‘Hurting People Hurt People’

How often is that one is thrown at targets of abuse? Once a target has mustered the courage to share the truth of what’s happening, people are reluctant to believe that the problems are serious. There are many reasons for this. But in an effort to minimize the danger, the target’s advisers often tell her that “hurting people hurt people”. So the solution in their minds is to find out WHY the abuser is abusing and solve that problem. Often, they pressure the target of abuse into trying to research the “cause” of the abuse. Is she being disrespectful? Is he insecure and has something she said or done triggered that feeling of hurt and made him lash out, out of his hurt? This is a pity play and according to Dr. Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door [Affiliate link], it is THE biggest indicator of a sociopath. Abusers and sociopaths know that we normals want to help people and they play us.

They will tell us sad stories. Consider Heath Ledger’s Joker telling the very very sad stories of how his face got scarred; (trigger warningscar story 1, scar story 2. The audience would feel sorry for him except that the director has him quickly revert back to his true maniacal self. In addition to the insecurity and feeling disrespected mentioned above, some suggest daddy issues might be to blame. Did he have a bad childhood? These days some suggest nutritional issues. Is he gluten intolerant? Gluten can make people mean, you know.

Here’s another movie reference clip.  In this clip, the fish-aholics are pleading with Marlin and Dory to accept Bruce. “He’s really a nice guy!….He never knew his father!” What does that have to do with his desire to eat them? Nothing!

I don’t care why hurting people hurt people (I really do, but I’ll get to that). You know why wolves try to eat sheep? Because they are wolves. Taking them to 12 Step programs and asking the sheep to find them good counselors who can help them cope with the fact that their daddy was made a pelt when he was a pup will NOT protect the sheep. Only being made a new creation will protect the sheep (and that’s what I care about, their being made a new creation – by the Holy Spirit, not their targets). Their wolfish behavior alerts us to their need of Christ, not their need of pity.

It isn’t the targets’ responsibility to get the abusers to help. It’s not our responsibility to understand WHY they abuse except in cases where it’ll help us to make better boundaries and protect those in our care. It is the ABUSER’S responsibility to get help. If he sees that he’s wrong and wants to change, there are people who can help him. Those people are not the ones he’s harmed. Is it gluten? He should see a Dr. about that. Right and wrong don’t change if you had a whole wheat muffin. Ultimately, abusers abuse because they are abusers. God can give them a new heart but we don’t have to subject ourselves to their cruelty in an effort to be understanding of their insecurity / daddy / gluten issues. If they want to change, they must seek God.

Many Christians put pressure on targets of abuse to accept responsibility for issues that are not theirs. Marlin and Dory had a mission. They needed to find Nemo, not help Bruce with his daddy issues. In order to complete that mission, they had to escape Bruce and leave him to seek his own help, or more likely, other fish to devour.

The church can be a part of that help. But dangerous people need help from pros, not small group leaders who went to a conference and played Trivia Crack on their phones while the speaker told about how his books and DVDs will solve the world’s problems. This isn’t CPR. You don’t learn to deal with manipulators by watching it on TV. Well, House MD had some great examples of how a narcissist thinks but (spoiler alert) we never do see him actually change. We just see him realize that he could change.

There are Christian people who phrase things bluntly who don’t realize that they are being unkind. When confronted, those people respond in humility and they seek God’s help to have more honoring communication. God might show them that they are responding like their mean father did and He will lead them to repentance. I don’t mean to assert that all people who do things wrong are Bruces. I am talking about the ones whose patterns are those of Bruce and who ask us, their victims / targets to endure it because they had a muffin or their fathers weren’t good examples.

[July 2, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to July 2, 2022 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 July 2, 2022 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 July 2, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 2, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


Further reading

Crocodile Tears — By MeganC.

