What Qualifies As Verbal Abuse?

Today's blog is taken from Probe Ministries and Kerby Anderson. Why am I constantly harping on this you may ask? Simple. There are so many emails from women who are depressed, constantly tired, mentally and emotinally drained, and just plain beaten down. They are made to feel stupid, the target for problems in the family by the spouse, her family and the children-"Mom why don't you just settle down and be a good wife?" They are minimized and told that their physical, emotional, and mental issues are made up in their head..."you will be fine you're just overly sensitive," they are told. They are told that they don't communicate that they just get angry and can't be talked out of it. The worst part is that when the abuser feels threatened he either resorts to violence, or garnering sympathy for his plight from everyone you know, or put on his Mr. Wonderful image to throw everyone off and make you believe you are the problem! To achieve what the abuser wants he uses every brain-washing technique possible. The goal is control and manipulation behind the smile. When it seems he is genuinely concerned about the marriage or you, he points out his idea of your faults, minimizing your pain in the relationship and his role in the cause of your misery.  In fact, what he really wants is for you to feel like you are the crazy one and/or terribly misjudged his character! So let's look into Kerby's article and see what qualifies as ABUSE!
Probe Ministries
Verbal Abuse
Kerby Anderson
Almost everyone has heard of, or knows of, someone who has been verbally abused. Perhaps you are involved in a verbally abusive relationship. It is also possible that no one even knows your circumstances. Verbal abuse is a kind of battering which doesn't leave evidence comparable to the bruises of physical battering. You (or your friend) may be suffering in silence and isolation. In this article, I want to tackle this very important issue in an effort to understand this phenomenon and provide answers. Like any area of human action, it begins in the mind and heart. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks within himself, so he is." What a person thinks in his mind and heart will be reflected in his words and actions. Verbal abuse and physical abuse result from a world view that is clearly not biblical.
Verbal abuse is often more difficult to see since there are rarely any visible scars unless physical abuse has taken place. But it is often less visible simply because the abuse may always take place in private. The victim of verbal abuse lives in a gradually more confusing realm. In public, the victim is with one person. While in private, the abuser may become a completely different person.
Frequently, the perpetrator of verbal abuse is male and the victim is female, but not always. There are many examples of women who are quite verbally abusive. But for the sake of simplicity of pronouns in this program, I will identify the abuser as male and the victim as female.
One of the first books to describe verbal abuse in adults was Patricia Evan's book The Verbally Abusive Relationship.{1} She interviewed forty verbally abused women who ranged in age from 21 to 66. Most of the women had left a verbally abusive relationship. We will use some of the characteristics and categories of verbal abuse these women describe in this book.
Another important book in understanding verbal abuse is one that describes the phenomenon of "crazymaking." George Bach and Ronald Deutsch wrote Stop! You're Driving Me Crazy.{2} They describe what the crazymaking experience feels like. This includes "feeling temporarily thrown off balance," "feeling lost and not knowing where to turn," and "being caught off guard."
A victim is often the target of angry outbursts, sarcasm, or cool indifference. The abuser's reaction to these actions is frequently cloaked in a "What's wrong with you?" attitude. She is accused of "making a mountain out of a molehill." Over time she loses her balance and equilibrium and begins to wonder if she is the one who is crazy.

The key to healing is to recognize verbal abuse for what it is and to begin to take deliberate steps to stop it and bring healing. Since the abuser is usually in denial, the responsibility for recognizing verbal abuse often rests with the partner.

Characteristics of Verbal Abuse
Now I would like to focus on some of the characteristics of verbal abuse as outlined in The Verbally Abusive Relationship.{3} 

1. Verbal abuse is hurtful and usually attacks the nature and abilities of the partner. Over time, the partner may begin to believe that there is something wrong with her or her abilities. She may come to feel that she is the problem, rather than her partner.

2. Verbal abuse may be overt (through angry outbursts and name- calling) or covert (involving very subtle comments, even something that approaches brainwashing). Overt verbal abuse is usually blaming and accusatory, and consequently confusing to the partner. Covert verbal abuse, which is hidden aggression, is even more confusing to the partner. Its aim is to control her without her knowing.

3. Verbal abuse is manipulative and controlling. Even disparaging comments may be voiced in an extremely sincere and concerned way. But the goal is to control and manipulate.

4. Verbal abuse is insidious. The partner's self-esteem gradually diminishes, usually without her realizing it. She may consciously or unconsciously try to change her behavior so as not to upset the abuser.

5. Verbal abuse is unpredictable. In fact, unpredictability is one of the most significant 
characteristics of verbal abuse. The partner is stunned, shocked, and thrown off balance by her mate's sarcasm, angry jab, put-down, or hurtful comment.

