Overcoming the Impact of Verbal Abuse AKA Emotional Abuse Devotional Reading
“What Is Verbal Abuse?” Verbal abuse, also known as emotional abuse, is a range of words or behaviors used to manipulate, intimidate, and maintain power and control over someone. These include insults, humiliation and ridicule, the silent treatment, and attempts to scare, isolate, and control. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-verbal-abuse#
From a therapeutic perspective, verbal abuse is synonymous with emotional abuse. Because we live in times where it is acceptable to say whatever is on your mind many individuals bully and hurt others with words that have the strength of lethal daggers. Why is this hurtful behavior tolerated?
Learned behaviors begin at home. The majority of abusers have a history of being raised in a home where they were either a victim of verbal/emotional abuse from childhood or witnessed a sibling targeted by abusive parents or caregivers. And history [almost always] repeats itself. The unhealthy home environment portrays love as flawed and gives an inaccurate example of a loving relationship.
The abused children equate harsh damaging words with love. Because no two individuals express themselves the same, not all verbal abuse is readily perceived as verbal abuse. Statements such as “Use your brain to think,” “Why can’t you be like your brother or sister?” or “You are just like your mother or father’s side of the family” are words that humiliate but are often ignored as verbal and emotional abuse.
How many children are doing their best but are consistently told they can do better, or mature in a home hearing they are worthless and will never amount to anything in life? Put-downs, yelling, and profanity are examples of injurious words that produce lifelong detrimental effects.
Yet there is another consequence—not every abused child matures into an abuser. Children and adults who endure verbal abuse always have low self-esteem. They are drawn to anyone who will give them attention which results in many unhealthy and counterproductive relationships throughout their lives. Verbal and Emotional abuse always produces children and adults who cannot function normally.
“The psychological effects of verbal abuse include fear and anxiety, depression, stress and PTSD, intrusive memories, memory gap disorders, sleep or eating problems, hyper-vigilance and exaggerated startle responses, irritability, anger issues, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, self-harm, and assaultive behaviors.” https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/verbal-abuse/effects-of-verbal-abuse-on-children-women-and-men#
The bottom line is there is no such concept as abusive love!
With over 20 years of experience in the Behavioral/Mental Health field, I have never seen a patient achieve complete healing solely through therapy. While ongoing counseling is crucial for gaining insight and promoting change, neither theories nor human professionals can truly heal a person’s soul. The only one capable of providing complete healing is God.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” —Psalm 34:18
The steps to healing from a history of verbal and emotional abuse must involve God who promises to make us well. And no other person can dare say that they have the Divine power to heal!
There is a condition to receive complete healing: Forgiveness. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).”If we cannot forgive the abusive person [whom Christ died for and loves, although He does not love their sin] then we cannot expect to receive healing or to be forgiven of our sins.
We do not have the God-given right to demand the other person to ask us for forgiveness! “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13, NLT). Acknowledging wrongdoing requires humility and the desire to change. Only a loving and humble heart will ask for God’s forgiveness and forgiveness from those whom they hurt.
Let God have His Righteous Vengeance! “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). Condemned people are those who refuse to confess, repent, and change their evil ways. God says they will not receive the reward of eternal life.
Take Action! There are some very important variables that we must consider in our healing journey.
Our relationship with Christ is dependent on our willingness to forgive the abuser. Jesus whispered this prayer to God, His Father while hanging on the cross, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots” (Luke 23:24, NIV).
When someone apologizes for verbal abuse, it may not necessarily mean that they are truly sorry or willing to make a change. It’s important to carefully listen to their words and assess whether they are acknowledging the harm they caused and are willing to seek spiritual and professional help. Keep in mind that both divine intervention and human effort are necessary for someone to truly experience transformation of their hard heart and stop hurting others.
Using all necessary means, pray and trust in God by removing yourself and ceasing all contact with the abuser. We are created in the image of God and He does not expect us to tolerate a life of never-ending abuse even in marriage and from our family members. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
“As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).
There are very few circumstances that prevent one from ceasing all contact with the abuser. Joint custody or visitation [determined by the courts] of children is a situation where legal compliance is required and mandate that the mother or father have short contact with the abuser. Yet, remaining in the same physical location [living with the abuser] is not an option—remove yourself from the physical domain where you are dominated by the whims of the abuser.
There is no honor in staying in a unhealthy relationship with the abuser. God does not require us to suffer from the venomous spoken words of others.
The abuser is fully aware of what they said, and how they made you feel. It was an intentional action because they feel it is their right to harm you. Why? Their character is unholy. Yet, most will never acknowledge their abuse is a reflection of the evil condition of their heart. But God says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9).
How do we handle a situation when the abuser is elderly or has impaired cognition and memory and does not remember their abusive ways, or the abuser may have died? “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12). With a loving heart, we forgive, or throw away all chances of happiness [in this life and eternally with God]. It is a terrible choice to live with a mind filled with ambivalence and internal chaos until we take our last breath.
There is no amount of love from another person that will change an abuser’s heart and behavior. We are expected to set healthy boundaries for those who have no conscience of harming others. You have the right to walk away. Every human deserves love and respect!
If we must interact with an abusive family member or husband or wife, only discuss pertinent information and do not engage in meaningless chit-chat. Remain cordial while responding and pray silently for the Holy Spirit to give you strength. Interacting with someone who Satan is using to try to destroy you may be the hardest action required in this earthly life.
Still, as Christians, God expects us to treat the abuser with kindness, but not to stay in the abusive relationship. I am a living witness that God will give us the strength to separate and heal from those [we love] but hurt others. God always gives us hope!
“Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth, Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” —Isaiah 43:18-19
Jesus asked the lame man of 38 years at the Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6). Regardless of therapeutic advice, do not attempt to discuss the past with abusers or think about their terrible words over and over again. God instructs us to go forward! When we say, Yes, God, I desire to be made well and restart my life, Christ will accompany us on the spiritual journey of healing for as long as it takes.
Prayer: God, we thank You for creating us with love, a sound mind, and the power to restart our lives despite the abuse we have suffered. Lord, we surrender all unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness, and we ask You to give us strength as we heal one day at a time. We ask this prayer in the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.
© 2023 Steps2successwithspiritualsolutions and Woman, You Are Loved by God Ministries
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