David’s Steleae: The Psalms as Public Memorials and Private Prayers

violin-and-psalm“I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b

“I will exalt You, Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30:1a

A stele is “an upright stone slab or pillar bearing an inscription or design and serving as a monument, marker, or the like.” [Source: Dictionary.com] They were widely used in the Near East millennia before David, and well after his time. It was standard practice for kings to have steles and statues of themselves made as positive propaganda to support their reign. However, David didn’t follow this practice. In line with the *ten commandments, he didn’t have himself pictured with a representation of YHWH behind him, neither did he carve his achievements in stone. Apart from the book of Samuel and 1 Chronicles, the only memorials we have to David are his Psalms, some of which could be likened to victory steles, and others which have an interesting function.

Roughly half of all the Psalms that are attributed to David were sent to the choir director and made public, and 50% of those Psalms were written when he was in great distress. We don’t know how the other Psalms were used, but it is possible that the ones which have not been specifically marked as “for the choir director” were in his personal collection, then organised into books after his death. His Psalms which are marked as prayers: 17, 86, and 142, were notably not sent to the choir director.

Some of the Psalms that were made public had national themes: Psalm 60 was written while David grappled with Israel’s failures in the battle in the Valley of Salt, and is noted as being useful for teaching; the wording of Psalm 67 is a mix of a prayer and a benediction; and Psalm 58 is an outspoken challenge to the people of Israel on justice [see the final chapter below for clarification]. David also sent Psalm 53 to the choir director, making a public statement of faith with “only fools deny God.”

Using my own classification of the Psalms (I get lost in the theological classifications, so I divided them further for my own use), these are the victory Psalms that David wanted sung before the Lord:

  • Psalm 9: I will tell of all the marvellous things You have done.
  • Psalm 18: When rescued from Saul and the enemies in that period of time.
  • Psalm 20: May the LORD answer all your prayers.
  • Psalm 21: How the king rejoices in Your strength, O LORD!
  • Psalm 30: Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

The Psalms of joy and wonder, plus David’s statements of faith that were sent to the choir director include Psalms 8, 11, 19, 62, 65, 66, 67, 53 and 58.

One thing which occurred to me when looking at which Psalms were attributed to specific events and could be considered memorials, is that there are no Psalms specifically linked to David’s most notable victories such as killing Goliath, bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, or his battle achievements. He didn’t mention God’s special covenant with Him, or his plans to build the temple; (neither did David ask for it to be named after him.) This is a testament to David’s humility, despite the moral dips which occurred with Bathsheba and the census.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

God is always the focus of David’s songs, which is another significant difference between him and any other ruler. He never claims honour or victory for himself. For an example, read the **Code of Hammurabi which has massive chunks at the beginning and end, glorifying and justifying the rule of Hammurabi. For example: “Hammurabi, the prince… making riches and increase, enriching Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare… who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon…who enriched Ur; the humble, the reverent, who brings wealth…”

David’s work shows that he was transparent in how he talked about his life in public and that he wasn’t hung up on appearances. He freely admitted his faults and struggles and the glory for his successes always went to the Lord. Psalm 51, which speaks of his correction by Nathan over Bathsheba, and how sin affected him, was made public. Whether that was to address his sin because it was public knowledge, or whether it was to be used as a teaching aid to strengthen the faith of the people and encourage righteousness, or both, I honestly don’t know.

Psalm 3, which was about when he fled from Absalom, Psalm 34 where he escaped from Philistine territory feigning madness and Psalm 52, where he was betrayed by Doeg to Saul, weren’t marked for use by the choir director either. Not using Psalm 52 appears odd, as all the other betrayal Psalms were publicly sung. Perhaps it wasn’t copied or notated correctly, or perhaps David had some private reason for not sending it on? I wish I knew.

These are the Psalms which have a definite event associated with them and could be considered a form of victory stele.

