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After the Abuse is Over, How Do You Deal with the Anger?

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Once a woman is free from her abuser, she might find that she isn’t emotionally free. Now she is dealing with fierce ANGER toward him. How can she get free from that?

First of all, anger is understandable, and normal. A woman who has been abused shouldn’t feel ashamed that she is angry. If she did, she would just have one more negative emotion (shame) to deal with.

And yet, her anger is keeping her from enjoying her freedom. She is, in essence, still tied to him. And, that isn’t a good thing.

What are some ways that women might deal with their anger? Some women:

  • Close themselves off; they go numb.
  • Act out – destroying items that remind them of him.
  • Hurt themselves, physically, or internally, (migraines, depression, high blood pressure, etc.)
  • Seek therapy, support groups, therapy dogs, etc.
  • Try working too hard, either at their jobs, or as a mother.
  • Find solace in writing, or other creative pursuits.
  • Cry for hours.
  • Talk with friends.Tweet ThisTweet This
  • Try sleeping to block out the pain.
  • Turn to God, and pray.

Some of the above are more positive responses to anger than others. Almost all have merit at times.

I know it may sound crazy, but when I was in this situation myself, I found that the only way I could truly get rid of my anger was by learning to do the hardest thing…forgive.

I know this sounds shocking. Especially when I am writing to women who have been abused. You have been treated in ways that no human should ever be treated. It is sickening to hear the stories most of you have. Nothing on the planet could ever make what you have experienced right or acceptable. I know. I’ve been there.

And yet, I still say, forgiveness is the only way to true freedom.Tweet This

Forgiveness isn’t for my abuser, it is for ME. When I don’t forgive, it means I am looking for something from him that he will NEVER give me. He will never apologize, or admit that what he did to me was wrong. I could wait for eternity for that to happen. Even if what I want is revenge, I am still wanting something from him that I will NEVER receive. Even if he goes to jail, nothing that happens to him there will repay ME for what HE did to ME. It will never satisfy me. NEVER.

Forgiveness opens my clenched hands. It frees my heart in a way that nothing else can. Then, my heart can open to the love of others who can really love me.

So, how does an abused woman do this impossible thing?

No one can forgive horrible abuse in her own power. This really IS an impossible thing. Thank goodness, we have a God who is the God of the impossible. Luke 1:37 says:

For nothing is impossible with God.

The best thing I have ever read about forgiveness was written by Bill Elliff and Tim Grissom. It is called Forgiveness, Healing the Harbored Hurts of Your Heart. You can order it online here. I will try to summarize the six steps they outline in their pamphlet that I used to forgive my abuser. I hope you find them as helpful as I did.

1. Recognize and admit your own sin.

This is a really tough one! You might be thinking, “What? Why should I admit my sin?I’m the victim here! He’s the one who abused me!” You’re right. But we aren’t talking about him. You are the one who needs to be free from bitterness and learn to forgive. So, ask yourself. Are you angry with your abuser? Jesus calls that a sin in Matthew 5:21. Are you hoping to get back at him somehow? In Romans 12:17, Paul says:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

So, in order to be free from bitterness, you need to admit these angry, revengeful thoughts to the Lord. He already knows what is in your heart anyway.

2. Accept that God allowed this painful experience in your life for a reason that you may never understand.

In Romans 8:28, Paul writes:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Does this mean that everything that happens to a Christian will be good? Hardly. In fact, a few verses later, in Romans 8:35, Paul talks about some of the things that had happened to him:

…trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword…

We certainly wouldn’t call these things good. Yet, God can work things for your good, even in the midst of things like these, even in the midst of abuse, if you allow him to. God may allow you to see something beautiful coming from your pain, such as the ability to help others going through abuse; or you may never see anything beautiful coming from it. You may never understand why He allowed your abuse. Accepting that He may have a bigger plan for your life and your pain will help you to release your anger and bitterness over it.

3. Forgive – release the debt.

At this point, you will most likely not feel like forgiving your abuser; forgiveness will be more an act of your will. In 1 Corinthians 13:5 Paul says that love:

Keeps no record of wrongs.

The phrase “keeping a record” brings to mind a storekeeper who has a ledger-book where he keeps a list of what each customer owes him. He keeps these records because he plans to collect a payment in the future. You may have a “ledger-book” in your heart where you have listed every wrong your abuser has committed against you. If so, you may think, “He owes me, and I’m going to make him pay”. But God says in Romans 12:19:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Bill Elliff writes, “A friend once told me, when I was tempted to seek revenge from a person who had wronged me, ‘Bill, God only allows two people at a time in the boxing ring. If you want to get into the ring and try to fight your own battles, God will let you. But He’ll get out. If you want God to fight your battles for you, then you must get out of the ring … and stay out.’”[i]

Allowing God to avenge the wrong your abuser has caused you will take an act of faith on your part. You will need to trust Him. As it says in Psalm 9:9-10:

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,

  a stronghold in times of trouble.

