By Nancy Virden (c)2021
Kind, life-giving statements are available for our use anytime we choose. We are not stuck without alternatives to useless or harmful platitudes. Think of it this way; how would you describe a pilot who leads his panicked passengers in meditation instead of righting the plane? Our support may feel like that to abuse survivors when instead of addressing their urgent needs, we insist they calm down. Knowing what to say makes an effective difference.
Let’s revisit those dead platitudes mentioned in the last blog (see Speak Life, Not Harm to Abuse Survivors) and take note of hope-filled and loving words. Do not forget where God is – not protecting abusers, but standing near the oppressed who cry out to him. In 2 Kings 20: 5 God says, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.”
REPLACE time will heal; SAY “Are you safe? Do you need a place to stay?”
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? James 2:15-16
REPLACE it could be worse; SAY “I’ve no idea what this must be like for you. All abuse destroys. It makes sense you are trying to find a way out.”
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy. Proverbs 14: 10
REPLACE it’s not about marrying the right person, it’s about being the right person; SAY “It is never your fault when your spouse is abusive. He (she) decides what kind of person to be just as we all do.”
But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6
REPLACE Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven times; SAY “Standing up for yourself is appropriate. Jesus loved, forgave, and still held people accountable. That’s the example he set.”
But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death. Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety. Psalm 141:8-10
REPLACE if you cannot say anything nice (about your abuser) say nothing at all; SAY “I’m glad you told me. Is there anyone else you’d like me to call?”
Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? Psalm 94:16
REPLACE just give it to God and pray harder; SAY “You are not alone. I will pray with you. Meanwhile, I’ll help you get to safety.” Remember God’s nature.
He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight. Psalm 72:13-14
REPLACE if you respect him he will love you; SAY “You have tried that and it has not worked. The idea of the abuser’s love is a lie and your hope for love and acceptance from him is one way he controls you. It is okay to take care of your needs.”
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud…” Psalm 40:4
REPLACE God hates divorce; SAY “God loves you. He will show you the best pathway for your life.” While it may seem appropriate to quote supposed God’s thoughts on certain subjects, let us bear in mind the heart of the matter…
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness …” Isaiah 58:9-11
REPLACE there are two sides to every story; SAY “It is important that you be heard and know you are heard.” Abusers keep their secrets. Especially by appearing in public as Mr./Mrs. nice guy, the abuser deceives many. Listen to survivors.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary. Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts. Psalm 28: 2-3
REPLACE all couples have problems; SAY “Abuse is not a marital problem, it is an abuser problem. Your abuser has no excuse because godly love does no harm. Abuse escalates, so you must think of your needs.”
They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 1 Peter 3:4-5
REPLACE God can save any marriage and God can change anyone; SAY the honest thing instead- “God leads change in humble hearts, not closed ones. Let God deal with the abuser. It’s time to take care of the person God created you to be.”
But my people would not listen to me … would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. -God in Psalm 81:11-12
REPLACE let the past stay in the past; SAY “We learn from the past. It makes sense you are afraid of the abuse cycle happening again.” Job was blameless in God’s sight and these are a few of the examples Job left for us:
I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth. Job 29:16-18
Today’s Helpful Word
Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!… For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.
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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!
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Once again….excellent writing, excellent counsel.
I really like how you go deep. Both this one and your previous post on this subject are comprehensive and insightful.
I like how you don’t just talk about a subject philosophically, but you give examples we can use to actually speak to people.
Thank you and bless you for taking the time to write, teach, counsel and encourage others.
Patty in AZ
Thank you, Patty. Due to a mix-up here it has taken me months to reply. Sorry about that.