaries is someone who has authority over us, or is in a co-leadership position with us. It is a sensitive thing at the best of times, and more so when someone in authority over us violates us and boundaries need defining.

We all have the ‘right’ to be respected. It is not just a human rights issue—it is a right that God has given us. He made us in His image, to reflect His heart and His likeness. Each of us, in our individuality, is made to uniquely represent Him, here on earth. This is true whether we are Christians or not.  The effectiveness and impact of that, whether we allow that God-likeness to flow through us or not, is to an extent dependent on our faith in Him, but regardless of our beliefs, God’s likeness is in us.

When we function under leadership and authority, whether that person is a boss, a father or mother, a husband or any other leader, we should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, we have a choice; we choose silence and allow victimization—usually ending up feeling sorry for ourselves, or we confront (hopefully gently so that we are heard), or sometimes we may need to first reach out for help. We may not initially have the strength to confront, or, alternatively, we may come off too strong because of personal defences.

Years ago, as a young woman working as a secretary, someone in leadership asked me to do something illegal—I was to ‘fudge the books’ to make things look differently than they really are.  I was the person that signed off on documents for the government reports and to do so would have not only risked the company being slapped with a huge fine, but I would have been responsible.  In submitting documentation I always signed the typical ‘I confirm that the information contained in the report is true…’ and to sign that, knowing I was intentionally doctoring reports, was not something I could do.

However, because it was a leader who asked me to do this, I was in a conundrum. Should I defy my leader and not say anything? Should I do what I was asked? Should I confront?

Me, being me, I opted for confrontation. It’s not that I like confrontation, but silence, either way, would have made me feel victimized and I don’t tend towards accepting that role.

I walked into my boss’s office, defences high, and asked him to explain exactly what it is he wants me to do. Again, he outlined the exact steps I was to take in reporting.

“But that’s illegal,” I said.

He mumbled something that didn’t support me doing the right thing and, without a further thought, I leaned over his desk, handed him the reports and told him, quite boldly, “It’s illegal, and if you want it done that way, you will have to go do it yourself!”

Stunned, he looked at me without a word. After the pause, he told me to go do the right thing.

Back at my desk, my heart was still beating like a drum in my chest. Had I really just done that? My head was spinning. I was proud of myself for taking a stand but felt bad… almost sick, over how I had done it. And yet, it had been the truth.

Maximizing Impact

My boss’s son, having heard the exchange, walked over to my desk. A quiet gentleman, only a few years older than me, he spoke with great wisdom a lesson I have taken with me for life, “Trudy, what you have to say is often bang on. If you would learn to say it differently, it would be easier to receive and would have more impact.”

I don’t remember if those were his exact words, but they were pretty close. That advice has changed the way I address leadership. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren..”

In my pursuit of healthy boundaries I made some pretty big mistakes. And that’s okay. I was learning a new and better way. It is better to make mistakes on the journey, than to choose apathetic disinterest in growth. It is in making mistakes that we learn to do it right.

The next time my boss asked me to do something sketchy, I calmly rose from my chair at my desk, looked him in the eye, ushered him to sit down and calmly said, “If you want that done, you will need to do it yourself. I find it offensive.”

Again my boss looked surprised, but this time was different. With a new respect he said not to worry about doing it. He never again put me in that kind of a position.

When it comes to family, especially a father, mother or spouse, the familiarity can cause us instinctively to do one of two things. It can make us defensive, angry and disrespectful, or cause us to completely withdraw in fear or anxiety.  Like their wives, this can be a very real part of a husband’s journey. If we overcome these tendencies and learn to calmly speak the truth—that we have value and are not willing to be a doormat—we will have much more impact.

Recently, watching a video series on working through various issues, the one example jumped out at me, illustrating how to do this well. The speaker guided her audience on a gentle approach to establishing a strong boundary. In her example she was addressing a father, and the words were something to this effect: “Dad, I have worth. God sees value in me. I am His daughter and He treats me with respect. You need to treat me with respect and talk to me with respect. Until you can do that, I am not willing to subject myself to abuse.”

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” More is said in the tone of voice than in the words we speak. The truth, when spoken with calmness, has authority. The same truth, when spoken in loud or angry tone, loses impact.

The key to ending the doormat lifestyle is to first see that we have worth and value, and then to live a life that commands respect, in word and in deed.

© Trudy Metzger 2012