At first, the question of being an abuser seems obvious. If you are an abuser, you are going to know it, and everyone around you is going to know it. But that is not always the case. Sometimes abuse is well hidden, even from ourselves.
First, know that there are several causes of abusive behavior. Abuse often boils down to a desire to control another person through whatever means possible. Being raised by abusive parents increases your risk of being an abuser. Abuse can also arise from dehumanizing another person, leading you to feel free to treat them in an inhumane manner. No matter what the cause, all abuse will take one of three forms: physical abuse, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse.
Physical abuse is the easiest to spot. You know that you tend toward physical abuse when you lash out physically when angered. You hit, pinch, kick, pull hair, slap, or otherwise seek to cause bodily harm to another individual. You also have trouble stopping yourself once you start.
Spanking may be included in this category, depending on your motive. Are you spanking your children because you are angry at them, and want them to respond to your anger? Or are you spanking them to reinforce the consequences of negative and possibly dangerous behavior? If you are spanking your children while angry, you need to stop. While you are angry, you can forget your own strength and do harm to your children, even though you love them. Step away from your anger and find other means of discipling your children.
Verbal abuse is using your words to hurt another. This includes name calling, insults, and overall negative remarks. You tear another’s self-esteem down in order to build up your own, or you use the negative remarks to try to motivate another to do what you want. However, this is not the best way of motivating anyone, and generally has the effect of alienating you from those you might be trying to motivate.
Emotional abuse is manipulating the emotions of others through your actions or inactions. It can take the form of completely ignoring another person. You leave the room whenever that person enters, making it obvious that you can’t even stand their presence. Another form is threatening self-harm in order to get someone to do what you want.
If any of this sounds familiar, then you may be an abuser. The most important thing is to stop. Stop before you take action and think about what you do and what you say. Replace any negative thoughts about another person with positive ones. If you can’t stop yourself, you may want to look into meeting with a therapist. Alternatively, you can visit a church and talk to a pastor. Most are willing to offer free counseling.
As you exercise self-control and work through your tendencies to hurt others, you can become free from them. You will have more respect for yourself and others. You will then find you have deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around you.