Verbal and emotional abuse is one of the hardest types of abuse to recognize…most people understand physical abuse, however emotional abuse can be disguised in a plethora of ways but equally as damaging. So I thought it best to start with the definition of abuse before tackling the subject of extending grace.
Abuse is defined in the dictionary as…
1) To use wrongly or improperly; misuse: to abuse one's authority.
2) To treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way.
3) To speak insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about. (Dictionary.com)
Most abusive relationships display a distinct pattern known as the “Cycle of Abuse.” This cycle goes round and round like a caged mouse on a wheel. It includes the following…
TENSION BUILDING PHASE
INCIDENT or "Acting Out" PHASE
- Tension starts and steadily builds
- Abuser starts to get angry, edgy, demanding
- Communication breaks down
- Victim feels the need to concede to the abuser
- Tension becomes too much
- Victim feels uneasy and a need to watch every move
HONEYMOON or RECONCILIATION PHASE
- Any type of abuse occurs
CALM before the tension starts again.
- Abuser may apologize for abuse, some beg forgiveness or show sorrow
- Abuser may promise it will never happen again
- Abuser may blame victim for provoking the abuse or denies abuse occurred
- Abuser may minimize, deny or claim the abuse wasn't as bad as victim claims
- Over time, the victim believes he/she is to blame
- Abuse slows or stops
- Abuser acts like the abuse never happened
- Promises made during honeymoon stage may be met
- Abuser may give gifts to victim
- Victim believes or wants to believe the abuse is over or the abuser will change
(Often the cycle of violence is portrayed as 3 steps: tension
, acting out
phases, where the Honeymoon and Calm phase are seen as one.)
This information is provided courtesy of Kim Eyer of rhiannon3.org .
It is difficult to identify and break away from this abusive cycle at the best of times; then add in the Christian factor of faith, forgiveness and extending grace, and the abuser has it made in the shade with fertile ground in which to flourish.
So let’s look at what Jesus meant when He extended GRACE.
Dictionary.com definition of Grace:
1) Favor or goodwill. Synonyms: kindness, kindliness, love, benignity; condescension.
2) A manifestation of favor. Synonyms: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness.
In Christian theology, grace
has been defined as "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it, the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race".It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved"- that takes the form of divine favor, love and clemency. It is an attribute of God that is most manifest in the salvation of sinners.
Clearly Jesus extended the ultimate gift of grace through salvation, and we are to emulate Him, correct?
YET…Jesus had wisdom and could clearly see into the hearts of man. He was NOT always meek and mild, at times He spoke words that sliced through the hypocrisy and cut to the truth of the matter. In fact he spoke them to the religious of that day…the worst offenders. He was not afraid to confront their sinful hearts WITH TRUTH.
Take for instance His words in Matthew 23:22 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
These words are not warm and fuzzy.
I point this out why???
Because there are relationships out there, where God/Jesus/Christianity, and words like grace are used or rather misused
by the abuser to keep the cycle of abuse going. We need to pray for God’s wisdom, recognize and call an end to abuse.
If this cycle of abuse sounds like your life…tension, (walking on egg shells) to abusive words/incidents with broken promises, to reconciliation and more empty promises, to tension again…Please see it for what it is…ABUSE.
As a Christian we try hard to hang onto our marriages because we believe it is what God would desire, but there comes a time to recognize that it takes two tender hearts to make a marriage. Jesus talks about the hardened heart in Matthew 19:8. He knew that when a heart was hard, divorce followed. But what happens when one heart is hard and the other tender? One word…ABUSE and this was never God’s plan for anyone.
I speak from life experience. I allowed emotional abuse and disrespect. I lived this crazy cycle ever longing and praying for life to be different. Then the ultimate disrespect of adultery hit my marriage and I woke up.
I now speak out from the perspective of one who has had to stand firm, even walk away, until the heart softened and repented. True repentance includes the willingness to do the ongoing hard work of change.
Unfortunately not every hard heart desires change and I applaud my husband for making this choice.
If there is not the willingness to repent…and do the hard work of change, then extend grace from a distance. Forgive, even love, and keep that tender heart, but do not live under the tyranny of abuse.
P.S. Extend a little grace to yourself and walk away with your head held high, you will be amazed at the miracles that happen. Sometimes this initiates true change in your spouse, however, even better, it will birth a healthy metamorphous in you. That caterpillar ever bound to the tree of abuse, like the butterfly will find wings to fly.
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Your wings to fly.