What is the value of true friends?

Dedicated abusers can be really good at turning up the heat. One part of the cycle of abuse, in fact, is to apply more and more pressure until their victim does something apparently worthy of complaint.

For example, an abuser might just “press your buttons”, again and again. If they have discovered your vulnerabilities, that will guide them, like a heat-seeker. They will use name-calling, anger, unfair criticism, or whatever else is most likely to provoke a response from you. They might load you up with more and more tasks until it is impossible for you to manage them all. Once you fall short, they can convincingly complain about whatever it is they told you to do. Or, whatever it was they now say you should have done – even though they didn’t tell you about it!

The trick is: a committed abuser will not actually want you to cope with it all. They want an opportunity to attack you. Remaining error free only aggravates them, and they will be likely to make up an excuse to attack you if you don’t provide them with one.

Abusers’ expectations are not fair. They are not intended to be fair. It’s a game.


How is God different?

God is the opposite. Psalm 131 paints it well:

My heart is not proud, Yahweh,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Israel, put your hope in Yahweh

both now and forevermore.1

The psalm describes a relationship with a person who is safe. So safe that you can completely drop your guard, and rest. For those who live with hypervigilance, the idea of sitting and breathing for a bit might be far removed from your experience of life.

There is permission here to take deep breaths.

However. There are some practical realities. Real life to deal with. This is where we desperately need decent humans to share the load, and part of our calling as humans is to stand with each other.

A victim of abuse might have a job to hold down, bills to pay, a home to manage, and people to care for. Dealing with the impact of abuse can be like having a chronic illness, even for those who don’t have post-traumatic stress or some other horrible thing to deal with. For victims: it is entirely possible that people will underestimate the extra loads you are now carrying, and have unrealistic expectations of how quickly you will “bounce back”.


God sees you

Hannah struggled as a victim of abuse for years. But, finally, things turned around. She sang,

the LORD is a God who knows,

and by Him actions are weighed2

Hagar desperately tried to survive in the desert, and then,

Hagar gave this name to the LORD who had spoken to her: “You are the God who sees me”3

God sees you. This does not absolve decent, trustworthy humans from providing support, and one guide as to whom we can trust is watching how they respond to people in need.

These things are not always obvious to us when we are in the thick of them, and certainly not when we are evaluating others. (Why is this person late? Why have they not returned my call?) But two people with the same set of responsibilities are not carrying the same load if one is also dealing with the impact of abuse. It is different. If trauma is part of your life, you should get points for the degree of difficulty you are managing. Sadly, others may not always have that much empathy.


The value of true friends

It takes empathy, and mercy, to see what another person is carrying. It takes grace to act, to help fill the gaps.

For those who are battling with a heavy load: I sincerely hope you have people around you who get it. People who see what you are dealing with, and who stand with you. But abusers, commonly, deliberately isolate their victims. Then, having a lot to deal with means less time and energy to invest in friendships. Trauma can add to that isolation by inducing social anxiety.

One might pray, sincerely. Even with quite some vigour. You might try very hard to find fellowship with God and yet struggle. While we each have our own emotional and spiritual journeys the life of a victim of abuse can be deeply complex. Finding the space to experience the kind of settled moments Psalm 131 talks about? That might be an impossible bar due to the sheer volume of responsibilities that fill each day, let alone the internal traumas to navigate.

What is the value of true friends when we are isolated and struggling? When God might seem absent? Friends who are humble? Respectful? Willing to help?

They are priceless.


Abusers’ expectations are not fair. They are not intended to be fair. It’s a game. Click To Tweet



  1. Psalm 131
  2. 1 Samuel 2:3b
  3. Genesis 16:13a


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