Boromir the Abuser

picture of boromir from lotrIn my current rereading of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I have just completed The Fellowship of the Ring and am beginning The Two Towers.  This is the point at which the fellowship is broken, with parties going different directions leading to different roles in the escalating war against evil.

For it was at this location, upon the slopes of Amon Hen, The Hill of the Eye of the Men of Numenor, that the treachery which had been growing many weeks within Boromir’s heart came to fruition in physical expression.

Frodo, the Ring Bearer, had gone apart for time alone, to decide the next step of the journey.

Suddenly, he awoke from his thoughts; a strange feeling came to him that something was behind him, that unfriendly eyes were upon him.  He sprang up and turned; but all that he saw to his surprise was Boromir, and his face was smiling and kind.

Wow!  What a great description of treacherous abuse…of the innocent party’s paradox of feeling such a strong gut reaction warning, “Danger! Danger!” while the friendly face and warm smile of one loved and trusted treacherously reassures, “All is well!”

Now, many Tolkien fans will likely take offense at my characterizing Boromir as an abuser.  They will likely point out that Boromir was a mighty man of valor, a strong and courageous warrior against the evil of Mordor, a captain of Gondor, a true patriot, and one who gave his life defending his comrades.

All true!  Boromir was all of that and more.  Even Aragorn clearly chose to remember Boromir for his mighty acts of valor, rather than for his single act of treachery…and did not, initially, tell even his comrades, Gimli and Legolas of Boromir’s treachery.

No doubt, Aragorn, so keenly aware of his own limitations and the fall of his ancestor, Isildur, was quick to recognize the role played by the Ring of Power in corrupting Boromir’s heart.  One could argue, when Boromir threatened Frodo’s life in his attempt to claim the ring by force, that it was the evil power of the ring at work, and not the true Boromir, at all.

And there is truth in this perspective as well.  In our battle against sin, we all have moments of failure and shame, for which we would not like to be remembered.  So, perhaps, it is better to remember Boromir for his courage and valor, rather than for his moment of treachery.

This is especially true, given that Boromir expressed sincere remorse for his treacherous behavior.  More importantly, he showed signs of true repentance, both in his sacrificial defense of the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, against the orcs, and in his truthful deathbed confession to Aragorn.

Yet, in regard to Boromir’s relationship with Frodo, none of that really matters.

Boromir’s treachery against Frodo, his violation of Frodo’s friendship, and his opposition to Frodo’s sworn objective to destroy the ring, were so deeply egregious as to cause Boromir to be completely untrustworthy in regard to Frodo and his mission.

Frodo was wise enough to realize he could never again trust Boromir.  Therefore, he dissolved the fellowship and continued his quest with only the aid of his faithful friend Samwise.

The relationship came to an end, as the direct result of Boromir’s offense.

As readers, we instinctively know Frodo made the right choice.  We know Boromir was never truly committed to the cause of destroying the ring.  We know Boromir’s allegiance lay with Gondor and his own glory, rather than to all the peoples of Middle Earth.  We know the ring’s evil power had already taken advantage of Boromir’s divided loyalties to corrode his heart.  And we know that, if Boromir had continued in relationship with Frodo, the treacherous abuse would have escalated.

Boromir may have been a hero to Gondor, and even to Merry and Pippin.  That does not change the fact that, to Frodo, he was a traitor.

Abuse is fundamentally tied to relationship.  Abuse is taking advantage of close relational ties and allegiances, for selfish purpose, in treacherously violating oaths of allegiance.  It is using the partner’s trustworthiness and trust as an opportunity to violate their trust.

Whether or not the abuser behaves nobly or abusively in other relationships is completely irrelevant in regard to the relationship that has been violated.  And the person whose trust has been violated has every reason not to trust their abuser and not to restore relationship, regardless of how their abuser may behave in other aspects of life.

One other thought on Boromir’s treachery…though intended for evil, it was used for good.

The time had truly come for the fellowship to disband and take separate paths.  Frodo was struggling with the decision, knowing in his heart that he needed to proceed to Mordor without the others, yet fearing to do so.  Boromir’s act of treachery gave Frodo the clarity of thought and strength of will necessary to do what needed to be done.

