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Facing Abuse in the Christian Family

As women from deeply religious, conservative families, most of us can say without a doubt that our parents truly desired to live righteously and raise us in a godly manner. Drawing from biblical texts, through prayer and selective external influence, our parents did the best they could to ensure we would grow up to seek the Lord, to love Him, and to walk in obedience to His voice. To have a pure heart and to take a stand against worldliness, and be strong Christians. While exceptions may exist, I have not heard from one young woman who believes her parents intentionally, willfully tried to damage her.

And yet, abuse and heartache abounds. Where does this leave us? We can ignore it and pretend it goes away. We can live our days in denial. Or we can let the Healer do what He came to do ~ and help us face our pain, and make us whole.

But in a sad, strange irony, those who attempt facing issues of childhood pain, abuse, and family dysfunction often encounter objections.
  • "You are just blaming your parents."
  • "Why can't you take responsibility for your own sin?"
  • "Love covers a multitude of sins."
  • "They did the best they could. You shouldn't judge."
  • "Just forgive."
  • "If you honored your parents, you wouldn't bring this up."
  • "Leave the past in the past."
These responses are unhelpful and crippling in the least, with potential for inexpressible emotional, spiritual, and physical damage at the worst.

Let's say you draw a bath for your baby and unwittingly make the water too hot. And after you place him in the tub, you notice that his skin blisters and burns through your inadvertent mistake. If you dismiss these very real concerns by defending your actions, saying, "But I didn't mean to," or "I meant well," what's to become of his poor little skin?

And say you ignore them and he grows up with scars. Yes, there is a chance he will forgive you. But as an adult, if he desires to discover the truth of his scars and seek recovery, he must take necessary steps to address the well-intentioned (because he did need to bathe) fruits of your mistake. Would you begrudge him this?

And when scars touch not only skin, but heart and soul ~ what then?

The only way healing can occur is to acknowledge the truth of pain and abuse. Sometimes this gets messy. Parents get defensive. Daughters (or sons) feel torn. Yet Scripture teaches that the fruits of doctrine, teachers, and those in authority reveal whether something is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. And in most cases, the fruits of patriocentric, fundamentalist doctrines are bad. Depression, chronic fatigue, self-injury, attempted suicide, and murder are just a few serious ramifications from doctrines of man perpetuated in patriarchal households.

Consider that it is actually honoring to parents for children to examine the abusive environments that affect them even into adulthood. Because this way they can heal and learn how not to perpetuate the same lies, the same hurts within their own families. Parents, particularly Christian parents who claim to want to "be a light" or a "witness" or to "transform the culture", should be overjoyed that their offspring seek recovery from false teaching, lies, and spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical abuse.
If you have been injured by some of the common objections to seeking recovery, realize that these only serve to perpetuate pain and denial and keep you from receiving the healing touch of Jesus ~ who came to heal the brokenhearted, to set free the oppressed, and to bind up their wounds. Don't let others stand in the way of Christ.


  1. Hilaray, thanks for speaking out on this. I've got a new post called "Child Discipline or Child Abuse?" on my own blog at http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/2010/02/child-discipline-or-child-abuse.html. There are links to several other bloggers who have just written about the same thing in the wake of the abuse murder of little Lydia Schatz in California.

  2. This is a gracious post. I'm glad to see people writing who have kept their faith and recognise the well-meaning but misguided attempts and expose them without seeking to merely attack. Kudos to you.

  3. I know my parents meant no harm. I know my parents did the best they could. I know my parents love us and want the best for us.

    I don't know how much damage they did. I'm afraid to find out. I'm afraid to face the wounds I have which may be from them, or may be from something else. I need the Truth! I feel so confused at times.

  4. Thank you all for your comments.
    {{Beth}} I pray that the Lord shine His light into your heart and helps you separate the confusion, lies, and darkness away from truth. Our Healer wants you to be well, for this is why He came. Blessings to you.

  5. Beth, I know how you feel. I was fearful as well. Facing the wounds long enough to get healing is certainly difficult, but definitely worth it!! Find someone you trust to help you through it. I found a couple to listen and pray with me as I worked through things. And God also gave me a wonderful network of friends who were always willing to listen when I needed it. Their support made things easier.

    Be assured that the Lord loves you very deeply! As Hillary said, He wants to heal you. He's just waiting patiently for you to be ready. :-)


  6. This is absolutely right, we must acknowledge the pain and source of it to heal from it. The abuse I witnessed was from a different perspective but it took remembering the good and the bad in the parent. For many years I only remembered the bad, it was easier or so I thought. But then I remembered the good in them and I was able to forgive them. Letting go of all the bad but not forgetting it, but rather learning from it and moving on. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Man...the messages you list in your post. Honoring parents. It brings tears to my eyes and I can relate. I was told by my father that I was not forgiving him...yet, he also kept saying that he did not remember doing anything to me! He said that I was not honoring him or my mother.Yet, I did not run off and tell the world. I just kept drawing a boundary line...a safe boundary line that HAD to be drawn. He did not care. It was all about him...and my son...not about me. Not then, anyway.

    There are also some who do not understand the depths of the abuse and the depths of its effects. "Why can't you just move on? Why can't you just 'forget' about it?" They just don't get it. And, sometimes, I am not so sure I do, either. But I will keep on trying.

  8. I know my Mom and Dad meant the best and still do. I love them unconditionally and God is healing me giving me the ability to forgive them. I learned today about Jonathan in the Bible and he honered his Dad but didn't obey. 1Samuel 19 and 1 Samuel 20. Jonathan does not kill David as his Father asks but warns and protects David. This is encouraging to me as it shows I am to obey God not parents first and always.


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