Spousal Abuse “In The Church… Part Two” (2009)

What is emotional abuse?


Emotional abuse silently attacks the self worth of a human being. There are no physical bruises for anyone to see or notice, no scars, or black and blue marks. Words that demean, shame, blame, threaten, or unfairly criticize, inflict emotional abuse. Neglect and withholding affection and/or love as a means of punishment are also forms of emotional abuse. Statistically, women and children are the more frequent victims of emotional abuse, although there are reported incidences of emotional and verbal abuse of men, as well.

According to Therapist Finder Mental Health Journal published in 2001, emotional abuse is more than just verbal abuse. It is an attack on a child’s emotional and social development, and is a basic threat to healthy human development.1 Such an attack may cause serious emotional injury and/or psychic trauma in the life a child or adult. Robert Burney, the author of The Dance of Wounded Souls defines emotional abuse as heart and soul mutilation.

Victims of emotional abuse frequently display a familiar pattern of behavior. This may include, cowling in the presence of the abuser, depression, feeling ashamed, assuming responsibility for the abuser’s behavior, and “walking around on egg-shells to try to prevent an occurrence of fresh abuse. A young child may exhibit low self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts such as hurting younger siblings or animals, withdrawal, and poor social development.

Dr. Susan Forward, author of Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them has written a personal bill of rights to assist victims of abuse in finding wholeness in the aftermath of any form of abuse.

  1. You have the right to be treated with respect.
  2. You have the right not to take responsibility for anyone else’s problems or bad behavior.
  3. You have the right to get angry. You are responsible for how you express it.
  4. You have the right to say “No.”
  5. You have the right to make mistakes. You have the right to have your own feelings, opinions, and convictions.
  6. You have the right to change your mind or to decide on a different course of action.
  7. You have the right to negotiate for change.
  8. You have the right to protest unfair treatment or criticism.

The Bible speaks specifically about the emotional abuse of children. In Ephesians 6:4 (TLB), it says. “And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.” When we consider Scriptures such as this one, together with the whole counsel of the Bible, we know that there is never a justifiable excuse for any kind of abuse.

What is verbal abuse?


Verbal abuse may take place in a number of different ways. Putdowns, name calling, minimizing the feelings of another person, screaming, and verbal threats are all forms of verbal abuse. Some forms of verbal abuse are very subtle and may even go unrecognized or dismissed as “normal” because of the frequency of their occurrence.

Women and men alike can be guilty of verbally abusing each other in a relationship. While women are often more adept at verbal criticism and fault-finding, men are more skilled at subtle put-downs that minimize self-worth. She may be guilty of incessant nagging; “If I told you once, I told you a thousand times to pick up your socks.” Or, “Why can’t you be like so-and-so?” He, on the other hand will more likely engage in verbal abusiveness through a statement like, “Get over it! You made the decision to take it on, so just buck up.” His anger will lead more quickly to a defensive action, like slamming the door and walking out of the house.

When one spouse repeatedly speaks disrespectfully to the other, it is only a matter of time before retaliation occurs and verbal abuse escalates into yelling, screaming, and name calling. When honest communication does not take place in a relationship, daily irritations can turn into hurtful, cutting words. Verbal abuse is frequently a form of control and manipulation intended to malign and show disrespect toward another person. When it is allowed to continue, it can lead to domestic violence and physical forms of abusiveness.

The Bible provides a helpful model for communication that is characterized by honesty and respect: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10, NIV). In Galatians 5:15, we are warned of the consequence of long-term verbal abuse: “But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”

What are the causes of domestic violence?

The single most influential factor of domestic violence in society is the continuation of a generational cycle of abuse and/or a history of abuse in the family of origin. Children who grow up in an environment where control is maintained through verbal threats and intimidation and conflicts escalate into physical violence, are more likely to resort to the same methods of abuse as adults. There are, however, a number of predictors that may lead to domestic violence.

