The Abusive Silent Treatment :: By Candy Austin

Silent Treatment – an act of completely ignoring a person or thing by resorting to silence, especially as a means of expressing contempt or disapproval.

Synonyms – brush-off, cold shoulder, rebuff, repulse, snub

1 John 4:20 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

The Silent Treatment is an act when someone decides to stop communicating or responding to another person for whatever reason, genuine or ill-perceived. This abusive behavior can continue on for days, weeks, months, or years at a time; and when deliberate, it is a form of mental, emotional, and psychological abuse! It is a ‘bitter message’ that is conveyed through ‘sheer and utter silence’! An ‘inhumane act’ which screams that one is despised, rejected, no longer wanted, and insignificant! Not only that, it clearly comes across to the victim that they are ‘not worth the time and effort’ for the offender to even try to ‘commune with them or to remotely attempt to repair’ the loss of the relationship! This is ‘blatant cruelty’ displayed at its finest!

1 John 2:9 “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.”

Sadly, once it gets to this kind of level, it is hard to take the ‘psychological damage that has been inflicted’ back. The only way to ‘try and repair’ the relationship is if both parties are ‘willing to communicate, forgive, and work out’ the issues and/or differences. No matter how much the abuser tends to blame the victim, it is clear that the person doing this ‘abuse strategy is the one being toxic’ by their ‘ignoring and devaluing the other person’s worth and refusing to talk things out like a healthy and mature individual’!

Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

For example, the moms I correspond with are also ‘parents of prodigals,’ experiencing this kind of ‘degrading treatment’ from their adult children as well. For some of us, it has gotten to the point that we no longer want to send things in the mail due to our gifts and cards perpetually going ‘unappreciated and unacknowledged,’ year after year!

This goes for any dysfunctional relationship over time; this silent treatment tends to really erode the victim’s self-confidence, esteem, value, worth, and joy, and this is putting it mildly. It has been said that in order to have a relationship, ‘It Takes Two to Tango.’ Therefore, when one side is doing all of the work, it comes to the point that the ‘stark realization’ is that the relationship is no longer there. This is by no means ‘easy,’ nor is it palatable for any ‘well-meaning person’ to come to this conclusion! For those who understand, not only is this a ‘very sad and unfortunate reality’ for some, it is also a tough pill to swallow, at the very least.

John 15:18 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”

From “What does the Bible say about emotional abuse?”

Answer: The Bible does not use the words emotional abuse, but there are plenty of characteristics of emotional abuse addressed in Scripture. Emotional abuse can take many forms, including verbal assaults, threats, and insults; and non-verbal rejection, neglect, and isolation—when these behaviors are recurring, they become a pattern of emotional abuse. The most common victim of emotional abuse is a spouse, a child, or a friend who loves the abuser and is unwilling to walk away from the situation.

The famous passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13 makes it obvious that emotional abuse is wrong. The apostle Paul describes the actions of real love. First, he says love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). Emotional abuse is neither patient nor kind but instead is quick to flare up at small offenses. Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (verse 5), but emotional abuse is all about pointing out how another person is wrong in everything he does, so as to protect the ego of the abuser. Love is not rude or selfish or prideful or irritable or resentful—all unfortunate qualities of emotional abuse. Instead, love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (verse 7). Sadly, it is the loving person—the one who loves unconditionally—who is most often the target of emotional abuse.

According to the Bible’s definition of love, should an emotional abuser be silently tolerated? Does love require that one overlook the abuse and “persevere” through the pain? The answer to both these questions is “no.” There are loving options other than tolerating the status quo. Abuse is a learned behavior, and if we allow it to happen and continue, we are, in fact, accepting it. We cannot and should not accept verbal or emotional abuse for at least two reasons: it dishonors the Lord and it often escalates to physical abuse.

Abusing someone emotionally is not the behavior of a person walking in fellowship with the Lord. How does a relationship deteriorate to the point of emotional abuse? Somewhere along the way there was a failure to obey God’s commands regarding interpersonal relationships (see Ephesians 5:21). It takes two people to make a relationship, and each side is to have his or her own fellowship with God through Christ and to be actively choosing to honor God and one another. Without that fellowship with God, and without that commitment to honoring each other, there will be a relationship breakdown.

