How to Recognize a Dangerous Person: Dysfunctional Relationships Part 1

While this topic isn’t directly related to physical health or faith, it’s part of my testimony and does impact emotional health and can also affect spiritual and physical health. I’ve seen how prevalent dysfunctional relationships are and how so many people feel stuck and don’t know how to get out or improve the relationships.

I was in a dysfunctional relationship for 8 years. I didn’t recognize the red flags in the beginning and I also didn’t know exactly how to handle things when they got out of hand. I wavered between despair that things would never change and hope for the future.

In this first part, I want to go through the signs of recognizing a dangerous person, in order to help you understand if you are currently in a relationship with one, or to prevent you from being near a dangerous person in the future.

1. A dangerous person has frequent angry outbursts. – Everyone gets angry sometimes. Even Jesus overturned tables in the temple. But I’m talking about frequent (daily, weekly, or monthly) outbursts and often over little things. If the person throws the video game remote because the opponent killed their character, yells at a child because the child accidentally spilled food, regularly flips people off in traffic, or repeatedly hits a dog for barking too loud, these may be signs of a person with a temper.

2. Frequently lies to hide hurtful behavior. – In the beginning, it may be hard to detect a liar. This is why in romantic relationships you should slowly date a person for at least 2 years before getting serious. However you will most likely detect a liar if they ask you to lie to others for them. This was another red flag in my own dysfunctional relationship. He asked me to lie to his parents. While it appeared he was telling me the truth in the beginning, a few months into our relationship, he pressured me to lie to his parents and hide something he was doing. I was “in love” and wanted to show my loyalty, so I did it. I knew his parents knew the truth but they went along with it. And then it also hurt my relationship with them. Now all lying isn’t necessarily wrong. I had to hide plans of leaving the abuser and in this case, I was doing it to prevent further harm done to me. But, if someone lies in order to hide how they are mistreating or taking advantage of people, then this is a dangerous person.

3. A dangerous person “gas-lights”. – The term gas lighting is used often nowadays to describe what abusive people do, but I didn’t even know what it meant until years after I was out of the abusive relationship. Gas lighting means the dangerous person will provoke another person to anger. Or they will continue to push their buttons to make them out to be the “bad” person. I am a conflict avoider (not really healthy either) so if I’m talking to a person who likes to fight and I notice they are getting angry, I’ll shut down and stop talking. I’ll want to leave the room to cool off. But a gas-lighter will prevent people from leaving when in an argument, will keep asking the person to say what they are feeling or believe (even if it’s mean), will say things like “wanna fight?” or will tell the person, “fine, leave” and then become aggressive while the person is trying to leave.

4. A dangerous person justifies bad behavior/blames victims. – I’ve heard dangerous people lie to police about what they did but then behind close doors tell the victim, “I had to hit you because what you did was wrong and I had to punish you.” Or in cases of sexual assault, perpetrators will say, “you were wearing sexual clothes and smiled at me so I thought you were leading me on” or they will say “men are just sexual creatures and do dumb things” (but men also do have brains, they aren’t animals). And these perpetrators are adult men often talking about underage girls. Or they will say, “what you do makes me really angry”, but if the thing you do is accidentally spilling something, well then this goes back to number 1 and asking yourself if the person has frequent angry outbursts.

5. A dangerous person does more harm than good. – While this statement could just mean the person is naive or careless, these can still be dangerous people. The Bible says in Proverbs 13:20, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Have you ever been around a person and you simply being in their vicinity caused you to suffer negative consequences? I often think of the innocent children being hungry, emotionally unstable, neglected or homeless due to their parents not being financially responsible; addicted to drugs, gambling, alcohol or sex; or having untreated mental health issues. Many fools think of their own pleasures and are self-centered without considering the harm it could cause to others. They are lazy and want everyone else to clean up after them. They have an entitled attitude, thinking they deserve unearned respect, attention or money.

6. A dangerous person overvalues themself while undervaluing everyone else. This one can encompass all the traits listed above. Because people who are abusers usually consider themselves better than others. They will often say how stupid, ugly, untalented others are, and gloat about their own skills and behaviors. While the person may recognize their own faults, they often ignore their mistakes, don’t apologize for them but always point out the faults of others. They’ll often appear to be hypocrites or “do as I say, not as I do”.

All people have weaknesses and maybe you may have identified some of the negative traits listed above in yourself. I know I have done some of these things in the past. The important thing is to recognize if you are a victim of abuse, or if you aren’t in an abusive situation, whether you are strong enough to help a victim get out of the situation. Also if you have friends or family who may be dangerous and learn to identify if you are able to help them change or prevent them from hurting others.

You may have identified yourself as a dangerous person, I’m glad you are able to recognize this. It’s the first step in coming out of denial and repenting and reconciliation. Seek professional help to get better and in order to improve your relationships with others.

In part 2, I’ll discuss how to get away from a dangerous person.

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