Welcome to the last post in The Sneak Attack. Can I tell you something? I had no earthly idea that I’d have so much to say about Uncle Henry’s shocking, dramatic letter. Strangely enough, I’m extremely grateful that he wrote it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have learned who he really is, and I wouldn’t have had The Manifesto (i.e., his letter) to study, to learn from and to share with you all.
Today we’ll be focusing on the prayer by St. Francis of Assisi that Uncle Henry quoted at the end of his sneak attack/letter, and we’ll consider what it all means.
Peaceful Readers, if you’re already familiar with the current nicknames and the list of Red Flags for Sociopaths, jump on down to A New Frame for an Old Picture.
In this six-part post, I’ll continue using the new nicknames that go along with the analogy of war.
The Dictator = My sociopathic mother-in-law, Delia
(usually known as Her Majesty, the Sadistic Control Freak)
The Other General = My sociopathic father-in-law, Andrew
The New Recruit = Delia’s brother, Uncle Henry
Red flags for sociopaths
In her blog, “How to Spot—and Handle—a Sociopath,” Lisa Wolcott shares warning signs for violence… “a menu of sociopathic characteristics” from a book she recommends. I’ve summarized most of the descriptions below. We need to become really familiar with this list. Study it. Think about times when people have used these tactics against you.
1. Forced teaming (i.e., Crashing a problem)
Sociopaths lie to their victims, claiming to have a predicament or problem in common with them.
2. Speaking in “we” terms
Sociopaths use the word “we” to manipulate their victims and pretend to be connected in some way.
3. Charm and niceness
Sociopaths use charm/niceness to manipulate their victims and “to disarm their mistrust.”
4. Too many details
“If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible to their chosen victim.”
Sociopaths insult their intended victims to get them entangled in conversation to prove the sociopath wrong.
6. Loan sharking
Sociopaths will “help” victims even when they haven’t asked for help so victims will feel obligated to reciprocate. Sociopaths frequently say “You owe me” in various ways.
7. The unsolicited promise
“A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means the chosen victim will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt their chosen victim.”
8. Discounting the word “No”
“Refusing to accept rejection. “No thanks, I don’t need help,” the victim says. “Nonsense—it’s no trouble, we’re almost here!” says the sociopath.”
A new frame for an old picture
Let’s re-frame the final paragraph of this famous prayer where sociopaths (and people with other personality disorders) are concerned.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
To console: Sociopaths don’t need to be consoled. Their dramatic expressions are simply manipulative theatrics. To console a sociopath is to be sucked into the drama. You play, you lose. To willingly participate in the drama is to be a willing victim, which does no good for anyone. To be a willing victim is to ignore the truth, to trample on natural consequences and to avoid healthy boundaries—The Essential Relationship Threesome.
To understand: Those of us with a healthy conscience can’t really understand people without one, but we can acknowledge the sad and unfortunate truth. Sociopaths do not have a conscience, do not experience feelings—other than the thrill of victory and their sadistic pleasure in hurting others, do not experience remorse, and are incapable of thinking about other people’s needs and feelings. Sociopaths are dangerous, violent people. Therefore, they must be avoided at all costs, for our own safety and for the safety of our non-sociopathic loved ones.
To love: Sociopaths don’t experience love. They experience control and sadism. To invest loving actions and emotions in a sociopath would be like planting flower seeds in cement. We’re free to do it, but the results will not be fruitful. The most loving thing we can do in all of our relationships is to speak the truth and to live with natural consequences and healthy boundaries. Sometimes, truth is communicated extremely briefly. No is a complete sentence. Sometimes, truths like I’m through with your drama and We’re done are communicated with silence.
This may seem very discouraging to some of you. What if the sociopath is your child? Your parent? Your sister or brother? What can you do? Stay away and pray. God still works miracles. For more on the various healings documented in the Bible, see this web page.
Prayer and the addiction
Perhaps our prayers need to begin with truth. Pray that the sociopath will see the truth—that he or she is very broken indeed and needs healing. People die every day of curable diseases because they refused to heed the warning signs of their symptoms and would not go to the doctor for help. In a similar way, sociopaths and the swath of destruction that characterizes and surrounds them are clear indicators that all is not well; yet they’re addicted to their sickness—like Gollum and the ring in Lord of the Rings. This addiction to their sickness—their obsession with power and control—makes them more and more sick as time goes by, with sociopaths frantically clutching their lies and evil ways.
