Labeling Abuse

Manipulate. Coerce. Abuse. Offend. Victimize. Sin. Which word would you like to use when you face your sinful behavior towards another whom you hold some form of power? Once in a course, a DMin student suggested we just call domestic violence (punching a hole in the wall next to the person you are in a rage about) sin rather than call it abuse. Somehow sin is more palatable.  

Misuse of power = abuse. Agree or disagree? I would agree. However, this means that more of us have to admit to being abusive (I suspect this is different from saying that someone is an abuser—a repeat offender). Using a martyr complex to manipulate someone to do something they don’t want to. Is that abuse? Threatening to do harm. Is that abuse? Using one’s position (spiritual, work, or other authority) to get something that you want. Is that abuse? 

I’ve been doing lots of thinking about sexual entanglements between Christian leaders, pastors, teachers and their followers, parishioners, and students. I’m going to make 3 categorical statements and then try to back them up in future posts:

  1. Illicit sexual (sexualized) relationships between Christian leaders and their followers ought to be categorized as abuse/abusive and not affairs. This is important to understand the impact and effects of this kind of action even if not important to help abusive individuals grow in their understanding of their actions.
  2. Nothing is categorically black and white but that is what we want for comfort sake. Abuse is other people like pedophiles. There are dangers it over and under utilizing the label of abuse. The church has definitely under-utilized it. But there are swing dangers
  3. Deception, minimization, and a sense of personal weakness all work together to make abusive actions feel mutual and not abusive

I will also provide some reading material links to the issue of power. I think we must understand that concept in order to understand how power misused turns into abuse.


Filed under Abuse, self-deception

6 responses to “Labeling Abuse

  1. But aren’t the scriptures black and white, this way we will not be ‘wise in our own eyes’? I personally agree with you that abuse can take on all kinds of form, and our hearts are so decepetive that we can convince ourselves that we are not culpable to the demands of the scriptures. We long for shades of gray to meet us in our ‘situation’…

  2. No, I wouldn’t say the Scriptures are categorically black/white. Some things are (e.g., do not kill) and somethings aren’t (how should we deal with slavery today? Women in ministry?) If the Scriptures were black/white, then we would have far fewer battles over what it says and means and there would be little room for faith. That doesn’t mean I don’t agree with your comment on “shades of gray” our and our love for situational ethics. But, God doesn’t tell us everything we want to know and so we must, by faith, trust God’s guidance. My point in my original entry was that we like to have our abusers to be all bad and our victims to be all innocent. Its not that way too often.

  3. I see what your saying, what is not there specifically we have to seek the spirit about and pray, in faith, for an answer. It is difficult to see an abuser as somewhat good as well as somewhat bad, I wouldn’t say it is neccessary for making the choice to forgive but once I made that choice the mercy of God poured into me for that person that was once an abuser for me. I would imagine that every one of us has served as someone else’s abuser too, to some extent… how can we know how it will affect someone if we are in a grumpy mood and are slightly rude. Abortion is certainly a hard one, yet how many are young girls afraid to face the consequences of their youthful mistakes. This is a good post, gets me thinking. You going to post anymore of your thoughts and the thoughts of others on this subject? *** request** request*** ha ha

  4. Stacey, I imagine I will post more on the concept of abuse of power. While we might not all fit the description of abuser, we certainly have misused our power with others and in that we can relate to those who do far worse. The parable of the unmerciful servant comes to mind.

  5. stacey

    oops….and Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

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