“Now faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.” I Cor 13:13
Of these three, hope is probably the least vague or problematic for women in destructive relationships. In fact, hope keeps her going. Through the skillful use of intermittent reinforcement, a woman continues to hope her abuser will change, that if she can just hold on or do more, she will be delivered from the nightmare she is living.
Intermittent reinforcement is the carrot and stick method of bondage. The abuser is romantic, kind, insisting he cannot live without her. Then some minor mishaps occurs and he flies into a rage that she is the stupidest woman he has ever met. This cycle of escalation-outburst-honeymoon keeps hope alive in the woman. If he can be so loving part of the time, she berates herself, the other times must be her fault. Surely God will show her how she must change to stop this torment.
We all need hope in the good or a better tomorrow to keep going. But this kind of hope relies on a denial of reality. It is too hard to admit that his behavior is deliberate and not her fault.
Love also has many meanings. When an abuser says he loves a victim, he means she seems ideal to use. Other ideas of respect, honor, compassion, and commitment are not included in his definition, although they are in hers.
But perhaps the most frequently misused concept overall is faith. In fact, six faith concepts are examined in my self-help workbook, Redemption from Biblical Battering, which contribute to a believing victim’s confusion.
So when the word “faith” is used itself in verbal abuse, it is like having all six lobbed at you like a tennis ball machine. The more vague a woman is about what this concept means to her, the more an abuser can use Bible verses or ideas about faith against her.
Faith is often used in six of the verbal abuse categories: countering, discounting, blocking/diverting, accusation and blame, name-calling, and judging/criticizing.
Below are some of the most popular quotes about faith and some of the ways they are misused as verbal abuse. And some of the ways you can counter these, even if only mentally and not aloud verbally.
We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:7 – the abuser may counter your need for answers or accountability by quoting this. You can counter this by explaining your faith is in God.
For it is by grace you have been saved, by faith, and his is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9- may be used by the abuser to deflect if you want some acknowledgement or recognition of your efforts to obey and be productive, thinking this will free you from his insults. You can counter this by asserting you have the gift of faith and don’t boast.
You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. James 2: 24 – may be used by the abuser in the same way to discount your rightful desire for acknowledgement. This is a great verse to turn around on the abuser by citing his works are not developing much confidence in him.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Heb 11:1- may be used to criticize you if you ask for some accountability in his actions. You can counter by you have confidence that God wants you to be respected and loved.
Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. I Cor. 2:5- may be used to accuse you or call you faithless if you ask abuser to contribute his part in the relationship. You can counter that you don’t have faith in the abuser’s “wisdom.”
You can deal with these tactics? As with all the other tools, maturing your concepts into a clear understanding of what they mean provides a shield against using these ideas to insult or demean you. Combine clear concepts with assertive skills.
Of course, the inventiveness of the abuser in misusing faith concepts is ongoing. But combining clarity of concepts with assertive communication is a shield.
Faith is the evidence of what we have not seen because it is based on what we have seen. That is, we have experience that when we ask for help, we receive it. Therefore when we ask for help again, we can expect to get it.
Faith is not anti-intellectual. Faith is not magical thinking. Faith is not to be placed in people.
Faith is trust that the God in who we live, move and have our being will provide for our lives. God provided an earth that had food we would like before we even knew what we liked or were here.
We trust or believe or have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. If we had never experienced the sun rising, we would not have faith or trust or belief that it would again.
So faith is based on the experience of the nature of God in our lives. It is very personal and not a subject for anyone else to use against us to insult us.
“Don’t you have faith?” “You’re being faithless” are merely coercive mind games to guilt you into doing what the abuser wants. Your faith is in God, not your abuser and you can certainly feel free to say so.
Your abuser certainly does not have faith, or he would not be trying to coerce you through fear, guilt, power and control.
And if he falls back on that old ploy of his standing in for the Lord, you can say you don’t believe in idolatry.
Have faith and be free!