In the same way, God uses what was intended for evil to bring about His purpose for the good of His children.

Your thoughts?

[Linked to Graceful , Wellspring ]


29 thoughts on “Boromir the Abuser

  1. Good stuff Joe. If an abuser like Boromir truly repents in this life, we will have relationship with them in the New Creation one day. But not now. People who have hard-heartedly, consistently, and unrepentantly broken their covenant with us, destroy relationship. To try to rebuild that destruction this side of heaven is most always very unwise and not realistic. I believe that there comes a time when, no matter how sincere we might believe our abuser’s repentance to be, renewed trust is simply impossible and the healthy thing to do is move on.

    • I completely agree, Jeff.

      And the determination of that point is between the abused and God, and not subject to anyone else’s judgment.

      Friends and family may tell the victim they believe the abuser has truly repented and is walking in godliness. If true, that is a wonderful thing, and cause for rejoicing. Yet, it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with the relationship that has been violated, nor is it cause for restoration of fellowship.

      Going back to our fictional example of Boromir, if he had suceeded in convincing Frodo to continue in fellowship, it would have certainly spelled Boromir’s doom. The dissolution of relationship between Frodo and Boromir was truly Boromir’s only hope…and the best course of action for everyone.

      Just because someone has indicated trustworthiness in some areas of life does not mean they are trustworthy in a relationship they have previously egregiously abused.

  2. Great thoughts, Mr Pote!!
    I am a fairly trusting person, but if I have spent months or years building a friendship, or have been your sister since you were born, (basically assume I mean my sister and a few certain twit when you read the generic ‘you’ in this comment) and you turn on me and do it without remorse or blow it off like it was nothing, I will forgive you, IF YOU ASK, but I will not be your doormat nor will I let you back in.
    Yes, most likely, over time, I will forgive you, and let you stay on my FB friends list, but do not think for one second that politeness on my part equates with trusting, unguarded closeness. No flipping way.
    It took me a long time to learn the difference between ‘friend’ and ‘friendly’.
    And they are two very different things.

    • Yes, “friend” and “friendly” are quite different, aren’t they? About as different as “polite” and “intimate.”

      I can be polite to anyone, even enemies. But only a few are allowed in my intimate circle of trusted friends.

      You might also like this post, where I discuss the difference between “forgiveness” and “trust”:

      Thank you, Jennifer!

  3. I’ve seen some of the Lord of the Rings movies, but it’s been years and I never read the books–although my sons love them–so I don’t have much to say about the details there. What I can respond to is how God often uses the trials and betrayals in our lives to strengthen our faith and bless us “in disguise.” Great thoughts, Joe. And I appreciate your blog and heart as well. You’ve taken up the cause of the downtrodden, as I have over at my place, so I resonate with what you desire to do for God! Blessings to you now and in the New Year!

    • Yes, God definitely does cause all things to work together for our good. What others intend for evil, He uses for good.

      Thank you, Beth!

  4. Hi Joe, I definitely got lost in the story since I haven’t read/seen any of this trilogy. But, I could relate to what you said about feeling like something/one bad is nearby then having them flash you the “all’s well look”. Reminds me of having all the red flags flying but choosing to ignore them because we are being deceived. It’s easy to let happen if we don’t have our guard up.

    • Oh, man! I was hoping that Tolkein’s works were well enough known that most readers would be able to relate to the references.

      That’s the problem with using fictional characters to make a point…it works well for people familiar with the story, but not at all for others.

      But, yes, you did catch the same quote that drew my attention and led to this post. The treachery of trust is, I think, one of the most evil aspects of abuse.

      Thanks for joining the discussion, Denise…despite my use of unfamiliar references… 😉

  5. I’m not familiar enough with this part of the Trilogy either to judge whether Boromir could be labeled “Abuser,” which means more than a momentary fall that never happens again — much like, well, we have all probably lied at some point in life, but some people csn be rightly labeled “Liar.” What really did resonate with me was “What a great description of treacherous abuse…of the innocent party’s paradox of feeling such a strong gut reaction warning, “Danger! Danger!” while the friendly face and warm smile of one loved and trusted treacherously reassures, ‘All is well!'”

