rebelling against low expectations

How do I help someone who has been verbally abused?


COURTNEY WRITES: I know a few people going through verbal abuse in their homes. It comes with a lot of confusion, shame, and really deep depression. How can I help them trust God? How can I help them see who they are in Christ even when they’re constantly hearing lies about themselves? What should I say, and specifically what should I pray?

Any advice you have is more than welcome. Thanks y’all!

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  • Maybe encourage, or ‘dare’, them to memorize verses that have to do with God loving them and always being with them.

    I.e Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

    Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

    Also treat them kindly, do the opposite of what the verbal abuse has been doing. I have not been verbally abused, so I don’t know exactly how it feels like, but I do know some people who have been and they say that sometimes it’s worse than physical abuse.

    Also keep this verse in mind:
    1st Thessalonians 5:11
    Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

    May Christ be with you as you minister to your friend, I will pray for them.

  • Be light to them. Speak truth, and counteract the darkness and evil that they are absorbing at home. Pray that God would show Himself and His Love to them in new ways. Also, pray for the families as a whole, and for healing. Remember that the real enemy is Satan, and he loves this type of stuff.

    Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

  • Great question, Courtney. In my small level of personal experience in the area of relating to individuals in situations of verbal abuse, I would say there are a few important things you can do:

    1. Do not be sarcastic toward the affected individual. Often it’s taken literally on the inside, even if they know you were being sarcastic on the outside.

    2. Listen when they want to vent, without replying with your own advice (unless they ask you for advice). Sometimes a person in this kind of situation just wants to talk it out, not get your input, even if it would be helpful for them to receive your input.

    3. When you truly see a good attribute in the person or believe they did a good job, just let them know in a non-patronizing way. it can go along way even if they seem to reject your compliment.

    Hope this helps!

  • I don’t have experience with this, but just thinking about it a few things come to mind.

    Firstly, it would be beneficial for them to read a lot of scripture. The Bible is pure truth and always helpful.

    Secondly, they need to understand where their true value comes from: not what others think, but from how much our heavenly Father values us to have sent his Son to die!

    You can pray that God will help them to see their value in Him, be their comfort, and use this hardship to draw them closer to Him.

    That’s a start, and hopefully others here will have more specific advice. 🙂

  • First off, don’t tell them you understand unless you truly do. I have a family member who is very verbal and will yell and scream and throw a tirade when they do not get their way this person particularly says very mean things to my mom. I don’t know that I would say I experience verbal abuse, but I do know what it is like to live a life at home that you and your family try to keep under wraps. Let the person know that you are there and that you care. Be willing to listen to a rant and point them to Jesus.

  • It can be hurtful when someone isn’t careful with their words. My advice is to not grow bitter or have hate in your heart and keep trusting God.
    We are all made in the image of God, beautifully and wonderfully made.
    It is unfortunate when someone chooses to let Saten into their heart and be controlled by sin. But we must not hate the person, but the evil.
    For example, my biological dad left our family when I was seven to marry someone else, and prefers to bring people down with his words rather than build them up. If I were to list every unprovoked rude comment or action, the list would be very long ,but despite all this I still love him, I hate the sin, but I do not hate him. The Bible tells us to honor our father and mother ,and I do this by treating my biological father with kindness and respect even when I don’t always get treated that way in return.
    Words can cut like a sword, but scripture is my shield. My faith in God outweighs all the hurt, sadness and “Why is this happening?” moments.
    When you choose not to hate, you make room for love in your heart and joy and peace. As a friend once told me, “Everyone has a hole in their heart shaped like God.” What she meant by this was that we can not replace God with money, popularity, or what people think or say about us. When we let God into our hearts, he makes us complete and whole.
    God does have a plan for us. My mom married the most wonderful person on the planet who is now my step-dad, who loves the Lord and my family, who treats my siblings and I with kindness and respect ,and we try to do the same for him. This amazing blessing didn’t happen overnight, it took awhile to happen ,and during that while God shaped my character and integrity. Had these prior experiences not happened, I don’t know if I would have appreciated the abundant, overflowing blessings God had in store for me.
    My trial became my testimony. Let it be the same for you as well. You can choose to be happy and faithful even in bad circumstances, and regect the negative thoughts or words that try to stick. When you’re at your lowest, immerse yourself in the scripture, read devotionals, listen to sermons, and prey. Doing these things was what actually what helped lead me to discover Do Hard Things and
    In summary, the secret to happiness in life is God, who has unconditional love. We just have to keep trusting, keep believing, keep praying, keep loving ,and not hating.
    God has a plan for all of us. Never lose hope because every mountain has its pleasant view; the bigger the mountain, the better the view, and when you get to the top and see the endless sky and the sparkling sea, you’ll know it’s been worth the wait. Just like every mountain has its peak, every trial has its resolve.
    Sincerely, Meow Meow

  • You know, I remember the days leading up to my parents’ divorce being somewhat like this. It was so horrific watching Mommy crying as Daddy screamed at her, telling her to shut up among other swear words. I chose to side with my mom, crying out for Dad to stop hurting her feelings.

