Individual Responsibility: But I was raised that way!

He was trained to think of the boss as all powerful. He was even nurtured at his father’s knee to be a manly man who took charge and recognized his entitled place in society.

How do we view the abusive leader of the home or workplace who has seen no other way of relating to people since childhood?

For many of us, we have a certain empathic response to these kinds of situations. Though we may not put it in words, we have given these abusive individuals at least a temporary pass for their wicked behavior.

In the backs of our minds we think, “They cannot help their sin.”

No Pass

However, the Lord, though always compassionate, does not give abusers a pass.

Though ultimately we may be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ in the end, those of us who continue in the sins of our raising will be held responsible for that sin. [see footnote]

We do not get a get out of jail free card.

Ezekiel was a prophet and priest and was exiled to Babylon in 597 B.C. He spoke fearlessly and forcefully to a people who had turned from the Lord. And he spoke with compassion to those who would turn from their sin though raised on the knee of wickedness.

“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live.”

Ezekiel 18:21-22

However, Ezekiel also explained to those who would give others or themselves a pass because they learned to abuse others from their parents (or shall I add business or church leadership models) that they are responsible for their own sin. And the one who rejects those role models will be received as righteous.

“Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: 15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.”

Ezekiel 18:14-18

Ezekiel says, “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”


The individual is held responsible for their own sin whether they learned it well from others or not.

As we interact with abusive authority, we need to remember these words. The underlying principles that we can learn are that God does not allow our empathy to give a pass to the horrible wickedness of oppression even if the leader has been taught it from others.

He is responsible for his abuse. He is responsible for turning from it.

His or her only recourse is to fall before the Lord and confess the sin and walk away from it in new life.

Footnote: Those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, dying for man’s sins, as necessary for their eternal salvation do indeed get a “get out of jail free” card. However, the assurance of God’s forgiveness is for those who hate their sin and seek to turn from it (repentance). Abusive people must recognize, confess, and repent of their sins of entitlement and control as a means of oppressing others.

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