Abuse as Cruelty – Willful and Intentional Infliction of Pain and Suffering
Exo 1:13-14 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
Exo 5:6-9 The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.”
Abusers are cruel, just as Pharaoh was cruel to the Israelites. Cruelty is a topic that deserves some serious thought because it helps us see even more clearly just how wicked the abuser is. Cruelty hurts another person (or a pet, like a puppy), but is of a particularly evil genre of hurting. Cruelty suits the mentality and character of an abuser because cruelty is exercised by someone who has power over another. Like Pharaoh’s power over the enslaved Israelites, or a wicked man’s boot kicking a little dog. Cruelty is the infliction of pain and suffering by a person with power, willfully and intentionally, without regard for the suffering of the victim. Cruelty (Cruella Deville and the Dalmatian puppies). And, as Cruella’s wicked smile demonstrates, cruelty enjoys it all.
What kind of a person enjoys cruelty? Enjoys causing a person with less power to suffer? I can tell you. A thoroughly evil person.
All of us have been guilty at one time or another of being cruel to another person. Cruelty lies within our fallen, sinful flesh looking for a chance to break out. As Christians, it is our calling and duty to do battle against that flesh by the Spirit of Christ within us. We put cruelty to death by saying to it — “No! Go back where you came from! You will not have reign over me!” When we fail in this, we are grieved and we repent. We are cut to the core in conviction when we see the tears of the person we have treated with cruelty and Christ’s compassion for them breaks out in us. We hate our sin and immediately set out to make it right with the one we have so shamefully treated. We have each one been cruel, but we are not cruel people by nature. The abuser is.
Cruelty feeds off the suffering it inflicts. Cruelty delights in the pain it causes. The abuser exults in seeing his victim suffer physical and especially emotional pain because it gives him a power rush of tyrannical domination over another. And all of this is vital for abuse victims, counselors, and pastors to understand. Why does he do that? as Lundy Bancroft puts it? Because he is evil, because he loves it, because it is who he is doing what he does. Yes, Virginia (we might say), there IS a devil!
I have been the target of numbers of such abusers over the years as they sought to work their havoc and hurt in the churches I have pastored. On and on they go — in some cases for years — creating trouble and division, launching assorted attacks, making their accusations, willfully causing pain and suffering. Why? Was it because they just weren’t as sanctified as they should have been? No. Was it because I kept messing up and doing wrong to others? No. The reality was that they were just plain cruel. Cruel people who enjoyed inflicting pain and suffering in order to obtain what they just KNEW they were entitled to by nature of who they were: power and control, along with the self-glorying they so craved.
Why does an abuser prolong the child custody battle for years when his record of behavior toward the children demonstrates he cares little or nothing for them? Because he is cruel and he feeds off the pain and suffering of his victim like a drug. Why is it that he comes into the house, just looking for something to pick at, knowing full well that his victim has busted her tail that day taking care of the kids, homeschooling them, cleaning up the house, doing his laundry…. Why? Because he is cruel, and cruel people love to cause misery and pain.
This week I saw a church sign. For the most part I have grown to despise church signs. Once in a while you will see a good one but for the most part they are statements that enable abusers. Here’s the one I saw:
God does not force himself upon anyone, He wins their heart by love.
Here is another one:
Jesus died on the cross for you so that He wouldn’t have to live for eternity without you.
These absolutely unbiblical notions are at best marvelously naive and at worst they are designed to guilt us all into seeing even the most cruel, evil person as Luke Skywalker saw Darth Vader: “Oh, Dark Lord, I just KNEW there was some good in you and that if I let you cut off my arm or even kill me, one day the good would win.” Here is the truth: Evil exists. Cruel, evil people, exist. And abusers are cruel, evil people of a particularly bad kind. No one, not even God, is going to “win their hearts by love.” If you are a Christian, God did not simply love you into loving Him. He powerfully and effectually worked the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ in you, regenerating your heart of stone and giving you a heart of flesh. He took an enemy who hated Him and transformed you by faith and repentance into His child.
These kinds of foolish platitudes (Jesus, the eternal Son of God, destined to misery if the sinner doesn’t repent and come live with Him) are examples of the kind of ignorance (often willful) that abounds in the church regarding the abuser. Abusers are cruel and they are evil and they love it so. Your abuser, abuse victim, is not going to change. He has no heart to reach. He enjoys doing to you what he does because that is who he is.
And understanding that is one of the first steps to getting free.