The Accountability of the Abuser: Repentance and Forgiveness
Before healing can begin in a marriage the source of the wound must be removed. If the source is marital infidelity, the infidelity must stop and must be replaced with faithfulness. If it is drug addiction, the drug must be surrendered, and replaced with God addiction. If it is domestic violence, the violence must stop and be replaced with healthier conflict resolutions. However, the process of getting from one side of the fence to the other is not a simple matter of will. If it was that simple, we would not need God at all. Indeed, most abusers do not want to hurt the people they love. Some of them are trying desperately to keep their spouse from leaving, yet their rational thought process says that if they continue to abuse, their spouse will leave. Then they abuse anyway. It does not make sense. It is similar to being told that if you touch the stove you will get burned, but you touch it anyway. What would make a person do that? In the psychological realm, we might call it addiction. It is so powerful that it is resistant to logic and rationality. Even the fear of the consequence cannot stop an addiction in full form. However, God does not call it addiction. He calls it sin. Sin always begins with a small step in the wrong direction. We are slowly desensitized to the consequences when we see that they are not that bad. With this desensitization comes a gradual increase in the sin, or addictive behavior. Once at full form, it has control of us, and we have lost control of it (“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin’” John 8:34). Domestic violence can be an addictive pattern of behavior. This is not always the case. Some individuals may be abusive because they
truly believe they are have been taught that as the criminal justice system, friends, family, the spouse, or church, that the abusive behavior is wrong, we would expect it to stop, yet it does not. We see evidence of this in the “cycle of violence” discussed in Chapter 11. The abusive spouse, during the “honeymoon” phase of the cycle, seems remorseful. He can see the damage his abusiveness is doing to his partner, to their relationship, and to the children. This cycle, however, is still in motion; the tension mounts until the abuse occurs again. Like a perpetual downward spiral, it does not stop. When it does not stop, or the abuser cannot stop it, there is indication that it is an addictive behavior. What does God say about addictive, or sinful behaviors?