When Darlene was sixteen years old, she entered therapy through a court-ordered decision. After she was caught shoplifting at a local department store, the judge had decided to see if family counseling might alter Darlene's classic path toward juvenile delinquency. She hadn't wanted to come, but Darlene was quite used to absolute decisions and pronouncements.

Darlene's father was the unwavering decision maker in the family. It didn't matter what anyone else decided; everything was dependent on whatever ruling her father laid down. The whole family could have planned something as simple as a night out for dinner, but if Dad decided he was too tired, they all stayed home. If Mom had said it was all right for Darlene to spend the night at a friend's house but Dad didn't want her to be gone, she just couldn't go.

No arguments, no amount of persuading could change her father's mind once it was set. His decisions were final. No appeals process. Verdict reached and decision rendered. Period.

Darlene soon learned that her father's decisions usually had very little to do with the circumstances and very much to do with how he was feeling at the time.

If he was in a good mood, he could be generous.

If he was in a bad mood, all bets were off.

There was no reliable standard, only convenience or inconvenience, for her father's decisions seemed to be based most often on what the situation meant to him. If he had to drive her anywhere, forget it. If it meant he had to leave the house after he got home, forget it.

Darlene learned to filter all her decisions through her father's what's-in-it-for-me lens. She learned not to consult anyone else about what she had decided to do. If he didn't know about it, he couldn't stop it. Darlene learned to hide her activities from her parents. Consequently, some of Darlene's choices were inappropriate ones, and she wound up in court.

All of us can probably think of a person who acts as if he or she is the sole judge and jury for making decisions. Akin to the person who is always right, the judge-and-jury abusers allow no opposition to their will.

Judge-and-jury abusers not only make the decisions, they make the laws.

What might be a reason for doing something on Monday may cease to be a reason on Tuesday. A decision doesn't necessarily need to be "right" as long as it fills their needs in other ways. They are not as concerned with the process of the decision as they are with the outcome of the decision -- which is to have happen what they want done.

The power to demand obedience is a great responsibility. When we obey others, we submit to their will above our own. Therefore, this power should be used sparingly and only with the other person's best interests in mind. Power should never be misused for personal comfort, gain, or control.

How has a judge-and-jury abuser impacted your life?

  • Do you find you wait to see how other people react in situations before you respond?
  • Do you distrust your own decisions and opinions? If so, in all situations or just certain situations? Which ones?
  • Do you feel you are able to make good judgments about situations you face in life?
  • When was the last time you made a good judgment? What was it? And what did you tell yourself afterward?
  • When was the last time you made a bad judgment? What was it? And what did you tell yourself afterward? Were you able to forgive yourself?
  • Do you second-guess yourself and worry over how you responded?
  • Do you seek out the approval of others to feel better about your responses to situations?

After being subjected to a judge-and-jury abuser, it takes time to become comfortable responding to life and its situations on your own. But the more comfortable you become with yourself, the easier it will become. You'll learn to trust yourself and your responses with each right decision. And with each wrong decision, you'll learn to forgive yourself, learn, and move on.

2013 Hope and Healing From Emotional Abuse, Gregory L. Jantz, Revell.

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