50 thoughts on “‘Hurting People Hurt People’”

    1. Quixotic,

      Yes, indeed, it does make it much harder when our abuser ‘claims’ to be a Christian! I think for me, what’s really hard to grasp is my stbx would call me a hypocrite, and tell others I was very unloving, but I go to church and praise God. He has even said I have taken the Lord’s name in vain! I have NOT done that but that is what he tell others (hmm…he’s pretty good at making up stories)! That was one of the hardest things for me to deal with… I hated being called a hypocrite! Did I ever once call him a hypocrite or ungodly…no, but I should have! It wasn’t in me to do that, but he had NO problem telling me I was. Did I tell others about the abuse, yes, not to hurt him, but to protect myself!… I guess hurting people do hurt people

    2. RT,

      That’s exactly how I feel! I feel like I need to find something to ‘justify’ why he behaved the way he did toward me, while at the same time, trying to figure out my own behavior toward him. Meaning, his complaint was I wasn’t loving enough, I didn’t touch him, I didn’t approach him, etc etc. I have to wonder was I wrong in those areas in not responding to what he needed? But I keep thinking and thinking and thinking. For me, sometimes too much information or thinking can be overwhelming! I am trying so hard to allow the Holy Spirit to ‘FIX’ me! If I was indeed a ‘not’ nice of a person toward my husband, I DO NOT ever want to be that way toward any other! This abuse has left an everlasting mark on my heart. I cringe when I read others stories because it hurts my heart and I wish NONE of you have had to endure what you did! Thank you all for your comments. They are so helpful!

  1. This is excellent.

    In regards to my last post it has been suggested that I need to forgive in order to move on. While I agree that forgiveness is important in order to gain freedom from the bitterness that can poison your heart I don’t think that is the real issue at hand. The real issue is that I need to stop trying to understand and find a way to move on. I wrote a blog post to keep myself from writing the guy which would have continued the crazy loop of psychological torture. The anger I feel is not all-consuming and it is, I believe, necessary to establish healthy boundaries and for myself to be well.

    If you’ll excuse me I need to vent: I get a bit frustrated at my fellow Christians who feel uncomfortable with other’s pain, anger, or grief and feel they must instantly toss out a scripture verse, give an idiom, or otherwise give some trite response that I have heard a million times.

    Most of the time all anyone wants is a true friend to sit with them in their pain and say, “that sucks, but I’m here with you and we’ll get through this together.” Without developing that sense of trust you are inadvertently reaping more pain on someone’s head with your good intentions. The heart’s naturally defense is to become hardened to such things as a means of self-protection.

    But once a person knows you are truly there for them and that you respect them, then their heart may be opened to any sort of truth you may want to share. At that point the hurt person at least has the freedom to disagree and to challenge your truth.

    What kind of strength comes from forcing your perspective and beating your will onto another? Let each person accept or reject what you have to say as they are able. But do not further oppress them for the sake of being able to pat yourself on your back with your own wisdom.

    1. Yes, it is very true that Christians want to throw out platitudes and just walk away as if that magically fixes the problems! So many just don’t want the bother of having to get in the trenches with hurting people. It intrudes upon THEIR time and makes THEM feel uncomfortable. They get frustrated when problems are not resolved in an hour like on TV.

      I have always found it telling in the book of Job that his three friends were doing fine just sitting with him and letting him talk. It is when THEY opened their mouths to speak that they messed things up. At that point, they were no longer helpful, but actually were a stumbling block! We are to be slow to speak for a reason as often the first things out of our mouths is very, very wrong!

      1. Excellent point, Wendell. I think we are all guilty of opening our mouths when we should stay quiet (I know I am). My being hurt in this way has made me more conscience of this hurtful behavior.

    2. Quioxtic… ,
      “The real issue is that I need to stop trying to understand and find a way to move on.”

      This is my very issue as well! I need to stop trying to understand WHY these things happened. This is very hard for me to do. I don’t want to dwell (if that’s the correct word I’m looking for) I want to move on, but the truth is I am still VERY hurt and heartbroken and its very difficult to move on.

      “Only being made a new creation will protect the sheep (and that’s what I care about, their being made a new creation – by the Holy Spirit, not their targets). Their wolfish behavior alerts us to their need of Christ, not their need of pity.”
      My husband claimed he has REFOUND Christ… then why the blame game, why the continued manipulation & coerce, why did he constant insist I was verbally abusing him? Why was the divorced filed, etc etc. I honestly believe I will never understand it, but I do hope I will get to that place where I will have PEACE in my life, and when I will not be thinking of him or what happened to me and in our relationship.

