5 Things Wounded Christians Should Probably Avoid

5 Things Wounded Christians Should Probably Avoid June 16, 2015

depressed man

Life brings wounds.

The Christian life sadly, is no different. While Christian community ought be the safest place for one to run and hide, it’s often a place where we experience some of the most painful wounds. Sometimes we’re wounded and pushed to the margins. Other times, we’re wounded and expelled. Yet other times, we’re the ones who do the wounding.

We’re human. We hurt. We injure.

I’ve been wrestling with this issue a lot lately in my own life and reflecting on the process of being a Christian who’s been in a marathon process of learning to deal with those wounds. My process has been more than 20 years in the making, and along the way I’ve experienced some mountaintops, and made some real bad mistakes. Through it all, I’ve made more mistakes than discovered new solutions, so in that light I’ve singled out 5 things that might be good for a wounded Christian to avoid:

1. Speaking before we’re actually ready.

I think this is one where I personally am still learning. When we speak before we’re ready what we say and how we say it often is a reflection of our woundedness– but rarely comes across as that. Instead, it comes across in all the ways we don’t actually want it to. I realized I did this in a recent post– one that was born out of deep pain but didn’t come across that way because I had spoken while the pain was still too fresh. I think a good word of advice, one I’m trying to learn myself, is that speaking from a place of pain too soon will usually accomplish something other than what we want it to. Instead, take some time, take some space, and give yourself freedom to find the right voice at the right time.

2. Making hasty life decisions that will have long term impact.

One of the crossroads we often come to as wounded Christians is being faced with some critical life choices that will have long term impact on ourselves and others. As with when and how we use our voices, so too can we get into problems– not just when we speak from a place of pain too soon– but when we make life decisions from a place of pain too soon. Sometimes we crave major change in the midst of pain because we’re desperate for something to give, but so often the choices we make from that place of hurt aren’t actually good for us in the long run. It’s a good idea to put off some of these choices until the dust settles and we can think a bit more clearly.

3. Using our wounded hearts to inflict pain on others.

There’s an old saying that “wounded people wound people” and I don’t know of anything more true. It’s just soooo hard not to. It often reminds me of an old German Shepard we had a few years back- she’d let you pat her, but if your hand got too close to the bottom of her spine and the source of her arthritis, she’d bite you. I think what grieves me about much of Christian woundedness is that often it’s not caused by the usual suspects– the abusive leaders, et. al, but is caused by other wounded people who are typically kind but will bite you if your hand gets too close to the source of their hurt. If you’re one of these folks with wounds, let me encourage you to opt out of the cycle of passing our woundeness down the line. It’s hard, but I think if we develop some self awareness, it can be done.

4. Blaming God for whatever happened.

I don’t know what it was, but I do know it wasn’t God. Maybe it was someone who claimed to speak for God, an abusive leader in a quest for power, a fickle friend, or too many years in an oppressive theological system– but whatever it was, it wasn’t God. We must resist the urge to walk away from faith in God because of wounds suffered at the hands of other humans.

5. Letting go of hope that things could be better.

There’s plenty of things we can live without, but one can’t live without hope. As hard as it is, we’ve got to keep hope that new life can be breathed into those broken or seemingly dead areas inside of us. Sometimes we don’t know how, sometimes we don’t know when, but we’ve got to maintain hope that it can. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found towards the very end, and is a vision of God who “makes all things new.” And, as broken and screwed up as I am, the one thing I hold onto is the hope that one day God can and will make things new- that he’ll bring beauty from ashes, bind up what is broken, and water seeds of new life. It is this hope that keeps me going when nothing else does.

Being a wounded Christian sucks– there’s no other way to put it. And while answers and solutions aren’t always easy to come by, I’ve definitely learned some things that can make life better– simply by avoiding them.

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  • liberalinlove

    A root of bitterness can defile many! Here is where we get to come into a “family” of those who see our woundedness and understand if for what it is and who can wrap their spiritual arms around us and comfort us.

    After years of batting around the wounds of childhood and being told to forgive, to forget, to stop feeling sorry for myself, to stop sinning, to honor my parents, to give it all to Jesus, to grow up, I had one person, just one person tell me that they were really sorry I had experienced those issues and that I had not deserved any of it. That as a child I should have been able to expect certain things and needed those things to feel safe. One person to wrap their comfort around me. No preaching.

    The hurt dropped away and the healing began.

