Abuse as Cruelty – Willful and Intentional Infliction of Pain and Suffering

(Exodus 1:13-14  ESV)  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.

(Exodus 5:6-9  ESV)  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 De Vil [Internet Archive link]1 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 was 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.

1[April 25, 2023: We added the link to Wikipedia’s page on Cruella De Vil. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

[April 25, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to April 25, 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 April 25, 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 April 25, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 25, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


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.

22 thoughts on “Abuse as Cruelty – Willful and Intentional Infliction of Pain and Suffering”

  1. I believe with all my heart that if I were to go back to X, everything would go back to the way it was. The way it was, was miserable to the point that I was dead yet still breathing. He progressively became more cruel, controlling and manipulative and after I left even more verbally cruel. Keeping distance from him has opened my heart. The Lord is filling the cracks with His Love and Spirit. In X’s mind if I would just have dinner with him I would see the change in him. My thought is that the only change in him is that I am not there to take out his wrath on. I am not there to spew his insecurities out on. I am not there to use his tongue as a sword against. Praises to God for leading me to the sources that I needed to understand that this was not His will for me.

    I agree — those signs in front of churches may be sweet, but very untrue and misleading. Those that don’t accept Christ for who He was / is will still live eternity without Him by choice. He died as the supreme sacrifice for our sins. Many will never turn from their sin and accept Him in their hearts. I pray for my lost children each day for their hearts to soften and realize their need for a Savior. I can’t do it for them and neither will those cute signs. I can’t love them into it even though I love them.

    1. I can’t love them into it even though I love them.

      Well stated, Brenda! ….and such an easy trap to fall into believing….

      The “Gospel” according to Walt Disney Studios, “true love conquers all” doesn’t quite measure up to God’s word or to real life.

      1. Joe, I would normally agree with that, but Disney redeemed itself somewhat with Frozen [Internet Archive link]1. For once, love at first sight did not work out. For once, the one who fell head over heels in love with “Mr Perfect” was proven to be manipulated. For once, true love wasn’t romantic love; it was the sacrificial love of a sister.

        1[We added the link to Wikipedia’s page on Frozen (a Disney media franchise). The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

      2. No, you don’t get it at all. She should’ve tried harder, loved better, made respectful appeals and won him. She could’ve converted him! 😉

      3. true love conquers all

        Disney needs to tell those who were conquered by Attila, the Vikings or any other tyrant that conquered peaceful people. I don’t think any of those folks were feeling true love while they were masquerading an entire people.

        I haven’t seen “Frozen”. Perhaps I should. Lately, I feel that Walt is rolling over in his grave with all of the things those now in charge of his brain child have promoted since his death.

      4. I haven’t seen “Frozen”. I was thinking of all the other Disney “princess” movies….and especially “Beauty and the Beast”.

  2. Very good post, Jeff! Very well stated.

    Your discussion on the errors in the church signs is particularly good. So often we fall into the trap of accepting a statement as true because it sounds nice and seems close to biblical….when, in fact, the errors lead to critically wrong perceptions of God and the Gospel message.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Daisy, for pointing this out. These people writing for this rag have no sense, common or otherwise. Women do not ask to be raped on or off college campuses. One rape is one too many. Being married does not stop a woman from being raped by a stranger, a friend, colleague or her own husband. How ridiculous and foolish this is. More men who do not value women as God would have them to do.

  3. I’m having a hard time calling my husband now an abuser.

    1. No one here is going to force you to use the “A” word about your husband if you don’t want to!
    2. Have you read our definition of abuse in the sidebar?
    3. I suggest you might find it helpful to read Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [Affiliate link] You can find a link to it on our Resource — Books by Author page.
    4. Did you know that the most common question asked by women who ring domestic violence hotlines is “What is abuse?” Most victims of abuse do not think of their partners as abusers. It generally takes a longish time for victims to be able to use the “A” word about their own situation. So if you are struggling with the use of this word, know you are not alone. 🙂
    1. Barbara Roberts said,

      4) Did you know that the most common question asked by women who ring domestic violence hotlines is “What is abuse?” Most victims of abuse do not think of their partners as abusers. It generally takes a longish time for victims to be able to use the “A” word about their own situation. So if you are struggling with the use of this word, know you are not alone. 🙂

      BTW — even if a woman is stuck in a mind-set that the only “real” type of abuse is physical, you know what?

      You don’t have to put up with ANY man or ANY relationship that makes you unhappy and miserable for ANY reason, physical abuse or not….

      Women are conditioned by our culture and by some types of churches and attitudes towards the genders, to be meek, passive, quiet little things that should sit back and take garbage off people. Sometimes, women also allow themselves to be mistreated by other women (female bosses, mothers-in-law, sisters, etc.).

      If you are in any relationship that is making you miserable, even if no physical abuse is present — say the man you are dating is taking advantage of you financially (like my ex was), or, he is a serial cheater, whatever the issue is — kick that clown to the curb.

