Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

"If You Only Understood…" Using History as an Excuse for Sin

But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:20-32)

I have written other posts in which I dealt with typical excuses the abuser makes for his or her evil actions. Here I want to talk about the same subject, but with broader application for all of us.
I have met numbers of professing Christians who characteristically exercise “bad tempers.” They are known for flying off the handle in anger, lashing out at others, most any time that they are told something they don’t want to hear. Or if they are denied something that they want. Most churches have such people in membership. “Oh yes, Jane. She is a touchy one alright. Don’t get on her wrong side. But we just love her anyway.” That kind of thing you see.
And many times such people’s sin (and that is what it is, sin) is excused because they have some history of mistreatment by others. “Yes, he is a real dragon quite often but then he had a really rough and abusive childhood.” Or, “we must be patient with her. She is very selfish but if you knew her background you would understand.” This kind of thing is very, very common. We are told that sin is to be excused because of the sinning person’s past.
Now, certainly trauma and abuse affect a person. Fear easily morphs into anger. There really are such things as emotional “triggers” that can set off various reactions (usually beginning with fear) in a person and these things are definitely understandable. You beat and abuse an animal over time and you shouldn’t be surprised if it snarls and snaps at you. Nevertheless, when I sin against someone by lashing out at them or hating them in my mind or being in some other way unkind to them, I am responsible for my sin. The Lord calls me to repent of it. I cannot use my past to justify and excuse my sin. I CAN perhaps use my past to help me UNDERSTAND why I launch out into sin in certain scenarios, but not for the purpose of excusing myself, but for the purpose of helping me see why a particular temptation comes my way in the first place so I can be better prepared to stand against it next time.
Trauma and abuse at the hands of the wicked is actually meant by the Lord to cause us to be MORE understanding and kind to people. For instance –

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:33-34)

You even see a very similar dynamic in Jesus’ suffering (without sin by Him of course) –

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:18)

See? The Israelites were abused big time by Pharaoh. But that suffering is to lead them to have more compassion on others in a like situation, not to excuse them for being hateful toward others.
Using our background of troubles as an excuse for sinning against others is a real trap and pitfall. It is a place we just really do not want to go, and those who do can spend years and years in that snare. It prevents us from even recognizing love when it is dumped in our lap. It prevents us from loving others.
This is why good, truthful therapy is so helpful. For the Christian, much of that therapy can come from God’s Word shining a light on what is really going on in our minds. We can benefit greatly from getting help from people who have been down that traumatic, abusive road themselves. Not so we can justify our sin, but (I say again) so that we can better see ourselves, understand what is going on in us, and realize finally that we do not have to keep getting set off like a keg of gunpowder each time some person or situation lights a fuse.
No, this does not mean that we naively and foolishly trust/unconditionally forgive/reconcile with people who are our enemies. If you have read this blog for much time at all you know that we would never teach that nonsense. An enemy remains an enemy as long as their wicked maliciousness is pointed at us. But what we are saying is that we must not fall into the trap of justifying our own sin [or anyone’s] just because of what happened to us before. Sin is sin and it is never excusable. It is “forgiveable” when we confess it to the Lord and ask Him to deliver us from temptation.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Mat 6:9-13)


When Anger is Godly


When Family Forsakes Us


  1. wingingit

    What is interesting to me is when I see victims of abuse, who grew up in awful, destructive homes, grow up to be women of compassion who excuse their abuser because of HIS awful childhood.
    She will say, “Well, his father was SO abusive. Now, he is just afraid and reactive.”
    But when asked about her horrible childhood, she minimizes it and gives herself NO excuse to ever be anything but kind and understanding because of what she “went through”.
    Why is it that his abusive childhood made him abusive, but hers made her compassionate?
    She chooses to frame her past in a light of overcoming and redemption and he uses her compassion to trap her.
    He chooses every day to use his past as an excuse to sin while she continues to use her past trauma to help her love harder, pray harder, and try harder to help him see through her eyes the way to compassion.
    Until…. someone teaches her that true compassion, as Jesus demonstrated it, is holding others accountable and calling them out on their sin, so they can be truly convicted and repent and be saved.
    And true compassion is Jesus’ other example that if the person will not see and hear truth….we walk away and we shake the dust off our feet, and we do not look back.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Truth here for sure!! Thank you.

    • Innoscent

      So well said Wingingit! Thank you.
      I wrestled for a long time on this issue until I came to the same conclusion that abusers, at one stage in their life **choose** the path of evil to deal with whatever emotional trauma they went through. Their decision is one of taking matters into their own hands and retaliate indirectly by using someone else as their punching bag.
      I used to say to my ex-husband that he was misled in using me as his target for his own past issues, that he should address them and approach those people. He would not. Why? Pride, denial, unrighteous anger and cowardice. He actually chose the same path as one of his parents instead of breaking the vicious cycle and starting a new and genuine life with God. When I fully realized that, it was heartbreaking and I knew that his choice/mindset was a big tumour that would terminate our marriage sooner or later. That’s when the grieving process started for me.
      Sometimes I hear psychotherapists and even Christian psychologists explaining what happened in the mind of narcissistic people during their childhood that “turned” them into narcissists, as if they couldn’t help it and it isn’t their fault. Such therapists only play the abusers’ game and are just blind leading the blind.

  2. walkinginlight

    You nailed it – CHOICE. You are 100% correct. Life experiences will either make us bitter or better. With Jesus Christ our Lord, we will get through and be better! As a child I was physically abused by a very angry father. He took it out on me and a younger brother. He used a leather belt on my backside that left welts and blood. He did other things as well that left myself and brother literally petrified of him!! I could be a very mean person because of that (the age old excuse). Way back when I chose to follow Jesus, I laid all that down at the cross. I did not want to be like him in anyway with my own children. In Christ I still have much empathy and compassion for the hurting. how I ended up with a abusive anti-husband I do not know. While dating he was kind, gentle, easy going, quiet. My mother also loved those qualities about him. Then after about four years of marriage the monster started to emerge. He grew into the abuser type that Pastor Crippen describes and also Lundy Bancroft in his book “Why does he do that”? All I can say or think is he really disguised himself so well all the years we dated (six to be exact) and you think one would know someone by then? It just goes to show when God says the human heart is utterly wicked and deceitful who can know it? Is quite a warning. The anti-husband made a CHOICE long ago to not follow Jesus and practice his sinful and wicked behavior on me. He will be in for a rude awakening when he stands at the Great White Throne Judgement. I would not want to be in his shoes!!!!

    • Innoscent

      Walkinginlight, you describe my story! My father was bitter for his own misfortune in childhood and he made my mother and brothers and sisters pay for it with his anger, violence, drunkness, emotional abuse and molestation. I grew up in fear and anguish, totally messed up and my deep seated anger against him grew as huge as my crying out for justice and love.
      But I resolved in my heart to never be like him and loathed every wrong trait of his character. Praise God who welcomed me, a wreck, in His arms in my late teens and told me to forgive my dad.
      However, I wish I was pointed to a true Christian counselor then who would have fast tracked my healing and prevented me years later from falling into the hands of a predator under the garb of a Christian man who made me go through another cycle of abuse!!
      There should be an army of genuine and wise Christian counselors to educate the church folks especially women. It’s sickening to see the justifying and pitying the abuser while the victims are reeling from the trauma and injustice piled upon them.

  3. R

    I struggle because my husband doesn’t even have an abusive past. His parents are gems. I still can’t figure out how he came from them. He wants everything the way he wants it, or there’s hell to pay.

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