      1. Round*Two, that’s my goal too. To move on. It’s very hard to do when I try to speak up about what happened I am reminded of my Christian imperative to forgive. That hasn’t helped me heal or move on though. I feel like I need some tools to do so.

        What makes it harder is when a Christian brother or sister abuses you. It is more than just hurt feelings because often the abusive person can’t be reasoned into behaving better. In fact, they’d usually deny their having been abusive in first place. Other people see their outward signs of “repentance” and think that all is well, when it really isn’t.

        I’m praying you find peace and healing as well!

      2. Round*Two –

        I remember being in a stage where I had to figure out why he was the way he was (and is). I read and read and read, perhaps in the back of my mind thinking that if I could understand it, I could help effect some kind of change to make our lives make sense somehow or fix something or having anything happen that would make a difference for the better. All of my understanding of how he is the way he is never changed a thing with respect to the dynamic of abuse in our home.

        I’m not sure why exactly, but at a certain point, perhaps it just all got to be too much. I couldn’t read one. more. thing. about the abuse, the psychology of it, the history of passive-aggressive behaviors, narcissism, the lot. I was on overload with it and couldn’t bear it anymore – and then add the church disinterest to the top and I was over the edge. Were it not for encouraging testimonies that I started to read (Christi Paul’s “Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt” for one), I might have just despaired.

        After that point, I started journaling for record-keeping and thereafter had no time to question his behaviors anymore; I was too busy (still am) tracking my own life and managing our child’s life to worry about his. Frankly, I think no more of him than I do a pesky fly buzzing around making noise. I don’t take his calls. I communicate via email. There’s nothing that I need to concern myself with about him anymore, not even understanding his psychology, apart from Jeff C’s brilliant series on the psychology of sin.

        Honestly, I had been so “beat up” internally from years of abuse and then the process of legal dissolution of marriage and all that entails that I couldn’t hear anything Scriptural about my own lack or sin without internalizing it in the same compartment as the abuse.
        Jeff C’s was the first series I’ve been able to listen to and actually absorb in the way a Christian should – seeing where in my own life I have grieved God, but in a way I could internalize with repentance. But Jeff’s is the first word that was given I think in the right framework and in the right state of grace, whereas before it always came laden with oppression and headship and twisting, both from husband and church. Thank God for the means to hear His Word on-line rightly divided and expounded – so it can be rightly received.

      3. I was told a very long time ago, and it has helped me tremendously since I found out about my h being a covert narc, “rational people will never understand the thoughts and actions of an irrational person. Narcs are irrational people. Be glad that you can’t understand them, not frustrated. Because if you could understand them, then you’d be one of them! This freed me up completely!

      4. RT, in my experience I found that the education aspect was actually very inducive to my healing. The more I understood, the more I was able to look at it scientifically (to a degree) and it took some of the emotional element out. The author Gavin de Becker says that when we come across an accident we are compelled to stare- not because we have some sick desire to see the aftermath, but rather due to a survival instinct. Essentially our brains register what led to bad results and we add that to our mental file cabinet of “things to avoid”. I think this makes a lot of sense. I know with certainty the knowledge I have acquired about the abusive mindset has helped me already to avoid toxic people I would otherwise still have not recognized.

        Still Reforming mentioned she got to a point where it was too much. I also found a point at which I was no longer compelled to learn about abusers. Going back to the previous analogy, I think my brain felt comfortable enough with the filing cabinet to not stay stuck compiling more data. I think your body tells you when it has become unhealthy for you. Learning about it can promote growth but it can also weigh you down. There is a darkness element to it all that I have to guard myself against in my personal situation. I can feel the “darkness” coming on if I spend too much time in it and then balance it with bible study.

