Abuse and Submission
… What’s Biblical and what’s intolerable?
Ninth of a four part series.
One of the most common questions we receive by letter, e-mail and from callers on New Life Radio has to do with the tolerance of verbal and physical abuse within a home as well as with hostile people who persecute Christians.
Should we take a path of passivity or should we resist?
How do we reconcile victimization and abuse with submission within marriage?
What exactly does abuse mean?
When do we turn the other cheek?
Final thoughts on Abuse and Submission:
From a reader:
Dear Milan & Kay,
“I understand the getting out from Dangerous Situations… but, what about just plain feeling worthless in a marriage? There is not a verse for that one.”
There are hundreds of verses.
In a fallen world, where large percentages of New Testament scripture are devoted to “getting along with one another”, it is safe to say that pain will be a part of relationships.
To you, “just plain feeling worthless” is a sad painful state because it appears that you feel quite alone within your marriage.
Yet, this is such a common problem and we see it in our counseling offices and on the radio all the time.
Reluctant, immature, childish, unsaved, resistive and hard of heart spouses requires a strategy.
As growing Christians, we are never trapped by the lowest and slowest performing member of the marriage team.
We can always grow and become the man or woman that God encourages us to be.
As individuals, we need regular involvement in a local church, Bible study, prayer, small group participation, developing and using our spiritual gifts are all the things we need to be doing in order to mature and grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4).
There is fulfillment in the relationships and maturation process.
Whether or not a spouse is compliant and cooperative with you will not matter when you end up standing alone before the judgment seat of Christ.
Only you will have to give an account for how you used your time on earth.
If you sit, soak and sour over a spouse who is not meeting your needs, how long are you going to stay there and waste away?
Try to get into emotionally focused marriage therapy with your spouse, get your church pastors involved in winning them to the Lord, for the first time or for the tenth time.
If they totally reject your efforts for intimacy and bonding, stay married to them and “get a life” for Jesus.
Do not let them dictate your attitude.
Happiness is a choice.
Live for growth in Christ and have a diversification that will allow something other than them to occupy your thinking.
Perhaps they will catch up with you some day.
So, what is abuse?
Abuse is the mistreatment of others, whether chronic or acute, in which someone crosses over a line or boundary to violate the human rights of others.
I believe that this term is used too frequently, very loosely and quite inaccurately.
Many times the term is misapplied to painful situations such as you have described.
Here are examples of false abuse:
The Vacillator: For the spouse to go to work, do a hobby or electively choose to do or be with someone other than them, makes them angry. When the spouse in turn moves further away from them out of fear or discomfort, this feels like separation and abandonment to the Vacillator, which they interpret as abuse.
The Avoider: To insist that they sit down, talk, communicate, explore their souls for feelings and answers, to be forced to speak their mind and then to have to listen to the pain and emotions of others in prolonged difficult conversations will feel abusive to them.
The Pleaser: To be made to wait for answers, to be told we will have to handle this conflict later because of anger, to be left in a state of “not knowing” what will happen without immediate reassurance that things will be OK, will feel abusive.
The Controller: To not be listened to, to have people not cooperate with their incessant demands down to the smallest detail, to fail to perform and do things their way… RIGHT NOW…, may feel abusive.
The Victim: To have someone raise their voice toward them, to disagree strongly with them, to share hard truth with them, to ask them to speak up and voice their own opinion, to put them on the spot and require an adult voice from them… may feel abusive to them.
Yet, for them to grow up, each one of the injured attachment styles needs to grow stronger in these specific areas.
Thus, like the butterfly struggling to emerge from the cocoon, they need the struggle to in order to emerge into a healthier person.
While they are struggling, anything short of relieving them from their distress feels abusive.
Yet, they need to go through many experiences in their specific area of weakness / injury /sin in order to become stronger.
While it may feel abusive because it hurts, it is not really abuse; it is discomfort, which is a part of the growth process.
It is painful yet necessary for maturity.
Pain, is not a reason for divorce.
The Biblical reasons for divorce are hardness of heart leading to sexual infidelity (Matthew 19) or rejection of Jesus Christ and of the spouse who is following the Lord toward growth and holiness (I Corinthians 7).
Since abuse is not included in the Biblical reasons for sanctioned divorce with the right to remarry, God must have something else in mind as a path to recovery.
Namely, abuse is a reason for separation and protection, but not divorce.
True abuse then, as all other interpersonal sinful behaviors must be seen as a trial, which will give opportunities for growth toward spiritual and emotional health (James 1).
Bless you on your journey of growth and maturity.
Love and blessings,
Milan & Kay