    Unfortunately it is so very hard to find people who walk in those giftings!
    Wrapping prayers around your soul for healing and comfort. Until then Love covers a multitude of sins!

  • Thx 4 this message. Right now i’m stressed & depressed & wounded. Trying to maintain an attitude of gratitude has often helped me float over deep canyons of resentment from the past that intrude and mess w my present in the form of flashbacks. new, daily stresses can trigger a sudden flow anger from festering emotional injuries that i have yet to process. Lately I have been taking out my frustration on trolls on the internet. Sh*t runs downhill!

  • yes! I have found a few ppl like that & I have been encouraged to be an encourager by their example.

  • liberalinlove

    And sometimes we don’t even know or understand our pain because it is birthed in something deeper that Our God wants to reach and heal. Only by faith, can I say all is well with my soul. In the meantime God keeps digging deeper to remove the scar tissue.

  • Norman Stolpe

    Ignatius of Loyola said basically the same things about dealing with seasons of consolation and desolation on the spiritual journey in his Spiritual Exercises.

  • This is a great reflection and great advice–advice we should all consider very seriously.

  • QueenMab

    Excellent suggestions. Thank you.

  • RonnyTX

    Benjamin:
    5. Letting go of hope that things could be better.

    There’s plenty of things we can live without, but one can’t live without hope. As hard as it is, we’ve got to keep hope that new life can be breathed into those broken or seemingly dead areas inside of us. Sometimes we don’t know how, sometimes we don’t know when, but we’ve got to maintain hope that it can. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found towards the very end, and is a vision of God who “makes all things new.” And, as broken and screwed up as I am, the one thing I hold onto is the hope that one day God can and will make things new- that he’ll bring beauty from ashes, bind up what is broken, and water seeds of new life. It is this hope that keeps me going when nothing else does.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    Oh yeah,one day God will do all of those things and that for everybody. :-) Didn’t use to know that;but that was when I was more used to listening to and believing some people,instead of simply listening to and believing God/Jesus Christ.

    Benjamin:
    Being a wounded Christian sucks– there’s no other way to put it. And while answers and solutions aren’t always easy to come by, I’ve definitely learned some things that can make life better– simply by avoiding them.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    That’s true and that I well know,by personal experience. Been there,done that and the first part was certainly no fun! (ha)

    One thing I didn’t know,until I was 40 years old,was that if I lacked wisdom,if I wanted to know something,I was to simply ask God. Found those verses in the first chapter of James and they really shocked me,when I first say them and understood what they were saying. The same,with scripture in Acts chapter 17. There where Paul and Silas were preaching to some folks at Berea. Did those folks just believe Paul and Silas and that without question? No,they didn’t. But it says they searched the scripture,to see if what Paul and Silas said was true?! My,that was a shocker to me too,when I first saw such! For I had been brought up in church and taught to hear the preacher and what my church taught,was the same as my hearing straight from God. And if I questioned something the preacher said,I was taught I was questioning God. And if I even thought the preacher was wrong on something,then I was taught in effect,that I was calling God a liar! My,I grew up under a lot of hurtful religion,in the local church;but I so thank God,that God delivered me out of that! :-) And to put it mildly,it was a rough trip getting to that place! But it was worth it,when God brought me out on the other side! :-)

  • DrKraig

    4. Blaming God for whatever happened.

    With great power comes great responsibility. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that with ultimate power comes ultimate responsibility?

  • Only if you’re Spiderman.

  • Brandon Roberts

    agreed c:

  • Brandon Roberts

    that’s spiderman and i’m agnostic and i can’t stand the whole lame god for everything wrong that’s scapegoating and it doesn’t improve your actual problems it’s a lot better to focus on solving your problems imo

  • Superb

  • Brilliant testimony

  • Father Thyme

    Read the fine print. God is in total control and takes total responsibility of only totally positive outcomes. ;)

  • Father Thyme

    You’re from Texas. #5 is covered well in “No Country for Old Men.”

    “I always figured when I got older, God would sorta come inta my life somehow. And he didn’t.” -Ed Tom Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones)

    ;)

  • NG

    amen. Easy to say all those preachy things and make more demands on the victim, just like the abusers :(
    The ‘bitterness card’ is an easy cop-out, when people do not understand what we have been through.

    Why, oh why, is it so hard to find compassion in churches? That’s where we should be safe – but too often, not.