        I guess I just want to encourage you that you know yourself better than anyone else can. I don’t think anyone should guilt you into telling you what you should or shouldn’t do (within the confines of scripture of course). I think your body, mind and the Spirit’s conviction will let you know when you are past the point of educating and to the point of dwelling.

  2. Yeah – I just went through this in mediation. I have heard so much over the past few months about how fathers’ rights need to be respected that it makes me sick. Even in mediation I heard the mediator tell me how much we need to help dads learn how to get involved and feel like they are a part of parenting, adding that moms need to let dads change diapers now and again so they can share the parenting. I looked at the mediator square in the eye and said quite honestly, “I would have welcomed that.” (I refrained from belaboring how he couldn’t have cared less about helping with child care until she was old enough to be more “fun” for him.) I am SO tired of hearing how much I have to help him – when he hasn’t been helping his family. I’m not his mother, but it seems like society is all about the man and dad these days and less about the details of the family, the children, and the wife. If anything, they want me to be more “inclusive” of him when he could have included himself in the family at any time when we were all under the same roof. If he didn’t care then, he’s certainly not going to care now.

    Y’know, I’ve heard that expression (isn’t it a book title?) “Hurt People Hurt People.” Well, yeah, but all of us are hurt at some point in our lives and in our childhoods, but not all of us choose to use and exploit others to gain advantage due to our own pains and hurts.

    1. You hit the nail on the head: “All of us are hurt at some point in our lives and in our childhoods, but not all of us choose to use and exploit others to gain advantage due to our own pains and hurts.”

  3. Thank you Ellie for addressing this! Did that trite phrase start with Al-Anon? Whoever started it must have been hurt….because that line has hurt a lot of people. 😦

    I have heard this phrase used not even with problem solving in mind, but rather as a blanket statement to justify the abuser’s actions. My guess is this is used in this way by people who’ve adopted the feel-good gospel where love will conquer all (we’re just gonna love that pain right off that abuser) or used by people who don’t want to get involved and they use this to put the responsibility back on the victim (which is what you laid out Ellie).

    The whole hurting people truism is a dead end. It seems similar to a board meeting where the CEO says their stock is down and they need to brainstorm solutions. The solution? How about “The customer is always right.” ? How exactly does that help the problem at hand?

    The only solution implied to that truism is to give unlimited grace to the abuser. Does it occur to anyone saying this that the victim of abuse has now been given their own “pass” to abuse the abuser right back? It is a circular argument, isn’t it? The abuser hurt the abused because hurt people hurt people. The abused then abuses the abuser because, after all, hurt people hurt people. Its a never ending tennis match.

    To those who wish to employ this mantra I wish to ask them which behaviors in particular that I have mentioned of my abuser does this justify? I would ask the quoter to share with me what evil behaviors they have committed as a result of being hurt. The phrase itself implies there are people who haven’t been hurt. Would anyone ever raise their hand anywhere in the world to say no, they’ve never been hurt? Its simply meaningless. Its fortune cookie “wisdom”. I would also like to ask where this wisdom is backed up by scripture as something we are commanded to adhere to in responding to people. Can anyone give an example in scripture? Is this something Jesus would say? On the contrary, 1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love, does not know God because God is love.” (also what you referenced Ellie when you said the problem is these people don’t know Christ) I’d say whoever uses that mantra as an excuse for perpetual mistreatment at best, abuse at worst, does not believe scripture when we are told we are made new and commanded to be holy.

    Can you imagine this kind of simplistic thinking being used in the OT when people were commanded to destroy entire cities? Never mind, David, don’t go attack them…after all hurt people hurt people.

    1. I just love that line:

      …we’re just gonna love that pain right off that abuser…

      I can just hear that jingle now! What is sad is too many churches think that this is all it takes!

      I used to teach a discipleship class and one of our members was hung up on this love thing. Every class, he would start talking about how all we need to do is love and every ill will be taken care of. All pain would go away and no one would hurt anyone else. What he failed to realize is that love manifests itself in many ways. I don’t doubt that Jesus still “loved” the money changers when he brought out the whip. I don’t doubt he still “loved” the pharisees when he was calling them all sorts of names and bringing up their hypocrisy.

