An End to Domestic Violence
“The prevention of violence in the home and the reduction of family violence involve major structural changes for both the society and the family.”—Behind Closed Doors.
THE first murder in human history involved brothers. (Genesis 4:8) Throughout the millenniums since, man has been plagued with all forms of domestic violence. Numerous solutions have been proposed, but many have drawbacks.
For instance, rehabilitation only reaches offenders who acknowledge their problem. One recovering wife abuser lamented: “For every one of us [being rehabilitated], there are three men out there who say, ‘You’ve got to keep the old lady in line.’” So the abuser needs to come to terms with his own situation. Why has he developed into an abuser? By getting help to correct his own faults, he may be put on the road to healing.
But social programs are understaffed. Thus, it is estimated that in 90 percent of child-murder cases in the United States, hazardous family situations had been reported before the killing. Hence, social programs and police organizations can do only so much. There is something else vitally needed.
“The New Personality”
“What is needed is no less than a restructuring of the relations between family members,” says one research team. Domestic violence is not just a problem of the fists; it is foremost a problem of the mind. Its seeds are sown in how family members—spouse, child, parent, sibling—view one another. Restructuring these relationships means putting on what the Bible calls “the new personality.”—Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-10.
Let us examine some family-related Bible principles that help us to put on the new Christlike personality that can work toward a better relationship among family members.—See Matthew 11:28-30.
View of children: More is involved in being a parent than producing a baby. Sadly, though, many today view their children as a burden and therefore lack commitment to their parental role. These are potential abusers.
The Bible calls children “an inheritance from Jehovah” and “a reward.” (Psalm 127:3) Parents are responsible to the Creator in caring for that inheritance. Those who view children as an encumbrance need to develop the new personality in this regard.*
Realistic expectations of children: One study revealed that many abusive mothers expect infants to know right from wrong by the time the child is one year of age. A third of those surveyed specified six months.
The Bible shows that everybody is born imperfect. (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) It does not claim that discernment is acquired at birth. Rather, it says that “through use” a person’s perceptive powers are “trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) Further, the Bible speaks of “the traits of a babe,” the “foolishness” of boyhood, and the “vanity” of adolescence. (1 Corinthians 13:11; Proverbs 22:15; Ecclesiastes 11:10) Parents must understand these limitations, not expecting more than is appropriate to the child’s age and ability.
Administering discipline to children: In the Bible the Greek word translated “discipline” means “educate.” Therefore, the goal of discipline is primarily, not to cause pain, but to train. Much of this can be accomplished without spanking, though that may be necessary at times. (Proverbs 13:24) The Bible says: “Listen to discipline and become wise.” (Proverbs 8:33) Too, Paul wrote that one should keep oneself “restrained under evil,” administering reproof with “long-suffering.” (2 Timothy 2:24; 4:2) This rules out angry outbursts and excessive force even when spanking is needed.
In view of these Bible principles, ask yourself: ‘Does my discipline teach, or does it simply control by hurting? Does my discipline instill right principles or just fear?’
Behavioral limits for adults: One abuser claimed that he had simply “lost control” and beat his wife. A counselor asked the man if he had ever stabbed his wife. “I would never do that!” the man responded. The man was helped to see that he was acting within a set of limits, but the problem was that they were not the proper limits.
Where are your limits set? Do you stop before a disagreement develops into something abusive? Or do you boil over and end up shouting, insulting, pushing, throwing things, or battering?
The new personality has a strict limit, set well short of allowing mental abuse or physical violence. “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth,” says Ephesians 4:29. Verse 31 adds: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness.” The Greek word for “wrath” denotes an “impulsive nature.” Interestingly, the book Toxic Parents notes that a common characteristic among child abusers is “an appalling lack of impulse control.” The new personality sets firm limits on impulses, both physical and verbal.
Of course, the new personality applies to the wife as well as to the husband. She should work at not antagonizing her mate, showing appreciation for his efforts to care for the family, cooperating with him. And both should not demand of each other what neither can produce—perfection. Instead, both should apply 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
Respect for the aged: “Show respect for old people and honor them,” says Leviticus 19:32. (Today’s English Version) This may be a challenge when an elderly parent is ill and perhaps overdemanding. First Timothy 5:3, 4 speaks of giving “honor” and “due compensation” to parents. This could include financial provisions as well as respect. In view of all that our parents did for us when we were helpless infants, we should give them similar consideration when it is needed.
Conquer sibling rivalry: Before Cain’s hostility led to his murdering his brother Abel, he was counseled: “Sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you, but you must overcome it.” (Genesis 4:7, TEV) Feelings can be controlled. Learn to be patient with each other, “generously making allowances for each other because you love each other.”—Ephesians 4:2, Phillips.
Learning to Confide
Many victims of domestic violence are silent sufferers. But Dr. John Wright urges: “Battered women should seek emotional and physical protection from a competent third party.” The same is true for any abused family member.
Sometimes a victim finds it difficult to confide in another individual. After all, trust within the closest social unit—the family—has led to pain. However, “there exists a friend sticking closer than a brother,” says Proverbs 18:24. Finding that friend and learning to confide discreetly is a valuable step in getting needed assistance. Of course, the abuser needs to get help too.
Each year hundreds of thousands of people become Jehovah’s Witnesses. These accept the challenge of putting on the new personality. Among them are former perpetrators of domestic violence. To counteract any tendency toward a relapse, they must continually let the Bible be “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.”—2 Timothy 3:16.
