So, this has been a difficult week and I struggled with PTSD symptoms. Soldiers, abuse victims, cancer patients and their caretakers, and many other people can suffer from PTSD. Our nephew who was in Iraq and suffers from PTSD says that PTSD is merely “A normal response to an abnormal situation.” We struggle at times with depression, anxiety, fear, panic…which we battle with everything we have. We are recovering, but although most days are good, some days are bad–and this has been a tough week.
One of the things that sort of triggered anxiety was when a friend told me that I should seek reconciliation with my abusive family because having no contact with them dishonored me, my Mom, and my family. It’s very common for family, friends, and Christians to pressure victims into going back to their abusers. Some of their arguments are that we are to love our enemies, live at peace with all people if possible, honor our mother and father, give abusers the benefit of the doubt–and many others. To those who are tempted to pressure victims with these arguments, I would like to ask some questions. These are the sorts of questions I have spent years considering.
Do you think that it is wrong for a person to try to escape oppression?
If it’s wrong to escape oppression then shouldn’t the Israelites have stayed in Egypt (in OT days)? Should the Jews have never tried to escape Hitler? Should Christians in the Middle East not try to escape ISIS? Should Muslim women never try to escape the horrors they experience under Islam?
If it’s wrong to escape oppression then why did God deliver His people from Egypt? Shouldn’t He have left them there so they could “love their enemies,” reconcile with them, and live in peace with them? Why were they groaning about the Egyptians anyway? Shouldn’t they have given the Egyptians the benefit of the doubt and recognized that maybe they really loved the Israelites and actually wanted a relationship with them? Same with Hitler. The Jews couldn’t read Hitler’s or the Nazi’s minds. How did they know the Nazis hated them and wanted to destroy them? Ok, such thinking is totally ridiculous, I know–but I’m serious about why God delivers His people if it’s wrong to escape oppression.
If it’s wrong to escape oppression then why does God often say in the Bible that He cares about the oppressed and needy, that He hears their groans and cries, and He will deliver them? Why did He say He came to set the prisoners free? Or didn’t He really mean it? (I think He means it.)
If it’s RIGHT to escape oppression then at what point does it become NOT RIGHT?
Think of dictators, groups, and individuals who did evil acts: Like Hitler, Stalin, ISIS, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, the BTK Killer. While not all of them had children, they all had families of one sort or another, at one time or another, some more than others. What sort of relationship would be appropriate for a family member to have with them? Let’s take Jeffrey Dahmer, for an example. He was a serial killer and sex offender who committed the rape, murder, and dismemberment of seventeen men and boys between 1978 and 1991. What if he was your brother? Should you allow him full access to your own family? Should you give your brother the benefit of the doubt and let him spend time with your son? Is it more important to have contact with your brother or to protect your son?
What if you had a very abusive husband. Let’s consider The BTK Killer. “BTK” stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill.” This serial killer brutally murdered 10 people and terrorized a whole generation of Kansans. He harmed OTHER people, but not his own wife and children. However, many abusive people harm their own families. Is it ok to divorce someone who hurt his own family like the BTK Killer hurt others? Or can she only escape him if she’s not married to him? Many, many churches say that abuse is NEVER a justification for divorce–and some say not even if a wife is in danger of being killed by her husband. So why would it be wrong for the BTK Killer to hurt other people, but not wrong if he hurt his own family?
If it’s ok for a wife to flee an abusive marriage then what about the kids? There are a lot of news stories about parents abusing their kids in terrible, terrible ways. Some parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol, some beat their children, some terribly neglect them, some molest their children, some kill their children. Read the news: The stories that surface now and then are heartbreaking! Just a few days ago a news story came across my FB newsfeed about a mother who was pimping her daughter on Craigslist. I believe the daughter was young–like maybe 5 years old–but any age would have been unacceptable. We are horrified when children are abused, and many times they are taken from their homes to protect them from their parents.
