Ok, it is time to shut down these wrong-headed and damaging notions:
1. A Christian must never be angry at another person
2. Compassion is calm, huggy, weepy, kind – milktoast.
Bleh! Compassion. Let’s look at the word-
com + passion = feeling the feelings (passions) of another person WITH (com) that person
Yes, compassion is sympathy (sym (with) + pathos (feelings)) when it is extended toward a victim. But when compassion, that is to say, when we enter into the victim’s passions in regard to the abuser, compassion is not calm, huggy, weepy, or even kind. It rages. It burns with wrath at the wickedness done and at the wicked person who did it. Does that sound UN-Christian or UN-godly? Then re-examine your idea of the character and nature of God.
When we claim to show compassion to someone who has been abused, then our compassion is a lie if we do not also feel anger toward the abuser. And you all know how this false compassion plays itself out. Listen as Mary talks to Linda after Linda’s husband Jack hit her in a rage the night before:
“Oh, Linda. I am so sorry for you. Look at that black, swollen eye. What’s that you say? Leave him? Divorce him? You say you…you…hate him? Linda, Jack is a victim of his own sin. We are all sinners. It is wrong for a Christian to hate someone or to be so angry at someone like you are now. Linda, you need to ask God’s forgiveness and pray for Jack.”
Mary, I gotta just say – shut up. Mary is not compassionate. Her compassion is fake. Mary is not joining into the passions of Linda. If she were, then Mary would be hot with anger against Jack too. Anger at wickedness is not a sin. In fact, an absence of anger against wickedness IS a sin!
If you aren’t angry about evil, then please don’t claim to be compassionate toward its victims.
Because you aren’t. Compassion demands anger.
If you would like to make a significant difference in the life of an abused woman you care about, keep the following principle fresh in your mind: Your goal is to be the complete opposite of what the abuser is.
The Abuser: Pressures her severely
So you should: Be patient. Remember that it takes time for an abused woman to sort out her confusion and figure out how to handle her situation. It is not helpful for her to try to follow your timetable for when she should stand up to her partner, leave him, call the police, or whatever step you want her to take. You need to respect her judgment regarding when she is ready to take action — something the abuser never does.
The Abuser: Talks down to her
So you should: Address her as an equal. Avoid all traces of condescension or superior knowledge in your voice. This caution applies just as much or more to professionals. If you speak to an abused woman as if you are smarter or wise than she is, or as if she is going through something that could never happen to you, then you inadvertently confirm exactly what the abuser has been telling her, which is that she is beneath him. Remember, your actions speak louder than your words.
The Abuser: Thinks he knows what is good for her better than she does
So you should: Treat her as the expert on her own life. Don’t assume that you know what she needs to do. I have sometimes given abused women suggestions that I thought were exactly right but turned out to be terrible for that particular situation. Ask her what she thinks might work and, without pressuring her, offer suggestions, respecting her explanations for why certain courses of action would not be helpful. Don’t tell her what to do.
The Abuser: Dominates conversations
So you should: Listen more and talk less. The temptation may be great to convince her what a “jerk” he is, to analyze his motives, to give speeches covering entire chapters of this book. But talking too much inadvertently communicates to her that your thoughts are more important than hers, which is exactly how the abuser treats her. If you want her to value her own feelings and opinions, then you have to show her that you value them.
The Abuser: Believes he has the right to control her life
So you should: Respect her right to self-determination. She is entitled to make decisions that are not exactly what you would choose, including the decision to stay with her abusive partner or to return to him after a separation. You can’t convince a woman that her life belongs to her if you are simultaneously acting like it belongs to you. Stay by her even when she makes choices that you don’t like.
The Abuser: Assumes he understands her children and their needs better than she does
So you should: Assume that she is a competent, caring mother. Remember that there is no simple way to determine what is best for the children of an abused woman. Even if she leaves the abuser, the children’s problems are not necessarily over, and sometimes abusers actually create worse difficulties for the children post-separation than before. You cannot help her to find the best path for her children unless you have a realistic grasp of the complicated set of choices that face her.
