By Nancy Virden (c)2021
Abuse is in a separate class from normal relational conflict. Responses to abuse survivors that take a one-size-fits-all approach are not harmless. The worst are those who send an abuser’s target back into the abusive relationship. Even well intended yet ignorant platitudes can encourage a victim to retreat into the shadows.
We like platitudes that take the pressure off of us to think and try harder. When one feels helpless to change anything, resorting to stigmatized solutions and apathy is easy. We create simplistic and unhelpful suggestions but most often repeat old ones we have heard. Here are several that may sound familiar along with good reasons to avoid saying them to abuse survivors.
“Time will heal.” No, it won’t. Unless one escapes the abuse, time does not help. The only way to recover from abuse is to stop it. After one escapes, becoming whole again requires more than time.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30
“It could be worse.” This is a subjective statement that is dismissive and unhelpful. People in pain have substantial reason to care about their struggles. There is no need to invalidate anyone’s experiences as if they do not matter.
For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. Psalm 72:12
“It’s not about marrying the right person, it’s about being the right person.” An abuser’s target already tries to “be the right person” to the point of losing herself, and sometimes her life. We are not implying that Jesus was not the right person, are we?
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:58-59
“Jesus said forgive 70 times 70.” Forgiveness and trust are not the same animals. We can forgive and say ‘no more’ at the same time. Jesus forgave and entrusted himself to no one because he knew their hearts.
Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart. John 2:23-25
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” We better speak up! Otherwise, we become enablers and help protect the crime and evil of abuse.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
“If you respect him, he will love you.” Nah, he won’t. Abuse is all about power and control.
Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing…With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape. Proverbs 11: 7-9
“God hates divorce.” He also hates abuse, lying, slander, adultery, bragging, pride, and insolence. He loves the abused, brokenhearted, contrite, and troubled. He tells us to practice justice and help the oppressed.
There are six things the Lord hates— no, seven things he detests:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family. Proverbs 6:16-19
“There are two sides to every story.” Everyone has their version, yes. The narcissist will see his/her entitlement, and fault the victim whether true or not. The abuser’s side of the story is often a mix of regret, promises to change, tears of remorse, even prayer and submission to counseling. Missing are repentance, lasting change, deep understanding of the problem, a blame-the-victim ceasefire, and honest sorrow for sin against God. (Bear in mind, abusers and narcissists are master manipulators. They know how to say the churchy-religious things that will buy them favor. Victims have likely been stifling their feelings for a long time and may “suddenly” appear angry or malcontent. Let’s not pathologize the victim.)
No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. Isaiah 59: 4
“God can save any marriage” or “God can change anyone.” When abusers, who are often narcissistic will not see personal sin and are unwilling to change (despite words to the contrary), God will not force change or His Spirit on them. We had better be careful of what we approve.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32
“Let the past stay in the past.” The past is often all an abuse victim has to present his/her case, to seek justice, or find the needed help. Even more so, the past shows us patterns. These can lead to better awareness for the victim and others.
Corrupt people walk a thorny, treacherous road; whoever values life will avoid it. Proverbs 22:5
The next blog will offer options to these platitudes to arm you with truthful and effective responses. Stay tuned! -COMMENTS WELCOME
Today’s Helpful Word
Ephesians 4: 29
Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.
Nancy’s latest FREE e-books! Click on the pictures for immediate access:
Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!
HOLY BIBLE, NEW LIVING TRANSLATION, COPYRIGHT © 1996, 2004, 2015 BY TYNDALE HOUSE FOUNDATION. USED BY PERMISSION OF TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC., CAROL STREAM, ILLINOIS 60188, PER BIBLE GATEWAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. RETRIEVED FROM HTTPS://WWW.BIBLEGATEWAY.COM/