A Lack of Empathy….

I came across this and thought it was SPOT ON!!!!

Abuse and Empathy: How Abusers Flunk the Empathy Test

The very first book I bought and read when I began my quest to study abuse was Physical Abusers and Sexual Offenders [*affiliate link] by Scott Allen Johnson. It is not a Christian book. Johnson’s thesis is that therapists and researchers have erred in not realizing that these two forms of abuse are very often linked in the same abuser. Physical abusers are often also sexual abusers. This is a fantastic book and I wanted to summarize one chapter for you in which Johnson explores empathy. This is great stuff, so hang on and here we go:

Generally, abusers do not have empathy. This is an important fact which can help a victim discern if he or she is being abused. A correct understanding of empathy (which the Bible so often calls “love” and sometimes “repentance”) can be a hugely freeing help for victims of abuse. Johnson notes that empathy has three characteristics:

Cognitive Recognition – this is simply the basic, bare-bones ability to understand what empathy is by definition. An abuser can very well mouth the words that define empathy and even admit that not having it is a bad thing.
Emotional Connection – Here we mean the ability to step into another person’s shoes and identify with their feelings of confusion, pain, shame or fear that abuse produces. It entails an understanding of the damage that his abuse effects. Depending upon the scale or spectrum that a particular abuser is on, from less abusive to all out sociopath, the abuser may or may not have the ability to emotionally connect. As Christians, we realize that genuine love for another human being necessarily entails feeling what the other person feels. That is one reason the Bible tells us about the shame and grief and suffering of the Man of Sorrows as He became our Redeemer.

Behavioral Demonstration – What Johnson means here is “faith without works is dead.” This element of empathy impels a person to alter their behavior so as to not hurt and abuse others. Johnson says, “Believing that your behavior is abusive…yet continuing to verbally abuse your partner, actually demonstrates that you do not believe that abuse is wrong. In fact, your abusive behavior demonstrates loud and clear that you do believe that abuse is appropriate in certain situations. If you have true empathy, then you do not abuse your partner for any reason.” (p. 65)
Johnson then proceeds to identify visible behaviors that are the fruit of genuine empathy. These include:

Allowing the victim to vent. In other words, the abuser will sit and be quiet and let his victim explain, even at length and with a spectrum of emotion, what the abuse has done to her. And he will not object to her venting this to other people such as her family and friends and church. Victims, if they are to heal, need to tell others, including their abuser, how they have been harmed and damaged. An abuser, if he is truly repentant and practicing empathy, will not object to this.

Patiently permitting the victim to vent and talk when triggered by later events, even if this still occurs years later.

Being willing to seek therapy for himself and diligently work at employing the new thinking and behaviors he is learning.

Confess and repent when he sins by relapsing. Listen to this great quote from Johnson on this: “What separates the abuser from someone who engages in occasional insensitive behavior is that the nonabuser is willing to admit his behavior, take full responsibility for his behavior, and choose not to repeat the same behavior. The abuser, however, blames the victim, makes excuses, and rationalizes his behavior, and he chooses to repeat the behavior.” (p. 66)
And then it gets even better! Johnson lists 28 indicators of a lack of empathy! Here are some of them:

Apologizes quickly.
Expects instant forgiveness.
Pushes the healing process — she needs to just get over it.
Resist continuing accountability. This shows when they are confronted later when they slip back into abusive behavior.
“Either…or” – Johnson calls this ultimatum issuing. You do this or else I will…
Dragging his feet on pursuing therapy and treatment
Justifying, rationalizing, intellectualizing, or blaming.
Could care less attitude about the victim’s feelings
Refusing to accept full responsibility
Working to erode the victim’s support network. Working to gain allies, in other words.
Overdoing “niceties.” Look out for this one! Compliments, nice actions, gifts…. that really are inappropriate given the circumstances.
Telling the victim how she needs to change and what she needs to do.
Pursuing therapy, but insisting that the therapist be a person who is unqualified to deal with abuse cases. We meet this one all the time! The phoney “Christian” abuser who insists that he must only see a “Christian” counselor!
Complaining about how much the therapy for himself or the victim costs.
Pressuring the victim to participate in “fun” activities with him and forget all that is “water under the bridge.”
Enforcing a system of double standards

As Johnson concludes, he advises that any single one of these indicators is very serious, but if a victim checks off several that apply to her abuser, she can be sure that he lacks empathy.

