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Do Christians Understand the Danger of Emotional Abuse?

Do Christians Understand the Danger of Emotional Abuse?

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

How many of us grew up listening to this nursery rhyme? It’s a lovely concept, believing words can’t hurt people, but we all know it isn’t true. The things we say can cut deeper than any scalpel, and the Bible has warned Christians more than once about the damage our words can inflict,

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

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It’s doubtless Meg Gemelli, of Relevant Magazine, would consider such verses as warnings against emotional abuse. In her latest Post for Relevant, Gemelli explained the danger emotional violence posed to the church, and encouraged Christians to be vigilant for warning signs within their congregation. Two examples of red flags include,
 

Not Trusting One's Own Feelings and Ability to Hear from God

“Women who are being manipulated have been lied to, bullied and brushed off so many times that they begin to question their own sense of direction. As one woman put it, ‘I don't even trust myself to know when I'm (relationally) unsafe anymore.’ Another lady explained, ‘He says my feelings aren't biblical and that God wouldn't tell me to walk away when we fight. He thinks we should fix the problem immediately, even if he's tearing me down. I want to honor God and I believe divorce is bad. I'm just tired. My work is suffering and I don't want to get fired.’”

“When a partner applies their own needs and meaning to our feelings too many times, we wonder if we're the ones in the wrong, even if our responses to him are completely biblical and kind.”

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Excusing Manipulative Behavior

“It's common for problems to be overlooked in the beginning of relationships but for them to become more serious as time passes. Part of the reason we overlook warning signs is that we love our partners and don't want to see them in pain. ‘He's tired.’ ‘He had a stressful day at work.’ ‘His home life growing up was (fill in the blank).’"

“All of these statements give insight to circumstance. However, they're never an excuse to take advantage of our compassion. Controlling behavior can't be explained away. When an emotional manipulator feels out of control, they’ll say or do "uncharacteristic" things to try and feel better. Their tactics can be coercive.”

Emotional abuse can be difficult to fight, because the scars it leaves are on the spirit, not the body. Just because something cannot be seen though, does not mean it doesn’t exist. As Christians, we are called to stand for the persecuted, regardless of what form that persecution takes. Many of us probably feel we are ill-equipped to handle such a difficult situation, but the need is there, and something must be done. As Gemelli notes,

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“We must lay a slow and steady foundation. We do this by building up the faith of the abused, helping them to dream again of a joy-filled life, and having a support network established for when they’re ready to make a change.”

We can begin by remembering the words of Psalm 19:14,

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

 

*Ryan Duncan is the Entertainment Editor for Crosswalk.com

**Published 1/26/2016