Shaney Irene

On Faith, Life, and Being the Church


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[Learning Grace] Introduction: Do You Know How to be Sensitive?

There is a woman in your church who struggles with an eating disorder. She sits in your Bible studies, passes out bulletins, and sings with a soft but beautiful voice during worship. During Bible study, a well-meaning leader says that women have a duty to keep themselves attractive for their husbands, so that they will not be tempted to look elsewhere. And again, she feels like she’s not good enough.

There is a teenager in your church who struggles with same-sex attraction. He’s a leader in your youth group. He loves the Lord, and he is putting all of his energy into fighting this battle. It’s difficult, though, as the gay jokes and the comments of “Christians who struggle with homosexuality just need to submit their desires to God,” make him feel guilty for his struggle.

You probably know someone who was raped.

Or someone who was physically abused.

Or who is experiencing depression.

Or is struggling with something else that is not well understood in the church.

Do you know how to be sensitive toward these people? Do you know how to show them grace?

I’m willing to bet you know them, whether you’re aware of it or not.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed more and more how much I don’t know how to be sensitive. As I’ve learned, I’ve tried to share what I’ve learned with others. I’ve been surprised at some of the responses I’ve gotten. Instead of questions and attempts to understand, I’ve experienced people fighting for their right to say what they say. And, very commonly, they appeal to their own stances to justify their words.

“Rape is awful!”

“I’m not sexist!”

“It’s horrible that anyone would think this way!”

Followed by their justification of why it’s okay for them to say the insensitive thing they said.

Here’s the thing: Sensitivity is not just about having the right attitude toward a situation.

Being sensitive is a skill that must be learned.

It is possible to be horrified by rape, and say something to a rape victim that tears them down. It’s possible to know that eating disorders are incredibly difficult, and say or do something that only adds to the difficulty. It’s possible to see injustice, then turn around and parrot teachings that only reinforce those same injustices. Sometimes these mistakes are fairly obvious (such as comparing women’s bodies to alcohol and men to alcoholics–I mean, really?), but sometimes they’re much more subtle.

I know that I’ve done it. I suspect I still do it sometimes.

But as a follower of Christ, I know I can’t be okay with that. I know that I need to learn how to be sensitive, how to show others grace. Because my God is a God who heals the brokenhearted and sets the captives free, and I want to be part of that.

So I’m going to learn, and I hope you’ll learn along with me.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be reading books, doing research, and blogging about what I’m learning. And I’m going to be tackling some difficult subjects: eating disorders, same-sex attraction, sexual abuse, death, and more. I’ll be reading and reviewing First Steps Out by Christy McFerren, Chasing Silhouettes by Emily Weirenga, and Rid of my Dis(Grace) by Justin Holcomb.

I’m calling this series of posts Learning Grace, and any post that is part of the series will begin with [Learning Grace] in the title.

I’d love to have you join me on my journey.

Here are some ways you can join:

  • If you’d like to guest post, please email me at shaneyireneblog@gmail.com
  • Read the books and leave your thoughts in the comments
  • Tweet your thoughts, using the hashtag #learninggrace
  • Leave a comment or email me at shaneyireneblog@gmail.com with any other ideas you have.

I look forward to going on this journey with you!