One way abuse victims are taught to give up their rights in Christian circles is by teaching them to give up things that are presented as rights but aren’t really rights at all. (So then they’ll say, “Oh, well, yes it’s obvious I should give that up,” and then the conclusion is drawn that they should give up RIGHTS. But that’s wrong.)
– Don’t call them rights when they’re really just desires
Revive our Hearts founder Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth says,
All too often, I find myself annoyed and perturbed when things don’t go my way. A decision someone makes at the office, a rude driver on the freeway, a long line at the checkout counter, a thoughtless word spoken by a family member, a minor offense (real or perceived) by a friend, someone who fails to come through on a commitment, a phone call that wakes me when I have just fallen off to sleep—if I am staking out my rights, even the smallest violation of those rights can leave me feeling and acting moody, uptight, and angry.
Nancy talks about “wanting things to go my way.” But that’s not rights. That’s desires. The relatively insignificant desires she names were never her rights to begin with. And she never even tries to grapple with the issue of huge offenses, of real human rights. If she were to distinguish between desires and genuine rights, she could give much more valuable help to her significant readership.
Hope for the Heart founder June Hunt says,
But what are our legitimate rights? One person would answer, “Happiness.” Another would say, “Freedom to live life my way.”
But again, these aren’t really rights at all—they’re only desires. Thinking that these are rights doesn’t make them so. (And again, June doesn’t talk about real human rights, such as life, liberty, and equitable, just treatment.)
If I decided to drive through a red light on purpose, the police officer who stops me isn’t going to tell me to surrender my right to go through that red light. He’ll tell me it wasn’t right. I can’t “surrender” that right, because it never was my right in the first place, even if I may have thought or felt like it was.
I might imagine I have other rights too. I might think I have a right to “avoid reaping what I sow,” “defy authority,” or “have other people meet all my needs,” as listed by some teachers. But it’s not helpful to tell me to “surrender” those non-rights. Instead, you need to tell me they aren’t my rights in the first place! They are simply wrong desires.
Many no-rights advocates use Jonah as an example of a person who sinfully insisted on his rights instead of yielding them. But if you read the book of Jonah, you’ll find that twice the Lord said to him, “Do you do well to be angry?” This question indicated that Jonah’s anger was not “right,” which means it wasn’t his right to feel that way. In wanting the Ninevites to be destroyed, Jonah was feeling a desire, not a right.
If more teachers focused on distinguishing the difference between desires and genuine rights, we could go a long way—not only in guiding believers in their spiritual growth, but also in getting help to people in desperate need whose basic human and civil rights are being violated or taken from them.
 Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free (Moody Publishers, 2002), p 76.
 June Hunt, Anger: Facing the Fire Within (Rose Publishing, 2013), p 44.
This article has now been incorporated into the book Untwisting Scriptures: that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind. You can find that book here.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.