Why Posting a Picture of Myself in a Bathing Suit Was One of the Best Accomplishments of My Adult Life

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Y’all yesterday I did something crazy. I posted a picture of myself (well, it was a boomerang video, but still). In a bathing suit (I literally just smiled as I typed that line because it is such an important accomplishment for me!). This was the result of years of therapy to overcome lies that I had chosen to believe about myself that I’d heard from culture, the purity movement, and a not-so-great boy.

Before I start this post, I have some important disclaimers.

First, yes, if you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve recently purchased a more “modest” bathing suit that didn’t arrive before my trip. It’s important to note that I believe our standard of modesty should be primarily about our relationship with God and not our relationship with other people. Showing 2 extra inches above my knee because my suit didn’t arrive is not rebellious or sinful, in my opinion.

Second, this is about my experiences. I fully believe that we have to allow negative thoughts into our minds and that we have to allow lies to become truth. I allowed lies to become my own truths, and I’m in no way “blaming” another person or a movement for how I viewed myself.

Why Write This Blog Anyways?
First, I want to break down the stigma that many Christians have about therapy, which allowed me to get to this point in my life.

Second, I want to be authentic as possible and encourage others that may be going through similar struggles.

My Struggle With An Eating Disorder

I remember the first time I forced myself to throw up out of disgust for myself. I was in 6th grade and felt truly ugly for the first time (yeah, 6 grade, I was 12). Many of my friends had already started middle school, and I heard about all of the “dating” relationships. Although I knew I wasn’t allowed to even really consider “dating” until I was at least 16, I still feared that I’d be rejected by my peers. And that, somehow, my ugliness or my “fatness” would keep boys away.

The funny thing about this is that, at 12 years old, no one had ever explicitly told me, “Krista, you’re fat.” I just knew that I was chunkier than my friends, and I saw my skinny friends got attention from boys that the chunkier girls did not.

Ironically, I learned about “throwing up” in health class, a class that taught about eating disorders to prevent them. I realized that I could never stop eating without my family noticing (we had sit down meals every day together) but maybe I could “sneak” in the vomiting. I’m stubborn and fiercely determined, so when I was unable to make myself vomit on the first time, I tried again and again until I succeeded. It was honestly the strangest feeling of my life: on one hand, I felt very successful: I had accomplished something I had set out to do. On the other hand, I felt overwhelming guilt and shame: I knew I’d be in trouble if my family found out, and I also felt strange that I had done something to my body, for no apparent good reason.

Over the next three years, I forced myself to throw up when I felt stressed. When I felt everything was spiraling out of control, I did it to regain control over something. It wasn’t bulemia, per se, becuase it wasn’t focused on binging and then purging, it was all about control.

In 9th grade, I was promoted from JV to Varsity soccer at the end of the season. In 9th grade, I had the best season of my soccer career and I kicked butt as a sweeper (center defender). If I was forced to choose a point in my high school career that I felt the most self-confident, it would be the Fall of my 9th-grade year. I was in 2 gym classes a day (I wanted to get those credits out of the way) with most of the athletic and older kids. We had subs for most of the class and we played soccer every day, and I was always one of the first kids picked. I still vividly remember one of the senior boys on Varsity soccer picking me first saying, “we’re going to kill it on defense.” (Isn’t it weird the things we remember?)

Anyways, when I was brought up to Varsity, all of my insecurities came flooding back. The girls were all so beautiful and athletically talented and I quickly realized that I simply didn’t look like them. My drop in self-confidence caused performance on the field to drop, and I went back to making myself throw up to regain the control. The next year, I was a nervous wreck during try-outs and did awful. Just awful. And I became the only player that had been brought up to varsity the year before to be kept as a swing player, playing mostly on JV. Once again, I became obsessed with control, and I dropped down to the lowest weight in my life and began to hate my body.

Purity Movement = Body Shaming

Around the same time, I got heavily involved with the “purity movement.” Feeling like an “outsider” at school (although looking back, I totally wasn’t) I began attending every church and youth group event. I felt “in” there. The “cool” movement at the time was the purity movement, and I got totally caught up in the broken promises.

There were various seminars or youth conferences almost monthly. And, guess what the topic of almost every conference was? PURITY! That’s right: the broken promise of how not having sex until marriage (and the less physical stuff you do, the more bonus points to you!) God will bless you with a hot husband, beautiful kids, and a perfect life.

Did the purity movement explicitly state this? No! But the authors of all of the purity books (like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “The Bride Wore White”) were all married with attractive spouses. Same with the speakers at the conferences. Their silent message was simple: as soon as I “gave my heart to God…He brought me THE ONE” and THE ONE also just happened to be beautiful). I so desperately wanted MY ONE that I bought in. I bought in hard.

And the funny thing about being taught NOT to focus on the physical stuff is how much more important the physical stuff becomes. Like, “you only get to hold hands with, kiss, and have sex with one person ever…for the rest of your life…until you die…” So, of course, knowing this, you want to make sure you’re attracted to the person. Even though we were told “look at the heart” we all knew that since we could only ever touch one boy, he better be cute. Likewise, boys knew they could only ever touch one girl, so she better be beautiful. And to be frank, I didn’t fit that mold. So I hated my body and threw up more.

The Boy That Loved Everything About Me, Except My Weight

When I was 17, I started seriously dating (to be honest, it was closer to a courtship though, since we were both taught that you only date to get married) a handsome, kind, Christian boy. We dated for 1.5 years and never kissed (although I remember feeling guilty deep down for even holding hands…ridiculous, I know). When we would have our deep talks about our “future” or talk about our relationship, my weight would be brought up. Once, he told me that it was “the only thing he wanted me to change about myself.” He always seemed to be focused on my health, telling me multiple times that he just didn’t want me to get diabetes and other things like that.

When I followed him to college, the focus on my weight increased. I was diagnosed with mono (funny, because it’s the notorious “kissing disease”) and was very sick my first semester. I don’t want to say “I let myself go,” but when you have mono, walking ten feet is difficult, let alone making sure your hair and makeup is done, or that I’m working out.

I remember vividly the night I knew something was just “not right.” I knew our relationship was falling apart and was so wrapped up in the lies of the purity movement and afraid to see myself as “damaged goods” that instead of amicably parting ways, I decided to “fight for it.” I was so tired that I couldn’t even do my own hair and had one of the girls in my dorm spend two hours curling my thick, long hair and picking out an outfit. I didn’t eat. When we went to the movie theater, he seemed disgusted that I got popcorn and a soda and wouldn’t touch me during the film. When we got back to school, my aunt had sent me a box of baked goods. When I opened it, he got visibly upset. stormed off, and then came back and told me how he was very concerned about my weight, and offered to make me an appointment with the nutritionist at school to talk about my “weight.” I threw out the baked goods and felt awful about myself. When the inevitable breakup happened the next month, I was devastated. He broke up with me because I was fat.  Even though there were many other good, valid reasons for the relationship to end, I let it fuel my self-hatred. I went back to throwing up until my friends caught me two years later and forced me to therapy. And, for the past six years, I have, wrongly, believed that I’m unworthy of any man’s love because of my body. Because of my ugly, fat, body.

