Breaking the Cycle of Violence

My wife worked in a domestic violence shelter for 5 years. During that time she had many eye opening experiences. She also learned quite a bit about domestic violence.

Some of the statistics that she has passed on to me are mind boggling. If my wife wasn’t a social worker, I wouldn’t believe them. They don’t sound possible, but she not only received them in training, but she experienced them first hand.

A division of the CDC conducted an exhaustive study a few years back where they surveyed women. What they found was shocking.

  • 1 in 5 women reported being raped, or having someone attempt to rape them.
  • 1 in 4 reported being physically abused by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 6 women reported being stalked at one point in time.

When you do the math, you realize that the implications of those statistics means that there are women in your life that have been victimized in the past, or are currently being abused.

As shocking as that is, the statistic that blew me away is that, on average, it takes a person 7 attempts before they can successfully leave an abusive relationship.

As my wife would talk with the general public, that is what was so hard for them to understand.

Why don’t they just leave?

Why does she keep going back to Him?

I thought she was getting her life back together, she was doing so well, and now she’s back with him again?

Unfortunately my wife witnessed it first-hand in the five years she spent at the shelter. She saw the same women come back. Some because they went back to their abuser, others because they got involved with another abusive person. There were countless women who dropped charges on their abusers.

These are women who have risked a lot by filing charges, leaving their homes, spending a month in a shelter and trying to start a new life….so why do they go back?

There are a lot of reasons, but the bottom line is that these abusers have incredible power over these women. Even after they have essentially broken free, some women make a choice to return to those harmful relationships.

Many of these women have been oppressed so much that they almost don’t know how to function in an environment of freedom. The psychological and emotional damage that has been done is something we can’t fathom. We can’t comprehend choosing to go back to an environment of abuse, but some of them can’t comprehend any other way of life.

They have to learn to live differently. They have to believe that something better is even possible. That’s what social work is all about—showing new possibilities to the broken and hurting…replacing the lies that they have been told with truth.

The oppressiveness of sin works similarly in the life of a believer.

(Unlike the men and women who have experienced domestic violence, we are not victims. The comparison I am making is in the difficulty of LEAVING an oppressive environment, not what got us into that environment in the first place. We are responsible for initiating the oppressive environment sin creates while Domestic Violence victims were dragged forcibly into the oppressive environment they have the challenge of trying to leave.)

We’ve tried to break free of sin’s grip before and failed. We’ve tried to leave more than 7 times, yet we keep placing ourselves under its power.

Sin, our oppressor, has only the power we allow it to have…but we have to learn a different way to live.

It has damaged us psychologically and emotionally, so it is hard for us to believe that there is a new and better possibility. It’s almost like we don’t know how to live in an environment of freedom.

Upon further review, we know exactly what it’s like to choose oppression over freedom.

Our only hope is to allow God’s truth to penetrate the lies that we have believed, and His compassionate hand to heal our brokenness.

That’s why, like Jesus says in John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

The immediate context makes it clear that Jesus is talking about the oppressiveness of sin. Verse 34 says:

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The “truth that sets free” is a truth that energizes us to believe in a new way to live–a life devoid of sin’s deceitfulness and pitfalls. The “truth that sets free” is a truth that heals the self-inflicted wounds we can trace back to our sinful behavior.

Contrary to the way our culture often uses the phrase, “The truth shall set you free” has nothing to do with the pressures you feel while you are keeping a secret, or even the relief you experience when you “fess up” and deal with your guilt. “The truth shall set you free” has everything to do with being liberated from the oppressiveness of sin through the Kingdom Living Jesus taught us about.


Secular Uses for the Biblical Truth “The Truth Shall Set You Free”

Jesus’ words in John 8 have been oft quoted and applied by the secular world around us. Pick a Sit-Com, and inevitably you will find that at some point in the series there was an episode about deceit, struggling to keep a secret, or a mystery, and it is almost required that someone utter the phrase “The truth shall set you free.”

Here are some other secular uses you might find interesting:

  • “And Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free” is carved in stone in the OHB (Original Headquarters Building) of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • There is a website called whose motto is “Dedicated to liberating Americans through education!” From what I could tell it was advocating limited government and delved into some conspiracy theories including the existence of extraterrestrial life.
  • President James Garfield once said, “”The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

It’s a phrase we come across all the time in our culture today, but never with the meaning that Jesus intended.

When our culture uses the phrase it usually entails the feeling of relief that is felt when the truth is discovered—either because we solved the mystery, or because we no longer have to keep a secret, or because we can deal with our guilt out in the open.

In fact, I think if you were to take a poll (even including Christians) and ask people what “The truth shall set you free” means, I would think the majority would give an answer related to guilt and relief, secrecy and honesty.

We also use the phrase to encourage the pursuit of knowledge. The CIA nuances this usage by suggesting that their pursuit of information is vital to the freedoms we enjoy in

What Jesus Meant:

Jesus’ point was much different. The “truth” Jesus was referring to was the Truth of His Word.

To be “set free” is to be released from the bondage of sin and to be empowered to live a life according to the Truth, namely Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The freedom is the freedom to experience the blessing that living a godly life brings while avoiding the oppressiveness of sinful living.