She Can’t Help The Way She Acts-So You’ll Just Have To Accept It !




By Rev. Renee

           How many times has this happened to you?- You’re upset over yet another incident of abuse and you’re venting- or crying- about it to another relative, who then tells you that you have to understand that’s “just the way your abuser is”, “she doesn’t mean it”,  or “she can’t help it” because of her own psychological problems. 

            Many times an abuser will defend herself in this manner.  When it became necessary for me to set limits on my contact with a very demanding and selfish ex-friend, instead of apologizing for being so rude and nasty and agreeing to control herself in the future, she chose to take offense and add fuel to the fire by becoming even more abusive.  Later, she claimed she did this because I had not “handled her properly”.  She told me she “responded much better to a gentle hand guiding her in what was right”.  She added that this was “just the way she’s wired”, as if for some strange reason it was beyond her control to respond in a rational and polite way.  Even more amazing was the fact that, although I had indeed finally set some limits, I nevertheless had still treated her gently and lovingly, while all the while SHE was treating ME hatefully.

            Unfortunately for my ex-friend, “that’s just the way I’m wired” is not an acceptable excuse for abusing someone.  It’s not my job to make allowances for her faulty wiring and overlook her hostile and offensive behavior.  It’s her job to “unwire” herself and behave properly- if not lovingly towards an old friend, then at least in a civil and socially acceptable manner.

            Perhaps even more frequently, some version of this lame excuse is used by the Silent Partner or the Silent Majority (his enablers) to defend the abuser.  My mother had more excuses for my birth-father’s abuse than he did.   “That’s just the way he is”, “He can’t help himself”, “He can’t handle his anger”, “He doesn’t know how to act right towards people”, “He’s always been that way”, “He’s very moody”, “You know he just has a short fuse”, and other lame excuses poured from my mother’s lips daily, even though, paradoxically, she also complained more about his behavior than anyone else did.

            The conclusions drawn by those offering these lame excuses are all pointing toward one and the same resolution to the problem- YOU have to learn to accept that this is “just the way he is”, YOU have to understand that she has problems,  YOU have to be more tolerant of his behavior because he “can’t help it”, and YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT NONE OF THIS IS HER FAULT.  She is simply not responsible for her own words or behavior, which are apparently completely out of her control.  Therefore, you have to make allowances for her behavior, forgive her, and keep on forgiving her without ever expecting her to change, no matter what outrageous and destructive things she does, because otherwise you wouldn’t be a good Christian.

            Well, nice try.  This is just more hogwash invented by abusers and their enablers to allow them to get away with murder, so to speak.  Out of all the lame excuses abusers like to try, it doesn’t get any lamer than ‘I can’t control myself.’  Here are some of the excuses we’ve heard which really are NO EXCUSE AT ALL:

            That’s just the way she is. 

            She’s always been like that.

            She’s like that with everybody.

            When you love someone, you have to accept them like they are.

            He doesn’t know how to talk to people.

            It’s because she was abused when she was a child.

            He’s not in his right mind because he has a drinking problem.

            She has trouble controlling her temper.

            He has anger-management problems.

            She’s on drugs.

            He gets very frustrated and takes it out on other people.

            She’s under stress.

            He’s having problems at work.

            She’s having problems with her boyfriend.

            She has jealousy towards you.

            He feels bad because you got a promotion and he didn’t.

            He’s insecure and trying to make himself feel better by demeaning you.

            She really admires you (read “envies”) and wishes she could be like you.

            She needs to bring you down to her level to feel better about herself.

            When he thinks he’s being attacked, his ‘Reptile Brain’ takes over.

            He’s afraid of losing you so he’s trying to push you away.

            He’s afraid of intimacy so he’s trying to push you away.

            He’s afraid of getting too attached to you so he’s trying to push you away.

            He’s afraid of commitment so he’s trying to push you away.

            He loves you so much he doesn’t know what to do so he’s trying to push you away.

            He’s afraid you’ll see how inadequate he is and leave him so he’s trying to push you away first.

            It’s subconscious.  She doesn’t know she’s doing it.

            She’s intimidated by you so she’s trying to show you that you’d better not mess with her.

            She admires your self-confidence so she tries to undermine you. 

            She doesn’t want you to realize what a pathetic loser she is so she’s trying to push you away before you see it.

            She thinks you’re pulling away from her, so she’s trying to make you afraid of losing her.

            She thinks you’re pulling away from her, so she’s avoiding you so you’ll see how much you’ll miss her if your relationship breaks up.

            She can’t handle confrontation so she does passive-aggressive things instead of being direct.

            She doesn’t know how to express her feelings.

            She doesn’t think you’d understand if she told the truth, so she lies and covers up.

            She has a lot of pride.  That’s why apologizing is so hard for her.