Any relationship plagued by emotional abuse will eventually have to choose one of three paths: one, the abuser admits fault, sees his behavior as harmful, and changes; two, the abused person walks away, at least temporarily; or, three, the abuse is allowed to continue indefinitely, to the harm of both parties.

The abuser will only find healing and forgiveness through genuine repentance and calling on the Lord. Second Corinthians 7:10 says that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” The difference between godly grief and worldly grief is repentance. A person who truly understands the nature of his sin will be able to feel grief that leads to repentance and salvation and a clear conscience.

We cannot make choices for someone else. We cannot stop someone’s emotional abuse. That is a choice that the abuser must make. But we can refuse to accept the abuse without arguing or making demands. The most extreme cure for emotional abuse is separation (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). A separation from the abuser can allow time to seek godly counsel from a pastor or biblical counselor so that spiritual balance can be introduced into the relationship and reconciliation can occur.  Source

1 John 2:11 “But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”

No True Christian will practice this kind of ‘abusive silent treatment’ onto others. For starters, a True Christian knows that, according to God’s Word, all people have intrinsic worth, value, and are made in the Image of God! A True Christian will not choose to ‘devalue someone’s dignity and respect’ by diminishing them through the ‘degrading avenue’ of ignoring them! No one deserves to be ignored, no matter how much the offender may disrespect or dislike them! The godly thing to do is ‘to do unto others as you would have them do unto you’! If more people believed this and truly had God in their lives, this world would be a better place!

Luke 6:31 “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

Question is, would Jesus degrade, ignore, or devalue another person? No! We read that instead of Christ ‘ignoring his enemies,’ He clearly cared enough about them (the Pharisees) to warn and tell them about their ‘spiritual depravity’! So, if the answer is no, Jesus would not do such a hateful thing, then we are not to do so either! God’s Word tells us that we are to be Loving, Kind, Tender-hearted, and Forgiving towards one another!

John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Ephesians 4:32 “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

***Just to be clear, if someone is ‘truly dangerous, toxic, and/or abusive’ and the victim has no other choice but to stay away for their ‘safety, sanity, and life’, then by all means, do whatever is necessary and keep a safe distance! God did not create us to be ‘punching bags or doormats’ to constantly be degraded, mowed over, and walked upon! Allowing this kind of treatment does not bring Honor to God. “I just love being treated like garbage”, said no one ever! Standing up for yourself and creating boundaries is not only important, is a godly thing to do which brings Honor and Glory to God at the same time!***

Luke 17:3 “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”

This article is for those who ‘claim Christianity’ but, by their fruit, they display behavior that is in line with Anger, Unkindness, Hatefulness, and Unforgiveness. Just know that God is not pleased when such ‘refuse to respond and forgive’ when someone reaches out in ‘good will and faith’ to try and be at Peace! This does not bring ‘Honor or Glory’ to God when such are unwilling to display the Fruit of the Spirit, which is Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, & Faith!

As Christians, it is our Duty to do all we can to be at Peace with one another. If the offender refuses our ‘olive branch’ advances, then we are to give it to the Lord and just continue to Pray for them.

Romans 12:18 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

Ephesians 5:21 “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

Lastly, for those suffering from this kind of ill-treatment, just know that our feelings matter, whether our offenders choose to acknowledge them or not! Many times, I try to remind the moms that I correspond with (some who are still deep in the throes of grief) to give ourselves ‘Grace.’ To try not to ‘beat ourselves up’ for the mistakes of our children, others, the past, and with the things that have gone wrong. Acknowledge that we did the best we could at the time with what we had to offer, and to remember that no family or person is ‘perfect.’ We all make mistakes but that does not mean that we deserve to be treated like garbage!

Final admonition is to pick ourselves and the ‘proverbial shattered pieces’ up off the floor and to lay them down at the foot of the Cross! Trust that God is taking care of it all, and choose to walk hand in hand with Jesus, step by step, day by day, in Faith! He is truly with us every step of the way, and Jesus has also promised that He will never leave nor forsake us! Trust fully in Christ today!

2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Joshua 1:5 “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Until next time… Maranatha!


Jesus Will Come!