The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
- John 10:10
“When I was nine years old, my mother married my stepfather, a man who was full of hostility, anger, and bitterness. My life changed dramatically as a result. …
“In all ways, John was mean and abusive. I never heard him say a positive word about anything. Never once did I hear him say that he cared for me or loved me. I don’t recall his ever giving me anything. …
“It’s critically important as we discuss abuse, and God’s words of healing and comfort to those who are abused, to differentiate between discipline and abuse.
“The definition of abuse varies from one person to the next. … Verbal abuse and emotional abuse are more difficult to define than physical or sexual abuse. To some, regular or intense criticism might be considered verbal abuse and emotional abuse. To another person, such words of criticism may have no impact at all. …
“The Lord calls for us to respond to our abuse in several ways – all of which put us into a position for Him to heal us of the damage that has been done to us emotionally, and all of which free us so that we are capable of setting down the emotional baggage that results from abuse.
“Response #1: Seek God’s guidance.
“Response #2: Pray for your abuser.
“Response #3: Don’t blame God for the abuse.
“Response #4: Forgive your abuser.
“Response #5: Forgive the person who may have allowed your abuse.
“Response #6: Choose the truth about yourself and about your abuser.
“Response #7: Open yourself to God’s healing of your abused emotions.
“Response #8: Refuse to retaliate.
“Response #9: Choose to go forward in your life positively.
“Response #10: Look for God to bring something good out of your experience.”
- Charles Stanley, The Source of my Strength
This is a tough one to define for me. The Rev. Stanley book was copyrighted in 1994. Today, what went on behind closed doors in 1994 would probably be considered abuse. My boys were teen-agers by then. When I was disciplined, in the 50s and early 60s, any of that could have led to criminal charges if done today. I am sure. But those were the standards for those times.
I remember my mother telling the story of me waking up, fixing my own breakfast, at age three, and burning my hands because I forgot the hot pad when I reached for the pan in the oven. As an adult listening to her story, I would wonder if she realized that she was admitting to criminal child neglect in front of a people who were not family? I said nothing because it was the closest thing to a compliment that she ever gave me, passing away when I was about 60-years old. She would say that she hoped I could behave, but she realized that I was resourceful and incapable of behaving. Thus, she had to give up working on the turkey farm and the turkey processing plant and just stick to the bookkeeping. She could do that while I played in the office. She would throw in such wonderful compliments as “a burden,” “a royal pain,” and “trouble that she did not have time for.” At least, I take those as compliments. Otherwise, I have a big zero. Hey, I take it as “I noticed my son.”
Oh, yes, she overheard me tell my Dad once that I had never heard her say, “I love you.” I think I said that in my teens. Afterwards, you could see the pain in her face, but she would say those three words, while her facial expression said, “I hope you are satisfied, and you will now shut up!” She got better with saying it, but never with a sincere look on her face, always as an obligation – her words. I was told that my parents grew up in the depression, and I should take that into consideration, whatever that meant. But it probably meant the rules were different when they were young too.
After we lost the farm, and deep frustration set in for them and with me as the only punching bag, my Dad worked on the road, coming home on occasion. I would see his car, and I would try to find a way of not going inside the house. But I loved my Dad. He would grab me when I came through the door and start swatting me with his leather belt until my mother was satisfied. He had no idea why I was being punished. I had no idea either. But once my mother had what looked like a smile, sort of, the whipping stopped.
I swore that when I had to punish my children, they would know why. We would sit down and discuss it. And I would not be angry during the punishment phase. When my Dad got angry, he usually hit something other than my bottom. Those were bruises that he might not be able to explain if it had gone to court. But I consider his whippings, and or beatings, as not being abuse, the standard of the times. I never compared with the other kids in the playground. I felt not knowing what I had done wrong, thus a fair chance that I would do it again, was the abuse. My mother lived by “wait until your Dad gets home,” but she never said those words. I never had a clue.
And I learned number 8 on Rev. Stanley’s list early and often. My mother did what she did with the full approval of her conscience. Thus, if I said it was unfair, it would immediately get ten times or one hundredfold worse. I know other people with the same kind of mother. We compare notes and actually have a moment of laughter that the process was so similar. It was as if that particular process was taught a few generations ago. Abusing children for their own good.
And none of the discipline done to me was what I would consider abuse. It shaped me, for good and bad, what I am today. I tried to fix everything for my children, but only some of it. So my boys could probably write volumes about my screw ups. I yelled. When you say something for the boys to do 3-4 times in a soft voice and they never respond…
I guess, that is one thing that I would add to Rev. Stanley’s list. Response 11 – Do the best you can to not follow in the abuser’s footsteps. It is so often done. In many cases, you have no other role model to pattern when it is your parents abusing you instead of discipline.
God is just, with Holy Justice. He cannot abide sin, but He loves us. His Son paid the sacrifice, dying in our place so that our sins can be removed, washed away as white as snow. He no longer sees our sin, at least those who are His own. For those who have no faith, He will give them the punishment that they deserve, but He will have no pleasure in it. God will not be amused. He will not have a smile on His face at the time. At least from the attributes of God, I cannot see those things happening, only that the just punishment is carried out.
And I think if there is an abuser out there who does not come to faith in Christ, it may be a worse punishment somehow – the old millstone around the neck and thrown into the sea thing. I think of that possibility, and I cannot hold any resentment for my parents, for my bad bosses, or from anyone else who has harmed me.
I have physical problems that make me sick when it gets too hot outside. I would not wish the Lake of Fire on anyone.
With the ten responses that Rev. Stanley suggests and the one that I added, it is not possible to honestly do any of them without God working within us to carry that part out. But we must be willing to let it go. I have stated some facts here, but with no resentment.
It is the old time travel mistake. If you build a time machine and you go back in time to prevent something that harmed you in the past, you will not have the pain in the present to give you the motivation to travel back in time to fix the problem. Everything would irrevocably been changed by your one act.
But if I could travel back in time … Knowing the horrible position that my Dad was placed in, I would like to go back in time and give him a hug and tell him that it is all right. We are both forgiven, and our names are in God’s Book of Life.
Love conquers all, but only through God’s Grace.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.