Can a sociopath be changed? Really changed? I didn’t think so. Respected professionals say it’s impossible. Certainly, it is highly unlikely and an extremely rare thing. But while I was writing this post I had a quandary in my mind. If God still works miracles and I know this to be true from many miracles he’s done in my own life, could it be impossible for him to heal thousands of destructive people? Impossible? That concept is directly contrary to God’s Word. (Scroll to the bottom of this post—to the section about the song—to read about one recent miracle in my life.)
So I did a Google search to see what I could find on this subject. And I found something. I watched a fascinating, very disturbing testimony last week. A man with no conscience, with delusional thoughts, bludgeoned his dad in the head with a hammer, went to jail, got out of jail and tells us his story. His name is David Wood. Obviously, there’s a lot more to his story than that. Before you consider watching this video, I must warn you. Do not watch it during a time or at a place where a child could hear it. This video is very disturbing. It is also very enlightening. If you decide to watch it, get in a quiet, comfortable place—without distractions and away from the ears of children. At almost 35 minutes long, this video will take you places you didn’t want to go. But then you’ll see some things differently….
I have some questions for Mr. Wood. You’ll probably have some questions too.
The ending of the prayer
Let’s return to the prayer by St. Francis of Assisi. …it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Giving: The most valuable gift we can give—to ourselves and to others—is the truth. When dealing with sociopaths, Brandon and I have learned these truths: (1) You play, you lose; (2) sociopaths and their destructive, evil ways are not safe; and (3) silence is your wisest choice. To debate, to discuss, to explain, to argue, to correct, to convince a sociopath will only suck you into the endless manipulation and drama, which is exactly what your sociopath wants. Your silence communicates this essential truth: We’re done.
Pardoning: To experience peace, we have forgiven or we will forgive the sociopaths. Forgiveness does not mean condoning or participating in evil by being a willing victim. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting what we’ve experienced and learned. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation or maintaining contact. It means canceling the debt and removing the chain of unforgiveness and bitterness from around our own necks. Because forgiveness brings peace—but can be extremely difficult—it’ll be the subject of a future series on this blog.
Dying: The final line of this prayer can be confusing. In my opinion, this truth shines on two different levels. For those who love and serve the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), when we die, we’ll enter heaven for eternity as God’s children. In an earthly sense, dying to myself—me, my and mine—and choosing to live in trust and obedience to God results in my eternal life beginning now.
The three questions
Let’s stop and look at the big picture. We need to ask ourselves these three questions when someone does something that leaves us feeling creeped-out, confused and/or angry, and we’re not sure what it means.
1. Was it done to speak the truth? Did Uncle Henry, The New Recruit, write his letter to Brandon in order to speak the truth?
No, he didn’t. As I walk quickly through the letter, from top to bottom, this is what I see: insults, drama, lies, going off-topic, control, manipulation.
2. Was it done to be genuinely helpful (and not controlling, manipulative, codependent/enabling, nosy or otherwise inappropriate)?
No. Ditto on the explanation.
3. Was it done out of genuine concern/love?
No. You can’t be genuinely concerned about someone you’ve had the opportunity to know, but have chosen not to know.
Why did he write it?
He wrote it to control. He wrote it to get a no-name subordinate—who wasn’t obeying orders from The New Recruit and The Dictator—back in line. He wrote it to throw a temper tantrum—to get back at Brandon for not complying with his demand for a phone call. He wrote it to get information that he’s not entitled to have (so he can control). He wrote it to direct other people’s lives, when it’s inappropriate for him to do that.
When you get down to it, this 559-word letter was all about control. Check out the very last sentence: “I trust I will hear from you soon.” Translation: “Give me what I want or else.”
In his first personal letter to his nephew, Uncle Henry skillfully wielded 7 out of 8 tactics used by sociopaths to do emotional violence against their victims. Most of these tactics were used multiple times. (The only one he didn’t use was The Unsolicited Promise, item 7.) So, what do you say, Peaceful Readers? Is Uncle Henry a sociopath?
I look forward to reading your thoughts….
The week of this sneak attack, before Brandon received Uncle Henry’s letter, the still, small voice gave me this thought. It’s a good way to close out this six-part post:
Those who do evil and call it good
are not to be trifled with.
Coming next: In the next post, you’ll find out about the events that prepared us for this sneak attack/letter. I look back on the year 2016 and I’m amazed.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Deuteronomy 11:13-21
Song for Healing: “Trust and Obey” by Sierra Hull