I’m excited to share with you a new book that’s just come out, Is It Abuse, by Darby Strickland. Darby is a colleague, friend, and fellow warrior in helping Christian women who are in abusive marriages get sane, safe, and strong. This book expertly and Biblically unpacks the whole concept of controlling abuse in all its forms.
I asked Darby to guest blog for me so you could meet her and get acquainted with her thinking.
Remember, CONQUER Doors close on Friday at midnight. Click here to learn more about it.
Is it Sinful to Keep a Record of Wrongs?
Question: I went to my small group leader to ask for help with my abusive marriage. I brought with me a list of some of the things my husband is saying to me. I wanted to ask her for help with how to respond to him. I feel like I need to protect myself and my children from his anger. But before I could share more than two things on my list, she told me I should not be keeping a record of wrongs. It was sinful for me to list out and keep a record of my husband's sins, that would frustrate any husband. Now I am wondering, is it my fault that our marriage is a high conflict one? Am I making him angry by holding grudges? Please help. Now I am so confused!
Answer: I appreciate this question because I often get it from my oppressed counselees when I suggest that they keep a journal. I frequently ask them to do this so they have a clear record of the conflicts, abuses, and punishments they receive from their spouse.
My goal is for them to sort through the cruel behaviors and see patterns. When a marriage is oppressive, there are ongoing patterns of coercive, controlling behaviors. To clearly identify the abuse and figure out what to do in response, we have to spend time recounting what exactly is happening. Click To Tweet
Often a victim’s abuser will say, “I am not going to talk about it. That was in the past, the Bible says not to keep a record of wrongs.” This line of defense is being used to dismiss her concerns and hurt. And, as is the case for the woman who wrote the question, we may hear this same rebuke from people in our church. So, we need to answer the question, “Is it okay to keep a record of wrongs and remember how I have been hurt?” We will look at three ways to gain clarity on this question.
The first is to try to discern what the phrase, “keep no record of wrongs” means in its context (1 Cor 1:4-5). But this can be tricky, as even biblical commentators do not always agree. The translations for this phrase are varied.
The two most popular interpretations are that love will not cling to past hurts, and that love should not impute evil motives to another. Neither of these would apply to abuse. For the first interpretation, the hurts are not only in the past. They are ongoing.
As for the second, evil motives are not being wrongly assigned to an abuser; abusive behaviors clearly demonstrate a lust for power and control. An abuser’s commitment to sin leads us to other passages when figuring out how to love.
Abusers need the type of love that names, confronts, and exposes the evil they perpetrate. Scriptures that are applicable to this situation include Luke 17:3b, which says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them,” and Ephesians 5:11, which exhorts us to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” In keeping with the wisdom offered in 1 Cor 13:4-6 we know that holding perpetrators accountable is not to be mistaken with seeking vengeance – we entrust their hearts to the Lord.
The second way to gain clarity on this passage is to look at the examples in Scripture of godly people who recounted the sins of others. Consider Paul, who wrote to Timothy, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him” (2 Timothy 4:14–15a).
Here Paul remembers and recounts the harm that this man did to him in the past. He is so concerned with this man’s history that he feels the need to warn others. And yet, at the same time, he trusts in God’s justice. He doesn’t forget, but he also doesn’t repay evil for evil.
And who better to look at as an example than Jesus? In his rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23, he presents them with seven woes, a list of how they have sinned against God and the people they were called to care for. His list of wrongs spans 36 verses! So, it cannot be labeled as ungodly to keep a record of wrongs in all circumstances.
The third way to better understand this passage is to look at how Scripture calls us to remember our suffering. God does not ask us to have any memory of the evils we have suffered. He often recounts how his people have suffered at the hands of others. Here is just one example of how God speaks of his people’s suffering, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high” (Leviticus 26:13).
Notice in this example that the Israelites are not being called to forget the past, but rather to recount it in light of God being their rescuer. Similarly, the Scriptures invite us to cry out to God about ongoing injustices, “They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me. How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions” (Psalm 35:15b–17).
Cries like this one can be found throughout the psalms, where God’s people lament the wrongs done to them. It is good and right to speak about our history of suffering from another’s hands, especially to the Lord.
Every time I have heard the phrase “don’t keep a record of wrongs” used in the context of abuse (which sadly occurs far too often), I have been struck with how this one small phrase is dislocated from its broader context in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter.”
This passage uses words that strongly indict abusers: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4–6). An abuser exhibits the opposite behaviors: impatience, cruelty, jealously, distortion, pride, dishonor, selfishness, volatility, and vengefulness. They rarely show remorse for doing evil, and regularly tell lies.
It is easy to get turned around by the words of a friend or your abusive spouse, especially when they use Scripture to do it. But remember, in the context of habitual, destructive sin patterns, it is always good to humbly and lovingly label and address sin. Jesus came to restore sight to the spiritually blind and to free the oppressed (Luke 4:18). When you speak about and ask for help with the sin that your spouse perpetrates against you, you are joining Jesus on this mission.