For these new Witnesses, putting on the new personality is a continuing process, for Colossians 3:10 says that it is “being made new.” So continual effort is needed. Thankfully, Jehovah’s Witnesses have the support of a multitude of spiritual “brothers and sisters and mothers and children.”—Mark 10:29, 30; see also Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Then, too, in all of the some 70,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world, there are loving overseers who are like “a shelter from the wind and a place to hide from storms.” Their “eyes and ears will be open to the needs of the people.” (Isaiah 32:2, 3, TEV) So newer Witnesses of Jehovah, as well as more experienced ones, have a wonderful reservoir of help available in the Christian congregation as they work at putting on the new personality.
When people come to Christian overseers in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses for counsel, these overseers are trained to listen impartially to all. They are encouraged to show everyone, especially the victims of severe abuse, great compassion and understanding.—Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
For instance, a battered wife could have been brutally hurt. In many lands today, had that same battering been inflicted on someone outside the family, the abuser could have ended up in prison. So the victim needs to be treated with extraordinary kindness, as do victims of all other types of abuse, such as sexual abuse.
Furthermore, the perpetrators of crimes against God’s laws need to be called to account. In this way the congregation is kept clean, and other innocent persons are protected. And very important, the flow of God’s spirit is not impeded.—1 Corinthians 5:1-7; Galatians 5:9.
God’s View of Marriage
When people become Jehovah’s Witnesses, they agree to be bound by the principles of Christian living found in God’s Word. They learn that the man is designated as the head of the family, to guide it in true worship. (Ephesians 5:22) But headship never authorizes brutalizing the wife, crushing her personality, or ignoring her wishes.
On the contrary, God’s Word makes clear that husbands should “continue loving [their] wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it . . . Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it.” (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 29) Indeed, God’s Word plainly says that wives should be assigned “honor.”—1 Peter 3:7; see also Romans 12:3, 10; Philippians 2:3, 4.
Surely no Christian husband can truthfully argue that he really loves his wife or honors her if he abuses her verbally or physically. That would be hypocrisy, for God’s Word states: “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” (Colossians 3:19) Shortly, when God’s judgments come against this wicked system at Armageddon, hypocrites will suffer the same fate as opposers of God’s rule.—Matthew 24:51.
A God-fearing husband is to love his wife as his own body. Would he beat his own body, punch himself in the face, or violently pull his own hair? Would he belittle himself with disdain and sarcasm in front of others? One doing such things would be considered mentally unbalanced, to say the least.
If a Christian man batters his wife, it renders all his other Christian works valueless in God’s sight. Remember, “a smiter” does not qualify for privileges in the Christian congregation. (1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Of course, any wife who deals similarly with her husband is also violating God’s law.
Galatians 5:19-21 places among the works condemned by God “enmities, strife, . . . fits of anger” and states that “those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” Thus, battering one’s mate or children is never justified. It is usually against the law of the land and is certainly against God’s law.
The Watchtower, a magazine published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has provided a Scriptural viewpoint on the matter, saying of those who profess to be Christians yet are batterers: “Anyone claiming to be a Christian who repeatedly and unrepentantly gives in to violent fits of anger can be disfellowshiped,” excommunicated.—May 1, 1975, page 287; compare 2 John 9, 10.
What God’s Law Allows
God will ultimately judge those who violate his laws. But in the meantime, what provision does his Word make for those Christian mates who have been battered when the perpetrator does not change but continues his battering? Are innocent victims obligated to continue jeopardizing their physical, mental, and spiritual health, perhaps even their lives?
The Watchtower, commenting on violence in the home, notes what God’s Word allows. It states: “The apostle Paul counsels: ‘A wife should not depart from her husband; but if she should actually depart, let her remain unmarried or else make up again with her husband; and a husband should not leave his wife.’” The article further says: “In the event that abuse becomes unbearable, or life itself is endangered, the believing mate may choose to ‘depart.’ But the endeavor should be to ‘make up again’ in due course. (1 Corinthians 7:10-16) However, ‘departing’ does not of itself provide Scriptural grounds for divorce and remarriage; still, a legal divorce or a legal separation may provide a measure of protection from further abuse.”—March 15, 1983, pages 28-9; see also the issue of November 1, 1988, pages 22-3.
What a victim chooses to do in these circumstances must be a personal decision. “Each one will carry his [or her] own load.” (Galatians 6:5) No one else can make such a decision for her. And no one should try to pressure her to return to an abusive husband where her health, life, and spirituality are threatened. That must be her own choice, of her own free will, not because others are trying to impose their will on her.—See Philemon 14.
An End to Domestic Violence
Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned that domestic violence is typical of what the Bible foretold for these last days, in which many would be “abusive,” with “no natural affection,” and “fierce.” (2 Timothy 3:2, 3, The New English Bible) God promises that following these last days, he will usher in a peaceful new world in which people “will actually dwell in security, with no one to make them tremble.”—Ezekiel 34:28.
In that marvelous new world, domestic violence will forever be a thing of the past. “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:11.
We urge you to learn more about the Bible’s promises for the future. Indeed, you can reap benefits even now by applying Bible principles in your family environment.
Much good advice concerning effective parenting is included in the book Making Your Family Life Happy, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., chapters 7 to 9, “Having Children—A Responsibility and a Reward,” “Your Role as Parents,” and “Training Children From Infancy.”
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Bible principles help resolve family conflicts
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Victims need to confide in a competent friend