When people hear the word “grooming”, they often think of one of two things. Treating their dog to a day at the puppy spa or what sexual predators do to children to earn their trust and then trick them. The grooming I am referring to is neither, but closer to the latter. It is the same tactic, but what some don’t know is that it can and is used to trick so many more than just children.
“Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.”
Grooming is the behavior that abusers use to show others that they are nice people. They are proving to be trustworthy, interesting, someone we want to be around. We trust this person with our kids, with our secrets, and with our lives. This phase is not only used against the abusers victims, but as masked moments to trick the victim’s support group, so that when the abuser turns, no one will believe the victim. It is devious, it is evil, and many of us are tricked by it everyday. When you hear that a child was harmed by someone close to the family, you will hear most of the closest family, friends, and neighbors say that they never suspected him. “He was the nicest guy, I would have never guessed”. Grooming is instrumental to the success of an abusers end game. They have goals for their life, just like anyone else, and they will do most anything to reach that goal successfully. Unfortunately for those of us tricked by them, we don’t realize that we are being conned into helping them get to this end goal. This end goal being to have their needs met, no matter the cost, no matter who has to be used or how.
People in the church are prime victims. We try hard to believe the best in everyone because that’s what we want done for us, and that’s what we often believe is right. In 1 Corinthians 13:7 it says (regarding love), “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I think this is beautiful, and we need to obey the Word of God, but we can’t use it out of context without remembering the many other things God’s Word says to us. For instance, Matthew 7:15-20 says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
Unfortunately, as people in the church and as a part of the body, we tend to act out 1 Corinthians 13:7 without also enforcing Matthew 7:15-20. We are allowing ourselves and those around us to believe the things of disguised evil. For some reason it seems that we are expecting evil to be obvious, which sometimes it is, but so often, evil is in our congregation, trying to slowly take it over, and we are letting it. If evil was so obvious, it would have a hard time taking on even the most naive of Christians. Evil wants to creep in, and grooming is a tactic of the devil that is used by those who are willing to be used by him. Remember, grooming isn’t just used against the victims, but also against those who the victims should feel safe asking for help from.
Groomers (abusers) try to eliminate any escape for their victims. If you are conned, but not abused, it may be that the groomer was using you to keep their victim trapped and helpless. They keep them without a voice, looking crazy, while they are able to look “put together”. They set the scene, put up the props, wrote the script, and decide the ending. Don’t be a prop, and don’t read their script. The people groups that the groomers try to get on their side to eliminate options of help for their victims are family and friends (of the groomer and victim), church leaders, law enforcement officers, medical and mental health professionals, lawyers, judges, and anyone else who will listen. Victims are worn down, look crazy, and often believe they are crazy after rounds of abuse. Groomers look put together, know the words to say (or Scriptures to recite), know the people to influence, and they know how to wear whatever mask is needed.
How to Spot a Groomer
There are ways we can find those who lurk to devour the children of God walking in plain sight (yes, in the church).
- Listen to the Holy Spirit. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3).
- Look for fruit; actions (consistent, not temporary) speak louder than words. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).
- Pray for wisdom and discernment. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14). Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments. (Psalm 119:66).
- Search for their accountability. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25).
In the beginning of a grooming “episode” or even ongoing grooming to maintain everyone in their proper place, you will find the groomers (abusers) volunteering, serving, laying themselves down. This all looks good, and it is good when done with a pure heart. We cannot see what is in someone’s heart, but character is typically defined as what we do when no one is looking. It often looks like good fruit is there, but if we closely pay attention, we will notice the inconsistencies. It’s not always our job to go searching out those who desire to trick and manipulate us. But, it is our job to constantly rely on God. We see what can and does happen when we start relying on ourselves and our own resources. God will let us know the difference. He will give us discernment of which spirit these groomers are functioning in. Sometimes people refer to it as your gut feeling or your intuition. So many of us learned how to ignore or shut it off. But, He is there, letting us know. But, the question is, do we really want to know?
But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
2 Corinthians 11:12-14
- Gaslighting – What You Need to Know About This Psychological and Emotional Abuse
- The Three Stages of Abuse
- Forgiving the Unforgivable
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