Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Is Hitting Someone Ever Justified?

Question:  Is physical abuse ever justified in a marriage as “defending” yourself?

I attacked my husband physically in frustration by hitting and scratching. I know it was sinful and wrong and I made a choice to attack him.

He, in turn, held me down, punched me in the head several times and smashed my head up against the headboard of our bed.

He said he did it to “defend” himself and to “get me to stop”.

Answer:  Self-defense is legally acceptable when you are being physical harmed, however it seemed like your husband used a bazooka against you when a fly swatter may have been sufficient.  In other words, from your description of his behavior your husband took it over the top and did more than defend, he retaliated and abused you.

But I want to ask you a question. If your husband attacked you by hitting and scratching you because he was frustrated with something you did or said would that be justified?  Just because you are a woman and may not have as much physical strength as he does, does not excuse you handling your frustration with him by attacking him and scratching him.  What else could you have done in that moment of frustration?

The truth is marriage and family life can be frustrating at times. Who hasn’t gotten frustrated in marriage? Or in raising children?  Or while stuck in traffic?  Or waiting in a long line?  If frustration excused abusive behavior we’d live in a much more violent world than we already live in.

So what do healthy people do when they are frustrated? When they are provoked? They learn to press pause, and practice self-control, which is one of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  Yes we may feel like reacting with physical force – such as slapping or scratching someone when we’re frustrated, but if we want good relationships with people, we learn to control those urges.

It’s important to realize that we are not helpless victims over our own emotional state. Yes, we have feelings, but we must not allow our feelings to have us.  God has clearly told us that we are to be in charge of how we behave when we’re provoked or angry.

In Ephesians he says “In your anger, do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26).

If I were talking further with you and/or your spouse about your marriage I would ask you about the overall patterns of your marriage.  Have there been regular incidents of you reacting with physical attacks when you are frustrated or was this an isolated incident?  If this has been a pattern, have you recognized it as a problem for you?  For your marriage?

Has your spouse asked you to stop, get help for your emotional distress, or go to counseling?  Does he purposefully provoke you to the point of emotional overload? Has he used physical violence against you in the past?  If so have you implemented consequences like calling the police?

I hope you will take this incident as a warning bell to show you how close you are to the edge of a very scary cliff.  Your inability to know what else to do in the moments of your frustration and your husband’s over-the-top reaction could have ended with you being pummeled to death.  Please, don’t ignore this. Seek more professional advice about what your next steps should be for your own mental health, physical safety and marriage.

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