Honestly, this has been fueled by the comments of others, too. When I opened myself to the scrutiny of the public eye four years ago, I have had my share of mean commentators. People who pick apart my weight. Not only that, but there have been multiple friends that have told me if I “really hated being single, I could just change myself to attract a man.” And I allowed those lies to sink in.

The Blessing of Therapy

I’ve been attending both faith-based and secular (with a wonderful therapist who is so supportive of my own religious beliefs) on and off for the past six years, but have really become committed to bi-weekly sessions this past year. And y’all, it’s been a Godsend.

As Christians, we need to remember first and foremost, how GOD, not man, sees us. We are wanted, we are sought after, we are beautiful. Not beautiful in the cultural sense that varies from place to place (what’s attractive in America is not attractive in other parts of the world), but instead, on the beauty that matters to God.

First, I had to recognize the dangerous lies that I had allowed to spill into my head, and that I had chosen to meditate on: my unworthiness for love, superficial values, my looks. I chose to focus on these things, instead of the things that matter to God.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Not only that, but we are reminded throughout scripture how important character is to God (I hesitated posting the 1 Tim and 1 Peter verses, because I know they have been blatantly TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT to suppress women…so please consider them in context and their ultimate meaning: that the heart of a woman should matter more to Christian men than her changing physical appearance).

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4 
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 
but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 1 Timothy 2:9-10
She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. 
Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. 
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. Proverbs 3:15-18
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30
Before you do anything else or take these verses out of context, go read those verses IN CONTEXT! 
So these past few months, I’ve been working on changing my mindset. Instead of constantly focusing on how I look, I focus on what I’m doing. How am I serving others? What is God doing in my life?
And it’s weird, but my changing in attitude didn’t come overnight. It wasn’t a process of “puffing myself up” but instead, thinking about myself less. Thinking about the non-important things less. Yes, it’s important to be healthy. Yes, making yourself look presentable and basic hygiene are so important, but my looks should not define me. I shouldn’t want to be close to people who are more concerned about how I look than how I’m living. And. Neither. Should. You.
I don’t know your struggles, friend. But what I can tell you is: get the professional help you need to be emotionally and spiritually healthy. Doing this will allow you to view yourself in a healthy manner. Yes, you’re a sinner, but the God of the universe loves you, delights in you, and thinks you’re so, so, so worthy of love. And, so do I. And so should the people whose opinions you care about.
I wish I could tell my 21-year-old self this. My 17-year-old self. My 12-year-old self. It would have saved so much heartache. I can’t go back and tell myself that, but I can tell you.
xoxo
Krista
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Keeping Your Child Safe From Abuse During the Holidays And Throughout the Year

Keeping Your Child Safe From Abuse During the Holidays And Throughout the Year

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Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
    ensure justice for those being crushed.
 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
    and see that they get justice.
Proverbs 31:8-9

This will probably be one of the most important, and sensitive, blog posts I will ever write.  I understand that talking about childhood abuse, especially sexual abuse, is difficult. It’s uncomfortable. But, it’s incredibly important. Because Abuse happens, whether we want to talk about it or not, it happens.

1/4 girls and 1/6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. That’s a hard fact to comprehend. (“Child Sex Abuse Fact Sheet”).

Keeping Children Safe

Thankfully, parents, adults, and children can take steps to keep children safe. Equally important, adults can give children the tools they need to get help if abuse occurs. Children can be especially vulnerable to abuse during the holiday season when families visit extended relatives and children are often left alone with adults and other children in unfamiliar situations.

car safety

I often think of abuse prevention policies like car safety: no matter how many safety precautions you take, you cannot guarantee that you will never be in an accident. However, practicing safe driving by using your blinker, stopping at stop signs, and driving the speed limit will significantly reduce the likelihood of being in an accident. And, if an accident does occur, additional safety measures like wearing your seatbelt and using a booster seat, will help ensure that, although you did get hurt, the injuries are not life threatening. Is this an aboslute garauntee? No. But it gives you your best shot.

Abuse prevention practices are similar.

Like safe driving practices that reduce your chance of being in an accident, taking some of the preventative steps outlined below can significantly reduce the chances of your child being in an unsafe situation.

The steps to “give your child a voice” is like the seatbelt. We wear a seatbelt because we know that although we take steps to drive safely, an accident may still occur from circumstances outside of our control. Similarly, even though you take steps to decrease opportunities for abuse, it may still occur. Therefore, it’s imperative that your children know what abuse is and how to report it so that the abuse stops. Although your child may be hurt, early reporting gives your child the best shot at healing.

In this blog post, I will first share my qualifications, talk about specific steps you can take to keep your children safe, how you can give children a voice to report abuse, and what you should do if abuse occurs.

Am I Qualified to Talk About This?

SAAW

Each year, the organization I founded, Students Against Sexual Slavery, hosted a “Sexual Assault Awareness Week” at my university.  To kick off the week, we placed candles on the school’s quad to represent the 1/3 women and 1/6 men who survive a sexual assault during their lifetime, as applied to my university’s student population. This was from the event in 2015.

 

Some of you may wonder if I’m even qualified to talk about such a sensitive and important topic, so I think it’s important that I share my experience (if you’re not interested in these, please skip to “Safety Precautions” below).

I have a B.S. in Child & Family Studies and a B.S. in Family & Human Services from John Brown University. During my studies, I focused my research and studies extensively on child abuse and sexual assault, including a year-long research study on sexual assault within Christian Church settings. For this project, I visited 103 churches in 3 states, representing nearly two dozen different Christian denominations. With the approval of an ethics committee and faculty supervision, I surveyed church leaders on their congregation’s child protection policies and sexual abuse reporting practices/how the church responds when someone informs church leaders that they have been sexually abused (children) or assaulted (adults). I also interviewed adults from these churches who identified as survivors of sexual abuse, including now adults survivors of childhood sexual abuse and adult sexual assault. Specifically, I interviewed the survivors regarding how their church responded when it found out they had been abused, and how they wished their church had responded differently. This experience, coupled with extensive research of peer-reviewed articles, gave me incredible insight on why individuals do not report abuse.

In addition to this project, and completing multiple classes related to child abuse and trauma, I also worked as an intern and volunteer advocate for three years at three different child advocacy centers and a rape crisis center, in three states. I assisted with forensic medical examinations of both adults and children and worked with families and survivors immediately after an assault occurred. I also assisted with the organization of multiple community awareness events and training programs for community organizations such as schools and police departments.

I also founded the organization, Students Against Sex Slavery, which was dedicated to raising awareness about campus sexual assault and human sex trafficking in Arkansas.

With all of that said, let’s get to the point of my post: keeping children safe.

