Silence as a Sign of Abuse

Deu 27:24 “‘Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

Psa 64:2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers,

Mar 4:22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.

One sign that a person is a victim of abuse is silence. I have seen this quite often. We write it off as “well, he/she is just a very quiet person.” And while it is true that some of us are not as communicative as others, the kind of silence I am speaking of here is a remarkable silence. It is something that stands out, to which people take notice. “So and so is sooo quiet. They never talk hardly at all.” The problem is, while we see the symptom, we fail to understand its cause.

Domestic abusers (including spiritual abusers and other types of tyrants) insist upon secrecy. “What goes on here in this family stays here!” A disguised “front” is displayed in public, but that image is a facade. What really happens behind those walls is evil, and it must remain hidden. So secrecy is an aspect of an abusive system. And this means – don’t talk.

The fear that an abuser instills in his target cultivates this silence as well. Perhaps she will say something that she will be punished for. And even if she tries in the slightest way to ask others for help, she may well be accused of “disrespecting” her abuser. So there are all kinds of pressures from many different sources that produce this resolve not to speak. The victim may not even be aware of how abnormal their non-communication is. If they could see themselves in years past, before the abuse began, often they would see a healthy, outgoing, talkative person. But that person has faded into the past. Now she is silent.

I have most typically seen this dynamic in women who are being abused by their husband, but I have also known some men to evidence it too. “Have you noticed that he just doesn’t talk?” is a common observation by those who know him, but few if any of these people understand the reason for the silence. They think “it’s just him.” But very often this non-talking trait is a symptom of abuse.

Do you see how devilish this is? How cruel? if a victim is going to be able to get help, they are going to have to talk. If we are to know what is going on behind the scenes, we have to be told. But the wicked use all kinds of tactics to ensure that this telling never happens. Threats. Shaming. Accusing. Stealing one’s confidenct. Destroying the victim’s trust in their own ability to interpret what they see. It all is designed to ensure that the power and control continue, and that no one knows about it. Secrecy. Silence.

To any victim presently caught up in this bondage, let me say this. You are afraid to talk. (And that fear, by the way, is well-grounded in many ways. Not only because the abuser has made threats, but because those the victim tells about the abuse normally become a loose cannon causing even more grief for her). But let me say this to anyone in an abusive marriage or other toxic relationship that insists you just shut up – you can begin talking by talking to the Lord. He will never respond in a wrong way. He, in fact, already knows all about what is happening to you. And in His providence, He is able to direct you to help and freedom.

Exodus: Getting Free of “the Family”

Mat 10:34-39 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (36) And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Families are meant for our good. Husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, brother – and extended family as well – grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so on. A home is a family, parents and their children – who love and care for one another. But there comes a time in our lives when we are to “leave father and mother” and cleave to a husband or wife and begin still another family.

I want to talk to you here about this matter of leaving and how, in a sinful and fallen world, the enemy and his servants often twist that which God intended for our good into an enslaving “Egypt” that the Lord set Israel free from.

On several occasions over the years, I have, as I have written about before, experienced both patriarchal and matriarchal kingdoms which demand to possess power and control over family members. A father, for example, demanding that his wife and children serve him – forever. Or a mother who twists love for children into an ownership which refuses to let them leave and be the person the Lord would have them be. And woe to anyone who encourages the target of this thing to leave.

I have probably shared with you before a striking example of this I experienced, but here it is again. A young man, still living at home, asked if he could meet with me and talk about his future. What he should do with his life. What career he should choose. I gladly met with him and in the course of our conversation I threw some ideas out for him to think about. One of those suggestions was that he look into joining the coast guard. He had shown interest in first responder type careers and we live in a place where the coast guard is one of those very vital agencies. He responded positively and thank me for the idea.

A few days later I learned that his father had thrown an angry fit when the son mentioned the coast guard idea. In fact, he was so angry that he set out to do damage to me and the ministry here. He went to other church members and told them it was terrible that I dared to suggest such a thing to his son. Why do you think he was so enraged? I can tell you. He was a father who demanded a lifetime of power and control. His children, no matter their age, were his property with the mission of serving him, and he would punish any step toward freedom they might evidence.

In another case, a parent exploded in anger over the Scripture verses quoted above. Though a professing Christian, she “owned” her children and they were never to leave “the family.” She pressured them and guilted and shamed them if they showed any sign of independence. Of course, her actions merely served to drive them away, but nevertheless the children still had to struggle with the sense of bondage that was instilled in them by her.

These scenarios are certain signs of familial abuse. God, in His design for our lives, has told us:

Gen 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Unless children, as they grow up, are allowed to “spread their wings” over time and eventually leave father and mother in order to pursue their own life and goals and relationships, God’s design is not being followed and no good will come of it. A parent who demands perpetual power and control over their sons and daughters, that power and control even extending to the next generation – the grandchildren and even great grandchildren – may disguise this lust as “love,” but it is anything but love. It is a selfish demand for self-glory at terrible expense to those enslaved by it.

These abusive family systems are often encouraged and enabled by “christian” individuals and entities. The family is promoted in such a way that it becomes an idol. The father, in a patriarchal system, is to be served by all and the dynamic is very similar in a matriarchal kingdom. Such families are promoted and put forward to us as models for us to emulate, being supposedly God’s design and will. But that is a lie.

