Learned helplessness is a conditioned response where an individual has been stimulated negatively to the point that when they do have an opportunity to leave a negative situation, they choose to stay.
Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”
Matthew 5:5 is one of the most misunderstood and abused passages that our Lord ever spoke. A meek individual is not someone who lowers themselves to the equivalent of a human doormat. So many times Christians will become a doormat when they believe being confrontational is not following God’s will. In situations where confrontation is required we have scriptural examples in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In situations of abuse, because of the high likelihood that abuse came at the hand of a family member, or close family friend this is one of the verses that will be used to control the victim or victim’s family. In the end, the victim or their family tolerates oppression and further abuse believing that they are being an obedient Christian.
When Moses confronted Pharaoh about letting the Israelites go he did not cave to Pharaoh’s demands, yet in Numbers it states that Moses was a very meek individual. Numbers 12:3 “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
In Philippians Paul describes Christ’s humbleness. Also, several times in the gospels as Jesus was being tested by the Jewish leaders Jesus would answer, but would answer in a humble way. However, Jesus did cleanse the temple after entering Jerusalem in Matthew 21. He stated the authority behind his actions after having driven out the money changers and other vendors. The length of the verse does not do justice to what happened. There were multiple people that were concerned enough for their safety that they left the temple as Jesus drove them out. This is what we have all heard referred to as righteous anger.
In situations where a family is dealing with the abuse of their child it is an unfortunate reality where abusers or those aligned with them will use scripture as a weapon. Due to the misinterpretation that is so prevalent with Matthew 5:5, this is a favorite verse of those working to manipulate the victim or the victim’s family. In this situation a victim or family of a victim can find that nothing they do shy of bending to the will of the abuser or those aligned with them will satisfy. This can create a state of learned helplessness.
This is a scenario that we see in many situations in life. Many are curious why some choose to remain in a physically abusive relationship. What of those dealing with toxic families and the manipulation and mental abuse, do they remain in the relationship or do they leave? Based on learned helplessness theory, the pattern of abuse likely continues in toxic families because those abused have been conditioned to take the shock. As good watchmen we should be aware of situations that are presented. We will never know if encouraging someone to report abuse will end years of learned helplessness.