  • 7 – concerning Cush of the tribe of Benjamin
  • 18 – rescued from all enemies and Saul [PUBLIC]
  • 30 – dedication of the temple / house [PUBLIC]
  • 54 – betrayed by Ziphites [PUBLIC]
  • 56 – seized at Gath [PUBLIC]
  • 57 – when fled from Saul and went to the cave [PUBLIC]
  • 59 – soldiers watching his house [PUBLIC]

The last point of interest is David’s request that two Psalms which relate to persecution by Saul, (57 and 59,) be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy.” Knowing the old title attached to that melody would add a clear message to the Psalm, which would be noted by anyone knowing that piece of music. Other Psalmists also requested the same for their work.

“Do Not Destroy” is also the melody which was selected for Psalm 58: “Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?” In Bible Hub’s interlinear Bible, “ruler” is elem, or congregation. [Strongs Number 482] It is a masculine word, which is culturally correct as the assembly of believers was all male in David’s time. Some Bibles say gods, some say sons of men. There is no correct consensus. It is a source of profound frustration to me that words such as this are so poorly translated in our Bibles, and a reminder to dig deeper to find the true meaning of the Word of God.
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Notes:

*“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

**The Code of Hammurabi translated by L.W. King http://www.general-intelligence.com/library/hr.pdf  and the Louvre Museum’s page on it: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/law-code-hammurabi-king-babylon


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

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The Political Threats to David’s Reign

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-4-41-29-pmKings are more frequently surrounded by those who want power or favours, than genuine friends; and it can hard to find genuine supporters who aren’t in your camp to reap some benefit. David was no exception.

CGP Grey sums up how precarious David’s position was in his video, *“The Rules for Rulers.” In order for any king to maintain power, he must have loyal supporters who he has adequately rewarded, (e.g. financially, in terms of status and by granting property,) otherwise anyone who can offer them a greater reward can amass enough support to overthrow them. This is why the unrighteous Joab, who had murdered Abner, was allowed to lead David’s army after securing Jerusalem for David. He was a key and had to be rewarded rather than discarded, no matter how unsuitable he was. [Ref. 1 Samuel 3 and 1 Chronicles 11] An underpaid and under-appreciated army general could easily look the other way in an organised revolt, if promised a better deal from someone else. In 1 Kings 1, Joab did jump ship when he thought David was near to death, in order to ingratiate himself to the expected new king, Adonijah, and keep his status safe. That proved how shallow his loyalty really was.

There is plenty of evidence of dirty politics going on around David’s palace, even though his court was made up mainly of members of his immediate and extended family in order to quell disputes. Aside from **Absalom’s rebellion, here are some of the key issues which David’s reign faced, which are reflected in the Psalms. (This is not an exhaustive list. There is the revolt of Sheba in 2 Samuel 20 which appears to have been prompted by his favouritism towards his own tribe, which is mentioned in 2 Samuel 19:41-43; hatred shown by Shimei in 2 Samuel 16:5-14 and the problems of a new king who didn’t trust David which led to a war in 2 Samuel 10.)
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Usurp Threats

The Psalms speak repeatedly of David being in danger as his position is coveted by others wanting power. This never stopped throughout his lifetime and had to be part of the reason why David held an illegal census in 2 Samuel 24. Being deeply fearful of being usurped and murdered was one of David’s greatest fears and it was one which always left him extremely stressed. While David was a very strong, capable man, everyone has their achilles heel and this seems to be David’s, which is understandable. If he’d been killed, the perpetrator would also have killed his entire family and many of his supporters, so there was a lot of responsibility on him.

From the time that Saul tried to arrest David in his home, to the time when David handed the throne of Isra’el over to Solomon, the danger never ended. That period covers over fifty years.

