A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Trying to get revenge on an abuser is like trying to teach a fish to climb a tree

Fish training

I used to lay awake at night thinking of ways to make X suffer; to punish him for his abuse. I talked about this a bit in the I left him because I loved him post. How could I make him know how much he’d hurt me? How could I get revenge? I didn’t want to commit a crime, but I wanted to really tell him off, or find a way to make him sorry for hurting me.

And I had no peace.

No scenario ever would work in my mind. I always knew he’d get me back and because I love and trust Christ, I’ve always known that it’s NOT my place to make him pay.

Romans 12:17-19  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

So in the first place, vengeance is God’s. It’s not my job to make anyone suffer. I divorced X not to make him suffer, but to make us (the kids and me) safe. And because I loved him. I loved him enough to stand up and say that I would no longer go along with his charade. Nothing I did, nothing I do, is to hurt him or to punish him. Ever. I am not saying this to sound pious. This has only come about by faith and by trusting that God’s provision and His ways are best, not because I conjured up an ability to stop wanting payback.

In the second place, this is essential for my sanity. I cannot function, I cannot be healthy as long as I am trying to make X learn anything. It would be like trying to teach a fish to climb a tree. X doesn’t have a healthy conscience and therefore he isn’t equipped to learn anything from this! In his mind this will always be my fault for overreacting and being unreasonable and going “crazy” and I will always have ruined our wonderful life and Christmas and the children’s birthdays and Tuesdays… There’s no getting around that. He will never ever see it differently unless he first falls on his knees and seeks Christ and surrenders to Him. And I can’t make that happen.

What your abuser has done to you is wrong. The way he treats you is wrong. He isn’t doing these things because of you. You didn’t cause him to do any of this. He did this. His abuse caused this chasm between you. You are seeking a way to live in peace and to be healthy. That is right and good.

You can’t fix your abuser. You can’t teach him a thing. You can’t get vengeance or punish him. You can only get safe and get healthy. And in all you do, you will seek God’s glory. You are His and you can trust Him.

11 Comments

  1. livingtransparently

    This is AWESOME! And my exact thoughts throughout the past few years. I have to occasionally go back through these thoughts to remind myself of how I need to think. I could’ve written this myself. Word for word. If I could formulate my thoughts like you have here. Thank you. I’m far along into my healing process but I do still need reminders!

  2. My 70 year old abuser husband suddenly filed for divorce in February without any warning after an 20 year marriage. I was blindsided! I learned about it by the EMAIL he sent me! I have been in shock, grief and heartache since. It is a nightmare. I mean WHO gets divorced at 70?? The legal process is moving along and we have a mediation in July. While I know vengence is God’s I will do all I can to keep this bully from manipulating away what is rightfully mine in terms of the settlement. I know that I cannot teach him anything about himself BUT I can show him that I will take care of myself, be safe and live well.

    • thepersistentwidow

      Susan, That must have been a shock but it seems like you are doing very well in processing this bombshell he dropped on you. Your trusting in God and realizing that the abuser’s sinful behavior is not your responsibility is to be commended. Focusing on your own well being is priority number one at this point as you so wisely noted. He must have been a real problem for you for some time and I am confident that God will work this for your good. Thanks for your insight and we’ll pray that you find favor in the courts.

    • Brenda R

      Susan, There’s nothing wrong with that.

      • Brenda R

        That didn’t come out right. I meant there was nothing wrong with you showing him that you can take care of yourself. There was a lot wrong with what he did.

      • Ellie

        That’s how I took it Brenda.

        Susan, as Martha Stout says in The Sociopath Next Door, “Living well is the best revenge.” I don’t see it as revenge, but living well and being a good steward of yourself and honoring God. Good on ya.

  3. Brenda R

    Thank you, Ellie. Very well said. I love that , teaching X anything would be like teaching a fish to climb a tree.(version–mine) It is so true. I think it would have been easier to train the fish to climb a tree. Nothing I said mattered. I can’t fix him. I don’t want to punish him. I just want to live in peace.

    The other night X brought me over a box of wind chimes from his house now. He knows how much I love them ringing in the breeze in the summer. The ones he brought were all rusted and broken. After a year, he is still trying to punish me. As I write I am looking out the patio door and see the ones I bought this year and realize God’s goodness and faithfulness through it all.

  4. Anonymous

    I have never sought revenge but only to have a marriage that glorified the Lord. Peace-keeping attempts resulted in peace-faking.
    Recent posts and comments have been encouraging as they have been confirming that there is nothing selfish in ‘taking care of myself’ and ‘living well.’ It’s taken me a long, long time to comprehend what those terms meant to me.

  5. Suzanne

    I know a woman who was very badly treated by both parents. For years she remained angry and sought to hurt them in any way she could because she believed that taking revenge would give her peace. It never did. She is still an angry, bitter, unhappy person. How much better it would have been for her to separate from them (go no contact) and build a healthy, peaceful life for herself.

  6. Some comments were made on this post at our Facebook page, and they are so good I’m republishing them here:

    My abuser told me I got my revenge by simply leaving. I could’ve done some bad things on the way out, but i would rather see what God does with it. He did more than I ever could have. :)

    I don’t want revenge, I just want him to see how the things he’s done have hurt me and contributed to our separation. I have found it helpful to email myself things I wish I could tell him. For example: If you see nothing wrong with staying at your ex-wife’s house for Christmas, you’ve got bigger problems than I thought…we are still married! Or: No I don’t want to celebrate our Anniversary; we don’t have a marriage. Somehow it helps to vent to myself and then file in a folder and go on with my life. I’ve given up thinking if only I could write the perfect email he would see. I realize now that you cannot wake someone who is pretending to be asleep.

    • Brenda R

      Barb, These are good. Thanks for sharing them. I don’t pay much attention to FB. I can relate to the first one. I could have broken into the house anyway I chose to get my belongings legally. Instead I waited for the attorney’s to enlighten him on the law and went through the front door with my key after he was forced to change the locks back. He got meaner after that for a long time, but along the way God takes care of him and I don’t have to say anything. God has blessed me more and more along the way.

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