Learned helplessness is a conditioned response where an individual has been stimulated negatively to the point that when they do have an opportunity to leave a negative situation, they choose to stay.
Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”
Matthew 5:5 is one of the most misunderstood and abused passages that our Lord ever spoke. A meek individual is not someone who lowers themselves to the equivalent of a human doormat. So many times Christians will become a doormat when they believe being confrontational is not following God’s will. In situations where confrontation is required we have scriptural examples in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In situations of abuse, because of the high likelihood that abuse came at the hand of a family member, or close family friend this is one of the verses that will be used to control the victim or victim’s family. In the end, the victim or their family tolerates oppression and further abuse believing that they are being an obedient Christian.
When Moses confronted Pharaoh about letting the Israelites go he did not cave to Pharaoh’s demands, yet in Numbers it states that Moses was a very meek individual. Numbers 12:3 “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
In Philippians Paul describes Christ’s humbleness. Also, several times in the gospels as Jesus was being tested by the Jewish leaders Jesus would answer, but would answer in a humble way. However, Jesus did cleanse the temple after entering Jerusalem in Matthew 21. He stated the authority behind his actions after having driven out the money changers and other vendors. The length of the verse does not do justice to what happened. There were multiple people that were concerned enough for their safety that they left the temple as Jesus drove them out. This is what we have all heard referred to as righteous anger.
In situations where a family is dealing with the abuse of their child it is an unfortunate reality where abusers or those aligned with them will use scripture as a weapon. Due to the misinterpretation that is so prevalent with Matthew 5:5, this is a favorite verse of those working to manipulate the victim or the victim’s family. In this situation a victim or family of a victim can find that nothing they do shy of bending to the will of the abuser or those aligned with them will satisfy. This can create a state of learned helplessness.
This is a scenario that we see in many situations in life. Many are curious why some choose to remain in a physically abusive relationship. What of those dealing with toxic families and the manipulation and mental abuse, do they remain in the relationship or do they leave? Based on learned helplessness theory, the pattern of abuse likely continues in toxic families because those abused have been conditioned to take the shock. As good watchmen we should be aware of situations that are presented. We will never know if encouraging someone to report abuse will end years of learned helplessness.
Passivity breeds chaos. This is a universal truth that we find throughout life in everything around us. A poorly maintained automobile will eventually provide the owner with much frustration, as it becomes less efficient and unreliable requiring replacement way before the same model that had been maintained. A neglected home will require very expensive repairs before one can live in it once again. Relationships suffer from neglect. Look at your marriage, what would your marriage look like if you did not communicate with your spouse but for fifteen minutes every three months for a few years?
Luke 10:30-37 – 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Looking at Luke 10:30-37 who caused greater chaos for the man going from Jerusalem to Jericho? The priest and Levite made a decision to be passive in the situation and to not act as they passed on the other side of the road. The Samaritan, the one who chose to take action and be assertive had the most positive impact on the man who was robbed and injured. It is a common battle to fight passivity. Many are lulled into a passive state and do not even know it. This passive state opens these families up to
Genesis 3:1-7 – “Nowthe serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that theLordGod had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a]shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,3 but God said,‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b]she took of its fruitand ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her,and he ate.7 Then the eyes of both were opened,and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”
Men have been fighting passivity since the times of Genesis. We can go all the way back to Adam and see a man struggle with passivity. Adam did not step in and tell Eve that they needed to leave as the serpent was tempting her with the fruit. He stood there, watched and listened as she asked about the fruit, picked the fruit up and then took a bite of it. No protest from Adam is recorded in the Genesis account. Through Adam’s inaction sin came into the world. One does not have to have the news on long to see that we live in a fallen world.
Why is it so important to note that passivity is a challenge that men face? In the context of the Ezekiel 33 Project it is critical to understand that to be a good watchman that the luxury of being passive is not an option. Passivity is even described in Ezekiel 33:6.
“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.”
Can one that calls himself a watchman be a watchman at all if they see trouble coming and fail to speak up? What good is the security guard that does not alert others and then attempt to stop a thief from breaking into a warehouse in the middle of the night? Wouldn’t a security guard who did such a thing be considered an accomplice to the crime?
