Why Do you put up with Abuse?
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Articles by Patricia Jones, M.A.
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Why Do I Put Up With Abuse?
I am sure you have asked yourself that question a thousand times. And I venture to say it is due to an extreme lack of self-confidence in yourself and your own ability to survive on your own. It is a tough world out there, and in your mind you are probably thinking that staying in an abusive situation at least keeps a roof over your head and food on the table. Otherwise, you might become homeless, or if you have children they might become homeless and starve.
It is a totally helpless feeling to live with someone who appears to absolutely hate you, and who feels no remorse or guilt over how they treat you, ignore you, verbally, mentally, emotionally abuse you, and physically abuse you. And the really awful thing is you used to really like yourself and who your were BEFORE you ever met your abuser. You even had goals, and plans and dreams for your life and what you wanted to do with it. So what happened?
Well, let's just say that most women who are abused are very, very nice, sweet people, who feel love and compassion for everyone. They have a deep appreciation for beauty, and music, and nature, and God. In fact, God has been their best friend for years. Not only that, God has been the ONE PERSON they could turn to, and do turn to throughout this entire abusive nightmare. And somehow, they are still alive. They still have a small spark of hope that someday, "somewhere over the rainbow" bluebirds fly. And if you really pay attention to the words, birds DO FLY OVER THE RAINBOW every single day. So why oh why can't I? As the song goes ...
You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!....2 Corinthians 11: 19-21 (NIV)
I think the reason that we are so close to God is because HE UNDERSTANDS ABUSE very well. Because HE was abused for three years, tortured, beat, spit on, mentally, verbally, emotionally, and finally physically abused on the cross until HE died. In fact, every single emotional, physical pain, humiliation, tears shed, bruises received, etc. that you have endured, HE has endured.
And then ... HE FLEW OVER THE RAINBOW!!!
But HE endured the abuse for our sakes. We on the other hand endure the abuse for what reason? We are certainly not commissioned as HE was to save the world. We have no great plan, or goal that our abuse is supposed to achieve like HE did. We are not trying to show the world how much love we have for others by being abused. We certainly are not trying to win the war with the devil and overcome evil by allowing ourselves to be abused, as Jesus did.
So the only conclusion that we can come to as to why we allow the abuse and stay in it, is this:
It serves absolutely NO PURPOSE at all.!!! It has no redeeming value. It is not teaching anyone anything, especially our children who are observing us being dis-respected and humiliated and scorned by our abuser. What kind of role model is that for them? So our enduring abuse from our abuser day after day, year after year, is a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME AND A COMPLETE WASTE OF OUR LIFE!!!
So why do we stay in it? We are scared we can't make it out there, that is why. So we hang in there, hoping that things will change, but they don't change, they even get worse! And in the process we slowly, day by day, die inside, because we have lost who we are, and what we were supposed to be, and we have accomplished nothing, except the apparent ability to endure pain.
So the next question is why do we want to experience pain? Physical, mental, verbal and emotional pain? We know why Jesus endured pain. He had a PURPOSE, we do not. For us to experience pain from our abusive situation is a complete waste. It accomplishs NOTHING, except it teaches the abuser that they can abuse someone and get away with it.
So, why not leave? Why not DECIDE that you are going to give your life a PURPOSE? Why not decide that you are going to TRUST GOD to take care of you, and have the courage to get out there and find out that He will take care of you. Because your abuser WILL NOT TAKE CARE OF YOU, he will only continue to abuse you, until you die.
If you are going to die someday, at least make it be after a life that had some PURPOSE to it. Don't allow yourself to die inside and possibly physically for absolutely NO REASON AT ALL!!!
So the question to ask yourself is this: WHAT PURPOSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE YOUR LIFE?
Do you want to be happy, ever? Do you want to share your talents with the world? Do you want to invent something, or write something or sing something? Do you KNOW that you have a talent that is not being used, that God gave you, and you don't ever use it because you stay so depressed all the time?
Do you feel that if you try to be who you want to be your abuser witll stop you? Well you are right, he will. So the next logical step is to remove yourself from his presence so you can be who you were meant to be, and do what you were meant to do in this life. Just like poison, your abuser is TOXIC to you.
You can do it! You can "fly over the rainbow too!" All you have to do is jump out of the nest. You have to take that first step, and then that next step, and finally that big LEAP.
You can give your life PURPOSE and MEANING. Begin by learning to love yourself as much as you have loved others. Begin by doing something nice for yourself, for no reason at all, and begin by having enough respect for yourself that you realize you are WORTH more than what you have been living.
Jesus will help you. Just ask HIM. Pray and ask Him what steps to take, and what He wants you to do with your life. HE will show you, and lead you and guide you and PROTECT you.
Once you begin to think correctly about your situation and realize that you are worth more than what you have been living, then you can leave. It is just that easy. Only YOU can make it hard or impossible to leave.
Ask Yourself the Questions Below:
Do I pride myself on being dependable?