      The fact that He loved them and that we are supposed to love does not negate the natural consequences of one’s actions. Sowing and reaping is a spiritual truth, whether you are hurting or not. I don’t see where God is going to give people a pass at judgment because they had been hurt at some point in their lives. We all hurt in some way. Every one of us. No one is immune and it is not an excuse for our deliberate and willful sin, period.

      When Paul confronted Peter about his favoring Jewish believers over Gentiles, he didn’t say, “It’s alright. Peter was hurt by some Gentiles at some point, so we will just let it slide. Maybe we can love him back into treating all fairly.” No, he confronted Peter to his face and then told the church he had done so.

      Sometimes love is a hug and sometimes it is a 2×4 between the eyes (metaphorically speaking, of course)!

      1. Wendell,

        May I share excerpts of your comment on social media?

        I think there’s much worthy of sharing here. Shame that I’ve unfriended most of my former church, especially the leadership. They could learn a thing or two. Of course, if they were really interested in so doing, they would have so done by now….

    2. Valerie,

      I love the idea of putting these kinds of things on Scripture to see how they’d (not) make sense.

      Remember Cain? Wasn’t that absolutely devastating when the Lord accepted Abel’s offering? I mean, who couldn’t understand Cain’s actions after that? He was so hurt!

      And what about King Saul? Poor guy. Who wouldn’t want to bring back all the sheep and cattle from the land of the Amalekites? Maybe if Samuel had been more understanding about how hurt Saul must have been things could have worked out better, and Saul could have “reconciled” with the Lord.

      And King David. Man, if only Nathan had realized how hurt David was from his history running from King Saul and all that trouble. David simply had to console himself with Bathsheba. What else could he do? And when she became pregnant, well, you know. In that day and age it wouldn’t have been acceptable since she was another man’s wife. What else could David do? All that trouble that could have been avoided had Nathan not delivered the Lord’s message because, well, David was only acting out of a history of hurt, after all.

      1. Valerie and Still Reforming, I would quote the bits I like from your two commments, and then say AMEN — but that would mean I’d be quoting your entire comments.

        Good stuff! Keep it comin’ sisters 🙂

  4. Very good post, Ellie. I loathe that phrase. So many in the Church have said that to me which made me feel like they were giving my abuser an excuse for his repeated behaviors. And it made me feel like I wasn’t forgiving him if I wasn’t understanding that “he was hurting!” Then I was selfish for asking, “What about how I am hurting? What about how this hurt our children?”

  5. Oh, the years I wasted reading, reading, reading, going to counselors, asking why does he do that? Trying to ‘understand’. And when I think I get it, trying to be gracious and helpful. For what?

    One day last year I cried out to God, “What should I do?” He replied, “No more excuses.” As I prayed more, it came to me, no more me making excuses for him or for myself not standing up to it, no more accepting excuses from him, etc. That’s when this and similar websites started popping out of the woodwork for me. And once I started paying attention, it’s amazing how many excuses one hears all around. I watch Dr. Phil…….oh, the excuses!!!!!!! I have an alcoholic friend……oh, the excuses!!! And things here at home have actually been changing. I’m not yet holding my breath that the change will go far enough or be consistent and permanent, but I personally feel so much better about life, myself, even about God.

    Thank you for this site and all the posts, especially this one. To my shame, I’ve used that phrase, “Hurt people hurt people” way too much in the past. Not even thinking, “Well I’ve sure been hurt, why don’t I go around hurting people deliberately like he does?” Duh.

  6. When I was growing up my mom always said “two wrongs don’t make a right.” We weren’t supposed to hurt someone just because they hurt us, or because we were in a bad mood or something (although looking back we siblings did that a lot!).

    1. Interestingly I was meditating on this cliche and decided it is false in too many circumstances. I know many hurt people who are empathic and loving people. So when you come up against hurt people who choose to abuse it is a shock to the system. This phrase is too often a trite way of excusing behavior that should instead be confronted. Thanks for this article.

  7. Hello, I am absolutely blown away by this amazing post and all these excellent comments. Oh my goodness! I really needed to read this!

