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Hurt in the Church: How to Handle this Common Problem

Overcoming Hurt in the Church

It’s nearly impossible to avoid being hurt in life.  From the time we learn to walk, we’re getting bumps, bruises, and scraped knees. As we grow, we encounter bullies, teasing, and probably a few broken hearts. As adults, we continue to experience pain and it often involves being hurt by other people.  But, it does seem to sting a little more when that hurt comes from members of our own church.

hurtRyan McGuide/ Pixabay.com

Common Types of Hurt Experienced in Church

The types of hurt experienced in the church come in all shapes and sizes. There are times when others overuse their mouths and say things that they shouldn’t.  They gossip, develop judgmental attitudes, display rude behavior and more.  However, there are also times when people are too quiet. They don’t tell you what you needed to know, for example, that an important meeting was cancelled.  I have personally been the victim of both kinds and have several battle scars to prove it.  But to be brutally honest, I have also caused just as much pain for others as I have experienced myself.

Never Good Enough

One of the major issues I have dealt with in my early years was being told that I was never good enough and did not meet the expectations.  I had developed the impression that God was sitting on His judgment seat just waiting for me to slip up and down the mallet would come – “guilty no trial necessary!”  It didn’t matter how hard I tried, the bar was so high (not to mention I am under 5 feet tall) that without a spiritual stepladder I had little hope of success.

You’re Not That Important

Another thing that happened one too many times was being left “out of the loop” and feeling like I just wasn’t that important.  A few people would get together to work on a special project and would not let me know.  It appeared as if a special invitation was needed to serve and I did not receive one.  Whether it was intentional or not, I frequently felt like an outsider looking in but not welcome.

3 Ways to Properly Deal with Church Hurts

I’m sure if we all began to share, the list of human being hurting each other inside church walls would be quite lengthy. There are times that it is appropriate to open old wounds and clean them out.  Today, I want to focus on the three major ways you can handle dealing with those hurts that occur in a place that is intended to spiritually build us up.  Each situation is unique, so it is important to choose the right path for the circumstances you find yourself.

  1. Run.

    I’m not kidding here; there really is a time to high tail it out of there, faster than a Pennsylvania white-tailed deer!  If you find yourself in a place, where verbal attacks are the norm and there is no system in place to correct hurtful behavior, it may not be worth your time to fight the battle.  Spiritual Health is important, both for the church as a whole and each individual that is part of a church.  You deserve to be able to worship without uncontrolled nonsense going on around you.  This is not always the best way to go, but you should consider it as a valid option.

  2. Take the High Road.

    Most churches promote ethical and moral values.  It is important for us to learn to forgive others, not to jump to conclusions, and to cut others some slack. There are times when people don’t even realize their behavior it hurting other people. Have the courage to delicately discuss your concerns and follow those moral and ethical principles that you have been learning about for years.

  3. Give the Process Time to Work.

    The first two approaches allow you to resolve the situation quickly.  This third approach is more of a wait and see plan.  Some situations are too complicated to simply wave a magic wand and make all things better.  However, no one expects you to hang in there forever if things are not improving.  This might also be seen as a “tough love” approach.  You do allow a person or situation time to be worked out.  But, you refuse to allow yourself to be a doormat.

Reflection Questions

  1.  How have you dealt with church hurts in the past?
  2.  Are you currently experiencing pain that is related to something you experienced in the church?
  3. Which of the three approaches seem best for your situation?

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you, Dr. Terri, for your realistic, concise and nuanced approach to this phenomenon. Hurt will happen any time human beings get together for any length of time to work on a common goal, and the church is no exception. It’s been my experience that many people focus exclusively on Option #1 when hurt occurs. (I find your counsel about when to “high-tail” it out of a congregation sound. Unbridled attacks with nothing in place to stop them would indeed be a toxic spiritual environment!) I appreciate your emphasis on the time that Option #3 would take. I believe this relates well with what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-20. Following Jesus’ teaching about resolving conflict does indeed require time, energy and courage.

  2. Hi Blaik,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the topic of hurt in the church. In a bible study I am currently a part of, we have been discussing the “default method” of behavior. Much like default options on the computer, many of us tend to live life using the default method. We don’t put much thought into anything we do, we just let instinct take over. The problem with that, is that sometimes our instinct stinks and sends us down a wrong path only leading to more trouble.

    Regarding hurt in the church, it’s important to remember that we do have choices. We don’t have to fall into our default method all the time. In my experience, a solution can usually be found (Options 2 & 3) if those involved are willing to look for it. Seek and you shall find (Matthew 7:7).

    Dr. Terri

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