But I trusted you… What to do when your pastor hurts you
But I trusted you… What to do when your pastor hurts you
It’s a horrible thing to feel betrayed by the very people we trust the most. When you walk into the office of a pastor or a minister, you naturally feel a level of trust. You may try to deny it, but by nature of their vocation and your need to trust them, you probably will trust them.
Since I am a minister, I’ve been on both sides of that coin. Unfortunately, I’ve also been the one to break that trust. I betrayed those who trusted me in my very public fall from grace many years ago, and believe me, many people took that personally. And well they should have. They trusted me, and I failed them. The pain I put those people through was a mystery to me for a long time. I didn’t understand why my personal life was such a concern to them, but eventually I came to understand that they trusted me as their minister, and consequently, I betrayed that trust when I sinned in such a grievous manner. It took a long time for me to gain that trust back, and truthfully I know that in the eyes of some I never will make up for it. However, I have repented and sought forgiveness where I could.
But what I have also experienced and what I have since counseled many about is trying to figure out what to do when we are betrayed by those in ministry who do not seek forgiveness, who actually never even admit doing wrong? What do we do with those feelings of anger and hurt against those who we trust so much? How do we forgive those with whom we have been
vulnerable when they hurt us? The hurts can be emotional or spiritual, or even physical or sexual in nature. How do we forgive those who have taken up the mantel of spiritual leadership when they hurt us in devastating ways, especially when they don’t seek forgiveness?
Most likely, many of us have experienced this, and what is also likely is that we’ve heard this well-meant mantra from someone: “Well, they’re only human. You have to forgive.”
Ha! That’s a lot easier to say than to do! Yes, of course they are only human. We are all only human, but being human is no excuse for sin. Knowing that they’re only human is also not a magic blanket that we can throw over a festering wound that makes everything all better. Certainly we can know that fact, and certainly we can move toward living in that fact, but knowing the existence of an offender’s humanity doesn’t instantaneously erase the pain that same offender’s actions have on our lives.
The question still remains: What do we do with these feelings? I don’t know about you, but I have to live in this reality. Right now, every time I meet a pastor who even begins to remind me of the pastor who hurt me, I want to run!
What I want to know right now is how to keep my past hurts from dictating my present circumstances. Don’t you?
As a writer, I’m all about alliteration, which I know makes my high school English teachers happy. Consequently, I’ve come up with the “3 P’s” that I think will break this cycle of pain that many of us have suffered, thereby truly helping us keep our present safely protected from our past. Getting free from the pain is really all about these “3 P’s”:
Interestingly, I’m not really referring to your power, at least not directly. I’m really referring to whom you’re giving your power. It takes a lot of energy to be angry, and it takes a lot of spiritual energy to hang onto that anger. When I allow anyone, even a person in pastoral authority, to have the kind of power that is actually mine to begin with, then I’m foolishly giving away something that I desperately need.
You see, dear friend, Satan loves it when we give away the very thing we need to combat him. What I need is the power that God has already given me in Christ Jesus to do battle daily with the devil and everything he does to take my mind off of the job at hand, which is displaying and telling of the Gospel of Jesus. That takes energy. It takes knowledge. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit.
However, if I’m expending energy on anger with a person to no avail, waiting on retribution or justice or whatever, not only am I stepping out of line in terms of my own expectations and rights (Romans 12:18-21), I’m wasting valuable spiritual fuel! I’m giving the person who hurt me power over me, instead of using the power that was given to me by God for God!
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8)
Why would I want to give that power away?
One of my favorite topics on which to both write and speak is perspective. It is my contingency that everything in our lives and the way that we view those things are matters of perspective. How we live, how we love, how we grow, how we learn, and how we react are all matters of perspective. If I choose to see things from a perspective of the here and now, or from an “earthly perspective,” if you will, then I will always live and love and grow and learn and react from a temporary and earthly place. That is the perspective of the unsaved, which is not mine to share, and if you are a child of God, it isn’t yours either.
We are people of eternity, and inasmuch as that is true, we must strive to see everything in our lives from a perspective of eternity. That includes our hurts and betrayals, even those we have suffered at the hands of those who seemingly are leading us toward eternal things. That’s not easy. As a matter of fact, separating those two things can be extremely difficult, especially because it requires that we take two spiritual matters and see them as two distinctly different things.
When a person ministering to us about our eternal relationship with God hurts us, it’s hard to separate that from our actual eternal relationship, but that’s exactly what we must do. Believe me, when one day we stand face to face with our Bridegroom, the only thing that will matter will be Him! He will look lovingly into our eyes, and His words to us will be of love. He won’t discuss with you the failings of any other person, nor will He discuss with you His love foranyone else but for you. You will be lost in awe and wonder and absolute unfathomable joy forever and ever from that second on!
I’m absolutely convinced that if each one of us could live today with our eyes fixed on that reality, then the present hurts and past pains of this day would mean very little.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18 ESV)
And finally, we must see victory in this area of our lives as one of protection, not over our hearts but over our worship. A very good friend just reminded me recently that my number one priority while on this planet is not to minister to women, which often gets all of my attention.
It’s not even about loving my husband and my children or my fellow man, though those things are exceptionally important. No, my number one priority on this planet and the thing I must protect from the danger that bitterness and unforgiveness bring is ministering to my Father. It is worshiping my Lord.
When we hold onto these kinds of hurts, especially against those who God has placed in leadership in the church, (whether or not they are repentant about the pain they have caused you and me), we are actively neglecting the love and worship we are to give to our Father. James reminds us that both salt and fresh water cannot come from the same spring (James 3:11). Likewise, we can’t curse and hold anger towards men and women, most especially those in the church, and minister unto God. It simply doesn’t work. Consequently, we have to make a choice. Be mad or minister to God. Seek retribution or protect our worship.
Power. Perspective. Protection. I’m not going to be so trite as to say that it is easy, because it absolutely isn’t. But it is necessary. What isn’t necessary is the pain. People of eternity are not people of pain. We are people of freedom.
It’s not easy, but it is simple. Most good things are.
Dr. Deborah Waterbury is the founder of Love Everlasting Ministries, and has authored nine books. Dr. Waterbury travels extensively, both nationally and abroad, leading conferences and teaching seminars and is the founder of the Reap What You Sew Project in Africa (RWYS.org). She hosts a daily live, call-in radio show called “Doing Life with Dr. Deb,” (kgms.com) and spends a great deal of her time writing curriculum as well as allegorical novels, including her popular series, The Painted Window Trilogy. Dr. Waterbury holds a Masters in the Art of Teaching from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, and acquired her Doctorate of Ministry in Biblical Expository Studies from Pillsbury Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Jeff. For more information, visit http://www.DebWaterbury.com.