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Safety Precautions

In addition to the steps outlined in the next section, there are specific steps you can take (especially during the holiday season) to minimize situations where your child is at risk for abuse.

  1. Abuse Occurs By Relatives and Friends You Trust. 

90% of children are abused by someone they know and trust (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”). They are not abused by some creepy guy driving around in an old minivan offering free candy, but by family members and friends they trust and are often trusted by their parents. This is uncomfortable to think about, but is important when taking the following steps to protect your children:

  • Do not leave your child alone with a grown-up or in an isolated place. Especially at holiday parties, make it clear that your child is to stay in open areas with people around. If your child goes into a playroom, for example, make sure that the door stays open at all times and that you frequently peek in.
  • Never, under any circumstances, force your child to hug or kiss someone they don’t want to, or emotionally manipulate them to do so. I get it. We all have an Aunt Dorothy that gives tight hugs and kisses that smell bad, but nevertheless gets upset if your child does not hug her. But, never force your child to touch someone (especially a relative) that they don’t want to. Not only should you never physically force a child to hug someone, but do not say things like, “Come on, Aunt Dorothy would really appreciate it if you hugged her” or “You can play with your friends only if you hug Aunt Dorothy.” To be frank, you do not know if anything has occurred between your child and that relative. Not only that, but children need to learn from a young age that they do not need to touch adults they feel uncomfortable with (it is not uncommon for abusers to tell children that they would engage in sexual acts “if you really loved me.”…the difference between a hug and sexual act may seem quite different to as adults, but children must learn that they do not need to do something physical that they don’t want to do to show an adult that they love them).
  • Adults spend time with other adults, not children.

An adult should not seek to spend excessive time with your child, especially alone. Yes, it is perfectly okay for Grandpa to take your child fishing every week. But, if you notice an adult seeks to spend all of their time with children, is buying your child a lot of gifts (grooming) or seeks to spend time alone with your child, this must be a red flag. 80% of child abuse occurs in situations where one adult is alone with one child (“Child Sex Abuse Statistics”). Make sure to ask your child how they feel about the adult in question and make sure that these visits occur in public places or with other people present.

2. Children Abuse Children 

As many as 40% of children are abused by older children (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”).

  • At holiday parties (and in general) make sure that your child does not play alone in an isolated area with other children. Always make sure that there is a group of children, or that the children are in an open area with other people. If the children are playing in a room, check in often. If your child tells you that they don’t like playing with a certain child, or that a child makes them feel unsafe, respect that.

3. Be alert

Be sure to notice any changes in your child. Bedwetting (when the child did not wet the bed before), reverting to younger child behavior, overall changes in behavior, an embarrassment about their body, physical marks that can’t be explained, or knowledge of sex beyond their age level, may be signs that your child is being abused.

4. Create a safety word for your child.

Create a safety word for your child that, whenever they feel unsafe, they can come to you, say that word, and you leave with them right away. No questions asked.

Family and Acquaintance Sex Abusers Look for Specific Characteristics in Potential Victims

grooming

Researchers have identified common characteristics in children who were abused by a relative or a family friend. These characteristics include children who are: timid, quiet, lonely and trustworthy (“Child Sex Abuse Statistics”).

Abusers don’t want to get caught, so they seek victims that won’t tell. Abusers may believe that children who are naturally quiet or timid will not stand up for themselves and will not tell. Therefore, giving your child a voice, as outlined below, is incredibly important.

Similarly, children who are lonely may not have an adult that will notice changes in their behavior.

Lastly, abusers also seek loyal children. In these situations, an abuser will spend a lot of time “grooming” their victim, and even the child’s family. They will buy the child gifts or do special treats. They may also practice telling the child secrets to see if the child will keep the secret, and then after they know the child will not tell, ease into the abuse. It will often start small, with a slight touch to see if the child will say anything. If not, the abuse will increase, and the abuser will say things like, “If you really loved me you’ll do this.” Additionally, the abuser will build a trusting relationship with the family, so that if the child does say anything to the parents, the parents will not believe the child.

Research Institutions Where Your Child Will Be Alone with Adults

camp

I have worked for many years with the children’s ministry organization, Child Evangelism Fellowship, both in their after-school clubs and overnight camps. I was incredibly impressed, and thankful, for their strict child safety standards, some mentioned below. If your child will be participating in after-school activities, children’s religious programs, or overnight camp, research that organization’s policies and make sure they’re similar.

  1. First, make sure that the organization recognizes that abusers seek organizations where they will have easy access to children, such as religious organizations (where people are often trusting) and overnight camp settings (where children will be spending a lot of time with a few adults). Make sure the organization first recognizes that all organizations, but especially those that work with children, are attractive to abusers and must take extra steps to be safe.
  2. Second, make sure all staff, including volunteers, undergo extensive background checks. Not only criminal but also personal. Are references required? Are references actually called? Does the organization look for “subtle” abuse red flags such as moving frequently (abusers move to keep the abuse secret) or working with many children’s organizations over a short period of time?
  3. Third, ask about the organization’s has child abuse prevention procedures. What steps does the organization take to make sure that situations that put children at risk (like being alone with an adult or another child) are avoided? For example, at CEF, a child must always be in a group of three. Two children can never be alone together and an adult may never be alone with a child under any circumstance. Even when a child wakes a counselor in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, that counselor must wait outside of the bathroom building while the child goes inside (bathrooms are not in cabins). Also, if a child forgets something in the cabin, the counselor must take another child back to the cabin with them. CEF also recognizes that abuse occurs among children, and children are never allowed to be alone together.
  4. Furthermore, Make sure that the staff are trained in these procedures, and ask how the organization ensures staff is following these protocols. Again, with CEF, the leadership staff is constantly walking around the camp. For example, when I was Dean of Women (the leadership member in charge of all female counseling staff) I would visit activities and walk into cabins unannounced. This ensured that (for the most part) if any counselor was struggling to follow the above-mentioned safety procedures it would be quickly spotted.
  5. Lastly, ask how the organization reports abuse and what they do after abuse is reported. Do they know they must report externally as well as internally? What happens when a report is made against a staff member (is the staff member immediately removed from all child-related activities until accusations are verified or dismissed?) It is not enough to have safety procedures in place, but that there must also be clear guidelines on how to report any potential sexual abuse.

Give Your Child A Voice

boy with microphone

It’s equally important for you to give your child a voice, so that, if abuse does occur, they can report.

  1. A Child’s Body is Their Body. 

Make it very clear to your child that their body is theirs, and theirs alone. No one can touch them without their permission, including parents.* Children need to know that it is okay to say no to being touched and that loving adults will respect that decision.

2. Safe Touches v. Unsafe Touches / “Off Limit” Zones

From a young age, children need to know that some touches are “safe” and other touches are “unsafe.” This is the easiest way to talk to your child at an age-appropriate level about touches. Give your child examples. A safe touch includes things like a high five, mommy brushing your hair, or a hug that does not hurt and you don’t fee weird giving. In contrast, an unsafe touch is a touch that hurts*, or a touch someone tells you not to tell anyone about. A good rule of thumb for a child is that a safe touch would be any touch you could tell a non-family member about.

