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Emotional Health

What Do I Do When My Teenager Has Experienced Hurt in the Church?

We all know the pain of being hurt by someone, whether that is a stranger we barely know or a close friend or family member. We understand that living in a fallen world there are going to be moments where we are hurt by others and even moments where we ourselves do the hurting. Dealing with these challenges is never easy, especially when we are experiencing those hurts in the context of the local church.

The reality of being hurt by others in the church is something that everyone is likely to feel to some degree and at some point, if they are seeking to invest in meaningful relationships with others. As parents, it can be difficult to engage in conversations about church hurt with our families. The thoughts come flooding in like “What if they stop going to church?” “What if they turn away from their faith?” The questions can often keep us fearful or silent, but we should not allow them to cause us to miss the opportunity to engage in this important conversation with our teenagers.

When we experience or are made aware of the hurt that has taken place in the church, it is important that before we decide to act or ignore it, we simply pause and consider the situation at hand. Performing a triage to determine how strongly to react to the particular situation will be helpful in walking your teenager through that situation and others that could follow. Let me be clear that not all church hurt is the same. There is a distinct difference between a hurtful comment and a truly abusive situation. Because all hurt is not the same, we must not handle it all the same. The purpose of this resource is to help you navigate those areas that deal with hurtful words and experiences for your family. Here are four steps to help your teen and your family to process hurt.

First pray 

This may seem like something we should be doing regardless, but it is important that we take our hurts and concerns to the Lord in honest prayer. Praying shapes our own hearts by reminding us that God is not the source of our hurt but He is the source of our healing. It also helps ensure that deep hurt suffered by others does not result in a life that turns away from God, but rather to Him. Pray first with your teenager, but also encourage them to bring their hurts to God.

Pursue reconciliation 

Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” In cases of extreme abuse, we must provide physical and emotional protection for our children by removing them from the presence and influence of an abuser. However, in regular instances of hurt that will occur, we can use the difficult moments to teach our kids about pursuing reconciliation, choosing forgiveness, and living in peace. The hurt your teenager faces can lead to a hopeful conversation about the gospel and the need we all have for forgiveness and reconciliation with Christ and one another. Matthew 18 gives more detail about the process and importance of pursuing reconciliation with another follower of Christ.

Be aware of your own hurt 

As parents, we must be aware of some unique challenges we face when guiding our children through hurt, especially when our own heart has likely felt similar hurt either from the current situation or in similar ways in the past. Be aware of your tendencies. Maybe you struggle with being dismissive when a legitimate problem exists or maybe you tend to be obsessive over hurts and not let them go. Maybe you find yourself easily anxious because you were bullied a lot as a kid or overly critical of others because you want to control the situation. Admit those feelings to yourself and intentionally turn your heart to the hope of the gospel knowing it is what our families truly need.

Commit to act in love 

While it is important to recognize and deal with significant hurt, we must help our families resolve that we will act in love toward others, even those who hurt us. This does not dismiss the hurt, but in many ways takes away its control over our hearts because we focus on what we can do moving forward. As you process hurt, commit to walking together as a family and putting your hope in Christ.