Abuse as Enslavement: “Clipping Her Wings”

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


[January 26, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

If you have ever had chickens, you may have had to trim their wing feathers to keep them from flying out of the chicken pen. Clipping wings is a good thing when done to chickens. It really is for their own good. Chickens just aren’t meant to soar like an eagle (if they try, the eagle will get them). And besides, soaring makes finding the eggs pretty hard.

But abusive people believe in “clipping the wings” of their victims, and this is most definitely not a good thing. We as human beings are intended by our Creator to soar:

(Psalm 8:3-9  ESV)
(3) When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
(4) what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
(5) Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
(6) You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
(7) all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
(8) the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
(9) O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Abusers however, work to keep their targets in the pen. And as most of our readers already know, they have many tactics for doing just that. One such “clipping” tool is a kind of economic one. Let me explain.

Some years ago I was talking with a man who I believe is a Christian. For whatever reason, we were talking about the high rate of divorce, even within the Christian church. I mentioned that the economy couples face today can certainly take its toll on a marriage because so often both the husband and the wife need to work full time if they are going to have any hope at all of getting a house. And then he said this: “Yes, and when a woman starts making her own money, she can start to think pretty independently.” He didn’t say anything about the same result occurring when the man has the money.

Do you see how, even in a Christian man’s thinking, the wife is seen as a person who has to have her “wings” clipped? That the husband dare not allow her too much freedom or….or what? And I believe that this very sort of philosophy is very commonly embraced by Christians and it is considered to be biblical. It is not.

Now, I understand completely that marriages have indeed been destroyed because either the husband or the wife decided that they have their own resources and just didn’t need their spouse anymore. They wanted to soar on their own, and all for selfish and wrong reasons. These things do happen. We start thinking that God’s design for marriage is a confining chicken pen and when our feathers grow back we are determined to sail right on out of there.

But what I am primarily addressing here is what this man told me. The idea that a husband must be on guard not to allow his wife too much freedom, too much access to resources (like cash), or she just might get up on her high horse and one day announce “I’m outta here!” Of course when this thinking appears in a Christian setting, “clipping her wings” is held to be a good thing. By the way, I also knew that this fellow had lots of money, but his wife could not access it.

This is not a good thing. There is nothing good nor biblical about it. Husbands are not called to “clip the wings” of their wives, thereby keeping them subservient and under control. Fathers are to see that their children are under control, and sometimes that means we need to “clip the wings” of our kids to give them a reality check — “No, Johnny, you are not going to get a motorcycle when you are 10.” — that sort of thing. But a wife is not one of the children. I think that many Christian men (and perhaps even quite a few Christian women?) think she is.

I would say this to any husband who really believes that his job is to “clip his wife’s wings” to keep her “in her place.” If you have to “clip her wings” to keep her in the pen of your marriage, then you have bigger problems than your wife’s quest for freedom.” Even in cases where a wife (or husband) is in fact sinfully wanting the world for selfish reasons and just wants to dump her husband and family so she can “soar” — I really doubt that enacting measures (such as taking access to money away) is going to solve the heart of the problem. We suspend the allowances of our children when necessary. But once again, a wife is not one of the children.

And what to say to the man who really believes that husbands need to take care that wives do not have so many resources that they just might “fly the coop”? Well, first of all I would say that husbands are indeed commanded by the Lord to love their wives, and one of the means of doing this is seeking her sanctification (see Ephesians 5). If, for instance, either the husband or the wife truly sees their spouse being in a genuinely dangerous environment (say at work for instance), then he will step up to the plate and protect her from it. Wives must do the same for their husbands. But any notion that it is a husband’s calling to “clip his wife’s wings” so that she does not have the resources to be “independent” — thus keeping her in place — is absolutely unbiblical. A man who loves his wife in Christ is going to rejoice when he sees her succeed. Abusers on the other hand typically sabotage their victim’s ability to succeed, thereby beating them back down into “place.”

Therefore, I take issue with the idea that is rather common within the church — that husbands must take care that their wives must be kept in place. Apparently the husband of the Proverbs 31 wife did not believe that, and he prospered as a result.

[January 26, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to January 26, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to January 26, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to January 26, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (January 26, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

11 thoughts on “Abuse as Enslavement: “Clipping Her Wings””

    1. Jodi – I think it is a common mindset even among Christian men and, as I said, among many Christian women. It is therefore equated with biblical teaching, but it’s origin is really simply as another man-made tradition.

  1. And to try to explain why you haven’t worked for so many years, and when you tried to update your skills but were actively discouraged from doing it. Of course it was not verbalized and the opposite was often said but ACTIONS….they speak louder than words and I got it. Actually I didn’t get it until he was gone and then wow! Not walking in fear every day allows one to really see things. That being said it’s so hard trying to get back to work full time right now and my kids still need me. They are victims too, shell-shocked, PTSD and such. It’s not simple and easy. I liken it to the church and society thinking we need a “little time” to recover as if we’ve had the flu when the reality is we have had cancer with major surgery and chemo and recovery is going to take a long while and we might not get full function back!

