Focus on the Family

Healing the Wounds of Emotional Abuse

Learn how to heal the wounds of emotional abuse. Experts offer biblical principles and practical tips for healing.

by Mary J. Yerkes

"There comes a critical time in each person's life when the truth is accessible. Faced with it, you can either run and hide, denying it, or you can face your truth, accept it, and grow stronger," wrote Gregory Jantz in Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse. 1

If you are reading this article, chances are you or someone you love is in an emotionally abusive relationship. Your abuser may be a spouse, a boss, a brother or a sister. You may have tried to ignore it, deny it and fix it. Perhaps you have even tried to accept it. But it hasn't worked. This is your moment of truth. Are you willing to do what it takes to break the cycle of abuse in your life?

While the optimum situation is for both parties in an abusive situation to seek help, Dr. Tim Clinton, President of the American Association of Christian Counselors, insists one person can change the relationship.

"Change a person; change a relationship," he says.

On the other hand, if the abuse is severe and occurring within the marriage relationship, it's time to take bold steps and assert biblical, healthy boundaries.

"Sometimes separation can be a powerful attention-getting boundary if you're fully ready to use it," says Karla Downing, abuse survivor, counselor and author of 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. "The purpose of the separation can be to physically or emotionally protect you and your children or to convince your husband (or wife) that you'll not continue to live the same way. Separation can also be by mutual agreement for each to work on your own problems separately with the goal of reconciling your marriage."

What follows are some general principles, gleaned from professional Christian counselors, for breaking the cycle of abuse in your life and for beginning the recovery and healing process. They are easy to understand, but difficult to implement.

Before applying these principles to your situation, it's best to seek help from a trained professional.

With professional help—and by following these principles, you can break the cycle of abuse in your life and begin your healing journey. As you reach out to God and others, you can experience God's redemptive purposes in your life and become a channel of healing in the lives of others. Make Jeremiah 29:11 your mantra: "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'."


1Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D. with Ann McMurray, Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House Co., 2003, p. 157.