“And now, [Lord] in my old age, don’t set me aside.
Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.
For my enemies are whispering against me.
They are plotting together to kill me.
They say, “God has abandoned him.
Let’s go and get him,
for no one will help him now.” Psalm 71:9-11
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Bribery Attempts

“Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from You;
may Your eyes see what is right.
Though You probe my heart,
though You examine me at night and test me,
You will find that I have planned no evil;
my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
through what Your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to Your paths;
my feet have not stumbled.
I call on You, my God, for You will answer me;
turn Your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of Your great love,
You who save by Your right hand
those who take refuge in You from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
hide me in the shadow of Your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.” Psalm 17:1-9

A king who rules under the law of the Lord will fall foul of ungodly men, and this would have been a constant challenge to David. Pulling them into line would put David’s life at risk again, as they would want him removed to save their position and increase their power. There are a number of verses which speak of corruption among Isra’el’s leaders.

“Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?
Do you judge the people fairly?
No! You plot injustice in your hearts.
You spread violence throughout the land.” Psalm 58:1-2
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Theft Allegations

“Save me, O God,
for the floodwaters are up to my neck.
Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire;
I can’t find a foothold.
I am in deep water,
and the floods overwhelm me.
I am exhausted from crying for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes are swollen with weeping,
waiting for my God to help me.
Those who hate me without cause
outnumber the hairs on my head.
Many enemies try to destroy me with lies,
demanding that I give back what I didn’t steal.” Psalm 69:1-4

I have no idea what incident this referred to, but David’s words speak clearly enough. If you want to  replace a king, create a scandal which will discredit him enough to lose his popularity with the people. Think about how much rumour and malice occurs in the short reign of a modern politician. How much more garbage can go down over a forty year reign? There must be far more to David’s story than has been recorded.
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David’s Reactions: The Census

All these factors could have contributed to why David ordered an illegal Census in 1 Chronicles 21, so he knew how many able bodied men could be called into service. The events leading up to the Census aren’t clear. 2 Samuel 24 talk about a drought, and before that, there was the revolt of Sheba which some scholars attribute David’s decision to take a census to. In 1 Chronicles 21 the preceding event is the war with the Ammonites which had been a very hard won victory, but which had appeared back in 2 Samuel 10. The cause may be something which just isn’t mentioned in our Bibles at all.

2 Samuel 24:1 says, “Once again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the LORD told him.” and 1 Chronicles 21:1 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel.” It seems like God, Satan and David were all unhappy with Israel, but it was David’s choice to resist temptation and do the right thing. This was the only area where he acted like Saul and gave into fear and anger.
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David’s Reactions: The Psalms

As always David turns to his greatest weapon to deal with these problems: prayer and praise. Over time, he seemed to have worked out how to deal with these stresses better. In Psalm 39:1-5 he speaks of learning to hold his tongue and in Psalm 37 he encourages us by saying:

“Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and He will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for Him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.” Psalm 37:5-9

yhryhrHe also determined to deliberately stay away from bad influences. Psalm 101:2-7

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a *blameless heart.  (*integrity, perfect)
I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.   (evil, wicked, base)
I hate what *faithless people do;  (*those who fall away or turn away  from God)
I will have no part in it. (won’t cleave to)
The *perverse of heart shall be far from me; (*devious, perverted, evil, fraudulent)
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.
Whoever slanders their neighbour in secret,
I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
I will not tolerate.
My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
the one whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.
No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.”

David has the final word on how to handle the chaos in this Psalm:

“I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.”  Psalm 62:1-2 (Cross reference Psalm 131:2)
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Notes

*The Rules for Rulers https://youtu.be/rStL7niR7gs  Based on “The Dictators Handbook” by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita & Alastair Smith  “Why Bad Behaviour is Almost Always Good Politics.” The second video in the series Death and Dynasties is also helpful for understanding David’s position. https://youtu.be/ig_qpNfXHIU

**Absalom: 2 Samuel chapters 13-18 recount Absalom’s story. For an explanation of Absalom’s mental status (sociopathic), please read this article: http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32723


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Absalom: Portrait of a Narcissistic Sociopath (Antisocial Personality Disorder)

45261469_sI have spent a great deal of time researching Absalom and he carries every symptom of someone with antisocial personality disorder (APD or sociopathy). He also exhibits strong narcissistic and psychopathic traits. He is a treasonous villain and no preacher worth his salt forgets that. However, as a mental health professional, I know enough about this kind of disorder to stop and think deeper about his story. Was he fully, entirely in control of how he saw the world? How could that have affected his behaviour?