Those who know your name trust in you,

  for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

But what if the person you can’t forgive is God Himself? After all, He is powerful, and He could have prevented all your pain. Don’t try to hide your anger from Him. He already knows about it! Be honest with him. Scream, weep, and wail. Then ask Him to help you forgive even Him.

4. Ask God to exchange His love for your hatred.

At this moment, you may be filled with hatred for your abuser. It may be hard to imagine loving him with God’s unconditional, unselfish love. Yet, in Matthew 5:38 – 48, Jesus calls us to love our enemies. This would be impossible if God were not involved. If you have a genuine relationship with God through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit resides in you. And God can miraculously pour out His love in your heart. As it says in Romans 5:5

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

If you ask Him, He can replace your bitterness with love and compassion for your abuser. What a great healing exchange! If you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and savior, I invite you to friend me on Facebook. I would love to talk to you about how you can come to know Him this way. It will make all the difference in your life!

5. Thank God for the experience.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul writes that we should:

…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I know, this sounds like a crazy thing to say; why would anyone ask you to thank God for allowing you to be abused? How could God ask that of you? As always, He doesn’t ask you to do this on your own. He is right there with you, holding your hand. Philippians 4:4-8 is my favorite passage of the Bible because I tend to be an anxious person. It reads:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

In this passage, Paul implores me to “rejoice in the Lord always”, and to let my “gentleness be evident to all”. Gentleness is not the foremost adjective people use to describe me when I am anxious about something. But Paul tells me how I can become less anxious: “The Lord is near”. This is why I can rejoice and why I can be gentle. I don’t have to be anxious. Though God created the universe, He knows the number of hairs on my head; He knows and loves me intimately, like a lover. That God is near to me. Because of this, I can be anxious for nothing. I can present my requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, doesguard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. I don’t understand it, but I can have a peace that is above all my circumstances, because God is guarding my heart and my mind. The last verse gives me my part in guarding my heart and my mind:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

When I begin to train my mind to think about the good things in a person or situation that I am in, it does make me less anxious. And if I can find no good thing in the person or situation, I turn my mind to the Lord, who is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Looking at His face takes away my anxiety and leads me to thankfulness.

6. Keep continually and instantly forgiving.

Deciding to forgive your abuser is an event. Forgiving him is a process that may take you a long time. You may completely forgive him; yet one day a memory of what he has done to you will return, and your anger and bitterness will come rushing back. At this point, you will have to forgive him again. Be patient with yourself, but don’t allow Satan to gain a foothold in your heart by catching you unaware and reviving your feelings of anger and revenge. Each time this occurs, turn again to Jesus, and ask him to help walk you through the steps listed here. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says:

“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. michwill says:

    I left my abusive relationship about 5 months ago and it was very difficult but I did it. I tried for months not to be angry until it came out like lion. I couldn’t control it. I was so angry that he got away with treating me so bad without acknowledging the abuse that he put me through. I like most women who have been in abusive relationships want acknowledgement of what was done to us. After reading your blog post I know that I am suppose to forgive him and myself for allowing him to do those things to me. Lord knows it is difficult. I have never retaliated against him until after I left. He had inflicted pain on me and my son and I wanted to make sure that everyone knew who he really was. I know that wasn’t the right thing to do but I just couldn’t sit by anymore and do nothing.

    • You have every right to feel angry. I totally understand. Yes, you are right, we do want acknowledgement for what our abusers have done to us. Sadly, this is something that we will probably never receive. Forgiving him will be one of the most difficult things you will ever try to do. Especially since he hurt not only you, but your son as well. Forgiving someone who never admits they are wrong is so difficult, I know. As I say in this blog, you don’t do this for him, but for yourself. It isn’t something you do in an instant. It is a process. A long, slow process. I talk about this at length in my upcoming book, A Journey to Healing after Emotional Abuse. In the book, I share that one of the fallacies about forgiveness is that you need to “forgive and forget.” No, we need to forgive and remember. The bible never says forgive and forget. You can look for it, but you’ll never find it anywhere. When you forgive and remember what has happened to you, you can use what you have learned to help others, and to keep yourself from getting into another abusive relationship ever again. If you would like to talk to me, please friend me on Facebook, I’d love to walk through this with you. Blessings. Caroline

  2. My two daughters were sexually abused. I have written a book to try and help me get some closure. “Justified Anger” by Jennifer Colne. Through all the heartache and despair I felt I could help other parents who may have experienced the terrible symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. My book is quite unique as it describes through the mothers eyes how she supported her youngest daughter through self-harm, attempted suicide and psychotic intensity flashbacks. I am trying to reach many readers who I know will possibly relate to some of my experiences.

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