Sticks and Stones

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”                                                                                                              Proverbs 12:18

We all know that words are powerful and when used by an individual set on control they can have devastating results. Many men over the years have shared with me that physical violence was a last resort and that they prefer to use non-violent means of manipulation and control. I believe that the same heart that produces physical abuse is the same heart that produces emotional abuse. A heart bent on control will use whatever “works” to get what it wants, and will excuse that behavior based on its own entitlement.

The Fruit of an Abusive Heart

The root of an abusive heart produces the fruit of abusive behavior. One of the difficulties in speaking with pastors regarding this topic is the insistence on separating abuse into a variety of categories. While understanding distinct categories of abuse such as emotional and verbal is beneficial many times they are incorrectly arranged according to perceived severity. When we prioritize abusive behavior, labeling some as severe and others as modest, we may miss the important reality that while the behavior may seem to run on a broad spectrum they all originate from the same heart motivation. Tactics of power and control, whatever form they take, all serve the same heart of pride. Overlooking the heart while minimizing the severity of certain behavior may lead us to excuse the more “respectable sins” of verbal and emotional abuse because at least no one is getting hurt. This is not a new consideration in Christian thought and practice. Jesus, revealing the centrality of the heart said this of anger, You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”(Matthew 5:21-22)Not only does Jesus condemn this malicious, murderous anger he also forbids verbal abuse with the same punishment as murder. This reality of the heart is not limited to Jesus and we read this same principle in the writings of the early church. For instance the Apostle John writes, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” (1 John 3:15) If Jesus and His early followers were concerned with motives of the heart evidenced in a wide variety of behaviors then when addressing abusive people I feel it is necessary to not only promote a change of behavior but a reorienting of motivation.

Final Thought:

If the heart of pride promotes the use of power as a means of controlling one’s spouse then we have a problem regardless of the “fruit” of our behavior. Rather than reducing the severity of emotional, economic, verbal, or mental abuse should we not instead call to account the sinfulness of a self-serving heart?

What Do You Think?

Should the church make room for discussing verbal and emotional abuse?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Sticks and Stones

  1. Brenda R says:

    Absolutely!! I don’t believe my pastor understands abuse of any form, but emotional and verbal, most definitely not. I would like to see an entire series of study done on abuse in my church. I would like to hear that emotional, verbal and crazy making are all forms of abuse and not just scoffing. Scoffing is considered to be something light weight and we should just be able to deal with. I really wonder what he would have done if one of the glasses that I had thrown at me would have connected. That was not considered physical abuse, because I came out of it without scars or broken glass in my skin.

    • Interesting that “Scoffing” is lightweight. Psalm one clearly instructs us to not associate with scoffers and later equates their company with “destruction.” Seems pretty serious to me 🙂

  2. Heidi says:

    Absolutely! I believe the church in America is so weak because it is/ been a haven for abusers. I’ve lived it too many years!

  3. healingInHim says:

    Yes, the seeds of discussion may be planted but I would pray that fruit would be produced from such discussions. True shepherds don’t stand around and talk; they take care of the flock.

  4. The scriptures you gave are all spot on, Chris. So it seems what we have is some pastors who don’t give weight to those scriptures. I wonder where they got the notion that physical abuse is REAL abuse, but the verbal and emotional are modest and not to be counted as real abuse. It certainly is not from the Bible that they got that notion. Do you think that pastors have acquired this notion from the myths that abusers spread about abuse?

    Here are a few more scriptures about verbal abuse:

    Prov. 12:18a There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
    Prov. 16:27 A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.
    Prov. 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
    Prov. 26:18-19 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
    Ps. 109:2-3 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.
    Prov. 27:3 A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
    Prov. 26:24 Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart;
    Prov. 26:28 A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
    Prov. 17:4 A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

    We have more examples of verbal abuse here

    • Not sure why Barbara. I know for me when I’m exposed to truth that was outside of my vision previously (ignorance) I’m amazed at how clearly the Scriptures have always been pointing me their. I just couldn’t see it. Before I became involve in the work seven years ago I’m sure I would have overlooked these Scriptures or failed to apply them to abuse. Add to that the deceptive nature of abuse, the assumptions we men have led each other to believe, hostile abusive pastors among us, and fear…It can be a perfect storm of doubt and confusion.

      • healingInHim says:

        “… assumptions we men have led each other to believe, hostile abusive pastors among us, and fear…It can be a perfect storm of doubt and confusion.”
        RevMoles – Your honesty is greatly appreciated. Be encouraged that many are praying for leaders like you so that you can now become “the men to lead others to believe ‘truth from error’ and to not be fearful of the hostility” that may come from within and outside of the Christian community.

  5. Brenda R says:

    Me too, Rev Moles. Scoffing is serious and it hurts. Being in a marriage is not the same as being in prison for your faith or shouldn’t be. I would like to think that if I were in a prison environment for my faith that I could be like Paul and be at peace with my faith in Christ and not allow my jailors to bring me to my knees other than to pray. But that wasn’t the case. I was married. Making light of scoffing I find to be another form of abuse for the person seeking help.

    Pastor admits that he has never put a lot of time into the Psalms. They are poetry and that wasn’t his thing. As a congregation, we have been studying 5 Psalms a week and he brings the message on one of them. We never seem to quite agree with what his take is on the Psalm and doesn’t choose the ones that I believe abuse would have to be mentioned in some way. I ask questions about what he has said along the way. The latest was due to a remark where his manner said that he had total disgust for self-help books and we “s”hould be reading the Bible instead and not reading these books. I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned any authors or books to him, but I have: Leslie Vernick, Barb Roberts, Jeff Crippen and Clara Hinton to name a few. I asked where he draws the line at a self-help book and those that have sound Biblical reference. I have yet to receive a reply. He does say that he now has a greater understanding of why Psalms were put in the Bible, but I am not convinced. When the Youth Pastor has his turn up to preach, I take away much more from the message.

    Barb, Prov 26:18-19 is one on top of my list from the book. X always used to say, “I was only joking” to make light of what he had done and make me (or whom ever else he said it to) out to be the bad guy after he had said something untruthful or cruel. I did point out this scripture at one point, but he just moved on to something else. He couldn’t or didn’t want to see himself in it seeing that he continued using the statement.

  6. healingInHim says:

    Something church leadership is sadly condoning is ‘spiritual abuse’ within the church. When a victim attempts to entrust someone with information it is shattering to one’s soul to have this ‘c’hristian throw firebrands at them. No wonder many walk away from the ‘c’hurch.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s