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:  

For 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 their heads.  

(Psalm 109:2-5, 22-23,25  NIV)


Listen to 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.   

(Psalm 55:1-3,11-14,20-21, NIV)


Jesus underscored the seriousness of verbal abuse by comparing it to murder:  

"You 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 hell.”   (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 kingdom of God ? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers…nor revilers, … shall inherit the kingdom of God .  And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.  (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NAS; emphasis added)  

Frightening 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 collector.”  (Matthew 18:15-17)  

Some churches 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.

Discussion Questions:  

1.      Have you ever had difficulty in getting others to believe that you were being abused? 


2.      Has an abuser ever made you doubt your sense of reality, or to feel confused about whether you were being abused?  How?


In what ways may you have been blamed for the abuse?

Copyright 2005   Judy Kennedy