Back in November I posted about the trap of silence that can occur in situations of abuse. Will a child be believed if they share that their parent is abusing them? Will the victim of verbal or emotional abuse be believed if they speak out, especially if there is no evidence to support their claim?

Another related feeling or experience that victims can go through is feeling emotionally blackmailed. If they speak out, they may be labeled as being rebellious, distorting things, telling lies, seeking to destroy reputations, and causing damage/disunity to families, organizations, friends, etc. Often they are told by abusers that they cannot or should not share because it could hurt the abuser. The abuser has injured the victim in the first place, and then locks them into a situation of silence. This is an especially strong tool because often abuse is perpetrated by those who are close to the victim, so the victim does not want to cause pain or dishonor to the abuser.

The situation where the abuser is in a position of authority (adult over adult) and uses that authority to coerce the other person into silence or to walk out certain behaviors is similar to blackmail. Words are very powerful things. The book of James tells Christians to guard their tongues because they can be used to both praise God, and to hurt man. The responsibility of what we speak is something that should weigh heavy on our hearts. We need to be very cautious of what we say and why we share it, knowing that we have the ability to choose what we say. Things should be shared only with a heart of love, grace, and redemption but often there is so much pain, anger, frustration, and such deeply charged emotions that this is not possible.

Silence is not always the answer though. In fact, sometimes it is the wrong answer because it just covers up the issue rather than bringing it to light so it can be dealt with and so lives can be changed, healed, and brought to emotional and spiritual health. Sometimes the harder, most loving, and most important decision is to speak out, to share the story, and to walk through even more difficult things to have the truth be known. Sometimes it is the only way things change. Sometimes it is the way to forgive. The change may not be for the abuser, it might be for the victim. It might be that the victim has done some things that they need to be held accountable for or has some areas where they need to learn and grow. Whether the truth opens doors for the victim, the abuser, or both to receive help and for healing to occur it can be a good thing. Speaking out often though will bring the opposite result. It will often end any hope of reconciliation and restoration. It can scar the reputations of those involved for years to come.

The more I learn about dealing with relational conflict the more I see how important it is to deal with any issues very early in a relationship. God made us to be in relationship with each other and to walk in unity and peace. Distorted, broken, and hurt-filled relationships do not please him and make our lives very difficult. We need to walk in humility and love. This can only happen as our hearts are changed.