Sunday, February 24, 2013

Reactions to Abuse

I’ve been thinking about the different reactions that people have when it comes to abuse. The idea of abuse just boggles my mind. I don’t understand the mentality that goes into harming another person. I know we’ve all done it to one extent or another but to purposefully set out to abuse another person physically, sexually, spiritually, and/or mentally, is something I have a hard time understanding. I sure we can boil a lot of it down to one person wanting to control another.

Most people struggle with the idea that a pastor can be spiritually abusive or that a relative might be sexually abusing children, especially when it comes to their children. It’s hard to imagine that your neighbor or co-worker physically abuses their spouse or children. It’s hard for us to recognize in ourselves that we might be abusive in our words and actions to those around us. 

Some of the reactions that we might have when it comes to abuse in any form is….


“Why?” and “Where were you, God?” are always big questions when bad things happen but it seems to be a bigger question when you’re raised believing that God loves you and has your best interest at heart. It’s also harder because you might think that you’re sinning if you’re questioning God but there are many examples in Scripture that shows that asking God “why?” is a valid option and there’s no reason to feel guilty about it. We all want answers. Who better to ask than our Heavenly Father.

Some even go so far as to wonder if there is a God. If you’re taught that God is good and loving and in control of everything but then you’re abused by the people (parents, family, pastors, leaders, etc.) who are telling you this, is it any wonder people start to doubt? Is it any wonder that a lot of formerly religious people stopped going to church and some have become agnostic or atheist.

I like what Wade Burleson said regarding …Our Mistake About God on his blog. The entire article is good but I’ll quote a couple things. Wade says,

“Since evil is not part of God's nature, His allowance of evil to occur simply means He has a greater good in store, a greater good that would not exist were the evil to be prohibited. This is why God can hold the wicked accountable and responsible for their evil, but overcome their evil for good.”

“But God works ultimate good out of all things, including evil. For God to do this, he MUST know the end from the beginning.”

“But God works ultimate good out of all things, including evil….We can't comprehend how evil can be present for a greater good to occur. We can't fathom how One is outside of time and independent of time and has no need of time, but uses time for His glory and our ultimate good.”


I have noticed that a lot of victims start wondering what’s wrong with them or what they did that made someone hurt them. Some start questioning their value as a person and some start questioning their sexual orientation. The abuse a person received from others sometimes turns inward to where they start to abuse themselves.

This questioning only gets worse if a victim does not get the support he/she needs from their family, friends, and spiritual leaders. There a many reasons why a person is not supportive but when it’s to protect someone other than the one who has been abused, it’s just despicable. For some, it’s just ignorance. We don’t understand what someone has gone through or we don’t understand how something that is said or done causes someone to question themselves.

The questioning of self may never go away but maybe with the right support a person might be able to accept themselves more. When the people around a survivor accept them for who they are, it’s easier for them to accept themselves. I know I have tried and I know I have failed at times but I have noticed a few things that have helped. First, it has helped me when my wife lets me know when something’s been said or done that has been or could be a trigger. Second, and probably the biggest, was encouraging and supporting her to seek justice. Third was moving out of our comfort zone of fundamentalism and into the unknown. We found a new church, friends who love God and have been a part of exposing abuse in fundamentalism.


My biggest surprise is that religious leaders have not been supportive of victims. Many deny helping a victim in lieu of  "protecting" their churches by covering the abuse. Unfortunately, the leaders are sometimes the ones doing the abuse. All the "protecting" only puts more people in danger. There are numerous stories of abusers who were "forgiven" and allowed to continue in the church only to find out years down the road a trail of victims because leaders denied help to the abuser and are basically complicate in the abuse of others they should have been protecting.

And then we have people who deny the validity of a survivor's story. It doesn’t matter the reason why you may want to question their story. They shouldn’t have to provide you with DNA evidence or even their name if they want to remain anonymous. Listen to them. Offer support and if possible, help them get justice.

Don’t deny that there is a problem. Don’t deny the fact that it might be happening in your church or religious organization. Just because people and organizations call themselves “Christian” or “Christ-like,” it does not mean that they are behaving themselves as Christ would behave.