In my family, and when I am in settings where I will be working with children for a long period of time (especially in an overnight setting), the conversation often goes like this, and I will tell the child:

 Your body is your body. No one can touch you without permission. When someone touches you it should not hurt. No one should ever touch you in the area covered by your bathing suit. If mommy, daddy, or a doctor (or another safe adult that you trust) needs to help you change or go to the bathroom or bathtime, they should never kiss you in an area covered by your bathing suit or play games with that area of your body. Never, ever, under any circumstance should someone ask you to touch them on an area covered by their bathing suit or show you the parts of their body covered by their bathing suit. An adult should also never ask you to keep a secret. If someone does this, tell a safe adult, right away, and you will never be in trouble.*

*Spanking is legal in every state. Although the definition of “spanking” and what is allowed does vary based on state law. This post is not about whether spanking is good or bad. I am not endorsing or condemning any discipline method in this post. However, if your family does choose to spank, implementing these safety rules may be confusing and difficult for children.

5 fingers

3. Have Five Safe Adults

Parents are responsible for producing 75% of child pornography (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”). That means children forced to participate in porn films were forced to do so by their own parents. Therefore, as uncomfortable as it may be, we need to recognize that people we trust, including our spouse, could harm a child. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that children know that mommy and daddy have rules. Your children must know that if mommy or daddy makes them feel unsafe they need to tell someone.* Therefore, it’s important that your children have safe adults. I help the children I work with identify five adults (one for each finger) that they can talk to whenever they feel unsafe. These adults must be people that you know and trust. Before your child identifies this person as one of “their five” talk to this adult, and tell them that is their responsibility to (please note that this person must be someone the child trusts and would want to talk to, not just someone you trust):
             1) believe your child, no matter what;
             2) keep what your child tells them confidential (this is the person your child goes to because they feel unsafe talking to you…and that’s okay)….if this safe adult must tell you something, make sure that they tell the child they are going to tell you;
3) report any abuse that your child tells them, even if the child names you or your spouse as the abuser.

This is a big responsibility, and not everyone is up for it.

secrets

4. No Secrets

An adult should never ask a child to keep a secret, ever. Especially loyal children may feel guilty for breaking a secret. I have worked with multiple children and adults who were abused as children. Many of these individuals did not report their abuse immediately because they didn’t want to break a secret they promised to keep. Therefore, make sure your child knows:

1) An adult should never, under any circumstance, ask your child to keep a secret. Tell your child that if an adult (or any person) asks them to keep a secret, to tell you right away;
2) There is a difference between a secret and a surprise: in a surprise, everyone (except the person being surprised) knows about the surprise. This is unlike a secret, where the person keeping the secret is the only one who knows about it. Also, in a surprise, there is a set and identified time when that surprise will be made known, unlike a secret which is kept indefinitely. Tell your child that if someone tells them something is a surprise, that they can verify this with one of their 5 safe adults. Surprises are happy and are about future events, not events that already occurred.

child words

5. Give Your Child the Words They Need

Talking about sex with kids can be uncomfortable, especially in more conservative environments. All too often, I speak with adults who wrongly believe “talking about sex” with your child means telling your three-year-old everything about sex. No! Absolutely not.

First, I am a firm believer that it is not only appropriate, but best for children, that they do not know everything about sex, but only things things that are presented at an age and developmentally appropriate level (in fact, a child having an advanced knowledge of sexual intercourse and sexual functions is a potential sign of sexual abuse and one of the many ways trained advocates can help confirm that an abuse has occurred….for example, when a trained interviewer speaks with a young child that reported being sexually abused by an adult male, one of the things the interviewer will ask is “did anything change about his body?” An abused child will know that a man’s private parts “change” when touched, while a child who has not been abused will have no idea what the interviewer means…of course, as children have unsupervised access to the internet at younger and younger ages, it is not absolute that children who know these things were in fact abused, but it is something that is looked for).

Giving your child a voice also means giving your child the right words. For example, a child should be able to say “what a doctor would call” their “private parts.” If you want your child to call their vagina or penis a “private part” (that’s a topic for another post)  make sure they know that a doctor would call it a vagina or a penis. I have worked on cases where children tried to report abuse, but were unsuccessful because adults had no idea why Johnny was so upset that Uncle Timmy took him fishing and “played with his fishing pole” (what the abuser called his penis). Abusers will often create games and will call these body parts innocent things so that I child will not be understood when he tries to report.

6. No Shame in Sex

As a Christian, I believe that sex is good, and it was created by God as a good thing. Now for me, there are rules about sex, about who should engage in it and when, but the act of sex itself, is not bad. Regardless of your religious beliefs, I am also confident that you have a moral code regarding sex. Talking to your child about sex in a developmentally appropriate way is not disregarding those morals. 

Unfortunately, sex is silenced in many homes. It is off limits to talk about. All of the survivors I spoke with during my year-long research study (and many I talk to today) said one of the reasons they didn’t report is because they felt shameful, or “weren’t allowed to talk about that stuff.” Yes, your child should not have a potty mouth. But, at an age-appropriate level, your child must know that there is no shame in talking to you about their bodies or what someone did to them.

parent

7. Foster a Relationship Where Your Child Can Talk to You

This is probably the most important step: your child must know that they can trust you, talk to you about anything and that they will be believed.

1. Make sure your child knows they can talk to you about their body and about sex.
This can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be. How you react speaks more loudly than what you say. If your child sees you become embarrassed when they ask a question about their body, or you tell them not to ask you questions, or you lie (like you say baby’s come from a stork, and your child later comes out how babies are really born) your child will not be able to trust you if they are ever scared and ashamed about sexual abuse. If your child’s question catches you off guard, or you need a moment, it’s totally okay to tell your child that you will talk to them later about it. Tell them a specific time and then keep your promise! Your child will not forget.

2. Your child needs to be able to trust you.
This means not sharing information they tell you with others, speaking with your child in private if they ask to do so, and telling them that you will tell when you will what they told you with others (including your spouse).

3. Believe Your Child.
Yes, all children can tell creative stories or lie to get out of trouble. However, children cannot lie about something they do not know about. Children do not know about sex unless they are taught, and cannot create situations they have never seen. There is a natural shame around sex that they must overcome to tell you anyways. So, if a child tells you that Uncle Tim forced them to do a sexual act, believe him.

If your child tells you that Cousin Michael touched them, believe them.

