From Violance To Gentleness – How I Work With Physically Abusive Men [Guest Post]

Morning friends,

I am feeling much better. Thanks for your prayers.  I appreciate you all so much.

I’ve invited my friend and colleague, Pastor Chris Moles, who is also a Batterer Intervention Specialist with the State of West Virginia to share his heart on some of the things he does to help abusers change.   He will be my guest blogger for this week and next.

I’ve been encouraged recently by a few e-mails I’ve received by men pleading for help to change. They recognize their problem yet are having trouble finding competent godly counselors to walk them through the long-term change process that Chris speaks so well of.

Please forward this blog to your pastor, church leader or Christian counselor so that they can read what Chris has to say about the changing the heart of an abusive person and what are some of the fruits he’s looking to see.

On another note, our two session Introduction to CORE class is filling up. If you are interested in attending, please click here.

Chris Moles writes – A few weeks ago Leslie did a great job highlighting some categories of abuse in her blog post; What Constitutes Abuse? This was such a helpful post that I decided to layer on to it some principles I teach pastors and church leaders regarding the destructive person and change.

Abusive behavior can often be so damaging and graphic that people helpers who genuinely seek to intervene focus so much on seeing the abusive behavior end that they fail to champion the need for new, transformational behaviors to take their place. The Bible offers us clear instruction regarding the process of change through the means of putting off and putting on.

Simply put, when we are striving to change we must not only cease the destructive behavior but replace it with more God-honoring behavior (Tweet that).

Let’s say we have a man who consistently yells at his wife, and as we question him we uncover additional practices of intimidation such as body language, pounding his fist on the table, and threatening gestures such as clinching his fist. We establish that he wants his wife to conform, give in, so badly that he is willing to scare her to do it. His pride has led him to value getting his way over treating his wife properly. Certainly we want him to put off the intimidating behavior, but what can we ask him to put on for the glory of God? We realize the need to confront him with passages such as Ephesians 5:25-33 to address his lack of Christ-like love, and Colossians 3:19 dealing with the harsh treatment of his wife. Instead of causing his wife fear in order to control her we call the intimidating man to love his wife in such a way that she is not only no longer fearful, but safe, sane, and secure.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1John 4:18.

Passages of scripture such as this remind us that love opposes fear and instead love seeks the well-being of the other, and pursues such with patience and kindness, not intimidation and fear. As such we should expect the man who once intimidated to now be intentional in regards to expressing love and safety.

Note: This takes time.

I’m not suggesting that a single blog post, counseling session, or confrontation will suddenly produce Christ-like love. Moving from intimidation to Christ-like love will require hard work, accountability, and concrete goals designed to measure movement.

More specifically we can highlight an abusive man’s behavior and through the process call him to alternatives. While there are a multiplicity of passages we could reference, here are a few example from my book The Heart of Domestic Abuse.

From Violence to Gentleness:

Certainly we can encourage men who use violence to participate in a variety of God-honoring alternatives, but one area we can highlight is gentleness. I have encountered many a man who cringe at the thought of engaging in gentle responses to challenging circumstances, and yet that encouragement is offered consistently as an alternative to violence.

  • As a matter of following Jesus

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29.

  • As a result of the Spirit’s work

“But the fruit of the Spirit is… gentleness.” Galatians 5:22-23.

  • As a requirement for leadership

not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” 1Timothy 3:3.

“to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:3.

From Ridicule to Encouragement: 

Words are powerful and the venom of verbal abuse seeps into the spirit of its victim. This behavior is not consistent with the person of Christ, or the people he has called us to be. Scripture admonishes us to speak words of truth, and life into those we communicate with.

  • As a means of building others up

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:29-30.

  • As evidence of holiness

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:18-20.

  • As a means of practicing wisdom

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6.

From Minimization, Denial, and Blame to Truth:

Truth and a willingness to speak honestly are key components within the Christian life. Deception and misleading behavior are valuable tools to the abusive man who consistently deceives himself, lies to his spouse, and attempts to misled everyone else. He is a master of manipulation and that must stop, and truth must come forth.

  • As a means of accountability

“ Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15.

  • As a means of sanctification

“ Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17.

  • As a matter of obedience

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “ Ephesians 4:25.

From Economic Abuse to Stewardship:

All that we have is God’s and as such he has entrusted us as stewards to manage our possessions wisely. Unfortunately withholding resources is a tremendously useful tool for an abusive man. He must understand the evil nature of such actions and embrace a God-honoring approach to resources in which he attempts to honor God through provision, and generosity.

  • As evidence of his salvation

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”1Timothy 5:8.

  • As a means of acknowledging God’s sovereignty

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16.

  • As a means of care and provision for his family

“ In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.” Ephesians 5:28-29.

