Christians love one another, right? Well, that’s the theory. Perhaps that’s why church hurts sting more than most when they occur. Not only are relationships tearing at their heart, but there’s the ‘God factor’ ripping through the divide.
Typical exasperated voices that traverse minds of hurt hearts:
D “How could this happen to (or ‘in’) a church?”
D “Why would they treat me this way?” says the exiting pastor, knowing no other trade (nor calling in life) than ministry, blindsided by a fickle church vote that ousts him/her.
D “When did my pastor suddenly decide he/she doesn’t like me?”
Pastors and church leaders are particularly susceptible to hurts—due their commitment and situations of congregants lacking appreciation—but they affect everyone who attends a place, and comes to a community, where trust is supposed to be easy; a ‘given’. Those hurt find their trust displaced for resentment that clings fast. Trust can’t be manufactured.
When Church Hurts
The present-tense is handled first. How difficult is it to remain somewhere that’s not welcoming? And the feeling of ‘welcome’ is a felt-thing. We feel welcome (and loved) or we don’t.
Honesty and courage (honesty being a manifestation of courage) is vital. If honesty is not possible, for whatever reason, it makes situations intolerable. But how many tolerate the intolerable? Sometimes there’s no fix other than to start afresh—so long as we’re not continually church-shopping.
Being honest with a godly leadership is a way through, provided what goes with it is a mature approach to problem-solve. Transgressions (both ways) can be apologised for and forgiven. Ways forward can then be discussed.
Still, there are situations that are just plain difficult with no solution in sight.
Resolving Past Hurts – the Past
Churches are not just made up of Christians, but fallible, hurt-worthy human beings. Not only have people perhaps been hurt by churches and experiences with Christians, everyone has their share of brokenness that’s brought to the table. Dealing with hurt adults is not unlike dealing with children. We’re ‘back there’ in a flash.
‘Sandpaper ministry’ might sound like a character-building exercise, but when hurts are retained—and the temptation is always there—our experience of implicit trust goes south, and with it the intimacy of rapport.
Any time vacant thought about these experiences bridges minds it reinforces the damage. The deep though unvoiced emotion unfolds repetitively—thousands of times. A spiral of hurt attends. The trap is laid.
Awareness and Action
Making something of the hurt and doing something about it also requires honesty and courage—humility driving it. The only way out of these situations (when we’re ready) is through a hard-nosed push to break clear. Admitting the hurt is an important first step (and if someone feels hurt, they’re hurt).
Action is involving others. It’s trusting trustworthy people to share with. Not tolerating the wrangling hurt one second longer than necessary; that’s action.
But balanced with the action is gentility. Compassion is always the key; from those supporting, and for those hurt to be able to have the utmost compassion on themselves during the process.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.