    Boy, did it! And this tells me you know this from experience. Such a betrayer is usually the *last* person anyone would suspect, and that makes them that much more dangerous. But what has come out to me in dealing with such people myself (too close for comfort) is that not only does God use even their bad for the good of His beloved, but also that these folks (with consciences perhaps seared with a hot iron, or nearly so) have a very low “rehabilitation” rate, live hollow lies instead of lives, and then die, and ultimately hurt themselves as much as anyone. Understanding this helps me forgive them–but doesn’t make me want to hang out with them!

    • Yes, too many years of experience…and once fully recognized, one never quite forgets that paradoxical feeling of “Danger!” while seeing a trusted face…

      I like how you put this: “Understanding this helps me forgive them–but doesn’t make me want to hang out with them!”

      So true!

      Blessings to you, Sylvia!

  6. Hello, Joe!

    Your writing conveys so much with such a clarity and peacefulness. Love it. I plan to read the forgiveness and trust post you recommended to another reader. That was what came to my mind as you presented the possible argument that the ring caused his treachery, and it wasn’t really Boromir at all. I may forgive completely, my abuser may repent completely, but the nature of the treachery and my vulnerability to it, may make it literally dangerous emotionally to be open to continued/restored relationship, since the abuser has demonstrated his own vulnerability to “the ring.” My vulnerabilities may make it unwise to bear with his.
    Guarding my heart. Consequence of the abuse, not punishment for.

    Time to read what you already wrote about this!!! 🙂


    • “I may forgive completely, my abuser may repent completely, but the nature of the treachery and my vulnerability to it, may make it literally dangerous emotionally to be open to continued/restored relationship, since the abuser has demonstrated his own vulnerability to “the ring.””

      Well stated, Dianne!

      Maintaining healthy boundaries is not about lack of forgiveness or punishment for past hurts. It is about wise guarding against unnecessary potential future harm.

      Thank you, for that perspective!

  7. I am impressed with your evaluations and agree on all counts! So many events seem negative and are painful at the time we go through them. Yet, with time and perspective, I am able to see how God worked it toward a better purpose. I can think of many examples in my life of this principle. when my sister was dying, she brought all of us closer to God through watching her own journey of faith. We knew she was in a better place and still feel her presence with us.
    In reference to Tolkein, my grown twin boys helped me understand much of the symbolism of the ring. For they had read the book and I had only seen the films. They explained to me that the ring pretty much represents anything that becomes the most important thing in a persons life, other than God. It is the thing he will sacrifice all else to attain and keep. For some it is money, for others, power or fame. But the ring changes the person who touches it. And so does centering ones life around greed, excess, power, fame, or sex change us into a different person than we were at the start. For we have placed a false god before us when we make something more important than anything else including God.

    • Yes, God is so faithful to work all things to our good.

      Here is another quote from that same conversation you and I talked about, between Gandalf and Frodo, near the beginning of “The Fellowship of the RIng”:

      “Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.”

      Without ever actually saying “God,” Tolkien does such a good job of depicting the interaction between our own choices, plans of the kingdom of darkness, and God’s plans.

      Somehow, God works it all to the good of those who love Him…who are called according to His purpose.

      Thanks for the great discussion, Mary!

  8. Oh wow! Joe, I loved this analogy, I am a fan of LOTR but this never crossed my mind. About Boromir and Frodo. Very interesting.
    I think sometimes when coming out of abuse, you wrestle so much with the “what if I’d done this differently or that differently” – and it can paralyze you.
    One thing that is so encouraging is knowing that God uses all things for your good, that He has the power to use evil for His good purposes.. and that you can never fall out of His hands. We need to cling to those assurances. Even when the road is long and it seems like we’re alone, and the wolves are closing in.

    • Yes, I know that paralyzing feeling of what-ifs…and too often well-meaning friends work to keep us second-guessing…

      Yes, it is so good to know God has it all under His control. He knows His plans for us, and He knows how to carry them out in our lives. He knew when and how each marriage would end before the vows were ever taken. He was not caught by surprise, nor were His plans interrupted!

      We are still on track for His plans, which were predestined for us before the foundation of the world!

      Thank you, Katy, for the great discussion!

