Grumpy old man? Or abuser?
A reader is concerned that her mom’s husband is treating her mom unkindly. Is it abuse? What should she do? How do you care for your elderly parents who might be enduring abuse? I don’t have the answers, but I have some thoughts and I’d like to get a conversation started.
My email to a concerned daughter:
It’s not ok for anyone to call your mom names or tell lies about her. The last person on earth who should do that should be her husband. For him to do so is anti-Christ. Christ loved us and gave himself for us. He doesn’t shout or rant. He doesn’t accuse and insult.
So often these situations are difficult for family members to sort out because people reserve their cruelty for certain times or certain people yet they can be so very nice, so very wonderful that we think that there must be something causing them to behave cruelly when they do. There is. It’s sin, plain and simple. Your mom isn’t failing her husband or disrespecting him and inciting his wrath. He is mean because he can be and he probably thinks no one will stop him.
I know that this is very very difficult for you. To tell your mom that she can draw a boundary and separate seems to be anti-marriage, but I see it as FOR marriage; for what God means marriage to represent. When a marriage is another means of power and control, where a person feels trapped and helpless, instead of a union where Christ’s love is given and shared and where people are treated with honor and respect, that marriage has become toxic. The vows taken at the wedding ceremony are manifold, much more than “don’t commit adultery” and “don’t leave if you’re not dead.” It sounds like your mom is keeping her vows but her husband is not.
One thing you could do for your mom is to ask if she feels safe. She might say “yes” at first. But ask her many times and in many ways.[Internet Archive link]. You can ask if she’s afraid of her husband and if he’s ever threatened her. Where I live, threatening a person is a crime. It’s hard to prove, but it helps some people to know that it is a crime.
You could also give your mom options. You could ask her what she’d like to do. You could ask how she’d feel about leaving home for a while. Sometimes just knowing that they have an option helps bring some people peace because they don’t feel trapped.
The hard thing about acknowledging if a particular behavior is abuse is that then people get concerned that if that behavior is abuse then this other behavior must be abuse and now everything is abuse and what do we do about that? Well, that’s looking for a law to govern things instead of the Holy Spirit and I also don’t think it’s the right question (It’s also the logical fallacy called appeal to consequences). It should be does this behavior honor God? Is this sin? Is it a pattern of sinful behavior? Is this behavior classed under the works of the flesh?
Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
If so, there’s a bigger problem than the marriage. If that verse is true, the person in question has his eternal inheritance at stake! Calling attention to the problem and calling it sin could deliver his soul from Hell and it’s the most loving thing anyone could do for him.
I am praying for your mom.