            She just never admits she’s wrong, but deep down inside she knows it.

            Her parents always favored her sisters, so she has a lot of insecurities and anger.

            Her parents always favored her, so she’s spoiled and has an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

            Nobody understands her.

            She’s a little eccentric.

            She thinks everyone takes her the wrong way so she’s very defensive.

            She thinks everyone loves her so she’s just trying to see what she can get away with.

            She gets overwhelmed.

            She’s a narcissist.  It’s the way she was raised.

            He thinks that whatever he needs is the most important thing.

            He has trouble delaying gratification.

            He has a problem with impulse-control.

            He doesn’t mean the things he says.

            He doesn’t understand that words can hurt.

            He doesn’t mean any harm.

            You just have to understand that he has some odd quirks.

            He just reacts without thinking first.

            She’s confused.

            She’s depressed.

            She’s in a bad mood.

            She’s hormonal, she has PMS, she’s menopausal.

            She’s going through a rough time right now.

            She just doesn’t know any better.

            She’s having “empty-nest syndrome” and she’s just taking it out on you.

            They don’t want to admit you’re all grown up- it’s too painful for them.

            They need reassurance that you still need them.

            They were raised in a different time, when you respected your parents no matter what they did to you.  So they don’t understand why you have a problem with them doing all the things to you that their parents did to them.  It’s really just a culture clash.

            And the list could go on and on.  It’s funny that many of these lame excuses contradict each other and might even be exact opposites.  Apparently just about every circumstance, good or bad, can be conveniently twisted into a lame excuse for being unable to control oneself and having no choice but to abuse others.

            We know a 62-year old pedophile who was finally arrested and sent to prison after spending 25 years raping and molesting dozens of little boys, while his wife, who knew he was a pedophile because he had spent two years molesting her own child, covered for him, and even babysat other people’s children and left them alone with him to be victimized.  She also worked at an elementary school and refused to get a driver’s license, very conveniently making it necessary for him to drive her to and from work every day, and managing to expose every little kid in town to him as they tried to walk past his car while he waited for her.

            When he was finally caught, the wife, who in my humble opinion should have been arrested as an accessory but for some reason wasn’t, had this to say: “He has the mentality of a 14-year old”, followed by various versions of how he isn’t capable of understanding that what he was doing was wrong, he’s ‘borderline retarded’, he’s very immature and thinks he’s on the same level as the children he raped, etc.,etc. 

            She even went so far as to make the outrageous claim that the sex he had with his victims was consensual, because although he was in his 60s and many of his victims were as young as 5 or 6, they’re all on the same mental level, so they were all just….what?  Playing doctor?  Was she trying to say that it wasn’t really terrifying and traumatic to the children because he was really just one of them?- a grey-haired, 6’3”, 280 pound 5-year old?

            As you can well imagine, there’s a lot more to this story than I’m telling here.  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but personally I don’t know any 14-year olds who rape other children.  I don’t know what kinds of kids this woman knows, but the 14-year olds I know are indeed mature enough to be capable of knowing right from wrong when it comes to violence and forcible rape. Suffice it to say the wife’s outrageous comments have caused her to be the talk of the town and to be shunned by just about every decent person who knows her. 

            We all had known this man for many years.  He carried on conversations like a normal adult, was capable of understanding, problem-solving, and rational thought, held a job like a normal adult, supported a house and family all his life, drove a car, maintained his home, went out to dinner, and was able to complete transactions like selling a car, buying insurance, paying bills, shopping, and applying for credit.  He managed to get to doctor’s appointments and maintain a social life. He served in the military, was married for 30 years, and had kids of his own (Don’t ask).

            If anything, he was cunning and conniving, and able to support his perversity with long-term advance planning.  He volunteered as a little boys’ sports coach.  He wormed his way into positions of authority in the church that would allow him access to children.  He “groomed” little boys to be future victims everywhere he went, going out of his way to be “friends” with them.  He sweetly offered rides to children with no transportation and took the sons of single mothers to hockey games.

            In other words, for decades he was a full-grown, fully functional adult of normal intelligence and who displayed an age-appropriate maturity level.  In fact, he was quite clever at scoping out potential victims and manipulating them into the necessary situations to be victimized, all the while charming their unsuspecting parents. He was also adept at covering his tracks and making up alibis.

             But as soon as the you-know-what hit the fan and his Silent Partner went into damage-control mode, he magically morphed into a mentally challenged, big overgrown ape with the mentality of a child, who had no idea that what he was doing was wrong,  and actually believed that his victims were consenting to being raped by him.  Poor misguided, misjudged  pervert.

            Oh, pul-leeze.  And abusers like this husband and wife team wonder why people get so enraged at them.  The only thing that makes them look at all mentally challenged is that they actually think other people are stupid enough to believe this baloney.  Other than that, this low-life degenerate, and his equally guilty wife, were smart enough to pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes for 25 years.  How many 14-year olds do you know who could pull that off?

