By now we’ve all seen the social media posts of “Me too”. Women everywhere are standing up, some for the first time, and identifying as victims of sexual harassment or violence. For many people, this is an empowering and healing thing, as women who’ve been hurt find each other. This is one way in which social media can be an incredible catalyst for good, bringing people together and building community.
And then sometimes well-meaning Christians go and botch the whole thing.
I recently saw this response on Facebook:
“Me too” but when you come to Christ you are giving all of yourself to him, and the past is left in the past, as you forgive those who have hurt you. You are a new creation and you don’t live to be understood. You live to serve those who are still living for the world and you boast in your weaknesses, because God is your true strength. We have a peace that transcends all understanding In Jesus Christ. It’s not that we forget, but we forgive because what Christ did for us on the cross at Calvary for each one of us. God is our healer and transforms our minds from the inside out, as we learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Praying without ceasing. God transforms us into his liking and we leave the past behind. Loving those who have done us wrong, becoming the light and living to share the good news, with the world one person at a time.
If you have ever been a victim, you already know why this was the wrong thing to say.
If you haven’t, let me try to explain.
There’s a little saying I use with my kids to help them decide whether they should open their mouths and say whatever thing they’re thinking about saying: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it helpful?”
Everything in this response is true. Yes, we are a new creation, yes we live to serve others, yes God is our true strength. Of course God is our healer and transforms us. That’s not really the point. There is a time and place for each of these statements, and directly after a person has admitted to an old and painful wound is not the time.
Pain is real. Physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain. Last year, my daughter broke a bone in her hand. Although we couldn’t see her wound, her pain was deep and real. It kept her from sleeping. It made her quiet and withdrawn. After it was casted and she was medicated, we knew that it was going to heal and she would be back to her old strength at some point, but we didn’t expect her to immediately act like herself. We gave her time and space to do the healing. We sympathized with her. We held her. We made sure she was warm and safe and comfortable. Because healing takes time.
They say time heals all wounds, but the truth is that time heals clean wounds. If a wound was received many years ago and, instead of immediately being cleaned up and taken care of, it was stuffed down inside and hidden, that wound has not healed. In fact, it’s probably been festering deep inside, growing infected and tender. For these women who are sharing their stories, it’s like finally bringing that old wound out into the open, into the air, ready to begin to heal.
The first thing is to lance it – let it all out, let it bleed, let it be washed and let the sun shine on it. That part is incredibly painful. Only when that’s been done can we bandage it and wrap the victim in warmth and comfort and let the healing process begin. Even then, it can take years of prayer and support before a person is truly free from emotional pain. Healing is a process. So is faith.
Hearing words like, “You need to love the ones who hurt you,” or “God commands us to forgive others,” or “The past is the past, it’s time to move on,” can be like a slap in the face while you’re already reeling. It isn’t kind. It isn’t helpful.
What these women need is understanding. They need to be heard. They need not to be given a timeline to follow in their healing. They need genuine, intercessory prayer. They absolutely do not need Christian platitudes and pat, lukewarm answers to their very real grief.
Jesus never did that. He did say, “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
So what can we do? Well, first consider the source. Is this a person you know? Like, actually, in real life, have a relationship with? If the answer is no, you do nothing but possibly offer some encouragement along the lines of, “That was brave of you, I hope you find the help you need.”
If this person is a real-life acquaintance, but not a close friend, you can potentially offer something more, like the name of a group nearby that might be helpful or an offer to pray.
If the person is a friend, consider offering to listen.
Only if this person is a very close friend who has allowed you to speak into her life before should you dispense advise or criticism.
Above all, ask yourself, “Am I answering this person in an effort to understand/encourage/help her? Or am I answering as a way to insert myself into the conversation and make my opinion/objection/voice heard?” Then take the high road.
It doesn’t have to make sense to you. Personally, I’ve never been sexually assaulted. My experience doesn’t negate the experience of others. I can still believe, and listen, and support.
Let’s all do our small part for healing. It’s what Jesus would do.
If you have a story you’d like to share, please feel free to do so here, and my prayers will be for you. Opinions are welcome, but please keep it civil.