It has been said that the greatest indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Change is therefore a difficult, some would say impossible, unless we use the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Without intervention, it is rare to see the kind of significant heart, desire, and behavior changes we are calling for. It is all the more imperative that we as leaders and people helpers engaged in confrontational ministry that holds abusive men accountable and calls them to repentance.

If you are interested in our EQUIP program, please CLICK HERE for more information.


  1. Ann L on March 16, 2016 at 9:12 am

    These are very intellectual approaches. Is there concurrent work on the underlying emotions?

    • Chris on March 17, 2016 at 8:43 am

      Sure, this is just a small glimpse at the overall work. I will suggest that while we address emotions they are not necessarily underlying or of greater importance. For instance, anger is often cited by men as a motivator or ’cause’ of their violence. But, more often than not, anger is used as a tactic of control. That is to say a man may use rage to get what he wants, but can replace that tactic for a more acceptable one if challenged by authorities, etc.. Fear is also a commonly cited issue, most often as insecurities. We have found that with many men we work with these insecurities are the product of entitlement and pride not the other way around. So, we do address emotions but we try to place them in context as they relate to an individuals beliefs (worldview) and motives (desires). Thanks Ann

  2. Aleea on March 16, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Thank you for this, very helpful and informative. I really appreciate the grounding in the scriptures too. I love that. . . . Chris, is it possible (if it makes sense) to briefly compare and contrast your approach with say relational psychoanalysis using the Christian narrative or even psychoanalysis work done with any synthesis of competing theories (your choice)? Is your approach the same basic approach or structurally different? . . .Does knowing the reasons for the behavior help the healing process or is just accessing skills and tools accomplish similar results? Do you have any data showing longevity results for this approach (re: effective long-term solution vs. symptom management)? Anyways, thank you, very helpful.

  3. Mary on March 16, 2016 at 11:03 am

    I’m new to this blog. I’m in an emotionally abusive marriage. I’m in the process of reading Leslie’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. I’ve been dealing with this for many years. I have lived in small remote towns in which there is little, if any Christian counseling or support of any kind. So when it is recommended, I’ve gotten frustrated. It occurs to me, what did people do before the days of professional counselors? After reading Leslie’s book and your blog, I think I have an answer: the Word of God. Wherever their are people who love God and His Word, there is direction on how to handle every situation. (2Tim. 3:16). Although many of us are familiar with God’s Word, we, or our church leaders, don’t properly interpret it, due to being set in our ways or not having been taught to “rightly divide the Word of truth. Thank you for being one who does!

    • Chris on March 17, 2016 at 9:02 am

      What a wonderful resource we have in God’s Word. It is a tremendous gift. I’m thankful that He has also given us His Spirit and His church. I’ll pray that God will allow you to connect with a competent believer who can walk alongside you.

      • Mary on March 17, 2016 at 11:09 am

        Thank you Chris. I’ve been waiting for someone to walk alongside me for a long time. I very much appreciate your prayers.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 17, 2016 at 11:17 pm

      Amen Mary.

      • Honey on March 21, 2016 at 5:28 am

        I really appreciate that Chris answers each post. I hope that continues.

        I would also like to know at least three organizations that provide services for men who would like counseling for domestic abuse at any cost in any part of the world. I am aware of Lifeskills, with Paul Hegstrom and court ordered state programs, who are the other organizations offering counseling specific to abusive men? The program Lunday Bancroft started with still exists in Massachusetts too, yet he is more involved with healing women’s hearts and court advocacy for children now.

        • Chris on March 21, 2016 at 10:30 am

          To my knowledge there are very few programs available. I’m currently working on some things myself but will take some time. In addition to life skills, you may want to check out Changing Men Changing Lives. They run a Xtian version of the Duluth Model. As for the groups I lead they are currently based in community corrections and unfortunately we can not accept volunteers at this time.

      • Honey on March 21, 2016 at 5:29 am

        I really appreciate that Chris answers each post. I hope that continues.

        I would also like to know at least three organizations that provide services for men who would like counseling for domestic abuse at any cost in any part of the world. I am aware of Lifeskills, with Paul Hegstrom and court ordered state programs, who are the other organizations offering counseling specific to abusive men? The program Lundy Bancroft started with still exists in Massachusetts too, yet he is more involved with healing women’s hearts and court advocacy for children now.

        • Honey on March 21, 2016 at 5:31 am

          In addition, does the program Chris manages in West Virginia available for new participants? When is enrollment and what are the guidelines and cost?

          • Honey on March 22, 2016 at 7:59 pm

            Thanks Chris, for your reply and for your work!