    Maybe it was God inside me, or maybe it was the right thing in any situation, but my dad brought his yelling to a swift end, lraving me to watch my mom sobbing in the bedroom. If you see someone verbally abusing someone else, and you know you can take the fire with God’s help, then direct their fire to you. You likely have friends of your own, Courtney, so you can walk through fire together… if all three of you are up to it. Having friends is nice because, if you find you’re not invincible, you’re not fighting alone (you were not anyway: God was with you).

    I learned from a very young age that there is always a bigger fish. Summon a teacher or your big macho brother in high school football to your side (if you have one of those. I don’t) to show them who’s the boss around here.

    With God, anything is possible.

  • A dear friend of mine was verbally abused by her stepfather, who is the source of much of the pain in her world. I don’t know all of her story, but it took years for her to reconcile the wounds he caused in her heart. She still does not fully trust him.

    As a friend, I did not meet her until a year ago, but this went on for years and still does, to an extent. The biggest thing is to be there. Listen to them. By listening, affirming, and loving them you are showing them the opposite of what they have been told- that they are loved, they are wonderful, and they are worth being there for. When you get the opportunity, point out all the people who the world said was worthless- David, prophets, lepers, Zaccheous, sick people, the unclean- who God later used to advance his kingdom in ways no one else could. God worked through them in beautiful ways, and he loved them because of their scars, because they had a more powerful story later.

    In the mean time, just love them. Show them Biblical scriptures- the woman at the well, David, Psalm 139- where God says they are beautiful. Pray for them to be strong in assault, to seek counseling in wise, caring people, and that they will see the lies for what they are.

    • The other thing I’m gonna add to what I said before it is to listen to them. Listen to them rant, listen to them cry, listen as they tell you about their heartbreaking family lives, listen as they laugh with you over silly things like the different flavors of M’n’Ms depending on the colors. Be there. Just be there and listen.

  • Honestly be there I’m a survivor and born again thank Jesus for the people in my life
    Be there and listen
    Have her write them down
    Tell them to fight the Lies with the truth
    Honestly you can’t do much till Christ makes them new pray for peace and protection claim her in the name of Christ that she is his and the enemy won’t win pray and show her

  • I know when I feel depressed, I don’t want people to give me solutions; I just want them to be there. Presence, not advice.

    In addition to the advice other people have given below, I would recommend reading resources from Christian counselors wiser than us in the area of verbal abuse. Some places to start: Focus on the Family or books by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud.

  • As someone who was spiritually abused by a pastor, I would say remind them that God loves them, pray for them, encourage them if they are making right choices, encourage, encourage. Definitely, do not give advice unless asked for it. Encourage them to talk to someone they can trust that will not abuse their heart again. I was blessed to have a Mom, brother, and, through time, a friend that I could and still can trust. I am not gonna lie. It takes time.
    Even though I have been out for 6 years, I still have some really bad days. Some of the books that helped me were: “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst (I love all of her books), “You’re Already Amazing” by Holley Gerth, “You’re Loved No Matter What” by Holley Gerth.
    Encourage them to listen to uplifting music. I like Matthew West’s songs. A couple of my favorites that he wrote are “The List” and “Hello My Name Is”. I also like the music by Mercy Me, Stephen Curtis Chapman, Laura Story, and Lindsay McCaul.
    Also, I picked a verse out of the Bible that means a lot to me and repeat it over and over when I am not having a good day.

    I want to be very clear here. Every single person is going to handle something like this differently. My brother handled it differently from my Mom, who handled it differently then Dad or me. There are not going to be nice cookie cutter answers. Sometimes, preplanned answers do not work. The best thing you can do is let them know that you are there for them without judgment. Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult.

    • This is probably going to sound ignorant and maybe rude, but what exactly is(a vague definition, not how it happened to you) is spiritual abuse?

        • Not rude at all. The definition of spiritual abuse is kind of a mouthful. It is ” the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment. ” from the book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen
          Let me kind of break it down. Basically, it is a verbal and mental abuse aimed at your walk with God. It includes asking questions. This is not allowed. You are to do anything the pastor says no matter what. The pastor is always always right and is pretty much God himself.
          I will give you an example without going into too much detail. How to do devotions. It has to be done the way the pastor tells the person. If the person does not do them his way, that person is not saved and God may or may not love or care about that person anymore.

          • That is just so inconsiderate of that man, I hope that you have few repercussions of his sin.

  • Truth. Pray that they learn to recognize Truth, and that they hold fast to it. Keep speaking truth to them in love. Remind them what’s real, what’s right, what’s good, what’s true.
    Verbal abuse isn’t always easy to see. In my life it’s been sneaky and manipulative. Words were used to belittle and shame me, pointing out my weakness and saying I’m next to nothing, while at the same time enlarging the speaker and solidifying the fact that they were better. They were right. I was wrong. Always. Which made me question what I know. I questioned everything – God especially. I couldn’t find real Truth because I couldn’t contradict them. I couldn’t get help because they said I made it up, everything’s fine, and explained why they were right and I was wrong.