  • An environment where violence is either taught, by example, or accepted as “normal” will imprint upon a child’s psyche. A young boy may see his father come home from work drunk and angry, screaming at his mother. He watches his mother attempt to please and placate his father’s drunken behavior. The young boy is being taught that violence gets results. He is developing his own ideas about what makes a man.
  • Domestic violence is often linked to poor self-esteem. A child growing up in a violent home is likely to have very little self-worth. He may be engaged in a pattern of negative self-talk. “If I were any good, my father wouldn’t beat me. I’ll never amount to anything.” As a young man, his frustration and isolation may grow and, along with it, a hidden anger due to his feelings of helplessness. Anger is a major source of fuel that will fan the flames of domestic violence.
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse may be a precursor to domestic violence. Substance abuse leads to out-of-control behavior. The number one commonality within the dynamics of most alcoholic families is poor emotional health. This leads to secondary anger, which is an ineffective substitute for dealing honestly with emotions.
  • Domestic violence is more frequent where individuals experience loss of physical health and/or wage-earning power. It peaks during the Christmas season as husbands, fathers, and single parents face the pressures of paying bill collectors and buying Christmas gifts. The frustration of the inability to “make ends meet” increases conflicts in the home. Feelings of helpless mount. Anger flares. In the face of inadequate coping mechanisms, violence erupts in the home and everyone loses.
  • Simply put, domestic violence is the absence of what the Bible refers to as living peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18b, KJV). The first act of domestic violence recorded in the Bible is that of Cain, who killed his brother Abel, out of jealousy. The answer to this cycle of violence is found in a surrendered life to God, which results in a transformation of the heart and mind (Romans 12:1-2).

What is a cycle of abuse?

A cycle of abuse has been proven time and time again. When something is characterized as being cyclical it means that it occurs in a repeating pattern. Abuse is identifiable as being cyclical in two ways; it is both generational and episodic. Generational cycles of abuse are passed down, by example and exposure, from parents to children. Episodic abuse occurs in a repeating pattern within the context of at least two individuals within a family system. It may involve spousal abuse, child abuse, or even elder abuse.

A son, who is repeatedly either verbally or physically abused by his father, will predictably treat his own children in the same way. When a daughter hears her mother frequently tear down, belittle, and criticize her father, she will adapt a learned behavior which involves control through verbal abuse. Similarly, a child who witnesses his parents engaging in abusive behaviors toward one another, will very likely subject his or her spouse to the same abusive patterns. These are examples of generational abuse.

The episodic cycle of abuse is characterized by distinct periods of behavior that eventually result in an extreme episode of verbal and/or physical abuse. Typically, victims of abuse live in denial of this reoccurring pattern.

  1. The cycle of episodic abuse begins with a major abusive behavior such as loud verbal abuse, screaming and/or verbal harassment and even a threat of physical assault.
  2. A period of remorse follows. The abusive individual will go to great lengths to seek forgiveness and offer assurances that the abusive behavior will never occur again. An abusive spouse may bring flowers or expensive gifts. “Oh honey, you know that I would never hurt you. I am so sorry. You know how much I need you.” An abusive husband may seek reassurance from his wife that she will never leave him.
  3. The third portion of the cycle is characterized by a period of “normalcy.” During this time frame the abusive spouse may appear to be truly living out his or her repentance. Great effort will be expended to please and lull the victim of abuse into believing that the worst is now over.
  4. Over time, tension will begin to replace the easy atmosphere in the home. Irritability will increase, followed by veiled accusations by the abuser, blaming the other spouse for his or her frustration and unhappiness. Eventually, this escalating behavior will give way to another episode of full-blown verbal and/or physical abuse.

A cycle of abuse is rarely broken without outside help. Victims need to learn how to set boundaries that protect them and help them to break free of the cycle of victimization. Abusers must confront and take responsibility for the verbal and physical abusive patterns of behavior. Both victim and abuser need to consider professional counseling as a means to stop the cycle of abuse. Individuals who are living in environments characterized by a cyclical form of abuse should make personal safety a matter of urgent priority. Verbal abuse can quickly escalate into a related, but more deadly form of abuse, physical violence.

No one understands the dynamics of cyclical abuse more than God. He has much to say about the nature of true repentance. Saying, “I’m sorry” is never enough, unless it is accompanied by taking responsibility for wrong behavior and a genuine desire to change. In 2nd Corinthians 7:8-10, the Apostle Paul makes mention of a Godly kind of sorrow; the kind that leads to turning away from the wrong behavior. Genuine sorrow for abusive behavior which results in true repentance is God’s answer to the cycle of abuse.

On next blog we want to finish this lesson on what the Bible says about the role of the man and the woman in a marriage.  I feel that if a man knew what his role is and what his wife is and should be to him, he would not even think abusing his wife.  I think if the wife knew what role and who the husband is and suppose to be she would not abuse him, mostly verbal, whom a woman can, do like no one else.

While most of the information thus far have come from other sources thus far, but next week the Lord has given me a word for all couples and couples to come.  As He will give us a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Published on August 17, 2009 at 4:11 am  Leave a Comment  

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