4. Do Not Get Mad at Your Child / Make Sure Your Child Knows He Will Not Be In Trouble
Abusers often tell their children, “mommy and daddy will be mad at you if you tell them what we did” or “If you tell mommy or daddy you’ll be in big trouble.” Abusers make the child feel guilty and responsible for the act. And the last thing a child wants is to disappoint his parents! It’s easy for a child to believe they will be in trouble for telling if sex and bodies are “off limits” in your house. For example, if your child has asked you a question about their body or “where babies come from” in the past, and you responded by saying “we don’t talk about that!” your child can reasonably believe that you will be upset/they will be in trouble if they tell you about abuse.
Again, children should not be gross or have a potty mouth. But there is a balance. Make sure you to tell your child, “I will never be mad at you for telling me the truth.” Another good idea is to practice giving your child grace. When you child confesses something they have done wrong, do not yell at them, but love them and tell them, “I’m so happy you told me!” Obviously, like everything in parenting, there has to be a balance in this. But, if children have seen you extend grace, they are more likely to believe you won’t be mad if they tell you they’ve been abused.

Reporting Sexual Abuse

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This is probably the most uncomfortable part of this whole blog post so I will start by saying this:

Sexual abuse is a crime, and any investigation and help must be handled by trained, licensed professionals.

  1. It is not your job, nor are you qualified, to investigate abuse allegations. It is your job to believe the child and keep him safe. 

First, I want to clear up a big myth that I encounter a lot, especially in more conservative circles: Social Workers and investigators do not want an abuse report to be true, they want to uncover the truth. This is a big difference. Too many people, especially in conservative circles, think “the liberal government is out to ruin my family.” This is not true. One of the primary goals of social work programs is to keep genetic families together. Social Works and “the government” are not trying to prove that abuse situations occurred when they did not! In fact, organizations are happy to discover that there was a misunderstanding and that no abuse occurred! Everyone working in child advocacy recognizes that abuse is an incredibly serious allegation. Therefore, one of the best things that can happen is to discover there was a miscommunication and that the child is fine and nothing happened!
Social workers, overall, are caring individuals. They are not on a witch hunt to make parents or adults out to be child abusers when they are not. Are there bad social workers? Yes. And these social workers make the news and make people afraid to report. But, as someone who has worked at 3 child advocacy centers, I can say with complete confidence that it is our not our goal to “prove” abuse happened when it didn’t or frame adults as abusers who did not abuse. 

Second, you are ill-equipped to investigate abuse. Child abuse investigators have extensive training in how to identify signs of abuse and ask non-leading questions. If a child tells you an abuse occurred, first make sure they are safe. Then call the police or the reporting hotline below. DO NOT ask your child a lot of details (see point below) and DO NOT contact the abuser. This gives the abuser potential time to flee or craft a story.

Children’s memories are sensitive!!! I cannot stress this enough! If you ask them questions like “Did Uncle Tim touch your private spot?” they could eventually believe this event occurred when it did not. I have seen this multiple times, usually during custody battles, where Part A convinces the child that Part B abused them.

Also, children want to please their parents! If they see that you want them to say something happened, or want them to say did not happen, they could change their memories or stories. Thankfully, due to the interview techniques of child investigators, they can ask non-leading questions that help uncover what really happened. Therefore, leave the questioning up to trained child interviewers.
On that note: if your child is going to be interviewed, make sure they are being interviewed by a trained and licensed Child Forensic Examiner, or whatever your state calls this individual. These individuals are trained specifically to ask non-leading, developmentally appropriate questions to children. Adult investigators, or even worse, police, are not qualified to ask these questions! Tell whomever you are working with that your child must talk to a Child Forensic Examiner or similar professional.

2. “I won’t do it again” is not an acceptable answer. 
It’s scary to admit that someone you love and trust could harm your child. Sexual abusers need help. There is no “stereotypical” sex abuser. Situational abusers abuse during highly stressful situations, while some people abuse to show dominance and power, while others abuse because they are attracted to children (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”). Regardless of the reason, these individuals need professional help. Although an apology may be an important part of the healing process, it alone does not correct the situations nor will it make your child safe.

70% of abusers have between 1 and 9 victims, while 30% of abusers have more than 10 (“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics). If someone abuses a child once, they will abuse again. Reach out, get help. Not only for your child’s sake but also to help the abuser. If you love the abuser, the best thing you can do is report and get them help.

3. You Need to Report Suspected Abuse
Again, this can be scary. But Child Advocacy Centers are full of caring, trained individuals who want to help your child. Failing to report even suspected abuse in some states is a crime. Not only that, but your child needs professional help to heal.

4. Reporting Internally is Not Enough

Many institutions have their own “reporting policies.” However, in addition to reporting internally, abuse must also be reported externally:

If you suspect a child is or has been sexually abused, you can anonymously report by calling: 1-800-422-4453.

If you are an adult surivor of childhood sexual abuse or rape, proffessional help is availible 24/7 by calling RAINN 1-800-656-4673 

Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility. My responsibility and your responsibility. There is nothing we can do, as professionals and parents, to 100% prevent abuse. However, we can take steps to minimize opportunities for abuse to occur and give children a voice to report abuse if it does happen.

Let’s keep children safe!

Krista

References: 
“Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet”
http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/ChildSexualAbuseFactSheet.pdf

“Child Sexual Abuse Statistics”
https://www.d2l.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/all_statistics_20150619.pdf

When God Slaps You in the Face

I feel so angry. Disappointed. Let down by God. I debated sharing this because I knew other Christians, or just people in general, would compare my pain to others. Tell me to get over it. But, I quickly realized that I shouldn’t care too much about people who try to minimize one person’s pain by comparing it to another. And, I should care more about authenticity and be honest about the real disappointments, and questions, of my faith than with keeping up with a “my life is perfect” image that everyone tries to paint on social media. So, here it goes.

I feel like God slapped me in my face and just left me this week. I know those are big words, but that’s exactly how I feel right now. Every time I’ve thought about God in the past week I’ve become angry and pushed any thought of Him from my mind. My Bible has remained closed and my Bible app has remained unopened. Because I feel mad and I feel hurt. And if God is as big as I think He is, He can take it.

My entire life I have desired financial security (I see your eye rolls now). I grew up around really poor people. People who had to work three jobs to make ends meet; women who bounced around from boyfriend to boyfriend just to have a place to stay; people’s whose trailers were literally falling apart but they couldn’t afford to get it fixed. The desire for financial security has consumed me. Just about every choice I’ve made since I was sixteen years old was governed by the desire to never experience poverty again. I went to college, I got four degrees, I worked five jobs during my senior year of college, I chose a law school that I thought could get me a big job. And now I feel like all of my planning, all of my work, was for absolutely nothing.

