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Why Do Victims Start To Mirror Their Abuser’s Behavior?

By Terry Loving

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“Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man you shall not go: Lest you learn his ways, and get a snare to your soul.”

Proverbs 22:24-25

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The title of this post is a search term used to find my site. As other questions I have endeavored to answer – Scripturally – this question begs an answer as well. I will start by quoting a friend who lived a life of domestic abuse for many years. Betty told me that her doctor informed her, “You stayed too long.” Prior to her death from cancer several years ago, Betty confided in me that she should have left her husband, but could not bring herself to do so – she loved him.

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Theirs was a volatile relationship where Betty took the abuse for a long time, and one day began to fight back. Both Betty and her husband were alcoholics; however they each held a decent paying job. They owned a home, and their kids were grown – so it had to be dysfunctional love that kept them together. When they were sober, they seemed like a “normal” couple laughing and enjoying each other’s company. They would take vacations together, and stood up for one another, living in peace – until they drank alcohol.

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I will never understand this type of relationship, even though I have witnessed it many times over. The women eventually became just as violent and abusive – swearing – throwing objects – drawing blood – and making use of weapons to defend themselves. One thing I do understand is this, alcohol consumption makes many people act out some of the vilest behaviors on earth. Although substance abuse changes personalities, they who partake are still responsible for their ungodly behaviors. Getting high or drunk is a matter of choice – with the exception of those who are forced to partake under dire and involuntary circumstances.

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The following commentary makes very valid points – one in particular:

“22:17-21. To these words, to this knowledge, the ear must be bowed down, and the heart applied by faith and love. To live a life of delight in God and dependence on him, is the foundation of all practical religion. The way to know the certainty of the word of truth, is to make conscience of our duty. 22, 23. He that robs and oppresses the poor, does so at his peril. And if men will not appear for them, God will. 24,25. Our corrupt hearts have so much tinder in them, that it is dangerous to have to do with those that throw about the sparks of their passion.” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

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One line stood out after reading the above commentary – “Our corrupt hearts have so much tinder in them, that it is dangerous to have to do with those that throw about the sparks of their passion.”

From my personal understanding, this means that abusers cannot make the abused mimic their ways. However, because of the inclination of the heart of mankind in general to lean towards evil – it doesn’t take much for our hearts to adopt the ways of Cain. When pushed to the brink of insanity, the human brain resorts to the “fight for flight” stage. In the movie What’s Love Got To Do With It, Tina Turner’s character – (Angela Basset) gives a good example of what I am referring to. In the back of a limo, she chose to fight back, and flight was her next decision when Ike – (Lawrence Fishburn) fell asleep at the hotel.

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Genesis 6:5 states: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” New International Version (©1984)

“God sees all the wickedness that is among the children of men; it cannot be hid from him now; and if it be not repented of, it shall be made known by him shortly. The wickedness of a people is great indeed, when noted sinners are men renowned among them. Very much sin was committed in all places, by all sorts of people. Any one might see that the wickedness of man was great: but God saw that every imagination, or purpose, of the thoughts of man’s heart, was only evil continually.

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“This was the bitter root, the corrupt spring. The heart was deceitful and desperately wicked; the principles were corrupt; the habits and dispositions evil. Their designs and devices were wicked. They did evil deliberately, contriving how to do mischief. There was no good among them. God saw man’s wickedness as one injured and wronged by it. He saw it as a tender father sees the folly and stubbornness of a rebellious and disobedient child, which grieves him, and makes him wish he had been childless.”

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

New International Version (©1984)
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; (Romans 3:10)

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The “tinder” spoken of relates to the “kindling,” “firewood,” “brushwood,” “sticks,” and “twigs” that lie deep within our hearts. In other words, it may take being cussed out for the fifth time for the abused to start cussing back at her abuser. She may be a Christian woman who never cussed in her life, but as the Bible states, “… Bad company corrupts good character.” “Do not be misled,” “Do not be deceived,” “Don’t let anyone deceive you,” “Do not deceive yourselves,” “Do not be led astray”:

“Bad company ruins good morals.”

“Bad company corrupts good character.”

Evil communications corrupt good manners.”

Wicked friends lead to evil ends.”

“Evil discourse corrupts pleasant minds.”

“Associating with bad people will ruin decent people.”

“Evil companions corrupt good morals.”

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“Bad company good morals doth corrupt. There is a proverb much like this among the rabbins:”

“There were two dry logs of wood, and one green log; but the dry logs burnt up the green log.”