6. Verbal abuse is not a side issue. It is the issue in the relationship. When a couple is having an argument about a real issue, the issue can be resolved. In a verbally abusive relationship, there is no specific conflict. The issue is the abuse, and this issue is not resolved. There is no closure.

7. Verbal abuse expresses a double message. There is incongruence between the way the abuser speaks and his real feelings. For example, he may sound very sincere and honest while he is telling his partner what is wrong with her.

8. Verbal abuse usually escalates, increasing in intensity, frequency, and variety. The verbal abuse may begin with put-downs disguised as jokes. Later other forms might surface. Sometimes the verbal abuse may escalate into physical abuse, starting with "accidental" shoves, pushes, and bumps.

These are a few characteristics of verbal abuse. Next we will look at some of the categories of verbal abuse.{4} 
Categories of Verbal Abuse
The first category of verbal abuse is withholding. A marriage requires intimacy, and intimacy requires empathy. If one partner withholds information and feelings, then the marriage bond weakens. The abuser who refuses to listen to his partner denies her experience and leaves her isolated. 

The second is countering. This is the dominant response of the verbal abuser who sees his partner as an adversary. He is constantly countering and correcting everything she says and does. Internally he may even be thinking, "How dare she have a different view!"
Countering is very destructive to a relationship because it prevents the partner from knowing what her mate thinks about anything. Sometimes the verbal abuser will cut off discussion in mid-sentence before she can finish her thought. In many ways, he cannot even allow her to have her own thoughts.

A third category of verbal abuse is discounting. This is like taking a one hundred-dollar item and reducing its price to one cent. Discounting denies the reality and experience of the partner and is extremely destructive. It can be a most insidious form of verbal abuse because it denies and distorts the partner's actual perception of the abuse.

Sometimes verbal abuse is disguised as jokes. Although his comments may masquerade as humor, they cut the partner to the quick. The verbal jabs may be delivered crassly or with great skill, but they all have the same effect of diminishing the partner and throwing her off balance.

A fifth form of verbal abuse is blocking and diverting. The verbal abuser refuses to communicate, establishes what can be discussed, or withholds information. He can prevent any possibility of resolving conflicts by blocking and diverting.

Accusing and blaming is another form. A verbal abuser will accuse his partner of some wrongdoing or some breach of the basic agreement of the relationship. This has the effect of diverting the conversation and putting the other partner on the defensive.

Another form of verbal abuse is judging and criticizing. The verbal abuser may judge his partner and then express his judgment in a critical way. If she objects, he may tell her that he is just pointing something out to be helpful, but in reality he is expressing his lack of acceptance of her.

These are just a few of the categories of verbal abuse. Next we will look at a number of other forms of verbal abuse.

Other Forms of Verbal Abuse
Trivializing can also be a form of verbal abuse. It is an attempt to take something that is said or done and make it insignificant. When this is done in a frank and sincere manner, it can be difficult to detect. Often the partner becomes confused and believes she hasn't effectively explained to her mate how important certain things are to her. 

Undermining is also verbal abuse. The abuser not only withholds emotional support, but also erodes confidence and determination. The abuser often will squelch an idea or suggestion just by a single comment.

Threatening is a classic form of verbal abuse. He manipulates his partner by bringing up her biggest fears. This may include threatening to leave or threatening to get a divorce. In some cases, the threat may be to escalate the abuse.

Name-calling can also be verbal abuse. Continually calling someone "stupid" because she isn't as intelligent as you or calling her a "klutz" because she is not as coordinated can have a devastating effect on the partner's self esteem.

Verbal abuse may also involve forgetting. This may involve both overt and covert manipulation. Everyone forgets things from time to time, but the verbal abuser consistently does so. After the partner collects herself, subsequent to being yelled at, she may confront her mate only to find that he has "forgotten" about the incident. Some abusers consistently forget about the promises they have made which are most important to their partners.

Ordering is another classic form of verbal abuse. It denies the equality and autonomy of the partner. When an abuser gives orders instead of asking, he treats her like a slave or subordinate.

Denial is the last category of verbal abuse. Although all forms of verbal abuse have serious consequences, denial can be very insidious because it denies the reality of the partner. In fact, a verbal abuser could read over this list of categories and insist that he is not abusive.
That is why it is so important for the partner to recognize these characteristics and categories since the abuser is usually in denial. Thus, the responsibility for recognizing verbal abuse and doing something about it often rests with the partner.
We have described various characteristics of verbal abuse and have even discussed the various categories of verbal abuse. Finally, I would like to provide a biblical perspective.