This summer I worked as a summer associate at one of the largest firms in the country. I loved my work. I loved the challenge of my assignments. I loved my co-workers. And I loved the financial security that came with the job. I thought I was set. When I found out the firm wouldn’t be able to hire me, I didn’t worry. I had done everything right during law school: I got decent grades (not the top, but above average) and I joined all of the clubs and honor societies I was supposed to. 400 job applications and hundreds of rejection letters later I was feeling hopeless. Then, I got an interview for my dream job. Literally, my exact dream job. I went through three rounds of interviews and fell more in love with the firm. Thank you, God…I thought…this is perfect, now I see why I didn’t get those other jobs.  Everyone I knew thought I had the job in the bag. Needless to say, I was shocked when I got the unpersonalized rejection letter. How could you do this to me? I prayed. Because that’s the tough thing: I believe God can do absolutely anything. So He chose not to open this door. He heard me beg, and He closed it anyway. He chose to hurt me and to rip away a dream I had been chasing my whole life.

I know the verses about God’s provision. I know the verses about God being a good God and Him only desiring good things. I have seen things that I thought were awful work for my good. But, I don’t see this one getting fixed. And y’all, I am just so angry with Him. I had been working towards this for YEARS, ya-ears. And now all of my dreams (at least for the next five years) look radically different. Things I wanted to do, ministries I wanted to support, are no longer possible. And now, the fear of living in poverty is consuming my almost every waking moment.

So, I had this weird thing happen. On Thursday night after Bible study, one of my friends took me out for dinner. On our walk back to the subway station from the group he asked me how my week was. I started crying, then sobbing, as I told him about the job. I knew my friend was facing big, life-altering challenges of his own and I wrongly assumed he would tell me, “It’s just a job” and compare my struggle to what he was going through. But he didn’t. Instead, he listened. And he brought me into this subway shop, bought me a panini, and told me, “Tell me how you feel.” I started off slow telling him I was angry, and he kept saying, “but is that really how you feel?” And each time he asked that, and listened, I took off the protective shield and the rule you have “growing up Christian” that you don’t complain about your own problems because there is “some starving child in Africa who has it worse.” Amiright? This guy sat there for two hours and let me cry and tell him how mad at God I was, how let down I was, and all of the big fears of my life. Did I feel better after the two hours? Honestly, not really. My problems weren’t fixed. No divine lightning bolt was sent. But, in those two hours, I felt known. I felt heard. I felt listened to in my worst moment. And y’all, that’s powerful.

This isn’t meant to be some happy, warm and fuzzy, post. It’s supposed to be real. I hope you’ve never had your life’s dream crushed. I hope you’ve never felt utterly let down by God. But I know you have. To you, me not getting this job (or any job) may not seem like a big deal to you. But it’s a huge deal to me. It’s my life’s dream. Just like you’ve had big let downs, whether that be a failed relationship, infertility, infidelity, or an unexpected death of a loved one.

But, what I had hoped to share, and encourage you to do, is not to compare your pain to that of another. Your pain is real. It’s valid. It’s painful. Everyone hurts for different things. When someone trusts us with their hurt, we should never, ever compare it to someone else. Ever. Hurt cries out to hurt. And we are told to weep with those who weep.

So, I’m not concluding by saying God did some miracle. To be brutally honest, I’m still very angry. I know my God is a big God, and I know he can take my anger. I’m not a theologian or a minister, but I wanted to let you know, that if you’re angry, if you’ve been let down like I have, you’re not alone.

xoxo
Krista

When You’re the Bully

I felt so dirty. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Not myself. “You have no idea how you may have just affected that man,” a voice in my head whispered. “Now go back there and apologize.”

I was in Wal-Mart quickly pushing my cart filled with overpriced school supplies trying to keep up with the Olympic speed walking pace of my Gramma. I had been up for nearly 40 hours and just looked and felt gross. To top it off, my stress and anxiety levels were so high that my resting heart rate had elevated to 112bpm, close to where it sat during finals week the previous spring.

I had just arrived back from Finland and had planned to spend the week before law school classes resumed focusing on my small business. I had seriously under estimated the time it would take to complete my pre-class reading and was frantically trying to figure out how to complete my first Moot Court and Journal assignments. To top it off, I was a nervous wreck because I had yet to secure a summer associate position for next summer and was worrying all of my career dreams had crashed and burned. I. Was. A. Complete. Mess.

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Literally how I looked. But with less cute clothes. And blond hair. 

 

A thumb drive pushed me over the edge and the bubbly red head Wal-Mart associate became the unlucky soul to absorb the wrath of my anger. All I wanted was a thumb drive. I thought that was a simple request. But I was wrong. When the thumb drive wouldn’t slide off the hanger, I realized it had one of those anti-left protections that required associate help. After glancing at the length of the line, I tried to rip the cardboard box to slide it off but was met with the “don’t you dare do that, Krista Ann (middle-name-you’re-in-trouble-level)” glare from my grandmother. I rolled my eyes and waited five minutes while the associate asked every customer in front of me for what seemed like their life story. So when it was my turn, and he asked me how my day was, I snapped. I became grouchy. The associate was taken back by my tone. And, I continued to snap at him the entire time he tried to assist me, before finally yelling, “This is completely ridiculous!” When he told me I had to pay for the thumb drive at the counter but could not pay for any of my other items.

As I walked away, the dirty feeling set in. I worked for almost three years as a cashier, and I knew how mean customers could be. I was just the rude customer I had always vowed I would never be. Immediately the shame began to set in. I wanted to check out and leave and not have to face the way I had made the man feel. But I couldn’t do it, I knew God wanted more from me.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”~ James 1:19

So, I went back. I stared at the floor as I waited in line, embarrassed to have the associate look at me. When it was finally my turn, I took in a deep breath and said, “I am so very sorry for the way I just treated you. It was unacceptable. I took out my anger and stress on you when you were just trying to do your job and help me. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” I felt the eyes of the customers behind me burn against the back of my head. The man’s mouth opened in surprise.

“You’re only the second customer to ever apologize to me in my ten years here,” he said solemnly. “I appreciate it. Thank you.” And with a smile and nod, I walked away feeling a little less dirty but relieved that I had done the right thing.

“Ain’t that somethin’?”

“Well ain’t that somethin’?” I heard the customer behind me say as I walked by. I was reminded that our interactions don’t only affect the person we interact with, but also those who watch. I know as a society we often view those in service careers as “below us,” but I had always been taught that any job done with integrity was an honorable job worthy of respect. That man was my equal, and I had treated him harshly, and I needed to apologize.

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29

Our Words Are Powerful

Our words are powerful. We need to use our words to encourage one another, and I had used my words to belittle a man who was probably looked down upon by others all the time. It was important that I go back and apologize to him, and replace the words that I had wrongly used in my own selfish fit of frustration and anger to hurt him, to instead restore some of that dignity. And who knows? Maybe the customers watching behind me thought of individuals they need to apologize to, too.

words have power

Words Are A Reflection of the Heart

“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45. Our words reflect what’s on our insides. By being mean to that man, I was dumping the anger and frustration from my inside, regarding the craziness of my life, onto him. This was unacceptable. It’s important that we realize our words don’t just happen. They come from somewhere. They come from our heart. If we’re being nasty, it’s because we have something going on on the inside that needs to be addressed.

