Understanding Emotional Abuse

This week, a stranger "verbally abused" me immediately after I left a hospital room. It came as a surprise because it's the first time I saw this man. Later in the hospital's coffee shop, my friend-doctor who is chief of the surgery explained to me the abrasive reputation of this man among hospital staff. He said that the man is known to have fits of rage and anger, leaving a trail of hurt people and administrative cases filed against him.

Dr. Rick Warren used to say, "Hurt people hurt people." Commonly, the hurt and abuse is centered around physical beatings, outward neglect/abandonment, and sexual invasion. In my own life and in the lives of countless others, however, I have discovered a very common and pervasive form of abuse: emotional abuse. It's invisible, harder to spot. And often it has been left to do its damage on people in silence.

How do you know one has been "emotionally abused?" Fundamentally, emotional abuse damages sense of self. Here are some of its signs and symptoms: making the person feel worthless; going into fits of rage and anger; not allowing the other person to articulate his or her feelings; lying to avoid responsibility for the truth; using a hostile or sarcastic tone of voice; displaying extreme ranges of mood; being critical of every action, thought, or remark of another; belittling, humiliating, and marginalizing the other person; using shame or guilt to manipulate the other.

Take time to see if you have been emotionally abused. What others have damaged, God can rebuild. Things can heal and change. It begins with accepting the truth and role of emotional abuse in your life.