Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Doctrinal Side of Abuse

The core of abuse is control. Any time we try to control another person, we are opening ourselves up to possibly abusing them. The main difference between "merely" attempting to control a person and actually abusing them is only by degree; how far are you willing to go to attempt that control?

This is why it is so difficult to label abuse, and why it is so difficult for victims of abuse to be believed. When a woman goes to someone and says "he got mad at me and broke some of my things," a typical first thought is something like, "well, that's not all that bad, I've wanted to break things before." Just like Satan's methods of leading us down to hell, the difference is gradual. Our desire to control our environment coupled with our belief in our own invulnerability, makes it all too easy to align ourselves with abusers rather than victims.

I remember hearing stories of abused women and thinking, "I would never let someone hit me." I've heard others say similar things, "Well, if it was me, I'd have kicked him right out of the house the moment he laid a finger on me."

But it's not that easy. Just like Bugs Bunny's lines to cross, there is never a clear-cut moment of no return until it's too late.

There are many cases where the priesthood has been used to attempt control. Often, this leaves members bitter about their experiences and cautious when dealing with priesthood leaders. But the Lord taught that those who attempt to control are not actually working by the powers of heaven. He also pointed out that most of us who are given power immediately try to use that power to control. In other words, the tendency to abuse is part of our natural man status, and is normal.

But normal does not mean acceptable.

I believe that one of the best weapons in the fight against abuse is self-realization. If we realize that all of us have this tendency to control, and that we are separated from abusers only by our unwillingness to go to certain lengths, we are empowered to recognize controlling behavior before it blossoms into abuse, both in ourselves and in others.

And, while I'll not go into detail here, there is much to be learned about the powers of heaven and the structure of eternity once we master this concept.


  1. I think you are correct, SR. The line is not always clear, just as the moment between survival and boiling is not always evident to the frog in the pan of water.

    And you're also right: control for control's sake is not what the preisthood is about, and Section 121 is clear on that subject.

    That someone is "in charge" or "presides" does not necessarily mean he is "in control" (or even can be). Leaders who acknowledge that it's the Lord's work and not theirs are on their way to enough humility to do it right.

    A leader (or a parent) can, however, set limits and consequences without engaging in abuse. In fact, not to do so in some instances would be neglect.

  2. Very good thoughts, SR. I agree with everything you've said - with the addition that we simply MUST be aware of this issue and ever diligent, because it is SUCH an ingrained and natural tendency.

  3. You are completely correct. It makes women not only mistrust preisthood leaders but men in general. Most women keep going into abuse until it kills them. The lucky ones are the ones who get help. It also scars them for life and makes it harder for them to have a healthy relationship. The cause for the inability to have a healthy relationship isn't just the scars but it also tears them down in self esteem. I know because I live with such a women who was nearly killed by her second husband.

  4. Really important thoughts, here, SR. I think it's all too easy to put 'abusers' in some 'other' box as though 'they' are so far removed from
    'normal' people. But the truth is that we all have the possibility of being abusive and self-awareness and honesty is essential.

    I think, too, of many ways the desire to control can be manifest, and sometimes it's very, very subtle. We all know that physical attacks are abusive and flat-out yelling is pretty easy to spot, but there are so many other ways we may seek to control -- silent treatment, pouting, passive-aggressive behavior, "joking" and sarcastic comments, etc.

  5. "one of the best weapons in the fight against abuse is self-realization" I agree

  6. THANK YOU! I've been trying to find a way to say what abuse is... and you just nailed it. The desire to control and the ways people go about controlling others. It isn't just men who do this, but in the church because men are given authority, it is easier for them to abuse it.

    I also agree that self-realization is a huge key. Although I don't believe (not even for a second) that those who are abused need to repent, there is a process that mirrors the repentance process that victims have to go through too.

    Recognizing the wrong is the first step.


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