I am excited to let you know that we will be doing a 2 session Introduction to CORE Strength on Wednesday, August 10 and August 17.
If you have always wanted to have some extra help in understanding yourself and how to get stronger, this would be the perfect introductory class. Also, we are giving away some amazing bonuses so check it out. Click here to sign up.
In your prayers for me, please pray for my mother, who is not feeling well. I’m here in Chicago and she was released a little too early from the hospital and feeling pretty weak. She could use some physical Holy Spirit strength. Thanks.
Question: Sometimes I was verbally abusive towards my husband. This came after mountains of neglect, rejection, and emotional abuse. I sometimes doubt my reconciling on this matter. I think my response makes sense under my personal circumstances and yet I acknowledge it is my responsibility to amend those ‘reactions’ to the abuse. I am unsure if this is healthy to do especially with an abuser. In fact, I know it is not a safe idea but in the past, he used these moments as evidence of my weaknesses and it was a weakness but a weakness that came from neglect, rejection, and abuse. Am I an abuser because I responded to his gas lighting and other tactics with, sometimes, intensity? Would you consider speaking to this in an upcoming blog post? Thank you, Leslie.
Answer: I think we all can relate. At times I have responded to even minor incidents of disrespect or neglect with a sharp tongue. When my mother verbally abused me even as an adult, it was extremely hard at times for me to hold my tongue. But as a Christ-follower, we know that this is not God’s way.
So the short answer to your first question is that it’s entirely understandable and human to respond to abuse, rejection, neglect and gas lighting by others with anger and verbal abuse of your own. But as a Christian, we can do better.
Paying back evil with more evil of our own is not only ineffective and ungodly, it let’s Satan win (tweet that).
Our battle in these moments is not just against the abusive person, but, also against the larger spiritual forces that seek to destroy us. Please don’t give them the upper hand.
That’s why it’s so important that you learn to build CORE strength. One of the biggest detriments in living with an abusive person is that you start to become more like them. God’s word warns us that when we hang out with angry people we will become just like them (Proverbs 22:24). That may not make you an “abuser” necessarily, but it may make you guilty of abusive speech, which if continued without repentance, can turn you into an abuser.
All of us can fall into a moment of abusive speech. That’s why the book of James is so adamant about the power of our tongue and how we are to learn to control it, especially in provocative moments.
The apostle Paul speaks repeatedly in Ephesians and Colossians about putting off abusive speech. Why does he warn us about this? Because in a moment of intense anger, we may say things we deeply regret. Those things hurt people (reckless words do pierce like a sword) and therefore we should never minimize the damage our words can cause.
However, the difference between an abusive incident (which we are all capable of) and an abuser – one who practices abusive speech as a pattern, is that and abuser refuses to reflect upon his or her behavior and if he or she should, they blame others instead of taking responsibility and repenting.
You are aware that retaliating with verbal abuse is not appropriate for a Godly woman, even if humanly understandable. You do feel bad and wish you could somehow make it right.
But your bigger question is now that you have become convicted of this, do you need to ask forgiveness and make amends with your spouse? You are concerned that exposing what you’ve done wrong to your husband will only give him ammunition to continue to use against you in future abuse. That very well might be true.
I think the wisdom in the 12-Step Program can be helpful to you. Step 5 says that we are to “Confess to God and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” We are to list specific ways we have hurt others, been selfish, etc. And then in Step 9 it says, “Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
You have confessed it here on this blog, but you are anonymous so that isn’t quite the same. Perhaps confessing it with your pastor, counselor or coach and having them hold you accountable to grow your CORE and learn to handle your hurt and anger in new ways is an acceptable way of confession.
Step 5 does not say you have to confess directly to the person you hurt but to another human being. The Bible says, “Confess your sins, one to another” (James 5:16). The purpose of confession is to take responsibility for your part and commit to change in front of a witness. It’s a way of breaking through the shame of silence and gives you the opportunity to invite trusted others to hear your confession and hold you accountable.
I wasn’t clear in your question whether or not you were still with your spouse. If you ARE working on building a new pattern of interaction with one another, he will see you are changing, just as hopefully you are seeing that he is changing.
If you are in that process, you can practice Step 9 by saying something like, “I don’t like the person I became when I was with you and I refuse to allow myself to get to that place again. I don’t want to pay back evil with my own evil and I’m working on that.” You own your reactions as wrong, but doing the work (not just saying the words) that you are committed to putting off old behaviors and putting on new ones.
The danger with this is that often the abuser will use the same excuse. He will say, “Well I was just reacting to you too. I was reacting to the fact that the house was a mess, that dinner wasn’t made, we didn’t have enough sex,” etc. Then it goes back to you to make sure everything in his life is perfect in order for him not to “explode” in anger rather than him learning to control his own emotional angst when he is disappointed, angry, or hurt, just as you have to do. So it can become a twisted circular conversation that makes it seem like “we are even.”
Therefore if you are not living together or in an attempted reconciliation, I would make amends other ways. Here are a few suggestions: You could teach others what you have learned about abusive relationships or their effects on you. You could volunteer your time to work at a battered woman’s shelter or donate money to help women get stronger so they don’t resort to the same defensive strategies that you did. I’m sure there are many other ways you can make amends to “demonstrate the fruits of repentance” as John the Baptist advised the religious leaders to do, without having direct contact with your abuser.
Friends: When you’ve become aware of your part of the destructive dance, how did it go when you “confessed” it to your destructive partner? If you chose not do to that, what did you do instead?