Abuse as Enslavement: “Clipping Her Wings”
If you have ever had chickens, you may have had to trim their wing feathers to keep them from flying out of the chicken pen. Clipping wings is a good thing when done to chickens. It really is for their own good. Chickens just aren’t meant to soar like an eagle (if they try, the eagle will get them). And besides, soaring makes finding the eggs pretty hard.
But abusive people believe in clipping the wings of their victims, and this is most definitely not a good thing. We as human beings are intended by our Creator to soar:
Psalms 8:3-9 ESV
(3) When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, (4) what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
(5) Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
(6) You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
(7) all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, (8) the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (9) O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Abusers however, work to keep their targets in the pen. And as most of our readers already know, they have many tactics for doing just that. One such clipping tool is a kind of economic one. Let me explain.
Some years ago I was talking with a man who I believe is a Christian. For whatever reason, we were talking about the high rate of divorce, even within the Christian church. I mentioned that the economy couples face today can certainly take its toll on a marriage because so often both the husband and the wife need to work full time if they are going to have any hope at all of getting a house. And then he said this: “Yes, and when a woman starts making her own money, she can start to think pretty independently.” He didn’t say anything about the same result occurring when the man has the money.
Do you see how, even in a Christian man’s thinking, the wife is seen as a person who has to have her wings clipped? That the husband dare not allow her too much freedom or…. or what? And I believe that this very sort of philosophy is very commonly embraced by Christians and it is considered to be biblical. It is not.
Now, I understand completely that marriages have indeed been destroyed because either the husband or the wife decided that they have their own resources and just didn’t need their spouse anymore. They wanted to soar on their own, and all for selfish and wrong reasons. These things do happen. We start thinking that God’s design for marriage is a confining chicken pen and when our feathers grow back we are determined to sail right on out of there.
But what I am primarily addressing here is what this man told me. The idea that a husband must be on guard not to allow his wife too much freedom, too much access to resources (like cash), or she just might get up on her high horse and one day announce “I’m outta here!” Of course when this thinking appears in a Christian setting, clipping her wings is held to be a good thing. By the way, I also knew that this fellow had lots of money, but his wife could not access it.
This is not a good thing. There is nothing good nor biblical about it. Husbands are not called to “clip the wings” of their wives, thereby keeping them subservient and under control. Fathers are to see that their children are under control, and sometimes that means we need to clip the wings of our kids to give them a reality check — “No, Johnny, you are not going to get a motorcycle when you are 10″– that sort of thing. But a wife is not one of the children. I think that many Christian men (and perhaps even quite a few Christian women?) think she is.
I would say this to any husband who really believes that his job is to clip his wife’s wings to keep her “in her place.” If you have to clip her wings to keep her in the pen of your marriage, then you have bigger problems than your wife’s quest for freedom.” Even in cases where a wife (or husband) is in fact sinfully wanting the world for selfish reasons and just wants to dump her husband and family so she can “soar” – I really doubt that enacting measures (such as taking access to money away) is going to solve the heart of the problem. We suspend the allowances of our children when necessary. But once again, a wife is not one of the children.
And what to say to the man who really believes that husbands need to take care that wives do not have so many resources that they just might “fly the coop”? Well, first of all I would say that husband are indeed commanded by the Lord to love their wives, and one of the means of doing this is seeking her sanctification (see Ephesians 5). If, for instance, EITHER the husband or the wife truly sees their spouse being in a genuinely dangerous environment (say at work for instance), then he will step up to the plate and protect her from it. Wives must do the same for their husbands. But any notion that it is a husband’s calling to clip his wife’s wings so that she does not have the resources to be “independent” — thus keeping her in place, is absolutely unbiblical. A man who loves his wife in Christ is going to rejoice when he sees her succeed. Abusers on the other hand typically sabotage their victim’s ability to succeed, thereby beating them back down into “place.”
Therefore, I take issue with the idea that is rather common within the church — that husbands must take care that their wives must be kept in place. Apparently the husband of the Proverbs 31 wife did not believe that, and he prospered as a result.