Darby Strickland, Author Is it Abuse? A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims and CCEF Counselor. www.darbystrickland.com
Friends, share with one another one new insight or ah-ha moment God gave you after reading Darby’s blog.
A note about translations: Only the NIV, CSB, and NLT translate this phrase along the lines of “does not keep a record of wrongs.” The ESV translates it as “it is not irritable or resentful,” and the KJV reads, “is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.” At the same time, the NASB says, “does not take into account a wrong suffered.”
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Thank you Leslie,
Another such scripture wielded against me, into the ear of my abuser thru his sister, was “Love covers a multitude of sins” 1PET4:8
The pain 8 years later is still as sharp as the day he showed me her text.
I am free from him. But how do I become free from the pain of those memories? Family is not supposed to come between husband and wife, but his did, adding that I was separating him from them.
They were indulgent of many vices that he was trying to escape. Eventually they sucked him back in, and he’s gone now. I pray he found Jesus again before he drew his last breathe.
So painful. A good story to remind us of the truth of God’s word when he says, “Do not be yoked with unbelievers”
My abuser uses that exact Verse on me all the time, love covers a multitude of sins. In order to try and make me feel bad enough that I’ll take him back.
Leanne, so he expected you to love him and cover his sinful behavior, while he continued to sin against you? Wow. How unrighteous is that? He will need to prove to you, over a long time, that he has changed, and even then, you don’t have to take him back. Not if you don’t love him. Be careful. What he is doing is called guilt loading. Don’t take it.
You can tell him -you are loving him well by holding him accountable for his behaviors. Yes, we are forgiven especially when we repent but a repeat offender must have consequences to experience in order to better themselves and the hope is to change the behavior.
You are also loving yourself well by holding yourself accountable to not being an accomplice or enabler in his life.
Many people who don’t like responsibility for their behaviors ‘Love’ that verse and rarely really understand it in full context. They like that the responsibility is on loving the person to cover them from the offense or multiple offenses in most of these scenarios. What does ‘Love’ look like? Love can be boundaries, love can also be requiring something from the offender. It can be many things.
Anewanon, Perhaps this hurts so much because it was a betrayal, and the intention was to make you feel guilty…..for what? Not being willing to endure his sining against you? At the very least, her behavior was in ignorance of both what was really going on in your marriage and the true intent of the scripture. Maybe a few sessions with a counselor will help you to get free from the pain of her betrayal. I hope you will get some help. No need to carry this pain around with you any longer.
Anewanon and Leanne,
I’m sad to hear someone you care for used scripture to get what they wanted from you. It takes great courage to stand against anyone who is twisting God’s word for their own purpose.
I hope I would ask anyone who quotes that scripture as an excuse for another’s behavior or their own to read the seven verses before it. Then, I would ask them if they apply those seven to their own lives. I believe those verses are meant to be followed as a complete list of instructions, one cannot be followed without the others. Otherwise, the practice of that verse is incomplete which is exactly what you both understood.
Verse 8 doesn’t say “YOUR love covers MY sin.” It says “LOVE covers a multitude of sins”. So if they claim to love, that love should also cover their own sin because they are the only ones who have control over whether or not they love or sin. Quoting this verse to others in such a way is not a show of love.
God bless and keep you both.
My first h saw me writing in my journal and told me that. I said, “Ah-ha! So now you are finally admitting that you’ve done wrong! And, you’d better throw out your Bible because it’s one big fat record of people’s wrongs.”
Another verse they use is that God forgets our sins and throws them into the sea, but God doesn’t forget anything, He doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, He just doesn’t bring them back up to us IF we have repented and been forgiven. I’m pretty sure that most of us would be happy to ‘forget ‘ if we would see true repentance.
Their circular thinking never fails to blow my mind. I understand that they do it but I am so grateful I don’t understand how they are able to do it so quickly and naturally.
They use their past or ours as excuses for their sin and abuse. Then, they dismiss their past and current behavior towards us or remind us of ours to minimize their abuse. Every time they try to defend themselves, they only add to or prove their abuse all over again. Why? Because these are all forms of abuse as well. They are caught in a loop of contradictions which they believe allows them to have it their way all the time, every time and at the same time due to their proud and entitled beliefs and thinking.
It’s amazing we ever think we have a chance to get through such a complex web and dangerous mine field of lies. Thank God we have the Holy Spirit to show us the truth!
Discipline and correction are the greatest forms of love we can show each other because it’s the hardest thing to do. Why do we believe that practice should end once we reach adulthood?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
How do you do that (discipline and correct an adult) without putting yourself in a parent/child role, or be accused of being controlling yet again??
I think the main reason it stops in adulthood is because we all know that “we’re adults” and we don’t have to listen to others anymore. As in, we can be held accountable only if we choose to be. And not held accountable if we choose not to be. It becomes “ok” in the abusers mind to be inconsiderate and not think twice about it.
