Let's face it. Most of us know someone or are that someone who has been 'hurt by the church'. This phrase is often followed by similar stories of how a Christian leader made some promise or statement to you, yet ended up being a complete hypocrite or neglected to follow through in the most hurtful of ways.
A black hole of resentment forms against that person and everyone associated with him/her, towards the faith based organization they belong to, and in the worst cases - resentment toward God. I'm sure Christians all over would agree in saying if what someone did to you has negatively impacted your belief in God, we feel for you and are truly sorry. It wasn't fair.
We see this all the time and it's not just in the arena of church. The hurt can even swing to the other side and become biased or even intolerant. It's all over the news - people will have one bad experience with someone different than them and proceed to tell the world through a Facebook rant that screams ''I'm OFFENDED".
It's worth noting, this hurt person may have a solid case. What happened to them could have been really unfortunate and shouldn't be tolerated either. In the end though, what I'm trying to say is
There are better ways to handle this.
Have you ever heard a girl say "My ex-boyfriend is such a jerk, I have a wall against all men now, they are ALL d-bags". Chances are you overheard me saying it. Hah just kidding. But for real, I thought this a few years ago and it didn't help my case or my heart.
We can't downplay these scenarios. It is ravaging relationships of all kinds. Being hurt sucks. Being hurt by someone who won't apologize or see what they did wrong, sucks even more. Being hurt by someone you trusted and look up to hurts almost the most.
Being hurt by someone who has influence over your identity is as painful as it gets.
I had some less than enjoyable events occur in my life. I didn't think it had affected me that much. Turns out, I was mad at a Christian charity I volunteered with because of a leader who hurt me, I was mad at God for a cancer diagnoses of a loved one, and I was mad at church itself for not being the safe place I hoped it would be.
Okay I was also mad at 'Christian' men because of a bad experience I had with one. You don't want to admit these things but the only way I could get free from all this pain was to face it head on. In doing so, I learned a few things.
1. People are imperfect and will fail you. I wish I could say I will do all the right things at the right times, but I won't. In the same way, everyone is imperfect and to expect otherwise is a sure way to be let down. It sucks a lot when people whose opinion you care about fail you, but realizing what they did was wrong is the first step in forgiving them and letting it go.
Just because a pastor didn't come to your aid like you wished he had, it doesn't mean that church sucks or God doesn't care. He's a person. He can fall short sometimes and he probably doesn't even realize it. Confronting the pain is the first step in not harboring resentment that will eat at you. It's always helpful to let the person know they've hurt you and then to release them of that injury. Once you've done that, you can show them grace and yourself grace you didn't know you had. Move on. It's possible.
2. Your identity should not be in what someone thinks of you. This is a hard one. Have you been rejected by a guy or girl and utterly heartbroken? Has someone you admired criticized you for something you don't think was fair? This isn't easy to handle but the good news is when you realize people's opinions of you are not the truth, you can see the light and forget what they said with ease.
Rejection is hard to bear, but God does not reject us. He says he can't love us any more or any less than we are at this moment. If someone else is unable to see how amazing you are, that's their problem. You don't want to end up with someone who sees you as mediocre anyways. Count it a blessing when things don't work out with a significant other, and don't hold on to what people say. Lots of times, people who criticize do so from their own place of pain. They are often just projecting their own feelings about themselves. Let it go.
3. Give God a chance. I challenge you to not put God in a box or keep him out of certain areas of your life just because of what someone did to you. Go to the source. Go directly to God, tell him what you think, and let Him show you how he see's you. In my opinion, this is the most healing thing you can do because nothing and nobody can take this away from you. It's your secret with God, creator of the universe. Don't you deserve to know what he thinks? Try it out.
Give people a chance. Give God a chance. Have mercy on yourself and on others. Peace.