When abusers say, 'You reap what you sow' it means 'you are the real cause of the abuse'. But is there truth to this old adage that abusers fail to see?

‘You reap what you sow.’ My mother would say to me on a regular basis. She’d usually whip it out when I questioned, or was— otherwise—being a nuisance to her. It was her way of scaring me into obedience. But this old adage was also used to justify the way she abused me. If she could say that I had done or said something bad, she could convince herself that what she did to me was something I brought on myself. This narrow explanation of cause and effect is one that abusers love to exploit. When they say, ‘You reap what you sow’ it means the target’s behavior, personality, and physical attributes are the real cause of the abuse.

Looking at my life now, several years into no contact and recovery, I realize my mother was right. More right than I think even she realized.

Of Revenge, Karma, and Responsibility

A while ago, SwanWaters posted something about Karma to social media. The graphic questioned: Isn’t Karma Supposed to Take Care of Our Abuser?  It was accompanied by the following remark:

I looked for misfortune to strike in the lives of my abusers. Isn’t #Karma supposed to take care of them?

It sparked a lively debate online about the true nature or karma, and whether or not we should just wait for cosmic justice. What is cosmic justice anyway? One remark struck me in particular:

If someone does something to my child or animals, my first reaction is anger, and to make them feel bad. I don’t think we should just write off this feeling—evolutionarily speaking—because that’s how we, as people, keep society in check. Otherwise, people would do whatever they want. When someone commits a crime, we try to put them in jail. Retribution, not rehabilitation, is what society has decided to do…I don’t think we should just negate our own feelings because sometimes you gotta keep sociopaths in check

I think the confusion that often comes up when we talk about forgiveness, karma, and revenge is the idea that we are extending a pardon if we forgive. I don’t think that letting go of vengeful thoughts and feelings takes away from the accountability the abuser has for his or her behavior. In fact, I think this process is at the heart of assigning responsibility where it ought to lie, and is key to letting the sociopaths (or otherwise toxic people) deal with the consequences of their own behavior.

Feel the Anger, Express the Anger, Release the Anger

You will never ever hear me say that you should not feel or express anger at the abuse you have experienced or are suffering. In fact, I highly recommend you embrace your anger. I also hope with all my heart that you will work through the anger, and come out the other end. By holding on to the anger, the injustice, and the atrocity of what has happened to you, you get stuck.

Anger is useful and necessary when it comes to abuse recovery. Of course, you are pissed at what was done to you. Who wouldn’t be? Taking that anger to the realm of revenge allows it to damage your heart, though. And that’s not what you want. When you hold on to the anger, you will become bitter, and will never want to let go of it. You will spend your days complaining about the pain, bitching about the injustice, and nagging about how hard life is.

Is that what you want your future to be? Or do you want it to be something that is more likely to be beneficial for you? Either option can be obtained by how you sow into the soil of your life.

Let the Abuser Reap Their Own Reward

If your abuser is anything like mine, they have already integrated anger into their heart. They have likely become abusive because they did not confront the anger and pain they felt over trauma in their own life.

My parents have tried to reach out to me a few times since I cut contact 5 years ago (usually through my in-laws or flying monkeys). All their letters are full of details about their miserable lives; attempts at triggering guilt or pity in me, and make me want to come home. Whether it’s an illness or injury, a miscarriage, or a dead pet; you name it, and their letters include it. It tells me everything I need to know about the focus of their lives.

I am not saying that their poor treatment of me is karmic reciprocity causing them to fall and injure themselves. But I am saying that their general state of mind, and their focus on all the negative experiences they have, is their own kind of punishment. What we focus on we become. The more you focus on the problems in your life, the bigger they seem. The more you focus on the opportunities that come your way, the more they open up before you.

The Harvest Is Not Always Visible

My parents live in a big mansion, are supposed pillars of the community, and their business is getting rave reviews. That’s on the one hand. On the other, they also have no friends, struggle to make ends meet, and have injury after injury because they are too proud to ask for help.

When I went no contact, my husband and I lived in a tiny 1-bed flat, couldn’t afford many extras on our single income, and had said goodbye to our entire social group. But we were also free from manipulation and abuse, had space to heal and grow together, met many amazing people on our journey, and built the most loving and supportive family made of friends imaginable.

As much as you would like to know just how miserable your abuser is, you cannot always see the chaos of their lives. They are geniuses at putting up the perfect scenery and outward grandeur. Don’t be fooled by the props, and don’t be too frustrated by the people who still cannot see your truth. Instead, focus on the seeds you’ve sown, and keep watching for the crop that you’re bound to reap in time.

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Having gained experience while working for a variety of European non-profits, I am proud to now work with SwanWaters. My connection with the website is not only professional. I am glad to tap into my personal experiences to help those who are living in toxic relationships whether with parents, partners or in their professional life. We need to make the world more aware of the devastating effects of emotional abuse and help more people on their way to heal and thrive.

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When abusers say, 'You reap what you sow' it means 'you are the real cause of the abuse'. But is there truth to this old adage that abusers fail to see?


  1. Profile photo of Jeanette45

    September 23, 2017 at 11:01 am

    I have just cut off contact (Several weeks) for the final time (I have left them before and it was the happiest time in my life) but this time I had to include my mother who has betrayed my trust for the last time. Both of my parents have cancer and are toxic to me. I am glad I found this site. For my own health I had to let go of the entire family (I am the oldest daughter of 5) because of their insanity and lies. I know I am doing the right thing, I dont feel guilty, but still angry alternating with sadness and tears. I have PTSD too. I am just wondering how long it will take for the feeling of grief to go away. I am choosing life affirmers to be in my life now, no more drama, abuse and manipulation from them.

    • Profile photo of Mags

      September 24, 2017 at 10:01 am

      Hey Jeanette,

      Healing isn’t really a one-track process, so I cannot possibly make a time frame predictions. I do know though that it gets better over time.

      I have found it so useful to connect with fellow survivors. Not just for the understanding they have for what you are going through, but also because your peers can help you find ways to cope with the effects of the abuse.


  2. Profile photo of scapechi

    September 24, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    Hi Jeanette,

    I agree with Mags, there is no time line for grief. It comes down to you and how you deal with the situation. It’s hard, however there is lots of support on this site. We each deal with things differently, what works for one, doesn’t work for someone else.
    No matter what, we will support you



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