“Why Do You Keep Doing Things That Hurt You?”

It’s amazing how often we don’t listen to our friends and family who have some fairly intelligent things to say.

White on White inspirational original oil painting of flowers in a vase in neutral setting by Steve Henderson

Our inner self is like a flower — beautiful, resilient, yet vulnerable to being bruised. Human beings need to be treated with gentleness. White on White, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

(The inverse of this is that we pay undue attention to others who frequently don’t care about us at all or actively dislike us. We embrace their barbs, close to the heart where they scratch, and define ourselves by the opinions of disinterested strangers or active enemies. Don’t believe me? Talk to someone from middle school for ten minutes and see whose opinions have the most effect upon their self-worth.)

I’ll never forget the conversation we had with a family friend, who was visiting as a house guest for a few days. We were regaling her with what we thought at the time were amusing stories about the church we were then attending — or, not attending, because its actions were irritating us to the point that we enjoyed our time away far more than we did our penance in the pews.

“Why do you keep going? What are you getting out of it?” she asked. “This sounds like an abusive situation.”

That word “abusive” stopped us short, and we exerted ourselves to explain that while, yes, the leadership was controlling and distant, and no, we really didn’t feel of any value in the congregation, it wasn’t abusive, really. Actually, it was probably our lack of charitable thought that made us overreact. We should be more patient.

“Maybe so,” she replied with a smile, “but going there doesn’t seem to make you very happy.”

Her words stayed with us long after the visit, encompassing an increasing number of Sundays when we found something else to do with our time, but still interspersed with sporadic church attendance because, you see, we Christians define our spirituality by that church attendance.

(This is not untoward. The Barna Group, which describes itself as “the leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture,” defined a practicing Christian, for poll purposes, as one who attends church at least once a month and says that his or her religion is very important in their lives.)

“If you really love God,” we’re told, “you’ll want to be with God’s people.

“And no church is perfect.

“We show the world that we love God by being patient with the things we don’t like, and not hyperfocusing on them. It’s not all about you, you know. We are a community.

“You need to give more in your spirit — flex and obey!”

There. Did I cover it all?

As time went by, and the little irritating quirks — increasingly introduced by a leadership team focused upon corporate growth philosophy and methods — kept piling on, we heard our friend’s question over and over:

“Why do you keep going? What are you getting out of it?”

And the answers that made the most sense were,

“We don’t know,”


“Very little.”

And increasingly, we stayed away.

Our leisurely Sunday morning breakfasts replaced the hurried fellowship before the song worship service; random evenings with friends fulfilled our aching need to laugh and love and interact; long walks and discussion stimulated intellectual and spiritual thought; reading Scripture for ourselves — and debating it over the dinner table — sharpened our swords.

We found, to our surprise and quite without any intention, that we had replaced a bad situation for a good, and we were happy with what we were doing.

And we also found, not at all to our surprise, that many people who were not our friends and had no personal interest in our lives or family, were irritated by this, and called into question our Christianity because we no longer participated in what, for us, didn’t work.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth,” 1 John 3:18 tells us, and for the first time in a long time, this was making sense, because we were interacting with humans — those who called Christ their brother as well as those who didn’t — and had time to love and laugh and argue and listen.

I think it’s called fellowship.

“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.”

No longer did we accept the subtle, and not so subtle, condemnation of a narrow way of looking at things, a way that begins and ends its definition of a person’s spirituality by easily defined outward actions.

We answered two questions, ones that we were asking within our hearts for a long time, but never admitted, outwardly, to having until a family friend — who DID care about us as people — asked them:

“Why do you keep going? What do you get out of it?”

To read more on this topic, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Abusive Christianity.