  9. It’s interesting that even as he wept over what he had done he begged Frodo to come back. Am I remembering that correctly? If he truly understood his own weakness he would never have encouraged Frodo to return to him. Abusers are always “sorry” right after the abuse & I think that at some level they believe they’ve changed but have no insight into the depth of what they have done.
    I remember a client who had been severely abused for years & came to the Dorcas House fleeing for her life. Eventually her grown children convinced her that her husband had changed & talked her into “trying it again ” though I begged her not to. As you can imagine the abuse. & control were exponentially worse & her escaping again took extreme measures on her part & it was a miracle she lived. After she had been with us for a while again her abuser wrote her expressing his remorse, that he was in church now, a man of God & wanted them to serve Hod together. I remember that for some reason she & I were sitting on the floor in the front hallway as I read the letter. Afterward I asked her, “What could he say that would convince you he has changed?” I have no idea why I asked her that but her answer was profound. She said, “If he ever said, “Don’t ever come back to me because I cannot be trusted.” And I would believe him and never go back.” To my knowledge she never did.

    • Oh, Wow! Great insights, Dorcas!

      Yes, you’re right. The very fact that the abuser believes himself/herself to be trustworthy is exactly why they should not be trusted. They understand neither their own weakness, nor the depth of their treachery.

      Contrast Boromir’s call, “Come back!” to Gandalf’s refusal to even touch the ring, and of giving the Orthanc Stone to Aragorn for safe-keeping, because he was tempted, against his better judgment, to try to use it.

      Also a statement such as, “Don’t ever come back to me because I cannot be trusted,” would be an indicator that they had come to realize that neither of them is dependent on the relationship for happiness.

      So long as either party believes the relationship is essential to their happiness, the relationship will never be healthy…and for a relationship that has been extremely abusive in the past, unhealthy is almost certain to lead again to extreme abuse.

    • Dorcas:
      What an experience! I wonder how aware her adult children are of the results of their influence, and what it would take for them, now, to believe he has changed? Much easier for them to maintain their denial since they didn’t live it the same way, nor do they face the same risks. As you say, her statement was profound.

      You are a counselor or advocate (you used the term “client.”)? Dorcas House? I would like to know so much more about what has been most helpful to others dealing with abuse to 1) cope and/or leave, 2) recover, and 3) maintain or regain faith. And any helps that are working for recovery of those who DO the abusing. If you have any insights I would very much like to hear them.

      • Diane,
        The Dorcas House has been open for 50 years & is the largest Domestic Violence Shelter in Arkansas. We also now have a Drug & Alcohol Recovery Program for women. We are part of the Union Rescue Mission Don’t let the “same name thing” throw you. The Dorcas House & I are both named after the woman in Acts 9:36. However, yes, I am a counselor (LPC) and the Director of the Domestic Violence Program there – nos in my seventh year.

        The questions you have asked are not easy to sum up. What helps them recover? I think they help each other not feel alone. They take classes & go through counseling. But the key to real recovery is their beginning to discover who God says they are & how He loves them. Many of them have heard hundreds of voices defining them in negative terms. Just my voice is not enough to convince them otherwise. But when The Truth takes root in their hearts it changes everything! When you know you have God’s vote no one else’s counts! 🙂

        If you have more question feel free. Sorry it took me a few days to see this!!! If you want my contact info you can private message me on Facebook or my work email (that I check daily) is

  10. Dealing with betrayal is so hard, especially when Christians often think that forgiveness equals trusting again. But we can forgive, yet still withhold trust. That’s showing wisdom, a God-given trait.

    Nice post, Joe.

    • “…we can forgive, yet still withhold trust. That’s showing wisdom, a God-given trait.”

      Yes, healthy boundaries are a very good thing!

      Thank you, Lisa!

  11. I adore this epic and have had it in my mind to re-read since the release of the Hobbit. Your words make me want to all the more. There’s nothing like the book. Your insights into abuse are very good, Joe. I read your latest post too and am so impressed with the ways you and your sister serve. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • Laura, I’ve been enjoying this rereading more than I expected to. It’s been about 15 years since I last read Tolkien, and I’ve had a lot of life experiences in that time. I’m seeing a lot of things in this reading that I missed previously.

      Blessings to you, my friend!

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