“My mother-in-law told me that I wasn’t meeting up to her expectations as a wife and mother. She said that I was a mess and a disappointment to everyone. I have been kind, and I have even followed some of her suggestions. But no matter what I do, it is not right or ever good enough.”
“One of my oldest friends met me for coffee. She got mad at me the other day because I told her that I couldn’t take her to a doctor’s appointment. She went on and on about how I must not care for her because she is not my priority. She cried and said I had hurt her, but not to worry about it right before she left.”
These examples are often the heartaches I hear when people are struggling in relationships with friends, family, or extended family. Although we love the person in our life or we are intertwined in a relationship with them because of circumstances, we have to deal with abusive people. How can we recognize the signs of abuse, and what can we do about them?
Definition of Abuse and How We are Deceived
Abuse is the willful intimidation, coercion, manipulation, battery, physical or sexual assault, and other abusive words or behaviors used in a systematic pattern of power and control over a person.
Abusers can be strangers, friends, or family. Abuse is a learned behavior. It is not a condition or and illness. Abuse is a choice. No one can change an abuser’s mindset, beliefs, words, or behaviors except the abuser who chooses to work with Jesus and be transformed in his love.
The victim of abuse is not the cause of abuse, nor are they responsible for the abuser’s choice to sin by being abusive. Disciples of Christ are told, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov. 4:23, NLT)
Christ’s disciples must know the difference between being abused and when we are persecuted. They must also know God’s true meaning of forgiveness, trust, reconciliation, boundaries, marriage, sacrifice, suffering, persecution, and submission. Without following God’s word and Christ’s life, it’s easy to be deceived by misquoted or twisted scripture by other imperfect people. If we are caught unaware, abusive people will deceive us.
3 Major Signs of Abuse in a Non-romantic Relationship
Let’s look at three major signs of abuse in non-romantic relationships.
- Verbal Abuse: Any degrading, disrespectful, dishonoring, name-calling, cursing,
- Emotional Abuse: Mind games using intimidation, treating you like a servant, blame, shame, humiliation, bullying, or making you feel guilty.
- Manipulation and Control: Making demands or unattainable expectations that are met with more abuse when they are not fulfilled. Withholding connection as punishment.
All forms of abuse leave you on guard and walking on eggshells the entire time you are around the person. Unfortunately, there are some abusive people you may have to deal with because of various reasons. The good news is, when you have to deal with them, you do not have to be a victim as a disciple of Christ. Jesus NEVER allowed anyone to abuse him until he gave himself up to God for the cross. Jesus drew healthy boundaries and let people choose their next step. His example is the healthiest one we can have concerning abusive people.
Christ’s Solution for Abusive Behaviors
First, remember that people can only do what they know. I’m not excusing abuse; I’m stating a fact. Likewise, if you have been a victim, you MUST learn what is healthy and how to draw healthy boundaries in Christ’s love.
To help you understand boundaries, I recommend that you read the book Boundaries by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend. I also recommend that you find an experienced abuse counselor to help you learn what is healthy. To have healthy relationships, you must unlearn your victim mindsets and behaviors and replace them with Christ’s love design.
Learning to be healthy will help you give the abusive people in your life the opportunity to:
- learn healthier behaviors
- make a decision to treat you better
- end the relationship.
The only one you can change in any relationship is yourself. Until you stop dancing with the abuser, nothing will change. You are one half of your relationship, so stand up and take responsibility for yourself. To allow others to abuse you is to allow Jesus Christ, who is alive in you, to be abused.
Remember, we are the temple of Christ. Therefore, we are responsible for how we let other people treat him in us. Loving others as we love ourselves means we live in Christ’s standards of love, respect, responsibility, and healthy boundaries.
When you are a disciple of Christ, abuse is NEVER right! The only way to stop abuse in your life is to learn Christ’s healthy ways and to draw healthy boundaries with the abusive people in your life. After they realize you are no longer dancing in the abuse cycle, they will have to decide what they will do.
Being healthy allows Christ’s love, goodness, and gentleness to be experienced by the abuser. However, the abuser will not see it that way at first, so brace yourself for their tantrum and stick to your healthy boundary. Over time they may realize they want to be healthy too. You never know how God works through you as you let Christ’s love shine through.
To see the signs of a healthy and abusive relationship side by side, click this link now in my resources!
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