Silent and Deadly…the slow killer many people use and don’t even realize is toxic.

This deadly killer may be found in your home or in a friend’s home. Many parents regularly use this on their children, and many think it is healthy with beneficial side effects. This deadly treatment has been passed down by many generations and some may even consider it a homeopathic remedy for children who are out of control. However, it is one of the most deadly treatments that can ultimately cause intense symptoms in those who receive it.

This may or may not be in your home if you are experiencing the following symptoms: depression, crying bouts, panic attacks, lack of appetite, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and emptiness. Some people affected even lose their ability to think rationally and relate to people on an intimate level.

You may be familiar with this very frequently used technique, and even believe it is one of the best medicines you have dished out to your family. What is it, you ask? The silent treatment.

The silent treatment or bouts of avoidance and ignoring can adequately communicate disapproval, anger or frustration without violence, yelling or outbursts. It is a very civilized way to express anger, because ultimately it seems to do no harm. After all, no one is being physically injured or mentally assaulted by the person communicating.

It even can give the user an upper hand against those who are seemingly out of control of themselves. However, the deadly problem with this technique is that it gives no tools or tips for the person who is the “offender” to make things right. When a child has done something that is disobedient or defiant and they are given the silent treatment for days on end, this is ultimately giving a punishment instead of constructive discipline.

Punishment is different than discipline. Discipline is intended to resolve a relationship issue or to help a child grow. In fact, Hebrews says that God disciplines his children.

A Father’s Discipline

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Verses 12 and 13 show us that God’s intention for discipline is reconciliation. Everyone who truly loves someone wants to be reconciled. We want resolution. We long for affirmation.

Now, there is nothing wrong with sending a child to his or her room with instructions to think or pray about what is going on and give them “alone time” to think. This is constructive and gives them hope that at a certain time the father or mother will return to bring the much needed resolution.

But, a child who knows they have sinned or done wrong will carry a burden of guilt that will weigh down on them. This is not unlike the burden we carry before we meet Jesus Christ. Every child needs to be taught about the grace and mercy of God. If this is coupled with appropriate discipline and a reconciliation of the relationship, they will learn that God is a gracious and merciful God and that we have consequences for our sins, but that he will redeem us with gladness when we are honest and come clean.

However, the child who sits under the lengthy emotional freeze out of a parent who is just simply unable to release their anger to God in prayer will learn that God will not immediately forgive them when they repent. Children often times internalize that God must be like their parents. After all, God has given us all parents to teach us, love us, protect us, discipline us, feed us and to be the model of how to relate to him. We all fall so short of this, but there are some things that not only fall short, they bring severe consequences.

A Child (or anyone for that matter) who is ignored will:

  1. Think that it is better to lie and sneak than to disappoint the parent or make him or her angry.
  2. Think God must turn his back on us. God actively pursues us and allows discipline to draw us home and keep us safe. This is the opposite of silence and back turning.
  3. Not know how to appropriately talk through conflict and issues that are complicated.
    1. We all, including spouses, need to practice the art of godly communication through difficult situations. Avoidances will remove a person’s chance to directly ask forgiveness and learn via conversation what is going on that needs resolved.
  4. Will have issues with anger. After all, it’s not being resolved and it is being thrown back on the person being ignored, so they will most likely have anger turned inward.
  5. Will struggle with grace and mercy– receiving it and giving it.
  6. Will always feel like they are at a loss for receiving approval. 
  7. Will live in fear of abandonment. 

A Spouse Ignored will:

  1.  Think it is better to deceive than to be ignored.
  2. Not know how to make things right and sometimes won’t even know what’s wrong.
  3. Not have a chance to express themselves in a godly way to right a wrong.
  4. Overreact back in anger or fear which may push the person ignoring into more of a silent state.
  5. Possibly look elsewhere for emotional and physical intimacy.

I’m not an expert or anything…but this is my layman’s list to what I see happen in people who are ignored. Depression can set in. If the offender…the person being ignored is guilty of a great infraction such as wrecking the car, sneaking behind the parent’s back, or getting bad grades on a report card the silent treatment can be very lengthy. This can definitely lead to depression, fear, anger and even things such as eating disorders and cutting.

The heart is literally left un-nurtured and may feel like it is shriveling up and dying.

Let’s be real here. We all generally know when we do something wrong. Most of us go to extra measures to beat ourselves up about our weaknesses. What we need from authority figures and spouses is encouragement, help, instruction, love, acceptance and forgiveness. In cases where people are not repentant, they need more prayer, direction and discipline, not shaming and guilt. Jesus came to remove shame and guilt, not to pile it on higher and higher.

Let’s remember the passage from 1 John “Perfect love casts out fear.” When someone is perfectly loved, they are able to heal and make things right with God so much more quickly than when they have things hanging over their heads for days on end.

 1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
Are we punishing our children or disciplining them in Christ? Do our actions and words communicate shame, guilt and fear? Do they rather communicate love, forgiveness and redemption? I also must ask this concerning our spouses. Are we seeing the worst in them or are we hoping for the best? Are we using the words God has given us for reconciliation or are we withholding them?
If you grew up under the silent treatment, I am sure you can attest to the pain you felt enduring days or weeks on end of being forbidden to communicate with your parents. Maybe you saw your mom and dad freeze each other out. Maybe you have no other way to communicate and feel overwhelmed by the thought of dealing with your emotions in any other way.
The hope we have in Christ is this: God is in the business of restoring the years the locust have eaten. Have you taken time to pray through the way you were raised? Have you asked The Lord if your behavior honors him when you are angry?
Ask Jesus to break the chains of ignoring and silent treatment in your home and family forever today. You may need to stop right now and forgive someone who has frozen you out of your family or friend group. Forgiveness will bring the healing you need.

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