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The Heart of Coercive Control

The Heart of Coercive Control

woman pushing man away“I do what I do because I want what I want.” 
– paraphrase of James 4:1

Pastor and author (and Cedarville University grad!) Chris Moles has written extensively about the heart of abuse. He states that “abuse above all else is a problem beginning in the heart of an abusive person.” While all of us can be prone to self-centeredness in our relationships, in the heart of the abusive person is a sense of entitlement run amok — the abusive person uses tactics to control you to ensure his or her needs and wants are met, regardless of the cost to you. The abusive mindset is a skewed perspective that happens when we allow our pride and our desire for control to convince us that God’s standards of how we should value and respect the dignity of others don’t really apply to us the way they do everyone else.

In understanding emotional abuse, it is important to remember that abuse is often subtle. While individual behaviors have significance, often the oppressor can explain them away. In assessing if a relationship is abusive, it is valuable to see the context and if there is a pattern of behaviors that are coercive.

Here are some myths about what causes abusive behaviors:

  • It is an anger problem: “I just lost control ...” Abusive people don’t lose control; they use anger to control.
  • It is an addiction problem: “If I hadn’t been drunk ...” Alcohol has the potential to exacerbate abuse but it does not cause it.
  • It is because he/she has been hurt by previous girlfriends/boyfriends. Most people have experienced hurt in relationships and most do NOT abuse. An abusive person makes the choice to use tactics to get what they want.

It is important that God’s people understand these dynamics because our God is desperately concerned for the heart of the oppressed as well as the heart of the oppressor. He is grieved by these sins that do so much damage to His people.

For those of you who are helpers: seek out the resources that can help you to understand the dynamics of abuse within a biblical framework. Chris Moles, Darby Strickland, and Diane Langberg are believers who speak into these topics.

For those of you who may read this and wonder, “Is this my heart? Am I going down a path of entitlement and control in the way I relate to others?” Seek to embrace and live the example of Christ, who had all authority and who could exercise all control yet chose service and sacrifice.

For those of you that may be in a relationship that is potentially abusive, Measure the way you are treated in the relationship to the love Christ has for His bride. His love edifies, protects, and never diminishes the recipient. If it doesn’t reflect those qualities, seek support and godly wisdom. You should know fully the love of Christ and His heart for you.

Read 8 Warning Signs of Dating Abuse.

Listen to the following podcasts from Chris Moles for more insight:

Questions Regarding Abusers, Part One

Questions Regarding Abusers, Part Two

Posted in Title IX

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