What is Abuse and Why Do We Avoid Talking About It?
Talk About Abuse
The subject of abuse is uncomfortable. If you’ve experienced abuse, you will find it emotionally difficult to engage with others about this subject. That is understandable. It’s frightening to face the truth of what happened to you in the light.
On the other hand, if you have ever abused another person, it is also uncomfortable to hear about abuse.
Why do we feel uncomfortable?
Because behind the discomfort are buried limiting beliefs and feelings of guilt and shame.
For many of us, the abuse taught us we were shameful. Abuse stole our voice.
It takes courage to name the abuse and to speak the truth about what happened. It’s not easy to talk about abuse.
Talking Makes Me Feel…
It’s true. Listening can feel uncomfortable and even threatening.
If you’ve experienced abuse, it’s difficult to admit the reality of what happened. It is scary, uncomfortable, and feels dangerous. To speak of abuse feels like it exposes our shame. And so we hate to talk about abuse.
There is something empowering when you are able to share and be heard without condemnation. Truly that is a blessing.
On the other hand, some love to talk about their abuse and find it satisfying to express their anger. But that seems to give them permission to become abusive. I’m sure you’ve met the person who enjoys speaking of their abuse. Easily triggered, they become angry and verbally abusive.
It’s true. They have the right to be angry. But they don’t have the right to hurt others.
So we have a dilemma. We need to be able to speak but we don’t have the right to perpetrate more abuse.
At the moment, many in the media are talking about sexual abuse, which often triggers animosity, blaming, and name calling.
It’s important to recognize abuse is far more than sexual in nature.
The word abuse comes from the Latin word “to use”. If you have been used by another person, then you have experienced a form of abuse.
According to Webster’s, abuse means “to mistreat, to misuse one’s position or power for one’s personal advantage, to violate, defile, to insult, rude speech, and to deceive.”
In other words, abuse doesn’t have to be sexual or catastrophic. It includes smaller, hidden things others don’t notice.
In the same way water dripping on rock can over time cut a hole into the rock or even split it in two – repeated hidden abuse causes fragmentation as it erodes one’s confidence, sense of value, personhood, and dignity.
If we’re honest, we have to admit the Church has failed to deal with abuse in a compassionate way. We’ve failed to love those who are broken. Instead, we believe lies about abuse that make us skilled at accusing and condemning the wounded, the broken, those hemorrhaging and trying to find help.
Some think it helpful to deal with the brokenhearted by telling a tragic story of someone who has suffered more.
That doesn’t encourage the person who is hurting. Instead he or she feels judged and silenced. It drives the abuse deeper for it communicates that the pain they are experiencing is illegitimate.
What they need is a safe space to talk about abuse.
When someone has been silenced and they take that first step to begin to share, unerstand you will only hear about the tip of the iceberg. So be silent and listen with compassion.
Their words are important. How you react in that moment will set into motion something profound to encourage them to move towards healing or cause them to retreat and hide.
Did you know to make a comparison rather than listen with our heart, is to demonstrate a mindset contrary to Scripture?
Comparison sounds logical and helpful. It’s not! It violates the person’s spirit by using words that diminish the abuse.
Jesus is the Word! Our words are to be agents of healing. If they diminish the person – in essence, we turn from Jesus the Healer and come into agreement with the perpetrator of the abuse.
Wow! That’s heavy!
Think about it.
To engage in comparison is an act of judgment that legitimizes or dismisses. To judge is the misuse of one’s position or authority. According to Webster’s, that is an act of abuse.
Would you agree that wounded people also wound others?
The other day I spoke of a woman whose daughter had been raped and murdered. That precious mother was deeply wounded by the abuse her daughter experienced. The abuse she personally experienced with the tragic loss of her daughter pierced her heart and left her fragmented and broken.
Her response was to bury the past.
In her pain and her brokenness, rather than walking in the light and sharing her pain with others, she did the Christian thing. She buried it. She never talked about it, never expressed her pain in a healthy way. As a result, there was no resolution, no resurrection life.
Instead she viewed all suffering as insignificant in comparison to what happened to her daughter.