Do I not really expect others to do for me what I am willing to do for them?
Is my role the “giver” in most of my relationships?
Am I proud of being the giver?
Do I avoid conflicts?
Am I afraid of other people’s anger?
Am I afraid of showing my anger?
Am I uncomfortable if someone disapproves of something I say or do?
Do I avoid controversial discussions?
Am I afraid if I speak my mind others will stop loving me?
Do I want everyone to think I’m lovable?
Do I not want others to think I’m a whiner or a complainer?
Do I think it’s unladylike or unfeminine to stand up for myself?
Are other people’s needs, wants, thoughts or feelings more important than mine?
Am I embarrassed or uncomfortable when someone compliments me, thanks me, gives me a gift, or does something nice for me?
Am I more comfortable trying to think of nice things to do for others instead of having them do nice things for me?
Do I avoid rocking the boat?
Do I hate inconveniencing anyone?
Is other people’s happiness my responsibility?
Am I always apologizing, even for things that are not my fault or that I didn’t do?
Do I like being a “peacemaker?”
Do I feel that if I speak the truth, people will not like me?
Do I feel that if I speak the truth, people will withdraw their love?
Will I feel guilty if I speak the truth and it upsets someone?
Do I think putting up with mistreatment makes me look like a “good” person to others?
Our need for the approval of others has been ingrained in us since early childhood. Our abusive relatives controlled us by dangling that approval just out of our reach- in order to keep us trying harder and harder to please them. Witholding their approval is a tactic that control-freaks use against us. Striving to please unpleaseable people is like running endlessly on a treadmill and going absolutely nowhere.
We need to fight our inclination to equate approval with love. Our families should love us UNCONDITIONALLY. If they don’t, then something is wrong with THEM, NOT US. Their love is not supposed to be dependent on whether or not we obey them, accept their criticism, or allow them to control, manipulate, exploit, or degrade us, etc. If people only “love” us when we tolerate their mistreatment, then we really don’t need that kind of love. If relatives only “love” us when we allow them to use or exploit us, then we don’t need that kind of love, either.
Another way of looking at this is to consider our relationship with our abuser and ask ourselves this question- if the love is only present as long as abuse is allowed, then how come WE don’t get to abuse our relative and still have him love us? How come the abuse only goes one way? By this logic, we should get to treat our abuser just as miserably as he treats us, and everybody should claim they love each other anyway and be happy as clams. But of course, it never works that way. The abuse only goes in one direction.
Love and approval are not necessarily part of the same package. And they certainly cannot be combined with abuse- they are opposites, not the same. Those who really love us may at times disapprove of our decisions, but they love us anyway. They don’t have to like everything we do, but they do have to understand that that does not give them the right to criticize or control us. We need to live our own lives whether they approve or not. We do not need their permission to be an adult. Genuine love is not dependent on approval or disapproval. Nobody who truly loves you will stop loving you just because you don’t always do what they want you to do.
None of us should care so much about the approval of men- certainly not to the point that we will excuse evil just to win someone’s approval. The only approval we need to concern ourselves with is God’s.
AM I NOW TRYING TO WIN THE APPROVAL OF MEN, OR OF GOD? OR AM I TRYING TO PLEASE MEN? IF I WERE STILL TRYING TO PLEASE MEN, I WOULD NOT BE A SERVANT OF CHRIST….Galatians 1: 10
THE SPIRITUAL MAN MAKES JUDGMENTS ABOUT ALL THINGS, BUT HE HIMSELF IS NOT SUBJECT TO ANY MAN’S JUDGMENT: “FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD THAT HE MAY INSTRUCT HIM?” BUT WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST….1 Corinthians 2:15-16
OUR FEARS OF ABANDONMENT AND BEING ALONE
Many of us would rather stick with the familiar, even if it is destructive, than face the unknown- being without our abuser. Are you fearful that if you start to defend yourself and set limits, your relative will disown you? Many abusive relatives use this as a threat to keep us in line- often coming right out and saying that they will stop speaking to us or “cut us out of the will” unless we obey them unquestioningly.
Others are not so direct, but our fear that they will cut us off is still there. The reason for this is that we sense the truth- that they do not really love us for ourselves, but are only interested in having a relationship with us as long as they can dominate, use, and control us.
However, you deserve your family’s love without having to be anybody’s doormat. After all, would YOU stop speaking to a family member just because they didn’t always give in to your demands? No- because normal people do not resort to extortion or blackmail to get what they want from the people who love them.
When considering the following questions, ask yourself if you really want to spend your life trying to please someone just so that they won’t dump you, or is it time to hold your head up high and reclaim your dignity?:
Am I afraid my relative will disown me if I start defending myself or setting limits?
Am I afraid I will be abandoned or betrayed by other relatives who will take my abuser’s side?
Is my whole family so enmeshed in the sickness of the abuser that they will outcast me if I speak up?
