Domestic Violence: Not an anger problem.

“I was just so angry.”

“I couldn’t help myself.”

“I just snapped!”

Words like these are common in the work I do with men who use violence in the home. Many of the men I have worked with will insist that they are not abusive, but simply need to learn how to control their anger. Unfortunately, it’s not just the guys I work with that see violence as an anger problem. I’ll occasionally hear of men being court ordered to anger management classes following domestic abuse.  My conversations with Pastors and ministry leaders will also include descriptions of abuse in terms of his anger and the solutions that are offered revolve around self-control and addressing anger. The rationale may go something like this, “violence is the result of anger and therefore, we must address the perpetrators anger and anger cues in order to properly end the violence.” Now, I’m not suggesting that we avoid discussions about anger but rather that we place it in the proper context, especially when we are addressing domestic violence. I’m afraid we miss the heart if we only address anger and anger cues. After all abusers will certainly blame the victim for their anger, and cite them as the most prominent anger cue. This strategy runs the risk of leaving the heart untouched encouraging patterns of control that are nothing more than “respectable” forms of abuse. How may pastors and ministry leaders view an abusive man’s anger? Here are a couple suggestions.

1. Anger as an excuse

Anger can easily be used as an excuse for sin. Statements such as “I snapped” “I lost control.” or “My temper got the best of me.” may be accurate descriptions of the man’s emotional and behavioral responses but they are, by no means, excusable simply because we can recognize that he was angry. This is especially true for pastors who are working with husbands who have abused their wife. Scriptures like Ephesians 4:26-27 give us clear instructions on anger and its relationship to sin and the implications of sinful anger in the life of a believer.  “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  Men who use anger as an excuse need a clear reminder that regardless of emotional pressure, abuse is sinful as well as a careful warning of the impact of their sin on both the victim and themselves.

2. Anger as a tactic

Pastors and ministry leaders would do well to see outbursts of anger and expressions of rage as potential tools used by an abusive man to intimidate and control his partner. I have heard many men admit that fear through threat and intimidation is as effective as physical assault. A man’s rage will often illicit the same result as physical violence.  This form of anger is not simply an emotional response but evidence of oppressive desires. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Proverbs 15:18 I have encountered many men who create a climate of fear within the home. An abusive man will use his anger as a tool to intimidate and manipulate his spouse into conformity with his desires.

Final Thought

Lastly, let me encourage you to view anger as a window into a man’s heart. Don’t ignore his anger. We are not listening to confirm an allegation, or understand his side of the story we are listening for the heart. Listen for the themes that will pinpoint the nature of his desires. His anger will likely point us to desires for control, tendencies to manipulate, and beliefs of entitlement?  Restate stories back to him highlighting his behaviors, his desires, and the impact of both. His anger may very well reveal his beliefs about God, himself, and others.

Learn More

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.

 

 

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18 Responses to Domestic Violence: Not an anger problem.

  1. Jeff Crippen says:

    Anger can be righteous, as when Christ’s anger directed him in the temple to drive out the profiteers. That kind of anger is needed in today’s visible church – lots of people are profiteering, peddling God’s Word as Paul put it. We should share God’s anger against evil. But of course, this kind of anger is an entirely different animal than the abuser’s feigned tantrums which he/she can turn on and off like a switch. He uses it to keep people around him whom he wants to control – guessing. Thus the common feeling of “walking on eggshells” that victims describe. One of the most revealing and remarkable things that exposes this fake anger is the use of two simple words (I am not recommending this tool to every abuse victim as it might endanger their safety) – STOP IT! Increasingly I am learning that when an abuser uses his common tactics, be it anger or blaming or minimizing or playing the victim, saying STOP IT! to him really jolts him and sets him back off guard. These words tell the abuser his facade isn’t working anymore. That we see him clearly. In dealing with abusers over the years in our church, I have found that once we begin to say STOP IT! it isn’t long before he or she departs out the door forever.

    • True Jeff, I first noticed the turn it off turn it on again pattern in recorded 911 calls used in a training I attended. The abuser was livid in the background but when speaking to the operator became pleasant and almost seemed helpful.

  2. phyllis says:

    I love this article Chris.. You are right on….more people need to realize that it is not an anger issue. I also have experience recently using the STOP IT! technique and was actually surprised when they stopped! All I have to say is keep up the good work Chris…we really need men out there like you talking about the huge epidemic of abuse.

  3. I’m sharing this post on our FB page. We want your blog to get lots of followers, Chris!

  4. And I shared it on my Google+ as well.

  5. Jenn Riedy says:

    Domestic violence is also more than just a problem that men perpetrate on women. Women also become violent toward men. We need to acknowledge this.

    • Jenn, thanks for your comment. Hopefully I can clarify for you and other readers my position. I am aware that women have abused men (we also have a group for women) but the focus of this blog will be pastors, ministry leaders, and men who are abusive. I get push back on this occasionaly because i use male pronouns when i describe offenders. I use gender specific language and focus my attention on men because,
      1. I primarily work with men who use violence against women.
      2. Men are far more likely to be perpetrators than women.
      3. Men’s violence against women is almost always a use of power to gain or maintain control while the motivation for women’s use of force varies case by case and in many cases includes resistance to current or prior abuse.
      4. I know women can be abusive, but male victims of violence most often suffer at the hands of other men.
      In addressing pastors my goal is to raise awareness in regard to the primary issue, which I believe is Men’s violence against women. The church has really failed to acknowledge the severity of this. Thanks for reading. Peace.

      • anonymous says:

        I am so thankful for your statement in #3 … Living in a semi-remote community with no Biblical support has worn me thin; I must confess to this. I have felt ashamed as a Christian for feeling crazy and out-of-control as the isolation would overwhelm me. I have exhibited an anger where my passive controller would then use this time of breakdown to make me feel ‘low’ for my frustration. I have felt so vulnerable and lonely at the way he has taken advantage of my body, soul, and mind – I have lashed out and hit him; wanting him to just leave my emotions alone … “I’ve pleaded with him to just throw me out on the street” instead of this slow quiet strangle-hold.
        I am grateful for having discovered ACFJ and other ministries that have been guiding me out of the fog. I am exhausted, however, this circumstance is proving that I must completely trust in God’s wisdom and be patient. Slowly, I am gaining the confidence to move forward BUT I am fearful:-(

  6. Tony says:

    Wonderful post Chris. Keep’em rolling.

  7. loves66 says:

    Thank you for this post… this post actually spurs me on in the plan to leave my husband. I am taking steps week by week in realising how much he is damaging me with his rage. I live in fear of him losing it with me… it hasnt happened for a month but there has been times of seething and silent treatment. His anger is not at all righteous.. it is terrifying. Im so scared of getting into trouble like a little child. He dosent hit me but he verbally and emotionally abuses.
    I feel constantly anxious… I live each day worrying about what will make him react today. Im preparing myself mentally for stepping out and creating a war. That war will be when I leave. I just cannot live like this anymore..
    Thank you for this post

  8. Brenda R says:

    Thank you Chris. “I couldn’t help myself”. That has got to be about the lamest excuse I have ever heard for using anger as reasoning for any form of domestic violence and I have heard it before. When I saw it in print it sounded so much more ridiculous than I had ever heard it in his speaking the words. Praises to the Lord for your ministry.

    • Thanks Brenda. I’d say the majority of the guys I’ve worked with use that excuse, or something similar. I hear this one a great deal, “she knows how to push my buttons” I usually reply with, “You’re not a toaster oven, you don’t have buttons, You make choices.” Peace.

  9. Pingback: Domestic Violence Awareness

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