    1. NNP – my wife and I served with a home missions organization in our first church. That mission enforced a rule that wives were not permitted to work outside the home. They were told that they were “called” just like their husband for full-time missionary service, but of course, only the husband got a paycheck! I shudder to think how many such women have already ended up alone, with no job skills, and in a real predicament. This is not to say that every woman must pursue a career outside her home, but she certainly needs to be able to make that choice and in some cases it is a good thing to do. We were actually hindered in our ability to get to know people in the community because of this rule.

      And then there is the whole matter of how such a rule plays right into the hands of an abuser husband.

  2. I really love being home with my kids. And I feel it’s important that I was but….it’s difficult and trying to explain to people…. Most times I feel like I am saying something in another language so I often don’t say anything, just try to keep on juggling. Thanks for being a place where I can at least be understood.

    1. NNP, I’ve been a stay at home mom for many years by choice, but when the defining moment came, I went back to school to get some skills and have slowly [been] trying to merge into my career outside the home. When I first started taking classes, he fiercely opposed it. He was also acting very “religious” at that time.

      A few years have passed and I finished my courses, starting preparing taxes seasonally and now just landed a part-time job that is year round. I will either pursue full-time with this company after tax season or will seek other opportunities. I’m making small steps, but progressing.

      We have been separated in the same house for practical reasons, and he has been alot easier to get along with for a while. Sometimes that confuses me and it makes me feel like I have to stay, but deep down inside I know that all of the years of abuse tore down the trust, and damaged something deep inside, resulting in no desire to ever be connected with him again. I used to wish he would show himself so I knew for sure I was making the right decision, but a friend indicated that I need more time to prepare, so it is good that he is being civil, which only occurred after my attitude changed and after he knew it was over for me. It goes to show that he could have had self-control before, but didn’t do it until the chips were down. It takes alot of determination and perseverance to keep going forward and it is overwhelming, but when you take it in small steps, you’ll be amazed at how far you have come when you look back.

      [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

    1. Which means that even in churches, to some or a large extent, people actually believe that if a man is to be “head of his wife and home”, he necessarily has to “clip his wife’s wings to keep her in her place”, whatever that is. Ideas like this are so wrong and yet we have been subjected to them for so long that they escape our notice. “Husbands, keep your wives in their place.” I am still waiting for someone to quote the chapter and verse on that statement.

  3. My husband also did what the other commenter stated: he SAID he supported my education but hindered me at every turn. I gave it up after we had too many kids and no money, even asking his permission to just be a mom. At the time he said “yes”, but then he would berate me for not working.

    When the kids were older and leaving the house I started back to school. It was at the lowest point in my life — my husband had put us so far in debt that we could barely afford food — but for some reason I wouldn’t relent and “selfishly” spent money on classes. (I went to one of the least expensive colleges in the US.) It became apparent immediately that he had never wanted me to get an education and therefore have a chance to escape. One of the many outlandish stories he told me was that a guy he knew at work, this guy’s wife, had gone back to school and was then diagnosed with cancer. When she stopped going to school the cancer went away but as soon as she started classes again, the cancer came back. My daughter and I were on to him at this point and my daughter said to him, “Are you expecting us to believe that if mom keeps attending school, she will get cancer?” And guess what? That’s EXACTLY what he was implying. It’s comical in a horrific way how these people from 2 Tim 3, think. And when the church tells us to blindly serve the husband we end up with psychopaths enslaving children of the Lord and using their gifts to further destroy them.

    I’ve often wondered what the world would be like if we did away with the monetary system like they do in “Star Trek”. They said something like they did away with this system so that people could stop vying for money and just be what they were born to be (I’ve paraphrased this). How many of us would have married or stayed married to these evil ones if we’d had the financial freedom to leave? I would never have married or stayed married to this man and in all likelihood, I would never have married in the first place if I’d been allowed to be the person I was born to be. But I also realize that if the monetary system were taken away, abusers would simply find another way to enslave and abuse others. It is their nature and their hearts desire to be evil — money is just a major way to do this. Thanks for leaving these old posts up!

  4. I have a university degree, but when we married it was a joint decision for me to stay home to raise and homeschool the children. I do not regret it for a moment. But, near the end, while he was threatening to leave, he was also freaking out on me that I was saving up money to leave him. Hardly! I barely had enough to cover the household budget, but he just had to “clip the wings” as well as punish me for not being the wife he was trying to mold me into being, and reduce that budget even further until I got into line, and to guarantee there was no way I could save to leave. Then he followed through on his threats, and left himself.

    Now, he thinks I should use my 25-year-old degree to get a job so he doesn’t have to support us, while I scramble to figure out what skills I want to develop so I can get a job before the children all grow up and he can rejoice in the poverty he has left me in. “Clipped wings” are expensive to replace (job retraining) and take forever to grow out, but at least I can flop around freely, looking forward to the day I can soar.

  5. (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)
    (3) When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
    (4) what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

    I sat, virtually immobilized, reading the original post.

    I have never had the chance to soar.

    I want to be an eagle, not a chicken.

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