Christian Relationship Help: Abuse
This Christian relationship help will teach you how to recognize and stop physical, emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse. Regardless of the type, it is a dehumanizing force that destroys people and relationships. Abusive interactions tear down, disrespect, and devalue the relationship and the recipient. Healthy relationships mutually respect, value, and empower both participants. God wants us to treat each other with respect and honor.
Physical abuse is easier to identify than other forms, as it is obvious when one is being hit, but verbal, emotional, and spiritual types are every bit as devastating and demoralizing, while often more difficult to identify. Physical abuse is any behavior that physically harms or threatens to harm a person’s body or property. Emotional and verbal abuse are verbal or relational behaviors that treat someone improperly, wrongly, insultingly, harshly, manipulatively, or injuriously often as a result of the intent to control or demean. Spiritual abuse uses religion, God, and the Bible to control or exert power over another.
Abuse has three elements, regardless of whether it is verbal, emotional, physical, or spiritual. These elements are control, punishment, and disregard. The purpose of abuse is to control the other person. The abuser believes they have a right to tell the person what to do and to make the person into who they want them to be. The tactics used to control are threats, intimidation, ridicule, and manipulation. The abuser believes they are superior to the victim, who exists to serve the abuser’s needs and desires. The abuser feels empowered when in control.
When the person doesn’t do what the abuser wants, punishment follows. The punishment can be anger, demeaning words, withdrawal from the relationship, taking things away, hurting other people, like children, doing whatever is upsetting and hurtful to the person, telling other people the victim’s secrets, leaving, or silence. The punishment is also used to remind the victim that the abuser is willing to inflict pain if and when the dictates aren’t followed.
When the victim speaks up about the abuse or attempts to explain why the abuser is wrong, hurtful, or unfair, the abuser disregards the victim by denying the complaints and refusing to regard the person’s feelings and opinions as valid. Whenever the victim shows strength or individuality, the abuser is threatened and will minimize, discount, disregard, and undermine the victim’s personhood and achievements. When the victim begins to get strong and pull away, the abuser will increase the abuse in order to regain control.
Before you can stop someone’s destructive behavior, you have to be able to clearly identify it. Victims are desensitized and confused about what constitutes unacceptable controlling and demeaning behavior, especially since the abuser denies the behavior. Victims are frequently blamed, so they must improve their self-esteem to know they do not deserve or cause it. And, they must learn to set boundaries that clearly say no even if that means leaving the relationship.
God’s Word gives us a clear mandate to protect the victims, the fatherless, and the oppressed (Psalm 82:3-4). The church presents confusing messages to victims with its tendency to condemn physical mistreatment while not taking a stand against verbal, emotional, and spiritual forms. As Christians, we must stand beside those that are being mistreated in any way by presenting Christian relationship help that takes a clear stand against all types of oppression in relationships.