Real Life Examples of Verbal Abuse
1. Belittling sarcasm, male privilege, verbal abuse disguised as a joke and played to an audience
I was at a home decor store the other day and there was this 50 something year old man wearing golf clothes holding two metal post things that you’d hang planters on. His wife and either her mom or his mom – a woman so old and frail she could’ve been Methuselah’s grandma, were trying with all their might to get this giant box off a shelf that was too high for them. The golf guy who, judging by his clothes and his tan, wanted everyone to at least THINK he’s athletic was standing by the entrance to the checkout lane watching them, with the poles leaning on his shoulder, and he called out “Some time this century ladies!”
I looked at him, then looked at two ladies, looked back and asked, “Are you talking to THEM?”
He repeated his rude remark and added that the poles were heavy. Then he strolled over to them, leaned the “heavy” poles on Granny Methuselah. To my great surprise she didn’t crumple under the burden. He got the giant box the last part of the way into the cart. I informed him as calmly as I could muster that they had worked VERY hard to try to get that box down.
Then with the “heavy” poles leaning on Granny Methuselah, he proceeded to fiddle with a wheel on a fountain he picked up from a nearby shelf. He turned it over, read the label, looked for others like it so he could figure out what powered it, and so on. I was boiling. I thought of so many things to say. “So the poles are so heavy that the Tiger Woods wannabe complains, but they are okay for grandma to hold up while you tinker with a tacky fountain?”
But I know that he would only take it out on wife and grandma. He won’t get it. He will only punish others in a fit of shame dumping. Knowing that helped to restrain me. I didn’t want them to have to pay for my sassing him about his disrespectful behavior.
According to Patricia Evans, author of The Verbally Abusive Relationship,
countering is the dominant response of some verbal abusers. He sees his partner as an adversary. How dare she have a different view from his? If she sees things differently, he may feel he is losing control and dominance of her. Consequently he may choose to argue against her thoughts, her perceptions, or her experience of life itself. As a category of verbal abuse, countering is one of the most destructive to a relationship because it prevents all possibility of discussion, it consistently denies the victim’s reality and it prevents the partner from knowing what her mate thinks about anything.
The other day I helped with a volunteer project. A friend and some strangers were assembling some equipment for a local charity organization. There was a little ramp thing for a wheelchair. My friend noticed that one side is textured and the other isn’t. So she pointed out to this fellow volunteer, a guy I don’t know, “That should go with the texture part up so wheelchairs can get traction.” The guy replied that the wheelchairs don’t need traction but the kids walking up the ramp do. So he was going to do what she said, but not for WHY she said it.
I caught her eye and remarked, “I heard it. That’s called countering.” We left him to assemble it his way for his reasons. My friend is older and wiser than me. She commented that he’s the kind of guy who has to be right and can’t let others think THEY are right, only him. I learn from watching these folks.
An example of what respect looks like
Contrast these two interactions with what I saw between with my pastor who was injured recently and his wife.
Pastor was standing up front getting ready to hold one of the elements of the Lord’s Supper. His wife noticed that he was in a spot that would put strain on his injury because he’d have to hold the wine/juice which is the heavier of the two elements. She made a little motion with her hands. Pastor grinned and nodded. He moved to the bread-holder spot and no one ended up wearing the wine that he doesn’t currently have the strength to hold up. Pastor’s wife offered her input out of love and concern. Pastor received it that way and was grateful. And I am privileged to worship alongside folks who treat each other with respect.