Woundedness: a condition this side of heaven we all will face from time-to-time. Pastors are not immune. I’ve been hurt and you probably have been as well. If you’re a wounded pastor right now because of what someone in your church or family said or did, what should you do? Consider these five critical choices that can help you deal with your hurt.
1. Recognize and acknowledge your basic behavioral response when you get hurt.
God wired our brains to act quickly when we feel threatened. Two small almond shaped clusters of neurons (brain cells) called the amygdala lie deep in the brain. When we feel danger or threat (i.e., someone hurts us), they enable us to respond quickly. Although they are quick to respond, they don’t differentiate very well between a real tiger in the woods (real danger when we need to run to keep from getting eaten) and a paper tiger (someone in your church who said something hurtful to you).
Here are the four basic responses to hurt. When we become aware which one is our predominant reaction, we can then become more proactive to keep it under control.
• Fight: We react, become defensive, yell, scream, refuse to yield.
• Flee: We physically or emotionally cut ourselves off from others, become passive aggressive, quit talking, shut down.
• Freeze: We don’t take any position, we stay neutral and don’t do anything when we should do something.
• Appease: We people please, try to keep the peace at any price, compromise convictions, enable the person to continue in his or her hurtful behavior.
2. Act as if.
Jesus said in Luke 6:27 that we must love our enemies. The word for love is the word agape, a love that is not based on the merits of the other person. This love is not something that happens to you (i.e., like someone who falls in love). Rather agape love is a choice of our will superintended by the Holy Spirit that allows us to love the offender even when we don’t feel like it. It is an “act as if” kind of love.
3. Guard your tongue.
When someone hurts us it’s easy to lose control over what we say in return. Jesus says in Luke 6:28 that we must bless those who curse us. To bless is the opposite of cursing. It is using our words in a God-honoring way rather than in a vindictive or a tit-for-tat way.
4. Wish the best for your offender.
Again in Luke 6 Jesus makes some astounding statements about how we should treat those who have hurt us: turn the other cheek, bless them, pray for them. When Jesus makes these statements he’s not prohibiting self-defense. Neither does he imply that we should pray that our offender would continue in his or her hurtful ways or that they should necessarily get their way. Rather, he’s saying that as we pray we pray for God’s best for that person. Often their greatest need is for true repentance so that they can experience God’s forgiveness. John Piper aptly explains what it means to pray for and wish the best for our offenders:
Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want that something good happen to them. You might do nice things for your enemy without any genuine desire that things go well with them. But prayer for them is in the presence of God who knows your heart, and prayer is interceding with God on their behalf. It may be for their conversion. It may be for their repentance. It may be that they would be awakened to the enmity in their hearts. It may be that they will be stopped in their downward spiral of sin, even if it takes disease or calamity to do it. But the prayer Jesus has in mind here is always for their good.
5. Lean into Jesus.
Jesus commands in Luke 6 may seem like nonsense statements. If you’ve been deeply hurt, these first four choices are impossible on willpower alone. It takes supernatural strength to respond in a godly way to those who hurt us deeply. When we lean into Jesus and respond appropriately to such hurt, we act most like God. When we lean into him, the Holy Spirit will give us the strength we need to not yield to our default responses. Rather, he will give us the wisdom, stamina and strength to respond to our offender in a God-honoring way.
What has helped you deal with hurts in ministry?
Charles Stone is the senior pastor of West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, the founder of StoneWell Ministries and the author of several books. This post was originally published on CharlesStone.com.