Verbal Abuse, Part 2
Victims of verbal abuse
experience a special kind of agony. Though
the abuse doesn’t leave physical bruises, it can be just as painful, and
recovery can take much longer. Generally,
the abuser denies the abuse or blames it on the victim.
Friends and family may see the abuser as a “really nice guy.”
Without evidence of physical battering, victims can spend years in
confusion, doubt, and frustration. Though
others may not understand the pain, the Bible gives voice to the victim’s
feelings and pain, and to the betrayal felt when this kind of violence breaks
marriage vows to honor, protect, and cherish:
wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken
against me with lying tongues. With
words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship. For I am poor
and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake
109:2-5, 22-23,25 NIV)
my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts
trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the
wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger.
Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave
its streets. If an enemy were
insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I
could hide from him. But it is you,
a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet
fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.
My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant.
His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are
more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.
Jesus underscored the
seriousness of verbal abuse by comparing it to murder:
have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone
who murders will be subject to judgment.' But
I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to
judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the
Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of
(Matt 5:21-22, NIV)
As we can see
from this scripture, verbal abuse is sin, as are all forms of domestic violence.
The Bible refers to verbal abusers as “revilers” and “slanderers”:
But now I
am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a
brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a
drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
(1 Corinthians 5:11, emphasis added)
Or do you
not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the
words! And yet comforting, in that
they show us that all who will truly humble themselves and repent of sins like
verbal abuse can receive the Lord’s forgiveness, cleansing, and power to
change. But first a verbal
abuser must see his heart in order to bring it to God for healing.
The victim can try to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians
4:15) with the abuser about the problem, if this can be done safely.
Sadly, verbal abusers often deny the abuse, and seek to blame the victim
for it. Abusers may escalate their
attacks when confronted, in an effort to reassert power and control.
Jesus taught a
four-step procedure for trying to resolve transgressions and to restore
relationship in a way that incorporates a series of safety measures:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just
between the two of you. If he
listens to you, you have won your brother over.
But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every
matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses
to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax
have staff who recognize the dynamics of verbal abuse and domestic violence, and
will help bring the abuser to repentance. Or
it may be necessary to get assistance from a professional counselor who
specializes in domestic violence and is trained to help the abuser to see the
pattern of abuse and its effects. However,
no one can force an abuser to change.
Have you ever
had difficulty in getting others to believe that you were being abused?
Has an abuser
ever made you doubt your sense of reality, or to feel confused about whether you
were being abused? How?
|Copyright 2005 Judy Kennedy|