In this journey of life, we often find ourselves in situations and seasons that call for supernatural courage, wisdom, and grace. My summer has been one just like this. September is a beautiful month to reflect and remember the goodness of God in our day-to-day lives.
Reminding ourselves how much God sees, knows, and feels for His children is a practice I am leaning into this month. Today, I want to address a poignant inquiry from a reader who seeks guidance on how to support a dear friend, Ann, as she takes a significant step in confronting the emotional abuse she's endured for years. I invite you to join me here.
Question: “I am walking alongside a friend, Ann, who is being (and has been for years) emotionally abused. She is strong in her faith. Her husband was a teacher in our church until last year when I let the pastors and elders know of his abuse. We have been waiting for Ann to be ready to confront her husband and now she is. She has asked my husband and myself to be with her as she confronts him. I don't know how to do this. I at first thought we would invite them over for dinner but I think her husband would be even more angry at the deception. I am wondering now if this should be done by the pastors and elders. Ann has difficulty in gathering her thoughts and communicating with me in non-stressful situations. I fear she will not be able to make her points. What is your advice?”
LeAnne’s Response: I am going to start right here. Centered In God’s word. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Our God is with those who belong to Him, who experience hardship and suffering, whose hearts are crushed by the tragedies and challenges of life. So very thankful for these truths.
I am honored to hear of your compassionate heart and dedication to helping Ann find her path to healing. Your willingness to walk alongside her during this difficult time is truly inspiring and an example to us all.
I am going to start with a big virtual hug to you. Your heart's in such a glorious place, wanting to help Ann, and that’s a rare and beautiful thing. Let's dig into how you can be there for her, both as a friend and as someone she trusts spiritually.
Dear one, defining your role is important. Ann's expectations of your role during the confrontation are pivotal. Whether she seeks you as a witness, a prep partner for her thoughts, or someone to ensure her safety. Clarity on your role is paramount and a foundational building block. I invite you both to establish a clear framework that aligns with Ann's objectives and expectations and your comfort level. Talk with her and clear up any expectations and desires. Set aside your agenda and hold her agenda in high regard.
From where I sit, safety for Ann is priority one. Before you dive into any confrontation, it's crucial to have a backup plan. Where can Ann go if things get heated? A friend's place, your home, or even just an ‘exit strategy' that allows her to safely remove herself from the situation if it gets heated is essential.
Now, about the courageous and empowering talk with Ann… A simple heart-to-heart can do wonders. Meet up for a coffee and let Ann speak freely, listen well, and maybe even take notes. Sometimes saying it all out loud can help her clarify her thoughts. Invite Ann to clarify her objectives for this confrontation. That will give her a good starting point in honing her ability to say what she needs to say to create the potential outcome she desires. Trust that the Lord will guide her. She has agency. Help her to find it.
As for where this talk with her husband should happen, I agree with you that inviting them over for dinner may be too personal and may lead to heightened emotions. A neutral spot like a pastor's office or a coach’s Zoom room is often a safer bet.
Concerning your church’s elders and pastors, remember that Ann should be the one to decide if they should be involved. Her comfort and sense of agency in all this is crucial. Many church leaders are not equipped to navigate the complexities of emotional abuse. It is crucial that they are informed and trained to walk with those who are in the midst of destructive relationship dynamics. If they are not equipped, find others who are.
Your dedication and empathy in this process are truly remarkable. By aligning your intentions with Ann's goals, you're contributing to a journey that holds potential for healing, growth, and renewal. Remember, the journey may be challenging, but your steadfast support and encouragement can make all the difference.
My friend, here’s something you can do for yourself. Keep a journal or a “vent buddy”—an accountabilibuddy- someone you can talk to about how all of this is affecting you. You are carrying a lot too, and it’s okay to seek support for yourself. In fact, I strongly encourage this.
Lastly, keep your sights set on the long haul. The confrontation is a big step, but it's one of many. Being there for Ann afterward is just as crucial. So, maybe help her sketch out what she wants life to look like post-confrontation, even if it’s just little things like making more time for herself or diving deeper into Bible study, or cultivating nourishing friendships that encourage her to grow into all God has created her to become.
You’re doing something incredible by standing beside Ann in this tough time. Just remember, in the grand scheme of things, you’re providing more than support; you’re offering love, validation, and a sense of hope that can propel her forward, whether her husband receives her words or not. This is life-giving. You are such a valuable support and voice in her life.
In your journey of supporting loved ones through tough times, what has been a moment or strategy that positively transformed the situation? Share your uplifting experiences so we can learn and grow together in faith, hope, and understanding.
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