I think she must mean consequences, because discipline and correction is not a wife’s role. In fact the thought of that, is creepy. I imagine the thinking is that God will give discipline and correction. Our role maintaining good boundaries and accepting that we can’t change another person. At some point we realize the other person is not us. Their problem is not our problem. We are autonomous individuals and can respectfully remove ourselves from oppression and manipulation.
leaningonhope and Autumn,
I apologize. I was venting and it did not translate well into the post. I believe discipline and correction are taught in the Bible as a way for Christians to witness and the church to encourage each other in their growth and daily walk. Discipline is something we should practice according to God’s guidance so our actions might be a testament to everyone in our lives. Correction is given to others in a humble and loving way so they will readily receive wisdom and grace, see their sin and repent. They benefit both the believer and nonbeliever.
Natalie Hoffman at flyingfreenow.com addresses this a lot. I encourage you to check out her website. I will try to break it down as I understand it.
You cannot control the other person or make them understand what you are saying. Part of being an adult is understanding and accepting not everyone is going to agree or feel the same way you do and knowing when you have spoken your mind clearly and do not need to repeat yourself anymore. You do not need the other person to justify or approve of what you think or feel. This is one of the things abusers do not believe.
You can control your own feelings, stop the circular arguments before they start and accept they have the same right to make decisions for themselves as you do. You can set boundaries of what you will and won’t allow in your life and for how long. Allow them to experience the consequences that go along with their choices, good or bad.
They want you to take responsibility for every aspect of their life and it’s possible there was a child/parent dynamic before you began to understand what was really happening. They want you to believe you have no choices, no right to tell them what you think, how you feel or what they are allowed to do when it comes to you. They want you to believe the lie and go along with pretending that they can do whatever they want without any consequences or change on their part. They do not want the reasonable, intelligent adult in you to show up. Because then, they have lost their power and control over you.
I believe loving and humble discipline and correction through speaking truth and reality, setting healthy boundaries and allowing consequences can be a wife’s role if she chooses. It is also the greatest form of love God calls us to give because it takes strength and courage since it is so scary to follow through with. God practices this love with us so we may grow as individuals and strengthen our relationship with Him and others. The issue may be, that once we become adults, we believe it should end.
Yes to all of the wonderful comments! The most loving thing I have done for both myself and my husband is to separate from him.How convenient to want to water down love to allow wrong to continue.To quote CS Lewis “ Love is not affectionate feeling,but a steady wish for the loved persons ultimate good as far as it can be obtained”.This is what I hear over and over again here on this blog…loving wives(and some husbands) bravely loving their spouses in saying “ No more- I will no longer allow myself to be habitually mistreated.” Thank you, Darby for this post and all you do for oppressed women.
Friends, I have a question that is completely off topic, but it’s one that I have seen addressed here. A friend of mine is married/separated from a man who I think might have Aspergers Syndrome. I think someone mentioned a book or support group for spouses of AS partners. Could you refresh me on that please? It isn’t labeled in the archives. Thanks
I realize you were looking for something of Aspergers but I highly recommend Gina Pera. adhdrollercoaster.org
Aspergers can have lots of similarities to ADD in marriage especially.
I struggled for years thinking it was Aspergers related but my therapist said that ADD (ADHD) was more likely given our situation and my experiences.
I copied this from Hope’s August 30 reply under “Im a Leader in the Church . . .” I hope it’s what you were looking for.
Here are some of the best online resources I’ve found. So thankful for each of them!
Dr Kathy Marshack – https://asd-ntrelationships.com Stephanie Holmes (Christian) -counselorstephanieholmes.com
Different Together – https://different-together.co.uk
Maxine Aston – https://www.maxineaston.co.uk
I’ve tried to post a copy of the resources Hope listed a couple of times here with no luck, so I’ll try this instead.
Look for Hope’s reply on August 30 under the title “I’m a Leader in my Church”. I hope it was what you were looking for.
Thanks to both Aly and Lori for your response. I’ll check it out. By the way, the husband was checked for ADD (the Amen clinic in Chicago), but that was ruled out. Thank you so much.
A journal is not the same thing as a ledger. A ledger is keeping score of wrongs and rights, what is owed me, when and how the payment will be made. I don’t think the lady in this blog post is doing that. She is keeping a journal of her own questions and responses to situations in the home. Her purpose is to seek wise counsel, to ponder and pray over her own thoughts and behavior. It’s really too bad that her small group leader misinterpreted scripture and misjudged her.
I think it is crucial to keep a record of wrongs. Record verbal abuse on your phone. Take pictures of your bruises. Copy his financial records of cheating and save his phone bills. You will need all of this in court, especially if you are trying to get fair custody of your children.
Keep a records of wrong so you can get out of denial when you re read it at another time. Gaslighting and Blane shifting may have you thinking you are crazy. A good, accurate record of abuse, helps you heal and stay in touch with reality.
This comment is just a reminder that it is not always the husband perpetrating the verbal abuse: Sometimes it is the wife who verbally abuses her husband and uses this same Scripture against him. The sad thing is there’s a well-known saying: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” (and of course, the abusive woman uses this to her advantage). The other sad thing is the counterpoint: “If daddy ain’t happy, nobody cares.” (I know most of you already know this, but I think it’s a helpful reminder.)