A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Thursday Thought — Feelings Are Not an Excuse for Behavior

The definition of adulthood is: the time when we are ready to be fully responsible for our actions.  Children do make choices, but not to the same extent that adults do; their feelings often overwhelm them and take over their behavior.  For adults, however, our feelings are no excuse for our behavior.

The controlling man typically hides behind his feelings to avoid being answerable for what he does, with claims such as:

“I couldn’t help how I acted; you made me too angry.”

“I go crazy when I feel that jealous, because I love you so much.”

“What do you expect me to do after you hurt my feelings like that?”

“There’s only so much a guy can take.”

Your partner may blame you for his actions because (he says) you caused his feelings.  Now, it’s questionable whether you even caused the feelings that came up for him — controlling men often have emotional reactions that make no sense — but even if you did, you didn’t cause how he decided to act on those feelings; that’s on him.

The reality is that feelings do not cause behavior.  Even actions that look like instant, spontaneous reactions are governed by choice.  Our feelings can certainly give us the urge to do certain things, but they don’t control us.

So what does determine our actions?  The answer is our values, attitudes, and habits.  If we consider violence or threats unacceptable behavior, then we don’t use them no matter how angry we get.  For example, most men never hit or threaten to hit their partners, even when they are enraged.  If we are honest people, we don’t start lying when we’re upset.  If we don’t believe in abusing alcohol, then we don’t start getting drunk daily after a painful loss.

And that means it isn’t his feelings that need to change, it’s his attitudes.

(Entry from Lundy Bancroft’s Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? [*Affiliate link] pp245-6)

***IMPORTANT NOTE:  While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns. 

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link



  1. Sarah

    I heard.. at least I don’t scream anymore. (for two months)
    we need to find a way to get past all this hurt.
    I’m not where I used to be.
    I’m working on it.
    I’m trying the best I can.
    You are not a patient person.
    You need to work on your anger as well.
    The two of us need to work on this.
    all these were just excuses and nothing changed.

  2. Grateful

    Thank you!!!!!!! I so appreciate your wisdom filled messages!!!

    • twbtc

      Hi Grateful,

      Welcome to the blog and thank you for commenting!

      I changed your screen name as a precaution. We discourage commenters from giving their real names unless they are assuredly safe. If you would like a different screen name just email me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com and I can change it.

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  3. For Too Long

    Some of the arguments my ex and I used to have about this were so ridiculous. They would go something like this: Me – “I can’t make you do anything, let alone make you become mad.” Ex-husband – “Of course you can. If you weren’t here, would I be mad?”

    I guess the thing I’ve always wondered is if he actually believed that himself. It’s pretty obvious that it’s just a way to blame someone else for your anger problem, but was he blind to that or was it just an evil lie he knowingly told?

    • Actually, I reckon if you weren’t there, he would still be mad… he would be kicking the dog or the cat.

      I actually knew a man who said that when he wife left him because he had been getting so mad at her, he noticed that he started kicking the dog…

  4. bright sunshinin' day


    So what does determine our actions? The answer is our values, attitudes, and habits. If we consider violence or threats unacceptable behavior, then we don’t use them no matter how angry we get. For example, most men never hit or threaten to hit their partners, even when they are enraged. If we are honest people, we don’t start lying when we’re upset. If we don’t believe in abusing alcohol, then we don’t start getting drunk daily after a painful loss.

    And that means it isn’t his feelings that need to change, it’s his attitudes.

  5. anonymous

    I was told that it was because of me that he drank and smoked; if I didn’t cause him so much stress then he wouldn’t feel the need for those things. Honestly. It was because of me that he didn’t attend church (although he claimed to be a Christian) as well. I left him and he decided to try to become a different person by not smoking and drinking, attending church, listening to music he hated before, loosing weight, eating right, etc but I know the man he really is on the inside even if others see something else. I lived with him for 20 years. I’ve seen his false identities come out before. And now I’m the one who needs to show more grace, forgive the “past”, etc.

    • Hope

      Great article……also want to say that these behaviours can be committed by wives whose emotions are WAY out of control! I realize that Christlike husbands need to sincerely love their wives in a godly way, they must be like Jesus to their wives, listen to their hearts, etc. But it can also be taken WAY too far by spoiled, childish, immature wives, who treat their husbands with constant criticism, (no matter HOW hard they are honestly & sincerely trying over & over to please her); have seen this happen to some couples when a wife is spiritually & emotionally abusive to her husband, constantly makes negative, disparaging, cruel remarks to & about him in front of others; expects him to focus 100% of his time only on her; is often jealous of any contact with family or friends; (even to the point of being jealous of their own childrens love & need for attention from their dad); & causes problems & family estrangement due to unrealistic isolation expectations & little to no contact with parents, grandparents, siblings, & friends!

      • Hi Cheryl,
        We recognise that sometimes the woman is the abuser. If you read our definition of Domestic Abuse in the sidebar, you will see that we acknowledge that sometimes this is the case.

    • Anonymous

      Yes. They must be AGAINST someone in order to achieve any changes but this also reveals their heart–it is the same heart as their father the devil and he is always against everyone.

      We have been forced by society, the church, psychology to accept that SOME change in a person’s behavior or attitude indicates that the person has changed ENTIRELY and we are also forced to accept this as a permanent thing until proven otherwise! If we refuse to go along with the charade we are called unforgiving, mean-spirited, bitter and evil and the blame and responsibility gets once again dumped on us when our Anti-Christ spouse, child, grandmother, pastor resorts to their natural state of abusing others. After all, if we had been more supportive, loving, long-suffering and attentive this person would have been able to attain permanent change.

      Meanwhile, we are never given a lick of credit for all we have done and all the things we did with a right heart and through the Lord are thrown of the fire as kindling with absolutely no memory of our consistent love and faithfulness. It’s the LEAST we can do cuz we were given everything! (Because we have chosen to have a conscience and the abuser has chosen to have little or none, we are then blamed for this. Even though we were never allowed to know about this difference and so choose our partners accordingly. Nope. It’s naturally all our fault and we are somehow forced to believe that we should have KNOWN all about evil and evil people so we have no excuse! Meanwhile, Mr. / Mrs. No Conscience is exonerated from ALL knowledge and responsibility cuz poor little them are 100 percent evil. Things you DIDN’T learn in Sunday School!)

      By the way, our right-heartedness toward God is credited to US. As with Abraham, we ARE given credit where credit is due. Most of us have lived in the land of sin-leveling and blame-equalizing for so long that we tend to see ourselves as the abusers have portrayed us but they are liars like their father the devil. God KNOWS our heart and mind and he honors those who honor Him.

  6. NutMeg

    I understand but at the same time I know people who get so depressed they do things they later regret. Like I was so depressed in my abuse I wanted to cut myself. I didn’t thank God but now I have a lot more empathy towards people who have had mental breakdowns and started drinking / cutting / fantasizing and other unhealthy things just to get away from their emotions for awhile. And obviously beating someone because they said something that made you angry is never okay and completely different thing altogether I just don’t want people to not have empathy towards others for succumbing to their depression or something. I knew a girl in college who was raped by her mom’s boyfriend so she got drunk a lot in high school to just get away from it. She stopped drinking in college but it was the only way she felt she could cope at the time because no one believed her and she didn’t know how else to handle it. I wasnt disappointed in her I felt bad for her.

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