There has been discussion about the Power and Control Wheel in some circles. If you are not familiar, it is a simply diagram that describes eight tactics abusers use to maintain power and control in a relationship. It is an accurate tool that gives women words and examples to express how and what happens in their homes and relationships.
Although this is not based on empirical data, I believe the following diagrams explain abuse biblically. I would love to hear your thoughts, additions, substitutions, suggestions. Let’s make it better!
When God created Adam and Eve in His image, He gave them rule, or dominion, over creation. They were given the command to and subdue it. Together. Men and women have been created to make decisions, to express themselves, to live according to a moral compass, and worship God.
In an abusive relationship–involving adults or children, men or women–one individual exerts dominion and control (subjugation) over another. This is ungodly. Unbiblical. Wrong. Sinful. Not only does this type of thinking and behavior disregard God’s created order, it effectively breaks all 10 commandments and stands in opposition to the Person and character of Jesus Christ.
With or without physical or sexual abuse, an abusive relationship does not please God. It should not please His people. It needs to be addressed. To the Church, Jesus’ Body, this is more heinous than anything on the Duluth Model’s Power and Control Wheel because it attacks the very image of God and everything He stands for. There is nothing redemptive, freeing, or grace-filled about this type of control whether it happens in a marriage, dating relationship, church, organization, or home. One might imagine it as a clamp that is put in place with little resistance until it’s too late. Then, little by little, pressure is applied to mold compliance and silence resistance.
Unfortunately, there are those who would sacrifice an individual for the appearance of a marriage, family, church, or organization. This is not God’s design or purpose. A marriage of this kind is nothing more than a distortion of Christ and His Church. Promoting and protecting such a “marriage” is nothing more than covering evil and wickedness.
When an individual does not have Jesus in his or her life, there is no clear definition other than an inward compass, for how to think, what to want, and how to make decisions. This individual will create boundaries, or rules, to govern his life and, in the absence of God, many fill the gap by compressing another individual or being compressed by others. That is not an excuse for sin, it is merely an explanation. Adding the idea of God, or a “form of godliness,” without submitting to Him and others does nothing but layer shame and deceit.
However, when Jesus is at the center of an individual’s life, she will begin to see the bonds, feel the restriction and chafing. Jesus’ power and Person, through His Word and the Holy Spirit, provides the ability to push against ungodly boundaries. Jesus can and will give courage to think wisely and courageously, to ask for help, to see the judgment and condemnation an abuser is heaping on his own head as a result of his choices. This requires a great deal of wisdom as the controlling individual will be desperate to maintain control at all costs. Without proper safety precautions, pushing against the vice of dominion jeopardizes lives. Safety is the priority.
My prayer is that this model helps us ask questions and seek to be part of the solution. As we discover the invisible bonds of control, we will become proponents of righteous anger, a desire for freedom and justice, compassion, and prayer (much prayer!). Both individuals in a controlling relationship need grace, but in different ways. The one exerting dominion must experience the consequences of his sin with the goal of humility, submission, and transformation. The individual who has been broken in pieces (lit. “oppressed” from Luke 4:18), needs a safe place of personal restoration and refuge to rebuild the imago dei or image of God .
Those of us who live in freedom have a much different experience. Unfortunately, we assume everyone lives the way we do. Outside of a dominating relationship, Jesus Christ is the motivation and actualization of our thoughts, words, attitudes and actions. We have freedom to worship, make decisions, express ourselves, and act according to God’s standard of right and wrong.
When this is the reality of our lives, the psalm below rings true. If there are parts of this psalm that are not true for you because of a dominating relationship, pray and ask God to make a way out.
Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courtyards.
Worship the Lord in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved;
He will judge the peoples fairly.”
May the heavens be joyful, and may the earth rejoice;
May the sea roar, and all it contains;
May the field be jubilant, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
And the peoples in His faithfulness. (Psalm 96 NASB)