  4. Emily on March 16, 2016 at 11:59 am

    I have often thought about 1 Tim. 5:8 since separating from my husband who always controlled our money, along with other forms of abuse. If not providing classifies someone as an unbeliever, then I can see how providing is baseline behavior for a believer. Even though my husband provides for us, he has taken zero accountability for abuse…still tells me I’m “ranting about abuse” when I confront any of his behavior. He does not go to a counselor, and seems very unmotivated to change at all, since he is pursuing his career goals and successful at that. It seems to me that men who are at least willing to address behaviors and take responsibility can be on the path toward change/reconciliation. But we are simply a possession, and there hasn’t been any recognition of our needs, beyond any financial means.

    • Chris on March 17, 2016 at 9:08 am

      I wonder if we have so individualized faith that we have abandoned the community aspects of Christianity. It seems that the individual’s opinion is the highest standard. I mean you can find passages like this one throughout Scripture where clear statements are made regarding a persons salvation based upon what the church observes over time. Seems like a loving thing to do. “Hey Jim, we’ve noticed that your life not only doesn’t promote the cause of Christ, but is in fact detrimental to the Kingdom. Can we help you find you way?”

      • Emily on March 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm

        Hmm…yes, it reminds me of an old saying used in Japan: “If you are the nail that sticks out, we will pound you down.” Maybe our “community” is too invested in preserving their own neutrality and conformity, rather than honoring the safety & sanity of the individual. In the end, we would like to think that we such an individualistic culture…but maybe we fool ourselves into thinking we are really that different after all. A covert kind of community that does not hold anyone accountable…probably not what Jesus had in mind. 😉

        • Leslie Vernick on March 23, 2016 at 9:33 pm


  5. Maria on March 16, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Chris, was wondering what kind of success you’ve had working with abusers. Do the men you work with come for help on their own, or is it because they don’t want their spouse to leave? Do you work with these men alone, or with their wives too?

    • Chris on March 17, 2016 at 9:20 am

      I’m a little hesitant to make claims about success. I try not to keep a batting avg. A victim knows their abuser far better than I do. I would be foolish to give a thumb’s up for every man who walks in to a class, or even completes. I have said in the past that every participant I’ve worked with has changed. Some changes are dramatic and transformative(PTL), others are only behavioral and while the home may be safer it isn’t the heart-level change I’m longing for, and a few men have become bitter, and more obstinate. Some studies cite recidivism among clients who were convicted of a crime, but how do we really measure heart change? Now, in regards to referrals the vast majority of the men I’ve worked with are court-ordered following a charge, or the issuance of a Protective order. However, I have been doing more and more individuals and training pastors and counselors. My prayer is that the church could be a resource for preventative care. By the time a man is in the system the abuse has been going on for a while and escalated to place that we’re often trying to protect the next potential victim as the damage in his current relationship is often devastating. .

  6. Remedy on March 16, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you Chris for your work. I have purchased several copies of your book to circulate. My question centers on true heart change as the force driving outward behavior. If the heart has not truly changed, can these behavior modifications really hold? I guess I prefer to feel safe by heart changes because it speaks of sincerity, not what could be used as tactics. Thanks again for your work in this area.

    • Chris on March 17, 2016 at 9:25 am

      More than likely behavior modification is insufficient. Now, does that mean, ‘once a batterer always a batterer’ not necessarily. I think unregenerate folks can successfully end destructive behavior and respect their partners. I just happen to believe that Gospel offers far greater hope by turning a heart of stone into one of flesh.

  7. LindaLou on March 16, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    I will be married 40 years this September. Recently, I finally confronted my husband after yet another of his cyclical rages. He typically will break something; doors, walls, windows, furniture, etc. Believe me when I tell you that it was a frightening experience. I told him that his violent behavior has been damaging me for so long and that he needed to stop and I told him that if it happened again I would be calling the sheriff and leaving. His response was that even if he changed his behavior to not getting violent, there weren’t enough years left in his life if he changed to make me not afraid of him. That translates to me that he is not willing to change. I’ve told my pastor over a year ago what was going on. He chose not to get involved.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 17, 2016 at 11:16 pm

      So Linda Lou what are you going to do from here on out? Pastor isn’t involved. Husband isn’t willing to change. How do you want to change so that you don’t have to live afraid?

  8. Chris on March 17, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Unfortunately, I don’t think I can do a fair comparison in a comment 🙂 But, I can say a few things that may put this into perspective. First, I consider the group-work I do primarily educational rather than therapeutic. I don’t lead support, of share-oriented groups, but educational groups committed to change, accountability, self-reflection. With that said there are some overlaps with methods such as motivational interviewing, some aspects of CBT, and the like. Second, I am a pastor and certified Biblical Counselor so I bring that experience into both the groups and individual sessions. That basically means when I’m working with a man who claims to be a believer I am going to help him identify his current behavior, motives, and beliefs in order to contrast them with a biblical standard to set a clear path for establishing needed practical theology that aids him in the process of sanctification. This also sets clear and drastic boundaries as rejecting a clear biblical standard has consequences to a “believer” Last one, I have been trained in multiple approaches to batterer intervention over the years, but one commonality among the leading agencies is that ‘beliefs drive behavior’ this gives me a tremendous among of freedom within the Christian context because our faith not only identifies faulty (worldly) systems of belief, but establishes healthy (biblical) alternatives. Peace