    Thankfully, you found compassion. May we be the ones who console instead of adding to the pain.

  • Maine_Skeptic

    Even as an ex-Christian, I can agree with almost all of your points. I even partially agree with your statement, “..We must resist the urge to walk away from faith in God because of wounds suffered at the hands of other humans…”

    If Jehovah exists and is all-loving and all-powerful, nothing human beings do or say— Christian or not— will change that goodness. Furthermore, leaving Christianity in an attempt to leave behind hateful, hurtful people won’t work, because there’s no group on earth without them. I’ve seen no indication that Christians are worse– or better– than anyone else.

    For some people, however, the behavior of Christians is critical evidence in support of their belief in Jehovah. They see Christians as better people than others– even though other people also have values they try to live by. They want to emulate these people they perceive as better, and that’s part of their motivation to be Christian. If that evidence is not there, it’s probably best to recognize it and face it. It doesn’t change the true facts, whatever they are, but it could legitimately remove one piece of evidence from consideration.

    “…I’ve definitely learned some things that can make life better– simply by avoiding them…”

    They’re wise advice, regardless of the nature of the conflict or challenge. I admire your writing and your thinking.

  • DrKraig

    Actually, it’s Voltaire, but I can understand how you would get the two confused.

  • DrKraig

    Voltaire.

  • DrKraig

    Hehe. I’m sure the Cananites would agree, we’re it not for the full scale genocide that was inflicted upon them by Jews in God’s name.

  • gimpi1

    It hurts to be wounded – no matter the belief-system or source of the hurt. I think these are pretty good suggestions for wounded people, no matter their beliefs or the source of their damage.

    Giving yourself time to process your situation before speaking up, not making hasty decisions out of pain, not lashing out at others, trying not to lay blame or give up hope, these are all good ideas for hurting people, i.e. everyone.

  • gimpi1

    You have another. A child should expect to feel safe, sheltered and loved. When they don’t, that’s wrong. You weren’t wrong to feel the way you did, those that caused those feelings were wrong. It’s not a sin to be upset or angry, and you can choose to forgive, but that’s very different from pretending that the hurt never happened.

    Part of my journey in getting past a very unforgiving nature is realizing that I can forgive without forgetting. I don’t have to pretend something never happened, I don’t have to trust the person who wronged me until they earn back my trust, and I don’t have to want them in my life. There’s a difference between forgiveness and denial, and learning that has made forgiveness easier for me.

  • gimpi1

    “Why, oh why, is it so hard to find compassion in churches?”

    I think churches often worry too much about appearances and not enough about how they are really treating people. Also, many churches appear to have a hierarchy, and worry more about supporting that hierarchy – pastor over parishioners, men over women, parents over children – than about what’s happening to individuals. I also believe that churches that are worried about tarnishing their witness would be far better off to help and support their wounded than to attempt to cover up the wounding. Cover-ups always fall apart.

  • liberalinlove

    The most difficult thing, is that my dad was a pastor, and every moment excused or explained with scripture.

    So hard to open a bible and not see condemnation. And here is the exciting part. That’s o.k. with God that I don’t read the bible like I used to. He draws near in any and every circumstance.

    For me, returning to the scenes of abuse are like visiting the abuser for a cup of fellowship.

    The Good Shepherd led me out of those dry places where the shepherds trampled the pasture and muddied the waters and has been leading me to where the oil of gladness restores my soul.

  • liberalinlove

    I believe when Jesus isn’t the cornerstone and the business of church is to be the author and finisher of people’s faith, we have a perverted gospel. Adding to the gospel is heaping on burdens. That’s exactly what Jesus admonished the Pharisees about. Not lifting a finger, but adding to the burdens of others.

  • Pat68

    Also, in speaking before we’re ready and have fully processed our thoughts, it can leave us open to well-meaning people who only end up maximizing our pain with advice we may not need. They do this because they hear our words, but rarely our hearts.

  • Mike Stidham

    More of us have heard Spiderman say it than Voltaire. I knew a callow superhero couldn’t have come up with something that profound on his own…

  • Anne

    I love #2: Making hasty life decisions that will have a long term impact. Your post arrived as I was considering a new job. Just one month ago, I was very hurt by comments made by my supervisor. I took an immediate leave of absence. On some level, I know that it is too soon to make a job change. Healing takes time and I need God’s direction. Sometimes I’m in more of a hurry than he is…

  • DrKraig

    That’s a good quote. I feel that way.