A few weekends back we had a lazy Saturday. After getting some exercise in the morning the goal was to do absolutely nothing. This was refreshing after some long weeks. On this day of laziness while switching through channels we found “Jaws” on a channel, it was at the beginning so we figured why not watch. As we watched I was struck by the internal struggles in the first half of the movie. The first half of “Jaws” is much like what can happen among family or friends should your child be molested. The key relationships to focus on are the mayor and the sheriff. The mayor represents the “bad watchman” and the sheriff represents the “good watchman” found in Ezekiel 33.
In the movie, the predator was a great white shark that was terrorizing Amity island. The shark was deceptive unsuspecting swimmers and boaters would be struck from below and then overtaken by the predator. The people on Amity Island were willing to be in the water. They either had no idea of the danger in the water, or thought that what had happened was a one-time incident. If we compare child sexual predators, what is different? Children are surprised from a situation that they believed was peaceful and calm and then find them in a situation that is anything but peaceful. Naïve parents friends or family think ‘the water’s fine’ and will allow their children around those who have had problems in the past. Just as in the movie, the water may be anything but fine.
The mayor of Amity Island was more concerned with the image of the island and more concerned with what the tourists thought of “his” island. Even though most people in the room could see there was a significant problem, and the mayor could too, he would not admit to or agree to resolve the problem until the public outcry was too great and he had to go along or lose face. The mayor of your family or friendship is the one who always seeks to keep the family or group together regardless of obvious danger. The thought of conflict or separation is something that they cannot handle. They will demand that nothing is wrong or that nothing severe enough occurred until far too many people get hurt.
The sheriff in the movie was a new hire from the New York City police department. Given the transition he thought his job would be less stressful than New York City, the last thing he imagined was that he would have a summer where he had to deal with many deaths. Immediately after the first attack the sheriff declared the cause of death a shark attack. He immediately wanted to close the beaches after and protect the public. Instead, the mayor got in the way and insisted on the beaches remaining open. It took three more attacks before the sheriff would be listened to.
Although situations regarding your family or friends may mirror the cast of characters in “Jaws”, you must remember, you are the sheriff. Unlike the movie, the mayor has no power over you. In the movie, the mayor could have removed the sheriff from the situation. In your situation the sheriff has the power to remove the mayor from the situation. You have the power to “close the beach”, or cut off contact with those who have harmed others or your children previously without getting approval from the mayor.
If you have a situation in your life where you are dealing with a predator, or a mayor that lacks perspective, or both, we hope that you will be the good watchman as you assume the role of sheriff and do right thing for your children.
Apathy is a favorite tool of the devil. An apathetic Christian requires little effort to trip up. An apathetic parent is the best kind of parent for the child molester. An apathetic parent is one that is more easily deceived, and one that provides more unquestioned opportunities for someone to be with their child.
I Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Two definitions of Apathy are: 1) absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement. 2) lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.
In a fight one of the most critical things that one can do is protect their head. By doing so you protect your ability to think about the situation, counter, or remove yourself from the situation. Although family gatherings, social occasions with large groups of friends and social occasions at church are not fights per se, they are situations where your mental guard must be up. One of the best ways to prevent your child from being targeted by a molester is to demonstrate that you keep up with where your child is and what they are doing in social situations.
Apathy is an easy trap to fall into. When we go and visit family do we know all who are present? Sure we know the names and have past experiences with these people, but do you really know them? Did someone show up that you haven’t seen in a while? This does not guarantee trouble, far from it. It does however require you to keep your guard up. There is a reason that the statistics are the way they are regarding family and friends and the probability of your child being abused by one of them opposed to a stranger.
If any of your friends or family has lied to you or deceived you for anything beyond a surprise birthday party, they likely will again. This is important to not be dismissive of such occasions. If you feel that you either need to record conversations or take notes because you have felt you are losing your mind while discussing past events with a family member or friend, then you do not need to be apathetic regarding your children when you are around this person. Remember, the number one tool used by a molester is deception. Keep your guard up.
Apathy is a valuable tool to a molester because an apathetic individual will likely not stand in front of a lie or deception. An apathetic individual will not know where their children are in social situations more so than parents who are more alert. When a molester chooses to groom a victim they will be more apt to pursue the children of apathetic parents.
Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus was warning the disciples not to fall into temptation, but they were alone in the garden of Gethsemane at night. What temptation? What was there to put their guard up for? Little did they know that the next few hours the disciples would witness their friend arrested, tried, and then executed. Imagine all of the different types of temptation that they could have gone through as these events took place.