And, the chapter ends with this sobering statement: “A lack of empathy usually indicates that the abuser is unlikely to change. In most cases when the abuser lacks empathy, his relationship ends.” (p 71).

Whoa! Sobering! But it is the truth. And the truth has a way of setting us free.


6 thoughts on “A Lack of Empathy….

  1. Here’s an example of my abuser’s empathy. Went to court for temporary maintenance to help me pay the bills until the house is sold. I received nothing! Blah blah blah blah blah…the end result is still nothing! I’m sure he smiled when he found out he “won” this round…sigh. All he cares about is “getting me” back for whatever perceived wrong he thinks I did (I’m sure it concerns me taking “his” money). I cannot wait to get him out of my life and have absolutely nothing (except our kids) to do with him.

    • GS…WHY would the court give you nothing?? That makes no sense??
      See, I have lost ALL faith in the court system…that’s why I have my 3 yr plan….that’s why if PA Man wants to “play” the counseling game, I’ll go for it! Because it gives my youngest son time to grow up…I don’t want to do custody, I don’t want to explain myself to a judge….I just want to be able to say, “See ya, sucker!!” LOL!
      Man! I really feel for these younger moms who will be tied to the loser ex for YEARS because of their kids…soooo thankful that my youngest will be 18 in a few yrs….I’ve never wanted my kids to grow up….I loved having them little and dependent on me….but when the crap really starts to show up in a marriage and you decide you want OUT….it’s gotta be hard with little ones to consider!!
      I hope it all works put for you GS….I’m praying for ya!!

      • Lonely my faith in the court system is gone. I’m just waiting for it to be over. Thank you for the prayers and I am also thankful my kids are grown and out of the house.

      • Lonely, I, too, savored the time I had with my children from the beginning. Internally, I tried to slow it down and enjoy it with no hurry for them to grow up. I also knew that I didn’t want to keep them dependent or immature when they were grown, but rather that they would be strong, mature, independent adults, so I knew that enjoying their childhoods was a limited-time deal. I have just a few more years to go until my youngest is grown than you do and I find myself now in a position of counting down the years, the months, the days until PA man has no more power over me and it is a very conflicted feeling. I hate having to want them to be grown up today so we can be out from under his thumb.

  2. Lack of empathy is indicative of a character disorder/personality disorder or brain damage which usually ( probably being too hopeful) can’t be fixed. As Norman’s psychiatrist told me many years ago, ‘ You can’t make him grow a conscience’.

    Those all too quick apologies are so obviously devoid of any true remorse. It’s just their way of shutting you up cause they can’t handle hearing the truth. Norman’s typical response is always, ‘ Ok! fine, drop it! I said I’m sorry! let’s move on!’ Norman’s problem is that he sees and hears everything through an angry and defensive lens which skews his perception of everything that I say or do.

    Norman is seeing a Christian counselor that specializes in abuse. You think she has any clue what she is dealing with? No, not at all. I discovered that Norman has assumed MY personality when he sees her. I know this based on what he tells me that he tells her. It’s very disturbing to hear actually. Some of the things he tells her are so blatantly untrue like how he likes dogs and how he is so concerned about me moving to a strange place alone. It’s very very disturbing to hear these things and creeps me out. I woke up the other night at 2am with thoughts of him impersonating me and I never went back to sleep. There’s no other feeling like knowing that you’re a victim of identity theft. Even stranger, the day after his therapy, he handed me a spiritual CD and asked me to listen to it because it describes Norman. I put it in the next day and it was a minister talking about finding our authentic identity!!!!!!!!!!!!! On a positive note, I get free counseling and don’t even have to show up! hehehe

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