When Good Advice is Bad

Bad_Advice

We love KSGN. We listen to it almost all the time in the van when we are doing our 100 mi/day. I have the app on my phone so I can listen anywhere in the house. We love the DJs. And we’re especially glad they carry Brant Hansen’s show. But there is one thing on KSGN that grates on me. It’s worse than nails on the chalkboard. It’s Drs. Les and Leslie Parot. Now, I’m sure the couple is a great couple and all, and I’m sure their marriage advice is well-intentioned, but everything they say is the exact opposite of what to do in an abusive relationship.

I mention this because people in abusive marriages need to understand something really important, Christian marriage advice is for Christian marriages. It’s not for marriages where one of the partners has decided he or she comes first before all, including God.

Now, I have no idea what Christian men say to each other, or if they even ever broach the subject of abuse, but I have paid attention to what women are told by other Christians when they reach out in need of prayer about their abusive husbands. What I’ve seen is sometimes supportive, but too many times harmful information.

I just want to mention a few different “well-intentioned” advice that is really horrible to give to a woman in an abusive marriage.

1) He’s probably just having trouble adjusting to (insert current situation). While there might be arguments during times of change or transition or difficulty, this is no excuse for abuse or infidelities.

2) All marriages go through phases, I’m sure you’ll get through this and things will be even better than before. Um, no. Abuse is never a “phase” of a relationship. Being treated like garbage or as someone inconsequential is not a phase, it is an intentional act by the abuser.

3) You are not your husband’s Holy Spirit. Of all the advice I’ve been given over the course of my marriage, this is possibly the least biblical. Apparently the only way we are to be our husband’s helpmeet is to clean his house, fix his food, and bare his children. Let’s just forget the spiritual aspect of it (and I could write volumes on how ultra-conservatives worship men to the point of saying things like “He is the spiritual head, therefore he needs no spiritual admonishment from his wife since Eve sinned and led Adam into sin”…blah,blah, blah…Seriously, I have been told this on a number of occasions…and people wonder why I’m no longer conservative.)

4) (I added this after a conversation with a friend in a similar situation) You need to pray more for your husband. And it’s equally harmful alternative: You need to pray that you will change, not that he will change. As if the woman hasn’t already been doing this. In the first case, stop. I know, that sounds weird, but praying for an abusive spouse actually begins to be depressing. Hand him over to God (yeah, in that harsh biblical sense), shake the dust off your sandals, and that’s that. Now, this is what I do. The kids pray for their dad by saying “I pray for dad.” I say, “I pray for (insert name).” That’s it. God knows everything inside those words. You don’t need to say more because it will become a depressing affair. As for praying for yourself to change, you already have done that. The abused woman has changed to the point where she does not even recognize herself. She does not know who she is on this earth or even in Christ. Her abuser has taken those things away from her and twisted her into something she was never meant to be. He has forced her to do things that she never would have done, all for the supposed sake of their marriage. He has humiliated her and suppressed her spiritual gifts. His abuse has created a rift between her and God.

Here’s a radical idea, how about well-meaning people keep their mouths shut when they want to give the typical advice? How about, if a person hasn’t been abused, they admit they have no idea what the abused is going through? How about they pray for and with the abused that God will free them from it, instead of insisting on living out the lie that abuse is not nearly as sinful as divorce (which is exactly what a person says who claims they are opposed to divorce in all circumstances). How about showing some love, both emotional and practical? How about having the compassion of Christ on the suffering?

I know that on this blog I’m preaching to the choir, but maybe, just maybe, someone will read it and be brought to a greater understanding. And, more importantly, maybe the abused will read it and will be freed from these thoughts that others put in their heads. This is not what God wants for anyone. Abuse is not His intention. No one has to tolerate it.

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