The action that Jesus wanted the disciples to have was to be alert. The first word in Matt 26:41 in the ESV is “watch” if we look at the definition of apathy it is difficult to keep watch and be apathetic at the same time. There are definite differences, but there are also similarities that the good watchman must employ in the protection of his or her family. In social situations in your extended family, friends, church, do you actively keep up with where your children are and what they are doing? Do you periodically check on them a few times an hour, or can hours go by without you knowing? When your child wants your attention do you give it to them or encourage them to go off and play?
Looking at the metaphor of being a watchman, is it possible to be a good watchman and be apathetic? Based on the definition of apathy it is not possible to be a good watchman and apathetic. Think about it, if you are someone who depends on a watchman for your personal safety you don’t want him or her to be apathetic. Your children depend on you for their safety. Be the good watchman.
When we look at the abuse of children and the use of deception to manipulate the child and then the abuser or the abusers advocate will then encourage deception. Deception in fact is the number one tool in the toolbox of a child molester. Molesters will deceive the adults responsible for the child to gain access, deceive the child, and then deceive other adults to have them stand up for the molester. What does the Bible say about deception? When a family member, even a parent asks us to cover the abuse of any child up no matter how insignificant it seemed, we have examples in the Bible regarding deception and why we should avoid it.
In order to deceive at least one lie must be told, but often in the case of child molestation there is a web of lies created to create a scenario of trust. That web of lies is used to create disbelief should the molester be caught. To begin lets define what a lie is. Webster defines a lie as 1) to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive or 2) to create a false or misleading impression.
Cain and Abel
Gen 4:8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother.[d] And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
Cain implemented definition one listed above in the definition of a lie. God himself then called him on his lie.
Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
Joshua 7:22-23 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord.
Achan implemented definition two of the definition of a lie. He took what he was not to take and then hid it in his tent. The casual observer would have had no idea what was in the tent from the outside it probably looked very normal. When the messengers that Joshua sent to the tent went in they found what was hidden inside and underneath.
David, Bathsheba and Uriah
We know about David and Bathsheba and how that was wrong, let’s look at what was done by David to attempt to cover up his sin.
2 Samuel 11: 6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.
2 Samulel 11:9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,”
2 Samuel 11:14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.”
David tried to use definition two. He attempted to have Uriah be with his wife to cover the pregnancy. Uriah’s faithfulness caused him to deliver the orders that were David’s second more direct way of covering his sin and cost Uriah his life.
Ananias and Sapphira
Acts 5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Ananias and Sapphira used both definitions of a lie. Ananias laid part of the proceeds of the sale of his land at the apostles feet to make it appear as if it was the entire sum of money from the transaction. Therefore appearing as if he had done something that he had not. Sapphira came in three hours later and was asked directly if the offering that was made was the sum of the transaction and stated that the sum of money was the entire amount from the sale of their land.
Amnon and Tamar
2 Samuel 13
2 Samuel 13: 20 And her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. 21 When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry.
Absolom told Tamar to keep quiet, and “not to take this to heart”, and David although angry did nothing and almost lost his kingdom as a result. Both David and Absolom thought it best to implement Webster’s definition two regarding Tamar. Although David had already done plenty to cause issues in his family, not directly dealing with the issue which likely caused Absolom to take matters in his own hands. Absolom’s reaction to his sister which was to “hold your peace” and “not take this to heart”, or act as if nothing happened, no big deal. In today’s terms, “let’s keep this between us”, or “your *insert family relation here* can’t handle this we need to keep this quiet.” Or “they’ve had a hard time of it, let’s not make it more difficult for them.” 
When we look at the two ways to handle the abuse of a child in your care, the old way and the new way, there is an obvious compare and contrast between those who deceived and how God viewed the deception based on the outcome of the situations. When the old way is employed, deception continues and the value of the victim is diminished, when the new way is employed, the actions one would take are the opposite of the examples that we have in scripture who deceived. We are called to expose unfruitful works in Ephesians 5:11-13, covering up the abuse of any child especially your own is certainly taking part in an unfruitful work. Exposing the evil that was done removes the forced silence, which is a barrier to healing. This is where Ezekiel 33:1-6 comes in to play. We are to be the good watchmen; if we are not, then what happens is on our hands. As leaders of our home we are to provide physically (shelter, monetarily, and security), and spiritually to those under our roof. I Tim 5:8. Decide which watchman you will be.
 Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, Rid of My Disgrace