Your demeanor of acceptance and respect goes a long way toward providing an emotionally safe place for people. The hurting one needs a warm environment to speak out of their heart. If we, the church, cannot be safe and non-judgmental, where will they go? A psychiatrist upon his return from an overseas ministry trip among missionaries, expressed this idea best when he said, “The only army that shoots its wounded is the Christian army.”
He summed up the philosophy of the group he worked with:
1. We don’t have emotional problems. If any emotional difficulties appear to arise, simply deny having them.
2. If we fail to achieve this first ideal and can’t ignore a problem, strive to keep it from family members and never breathe a word of it outside the family.
3. If both of the first two steps fail, still don’t seek professional help.
“I have been a Christian for 50 years, a physician for 29, and a psychiatrist for 15. Over this time I have observed these same attitudes throughout the church --among lay leaders, pastors, priests, charismatic’s, fundamentalists, and evangelicals alike. I have also found that many not only deny their problems but are intolerant of those with emotional difficulties. Many judge that others’ emotional problems are the direct result of personal sin. This is a harmful view. At any one time, up to 15 percent of our population is experiencing significant emotional problems. For them our churches need to be sanctuaries of healing, not places where they must hide their wounds.”
Dwight L. Carlson, M.D. 1
Although I think that Christians on the whole have improved this picture tremendously, we still need to be aware of our attitudes, our judgments, and our words. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just listen, care and pray. God is the ultimate healer, not us.
1 Carlson, Dwight L., M.D. Christianity Today, Feb 9, 1998; Vol. 42, #2, page 48.