Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Anger Management is Not the Answer

A reader recently wrote and said that her ex, and abusive man for over two decades, insists that his only problem is anger.  He claims to be a Christian and is verbally repentant about his anger.  The only problem is that in the same breath that he “confesses” his anger, he lays blame upon her for leaving him.  She can fully expect him to continue his other various abusive tactics as he has opportunity.  Nothing has changed.

Those of you who have read Bancroft know that anger is not the abuser’s real issue, and therefore anger management strategies are like water off a duck’s back.  In fact, they can even give an abuser another excuse — his anger, and whatever it is that supposedly made him an angry man. (or woman).

When we are dealing with a person who battles with anger, it is possible that we are dealing with a Christian.  It is a question of sanctification.  We will still expect to see improvement and genuine repentance however, and if that repentance is absent then the individual is not a Christian no matter how loudly he insists that he is. We who abide in Christ the vine will bear fruit and that fruitbearing continues and even increases as the Father prunes us.

But when we are dealing with an abuser, we are dealing with issues of justification. That is to say, salvation.  A person who is convinced that they are entitled to power and control over others and who has no regret about using whatever means he deems necessary to obtain that control, is simply not a regenerate individual.  It cannot be.  Just read through I John and you will understand why.

I mistakenly dealt with a person once from the assumption that he was a Christian who just needed help in his sanctification to over come his abusive ways.  And I dealt with him for — I am ashamed to say it — years.  Yep, it took Jeff that long to get a clue.  But I finally did.  The reason nothing changed is because there was no repentance.  And where there is no repentance, there is no Christian.

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6 Comments

  1. Veronica

    As a counselor, this issue is one of my pet peeves when dealing with churches and abusers. I once talked to a so-called pastor (he is actually a hired hand) of a mega church who told me that a guy we were talking about just deals with anger. He said he argues with his wife and gets angry. Every one gets angry – and some times righteously so – and I tried to explain to him the difference between a “normal” argument with a spouse and how an abuser functions. It’s all about what Pastor Jeff said above: Entitlement (I have the right to talk to my wife this way because I’m the head of the house and she needs to submit to me), Power, Control, and Justification (I am just trying to help my wife overcome her sin because the Bible tells me it’s my responsibility). This type of thinking can never be changed with anger management counseling. It’s a thinking error that exists because the person is given over to a corrupt mind and does not know God. And people in the church who don’t discern this are not mature the way Ephesians 4 and Hebrews 5 calls us to be.

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  2. Natalie

    Not only do abusers NOT have an anger management problem, they are quite good at managing their anger and using it when it will benefit them.

    They can express anger in myriad ways through very covert and subtle means – a look, a turn of the head, tightening of the lips, oh so subtly.

    They can control who sees their anger and who never witnesses it. They can turn it on and off like a switch.

    This is why it is so unjust for a court to order anger management classes for a batterer then expect his children to still spend time alone with him.

    His victims are gaslighted by family court (an oxymoron) and told to go along with the farce that everything is healthy and safe now because he went to a class that did not even hold him accountable.

    The only thing that stops an abuser is force and punishment.

    They are managing their anger just fine.

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    • Jeff Crippen

      Absolutely! Thank you Natalie.

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    • Innoscent

      So well said Natalie! Abusers are experts at anger management.
      They are actually devoid of empathy and use emotions as tools to manipulate and deceive. They know how to shed crocodile tears, or laugh and hiss in the same breath. Just like actors pretend.

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    • Be free

      Anger has a time and place – Jesus was a great example of the when and where it was/is an appropriate response, and that was/in the church as well. Yet, using anger as a default response, an excuse for sin, for an intimidation and control method, etc. was never one of his examples! Those uses of anger is the work of an abuser, and one of satan’s easy-to-fall-for-coverup tricks……

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  3. Jacob

    Amen! I had a problem with a professing Christian at work today. He is the trainer and I am training with him up until now. He would ridicule and scream at me at everything I did. No matter what I did right or wrong was an excuse for him to degrade me. I was told “that is the way he is” or “he has always been like that”. Sorry after FOUR WEEKS I have had enough. No change. No excuses. NO FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Not a Christian. Fortunately my supervisor has assigned me a new trainer and I can look forward to learning with instructive criticism and not verbal abuse.

    Ephesians 4:26-27

    Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil

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