  • yuh! I have to be so careful w codependent friends who live in their reactivity.
    they wannu “fix” one soooooooooooo bad!

  • I love that last part you posted!

  • yep! it’s actually a cousin of atheism & a big daddy addiction I think!

  • Maybe it is us humans who have the great power (and therefore, responsibility) on this earth…?

  • DrKraig

    That’s the conclusion I’ve come to through life experience, but I certainly wasn’t taught that in church.

  • Ben Arrington

    I don’t think blaming God is necessarily a bad thing. Sure, he may not be directly responsible for whatever happened, but to someone who has been hurt by the church, it certainly stands to reason that God let it happen.

    I think God expects us to get angry at him. It’s part of grieving. That’s what the Gospel is all about: God putting himself between us and those we hate and saying, “hate me instead.” He can take a few punches.

  • Gordonnn

    Actually it wasn’t Spidey who said it, it was Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, played by Cliff Robertson :)

  • NG

    It’s not just the church leadership, it is often individual believers as well. Sometimes it is a way of explaining things away. ‘You are hurting. You must have done something to bring it upon yourself. If you just were a godly, obedient, forgiving person, you wouldn’t be hurting..’

    It’s a way of avoiding the responsibility of giving compassion.

  • Pat68

    And when a person is entrenched in a system, to sympathize with someone, is to admit something is wrong with the system. And in their mind, that is tantamount to disloyalty to the organization. But above all, there should be a loyalty to what is right.

  • Obscurely

    It isn’t only Christian fundies who are wounding others.

  • DrKraig

    “Sure, he may not be directly responsible for whatever happened, but to someone who has been hurt by the church, it certainly stands to reason that God let it happen.”

    Exactly.

  • DrKraig

    Was that before or after he started converting rice?

  • Gordonnn

    He was shot not long before the vicious rice cartel war broke out …

  • …i wish you would say more abt that.

  • Chandraclaws

    A wise Christian counselor told me that forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning hurtfulness. Also, it doesn’t require us to continue subjecting ourselves to abusive people.
    1. Forgive 2. Bless 3. Run!

  • Chris Dagostino

    I was in a situation that pretty much shipwrecked my faith some years ago, and I can attest to how true #5 is. It sounds cliche, but one of the best things I did was to admit to not knowing why certain things happen and to trust that God can make something good come out of all of it. (Romans 8:28) He has.

  • I’m the only active mod here, and I haven’t deleted anything from you. To be honest, I’m only even able to read about 10% of comments on any given post because of my schedule. The only other possibility is that if too many people flag a single post as being inappropriate, it will automatically be hidden.

  • Caterina Runyon-Spears

    I’m not Christian. I’m not certain I could say I was ever honestly Christian. I was told by my caregivers (my maternal grandparents) that I HAD to go to church (an Episcopal one), but no one went with me. I had no mentor with whom to discuss the lessons. My examples of “good Christianity” were of the people who did the exact things talked against by the priest/preacher. I changed churches in my teen years, but had the same experience. I grew up in an area of the country got me labelled a witch because I ready horror novels and once sat at the grave at my great-grandmother discussing my life with her (and I would swear to this day she responded to me). The “good Christians” peers in my school attempted to gang rape me. They attempted to kill me. And no one believed me so I never spoke of it until I was much, much older. Now I suffer PTSD, major depression, and crowds can make me suicidal if I cannot see a way to get out immediately.

    I’ve tried reading the Bible, but flashbacks get in the way. After all my experiences, I need a mentor, but I am also so terribly afraid to go in search of one. I’ve made a few glimpses into other religions. Some of the 10 Commandments help form my moral system. A line from Buddhism – If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. Even Wicca – And it harms none, do as you will – do not deliberately cause harm physically, mentally, emotionally to anyone, including yourself. I don’t know how to reach out, and I do be honest, I don’t even know what that first step should be.

    Your list applies to more than just wounded Christians, and it has given me a little solace. I wanted to thank you for that.

