The Abuser’s Goal – A Master/Slave Relationship
But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:29-31)
The fundamental goal of the abuser is to possess power and control over his targeted victim. This is a fundamental truth regarding evil. Like the devil, like the wicked person who demands to have his evil way always lusts for power and control. “I will be like the Most High.”
Now, the abuse we most often deal with here is domestic abuse. Abuse in marriage, and most commonly in the cases that come to us the abuser is claiming to be a fine Christian. Wolf in wool, you see. Most professing Christians and pastors and churches and Christian marriage or counseling ministries think that it is God’s goal for all of us to set out to “fix” the abuser. To “fix” the “marriage.” I read one such authority recently who said that an abuse victim is permitted by God to separate from their abuser (carefully avoiding the word, “divorce”) and that at least initially the goal of the separation is to possibly jolt the abuser into repentance.
All of this is a flight of fancy, and I can tell you why. I will point to two truths (biblical ones) to support my position.
Abusers, by their very nature crave, in marriage, a MASTER/SLAVE relationship.
Chew on that for a bit. Abusers, by their very nature, crave a MASTER/SLAVE relationship. They of course are the master while their spouse is the slave. All their tactics, all their ravings and ragings, all their gaslighting and covert aggression, the whole package has one single goal — to be master and to enslave.
Now, chew a bit more. How can you ever have a true marriage, or even a healthy relationship/friendship, with such a person? You cannot. Every time you try to “fix” it, Pharaoh only rages and makes you gather your own straw. Or he promises to ‘let you go’ then reneges on his promise.
Did you see that sci-fi movie with the famous line of “cousin Eddie” — “I’m baaaaccckkk!”? Early on in the movie a captured alien is asked “what do you want?” Its answer was, essentially “to kill and destroy you.” No sit-down negotiation sessions needed. No compromise was on the table. And that is how it is in a marriage to an abuser. Master, slave. No bending. No alteration of that basic plan. “Sure we can have a marriage. I want to be married to you. But you are going to be my slave. That’s how it works.” Of course, the abuser never states that honestly; it’s most often couched in supposed “biblical” words.
Therefore, all efforts to fix, to reform, to persuade are futile. There is only one solution. End of relationship. This is why my repeated mantra is: a) Abusers never change (particularly the kind who pretend to be Christians), and b) A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.
There are fools and then there are FOOLS. The first might listen to correction, the second kind will never listen. Ever.
Here is the text on this –
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Have those two verses ever confused you? They have me. Of course Solomon intended them to as a literary device to get our attention and emphasize his point. I think Solomon is pointing to this — there are fools and then there are FOOLS. And we need to wisdom when responding to either type.
One type of fool is correctable and worth our time trying to correct, although even that kind of fool needs a real jolt — answer him according to his folly. I take that to mean either mock him, or challenge the presuppositions he is basing his foolish perspective on. Use language that confronts him with his foolishness. Draw a sharp picture of it for him, so he sees that he is the fool. Spell out bluntly the logical consequence of his thinking. Don’t try to reason with him in milder terms or you will simply be playing the fool yourself and he will walk away thinking he is wise (…lest he be wise in his own eyes).
The other kind of FOOL is the class where I believe most all abusers are found. What is the Lord’s instruction to us in dealing with them? Don’t even try. Don’t fall into the ‘explaining trap’. Don’t go down to his level by trying to combat his arguments, because those arguments of his are often too foolish to be worth engaging with. Do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
The only way this kind will ever listen is if YOU say things he agrees with, things that affirm his master status. This of course is what is happening in most churches. The preaching and teaching and counseling are “according to” the abuser’s folly. He likes what he hears and in the process the church becomes an abuser just like him. Yep. There it is.
The only way to handle a relationship with an abuser is to have no relationship, at least as far as it is possible for us. He is most unlikely to change, and the longer we remain under his dominion, the more we ourselves become someone else. And if he truly decides to change, let him do the hard work involved, let him get himself into a behaviour change program and put in the years of work needed to effect profound character change.
And even then, unless God quickens his dead spirit to life, he will not be a true Christian, so it wouldn’t be wise to be yoked with him. He will still be an Ishmael, not an Isaac; he will still be the ‘son of the slave woman’ in bondage to sin, not the ‘son of the free woman’ who by the grace of God has had been given a new heart, a new spirit.
Jeff’s byline is on this post as the author. Barb contributed a little bit to it as well.