Since writing this blog, I have had a number of people share stories of personal pain. There is different abuse for different people and different circumstances around their story, but one common thread is the power of words. The old children’s ditty says “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me”. I would think most of us have learned that this is far from the truth. A broken bone can heal in 6 weeks, a misspoken word can last a life time.
Remembering that our responsibility is to be an image bearer of God to each other, verbal abuse can be as destructive as sexual or physical abuse. I would like to quote from the Mending the Soul book here:
Abuse is invariably about the abuse of power over another individual—an abuse that perverts the divinely ordained image of God.
Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 458-462). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Verbal Abuse — Verbal abuse is a form of emotional maltreatment in which words are systematically used to belittle, undermine, scapegoat, or maliciously manipulate another person. Verbal abuse can be every bit as damaging as physical or sexual abuse, and in some cases it’s even more damaging. Those who haven’t experienced abuse often can’t understand this. The somewhat subjective nature of verbal abuse can make it more insidious and difficult to confront (which can also make it more damaging). Verbal abuse perverts the beautiful truth of divine creation. Nine times in Genesis 1 Moses tells us, “Then God said,” and six times follows it up with, “and it was so.” Thus God’s very words are efficacious; they have the power to create the universe and all life that exists in it. Humans as “image of God” creatures are also called to create life (“be fruitful and multiply” [Genesis 1:28]). While humans obviously do this through sexual relations, we also metaphorically give life through our words. The Bible tells us “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Pleasant words are “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (16:24). Good words have the power to awaken and heal a troubled heart (12:25). Given the power of words to encourage and to give life, Satan will surely prompt people to use their God-given verbal power not to bless but to curse, not to give life but to take life. The perversion of life-giving words helps explain why almost half of the seven sins identified as the ones God particularly hates are expressly verbal (a lying tongue; a false witness; one who spreads strife among brothers—Proverbs 6:16–19).
Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 597-609). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Some of the saddest stories I have heard are words that have been spoken that break hearts and wound souls. Often they are spoken at times of frustration and stress.They are even spoken by those who we would look up to, and we would never imagine such things coming from them. I would guess all of us can say we have said things we wish we could retract. The big difference comes with repeated over and over again attacks. It breaks my heart when I hear of a Daddy of a kindergartener bringing him down with scolding and punishment because he can’t meet his Daddy’s perfectionist standards; Mommies who tell their children they
wish they had never been born, not just once but repeatedly. They give relentless criticism without any words of encouragement, fearing the encouragement would harm the child.
There are some parents who would favor one child over the others, or put down one child while treating the other children in an obviously better manner.
This is not to make parents feel guilty for those times when they have done some of these things; remember ,it is doing it day after day and year after year, till the mind and heart have been well etched with the hurt. Often others looking on can see what is going on and all to often the offender doesn’t see his/her issues.
Those who seek to help the broken hearts and homes realize, looking back into the history of the abuser of any kind , that they will see abuse in the lives of the abuser. The abuser who can at least recognize “I am doing things that are hurting and I am struggling to stop this”, needs to seek help. Once you deal with your past, there is a higher probability of being able to move on and break the cycle of abuse. Children can often be very forgiving and want relationships to be right so a genuine apology is necessary.
This is not limited to parent children relationships. Spouses have the ability to hurt each other deeply. A verbally abusive spouse can make a home a place where a lot of bruises are found, and not one of them will turn black and blue.In any relationship where one person is able to dominate another, there is potential for abuse.
The Bible shows us in the book of James how fierce a tongue can be:
And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3: 2 -12.
At the time I was doing this study, I was also listening to a program on the Revive Our Hearts Pod Cast by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth on the study of Song of Solomon. Mixed with the pain I recalled came a message of love that I allowed to sink into my soul; “I am my beloveds and He is mine.” This young everyday common girl of no reputation had won the heart of the King. He provides for her the best, he lovers her above all others. “He brought me into his banqueting house and his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4. This is the one who gives us hope when things seem so hopeless. He is there for us. Draw near to him and he will run to meet us.
A few scriptures I have enjoyed this week in regard to this discussion are ,“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. Proverbs 15: 1 & 2.An example is our Lord, Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 1 Peter 2:22.
I know this can only be done with the help of God, left to myself my test grade would be an F.