    Listen to your friend’s stories and thoughts, validate their experience, and continually point to Truth.

  • I’d add that sometimes I think someone who lives in an emotionally draining or destructive atmosphere just needs some rebuild time. A time spent doing normal, relaxing, fun things in a spiritually encouraging and uplifting setting. I have an immediate family member with a complex condition that causes some verbal and mildly physical bullying, and I have found it’s good to spend a while in a safe environment, with people who are there to just hang out, or talk if you need to.

  • I struggle with GIVING verbal abuse. I know it’s most likely not my place to speak as a solution, but I have said horrible things to my siblings and parents. What they do in response to this is to just cool down.

    As such, also contact authorities if it gets serious.

  • Dear Courtney,
    Wow! That’s hard. I know what you’re going through. And we just might not understand why someone could do that.

    Throughout life we all search for an identity. And as we search we wear masks. As believers we know what our identity is. However, a non believer doesn’t. And in order to find our identity we want to find our purpose. Which we as believers know what that is. However they don’t. They also look for love in worldly places. The problem with that is. Our world is fallen. This world can’t offer perfect love. But God can and He does to everyone.

    As humans we tend to look for all these in people, friends, family, ect. However we will always end up with a feeling of never being good enough. Your friend is probably traveling down this road right now. The same one I did. I know what that’s like and that’s hard.

    On top of that they are obviously not finding love at home. And are being said they are things for no good reason. This can be confusing. And overtime when told these things over and over again. We can be lead to thinking they are true.

    When you talk to your friend about this. First, make it known you love them. And that God does to. Tell them what He thinks. And how that is greater than what man says.

    Until they can get away from that surrounding it’ll be hard for them to crawl out of the hole. But keep saying it over and over again and give them a Bible.

  • I hear you. I’ve been verbally abused by a lot of people in my life and it hurts a lot. What helped me the most was my sister. We went through the same things about the same time and we reminded each other that God would never give us things we couldn’t bear. The book of John really helped me because it gives me hope. It reminds me that no matter how hard my life seems right now, God has a plan to polish me and turn me into something wonderful and I’m glad that I can see some of the results. I think the best way to help someone who is verbally abused it to encourage them. Remind them that God has a great plan for them and these trials are worth it.

  • Verbal abuse is really hard. If somewhat consistent during your growing up years, it can haunt you way after your out of the situation. It makes it hard for me to believe that I matter, that I’m not an inconvenience, that my mom really loves me. Because of things I’ve been told by people close to me – I have a difficult time believing that my depression will not necessarily prevent future relationships (whether regular or romantic). I don’t feel that I can ask people to do favors for me when it was such a big deal for someone who is generally thought to do anything for you. I have a hard time believing my friends really are there for me – that I’m not annoying or a pain. That me going to them with my hurt and pain and never-ending depression isn’t going to drive them up the wall.

    Verbal abuse by both family and “friends” (as a child more-so) has led to a lot of struggles with loneliness, depression, suicidal thoughts, cutting, recently drug overdose, and other things that I am by no means proud of.

    It’s a mind battle. You KNOW that the verbal abuse isn’t real.. But when you hear it all the time, and when what they’re saying becomes true – you start believing it.
    And when you start believing it, you begin a miserable journal where you are trapped with seemingly no way out.

    How can you help someone? Well…
    – Be there for them. If you can’t, please explain (we are great at thinking all the reasons you don’t want to help).
    – Listen. Just knowing someone cares enough to listen is huge.
    – Confront with truth. We need to hear it, even if “we know”.
    – Tell us truth repeatedly, all the time. We’ve heard the lies over and over and over – it’s unlikely we’ll really believe the truth the first time.
    – Tell us truth even when we’re not seemingly struggling. Tell us we’re valued and treasured and loved – and help us know this often.

    Verbal abuse has a lot of effects – effects and lies I’ll probably struggle with forever on this side of glory. Every person’s story and struggles are different. Be there for them. Show them you care as a friend (if you’re the opposite gender, be careful with how you approach this – the last thing they need is thinking you’re helping them because you’re romantically interested if you’re not). We’re vulnerable and hurt and desperate – if you can show us the love of God, that is what we need ❤

    • My family has been so good, the best I could ask for, but I have been abused by a “friend” who kept keeping another friend away from me because I wasn’t good at comforting people in tough times. Later she said I was stupid multiple times and weak. This combined with other circumstances has chipped away at my ability to trust, but I’m trying to rebuild. I also struggle with giving verbal abuse, and it’s awful. I just want to die because of my temper sometimes. But I am growing in Christ and slowly getting away from that.

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