This one is different. The story I mean. She didn’t say most of what she could, but what she did say is powerful. And true.
The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21) and Jesus said the truth shall set you free (John 8:32).
by Glenn Mitchell
I thought long and hard about what I would want to say if given this opportunity. So, here I am, in the opportunity. I wrote twelve pages of stories, none of it feeling like it was my message, the thing God would want me say when given this opportunity.
Then recently at dinner with my Healing Place group I had a thought when I was waiting for my turn to speak and I realized… this is the message. When they read this, they will be a little surprised as I decided not to share this at dinner. Here we go.
Our conversation was centered around what children suffer at the hands of their parents. From children with addicted parents, to children with a narcissistic parent and kind of everything in between. We talked about how we parent in light of how we were parented. We talked about children who don’t really interact with their unstable grandparents and what choices we make to guide our children through these life defining times.
Light Bulb Moment
That’s when the thought came. “They just need someone to tell them this is not okay.” Light bulb moment.
See my daughter had a really bad day not too long ago because of a toxic person that said a really sucky thing to her. I am always the one giving her life advice and I remember being 15. I just thought this one time, maybe she should talk to someone who knows this person as well and get their perspective. So she did. The person told her, “This is not okay! No matter who you are, no matter who they are and no matter their reason. It’s not right. It should never happen.”
After the call, my oldest felt 100% better. She realized she should have spoken about it a long time before she actually did. The other person gave no real advice. They did not try to fix it. They did not tell her to let it roll off her back, nor did they make her feel as if maybe she misunderstood.
I was very pleased with how healing that was for her. Even surprised, I would say, by her physical change. Her posture was back to upright, her voice was firm again and she moved on quickly. I believe a huge part of it, was that the other person was bold enough to stand up and say “this is wrong,” no matter who was listening.
That has not always been the case. Even at 15 she has felt people who should be more concerned with protecting her, are sometimes too scared to speak up, for fear of the repercussions.
It’s Not Okay
All this came crashing down on me at dinner in a split second. This is what I would want to say, if given the opportunity.
Love people enough to say “this is wrong” no matter who is listening.
“This is not okay.”
You may say to yourself, well who would not? Sometimes it’s the very people you once sat in small group with who said they were your brothers and sisters. People you prayed with and prayed for. And when it’s people you have been vulnerable with and people you have an expectation of protection with… that is where the deep hurt for most in church comes from.
I could have written about leadership issues and abuse. I could write about a lead staff who was obsessed with my then husband, or about being called and labeled a jezebel many times. I could write about the gossip I was handed by leaders to shape my opinion of others…. all of which confused me and made me question a lot.
But when I sit and think about where the underlying unresolved pain comes from……it comes from people I wish would love me enough to say to me, “Hey… that’s just not right.”
It Is Your Business
All too often what happens though, is well meaning “church folk” say that if it didn’t happen to them, it’s none of their business. Church abuse is the ONLY abuse where it is not only acceptable, but is favored to blame and shame the victim while defending and protecting the abuser. We don’t tell children who suffer mental or verbal abuse, “well, it’s not happening to me… so I’ll just stay out of it.” We don’t say that to battered wives, to sexually harassed coworkers, nor to the victims of school yard bullies. We generally ask for accountability and reform in these situations. But if a church is involved, then it becomes ‘mum’s the word’, turn a blind eye, and no matter what, protect the machine running it all.
Here is what we, who have left on our own, or have been asked to leave a church, need in order for us to be able to regain our posture, and be able to heal. We need to be seen and we need someone to love us enough to say it wasn’t right. You don’t have to say anything else. You don’t have to leave the church. You don’t have to scream it from a mountaintop. You don’t have to do it publicly or even in person. But please, do not create a storyline that makes us wrong and your staff right. Please do not tell us it wasn’t “like that.”
I have never read in the Bible where Jesus told the prostitute who was about to be stoned, “well honey, that’s church government… they have the ‘right’ to stone you and call you names.” Nope, that is not in my translation anywhere. When you come upon a conversation with “us” you can choose to be like Jesus or you can choose to be like the religious leaders of that day. But just know, there is some kind of healing magic that happens when your pain is validated. I’m not asking for it to be justified, just validated. I want to be told I am as important to your life outside of the church as you pretended I was while inside the church.
“… You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.” -Jesus
John 8:15 NASB