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

This article is linked to Imparting GraceI Choose JoyMisadventuresWoman to WomanSoul SurvivalWholehearted HomeIntentionMy Joy Filled Life, A Little R and RGive Me GraceGrowing in GraceThe Life of Jennifer DawnMoms the WordHomemakingTime Warp WifeWise WomanRoses of InspirationWednesday LinkSo Much at Home, Thriving on ThursdaysHomemaking ArtEmbracingChristian Mom BloggerLook at the BookSimple MomentsMissional WomanRebeccaArabah JoyFriendship FridaySincerely Paula

About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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6 Responses to “Why Do You Keep Doing Things That Hurt You?”

  1. Great post. This encourages me. I went through this. I felt it necessary to leave. I didn’t completely want to but my spirit…..Thank you Father God for the word. Thank you for the messenger of the word. You said to be patient and not enabling. Thank you father for truth. In Jesus name. Amen

    • It is a very, very difficult decision, to finally leave, because we have so many cultural — and not at all spiritual — influences against us. And it’s hard to believe ourselves, much less explain to others (which isn’t worth doing, really, since it puts us on the defensive) that we feel we are being called out. But when we listen, and do, and walk that difficult path, we are most definitely not walking it alone.

  2. Stephanie says:

    This post was very well-written and hit the mark. I truly appreciate you sharing these words of wisdom with Roses of Inspiration – you have been a blessing and encouragment.

    Hugs to you!

    • Thank you, Stephanie. I know that, for some people, my stance on church attendance is a deal breaker, but my heart weeps when I see people reiterating, without thought, things they have heard in the pulpit, on TV, or from a celebrity Christian book, that are clearly off the mark doctrinally, because the ultimate fruit that doctrine produces is a fearful, vacillating Christian who is AFRAID of God. Jesus Himself said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father, and Jesus’s time walking on earth was an offering of compassion, love, and deep, deep understanding toward the children of men.

      Our own solution was to leave the system, in the same way we left the broken-down public school system and chose to educate our children at home, and our driving force in both cases was to educate ourselves to a level of confidence and knowledge in truth so we would not be so easily fooled by lies.

  3. Jennifer @ A Divine Encounter says:

    Carolyn, thank you for sharing from your experience here. It certainly sounds as though you left a damaging situation in your previous church. I’m curious about why you didn’t choose to seek another congregation – one that is God-focused, Bible-centered, and Spirit-led. It’s refreshing to hear of how God is enriching your family life and worship together. Visiting tonight from Grace & Truth!

    • Hello, Jennifer — after attending this church for some 10 years, the first few of which were accepting and, dare I say, fun, we found ourselves gently pushed to the margins as leadership took more and more of a structured, one-program-fits-all approach. This is not to say that the church wasn’t Bible-centered and God-focused, because it was, but as far as being Spirit-led, it had more to do with the spirit of man’s ways of doing things (reflective of a corporation) than it did with the Holy Spirit. Sadly, this is not unusual, and we did “hop” around a bit to see if we could find something different (and found out, later, that some of the pastors of the churches we tried out contacted the pastor of the church we had been attending, and let him know we were there; it was creepily invasive, but apparently normal from their point of view — almost as if they were tracking where the customers were going), and found that they all pretty much operated under the same paradigm.

      There were many delightful people who attended the congregation, but because of the increased emphasis upon structure and top-down, trickle-down approach, we found attendance consisted of sitting and listening, or sitting and writing, or sitting and singing, but very little of actual, true, welcoming, and much needed unstructured fellowship. This, we were told, was something we needed to do on our own time, and church activity was devoted to the structured approach and its attendant programs and classes, none of which we felt inclined to attend.

      So, since that was all the place had to offer, and one was out of the clique if one didn’t follow the programs, we figured we had nothing to lose by leaving.

      Many people, whom we had thought we had some sort of friendship with, we lost immediate contact with, and from retrospect we can see that their lives were so busy — not only with just living but with the demands of church life — that they had no time for outside, unstructured fellowship. Others, we have been blessed to get to know and interact with on more varied levels, free from supervision or scheduling, and the fellowship we have been able to achieve is what we had tried to achieve, for so long, while we still saw each other every week in the pews.

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