When we speak of episodic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, we find it easy to show compassion, as we understand the uncontrollability of these problems. However, when we talk about antisocial personality disorder (APD or sociopath), our willingness to be sympathetic is markedly decreased. Why?

Since the late 1800s APD has been considered a series of static behavioural traits. APD is not episodic, neither is it treatable… plus those who suffer from it drive us to such anger and angst, our tolerance runs dry. I can understand that. Sufferers have been problematic since they were small children. They destroy families and relationships, commit crimes, appear to be attention seeking and can turn into psychopaths: remorseless killers. It’s hard to be understanding. However, with the newer sciences of genetics and investigation into the hard wiring of an APD sufferers brain, we now know that APD may very well be just as uncontrollable as schizophrenia. Thus, there is a moral call to be understanding.

One of the clearest ways this shows up is in lack of empathy. Someone with APD has no capacity to understand or relate to the pain or feelings of others. That is why they are able to destroy. They go through the motions of life without heed to the consequences of their actions for friends and loves ones. They take and do what they want then they and others, suffer for it. How others feel and why they are wrong is unfathomable to someone with APD. As one psychologist said, their brain is broken. It is tragic.

Thankfully, mental health organisations are on the path to better understanding the condition and making changes in how we understand it. This, however, is far too late for Absalom and even if his condition had been recognised as a mental disorder, then as now, nothing could have been done to help him. There is no drug, miracle producing counselling, or sudden shock which could switch his brain into a more normal mode.

creationswap_painIt is thought that APD can, in some cases, be caused by an abusive, negligent childhood and there may be some Scriptural basis for that, such as the size of his family and the lack of discipline that his brother Adonijah received from his father. However, to me, this doesn’t seem to be enough to produce the extremity of APD. [Adonijah reference: 1 Kings 1:5-6] The philosophy that ‘the fault is the parent’s,’ is a much criticised one and it appears that this theory may have come from a desperate attempt at an explanation, which grounds behaviour in early childhood and provides a block that development cannot move past. It is highly controversial and there are many solid arguments for and against.

For someone of Absalom’s background to have no empathy, when others who have gone through more abusive situations can come out with a high degree of empathy, it seems more likely that his empathy switch was ‘off.’ The family factor may would have contributed to his behaviour and choices, however, the plausibility of family as the dominant cause of this level of disorder doesn’t ring true for me. You may disagree and you are welcome to.

We cannot excuse Absalom’s behaviour entirely on the grounds of bad brain wiring. People with APD still know right from wrong and are able to choose not to murder, lie, cheat, commit arson, usurp their father’s throne, publicly rape women and con the populace. Yet again, in reading his story, we must still remember that the mental building blocks that made him up were faulty and on that, as in accordance with Scripture, we can learn from his story but must not judge. [Ref. Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:2, Hebrews 10:30]

So why do I believe he was a sociopath? I am a trained social worker who has also had to deal with mental health issues within my career and immediate family. In accordance with the standards set out in the universally recognised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, here is how Absalom measures up.

According to DSM V, he has at least 5 of the 7 necessary traits for diagnosis. That is enough.
– Failure to conform to social norms: he broke laws and social codes like lying.
– Deceitfulness [2 Samuel 15:1-6 and 15:7-9]
– Impulsivity: possibly as he did burn down Joab’s barley field (asset and income). We don’t have the actual facts of how plotted it was.
– Irritability and Aggressiveness: Unknown
– Reckless disregard for the safety of himself and others: he places his servants at risk of the death penalty for murder and penalties for arson, he endangered his father and his father’s household (especially the ten concubines); he also placed the army of Isra’el in danger (many were killed) as they followed his con job.
– Consistent irresponsibility: none of his behaviour appears responsible.
– Lack of remorse: when in danger, he always flees and never begged for mercy or forgiveness.