    I have lived through years of extreme spiritual abuse. My dad was a minister… until he went insane and almost murdered my mother, because he believed she was having an affair with another minister, an older married man who was my father’s closest friend and mentor. I witnessed things between my mother and this other minister which led me to believe that my dad’s suspicions were correct, although that in no way justified his violent reaction.

    The collateral damage that was done in our family as a result of this compounded evil was very great, and has ultimately harmed five generations (I am now a great-grandmother).

    My faith in the Lord was very strong when I was a young child. But when my family blew up, I lost my faith and wandered far from the Lord for many years. And oh, boy, I suffered for it! Living apart from the Lord is its own hell. I finally came back to Christ in 2003, when a wonderful group of genuine Christians showed me what Christ-like love really is. I am now married to a chaplain who loves the Lord and also loves me, the way Christ loves the church. I am so blessed!

    But I still struggle with trying to understand WHY all the abusers did the evil things they did. I have read and searched and gone to counseling and made myself dizzy trying to figure it out. Oh I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this post! Especially NOW, as I am writing my memoir, with the intention of writing it the way I think the Lord wants me to…. which means writing the TRUTH in LOVE — not always an easy thing to do, especially when it comes to the topic of extreme trauma and abuse!

    By the way, Alaina is my pen name, I don’t use any real names in what I write. That wouldn’t be loving, in my opinion.

    God Bless… Wow…. I feel so at home here on this blog!

      1. Thank you. I read your New Users Info page last night, right after I wrote my comment. I am very impressed with the wise and respectful boundaries you have set for this blog.

    1. Alaina,
      My stbx has accused me of doing things that I was NOT doing. It messed with my head ! I would think, did I really do that ? He was SO convincing! I don’t know how they do it! But like you, as I mentioned in other threads, trying to understand WHY gets to be overwhelming! One of my main questions is ‘why didn’t he love me?’
      Praise God you still have your faith! I am wanting more and more of the Lord in control of my life! I don’t know where I would be without Jesus! 🙂

  8. Yeah — “hurt people hurt people” (or “hurting people hurt people”) is pop-psychology of the worst sort.

    If “hurt people hurt people” is taken to its logical conclusion, then Gavin de Becker (whose mother pointed a gun at his head when he was a child) would have gone on to become some outrageous criminal. Instead, he became a risk management expert and wrote the book The Gift of Fear [Affiliate link] and developed the Mosaic Method Risk Assessment and made it available for free.

    If hurt people hurt people, then Rosa Parks would have become a malignant narcissist of some kind or other.

    If hurt people hurt people, then Nebuchadnezzar would have become a raging tyrant after he’d spent all those years living like an ox in the open field.

    If hurt people hurt people, then Tamar would have become viciously vengeful after having been raped by Amnon then having all her family belittle or ignore her trauma and grief.

  9. Ellie, I rephrased a word in your sentance below to give it another perspective.

    “Their wolfish behavior also alerts us to their “Lack of Christ”, not their need of pity.”

    It isn’t the targets’ responsibility to continue to endure a toxic situtation to help unrepentant abusers find Christ when they are showing the fruits of denying him repeatedly.
    This is where many pastors and leaders “miss the mark” and mis-direct the target to continue to subject herself and children to stay in the destructive cycle.
    It is the ABUSER’S responsibility to seek Christ, and if he will not do that “on his own” (No need for pastor or layman’s hand – holding on this issue.) then he or she obviously doesn’t want or intend to.

  10. When I make excuses for myself, I think of standing in front of the throne of Christ and trying an excuse on Him. He provided his blood by which I can be forgiven and redeemed. The fig leaves of excuses are not necessary when repentance, forgiveness, and new character is possible to those who humble themselves and obey God. Psychology does us a disservice by providing a rationalization for all sinful behavior. I repented, not for standing up to and leaving an abuser eventually, but for tolerating and enabling his sin against me by not reporting him to the police and kicking him to the curb long before.

