Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship and has lived to tell the tale is a survivor. This includes those who are currently in such a relationship and either working their way out or making preparations to do so. One large obstacle to ending and healing from an abusive relationship is guilt. This guilt comes from pity for the abuser, which is born of compassion, which the abuser has learned to twist like a knife in the survivor’s gut.
Most people are moved with compassion when they see others in pain. Examples include an elderly person having trouble breathing, a parent grieving over the sudden loss of a child, a crippled person struggling to walk, or an infant painfully and weakly crying. Such examples, which move the vast majority of human beings, generally do not move abusive people, because they often lack the ability or desire to feel compassion. Instead, they view such circumstances as tools they can use when the time is right. Can you imagine someone storing the memory of a parent grieving over the loss of child, and later using it to twist and manipulate that person? Not only do people like that actually exist, but there are far more of them in the world than most people realize.
Pity differs from compassion in that pity often functions similar to compassion but without boundaries. It can be endless reservoir of power and control. Abusers learn to manipulate survivors into feeling pity for them. They do this by closely observing the survivor and learning what moves them to compassion. They then create intentional scenarios which turn that compassion towards the abuser and simultaneously infuse the survivor with intense guilt. Over time, the survivor is left feeling helpless, stuck between staying in an abusive relationship and living with the horrible guilt of abandoning someone who needs them. The tragic irony is that the abuser cares nothing for them and would feel no emotional loss, only the loss of someone to control and manipulate.
A Way Forward
Leaving an abusive relationship and finding healing is no small task. It is critical for a survivor to continue to have compassion without falling into the trap of pity and guilt. We must see abusers for who they are and not throw away valuable compassion that can be twisted. If we must feel sorry for their eventual fate, it can only be done from a safe distance, well after the relationship has ended and proper boundaries are in place as safeguards. The survivor must also learn to recognize when their compassion is being used against them and learn to keep a proper distance from abusive people. One temptation can be to leave all compassion behind as a precaution against abusers, but this is also a mistake because it leaves the survivor stripped of what once made them human, and the abuser ultimately holding the victory. Instead the survivor must learn to hold on to all them makes them good and regain all that had been taken. The ultimate victory of the survivor over the abuser is the complete restoration of their soul, sending a strong message that they remain unconquered.
“I Remain Unvanquished”