When my daughter died in my home – safe from violation and cruelty – my loss paled in comparison to her loss. Instead of seeing me as having legitimate pain over the loss of my child, she saw me as the enemy.
And so she, the abused, lashed out. As she did, she became the abuser, wounding me in my deep vulnerability.
There is a better way!
God is love. Jesus demonstrates the Father’s heart through acts of loving kindness for you.
Specifically, Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted; those who were crushed, bruised, shattered and broken into many pieces.
Abuse bruises. Abuse crushes. Abuse shatters and breaks. Abuse fragments the person so they walk in shame as prisoners, captive to lies and limiting beliefs imposed upon them through the abuse.
It is time to look at the person who is wounded through the eyes of Jesus.
You see, when that child was misused and abused – he or she learned they were guilty for what happened. Blinded by the abuse, she blames herself and walks in the false guilt and false identity given her by the perpetrator of the abuse.
If you or I dismiss what happened, it is to say her suffering has no value. She interprets that dismissal as saying, “You are worthless. You have no value. You deserved what happened to you. You can never be clean.”
The abuse you experienced should never have happened. It was a violation as someone took power over you.
But the Heavenly Father has given you authority to choose life and to say no to abuse. His desire was for you to be protected. His heart for you is good. You are important to Him!
The Heavenly Father does not expect you to swallow your pain. Instead, He gives you authority to express your pain so you can find healing.
Jesus cares about you. He weeps with you. If you allow Him, He will share your pain.
Today, you have the God-given authority to choose. You may choose to believe Jesus loves you and wants to heal your broken heart. Or you may choose to do nothing.
I urge you, come to Jesus, just as you are. Let Him love you.
If you’d like to watch a short video about this topic, go here. Join me next week as I continue this series on abuse.
God bless and keep you.
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Whoa! This really caught my attention:
“To judge is the misuse of one’s position or authority. According to Webster’s, that is an act of abuse.”
Judging is an act of abuse. That definitely puts in a new light. Seeing that anything that is using another person is abuse does change things–makes us able to name what it is that hurts and why, and to be able to acknowledge that it was wrong and that we are not weak for hurting over it is…a really important first step.
Thank you for talking about this topic with such clarity and hope!
Thanks for your comment, Joy, and for entering into dialogue.
I loved Webster’s definition for it gave me a whole new handle on what abuse is. It doesn’t have to be something huge or recognizable by everyone else. It can be small acts where another misuses their position of trust – such as saying a cutting word. It definitely begins with making a silent judgment that shapes thoughts into words and deeds that are abusive.
Yes! The hurt is legitimate. Legitimacy isn’t dependent on the size of the wound. For healing, it needs to be acknowledged and even grieved. Our tendency is to diminish it, explain it away, bury it, or embrace it as truth and use it as a weapon to self-harm. Needless to say, that empowers abuse to continue to victimize us and lock us under its ugly destructive power.
Blessings as you move forward in the light; may any chains holding you into abuse be broken in Jesus’ name.
Thank you for your beautiful reply, Ms. Barbara. The Webster definition really does make defining abuse so much easier, which does help to say that the hurt I’m feeling is legitimate. The dynamic of seeing that all abuse begins with a silent judgment is very convicting. I know that judging others is wrong, but to realize it’s a form of abuse! Oh my! This will definitely help curb the tendency to judge and try to justify judging.
Sometimes the Word of God is shocking in its setting of boundaries. It feels restrictive and narrow; yet, when we move onto the path of judgment – it is the most narrow and intolerant path we could ever choose. Perhaps because it means we have to set ourselves up over another person – and look down on them as if we are a deity.
It is difficult to step off that path because it gives feelings of false security and superiority. Which seem to meet a need we have to feel significant. But true significance is only found in choosing life, in relinquishing our right to hold a grudge and get even. Walking with the Lord in spirit and in truth means we will love rather than be abusive, even as it means we move out of victimization into triumph as mighty warriors.
Praying you see yourself seated with Christ in heavenly places and learn to quickly let go of your right to prosecute the guilty, and instead look with compassion on those who have sinned against you. God bless! 🙂