Today’s blog is about emotional abuse, and its consequences.
Introduction The following quotation sets the scene, though its relevance might not be clear until you have read the whole article:
Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the places where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved panelling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).
An open letter to my mother Mother, despite claiming to love me, you established control over me from my early childhood onwards. You did this through scorn, criticism, bullying, condemnation, rage, and bouts of violent destructiveness. These behaviours made me fear you deeply. I lived in dread of your next outburst.
You continued to maintain control over me during my teenage years and adulthood, too, using intrusion, disapproval, and anger when I dared to express personal feelings, thoughts or beliefs you didn’t like. Similarly, you reacted with fury and threats of coercion if I tried to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my life. When I made mistakes, or got things wrong, you never forgave me, or forgot it. All this made me dread seeing you and spending time with you. I particularly hated the sound of your voice, and loathed you touching me, but was afraid to stand up to you, or to say “no”.
Your ways of controlling me have had severe, pervasive, long-term consequences for my mental health, in the form of low self-esteem, anxiety, dread, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I have also had to cope with a constant sense of not wanting to be alive, with chronic depression, and with episodes of acute depression. Furthermore, one question has always preyed on my mind:
How could you say you loved me, yet behave as you did towards me?
It didn’t make sense. I just couldn’t square what you said with what I experienced.
Then, on the 24th of May, 2020, a friend sent me a message she had seen on a Facebook site about domestic abuse. It read:
It’s not CONSENT if you make me afraid to say no.
I stared at these words, instantly electrified by their brevity, clarity and profound truth. Within seconds, a personal variation flashed into my mind:
It’s not LOVE if you make me afraid to say no.
Deeply stirred by this insight, further phrases began tumbling out of my unconscious mind. Here are just a few examples:
It’s not love if you make me afraid to disagree.
It’s not love if you criticise me all the time.
It’s not love if you make me afraid to be myself.
It’s not love if you make me afraid to choose for myself.
It’s not love if you belittle my achievements.
It’s not love if you only approve of me when I behave like you.
At last, in my late sixties, my friend’s message had given me the answer to my question: your behaviour towards me shows clearly that you did not, in fact, love me in any meaningful way at all.
This shocking realisation made me consider what kinds of behaviour do, in fact, reflect and express genuine love. Here are the best answers I’ve found so far:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NLT).
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5; NIV).
I know that none of us is perfect, mother, but when I confronted you, you could at least have admitted what you did to me, and said you were sorry. Over the years, I managed to raise the subject of your behaviour with you several times, always at huge personal cost. However, you never responded with genuine understanding or honesty, instead always trying to justify, minimise, or deny what you had done.
For many years now, I have worked hard to forgive you. Sometimes I even think I’ve succeeded. Fortunately, God understands and accepts the intense anger and bitterness that can still occasionally emerge from my mind, heart and soul. Slowly, gently, he gives me the insights I need in order to be healed, for which I am profoundly thankful.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other (Romans 12:9; NLT).
Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).
1. You’re shelter for the homeless, Lord,
And freedom for the jailed;
A banquet for the hungry,
And redemption for the failed.
2. You’re clothing for the naked, Lord,
And vision for the blind;
A welcome for the stranger,
And a friend for the maligned.
3. You’re rescue for the victim, Lord,
And power for the weak;
Fresh courage for the fearful,
And a refuge for the meek.
4. You’re water for the thirsty, Lord,
And ransom for the slave;
God’s healing for the stricken,
And the first-fruits of the grave.
5. We’re servants of your kingdom, Lord,
Our task: to grow like you,
By treating everyone with love
In all we say and do.
1-4. This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help (Isaiah 58:6-7; NLT).
5. [Grow] in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2; NLT).
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them (Romans 12:9; NLT)
“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:44-45; NIV).
If the Son sets you free, you are truly free
(John 8:36; NLT).
You live in every damaged body;
Every wounded, fragile, anxious mind.
You live in every injured spirit;
Every broken heart, and those confined.
You want to heal each mind and body,
Giving us new life, for you are kind.
You want to set free every spirit,
And every broken heart you want to bind.
1. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).
The Spirit of God lives in you (1 Corinthians 3:16; NLT).
He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103:14; NLT).
2. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17; NIV).
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3; NIV).
3. A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Move with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Mark 1:41; NLT).
Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God (1 Peter 1:23; NLT).
How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! (Psalm 116:5; NLT).
4. He will give you another Advocate [Comforter, Encourager, Counsellor], who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth (John 14:16-17; NLT).
The Lord has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1; NIV).
When we’re engulfed by fear,
Remind us you are always near.
When we are put to shame,
Remind us of your holy Name.
When we are full of care,
Remind us of the thorns you wear.
When we are hurt and bruised,
Remind us how you were abused.
When we are racked with pain,
Remind us all how you were slain.
When we think life’s unfair,
Remind us of the wounds you bear.
When death is close at hand,
Remind us of God’s angel band.
We share one flesh and blood:
Remind us of our Father’s love.
Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44; NIV).
Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus (Luke 23:11; NLT).
The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head (John 19:2; NLT).
They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head (Matthew 27:30; NET).
Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross (Mark 15:24; NLT).
Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side (John 20:27; NLT).
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34; NLT).
When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; NLT).
God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16; NLT).