  • Obscurely

    OK thanks a bunch, Ben … I’ll pursue this with you via private email …

  • Obscurely

    It isn’t only Christian fundies who are wounding their non-fundy brothers. I was for two years a member of The Clergy Project (TCP), the support group for closeted unbelieving clergy funded by Richard Dawkins. Earlier this year my membership was “terminated” because (as a self-acknowledged free-thinking liberal agnostic minister) I “consistently made comments that could be construed as supporting religion.” The shabby fig leaf for my termination was that a new fundamentalist atheist member quit TCP, complaining of posts of mine that he deemed “friendly to Christianity.” And yet the departure of a number of liberals who left TCP (several of them my friends) because of the hostility to their free thought on the subject of religion never caused a ripple of concern. And all of this within a community whose only criteria for membership remains a rejection of supernatural beliefs — as if rejecting the supernatural means you can’t find common ground with theists, or ethical babies in their doctrinal bathwater!

  • Obscurely

    I think many ex-Christian atheists need to make a clean break with the religion that may have deeply wounded and traumatized them … that’s a natural and often therapeutic way to get on with the rest of your life — my only problem is when they take the extra step of censoring or discouraging free thought about religion among the godless who chose to find common ground with theists (for equally therapeutic reasons!) …

  • Obscurely

    If you mean why would atheists choose to find common ground with theists, my answer would be simply that when you strip away the ideologies and special language, the worlds that Christians and atheists want to build aren’t that different, are they?

  • Franper

    Maybe you continue to self-injure by seeking support groups and outward approval? Before it was church, now it is an atheist group. What next? A group of people who are unhappy with groups? Where two or more are gathered, there is disagreement. I read a book written by a universalist about how she embraced the uni church because it was so tolerant, then she was pushed out because she expressed her concerns about a new pastor, only concerns, only voiced questions she wanted answered, she wasn’t trying to put down anyone, but she was frozen out. She was shocked(!) that her uni church could be so cold and intolerant toward her concerns. I thought, welcome to the world, honey. You’re among people who are flawed.
    But why do you come to this site to post a comment, to lick your wounds. For Pete’s sake, just be who you are. Square it with scripture – or don’t square it with anything. God gives us a choice – exercise it. (He’s not like the oppressive leaders of groups or cliques, who want you to hop to their tune. Ever think of that? He’s not power-tripping because He has the power and doesn’t need to trip.)
    Okay, so you don’t believe in God.
    Just live. Shed the oversensitivity. Who cares what others think – you’ll never please them at all times in all ways.
    If you’re seeking intellectual fulfillment, build your own house church of thought. Invite people over, serve some great coffee – I’m sure folks will show up.
    I think Jesus would say “meh” to much of the chatter online. I mean, is this what living abundantly means? Hand-wringing and, when we’re not doing that, whining? I don’t think so.

  • Franper

    That’s a great question to pose to your own little intellectual group, made up of theists and atheists (the authentic kinds, not the trendy, ill-informed kinds). My take is that what you say is nice, but when you drill down, the world views are quite different.

  • Obscurely

    As a matter of fact, I’m exploring with others creating an alternative to the Clergy Project, a private online forum more for clergy who may be faithless but either want to or must remain in ministry …

  • Franper

    Best wishes – I’m sure your group will be addressing a need. A thought: online is not really a substitute for facetime. We need to be in the meaningful company of others, at times – our biology alone underscores this – we have mirror receptors in our brains that activate and respond with human interaction. If you’re introverted and tend to push away from the public, just remember, not all people are loud, clattering, pushy types. Some are quiet and gentle and have an edifying, calming influence. Your group is just that – your simpatico group.

  • Obscurely

    Thank you for the encouraging words!

  • Ruthitchka

    I’ve made the “job” mistake before. I’ve also made all the other mistakes listed above at least once. I am especially learning not to discuss things with people before I am ready, or in some cases, I just don’t discuss things at all–I’ve come to the realization that “no good can come of it”, especially with the extremely right-wing folks in my family! I learn by making lots of mistakes.

  • I love this!
    //After years of batting around the wounds of childhood and being told to forgive, to forget, to stop feeling sorry for myself, to stop sinning, to honor my parents, to give it all to Jesus, to grow up, I had one person, just one person tell me that they were really sorry I had experienced those issues and that I had not deserved any of it. That as a child I should have been able to expect certain things and needed those things to feel safe. One person to wrap their comfort around me. No preaching.
    The hurt dropped away and the healing began.//

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/908f811e05cb51027e147f85521acacf0f5289a2fd3db06b247106493dfcea34.jpg

  • Linda Coleman Allen

    Thank you for this article. It expresses so many of the things that I have gone through in my life and gives me guidance.