A Call to Pastors

There are many things I’d like to share with pastors regarding the dynamics and impact of abuse. The most pressing and possibly most vital area of understanding is the centrality of power and control in abusive behavior. While abuse takes many forms, the motivation and means rarely change. Abuse is one person exercising power and control over his/her spouse. As I work with abusive men, one primary goal is to uncover their motivation. To do this we ask many “what” questions of their abusive behavior such as…

§  What did you want to see happen?

§  What did you want your partner to do?

§  What did you want your partner to stop doing?

§  What did you hope to gain from this behavior?

I avoid using why questions because they rarely get to the heart and allow the individual more room to shift blame.

Q: Why did you do that?

A: Because she…

Uncovering patterns of motivation will reveal the heart of abuse. We can expect “getting my way” often to be the motivation; to gain or maintain control.

In addition to gaining or maintaining control we should expect the use of power. They will be leveraging some aspect of force to get what they want. For some this power will be physical force. For others it may include intimidation, threats, demeaning words, economic security, or any other means used to control and get their way. I just recently spoke with a man who used the fact that the house was in his name to subtly suggest\threaten that he would kick her out if he didn’t get what he wanted. We often refer to abusive behavior as tactics because they are rarely tied to a specific activity. These tactics are tied to the abusers’ desired result, not to being provoked by stress, but to getting their way. For instance, if an abusive husband is confronted regarding his physical violence, he may conform to applied pressure and end his use of violence. This does not mean his heart has changed. In fact he may simply resort to new, less violent, but still abusive, behaviors to achieve the same results and get his way at the expense of his wife’s sense of security and well-being. The dynamics of power and control are central to abusive behavior. It is not simply a matter of incessant “button pushing” frustration, substances, or uncontrolled anger. It is important that we as pastors recognize and expose these dynamics when coming alongside those we are called to minister to.

What do you think?

Would knowing the dynamics of abuse impact how you address those who come to you for help? Have you approached a pastor or ministry leaders for help only to find they misunderstood/misdiagnosed the problem

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