By the older DSM IV standards, he also fits into requirements to be egocentric, his self-esteem was derived from personal gain and power and his goals were based on personal gratification and failure to conform to the law and societal expectations.

Sadly it gets worse. He has these additional traits which point to narcissistic personality disorder:
– Grandiose sense of self-importance. [2 Samuel 15:1]
– Preoccupied with fantasies (he tried to make it reality) of unlimited success.
– Requires excessive admiration. [2 Samuel 14:25-27]
– Very strong sense of entitlement. [2 Samuel 18:18]
– Exploits others.
This ticked 5 boxes out of 9 which is enough to rank him as a narcissist. Additional antagonistic traits include:
– Manipulativeness [2 Samuel 13:23-27]
– Deceitfulness
– Callousness [2 Samuel 16:20-22]
– Hostility

These behaviours would have been evident in childhood in the form of conduct disorder, which means the family would have had long-standing problems with him and that may be part of the reason why David took a lot of manipulating before he would allow Amnon and his brothers to Absalom’s celebration. It could also have played a part in why the King grieved so heavily when Absalom was murdered by Joab. A failed child within a family is a great source of grief and regret, especially when the abnormal psychology behind his actions was not known. There may have been many attempts to help him and many tears shed over failures.

Conduct disorder in Absalom’s childhood would have manifested in problems such as:
– disobedience
– spiteful and vengeful behaviour
– bullying
– lying
– getting into fights
– learning difficulties could have been present
– low self-esteem

TEARSAt this point I would like to mention that APD does damage the self-esteem of the sufferer. Even if they aren’t able to to relate to the pain of others, they still experience their own emotions. The stress of this disorder can lead to anxiety disorders, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and suicidal behaviour.

To finish up this awful task, I will list the traits of a psychopath that Dr Robert Hare has identified in his psychopathic diagnostic tool (PCL-R). On known information, I scored 18/40. On such little information, that is worryingly high. The real score would be higher.
– Superficial charm
– Grandiose sense of self-worth
– Pathological lying
– Cunning / manipulative
– Lack of guilt or remorse
– Callousness / lack of empathy with other’s emotions and suffering
– Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
– Irresponsibility

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A Selection of my Reference Sources:
The distinction between personality disorder and mental illness | The British Journal of Psychiatry http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/180/2/110
DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders http://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/practicas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf
Narcissistic Personality Disorder In-Depth | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-personality-disorder-in-depth//
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder-symptoms/
Mental Health.com Narcissistic Personality Disorder http://www.mentalhealth.com/home/dx/narcissisticpersonality.html
FraudAid: Profile of a Con Artist http://www.fraudaid.com/backstage/profile_of_a_con_artist-01.htm
Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/antisocial-personality-disorder-symptoms/


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

When You Just Lose It – Masculinity and Keeping it Real

Many of us try to be spiritually perfect. We balance work, family, finances, church, friends, Bible study, praise and worship and prayer like an overloaded waitress, with an armful of precariously tipping plates. It’s often too much. We ultimately hit the floor, exhausted and moaning.

But that is not acceptable.

In church we sing about being overcomers, being able to do all things in God. ALL of them. It’s true. We can. The Word of God is very clear that when we focus on the Lord and depend on Him for strength, even the smallest faith can do mighty miracles.

But we still fail and hit the ground.

So where do we go for encouragement? To the Word of God. We look at Moses, at Joshua, at Paul and at David, and we feel inadequate, as we didn’t lead people out of oppression, conquer cities, or spread the Gospel despite huge odds and… Sorry, hang on. Did I just list David as a perfect role model of a spiritual giant? I did.

So then, how do you react to this?

“Word soon reached Joab that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom. As all the people heard of the king’s deep grief for his son, the joy of that day’s victory was turned into deep sadness. They crept back into the town that day as though they were ashamed and had deserted in battle.