A Biblical Perspective of Verbal Abuse
The Bible clearly warns us about the dangers of an angry man. Proverbs 22:24 says, "Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man." And Proverbs 29:22 says, "An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression." It is not God's will for you (or your friend) to be in a verbally abusive relationship. Those angry and critical words will destroy your confidence and self-esteem. Being submissive in a marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:22) does not mean allowing yourself to be verbally beaten by your partner. 1 Peter 3:1 does teach that wives, by being submissive to their husbands, may win them to Christ by their behavior. But it does not teach that they must allow themselves to be verbally or physically abused.

Here are some key biblical principles. First, know that God loves you. The Bible teaches, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)
Second, deal with your feelings of guilt. You may be feeling that the problems in your marriage are your fault. "If only I would do better, he wouldn't be so angry with me." The Bible teaches in Psalm 51:6 that "Surely You desire truth in the inner parts; You teach me wisdom in the inmost place." Even though you may have feelings of guilt, you may not be the guilty party. I would recommend you read my article on the subject of false guilt.{5}
A related issue is shame. You may feel that something is wrong with you. You may feel that you are a bad person. Psalms 139:14 says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Finally, you should realize that you can be free from being a victim and agree with God that you can be free. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
A key element in this area of verbal abuse will no doubt be confrontation of the abuser. It's important for you to realize that confrontation is a biblical principle. Jesus taught about this in Matthew 18:15-20. 

If you know someone who is being abused, or has been in an abusive relationship you may copy this article and send it to them. They may still be dealing with pain and yet they are unaware of it's origin! Christian women are especially vulnerable to this type of abuse and will have their very FAITH attacked by their abuser so that they fall back into SUBMISSION to their ABUSER! This may translate to FALSE GUILT FOR GETTING OUT OF AN UNHEALTHY, MENTALLY, SPIRITUALLY, AND EMOTIONALLY DESTRUCTIVE RELATIONSHIP! 


See you next blog,

  You Nearly Destroyed Me Please Let Me Go

You keep dwelling in what was years ago
So much has changed, I know you know.
You try so hard to capture and smother me like in the past
You refuse to believe this hurtful union cannot last.

If you take the trouble to look in my eyes, I know you can see
The emptiness for you now residing deep inside of me.
With your every critical word, I want to scream
I only seek Peace away from you, to live my Dream.

I can smell the cheap flowers and candy as I lay in my sleep
And try in vain to forget the taste of all the tears I weep.
I long for silence from your manipulating mouth to release my heart
I would thank God for His merciful release when we finally part.

I beg you earnestly and deeply do you even know?
You nearly destroyed me "Please let me go."
Let go of my life you almost destroyed, release your terrible grip
Stop pulling on me so hard, no love is there, I'm starting to rip.

Your constant negativity and deceit drowns my mind
My Eyes of Love over years of pain have sadly gone blind.
I don't wish you the pain you put me through. no, not at all
I just want to stand on my own and no longer crawl.

From now on allow me to live my life as ME
Stop holding me hostage, just set me free.
The time has come and already passed I start to observe
What real Happiness means and now know what I deserve.

I want to feel it without you and conquer the endless pain
I want to refill the Life that you began to drain.
My days drag by, endless misery with you, so very slow
I want my life back... just please...let go!

Written by me for a special friend in pain

Kerby Anderson is the president of Probe Ministries International. He received his B.S. from Oregon State University, M.F.S. from Yale University, and M.A. from Georgetown University. He is the author of several books, including Genetic Engineering, Origin Science, Living Ethically in the 90s, Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope, and Moral Dilemmas. He also served as general editor for Marriage, Family and Sexuality. He is a nationally syndicated columnist whose editorials have appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury, and the Houston Post. 
He is the host of "Probe," and frequently serves as guest host on "Point of View" (USA Radio Network). He can be reached via e-mail at


  1. What an amazing series! Ted, you are exposing some very difficult relational issues that are so disturbing and shameful that most people don't talk about them. As a former abused spouse I can tell you that Kerby Anderson is right on target with this article. One of the difficulties of being in an abusive marriage as a Christian woman is that I was told by church leaders that I needed to continue to pray for my spouse and get marital counseling with him to work through the issues. In other words, don't give up. It takes two committed people in a marriage to work through problems. I learned in counseling that I could not change my husband, only myself, so I changed. I believe that God gave me strength to make tough decisions and eventually my marriage ended because my husband did not change. I encourage any woman reading this who finds herself in a similar relationship to seek professional counseling immediately so that you can begin to build a support system to help you through it. God wants His best for His children and I pray that you will be blessed with His best for your life. God loves you!


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