Pride and arrogance are surely at work with in the heart of an abuser. Desires and prejudices are often elevated to the status of rights and entitlements. Pride is a killer both of the men wrapped in its deceit, and the women being destroyed in its wake. The Bible is very clear regarding the dangers of pride, both for the prideful person, and those within their lives. Lies about ourselves, others, and God may contribute to motives and behaviors, including abuse. The prideful man seeks his own benefit and looks to gain praise and support. Attempts to control another person while failing to acknowledge their own faults along with the desire to conceal their behavior are all self-serving. As a result of this prideful heart it is rare to hear an abuser take responsibility for their actions. When interviewing men or discussing their use of coercive or violent behavior I have found that they tend to be quick to shift the blame, or minimize the effects of abuse. These are themes that pastors and counselors should be aware of. Listen for a Proverbs 17:15 kind of attitude. “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—both are detestable to the Lord.”
The Blame Game
When discussing this with one Christian man in particular he was beyond irritated. Each time I would challenge his entitlement and encourage him to take responsibility for his actions he would respond with the phrase, “You have to understand…”
“You have to understand, I was addicted to drugs at the time!”
You have to understand, I was out of work at the time!”
“You have to understand, I had asked her to leave me alone and she wouldn’t!”
Finally, I said, “No, you have to understand! God gave you specific instructions on how to address your sin, and that includes accepting responsibility for your actions and the hard work of repentance not excuses. Whose way is it going to be from now on, your’s or God’s?” It is important to note that most of the men I work with have similar thoughts and beliefs regarding abuse. For many, abusive behavior is a natural consequence of another’s attempts to challenge their position or presuppositions. It just happens because someone else crosses the line. In the case above this man’s desire was to communicate to me the obvious reasons why anyone would harm their wife. He offered excuses which made him exempt from God’s standard. Surely God understands that I was coming down, stressed out by life, and that I gave her a warning by telling her to leave me alone when I’m angry. Uncovering and addressing the heart of abuse must remain a priority as we walk alongside men who use violence in the home. The heart of abuse is a heart full of pride, and entitlement. While pride does not always manifest itself as abuse, men who use coercive and dominating behavior in the home will typically think highly of themselves and their position.
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 16:25
When I have the privilege introducing a new man to the process we will be going through, I’ll share that most participants will say that the key point in the process for them was when they took responsibility for their own actions. This is a difficult thing to do, and we try to illustrate how powerful a few little words can be by stuttering through the difficult phrase, “I was wr…, I was wro…, I was WRONG!” Admitting our faults should be nothing new to the Christian, but for many abusive men this is a difficult process, and one that requires a confrontation of the heart of pride.
To learn more about the dynamics and impact of domestic violence as well as how your church can respond well consider joining a PeaceWorks coaching group. Visit http://www.chrismoles.org/training for more details.