Would I rather keep quiet and endure a lifetime of abuse than risk losing my family? If this is a genuine fear of mine, do I understand that, if it is indeed true, it means that my family doesn’t really love me after all? That they don’t really care about me or want what’s best for me? That their “love” is conditional on me continuing to accept their abuse or control?
Do I believe that I could never survive if my abuser was out of my life?
Do I fear her/him leaving and think it would devastate me to lose her/him?
Do I fear the loss of her/his love if I start setting limits on her/his behavior?
Do I fear losing the love of other relatives if I speak up?
Do I think that I could never live if my family abandoned me for speaking the truth or defending myself?
Would the betrayal or abandonment of other relatives devastate me?
Am I afraid of being alone?
Do I realize that there is life after “divorce”, and that I will make it just fine?
Am I afraid of having no one to depend on, or to take care of me?
Many of us have had our self-esteem literally criticized out of us, until we no longer believe we can actually take care of ourselves. We have also been abused into believing that we are unlovable, and that we don’t deserve to be loved for ourselves. Our abuser probably spent a lifetime (ours!) undermining our confidence, making us question our judgment and abilities, and doing everything possible to convince us that we're much too incompetent and helpless to ever make it without them. We panic at the thought of displeasing and possibly losing them, mistakenly feeling that they might not be perfect, but at least they are there for us, to take care of us and to help us if we need them.
But if we really think about it, we will often realize that abusers and controllers were never taking care of us in the first place. That is just not what abusers do. On the contrary, we were always the ones they could depend on to take care of their needs, while our needs usually went unmet.
If we stop and think, we will often see that WE were taking care of EVERYBODY’S needs all along, including our own, while nobody was ever taking care of us, anyway. In fact, if the time ever arose in the past that we did need to be taken care of, supported, and loved, most likely our abuser was either nowhere to be found, or actually added to our troubles in some way instead of helping or comforting us. The only difference it will make in our lives to be rid of selfish, narcissistic, controlling abusers, is that there will be that many fewer demands placed upon US.
In the light of this truth, being “alone” becomes an attractive alternative. Being without users and abusers is an IMPROVEMENT in our lives, not a detriment. Sometimes we can’t imagine life without our controller- if they do decide to disown you for setting limits, after a short adjustment period, life without them will feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.
Even if our worst fears come true and our families do choose to cut us off, being alone only lasts a little while, because the Lord sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). He will always put people in our lives to comfort and care for us. Many times we need to break our bondage to our abusers in order to be free to enjoy these new, Godly relationships.
Above all, we must never forget that in reality we are NEVER alone. The Lord is always with us, and no one else really matters. Jesus walks right beside us all day, every day of our lives. His Holy Spirit is always within us. Our blessed Father does not take his eyes off us for a second. He has engraved us on the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16), and no one can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28-29). He is always caring for us and providing for our every need (Matthew 6:25-34). Our Father knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8). Being less dependent on other people frees us from demanding or controlling relationships, and also allows us to depend more fully on the Lord, and to grow in our relationship with him. We need to increase our faith and have full confidence that he is in control at every moment, and that he is taking care of everything and will always work all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
Best of all, no matter who else leaves us or forsakes us, including our own birth-parents, our heavenly Father has promised that he will NEVER leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5, Psalm 37:25, Deuteronomy 31:6). In truth, he alone is the only person we can completely trust to be there for us no matter what, and to always take care of us. We need not remain in bondage to any man, especially not out of fear of being alone, because as long as we have God, we are never alone.
THOUGH MY FATHER AND MOTHER FORSAKE ME, THE LORD WILL RECEIVE ME….Psalm 27: 10
IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?....Romans 8:31
THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS: “CURSED IS THE ONE WHO TRUSTS IN MAN, WHO DEPENDS ON FLESH FOR HIS STRENGTH AND WHOSE HEART TURNS AWAY FROM THE LORD. HE WILL BE LIKE A BUSH IN THE WASTELANDS; HE WILL NOT SEE PROSPERITY WHEN IT COMES. HE WILL DWELL IN THE PARCHED PLACES OF THE DESERT, IN A SALT LAND WHERE NO ONE LIVES. BUT BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO TRUSTS IN THE LORD, WHOSE CONFIDENCE IS IN HIM. HE WILL BE LIKE A TREE PLANTED BY THE WATER THAT SENDS OUT ITS ROOTS BY THE STREAM. IT DOES NOT FEAR WHEN HEAT COMES; ITS LEAVES ARE ALWAYS GREEN. IT HAS NO WORRIES IN A YEAR OF DROUGHT AND NEVER FAILS TO BEAR FRUIT.”….Jeremiah 17: 5-8.
BECAUSE GOD HAS SAID, “NEVER WILL I LEAVE YOU; NEVER WILL I FORSAKE YOU.” SO WE SAY WITH CONFIDENCE, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER; I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME?”....Hebrews 13: 5-6.