The Abuser: Thinks for her
So you should: Think with her. Don’t assume the role of teacher or rescuer. Instead, join forces with her as a respectful and equal team member
Notice that being the opposite of the abuser does not simply mean saying the opposite of what he says. If he beseeches her with, “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me,” and you stand on the other side badgering her with, “Leave him, leave him,” she will feel that you’re much like him; you are both pressuring her to accept your judgment of what she should do. Neither of you is asking the empowering question, “What do you want to do?”
(excerpt from Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He DO That?* pp370-372.)
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
Why The Church Covers Up Abuse is Ps Shane Lems’ review of the book A Cry For Justice.
I know I said we wouldn’t be publishing a post this Sunday because I mistakenly published one yesterday. . . but this is a little bonus. I hope some of our readers comment at Shane’s post, as I think he would find it encouraging. :)
Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. (KJV)
like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (NIV)
as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (ESV)
If a victim of abuse desires to obey scripture, she can feel herself to be perpetually knifed by the blade of the Word in 1 Peter 3:1-6. That was where I was for years. It seemed to say: Put up with the abuse no matter how bad, because if you respond out of fear you are failing in your Christian walk.
And a little later in that chapter, Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled (3:14 KJV) may seem to be an injunction to suppress emotion and stay in denial about the covenant-destroying pattern of conduct her husband is showing, and the damage it is causing her and the kids.
But there is a limit to what wives should suffer at the hands of ungodly husbands. The limit is set by Peter’s command to ‘do good’, to do the right thing, even in the face of intimidation.
Peter tells wives to do good and not give way to the fear of what their husbands might do.
We should submit to our husbands only in so far as righteous obedience to God will permit.
When a Christian woman who is being abused by her husband attempts to do good to her husband by (e.g.) admonishing him for his sinful ways, resisting his abuse, setting boundaries against his destructive conduct, etc., the abuser tries even harder to make her afraid of him so that she backs down and complies with his wickedness, which will enable him to continue in his wicked ways. Such a woman does good and the result is: her husband escalates and intimidates her even more.
Verse 6 addresses this situation. It tells such wives to nevertheless continue to do the good without backing down, without giving way to fear or intimidation. And bear in mind, it is not wrong to feel the emotion of fear; it is wrong to let the fear intimidate you into sinning. And *sinning* in this case, often takes the form of complying with the abuser and ‘letting’ him wield his wicked rule over her.
It does the wife no good to be further oppressed and downtrodden, because that leads to mental and physical and spiritual exhaustion not to mention all the health impacts on the woman’s body. And the same for the kids. And it does the abuser no good because it just enables him to become further entrenched in his evil ways and entitled mindset.
Note well: I am not blaming the victim here for ‘letting’ the abuser abuse. The abuser chooses to abuse and the abuser is always responsible for his own actions and attitudes. The victims, with immense creativity and problem solving, choose micro-moment by micro-moment how to navigate this ground of eggshells and minefields to try to avoid ‘trouble’. (see Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser)
Victims must never be held to blame for the abuser’s wrongful choices.
Peter is telling you, abused wife, that it is fine to judiciously resist the abuser’s power and control tactics, and to resist being intimidated into fearful compliance with the abuser’s coercive control.
Sometimes resistance is not safe. Sometimes compliance is the only thing that creates a margin of temporary safety. All victims know this — experience with their abuser has taught them this fact. And resistance can be hidden or visible, small or large. We pick our battles, and we elect to let some things go through uncontested and un-remarked upon. That kind of stuff is the normal diet for victims of abuse, and it explains why survivors are often such strong, careful, astute people . . . especially as they come more and more out of the fog, sloughing off the self-blame and false guilt in which they have been shrouded, shamed, silenced, immured.
Abused Christian women can be confident that they in not complying with the evildoing of the abuser, they are being Sarah’s daughters: doing what is right and not giving way to fear.
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