Who have you been short with today? Rude? Belittled? Bullied? Gossiped about? Our words have the power to build up and destroy, and if we’re being mean, it’s the result of something not-too-beautiful going on on the inside. We need to recognize that, apologize, and fix it. Not only does this force us to fix the root cause of our hurtful words, it restores dignity to those we belittled, and shines as a light for others.

As always, if I can encourage or pray for you in any way, let me know.

xoxo

Krista

God Loves Lawyers (Part 2): Your Mission Field & General Life Update

Hello blog readers (all 13 of you followers) and anyone who happens to find this page!

General Life Update

It’s been nearly two months since I have posted and so much has happened: I moved to New York City (haven’t been hit crossing the cross walk…yet…), began law school (and survived my first cold call!), started a business (Summer Storm Fashions, check it out!), and started attending a Presbyterian Church (where they use REAL WINE during communion…Did you know that was a thing? Me neither…). Needless to say, life has been crazy and hectic and exhilarating and <insert exciting synonym here>

Color coding has been a huge blessing for me and has helped me stay sane these past few weeks!

I run an eBay upthrifting business where I sell name brands at a discount. Check out my store here:

http://www.ebay.com/usr/summerstorm*2010

 

New City, New Church

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I’m so blessed to be able to live with such beautiful, kind, intelligent housemates!

New York City is much different than Arkansas, to say the least: the social mannerisms are different (no ma’ams here), the lingos are different, morals are different…everything is just different. It’s been overwhelming lonely at times, but I’m thankful to have gotten involved with an awesome study group and connected with a stellar church community that shares my desire to put my faith into action and my belief that Christ calls us to serve the least of these. Some of you may have heard of the church before, it’s Redeemer Presbyterian, and was founded by Tim Keller. If you ever get a chance to check out his books, please do. For the first time in my life I’m attending a church where it’s the norm to have a master degree. Every person I’ve met at Redeemer so far is in a graduate program or already has a doctorate. It’s just much different than what I’m used to: the discussions are different, the views are different. However, I’ve really enjoyed having great American writers and classical philosophers added to our sermons. Do these philosophers thoughts have equal weight as the Bible? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, I believe God gave us brains to think and I think we can learn a lot. These experience coincide with Part 2 of my series: God Loves Lawyers.

As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do.” Then He added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”~Matthew 9:9-13

You Don’t Need to Give Up Your Non-Christian Friends

My first day at a clinic! I work at the FLAG clinic where I help clients obtain information about how to stop the foreclosure process on their home. I love it. Do I look like a lawyer at all?

In my last post I explained that God does not requires us to give up our “worldly” God given talents when we become a Christian. Instead, we need to stop using those talents to serve sinful purposes and instead use them to serve Godly purposes. In this post I’m going to talk about how Matthew not only followed Christ, but brought Christ, quite literally, to people who may not have met him any other way.

In the second part of Matthew’s account above, Matthew brings Jesus, literally, to dinner at a tax collectors house. Now, keep in mind that these men were not your average accountants. These men were forcing Jews to pay high taxes to the government that was 1) invading their land 2) oppressing them and 3) torturing their people. Would Jews want to pay taxes to these people? No. Not only that, but tax collectors would charge extra to pocket money for themselves.  Imagine then how despised the tax collectors were!

It says that “Matthew invited Jesus and His disciples into his home, along with other tax collectors and disreputable sinners.” This verse is SO IMPORTANT, y’all. If, when Matthew became a Christian, he began to act like he was better than his fellow tax collects, turned his nose in the air and refused to associate with his previous co-workers they probably would not have come to dinner. Therefore, we can deduce from the text that Matthew was still associating with them in some way, or, that he hadn’t done anything to cause them to not want to associate him anymore.

This is such a large implication for our own lives. When we become Christians we’re not called to reject all of our non-Christian friends. Sure, if being around them always involves sinning we can’t do that. But we can’t reject them as people. We can set appropriate boundaries that tell our friends and neighbors that we love them, we just won’t participate in activities X Y or Z. This does not mean you can’t hang out with them in other contexts. We may be the only Christians they know, and the only “Matthew” in their life: someone that can bring Christ to them.

Be a Matthew

It’s important to keep your Christian friends, too! I’m so thankful for these Godly friends of mine back at my church in Arkansas!

I only know two other Christians here at my law school, and my entering class is 350. Sure, there’s probably more, but not a lot. The non-believers I’m living with and interacting with are watching. I have the opportunity to love them, live out my faith, and share the gospel with them. Don’t just be friends with people to evangelize them! They’ll know what you’re trying to do and you will considered unauthentic. Instead, seek out people with common interests. If they’re already a Christian, awesome, encourage each other! If not, don’t brush these people off! Continue to build a friendship with them because you have common interests and share the gospel along the way.

Who are the Pharisees in Your Life

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This is one of my favorite pictures of “Jesus” (it’s from the passion of the Christ film)…it’s important to remember that Christ’s gift of forgiveness is for EVERYONE! And you’re part of telling them about it!

Jesus was criticized A LOT by the pharisees (religious leaders). Here, he was criticized for associating with sinners. No doubt, if you make an effort to be friends with non-Christians you’ll most likely be criticized, I know I am! You can, as I said, set appropriate boundaries. Now, if being friends with someone continually puts you in a situation where you’re tempted or sin (say your friends want to do drugs or have sex with you, and do not respect your wishes not do participate) that’s a problem. They’re not being a good friend to YOU. Friendship never requires you to be a doormate, if you’re in a “friendship” that is asking this of you, it’s abusive and unhealthy.

 

How have you been a “Matthew” to the people God has placed in your life? How can you be a “Matthew” in the future?

As always, if I can be praying for YOU or encourage YOU in anyway, comment or connect with me on social media.

xoxo

Krista

 

When You Are Rejected By Christians

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Rejection hurts. There is no way around it. No matter how much mental “Christianese” post-rejection pep talk you may give yourself, at the end of the day, if you’re honest, it still hurts. In a way, rejection in life is to be expected. No matter how hard you try, you will not be offered every position for which you apply, be picked first in every game, liked by every person you meet, nor will you be noticed by every person you find attractive. We experience rejection daily at different degrees. I expect these daily rejections. I can handle them. However, I’ve realized that, at least for me, the most difficult rejections to face are the rejections that come at the hands and lips of other Christians.

Christian Rejection

For this post, “Christian rejection” occurs when you feel rejected by Christians or by your own Christian faith community. What constitutes rejection will look different for every individual; perhaps it’s not being invited to the Bible study or prayer breakfast, not asked to say the benediction, or your child wasn’t invited to the after church play group. Either way, you know the kind of rejection I’m talking about. It hurts. In my own life, I have found this rejection more hurtful than other rejections because 1) The rejection is usually (not always) intentional. You were left out on purpose, for some reason unbeknownst to you. 2) Christians are supposed to be the most welcoming people, period. So, to not be welcomed by these welcoming people leaves you wondering “What’s wrong with ME?”

