Spiritual Abuse, What Not to Say, Jonathan Hollingsworth
Being hurt at church is tough, and sometimes it’s a lonely journey. You may have experienced something that other congregants have not experienced. Some people may have good intentions, but say things that are not helpful, and in fact, may be hurtful. This can lead to more isolation as you don’t know who is safe to talk to. This can lead hurt people to stay away from church entirely.
One of the most confusing things about spiritual abuse is that not everyone is able to identify spiritual abuse. I remember dropping hints to people seeing if they would acknowledge my experiences or even add to them. Thankfully, many did, and I didn’t feel alone.
I posted an old article by Jonathan Hollingsworth, What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Been Hurt by the Church, on Twitter and the SSB Facebook page which seems to have resonated with a lot of people. I thought it might be a good idea to discuss these unhelpful statements one by one here, and give people the opportunity to share their experiences.
Remember, one of the best ways for others to learn about spiritual abuse is for them to read the personal stories of others. When people can identify with your story, and you are naming it as spiritual abuse, it opens their eyes to the reality that what they experienced could have been abusive. Some people can sit with that uncertainty for years, but it will be one person’s story that will wake them up to their spiritually abusive reality.
Here is the first bad response that many of us have heard:
“No Church Is Perfect.”
Jonathan Hollingsworth writes:
Instead of empathizing with those who have been hurt by a church, some Christians go right into defense mode.
They might argue that the victim just had a “bad experience.” Or they’ll say the church is full of imperfect people who are “only human” and make mistakes just like the rest of us.
But can we agree that these excuses only distract from the problem? No one wants to be told to “focus on all the good things the church does” when they’ve been hurt by one. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of people have been positively affected by a church or ministry. The good experiences don’t cancel out the bad ones.
When I heard this said to me, it minimized the abuse and said that I need to toughen up and put up with what I was experiencing. It’s kind of like telling a victim of domestic violence that their violent husband is not perfect, just cut him some slack. It also could imply that other churches could be worse.
Did anyone say this to you? How did you react/respond to this unhelpful response?