What is the cycle of abuse? This may seem like a simple question about abuse, but many people fail to understand its implications and applications. A proper understanding will help Christians understand the false presuppositions behind statements like: I can do what I want, I’m not hurting anyone, Its consensual so it can’t be wrong…
So what is the cycle of abuse? The number one abuse meaning as a noun is: “the improper use of something.” We can see this in obvious ways like using a hammer to drive a screw into a piece of word, stripping the gears on a car by improper driving, standing on a chair with rollers to change a light bulb, etc. Sometimes an object can be made to work against its original design and intent, but it will not be as effective as the correct object used in the correct way.
When it comes to people we generally recognize the criminal cycle of abuse. Criminal abuse - murder, rape, domestic violence, theft, etc. - is when we improperly use people or their possessions against their will for our own benefit [or perceived benefit]. We have laws to protect people from these exploitations and to punish the perpetrators [although Biblical Law never focuses on punishment, but on restitution].
But look at our cycle of abuse meaning again. Read it carefully. Does it need to be against someone’s will? Can mistreatment and exploitation happen with someone’s permission? In other words, can abuse be consensual? The answer is yes. In order for abuse to take place all that has to happen is the “improper use of something” or someone. We have other articles on criminal exploitation, this article is going to focus on non-criminal [consensual] abuse.
As this subject relates to human beings, the most important question in determining whether mistreatment is taking place is: Who defines what is the improper use of another human being or their possessions? As independent people we automatically like to assume that we can determine for ourselves when we are being abused. This is faulty in several ways:
1. It assumes humanism to be true - that we are self-created or accidents of nature - and; therefore, there is no Being higher than a human being.
2. It assumes we are capable of determining when mistreatment happens for ourselves. A criminal going to jail may think he is being mistreated, but is that really the case?
3. It assumes that we completely understand our own design and; therefore, can determine when improper use is taking place. If that were the case, much of science would no longer be necessary for we would have all knowledge concerning human beings and their relation to the universe.
4. It also assumes that exploitation causes immediate and obvious harm and cannot be experienced as pleasurable for a season.
Christianity denies the above 4 points.
1. Christianity assumes that God exists and that the Bible is the true revelation of God and His design. That being the case, God as the Creator of all human beings [and everything else, too!] is the only One who can authoritatively declare when someone or something is being improperly used.
…and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. Eph. 3:9, NIV
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. Col. 1:16, NIV
As the Creator, God knows exactly how we, as human beings, were designed to operate. He knows how we can get the maximum benefit from life and eternity. He knows what actions, although they may seem right to us at the time, will cause long-term or eternal damage. He is the only Who knows this completely and how actions affect not only the people involved, but also the intricate fabric of all of creation.
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Pr. 14:12, NIV
Not only does God exist and is the Creator Who understands totally how we were designed to operate, but also He is the ultimate Owner of all things. As the Owner, He has the right to declare how His property is to be used and when it is being abused - which means He also has the right to judge all those who exploit His possessions. Our sinful nature is repulsed and offended by the idea that we are owned by Someone else. Nevertheless, our feelings do not change the facts.
If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Ps. 50:12, NIV
…Although the whole earth is mine… Ex. 19:5, NIV
But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Rom. 9:20, NIV
Satan uses every means at his disposal - from the entertainment industry to higher education - to force the idea that if it feels right, it must be right. If it feels good, just do it! Feelings - emotions - can be great, but they are not reliable judges of what is right and wrong. It can “feel good” and still be terribly wrong and abusive allowing the cycle of abuse to roll on.
For example, a couple who decide to have sex outside of marriage - whether a “one night stand” or living together - may have a mutually enjoyable and consensual experience[s]. But since God’s design is to limit sex to one man and one women within the marriage covenant, it is the improper use of someone. In other words, it is an abusive relationship which usually brings long-term harm in this life to the couple, their children and society in general and will certainly have eternal consequences.
If feelings are not a reliable judge of what is right and wrong, what is? The Operations Manual - the Bible. The Bible is God’s instruction manual on how life works, why we run into problems and what the solution is. We may not understand why God has said not to do something, but we should know violating His command is harmful - just as a small child may not understand why his parents forbid playing in the middle of the road when there is no visible immediate danger. God does not give commands/laws for His benefit, but for ours. A 3 year-old may not understand why sticking a knife into a power plug is a bad idea, but hopefully he never finds out by experience.
Now someone may say, a loving parent would never knowingly let a three-year have any opportunity of sticking a knife into a power outlet, so, if God is loving, why doesn’t He make it impossible for us to do anything harmful to ourselves or others? Good question.
Unlike the 3 year-old God created Adam and Eve with the desire to do right, the knowledge of what was right and honoured them with power of choice. To forcibly keep them from making a wrong choice would have violated the gift of free will that He gave them. [Considering how people whine when they are told about God's warnings on harmful activities - what would they say if He forced them not to do it?] Because Adam was the representative of the human race when He abused God by disobedience, we all abused God. We look at this in detail in other articles and the Love Covenants series.
As you can see, in this sense every human being is caught in the cycle of abuse and has to some degree been both an abuser and abused. None of us treat others 100% with the honour and respect they were designed to be treated with. We all operate to some degree in selfishness and with hidden motives. And - we can probably all agree - that none of us are treated 100% the way were designed to be treated.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Is. 53:6, NIV
So what are we to do about this? Are we trapped into the cycle of abuse endlessly? So do we just try make sure we get all our “rights” so we are less on the exploited side of things? What do we do?
We have to face a little three letter word that people try to avoid: sin. The human race has been infected with this cancer ever since Adam made his wrong choice. Denying it, excusing it, or even accepting it will not change a thing. We must face it and our helplessness to deal with the cycle of abuse. So how to we break this cycle of abuse?
1. We come to the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. We admit we are helpless sinners and that He was conquered sin on our behalf. Read Jesus Is Saviour.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Rom. 10:9-11, NIV
When a person genuinely does this they are “born again” or re-created without sin. That is an extreme statement, but let me explain. Their spirit is instantly re-created in relationship with God and without sin. The mind and the physical body are NOT instantly re-created. The mind still wants to think the old sinful abusive way. It has to be trained to think and act according to the spirit and not the old ways. The body still wants to do and get pleasure from its former self abusive lifestyle. It is a conscious process as we work with the Holy Spirit to adjust our mind and body with our spiritual state.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Col. 3:1-10
2. We cannot come to Jesus only as Saviour. He is also Lord. Read Jesus Is Lord. In submitting to Jesus as Lord we seek, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to learn His ways as revealed in the Bible and practice them. This is lifelong project that will never be complete in this life, but we can progressively free ourselves from being self abusers and exploiters of other and at the same time learn how to deal with abuse against ourselves in a way that honours God.
So when you hear people saying things like: “It’s my body…It’s my life…I can do want I want…etc.” realize that it is usually spoken by people who only know self abuse as a way to try and find pleasure and meaning in life. They are caught in the cycle of abuse and the only way out is through Jesus Christ.