            The point of this disgusting story is to illustrate that there are apparently no limits as to how low an abuser and his enablers will sink to pretend that he is not responsible for the things he chooses to do.  Their imagination knows no bounds when it comes to weaseling out of being accountable.  They are absolutely shameless as they try to convince you that they just can’t help themselves.  They lie outrageously.  No matter how ridiculous they sound, they will look you dead in the eye and continue to insist that they can’t control their own words or actions. But the funny thing is- if YOU did the same things to them that they do to you, they would most certainly expect YOU to control yourself!

            The whole concept of an adult who is powerless to control himself is just preposterous, and it insults our intelligence to expect us to fall for such garbage.  Barring some catastrophic illness like a brain tumor or Alzheimer’s Disease, abusers can control themselves just as well as everybody else-if only they wanted to.  And here’s why:

  1. Mentally ill people who have no control over themselves and are at the mercy of their impulses are not capable of the convoluted, very deliberate, advance planning that goes into most instances of abuse.  They are not capable of the conniving and treachery required.  They are not capable of the lies needed to cover up, or of making up complicated excuses. 

          They are not capable of the sophisticated mind games and psychological battles-of-will that abusers play. You are either out-of-control and unable to stop yourself from immediately acting on your impulses (in which case you probably should be institutionalized to prevent you from being a danger to society)- or you are perfectly capable of plotting and planning your next move over a period of time, and waiting for the best time to carry it out.  It’s one or the other- you can’t have it both ways!  Think back, and decide if your abuser REALLY acts like she’s ‘out-of-control’.

  1. The very nature of an out-of-control, impulsive act would mean that the chances of it being randomly repeated are probably one-in-a-million.  However, patterns of abuse are repeated again and again.  An abuser does the same hurtful things over and over forever- until he is stopped- because he is capable of reasoning that it worked for him before and he knows that it will work for him again. 
  2. The very same people who claim to be helpless to control the rude, nasty things that pop out of their mouths when they talk to us have no problem being polite and respectful to those whom they perceive as authority figures- such as their boss or doctor. They wouldn’t dream of saying the things they say to us to a stranger on line at the deli. They behave completely normally with those they consider equals, like the neighbors. 

          This is precisely why most people don’t believe us when we start telling the truth about our abuser’s behavior towards us. They’ve never seen the abuser in action because he’s clever enough to hide his true self around people he wants to impress or deceive. THIS ABILITY TO DISPLAY APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR WHEN NECESSARY OR WHEN ADVANTAGEOUS TO HIM PROVES THAT HE DOES UNDERSTAND WHAT IS OR IS NOT ACCEPTABLE AND IS PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF MODIFYING HIS BEHAVIOR. Abusers manage to control themselves just fine when they have to.  They just don’t have to with us.

            And no, “personality disorders” don’t qualify as catastrophic illnesses.  According to modern psychology, every one of us probably has some kind of personality disorder. But that’s no excuse. None of us have the right to inflict our issues on someone else, no matter how “special” we might arrogantly think we are.  Instead of expecting everybody to make allowances for their “eccentricities” , “bad moods”, or “odd quirks”, what abusers need to do is grow up and get a grip on themselves, even if that means getting their little behinds to a good therapist.

            All kinds of treatments are available for those who TRULY want help with their “challenges”.  It’s not your job to help your abusive father control his temper or to overlook his outbursts.  It’s not your job to help your manipulative sister with her narcissistic personality disorder, or your control-freak mother with her insecurities.  It’s not your responsibility to read 2 dozen self-help books trying to figure out their problems.  It’s not up to you to ask your therapy group or chat group to help you analyze why your parents behave so hatefully towards you.  Those books and those groups are not there to help THEM with their issues, they are there to help YOU with YOUR issues -the issues your family most likely is the cause of.

            You are not your family’s psychologist.  It’s not up to you to fix them, it’s up to them to fix themselves. You didn’t cause their so-called problems, and you can’t cure them.  Like Sister Denise and I always say, “We’re not running a mental institution for abusers.” 

            I believe we waste altogether too much time and energy trying to psychoanalyze abusers and figure out why they do the things they do. Therapy can be a very good thing for many people.  But at times it can also be a bad thing, because it gives abusers a whole new repertoire of excuses for damaging other people.  Modern psychology tends to make far too many excuses for inappropriate behavior by conveniently making the abuser into a victim of some psychological illness, and then feeding into his narcissism by giving him attention for it.  Of course he can’t help himself- he has an illness.  Now he’s sick instead of just evil.  Poor abuser- turns out he’s a victim too!