But what if the son or daughter is an adult? Why would it be right to protect a child from an abusive parent, but dishonorable for an adult child to protection him- or herself? And what is the daughter’s responsibility to her own children? In keeping in contact with her parents, must she risk putting her own children in harm’s way? Why is an abusive mother’s children worth protecting, but not her grandchildren? Because often abusive parents will abuse their grandchildren as well as their children.
What about if the parent is not physically abusive, but is emotionally abusive? Is it ok for a daughter to protect herself from physical abuse but not emotional abuse? Why is one form of abuse wrong and not the other? It is said that emotional abuse is a form of psychological torture and is even more damaging than physical abuse. Emotional abusers use the same tactics as in brainwashing and by cult leaders. Is it ok to escape the psychological torture and brainwashing of a cult but not a parent? Why?
Ought a son or daughter “honor” such a parent as the BTK Killer or the mother pimping her daughter? The BTK Killer’s children haven’t talked to him since his arrest. Are they wrong? What does it really mean to honor a parent? Can a parent be honored AND the daughter protect herself and her children? Is it possible that “honoring” can involve remembering the good things (even if few) that the parent did, or going on to live an honorable life so that shame is not brought to the family name? Or….? This article discusses honoring an abusive parent: The Christian and the Fifth Commandment – Part 2
So, what I am asking is where do you draw the line? Is it ok for Israel to escape Egypt and the Jews to escape Hitler but not ok for a victim to escape a serial killer? Is it ok to escape a serial killer but not an abusive brother or husband? Is it ok to escape an abusive brother or husband, but not an abusive parent? And wherever you draw the line, why do you draw it where you did? What makes some people more deserving of freedom from oppression/abuse than others? Why is it dishonorable for a daughter to walk away from abusive parents, but not dishonorable for Israel to walk away from abusive Egypt or Hitler? Why can victims of dictators, killers, rapists, molesters, and abusive husbands find freedom, but a daughter cannot? And why do YOU get to determine who goes free and who doesn’t?
So the “bad luck” of the daughter is that she was abused by relatives instead of strangers–because she could escape strangers, but not family. Why, then, would God so hate her that He doomed her to be born into a abusive family that she can’t get free of? But if a daughter cannot find freedom, and if she dishonors herself, her parents, and her family if she tries, then why has God said this:
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me. (Ps 27:10)
Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord. (Ps 45:10-11)
Sometimes friends contact me to share their stores of abuse and ask for help. Should I tell them to stay with their abusers? Because I won’t. I will never tell a victim of abuse that they must stay with their abuser–not if the abuser is a pharaoh, or a dictator, or a killer/rapist, or a husband, or a relative, or a parent.
I walk away from abuse and support the victims because of verses such as the following. I believe that we must live in balance between two extremes. Most people are aware of the verses about loving enemies and forgiving those who harm us. I don’t need to share those. However, few people seem to have read THESE verses, which are also in the Bible. Both must be taken into account. And I can’t resist adding my comments because I want you to consider that the verses must apply to everyone:
But now I am writing to you NOT TO ASSOCIATE WITH anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—NOT EVEN TO EAT WITH SUCH A ONE. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1Cor 5:9-12)
Unless, of course, such a one is family. Why can we purge the spiritual brother but not the biological brother? Hmmm. How do we resolve the conflict if the biological brother is also a spiritual brother?
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. AVOID SUCH PEOPLE. (2 Tim 3:1-5)
Unless these people are family. Then you must keep in close contact with them. And, for the record, I was an extremely obedient daughter. I became “disobedient to parents” only at 28 years of age when I wouldn’t let my Mom take control of my marriage. I believe that when we marry, our primary relationship is husband-wife, not mother-daughter. I believe that in getting married, a couple doesn’t just ditch their parents. However, the role changes. There are problems if the parent tries to usurp the role of the husband. I will stand with my husband first because we are one flesh.
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)
Many times a truth-teller who speaks out about wrong is accused of causing division. This is not what this verse is talking about. If it is the truth-tellers who are the ones that this verse is talking about then Jesus was self-condemned because He caused MUCH division by speaking the Truth.