I know many survivors of these abusive families who have been freed from this tyrrany. They all relate how it took a very long time for them to clearly see what an abusive father or mother was doing to them. In most cases the end result is a no-contact “relationship.” Once they drew firm boundaries, they became familial black sheep cast out of the flock. But they will tell you something else – the freedom is absolutely worth it.

The Matriarchal Kingdom of Abuse

1Ki 15:11-13 And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as David his father had done. (12) He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. (13) He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron.

We know that the very large majority of domestic abusers are men and that churches have been enabling abusers by teaching and practicing what we call patriarchy. The father this. The husband that. It’s all about the father and everyone else in the family exists to serve him and further his “mission” in serving the Lord. The father becomes the “priest” of the family – a virtual mediator between them and God. Men who lust for power and control and self-glory love this system. The Lord does not.

But what I want to talk to you about here is a very similar system in which it is the wife or mother or grandmother in the family who is “queen.” I know this evil exists because I have met it numerous times over the years, and as the scripture above demonstrates, we find examples of it in the Bible as well.

The matriarchal kingdom is established by an abuser who is a woman. In the circles we are most familiar with, in Christian circles that is, a mother or a grandmother craves power and control. She uses her religion (just like Asa’s mother did) to establish an idolatrous dynasty over which she rules. It looks something like this:

  • She presents herself to her husband, her children, her grandchildren, as kthe most saintly, godly, wise woman they have ever known.
  • Her verbage is filled with Bible talk and scriptures (twisted and perverted of course).
  • She is regarded by her offspring and their offspring as a virtual prophetess.
  • She is very skilled at punishing anyone who demonstrates any hint of independence from her kingdom.
  • Her punishing tactics include, guilting, shaming, threatening, removing her favor, hinting at taking away their inheritance, turning other family members against the “wandering sheep,” etc.
  • Anyone who breaks from her control will pay the price of being a non-person, rejected by all in her kingdom.

Get the picture? And don’t miss this – an evil matriarch like this always establishes a false religion. She and her “family” system are the idol-god which is to be worshipped by all…or else.

And here is a sobering, sobering warining: Very few people in a matriarchal system ever break free. They yield to fear and when Christ in some way calls them to come out from this enslavement, they cling to the false god.

Anyone who is born into such a kingdom of darkness is blind to what it really is. Like everyone else in it, they think “mother” or “grandmother” is indeed the model of a true saint. It is only the Lord who can open their eyes and begin to show them the bondage they are in. You can tell them and tell them and tell them in order to help them see, but ultimately the Lord has to give them the eyes to see. And then they have to make a choice which no one else can make for them. Stay in bondage, or leave it to follow Christ.

How many of these matriarchs of darkness hold key and noteable positions in many local churches? More than most people imagine. It must have been something like this at Thyatira-

Rev 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

Recently Lynn commented on this blog, sharing her experience of getting free from such a family system – ruled by numerous tyrants. Her comment is worth repeating here:

When God opens your eyes, it is an invitation to let go of what you think you know and embrace his loving truth. While his gift to each of his elect is free, it is also extremely costly.

It will cost you family, friends, and reveal to you who are the wolves, who are the sheep, and who are the goats. Anyone who has appeared as godly on the outside but ends up being rotten to the core, we are commanded to remove ourselves from. That’s hard. None of us want to lose people, but the truth of the matter is that if your faith is genuine and you are obedient to Christ, you will not be able to hold onto all of your relationships. Your faith will reveal those who hate God in your midst. Don’t be surprised when you experience the hatred Jesus talks about when he tells us that they will hate us just as they hated him. We live in a day and age and a nation that refuse to be obedient to God’s word yet profess to carry his name.

It was hard leaving my entire family, including my extended family behind. While leaving my immediate family was less painful – they are a pack of narcissists wearing the guise of godly saints. I’ve had to purge most of my extended family and church relationships as well. They may not all be the wolves Christ mentioned, but they are also caught up in deception of false teaching around who Christ is, and what their responsibilities are as the Christians they claim to be. They refuse to separate from those who the Bible instructs us to avoid because they are family. Family means more to them than obedience. They refuse to seek to understand who God is for themselves nor gain wisdom in the face of evil. They let their ears be tickled by lies all the while being convinced they are walking in truth.

One of the things that has been so many fail to take seriously is that when Jesus said he’s come to separate fathers from sons, mothers from daughters and that if you choose family over obedience to him you are rejecting him. That instruction is missing in much of today’s churches. Rejecting unsaved family, especially if they wear the clothes of godliness yet are filled with dead men’s bones, is deemed unchristian.

How dare you be so unloving as to reject your family? Don’t you know you’re not being Christ like you know? And other such accusations are what you will hear from those who proclaim to be Christ’s yet refuse to obey him.

It’s not the narrow road for nothing. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But it’s not. It is hard and costly, yet nothing in this world is worth more than being Christ’s. Not family. Not friends. Not position. Not possessions. Nothing.

So to all those who are broken by wicked people parading around as godly, come out from the wolves den and live. You too can find the healing, hope and belonging your heart craves in the arms of Christ and his true sheep. No longer must you remain in the hands of wicked abusive people. Embrace the freedom granted to you by Christ. If the son sets you free you are free indeed.