The one thing to say to the spiritually wounded


I am a hurt, scared little girl. I am a brave, overcoming woman.

I am both at the same time.

I’ve been hurt by controlling church leaders, by judgmental Christians, by religious people who wanted me to look just like them. For years, I let the hurt eat away at me, slowly severing the cord that held me to God. I’m so scared afraid of offending people, afraid of being talked about behind my back, afraid of what friends will think. But in braveness, I am speaking up.

Sometimes when the hurt mixes with the brave, it looks a lot like anger. 

The spiritually wounded are often just too much for Christians to handle. They see the hurt and the bravery but they confuse it for anger. We are told anger isn’t productive. They want us to find healing, but they want it done in a timely fashion, and they want to put pretty little bows on their finished product. In the meantime, we are asked to not speak out too much, lest we cause someone else to “stumble”. Around Christians, I worry my language is too rough, my perspective too secular, my hurt is too deep.

This is why I’m anxious around church leaders.

A few days ago, my husband and I met up for dinner with his childhood pastor. He is also the pastor who married us five years ago, when I was a different person. We’ll call him Pastor D.

I fretted the whole drive over whether Pastor D had seen my post about how I think pastors need to come down from their pedestals. Joe assured me he probably hadn’t, but that it shouldn’t matter if he had.

Of course when we walked in the door, the first thing Pastor D said to me was that he reads my blog.

“Oh you do?” I asked, nervous.

“Yes, I saw the recent one about pastors.”

The brave-hurt-scared-girl-woman rose up, all the parts in equal measure, and I braced myself for what was to come. A part of me was ready to apologize and tell him how I didn’t mean to offend All Pastors, and assure him I wasn’t talking about him. It is so much easier to hide behind a blog and tell my stories to a screen. When face-to-face, I am really just a little girl terrified of hurting people’s feelings – also of being rejected, written off, judged.

The other part of me prepared for battle. I was ready to defend myself, to stand behind my words, to deflect whatever judgment might be flung at me.

“I thought it was great, and so true, and needed to be said,” he said. “Keep writing.”

Instantly, I crumbled. The scared little girl felt safe. The brave woman was humbled. And a little part of me was healed.

Pastor D is just the type of person I thought my writing would offend, and just the type of person I thought wouldn’t understand my story. He’s nothing like the toxic church leaders I lashed out at last week, but I thought he’d have a little lesson for me on not denigrating the Bride of Christ. Perhaps he’d throw in some applicable scripture.

Instead, he listened, he affirmed, he showed grace.

As we were saying our goodbyes, after an evening of catching up from the last few years, looked me in the eye.

“I mean it. Keep it up,” he said.

Those of us on this path are lonely and grasping for acceptance. We’re pushing back insecurity to find our voice. We speak from deep places of hurt, and sometimes our words are ugly. We have heard all the scriptures; in the past, we’ve used them as weapons against others.

Our hurt is too much for many church people to deal with. We are told to sanitize our stories, to just get over it, to forgive. When we don’t, we are chastised – or perhaps even worse, ignored.

Do you know someone who is struggling in the faith journey?

To be a part of their healing, tell them to keep it up.



  1. Stephanie on February 24, 2014 at 11:53 am

    I had a year’s worth of moments just like this one – when my church saw that my husband had stopped coming to church, some said, “He’s in a hard place.” Some said, “He doesn’t need to be here right now. He’s doing exactly what he needs to do.” But nobody once ever criticized the way he was healing.

    When I told my two evangelical friends here that I didn’t believe what they did, they both offered grace and acceptance. They were never once condescending or dismissive of my experience.

    When I told my priest I had no idea how to relate to God, or what I believed, he said, “Peace. Half the time, I’m not sure myself.”

    Each moment was another brick, building a bridge back to a coherent faith and community.

    I’m so glad you had that experience, too.

    • Carly Gelsinger on February 28, 2014 at 10:20 am

      This is cool. Not that our healing depends on others, but it really does help when we feel supported. This just encourages me to be a “brick” that builds someone else’s faith back up.

      • Stephanie on February 28, 2014 at 11:47 am

        Me too, Carly.

  2. immortalwombat10 . on February 27, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Im glad that someone in a position of authority saw the merit in your words. But isn’t this the same behavior that is also encouraging the people who judged? “continue with what your saying it needs to be said” is a beautiful blanket which can be applied and misapplied just as easily as “submit to your husband” or “yoked with unbelievers”.

    • Carly Gelsinger on February 28, 2014 at 10:19 am

      I see what you’re saying. When we use “keep it up” to not speak out against injustice or legalism?
      In this context, “Keep it up” meant “Do what it takes to get healed”.

  3. Aprille { on March 9, 2014 at 11:31 am

    This is so beautiful. Some of the people at my new church read my blog and that really really terrifies me. I don’t know if the pastors have found it. I feel so vulnerable. Eek. I so love this post and will be featuring it in my monthly link love post.

    • Carly Gelsinger on March 9, 2014 at 8:52 pm

      Keep writing your truths, even when it’s hard. I’m speaking to the choir here, of course. Thanks for the link love!

  4. Rachel Rogel on March 9, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    This made me cry – in a good way. I’m so thankful for a pastor who encourages me to ask questions and helps me grapple with the answers. Also, yes. Not just the blogging but the healing part is full of so many tangled emotions!

    • Carly Gelsinger on March 9, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Hugs, Rachel.

      • Rachel Rogel on March 10, 2014 at 7:36 am

        I shared this on fb and got some very encouraging responses. It’s a good discussion tool!

        • admin on March 10, 2014 at 11:15 am

          Good to hear it opened a cool dialogue for you… xo

  5. Kelsey Munger on March 19, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Carly, I can relate so well with being both a scared, hurting little girl and a brave adult woman. You described this beautifully. And, you’re right, being told to keep it up is the most helpful.

    The combination of the fact that most of my church-hurt stories are about pastors and dads (whom I was always told you couldn’t say anything negative about because that’d be disrespectful) combined with regular message to sanitize hard stories makes me feel like I’m telling secrets for the first time when I write about something from my old church that hurt me deeply. It’s freeing but also scary. And to have someone read and respond kindly, encouragingly is so healing.

    I’m glad you found a little more healing.

  6. March Link Love | Beautiful In His Time on March 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    […] THE ONE THING TO SAY TO THE SPIRITUALLY WOUNDED I am a hurt, scared little girl. I am a brave, overcoming woman. I am both at the same time. […]

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