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Let Abusers Reap What They Sow

Broken pencil on a pad with the word help

I recently saw a blog outlining a Pastor’s response to an abuse victim’s request for help. His response infuriated me! I am sure my blood pressure went up about 20 points. Today I would like to share the original request for help, the pastor’s response, and my response to him. Here is the original letter:

Dear Pastor,

You’ll never believe the terrible state of my marriage. I was raised in a Christian family. My father and mother never fought. I wasn’t rebellious as a teen and my husband and I went through all the “proper” courtship process before getting married. Now, five years later, everything has fallen apart.

Roy, my husband, who was so loving and kind in the beginning has become rude, surly, and angry all the time. The good thing is that he doesn’t hit me or the children (one boy and two girls), but he gets really quiet and spends a lot of time in the basement. Every once in a while, he does blow up and wowser, what a blow-up. He curses, yells, calls us all kinds of names and throws things. We never know when he’s going to blow and what is going to cause it. We’re all walking on egg shells all the time.

Can you fix him? Can you help us?

Hurt & Confused

You can read this pastor’s response to her here.  I will summarize it for you, (with a little commentary from me in red). He first acknowledged she was in a difficult situation. OK. Then he shared that God is always with us during our trials. Yep. Then he told her to look at her own actions to make sure she was not adding to the problem. OK, I can accept that. No one wants to make matters worse than they already are. He then told her that if her husband is asking her to do something against God’s word, she should follow God, rather than her husband. Very true. He recommends she become more like Jesus. OK, I can even accept that one. Next, he suggests she might be having so much trouble accepting her husband’s behavior because she was so prideful. Um, NO! I’m sorry, but having lived with an abuser for years, I know:

the victim’s pride is not the issue. The issue is the abuser’s pride! Tweet This

Anyone who is treated with abuse by the person who is supposed to love, honor and protect them will have a problem accepting the abusive behavior! The pastor then shares that God loves her and holds her in high esteem. Great. Finally, he suggests that if she behaves more respectfully, God will use her good behavior to change her husband. NO!! This is categorically untrue!

The more loving an abuse victim treats his/her abuser, the worse the abuser will behave. Tweet This

I follow a female Christian counselor named Leslie Vernick. While I don’t always agree with her on issues of abuse, I did like her response to this pastor. Here is Leslie’s response: I Disagree with the Advice to Simply Try Harder .

I also responded to the pastor’s initial blog. Sadly, he didn’t post Leslie’s or my comments. I guess he didn’t like what we had to say.

This is what I wrote in response to the pastor’s blog:

While I appreciate your sentiments, there is one type of husband who does not become a better man when his wife acts more respectfully. This type of man is called an abuser. This type of man has an incredible sense of entitlement. When his wife (who he sees only as his property, not as a person) accepts his poor behavior, and indeed, gives him more and more respect no matter how disrespectfully he behaves, he thinks, “Well, that is my due.” This person will then treat her even more harshly, because after all, it is working for him. The worse he behaves the better he is treated.

This goes against God’s teaching in Galatians 6:7:

“Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

Instead, his wife would have more success instituting the Matthew 18 (verses 15-17) process with her husband, (helping him reap what he sows). In this process, she first talks about his sin to him alone. No doubt this poor woman has done this hundreds of times. Next, we are told to tell it to two or three others, so they can hold him accountable. If that doesn’t work, lastly, we are to bring the sin before the church. This is what this person has done by writing to you. But instead of encouraging her to hold him accountable, you tell her to ignore his sin, and (in essence) increase it by submitting to it.

I would love to see the church rise up and hold abusers accountable. I believe if the church did that, there would be less divorce, and fewer children growing up in abusive homes, so that there would be less abuse in coming generations. This is my fervent prayer. 

I am sorry this pastor refused to post the comments of those who respectfully disagree with him. I have outlined the Matthew 18 process in the following blog, called “Holding Your Abuser Accountable.”

Educating pastors and those in church leadership is a great passion of mine. Since many abuse victims will turn to their church for help first, educating pastors on the dynamics of domestic violence is one of the best ways we can help victims. I know the intense pain of seeking help from my church, and receiving no help. If you have experienced this, and would like a quick, easy way to help your pastor learn about domestic violence, you might like to check out my Domestic Violence Guide for Churches. This Guide includes two 25-minute PowerPoint videos, and an accompanying 38-page written guide. In less than an hour, your pastor can begin to understand what an abuse victim experiences, and how best to help her/him.

If you have experienced the pain of asking your church for help, and did not receive it, or worse, were shamed and told to “pray” and “submit,” I am so sorry. Please know that while not all Christians will help you, God is here for you. In Hebrews 13:5, He says:

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.” 

And in Ezekiel 34:16, God says:

I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

Question: Have you ever asked your church or pastor for help with domestic violence? What was your experience?

Dear Lord,

Please help us help the Church become educated about domestic violence. And, give us the opportunity to help other abuse victims discern whether they are being abused, and help get them to safety. Amen

Many blessings to you my friends!