The king covered his face with his hands and kept* on crying, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Then Joab went to the king’s room and said to him, “We saved your life today and the lives of your sons, your daughters, and your wives and concubines. Yet you act like this, making us feel ashamed of ourselves. You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased. Now go out there and congratulate your troops, for I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than ever before.” “ 2 Samuel 19:1-7 [* 2 Samuel 18:33]

That does not sound like the David I know. I admit that he had his failings, but the Psalms overflow with faith and his ability to press through anything. This man was a battle hardened warrior with over thirty years of service under his belt. I read this account of David losing his son and almost feel uncomfortable. My biggest hero really lost it, at a time when as a leader, it was a poor decision for both strategy and morale.

Let’s look closer at this. King David had lost his son. But that son was a sociopath who had deceitfully taken over the kingdom and had defiled ten of his father’s wives, in public. Should that diminish David’s reaction?

David’s raw emotion and vulnerability is what makes him so strong a role model. We can relate to him because he is so much like us. I often battle with being like Jesus. It’s not just the problem of trying to become holy, it’s just that as much as I adore Him, I cannot relate to Him. He had a connection with the Father I should hope to achieve, but realistically, I don’t even think is possible for me. Others may be able to do it, but me? Sadly, no. But David. I see David struggle, rejoice, sin, repent, bounce back and I relate. He’s far more human and real to me because he sometimes just loses it.

In our modern, western society, where we hold emotions in, we need David so badly. Men in particular need to be reminded that the toughest, best and most successful men cry: and often in public. “David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill.” 2 Samuel 15:30

“I am worn out from sobbing.
All night I flood my bed with weeping,
drenching it with my tears.
My vision is blurred by grief;
my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.” Psalm 6:6-7

In the Psalms, David also freely weeps a number of times, including over the sins of his fellow Israelites. Being a real man, or woman of God, means you don’t have to smother emotions and always look strong. It means you can react with raw honesty: spread the contents of your heart out before the Lord, and allow Him to deal with whatever stresses you are under. Psychology tells us not to hold it in, and the Bible backs this up.

Lamentations 2:19 (on sin) “Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.”

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

Falling down is human. At times, we need to fall in order to allow the Lord to lift us up, and set us on the right path. What matters more than falling down, is how we get back up again. When David collapsed over the death of Absalom, he got up again.

“So the king went out and took his seat at the town gate, and as the news spread throughout the town that he was there, everyone went to him.” 2 Samuel 19:8

Ashalim_stream_(Nahal_Ashalim),_Judean_Desert,_Israel_(1)From there he prepared to return to his throne in Jerusalem and rule until Solomon was anointed King. That didn’t mean he stopped grieving, inwardly and outwardly. Knowing David, he would have depended on the Lord for help to get through this unbearable pain.

Not wanting to ask for help, or show weaknesses, is a trait of the flesh; it is not a godly one. The Word never asks us to suck it up and push pain away. Instead, we are encouraged to admit our sin and frailty, and to take our sins and grief to the Lord. That is the way of the righteous.

As David admitted his weak moments…

“My heart pounds in my chest.
The terror of death assaults me.
Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
and I can’t stop shaking.” Psalm 55:4-5

… so should we. That way, we open up our hearts to the Lord’s help.

“Give your burdens to the LORD,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22


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When It’s Safer to Hate What We Fear

Throughout the history of psychology, misunderstandings and fads have come and gone, often giving this branch of science a bad name. People think of Freud as being a bit sick in the motivational theory department; there are rumours that Jung believed his dead grandfather was talking to him and Dr Spock is now condemned for setting parents on the wrong path.

I can understand why anyone would want to toss psychology out on it’s head, but the reason why academia hasn’t done away with it, is it is necessary. When people hurt, especially if they are mentally ill, we need diagnostic procedures, explanations and procedures for helping. Healing for the mind is as critical as healing for the body.