My Story

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My first day of Sunday School c. 1997

Let me share a little about me, and my experiences with this kind of rejection, first:

Although I am from what those “in” Christian circles deem a “broken family” (I was born to teen parents and raised by my grandparents) I grew up in church. I grew up going to a King James Version (KJV) only church. But, it was full of good people: people who worked hard, tried their best to do good, and were always, always there for you when you needed someone. I attend a Christian summer camp every summer. Fox news was the ONLY news allowed in our house. So, to most, I fit the “conservative Christian” mold. However, I also went to a very, very liberal public school, dated, and had no form of media censorship…behaviors some would call heathen.

I followed my high school boyfriend to a Christian college in the south. I was presented with different forms of Christianity, slammed with some tough trials, and confronted with questions about faith and God I could not answer.Here, I walked away from my faith (secretly) for a year, only to come back to my faith after attending a conservative home church group with a friend. A church more conservative than my Vermont church. Once again, I fell in love with the good people there, people who genuinely tried to do good and who I felt truly love me.

Although I was in a conservative church circle once again, I couldn’t shake off the liberal leanings I had picked up, ironically, at my southern Christian college. Through classes on gender studies, race, and poverty, I became politically moderate.

All of this to say, I became an “outsider” in many ways. I was from a broken home, yet attended a KJV only church, support welfare policies, and voted strait ticket Republican. I didn’t “fit” anywhere. As a child, I wasn’t invited to some play groups because I may be “a bad influence,” and in Arkansas I stopped being invited to some things after my liberal friends found out I went to a KJV only church (I was labeled a “fundie”), and some of my more conservative friends labeled me a “liberal”. I was rejected from things. (DISCLAIMER: These rejections were far and few between. And if I haven’t talked to you personally about this, you’re not involved). All of these thoughts came to light because I was deleted off of the Facebook and Photostream of some of my friends today. I do not believe I was deleted due to any of my posts or political leanings, but for some reason, it brought up the memories of Christian rejection. I realized, if you’ve been in church long enough, you’ve probably experienced it, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

First Things First

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Clashing Colors

Before I go any further, I must address these three, SUPER IMPORTANT things:

  1. You are not supposed to get along with everyone.
  2. You are NEVER responsible for the actions of others.
  3. Is is a relationship you actually want to save?

As point numero uno said, you’re not supposed to get along with everyone. Respect everyone? Yes. Love everyone? Yes. Want to invite everyone to your sleepovers? Nope. Nada. I think of people like colors. Take a look at the models in the picture above. Those colors are great, just not together. Why? They have different “personalities.” Could they work together to make a big art piece look fantastic? Sure. Should they hang out together in those outfits? Nope. I’m an ENFJ. There are other people, just due to our dislikes and likes and mannerisms, that I don’t spend more time with than I have to. That’s okay.
So, first ask yourself: was I not invited to X simply because our personalities don’t match? And then, take a hard, honest look. If the answer is “yes,” no matter how much you want to be that person’s BFF, it’s okay. Rejection still hurts, though.

Now numero dos. Despite what you may have been told, you a never responsible for how another person acts. I think it’s a shame that we now place blame on other’s for our actions. You can annoy me all you want, but if I punch you, that is my choice. (This mentality leads directly into rape culture…but that’s a topic for another post). Therefore, no matter how liberal or conservative your Facebook post was, if someone deleted you, they chose to do that. Don’t begin the victim mentality of “what did I do wrong?” Hold that thought, though, as I transition into my main points.

Numero tres: do you actually care about this relationship. We have all had what Aristotle calls “relationships of utility.” That is, relationships we are in simply because they benefit us. The pretty girl you hang out with to get guys to notice you, the super smart kid you always invite over to get homework help, the popular kid you feel cool to be seen with. If you were rejected by the Christian version of one of these, ask yourself if confronting them about the rejection is worth it, because the relationship may not be worth saving.

Do You Need to Apologize?

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If you have been rejected or not invited to an event, and you realize the people did not fit the above three categories, you must ask yourself what could have caused this rejection. It is okay, and healthy, to examine yourself and the context of the rejection/deleting ext. Did you say something hurtful? Did you do something to knowingly offend them? If they answer is yes, then you must apologize. As Paul said, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

This is super important. Just as the other person is responsible for their actions, so are you responsible for yours. Living at peace with one another means saying you’re sorry and admitting fault when you done messed up, even if that means swallowing your pride in the process.

Conflict Is Healthy

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Conflict Can Be Healthy

When handled in an appropriate and mature way, conflict is a healthy part of a relationship. We are all different, and thus we should expect differences of opinions and beliefs. Having disagreements is okay. Becoming abusive or disrespectful is not.

Therefore, if you feel you were rejected and are hurt, and it is safe to do so, talk to the person who you felt rejected you. Make sure when you go into this conversation there is not a single ounce of pride or bitterness in you. Be respectful and polite. In private (if safe) say to the person:

Step 1: Identify the event so there is no confusion. Example: “I saw you deleted me on Facebook” or “I noticed I was the only person you didn’t invite to the prayer meeting”.

Step 2: Say how it made YOU feel (USE I STATEMENTS!). Example: “This made me feel left out” or “This made me feel embarrassed”.

Step 3: Name goal of conversation. Example: I wanted to talk to you about that, and hear your reasoning for doing that.

Step 4: Do not guilt trip and thank them. Example: Thank you so much for explaining that to me, I know sharing feelings can be uncomfortable sometimes, but I am now glad we’re on the same page.

Example: Hey Sally, I saw you deleted me off of Facebook last week. I was hurt by this because I perceived it as you not wanting to talk to me anymore. Could you explain why you did this?

Sally: It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you any more in person, I just was no longer interested in the things you were posting and I didn’t want them showing up on my Facbeook.

Thanks for explaining that, Sally. That helps me understand better. I know this could be an uncomfortable conversation, so I appreciate you talking with me.

BOOM! Done.

*Okay, okay. Most conversations, if the person is honest, will be a tad more hurtful: “I don’t want you influencing my children with your conservative views” or “I feel embarrassed to be around someone from a broken home.” We live in a culture that likes to hide behind screens. Therefore, be thankful for any honesty you get! Therefore, you must also ask yourself before you begin these conversations if you really want to know the answer.

Conclusion

I hoped this post encouraged you, and let you know that we have all been rejected, and if you’re in church long enough, you will experience Christian rejection of some form. So, key points to remember:

  1. Everyone gets rejected sometimes.
  2. No matter what, you are never responsible for another’s actions.
  3. Although you are ALWAYS responsible for your own actions.
  4. Apologize quickly.
  5. Conflict can be healthy.
  6. If you feel rejected by someone that is a relationship you would like to maintain, you must talk to them about it.

 

Have you experienced rejection before? Christian rejection? How’d you handle it? I’d love to hear.

Much peace and many blessings,

Krista ❤