How to help yourself or loved one overcome an abusive nature

There are several kinds of abuse: physical, psychological, sexual, emotional and spiritual. One of the most important steps in dealing with abuse is to deal openly and honestly with the issue. Abuse does not go away when ignored.

Both the abused and the abuser need to feel loved. It is true that not all abusers will acknowledge or feel badly about abuse, but a great many will. Every time I frightened or hurt one of my children, I was devastated and felt a deep self-loathing. Abusers need to feel like there is some hope for them.I feel I can best express my thoughts by sharing with you those things for which I am grateful, including the following:

The willingness to recognize that I was abusive and acknowledge that I needed help to repent.

The determination to stop abusing and never repeat the offense.

Children who love me, in spite of the abuse, and who sensed that I hated the abuse as much as they did.

Friends who showed their love by learning about abuse, its causes, treatment alternatives, and how they could help.

Treaters who cared enough to not only guide me in recovery but also who respected my religious beliefs and values.

Hospital staff trained specifically in treating the issues and trauma of abuse.

Newly developed medications that helped me deal with anger and depression.

Ecclesiastical leaders who counseled me, supported me in therapy and helped me understand God's love, justice and mercy.

The comfort and healing found in daily introspection, scripture study and prayer.

Most of all, I am grateful for the atoning sacrifice of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and for the peace that comes through forgiveness. - Donna R. Story, Ottawa, Kan.

What we did:

Treatment programs

Repentance for abuse requires faith, an honest confession and time devoted to change. The first step was to recognize that I chose to abuse, and I can choose to change. Confession was difficult but became a strong deterrent to future abuse; the crime was no longer a secret.

As I've progressed in repentance, I've found help through a sex offender treatment program. Treatment takes commitment and work. I'm grateful my wife has supported me through this. Her questions made me work harder to understand myself. I learned to express my feelings to her and developed behaviors that will help me stay abuse free.

Along with therapy, I study the Book of Mormon. It strengthens my testimony and determination to be rebaptized and worthily return to the temple. - Name withheld, California

Enlightenment overcomes

Enlightenment can overcome abuse. Verbal abuse came into my marriage - a shadow of domestic violence from my husband's boyhood. Rather than overt name calling, threat making or order giving, it was covert - an unrecognized shadow creeping over my self-esteem, shutting down my emotions.

Surrendering to the Spirit allowed me through my prayers, meditation, study and counsel to learn that covert verbal abuse:

Withholds empathy.

Counters perceptions.


Diverts discussions to avoid resolving conflicts.


Judges, such as "Your problem is . . . ."

Forgets promises.

Denies, such as "I never said that."

Covert verbal abuse obscures the brightness in relationships. Surrendering to the spirit of light and truth (via the scriptures and priesthood) overcame covert verbal abuse and helped me make enlightened responses. - Name withheld, Utah

Renew spiritual life

I'd suggest the following:

Learn more about abuse. As honestly as you can, determine if you are abusive or have been abused. Even if there is no abuse in your relationship, someone you know and like does have abuse in theirs. Knowledge of what is and isn't real about abuse can also help break through the fear that surrounds the issue.

Get help, if you do find abuse in your life. Many communities have programs for abusers and victims/survivors. Through these programs you can learn new skills in how to live in an abuse-free relationship.

Review your understanding of the gospel. Many abusers justify their abuse based on faulty interpretation of scriptures and the Lord's teaching on gender roles. Modern prophets and the scriptures teach us that men and women have equal value before God, and that husbands and fathers are to "preside" over their families in "righteousness," with gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned, rather than "ruling" over them with intimidation, fear, threats and violence.

Renew your spiritual life. Do your daily prayers and scripture study. Attend and participate in your meetings. Fulfill your callings. All of these will help prepare your heart for blessings and guidance from the Lord, which will help you to be abuse-free and safe.

Abuse is a problem that touches many lives, both outside and inside the Church. It is a grievous sin. It is a learned behavior that can be unlearned. - Blain Nelson, Ferndale, Wash.

Savior's love

For some reason, for generations, our family had been taught that it was wrong to let anyone know you loved them. One emotion that was allowed to be shown was anger. This would be referred to as discipline. If a child provoked a parent with some action or word, then it was necessary to hurt the child to teach them that whatever they did was wrong, or to get them to stop doing what they were doing.

Feeling the Savior's love for my own family and me, in spite of my weaknesses and errors, has been my greatest strength. This feeling came through reading the Book of Mormon, through giving service and through the spirit carried by local Church leaders, other members, and home teachers and visiting teachers. I have been able to make significant changes in my own life and family and learn to understand and appreciate the words of the hymn, "Love at Home." - Name and location withheld

How to checklist:

1 Realize you have to first admit the abuse; get professional, spiritual help.

2 Be repentant, confess the abuse; be willing to change.

3 Seek God's help to overcome abusive nature; pray, study scriptures, attend Church.

4 Accept that the victim is not at fault for abuser's behavior.


Jan. 31 "How to save more, spend less."

Feb. 7 "How to teach children respect for their elders."

Feb. 14 "How to keep a clean home despite a busy schedule."

Feb. 21 "How to teach children to be honest."

Feb. 28 "How to supplement your regular income."

March 7 "How to help youth make family a priority."

March 14 "How to deal with neighbor problems."

March 21 "How to rear children in light and truth."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to be prepared to share the gospel and answer questions," "How to build a strong work ethic in children," "How to encourage children and young people to be physically active," "How to avoid greed," "How to be more resilient in day-to-day life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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