Last week I made a difficult but also healthy decision on my journey. I shared the story of my abuse, trauma, and failed attempt at recovery with my current pastor. Three months ago I joined a new church. Before joining it I told my pastor that I had experienced abuse, trauma, and difficulties at two separate churches and that if I was to join this church I would have obstacles to overcome. I didn’t keep the basic high level facts from him, but I had not shared the specifics of the trauma. Last week I shared a lot of the specifics.
Sharing our stories can be painful, difficult, and yet also one of the most life giving things we can do. It is important that you share parts of your story with others, however there are some very key questions you need to ask before reaching that point.
1) Why are you sharing your story? If your purpose is for your own recovery and for God’s glory you are probably in a good and healthy place, but if you honestly know that your intentions of sharing are to vent, express the pain of what you went through, tell how others hurt you are, make others look bad, or retaliate against what happened to you then you need to stop any sharing and address your own behaviors which are likely sinful. Even in the context of counseling our purpose for sharing needs to be for our recovery AND God’s glory. Even just part one side of that will lead to imbalance as you move forward.
2) If you have chosen to share your story with someone, why did you choose that person? Again, if you are sharing to seek recovery, healing, faith, trust, and life, or if you are sharing to give God testimony then your motivation for sharing may be okay. If you are telling someone to protect them from being hurt by the same people or to protect them in some way, again your motivation may be healthy. However, if you are sharing because the person is convenient, is in a position to bring control or restrictions to those involved, or could hurt those involved you need to rethink sharing anything. If you are sharing because you are being pressured to share your story then you are likely in another unhealthy situation and need to remove yourself from it.
3) Are your actions bringing God glory? We were placed here on earth with the purpose of bringing God glory. If your sharing will not do that, then do not proceed. If your sharing will hurt others, cause disunity, create distrust, separate people from God’s church, slander another, or lead others to a place of distrust then your intentions are unhealthy in some way and need to be reexamined.
4) What do you need to share? Just because you have a healthy person and opportunity where to share your story, and just because you believe that sharing will bring God glory and bring healing, doesn’t mean you should share your entire story in detail. Be sure to share only what you need to and what is appropriate. Err on the side of sharing less information, not more. You can always add more later, but you can’t take something back once you have shared it.
I did share my story with my pastor, but I carefully thought through and prayed through these questions first. I was sharing my story to be honest and authentic about what I had been through so that my pastor and I could deal with the issues and examine how they were going to affect my future involvement with the church. I found I could not openly embrace relationships with others or be involved in programs until some questions were answered regarding how my pastor and new church would respond to my story. I choose to share my story as an act of faith, and hope in Christ. I wanted to find healing and know for certain if I could be a healthy part of my new church and if they could offer me grace and acceptance even with my past wounds. I hope my actions will bring God glory. That is my heart, and I carefully guarded certain aspects of my story to protect others. I shared it only with my pastor and only in the context of clearly defined confidentiality. I spoke to my pastor before sharing (which I did in writing) to ensure he understood my heart and understood that I meant no ill intentions toward others and was just trying to share my experience through my viewpoint, not to hurt anyone else. I accepted my faults in the story, and am honestly seeking healing and accountability to change my views and behaviors to become more like Christ. Prior to this sharing I had never spoken of the names of the churches or the people involved to anyone I had shared any part of the story with.
Sharing is important and healing. I hope you have found someone to share your story with. Just please be careful in that process. Your decisions to share, motivations for sharing, and the exact information you share can bring life or death to others. I hope you will always seek life!