    • Aleea on March 17, 2016 at 10:53 am


      Thank you, I very much appreciate that. I know you are going to do the blog next week too but I hope you can come back and do even more guest blogs with us, very helpful. Thank you. . . . . I like that idea of aligning actions with beliefs. That looks like a key. . . . Is the narrative I am telling myself align with my “beliefs.” Even more, is my propaganda poster (the self I show the world) consistent with my actions? I had some other thoughts:

      What is the abuse covering over? . . . . Whatever the person is using the abuse to cover over must be way, w-a-y more monsterous to them than even the abuse itself. Do you have a theory? I have not seen a good model on this at all.

      What problem is the abuse trying to solve?. . . . . Again, what suffering is the abuse used to protect someone from. The abuse is not the same as the problem driving it and obviously the abuse is the solution to a problem. A horrible, destructive solution but without the problem front and center, I don’t know how we do things that will be durable. We can change behavior (very good) but the problem goes underground (repressed) and when it resurfaces downstream, I bet it is “twofold more the child of hell” than it was. . . .but I don’t know that.

      I don’t know but it looks like beliefs can function in exactly the same way. Beliefs can operate to keep us from a head-on confrontation with certain very hard realities. To wit: I pull people out of the raging river and they call me a saint. I ask who is throwing them in upstream (maybe the church) and they call me an atheist. Maybe, if we can get people to look at their suffering, we get the abuse solved as a by-product?

      Is getting people to look at their internal suffering (really bearing witness to it) more effective than giving them advice? . . . . .Anyways, I will get your book (The Heart of Domestic Abuse) and read it. I love how you integrate scripture into your advice, reminds me of Leslie. I love how her books do that. . . .I just so wonder how such an ineffective “solution” (abuse) could operate as a valid option to any thinking person because they must realize abuse kills anything real: love, compassion, relationship, etc. . . . Must be something behind what is “behind” it.

  9. Vivienne on March 17, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    This is a really great post!

    I was in an abusive marriage for over 30 years due to being an empath and largely co-dependent; I enabled my husband for far too long. Last year, after a second failed attempt to address his abuse via counselling, I finally got a revelation and began to confront my husband about his behaviour; as you might imagine that didn’t go down too well and I moved into our spare bedroom. Now, some nine months later, our household is not a battleground every day like before, still not ideal but my husband is trying not to display rage or anger….but in his own strength as he does not lean on Christ. Realistically, his heart remains unchanged, he has simply modified his behaviour, stress can bring about another episode and we return to square one. My husband refuses to acknowledge the emotional damage caused to myself and our two boys over many years but what fascinates and frustrates me is that, my husband will criticise our youngest son for his anger in order to get what he wants (clearly having witnessed his father do the same thing) yet cannot see he acted that way himself – in fact he totally denies it. My husband is not willing to look at his bad behaviour, or be accountable, and offers no apology. He realises there is a major problem but his solution asks me to forget the bad times as they are in the past, to simply draw a line under it all and move on but I know that won’t work. I can’t agree as I have little respect for him, I am no longer able to trust him with my heart, especially as he is so in denial. I am able to forgive him but I can’t forget what he has done….and will do again while his heart remains unchanged.

    Chris , I am pleased you are helping men to work through their fear of becoming transparent, to find the courage to admit their faults and apply themselves to change. Bravo! Wish there were more men who could mentor others in this way, especially in the church.

    • Leonie on March 19, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Good to hear from you Vivienne, I was wondering where you were at and if you were ok!
      Thank you Chris for sharing with us! I love reading your material even though I am no longer with my abuser! Truth is important, refreshing and freeing, thanks for taking time for Leslie’s blog & all us ladies in various stages of dealing with abuse in our lives, we really appreciate it & it is so helpful!

  10. Maria on March 19, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    Thank you so much for the email on 10 mistakes parents make – very thoughtful and wise information.

    • Honey on March 21, 2016 at 5:34 am

      Is the program Leslie and Chris are preparing in October for men and women? I believe it is to be held in Pennsylvania. Has a cost been set for this event?

      • Leslie Vernick on March 23, 2016 at 9:30 pm

        The program in October is only for women and it is a conference for all women to grow and be encouraged. The emphasis will not be on abuse, but on becoming the best possible you and developing your CORE. Perhaps Chris and I might do a smaller conference for individuals for couples or individuals at a later time.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 23, 2016 at 9:32 pm

      You’re welcome Maria

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