    The line ‘it takes two’, isn’t true, because one person can decide to be a vicious abuser. However, my responsibility is not resisting evil, exposing it to the light and holding an adult responsible for their criminal behavior.

    1. I repented, not for standing up to and leaving an abuser eventually, but for tolerating and enabling his sin against me by not reporting him to the police and kicking him to the curb long before.

      AMEN! If victims of domestic abuse can be said to have any sins they need to repent of, they are usually the sins of enabling the abuse to continue by
      — staying so long (often much longer than non-Christians stay)
      — granting too many ‘second chances’
      — and tolerating the mistreatment because they have been taught to misunderstand and misapply Christian behavioural precepts (forgiveness, longsuffering, ‘meritorious suffering’, covering for the sins of another, bearing other’s burdens, etc.)

  11. Whilst I definitely agree with your points Barbara- and am personally guilty of all three, I was hurt went my sister said ‘you let him get away with it’ in such a way as to add to my burden as if I was somehow responsible for his abuse. It is a struggle because yes my actions have enabled but on the other hand part of being abused is having that part of you that can resist ‘dis-abled’ by the abuser through lies, manipulation, destruction of boundaries. Upon reflection I think ‘no’ at many points I tried very hard to put an end to the abuse and was overpowered with many things which led to confusion and loss of agency in the relationship, if you see where I am coming from? It’s probably a bit of both, but hard to see where the responsibility lies..

    1. Savedbygrace, I agree totally with you. I tried so hard to resist the abuse but I was “overpowered” all the time. For years all I have been able to do is just survive from day to day. Not in a physical way so much, but emotionally and mentally. My children are grown now so I feel like I can leave anytime things get too bad. Although I will need to get a full time job first, that’s the concern I have. And I don’t feel responsible at all for his actions. He has willfully hurt me (not physically) even though I have protested time and time again. He could stop but he won’t. It may look like enabling to some but I don’t feel that way.

    2. Savedbygrace, I think your comment is rich with wisdom from experience.

      I was hurt went my sister said ‘you let him get away with it’ in such a way as to add to my burden as if I was somehow responsible for his abuse.

      Oh yes, how that hurts! I’ve had the same thing said (or inferred) to me. Aarrgh!

      part of being abused is having that part of you that can resist ‘dis-abled’ by the abuser through lies, manipulation, destruction of boundaries.

      BINGO. I’m going to put that on our Gems page!

    3. savedbygrace,
      I was dealt a similar blow when I left the church in which I had served for eight years. I did so because my abuser re-appeared suddenly at a Thanksgiving feast after a voluntary several-month absence. When I left before the meal and then heard in subsequent weeks that he was coming back each Sunday, I called the pastor to explain why I wasn’t comfortable there anymore and wouldn’t return.
      The pastor was totally fine with my not returning (shame on him), but my mother was not. She wrote to me in an email, “You’re letting him control you.”
      I’m not letting him control me. and I’m not responsible for his incongruent actions and words, but she’s never lived with such deception and manipulation so I didn’t bother to correct her. It’s such a steep learning curve and takes a lot of time and experience to figure out. I just let it slide. She doesn’t understand the discomfort being around a bully – especially in all places my church.
      I really don’t think that you have “enabled” your abuser. The facts may appear as if we’ve “enabled,” but I don’t care for that word because it carries with it some suggestion of complicity or compliance on our parts, and we didn’t seek or desire to be deceived. The word “deceit” itself carries with it the notion of our lack of knowledge regarding what was happening.
      So even if our actions or words allowed the abuse to go on, it was unwittingly so. We didn’t enable the abuser by our actions of trying to affect change in the marriage for good, not evil. But change will never happen so long as the abuser continually works to undermine the process.

  12. The church has such a hard time acknowledging any such thing as a wolf. Have you ever heard “Well, you can’t know the heart.” Jesus said you can. He said, “You will know them by their fruits.

    We like to think of wolves as things with big teeth and scary eyes, and forget that Jesus said that they come looking just like sheep. They are known by their fruits, not by their get-up.