            Of course, this puts the REAL victim in an impossible bind.  How can we expect someone who can’t control herself to be able to respect our boundaries and limits?  Her behavior is out-of-control and she can’t help it.  She wishes she could, but she can’t.  So you’re just out-of-luck, and there’s really no point in setting limits in the first place.  There’s no point in rebuking her or confronting her or protesting your abuse because there’s nothing she can do about it.  You’ll just have to learn to live with it.  That’s just the way she is, and now that you understand, you’ll have to forgive her- because you’re a Christian.

            One of the most common excuses we’ve heard for abusing children, including Adult Children, is that the parent was abused when she was a child.  It’s as if it’s almost expected that she’ll now abuse her own child- it’s a foregone conclusion.  Of course your mother still screams at you, lies about you, and calls you names- that’s what her mother did to her!  It’s the only thing she knows.

            The only flaw in this line of reasoning is that plenty of adults who were abused by their birth-families don’t go on to abuse their own children.  Sister Denise and I, along with every person we have heard from so far in our ministry, are perfect examples of abuse survivors who do not abuse others, especially not our own children.  Most of us would never want to put our children through what we suffered, and are very careful not to repeat the things our parents did to us with our own kids. If anything, we go overboard in the other direction. I’ve always said that I have my parents to thank for teaching me how to raise children- everything they did, I did exactly the opposite!  If coming from an abusive background is an excuse for becoming an abuser, then how do you explain all of us? 

            No one is predestined to become an abuser.  Being an abuser, or not being an abuser, is a choice we make. Abusers CHOOSE to mistreat those who love them, because it works for them and gets them what they want.  We were all given free will. We can choose to be loving and kind to others, or we can choose to be wicked and evil. We choose to be righteous and Godly, or we choose to follow Satan.  Abuse is not something we can’t help.  Abuse is a choice, and usually a very deliberate, calculated choice.

            Abusers and their enablers are under the impression that once they get us to understand how the abuser really can’t help himself because he has some mental condition, we will just have to accept that that’s the way he is.  He can’t change, and it’s not his fault.  We can’t blame him, hold him accountable, or expect him to change.  We just need to forgive him, get over it, and let him continue on abusing us and others without protest.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be good Christians.  We can’t be unforgiving.  We just have to suffer in silence from now on.  Otherwise we might even make him feel bad about himself, because he’s helpless to make the changes we expect.

            So what exactly does the Bible have to say about all this?  Abusers and their enablers would have us believe that God wants us to try and understand why our abuser acts the way he does, and now that we know the reason for his behavior, to be forgiving, because he can’t help it.  We should try and figure out what’s wrong with him. We need to be understanding and tolerant.

             The fact is, the Bible says nothing of the kind.  No one who knows the Lord could think that the Bible would ever tell us to make allowances for evil.  Nowhere in God’s Word are we told to be understanding of someone who does wrong or hurts other people.  Nowhere are we told to psychoanalyze anybody, good or bad, or to take into consideration her past, her alcoholism, her stress, her anger-management problem, her insecurities, or any other emotional or mental problem she might claim to have.


            Nowhere are we told to excuse or tolerate behavior that causes suffering for others (including ourselves) because the perpetrator has problems of his own.  That’s like dismissing his actions by saying “Oh well, misery loves company”. His problems are irrelevant. THEY DON”T MATTER and they don’t give him license to abuse anybody else.

            Nowhere in the Bible are we told to forgive unrepentant evildoers.(See the articles “No Forgiveness For The Unrepentant” and “If There Is No Forgiveness Without Repentance In The Bible, Then What About ‘Father Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do’?” on our website) Nowhere in the Bible are we told to be tolerant of evil no matter what lame excuse is given for it.

            God has a very simple formula for dealing with those who damage us.  We are told to rebuke them, forgive IF they repent, and have nothing further to do with them if they don’t (Luke 17:3, Titus 3:10-11, Matthew 18:15-17, 2Timothy 3:2-5).   

            Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as a good excuse for abusing innocent people.  Whatever reason an abuser has for his behavior doesn’t make any difference at all. The only thing that matters is whether or not he chooses to repent when rebuked.  It is his choice that dictates our next move- either forgiveness, or having nothing further to do with him.   

            The Lord does not burden us with having to psychoanalyze our abusers and we need to not take on this unnecessary burden.  God is the one who judges men’s hearts, not us- and we are not to step into this function that belongs to the Lord.  Our Father in his infinite mercy also does not burden us with having to excuse and continue tolerating abuse forever with no hope of it ever ending.  He instructs us to confront and be ready to forgive if there is repentance (change), and he gives us an out if there is no change.  We need to obey what the Bible REALLY teaches, stop giving credence to the abuser’s myriad of lame excuses, and take that out.  “Understanding” an abuser is not our burden and God never meant it to be.