You shall not spread a false report. You shall NOT JOIN HANDS WITH a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You SHALL NOT FALL IN WITH THE MANY TO DO EVIL, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to PERVERT JUSTICE, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. (Exodus 23:1-3)
Unless, of course, he is family. We must join hands with family to do evil and pervert justice…Right?
A scoundrel, a vicious man, lives by crooked speech, winking his eyes, shuffling his feet, pointing with his fingers. With deceit in his heart, he is always plotting evil and sowing discord. Therefore disaster suddenly overcomes him; unexpectedly, he is broken beyond repair. There are six things Adonai hates, seven which he detests: a haughty look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet swift in running to do evil, a false witness who lies with every breath, and him who sows strife among brothers. (Prov 6:12-19)
Wow! So God hates these types of people? But we must have higher standards than God Himself and love them.
God is a righteous judge, a God whose anger is present every day. If a person will not repent, he sharpens his sword. (Ps 7:11-12)
You mean God doesn’t try to reconcile with a person who is unrepentant? And He’s angry with them every day? Does that mean that He is an angry and bitter God?
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and IF THEY REPENT, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I REPENT,’ you must forgive them.”
We must forgive them IF THEY REPENT. And repentance in Hebrew does not mean a mere “I’m sorry.” It’s turning from wickedness. God does not hold us to higher standards than He keeps Himself.
“Don’t suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Land. It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, so that A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD. (Matt. 10:34-36)
Wait! What? He didn’t pursue peace? And before you jump on the “a daughter against her mother” consider that there is more than one way for a daughter to be “against” her mother. A daughter can mistreat her mother, but a daughter can also be obeying God while the mother isn’t, which sets daughter against mother. I was NEVER against my Mom. I ALWAYS sought reconciliation until the very end. Besides, I think these are examples of the types of hostile relationships. I don’t think it excludes a mother who is against her daughter.
The wicked plots against the righteous and grinds his teeth at him; but Adonai laughs at the wicked, knowing his day will come. The wicked have unsheathed their swords, they have strung their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slaughter those whose way is upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken…The wicked keeps his eye on the righteous, seeking a chance to kill him. But Adonai WILL NOT LEAVE HIM IN HIS POWER OR LET HIM BE CONDEMN when judged.(Ps. 37 12-15, 32-33)
Unless, of course, it is a daughter. Then God will leave her in the power of the wicked and make her suffer. Correct?
But Adonai is righteous; he cuts me free from the yoke of the wicked. (Ps 129:4)
Unless I am a daughter with wicked parents/family. Then I must be yoked with them forever.
Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous person who gives way before the wicked. (Prov. 25:26)
Unless I’m a daughter. Then I must give way before my wicked parent. Isn’t that what I’m being told?
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous — both alike are an abomination to Adonai. (Prov. 17:15)
Of course, it’s ok to justify the wicked if he/she is a parent or family member. And it’s ok to condemn the righteous if she’s a daughter. While it might seem arrogant to claim I am righteous, I claim righteousness because I did not mistreat my family, I asked them to forgive me whenever I felt I acted wrongly, I always sought reconciliation, and I always did good to them when I had the opportunity. I never even defended myself when they accused me until my last letter to my Mom, in reply to a question she asked.
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers (Ps 1:1)
Of course, if I’m a daughter, I MUST walk, stand, and sit with the wicked if the wicked are family.
I hope you can understand what I’m trying to say here: Yes, we must honor our parents, we must seek to live at peace with all people IF IT IS POSSIBLE, we must do good to those who wrong us. However, those things do NOT mean that we have to keep ourselves in the power of the wicked. I don’t believe God sets everyone free from the yoke of the wicked except a daughter or son. I DO believe that we must forgive IF a person repents, which my family has never, ever done. They have never acknowledged any wrong, any hurtful action at all. Harmful, damaging, dangerous actions are not to be tolerated just because a family member does it. The Bible is full of paradoxes and we have to take into account EVERYTHING it says.
I do not believe that I am being angry, bitter, dishonorable, unreasonable, or not understanding Scripture by believing this or taking the actions that I did.