    I think that we don’t like to face the true ugliness of sin. It is uglier and nastier and filthier that we can even imagine. When we get a tiny glimpse of the rottenness of the human heart, it goes against our natural religion — that deep down inside everyone has good motives and good intentions. If we just understood more, loved more, empathized more — then we could bring out the natural goodness of the poor misunderstood and hurting wolf.

    No matter how many times they hurt, tear and destroy sheep, we won’t let go of that idol of natural basic goodness of man.
    But sin is so hateful, ugly, destructive, dark and hopeless that the only way it could be defeated was in the death of the Son of God. The cross of Christ is the only way.

    3 Ye who think of sin but lightly
    Nor suppose the evil great
    Here may view its nature rightly,
    Here its guilt may estimate.
    Mark the sacrifice appointed,
    See who bears the awful load;
    ‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
    Son of Man and Son of God.

    We have a human need to understand and to name. God made us that way. But we can’t understand the wickedness of a wolf unless we fully grasp the wickedness of sin. To see how ugly sin actually is, look at the cross of Christ.

    1. Sam Powell,
      Well stated indeed. I would like to also add that in my experience the wolf was allowed to remain among the sheep because the main ‘shepherd’ of the flock wants them to “love him to Christ.” I’ve been bit by that wolf too many times to remain among them.

      1. I’ve heard that so many times before (Love him to Christ) – the problem is that it is unbiblical. Jesus, of course, was perfect love – and Judas was still a wolf. Jesus even told his disciples to wipe the dust off of their feet. Sometimes, we need to submit to our Father’s perfect will by admitting that our love is never going to win anyone to Christ.

        Sometimes I also think that it is “tempting God” – that is, only God can bring someone to repentance and only God can change a heart. When we make our decisions based upon what we think God ought to do, are we not making demands upon God instead of submitting to His will? We should deal with things as they ARE rather than deal with things as we hope that they would be.

        The Bible says that when a wolf acts like a wolf, talks like a wolf, devours like a wolf, then call it a wolf and cast him out.
        But we say, “But I don’t like that. What if he changes?” Isn’t that tempting God? Isn’t it simply refusing to obey and demanding that God act according to OUR desires?

        Just some things I’ve been thinking about lately.

      2. Sam Powell,

        Having been with the wolf for more than two decades before he abandoned us (dumping us financially though we were dependent on him and the pastor knows this), I heartily agree with you. Letting the wolf stay in the church is the church standing alongside evil and allowing it. I find it wholly unbiblical as well. I just can’t see allowing evil to remain in the church, knowing that it is evil. That makes the god of that church out to be one uninterested in justice, and that is not the God I serve.

        I can understand letting people remain in the church if the leadership is unsure they’re saved or not IF there isn’t a testimony against those people. But once the truth comes out – and in my case, a testimony has been heard by the pastor and leaders about the abuse – then the leadership is required to take a stand. In not doing so, they’ve made their stand, and as I see it, they’ve chosen to stand alongside evil.

  13. So I linked to this post because Barbara, I believe, shared this link about “hurting people hurt people” on the recent post on enablers… so, when I’ve heard this cliche and it’s been tossed my direction numerous times, especially recently it seems, and I cringe every time I hear it, it’s being applied to people who are abused as an excuse that we don’t need to listen to their voice, because they are hurt and are going to hurt others when they tell their story.. so in my experience it’s being used as an excuse to silence and dismiss the voice of the abused… do you have anything on that angle? so it’s a double whammy for the abused… excuse the abuser because they have been hurt, and don’t listen to the voice of the abused because, hey they’re bitter and they are talking out of their hurt… so I was really surprised when I read it exclusively applied to the abuser… I hope that makes sense…

    1. Actually I have heard it applied primarily to enable and excuse abusers. “He is just a hurting fellow, you know so we have to be kind and understanding of him.” That sort of nonsense. But in fact many people have been hurt and abused in their past who do not choose to hurt or abuse others. Abusers are like all of us, responsible for their choices and actions.

      It is particularly cruel to apply this line to victims and thus accuse them of biting others because they have been hurt. In fact, in our experience, if anything, abuse victims don’t bite back enough!

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