When I was studying Absalom’s sociopathic behaviour, I hit a wall that I didn’t know was there. Absalom carries every symptom of someone with antisocial personality disorder (or sociopathy). He also exhibits strong narcissistic and psychopathic traits, which means that he was entirely ego driven, without any form of remorse and that he had no mental process to call his actions into question and potentially stop them. That was very helpful for me in working out why he did, what he did. However, in the process of working through this, I also discovered how badly people with Absalom’s behaviour are still treated, and how often the parents are blamed for their children’s behaviour, (which is beyond their control.) I got really angry. (To understand Absalom, please see this article which explains his condition. http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32723)

I am accustomed to people who are battling with mental illness, being treated with compassion and understanding. There is acknowledgement that what they are going through is largely out of their control. However, when you get to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy) and Psychopathology (psychopath, once termed megalomania), there is little sympathy. Why? Because they scare us; and because over one hundred years ago, when knowledge was thin on the ground, someone made a decision which still haunts people.

Since the late 1800s, these disorders have been considered a series of static behavioural traits. They are not episodic, neither are they treatable. Thus anyone with any of these three disorders is simply not considered to be ill, even though they are known to not be able to entirely control how their brain functions. At this point, compassion can easily slam to a halt and these people are stigmatised and ostracised as being an uncontrollable menace. They aren’t ‘sick,’ even though the mental building blocks that made them up are faulty. They destroy personal relationships, commit crimes and can murder, so we respond with fear and hate, shunning the probability that they are in some manner ‘ill,’ but just haven’t been understood. In this day and age, we should know better and it makes me furious that we don’t; and the criminal justice system appears to be adamant, they the Law shouldn’t change their stand on how they treat these criminals. They are correct that crime should be punishment, but incorrect in their inflexibility in understanding these disorders.

Thankfully, not all mental health professionals make that same inflexible mistake. With the newer sciences of genetics, and investigation into the hard-wiring of sufferers brains, we now know that these disorders may very well be just as uncontrollable as schizophrenia. Causes may include traumatic head injury, limbic neural maldevelopment, or neurotransmitter problems, but we don’t know enough yet to make a proper diagnosis. Efforts are being made in places such as the British Journal of Psychiatry, to stop the misunderstandings, and find ways to assist sufferers. Clinical staff who work with these patients know that sometimes, as the patient ages, their empathy level and self-control can become somewhat better, but they still never function within a normal range of behaviours.

To date, medication cannot be taken to help the sufferer’s brains act normally, as proper impulse control, empathy and personality balancing mechanisms are not built in in the first place. Even today, three thousand years after Absalom, nothing can be done to help people with his disorder. The patient sees no need to change, as their brain cannot detect that they did anything which requires rectification. So far, there is no substance, miracle-producing counselling, or sudden shock, which can switch a brain into a normal mode.

What makes this situation worse, is that we cannot excuse all the behaviour of these people entirely on the grounds of bad brain wiring. People with these disorders still know right from wrong, and are able to choose not to murder, lie, cheat, commit arson, rape, or con. Often, the vilified patients wind up in prison and/or suffering from anxiety disorders, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicidal behaviour, which of course makes things worse and adds to the overall cost to society.

What we fear and don’t understand results in neglect and hate. If we understood and acted with compassion, no matter how abhorrent these conditions are, perhaps we could reduce their toll on both the individual and society?

The concept that ‘the fault is the parents,’ is criticised by many practitioners who work with these patients, who know from case histories that this is not the story behind the disorder. This theory appears to have come from a clinical attempt at an explanation for the existence of the disorders. Society needs that explanation to feel secure. Without it, no one wants to hear that there are psychopaths running around in our world, who we don’t understand and can’t treat, and who cause the majority of violent crimes. So a theory was developed, arguing that because the process of a child’s ego being curtailed to a normal level starts in early childhood, something had to have gone wrong at that point, such as abuse or poor parenting. No biological cause could be identified, so obviously, the fault must belong with the chief caregivers of small children: the parents. This theory is backed up by a current idea that trauma in childhood can change the hardwiring of how a brain works. Again, these new ideas need more study.

