Tuesday, August 10, 2010


“We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

At institute a couple months ago we discussed the last two paragraphs of the Family Proclamation.  Of course we will stand accountable to God for those actions, as we will stand accountable to Him for all we do (and likely what we omit as well) :1 Ne. 10: 20  20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into ajudgment.

The discussion caused me to reflect on what abuse is.  My friend in Ukraine pointed out that in her language there is no word for abuse- yes violence, but no abuse.  So how does one discriminate between abuse and non-abuse? 

First thought- abuse may be equivalent to objectifying others (same thing as being in the box/not personifying them/seeing them as objects such as means to an end or obstacles: see Leadership and Self-Deception, one of my top seven recommended reads).  Second thought- If not, perhaps abuse is a subset within the umbrella of objectifying defined by the additional element of:

a) harm (e.g. you smack your kid on the back in congratulations but it hurts him/her)
b) habitual harm (e.g. repeatedly telling your kid she's socially inept, not out of any malice, but nonetheless damaging her self-concept)
c) habitual harm and malintention (e.g. you tell your wife if she loved you she wouldn't complain about her daily workload, intending to get her to be silent even though you know her silence hurts her emotionally, but she complains a ton and it's driving you, the kids, and the extended family crazy and brings a negative spirit into the home)
d) habitual harm and malintention and lack of any justification (same as c but her complaining doesn't bring in a negative spirit or drive anyone crazy)
e) habitual harm and malintention and lack of correct justification (same as c but you're mistaken in thinking she's driving everyone crazy, in fact no one else minds and you've chosen to let it canker to the point that you're annoyed)

Note- the harm might be sexual, psychological, mental, emotional, physical, etc. and includes the harms that result from inaction, such as neglecting needs.

A Conversation on Spouse Abuse,” Ensign, Oct 1999, 22 has a couple other definitional constructs:

"Anne Horton: Many experts define spouse abuse as the maltreatment of another in an attempt to control him or her. Spouse abuse may be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual.
John Nelson: Spouse abuse... may involve coercive acts in which an abuser forces a person to do something that he or she normally would not do, with no particular concern for the victim. Abuse may also include the use of threats, name calling, yelling, and intimidation."

Dictionary: "Abuse is defined as any thing that is harmful, injurious, or offensive. Abuse also includes excessive and wrongful misuse of anything. There are several major types of abuse: physical and sexual abuse of a child or an adult, substance abuse, elderly abuse, and emotional abuse."

What do you think?  What's the definition? How does one discriminate between abuse and non-abuse?

1 comment:

  1. Of all the random posts to look at, this one jumped out... but I will add my two-cents to a seemingly empty inbox of comments (evidence that Abuse is something to taboo to discuss in our religious cultural construct?).

    I think my definition of abuse may be rather simplistic, but I have come to the conclusion in my own life that abuse is the misapplication of love (similar to the idea that the Crusades was the misapplication of "righteousness" and Plessy v Ferguson was the misapplication of the idea of "equality."). We become abusive when we subvert the feelings of Christlike love for feelings of self love, thus affecting how we interact with any other child of Deity in our radius of influence.


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