Tolerating abuse does no favors for the abuser because it prevents him from truly confronting the consequences of his sin. God is deeply angered by husbands who harm their wives when they are supposed to lay down their own lives for them. The Father is enraged by men who cause their children to stumble and provoke them to anger when they ought to be nurturing their children’s faith. The only hope such men have of escaping the terrible wrath of God is true repentance.
In his book, Mending the Soul, Steven R. Tracy maintains that an abuser who is truly repentant will do all of the following:
- take full responsibility for the abuse (make a confession);
- acknowledge the widespread and extensive damage done to the victim and demonstrate remorse for the harm done;
- enact new boundaries that demonstrate respect for the victim and help ensure that the abuse will not reoccur; and
- take active steps to change the sinful patterns of behavior that led to the abuse (190).
This four-step process is far more involved than merely saying, “I’m sorry.” An abuser who truly wants to change will acknowledge the horror of his sin, publicly confessing all the ways in which he has abused his spouse to a support group of dedicated accountability partners. He will not ask for leniency or offer justification for his behavior. He will submit himself to ongoing accountability as he seeks to overcome the sinful patterns of the past.
He will show remorse for the ways he has deeply wounded his wife and family. Having broken their trust, he will acknowledge that he is not “entitled” to any relationship with them in the future. He will respect their need for time and space to heal. Those whom he has victimized should not be pressured to take him back or even meet with him, if they don’t feel safe doing so.
A repentant perpetrator will seek help, and not just from a local pastor or marriage counselor. Because most abusers are skilled in the art of manipulation, it is far too easy for them to deceive well-meaning people who lack expertise. An abuser who is serious about changing his ways needs the help of professional therapists and psychiatrists, people with the clinical experience necessary to treat the complex psychiatric problems, personality disorders, and destructive attitudes underlying the abuse. Only if all of these steps have been accomplished should reconciliation even begin to be considered.
It is very common for abusers to justify their behavior and deceive themselves regarding the seriousness of their crimes. I feel that the most merciful thing an abuse victim can possibly do is to stop covering for the perpetrator, and instead force him to recognize the enormity of his sin in light of God’s holy standards.
Excerpted from the section entitled “Protection Against Abuse” from Chapter 8 of A Wife of Valor: Your Strategic Importance in God’s Battle Plan,
Copyright © 2016 Rebecca D. Bruner