45261469_sThese disorders start in very early childhood and are seen in what is called Conduct Disorder. Parents who care for these children suffer the consequences of an uncontrollable child from the very beginning, and are especially powerless to rectify the situation, even though they are the most motivated to do so. Whilst there would be some occasions where the parents are at fault, and poor parenting can produce some of the behaviour traits of these disorders, we are still left with questions. As I argued in my article on Absalom, people who have experienced extreme abuse, often still exhibit empathy, and are not as damaged in the areas of behavioural control and excessive ego. Something more is going on here which science hasn’t caught up with just yet.

Just because we don’t have all the facts now, doesn’t mean they won’t be discovered. I have hopes that at some stage in the near future, researchers will stumble across that missing factor which explains why people with these disorders suffer from the challenges they have. When and if that can lead to effective treatment, I don’t know, but it would be a step forward.

In the meantime, we need to be as patient with psychology as we are with medicine. There is no treatment for cancer yet. There can’t be a one-size-fits-all treatment as different forms of cancer have different causes, and act in different ways. Mental health is the same. Each person is unique and treatments need tailoring to what works for the individual. But one thing doesn’t change, no matter who you are supporting: there is never a call not to be compassionate. Regardless of how any condition may be understood or mislabelled, we must still treat everyone with respect, and give them the human rights that everyone deserves.

References:
– The distinction between personality disorder and mental illness | The British Journal of Psychiatry: http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/180/2/110
– DSM 5 Overview Antisocial Personality Disorder:
http://www.theravive.com/therapedia/Antisocial-Personality-Disorder-DSM–5-301.7-(F60.2)
– Absalom: A Biblical Portrait of a Sociopath:
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32723

 Comments are off as Cate is on Easter holidays.

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When David’s Story Tears My Heart Out ~ #TrustinGod #GodisGood #grief

BestofblogI’ve found that every so often, I need a break from studying David. It’s not because my brain is overloaded with details, or because I am lost in a maze of information, it’s simply because the human side of David’s story can stress me out.

You wouldn’t think that it is possible, three thousand years after the fact, but the reality of people’s pain can still cut with a keen edge. So what part of David’s life gets to me?

It’s the story of Amnon and Absalom. It’s the agony any parent must go through when one beloved child, murders another in cold blood. It’s about the impact of someone fretting, believing for a time that all their sons are dead… then when getting the awful truth, being separated by yet another son and then going through many years of savage healing. [2 Samuel 13-19]

To understand David, I have researched the impact of losing a child to murder and it’s horrific. It is a grief like no other. Some main points the research has bought out are:

  • Absalom was a sociopath, which must have placed his family through dreadful problems since he was a child. So there is a long history of parents feeling like they have failed and damage to those around Absalom.
  • Whilst Amnon had a conscience, which was shown in his projection of hatred onto Tamar, Absalom had none and that is almost incomprehensible to me.
  • A quarter of the brothers at the celebration would have experienced some form of post-traumatic stress disorder from watching Amnon being killed in front of them. They probably would have all thought they were about to be killed too, as having a brother who is a sociopath and wants the top position in the family, of course you’d expect your neck to be on the line so you weren’t a threat.
  • It would have been psychologically impossible for David to mourn Amnon’s murder and come to terms with Absalom’s treachery at the same time. The human mind is not capable. The formal modern research shows this and David’s story clearly displays this. It would take at least three years before David could start to cope with Absalom, and that is what did actually happen.
  • There would have been many untold consequences of Amnon’s murder behind the scenes. It could have led to a marital breakdown between David and his wife, Ahinoam (Amnon’s mother); there would have been a great deal of controversy over whether or not Absalom should have been dragged back from Geshur and put to death… basically, the decisions that David had to make were nearly impossible for any parent.
  • All of this would have been massively complicated by David’s grief and regret over his affair with BathSheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. That is a lot for anyone to cope with, no matter how you want to argue over whether it was deserved or not. The price he paid was exceedingly steep.

 

When I think about David as a real father, with the same emotions any modern father has towards his kids, it rips my heart out. Thank God, that at the end of David’s life he was able to say,
“As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71:14

What an amazing sign of the faithfulness of the Lord!

 


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