“There is no difficulty in this saying; he who frequents the company of bad or corrupt men will soon be as they are. He may be sound in the faith, and have the life and power of godliness, and at first frequent their company only for the sake of their pleasing conversation, or their literary accomplishments: and he may think his faith proof against their infidelity; but he will soon find, by means of their glozing speeches, his faith weakened; and when once he gets under the empire of doubt, unbelief will soon prevail; his bad company will corrupt his morals; and the two dry logs will soon burn up the green one.”

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible

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In abusive situations, hurt and pain often turns into anger, and many abused persons when they reach their limit frequently take on the persona of the abusers. This is the way many defend themselves, and hope to put an end to the abuse. However, what happens in many cases, the abusers become excited that they now have a sparring partner. I know, this sounds sick, and it really is – but to an abuser this is an opportunity to inflict more damage for now they can accuse the abused of being violent as well.

And what this does is it takes away the spotlight from the abuser, and the light shines on the violence of both parties. In many states, both the abuser and the abused are arrested for domestic violence. Fighting back often weakens the defense of the abused in court, and the children now witness two parents desiring to hurt one another.

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“Let us not be joined with ungodly men; but warn all around us, especially children and young persons, to shun them as a pestilence. Let us awake to righteousness, and not sin.”

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

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GUARD YOUR HEART

“Keep thy heart with all diligence,…. The mind from vanity, the understanding from error, the will from perverseness, the conscience clear of guilt, the affections from being inordinate and set on evil objects, the thoughts from being employed on bad subjects; and the whole from falling into the hands of the enemy, or being the possession of Satan: great diligence had need be used in keeping it, since it is naturally so deceitful and treacherous; a strict eye is to be kept upon it; all the avenues to it to be watched, that nothing hurtful enters, or evil comes out; it is to be kept by all manner of means that can be thought of, by prayer, hearing, reading, meditation; and, above all, by applying to Christ for his grace and Spirit to sanctify, preserve, and keep it. Or, “above all keeping, keep thine heart” (b); though other things are to be kept, and care taken of them, as kingdoms and cities, and towns and families, and treasures and riches; yet the heart above all:

for out of it are the issues of life; of natural life: it is the seat of it, from whence all actions of life are derived; it is, as philosophers say, the first that lives, and the last that dies; and it is the seat of spiritual life the principle of it is formed in it; from whence all spiritual and vital actions flow, and which lead unto and issue in eternal life: as is a man’s heart, such is his state now, and will be hereafter; if the heart is quickened and sanctified by the grace of God, the man will live a life of faith and holiness here, and enjoy everlasting life hereafter: and if the heart is right, so will the actions of men be; they are regulated and denominated by it; they will then spring from right principles, and be directed to right ends, and performed with right views; great care therefore should be taken of the heart, since so much depends upon it, and it is so well known to God the searcher of it.”

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“Make no friendship with an angry man – Spirit has a wonderful and unaccountable influence upon spirit. From those with whom we associate we acquire habits, and learn their ways, imbibe their spirit, show their tempers and walk in their steps. We cannot be too choice of our company, for we may soon learn ways that will be a snare to our soul.”   Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible

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THE HIDDEN HEART OF MAN

The Greek word for heart is “kardia.” 1

“The heart in Scripture is variously used, sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the facilities of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing of good and evil.”

1- Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Entry for “HEART”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.” http://www.studylight.org/enc/isb/view.cgi?number=T4199. 1915

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“Make no friendship with an angry man,…. Do not associate with him; contract not a familiarity with him; make him not a companion; take him not into an intimacy, or use him as a particular friend and acquaintance: a man should be courteous, and carry it civilly to all men; but he should take care whom he admits as his bosom friend; he should be cautious in his choice of a familiar friend, and not receive any; and, among the rest, avoid an angry and passionate man, one who is much given to passion himself, and stirs it up in others; for there can be no lasting peace and pleasure in such a man’s company and conversation;

and with a furious man thou shall not go: not take a walk with him, much less a journey; or shall not be frequently together. It may be rendered, “unto a man of wraths”, or of great wrath and “fury, thou shall not come”; not enter into his house, nor seek his company, and court his conversation, which rather should be shunned.”  Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

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<< Proverbs 2 >>
New International Version 1984

20Thus you will walk in the ways of good men

and keep to the paths of the righteous.

21For the upright will live in the land,

and the blameless will remain in it;

22but the wicked will be cut off from the land,

and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

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Sometimes, you can stay much too long.

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MAN IS DEFILED FROM WITHIN

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WHEN BATTERED WOMEN USE VIOLENCE: HUSBAND-ABUSE OR SELF-DEFENSE?

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Dispelling the Myths About the “Battered
Woman’s Defense:” Towards a New
Understanding

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The “Battered Woman’s Defense” Its History and Future

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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in SPEAK UP! SPEAK OUT!

 

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