The King's Gardeners Ministries
Reverend S. L. Gardner
Spokane Valley, Washington U.S.
- The Issue of Abuse -
Myths about Abuse
There are several myths surrounding the issue of abuse. Let's look at four of them:
Myth #1--Some Men Can't Help Themselves. Some believe that there are men who don't have the ability to cope with frustration. It's said that these men have no choice but to abuse. In responding to this claim, James and Phyllis Alsdurf state, "If frustrating situations offered only one option, abusers would be equally violent on the job, driving in traffic, or interacting with friends; but that is simply not true. The majority of abusers direct their violence specifically and purposely toward their wives". Additionally, this is a dangerous view to hold because it allows the abuser to dodge responsibility for his actions. Failure to hold abusers responsible only adds fuel to a simmering fire that explodes going out of control.
Myth #2--Alcohol Is The Problem. While alcohol and other drugs are involved in many abusive marriages, there are others where they are not. It is wrong to assume that alcohol or drugs are the fundamental cause of spouse abuse. While chemical dependencies often inflame and complicate abusive relationships, they are only part of the problem. Removing alcohol, for instance, still leaves the heart and root of the abuse unexposed and unchallenged.
Myth #3--Abused Women Are Themselves To Blame. Some believe that wife abuse would not occur if it were not for women who drive their husbands over the edge. They point out that some women "bait" their husbands into abusing them with a frigid attitude or constant nagging. They maintain that some women actually "buy" the attention and sympathy of others by provoking their husbands to violence. While there may be occasions when this kind of "baiting" exists, it is rare. It's a well-known fact that battered women generally keep the abuse private. That's why wife battering is commonly referred to as the "silent crime." Battered women normally don't seek sympathy from others. They keep it to themselves because of the shame they feel, and because they're afraid of what might happen if they report their husbands' behavior.
Some wives admit to provoking their husbands' rage, not because they like being abused but because they have been through the cycle enough times to know that after the storm their husbands are inclined to be remorseful, kind, and gentle. Additionally, "getting the abuse over with" eases the enormous fear of not knowing when the next abusive storm will strike.For many abused wives, living with the overwhelming fear of not knowing when the abuse will happen again is worse than the abusive incident itself.
In some marriages, the wife is more verbal than her husband. She can outmaneuver him in an argument. This falsely may give him reason to feel weak and incompetent, and sometimes provoke him to anger. When he finally blows up, her moral superiority appear to be confirmed. He feels even lower about himself, while, at considerable cost to herself, she appears to be vindicated. The problem with this situation is his resentment of her seeming superiority will cause him to "punish" her more severely in other ways. Again, while such relationships exist, they do not prove that a woman is to blame for being abused. No one should ever be blamed for another's abusive behavior.
Myth #4--The Bible Does Not Permit Christian Women To Report An Abusive Husband. This is probably the most serious of all myths because so many battered women have been encouraged to silently apply "the submissive wife" principle of 1 Peter 3.
So many well-meaning Pastors and counselors have sent wives back into an abusive home after quoting the apostle Peter's words: Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear (1 Pet. 3:1-6).
Then in one additional verse Peter went on to say to husbands: Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.(1 Pet. 3:7) These clear words and timeless principles are often misapplied in abuse situations for several reasons:
Differences Of Culture. In his commentary, William Barclay explains, "It may seem strange that Peter's advice to wives is six times as long as his advice to husbands. That was because the wife's problem was far more difficult than that of the husband. If a husband became a Christian, he would automatically bring his wife with him into the church, and there would be no problem. But if a wife became a Christian, while her husband did not, she had taken a step which in the ancient world was unprecedented, and which produced the acutest problems."
Barclay then goes on to describe the lack of legal protection offered to women in the first century. First-century women and slaves could not appeal to 20th-century assault and battery laws. An endangered woman did not have the option of calling 911, an abuse hotline, or her local police. In our day, we can teach the timeless principles of Peter and also, in the event of domestic violence, we can call on the provisions of government and law enforcement that God has given us (Rom. 13:1-7).
If the husband is a believer, and his abuse has not escalated to criminal proportions, a woman can also appeal to the principles of Matthew 18:15-18 and ask the church to intervene in her behalf.
When an abused woman does ask the church for help, it is important to remember that the God of the Bible has always asked people of strength to come to the assistance of those who are weak and oppressed (Ezek. 34:4).
Godly people must not send a battered woman back to her home with the advice to "be more submissive." They need to do everything possible to provide whatever legal, social, or spiritual protection is available.When appropriate, they will help a battered woman to apply the full extent of the law. Their motive must not be to return evil for evil, but to use the principle of government to bring an out-of-control husband to his senses.
No one does an abusive husband a favor by allowing him to continue degrading himself and his wife with violence or emotional battering.
The Nature Of Godly Submission. The woman who passively allows her husband to abuse her may be sincerely trying to be obedient to the principles of 1 Peter 3:1-6. Or she might be bearing her trauma silently in the belief that to report the abuse would result in even greater endangerment. In either case, it needs to be noted that Peter was asking women for a specific kind of submission. Peter was calling for the kind of godly submission that invites a husband to be the servant leader God made him to be. Peter's intent was not to help abusive husbands indulge in the childish lust for power and control that Jesus condemned (Mk. 10:42-43; 1 Pet. 3:7).
The Example Of Christ. The immediate context of 1 Peter 3:1-7 says that we must be willing to suffer as Christ suffered for us. Peter reminded us that Jesus suffered unfair treatment without returning insult for insult or evil for evil. This may sound like a reason for not reporting or opposing an abusive husband. But think about how Christ suffered for us.
Jesus was first of all submissive to His Father in heaven. His submission was always tempered by what brought honor to God and help to others. He was willing to suffer. But His suffering was for doing good, for seeking the life and well-being of others. Jesus wasn't indulging the evil actions of His enemies and submitting to their selfish whims.
For these reasons and others we believe that it is a dangerous myth that Christian women must not oppose abusive husbands. Applying 1 Peter 3:1-6 in this way, however, requires a woman to think carefully about why and how she is living out the kind of submission Peter was calling for.
Authors Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson are licensed counselors in Michigan and work in the RBC biblical correspondence department.
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The King's Gardeners Ministries is based in Washington State U.S. with all proper Corporate Reports on file with the Secretary of State for Washington U.S. Reverend S. L. Gardner President and CEC.