Trauma Makes People Uncomfortable

remember the mistreated

“Another reason that people blame the victim is that they mis-read the effects of trauma. All the effects of trauma — the way victims respond to trauma — are highly sensible and understandable, given how scary and dangerous and trauma and abuse is.
High anxiety, sudden anger, fear at ‘little’ things, easily triggered startle reactions, tearfulness, emotional numbing, dissociation, emotional lability, etc, are all responses to trauma. But most people dont’ understand that and when they see those things in the victim they think she or he is ‘crazy’. This video shows Lundy Bancroft talking about this.”

Taken From this comment.


I think I posted this link before:

“Several years ago an older sister said to me, “I have never had a soft place to fall here.” Those words revisit me and trouble me over and over. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what church is supposed to be?
Too often in the body of Christ, groups form. Our prejudices build walls. And those on the other side of the wall feel less like family and more like outsiders. They feel like they can’t be real. They can’t be themselves. They can’t be flawed and be accepted. They simply don’t feel like they have a soft place to fall.
No matter what name you put on a church, a church like that isn’t a church that belongs to Christ.”

MUCH more at the link.

Doctrine is important, but love is also part of doctrine.

How do you know if you are part of the solution or part of the problem?

Here’s one way of assessing that: Click through and read the whole article.  If your reaction to reading the article is in any way to begin first with some form of blaming those who doing the falling (but they… but people need to… but if they…. yes, but they have to…. but, but, but….) , then you are part of the wall that makes those on the outside feel less like family or even potential family, and more like rejects who never can be family.

You know what else isn’t an encouraging or helpful response, even though people think it is?  “But that’s what the church is for.”

Of course that’s one of the things God intended the church to be for those in pain, but the truth is that in our modern churches for far too many people, that is mostly not what it is.  When somebody shares with you some version of “I’ve never had a soft place to fall here,” and your response is along the lines of ‘that’s what church is for,” I am quite sure that what you mean to be communicating is ‘c’mon in, the water’s fine, that’s what the church is for.’  But when they’ve just managed to do, somehow, in some broken fashion, past their inadequacy and pain and humiliation , is to tell you that is exactly not what the church is for and to them- and so that ‘but that’s what the church is for’ response communicates to them is, “So what’s wrong with you?”

For many, many people, rather than church being a healing place for their pain, it is the house of pain.

The following comes from Les Ferguson’s blog, although he didn’t write it. Les is a minister.  His disabled son was horribly sexually abused by a well loved and highly trusted elderly member of his congregation.  When Les and his wife learned of the abuse, they did the right thing- they went to the police.  The well loved and highly respected church member went to their house and murdered Les’s wife and their son before killing himself.  Les understands the agony, grief, and horror better than most, and he is never trite about it.

He shares a post from Pam McCutcheon, a woman whose son died at 18, and I think it will resonate with many who find church a burdensome or soul lacerating experience for whatever various reasons:

church is a house of pain, on many levels, since Max was killed.

First and foremost, my grief lives deep down in my soul.  A vulnerable place.  That same place in my soul that I tap in to when I worship God.  The tears naturally come.  And I refuse to “play” church and keep a happy face on.  I bawl when praise music starts.  God is fully worthy of my praise.  But (He already knows this, it’s well discussed territory), I am mad at Him for the decision to take Max to heaven at 18. I cannot sing about the faithfulness of God when I know very well I feel like He betrayed my trust.  I cannot sing about His goodness, even though I know and believe He is good.  Not in public.  I know others cry in church.  But I don’t have a ‘pretty’ cry.  My face gets red, I am vocal, and I melt down.  I’m a spectacle and truly, I don’t want people gawking at me when I’m that exposed.  It was much easier for me to sing “I Surrender All” when it didn’t require me surrendering my oldest child to death

Secondly, I have been betrayed by those who genuinely love and follow Jesus.  Some do not know how to minister to grieving people.  Some can only do it for a short while. I’m not talking about those people, although they have hurt me because I truly needed them and they weren’t there.  No.  I’m talking about the horrible things said “in the name of Christ”, or “telling the truth in love”, both phrases thrown around with too many cliches that have no meaning or power in my grief.  I am not going to get too specific because I hope to mend those fences someday, even if I have to wait until I reach eternity for unity again.  The self-righteous, smug, advice-givers inflict the most damage.  And they are not the reason I stay away from church.  But they certainly contribute to the church being a house of pain.  I do not doubt that they love Jesus, but they surely don’t reflect His heart for grieving people.


Somebody, I am sure with the warmest and most sympathetic of intentions, told me that ‘if we can’t cry together in church, what are we doing here?’ as though that were an actual reflection of reality. I know that she meant to be optimistic and encouraging and upbeat and supportive. But it’s not reality for most.  I’m going to venture a guess and say that’s not the sort of thing Pam McCutcheon would find helpful, either.

But think about it.  Really- picture somebody you know who cries a lot in church.  What is the general reaction, week after week, when that same person keeps breaking down and crying.  Is church really the place for crying together? It would be nice if it were true.

Based on what I’ve seen in my journey of life, I think if the same person sat in church crying with noisy grief more than once or twice, it would indeed not be well received at all.  They would become ‘that’ person.  They would slide down to the bottom of that invisible but very real hierarchy ladder- they would become a project rather than a beloved and cherished member of the church family.  People would pat them on the shoulder and hug them, but it would become more and more perfunctory, it would feel more and more tiresome and the advice would begin- it’s time to move on.  Put it behind you.  Try harder.  We all have our cross to bear.  And if the issue includes sexual abuse and betrayal, then the forgive and forget mantra will begin, along with sickening, dismissive, false equivilance things like, “He’s a victim, too. We are all sinners. There but for the grace of God… You really need to forgive him and move on…’

I’ve done this, too, so I’m not throwing stones.  The glass walls of my house are far too thin for that.   I think there’s a reason God commends those who are slow to speak, and chides those who are quick to speak, or who use too many words (oops, that would be me).  Many of the most hurtful things that have been said by the most well-meaning people could have been averted by the well-meaning simply allowing a pause, and taking the time to think about how those words will come across.  Are they words that encourage further open communication, or words that put a gate across that bridge, that block people off?  Do those words have the effect of negating the other person’s experience and feelings?  Are your words open ended and supportive or are you trying to fix or correct the other person’s feelings?

Sometimes, in some situations, that may be needed, but I am gonna guess probably not ever when somebody is tearfully sharing great heart-ache and pain.  Usually, the best thing you can do for somebody like that is to listen, to love them, to hug them, to express sympathy.

There are some other things not to say here– it’s a long read, but a good one.


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