Caroline

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. daughteroftheking says:

    I once told a pastor that I had been emotionally and spiritually abused by a former church member. And his response was..”well, I can’t sit as judge and jury of him. Lots of people make up stories about abuse..” This was a friend of mine by the way so I was just shocked. He seemed to be indicating that I would lie about abuse! He went on to say “do you hold a PHD in abuse..?” He would barely let me get a word in. Little does he know that I had been studying Narcissistic and Sociopathic abuse for 2 years. The pastor knows very little of what happened and already was judging me as if I was some overly dramatic woman. What I was was traumatized and needed someone to listen and validate and help do something about abuse that goes on in the church. I didn’t need someone to sit as “judge and jury” of me. That just re-traumatizes victims. Some pastors are just clueless! In fact him and his wife were the least understanding people I came across. They just seemed to have very pat biblical answers “forgive and move on..” Have they never encountered people who are unfortunately truly evil? Just because we don’t have the bruises all over us doesn’t mean we haven’t been severely battered. Yes, we need to forgive. But these people (abusers) are getting away with so much because we don’t have bruises all over our bodies. There needs to be more awareness in regards to invisible and covert abuse. It literally destroys lives, hearts and souls.

    • Oh man, I just hate hearing stories like this. I have written several blogs about this problem. In one I talk about the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And why does the wolf dress like a sheep? So he can eat the sheep! It is my fervent prayer that the church will be willing to learn from those of us who know what abuse is, and how to stop it in the church!

  2. Mdow says:

    I went to my church early on to a few different pastors and this was their advice as well! I stayed 16 years and tried to be a Godly wife championing him all the while. He never changed, I begged God. I then left him for my current, very loving husband who treats me like gold. I was shunned from the church and basically told I wasn’t deserving of Jesus’ love. I went through about 2 years of hell thinking that God didn’t love me. I have gotten past this, but I must say, the hurt goes sooooo deep. I don’t feel like the person in Christ I was, I only hope to get that back. Staying caused so much harm to me and my kids. Thank you for your post!!!

    • You are very welcome. I wasn’t completely shunned by the church I sought help from, but was told that unless I reconciled, I should step down from my leadership positions. Since I had a restraining order, I wasn’t about to reconcile. It took me a long time to forgive those pastors, but I was able to eventually. I go to a more loving church now, and am also married to an amazingly loving man. Praise God I didn’t follow their advice!

  3. Jaded says:

    A similar thing happened to me. After 19 years of marriage,my church heard that I wanted to divorce my emotionally and psychologically abusive husband. They told me I didn’t have grounds for divorce. It took communications with my therapist and family member to convince them that the abuse was real and that it falls under abandonment or something which justified the reason for the divorce. Soon after, I had expressed interest in a mercy ministry opportunity, but they told me I should hold off because of my life situation. I guess being an abuse victim and wanting a divorce might be a dangerous thing to expose proper believers to? I’m not sure. I had been abused my entire marriage. I don’t see how it’s exposition suddenly affects my passion and ability to serve.

    I’m angry at the church. As part of my personal walk, I’ve decided to completely wipe the slate clean and build my intellectual faith from scratch. I just want to make sure I’m being thoughtful about everything I believe in. I feel like it was lack of thoughtfulness and rigor that led to my mistreatment by my husband and the church.

    I’m also grieving the loss of what I thought was good, namely the community of Christians as I knew it. My divorce is almost final. And I feel beat up by too many people that should have treated me with love and care. It’s sad. I understand why they’re like that, but they need to know it’s wrong.

    • How sad that you feel beat up by the church. My encouragement for you is that while you continue building your intellectual faith, continue in emotional faith with God. Though it is difficult, try to separate what “Christians” who don’t understand DV do and the way God loves and cherishes you. If you can, try to find a community of faith that you can again feel comfortable in. Blessings

  4. Shawn Patterson says:

    Out of necessity for survival, I was thrust into Domestic Abuse Recovery counseling-meetings -and- personal counseling . . . for quite some time. Dealing with “his” church leadership – who decided to be his savior – has been an ongoing battle for over a year. For me, it took “as much” counseling to address the horrible issues with “his” church leadership, as it did to address my abusive relationship. I believe they would all (it’s a lot of them – all men) watch and cheer him on if he was stabbing me in the neck with a screwdriver until my neck was pulp. That’s disgusting for sure, but there’s no other way to explain it. Somehow he has a “power” over them where they believe his outrageous lies and will themselves even lie and steal for him, and, endorse false testimony under oath. This has been an absolute mind-blowing experience. I don’t at this point believe that it’s even possible for even one of his church leaders to see the (or any) truth. The amazing A.R.M.S ministry out of Portland put on a conference in town, inviting all church leadership to attend, in order to become more educated on domestic violence issues within the church. I believe it was only 6 or 8 who bothered to show up. It’s very sad. I too am “out” of the traditional church structure at this point.

    • Wow. I am so saddened by this story. It is one of the worst I’ve heard. I am so sorry for your pain. I too felt very wounded by my church. It is my fervent hope that this trend will turn around as more and more of us speak up to educate the church. In the meantime, I hope you will try to separate what some hypocrites did from the way God loves us. I know this is difficult. Blessings to you. Caroline

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