      You are better off SINGLE, and if you choose to date or marry again, you deserve someone who will treat you with respect.

      In spite of what Christian culture tells you, or your preacher says, or most blogs out there by Christians say about marriage, you are under no obligation to stay in a marriage or dating relationship where the guy is regularly selfish, hooked on porn, or beating you up, or not even attempting to meet your needs, etc.

      Even if you consider divorce a huge sin – the Bible says God forgives all sin.

      You live your life in a way that makes you happy. If that means living your life without the jerk who’s causing you pain in it, then dump him and live alone.

      Sometimes the genders are reversed in these situations.

      I have a brother who has been married to a drug addict, verbally abusive wife for 20 some-odd years now. He should have divorced her years ago. His mental health and bank account would be a million times healthier if he had dumped her eons ago.

  4. Katherine, one time being hit, is one time too many. How can a man suggest being a missionary when he cannot control his own body? He cannot teach others about Jesus when he is so far away from being like Him. Just because abuse is not “as bad” as before does not make it [not] abuse. The next time could harm you permanently. Please think about that.

  5. To echo some of the stuff Barbara Roberts said….abuse does not have to consist only of a man forming a fist and punching a woman.

    As Barbara said, if you read the book “Why Does He DO That” by Bancroft (which I myself have read), he explains abuse comes in many forms, sometimes verbal or emotional only.

    I have never been married, but I was in a long term, serious relationship with a guy for several years (we were engaged the last few years). He never physically struck me, but his behavior was deplorable, and some would define it as abusive.

    My ex repeatedly took financial advantage of me — in part, because I allowed him, because my mother, who was quite co-dependent, raised me to be co-dependent, to believe having boundaries and limits with people was wrong and selfish.

    My Mom also taught me it was un-Christian-like, unloving, to say “no” to people for any reason, so even though I knew my ex was financially exploiting me, and I didn’t want to give him any more money, the word “no” caught in my throat, and I kept writing him checks.

    I resented giving him money and him repeatedly asking for it, but I was taught that sweet, nice Christian ladies never say “no”.

    I have an older sister who had a live-in boyfriend for over 20 years.

    The dude was abusive of her in a manner, in that he never lifted a finger to help out about the house — never washed dirty dishes, etc. For most of their relationship, he refused to hold down a job and contribute to bill paying. He cheated on her more than once.

    As far as I am aware, he is one of the many boyfriends / husbands my sister had over the years who did not physically abuse her, but his slacking ways (never helping with housework, never getting a job to help pay for bills) caused her lots of stress nevertheless.

    At times, my sister’s boyfriend had extended family came to live with them, and my sister had to pay for his bills (he did not pay rent, and my sister paid for all his food). So my sister’s boyfriend’s entire family was financially exploiting my sister and taking advantage of her to boot.

    So my sister and I have been financially exploited by slacker boyfriends. I believe the Bancroft book defines that as a type of abuse. Abuse is not always just physical, like a man punching or kicking a woman.

    As to Katherine’s post [comment]….based on the books and blogs I’ve read about domestic abuse, guys like that will never change.

    The cycles of abuse (with physical abuse) comes in waves….he may calm down for a few weeks / months / years, but the cycle will start up again.

    And it’s usually part of the routine after they abuse a lady to apologize profusely to her, swear it will never happen again, and bring her flowers and [take her] out to a nice dinner, but sure enough in due time, it will happen again.

  6. Hi there,
    A few things jumped out at me from your post. Abusers cry to elicit sympathy from their victims. They are attempting to be manipulative. I remember that when I was first married to my wife there were a couple of instances where I became extremely upset at various situations. I never once thought of putting a finger on my wife. I have since learned that there is rarely ever a good reason for “losing it”. Do men with anger problems hit men or their boss. Porn is destructive to those who act in it and those who watch it. The reason why he says he gave up porn is suspect. He doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with it.

    Katherine, this man sounds abusive to me.

    1. Dear readers, we have done our due diligence with Searcher and we think he is safe. We found a comment from him on another blog in which he supported mutual submission in marriage and spoke strongly against abuse.

  7. Pastor Jeff wrote:

    Abusers are cruel, just as Pharaoh was cruel to the Israelites….

    Something has definitely shifted. I have read the original post and comments generated a few times in the past, but my understanding was intellectual. The “head” stuff versus the “heart” stuff.

    In the past, the word “cruel” did not register clearly, a part of me permanently broken by a lifetime of personal and professional abuse.

    (Potential Trigger Warning???) Earlier today, I was led by the Holy Spirit to listen to Pastor Sam’s sermon on Psalm 129 — Pastor Jeff had linked to the sermon from within a post. I could actually lightly sense the plough pressure moving up my back, leaving furrowed ruts behind it. Not in an abusive or painful sense, but an understanding or compassionate sense.

    Reading Pastor Jeff’s original post here, I was able to lightly sense the plough pressure leaving ruts up my back, again, in an understanding or compassionate sense.

    Maybe I have been led to an alternate way to understand the word “cruelty”.

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