About the Author

Mary is a writer and speaker who lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons – but lives because of God’s grace. She writes about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places at MaryCarver.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your pain. It is so comforting to know of others’ struggles within the church, that it happens. So often church issues are not dealt with, but the pain is so real!

  2. Yes, when I was younger it used to puzzle me when others didn’t react the same as I did to shared circumstances. And now that I’m old(er), you are so right….grace comes into play and it is fine (not frustrating) to share in their reactions. Great post Mary and I love the visual of how we all break differently. Blessings!

  3. Thank you so much for this profound illustration. You have helped me to put words to some very confusing parts of my past. The freedom of giving grace to those who “break differently” is so beautiful. I want that for my life.

  4. Our church just built a bigger church…in our small church we all felt like family and now all that is gone. People spread out everywhere…however I do not have a problem with that too much I do have a problem with the way everyone has changed since it opened. People who are trying to be better than everyone else. Stuck up. We use to feel involved and a part of it but not anymore. Even our pastor has changed….always preached about not letting the world come in to the church with words on a screen among other things. Now there is words on a screen and other things. Quite honestly I feel heartbroken cause this wasn’t the type of church I signed on to. At this time I can’t just get up and try another church cause we teach. This was a church that I never wanted to miss not one service and now I just don’t care if I go or not and that makes me sad and hurt. It’s become all about the church and not the Lord. Dont know what to do…..we knew that going into a bigger church would be an adjustment….we just didn’t expect the people to change.

    • TC, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with your church home right now. Change is always hard, and it seems like everything that’s hard in general is magnified in the church. I pray you can find a way to worship and serve in your new/old church home despite the changes!

  5. Mary, this may well be one of the most important things you have written. So many of us have struggled with this kind of major hurt, and have compared ourselves to how others are dealing with it. This is a profound (as Becky said) example of how we must offer grace to each other. What insight! Thank you so much.

  6. I thought this articile was sooo very good. My friend and I left a church but she seem able to move on but I continued to struggled. It the truth in every situation that each person will view things differently. Thank you for the reminder, I sure needed it.

    • Rhonda, I’m so glad this post spoke to you. It’s so hard to understand how two people experiencing the same thing can react so differently, but it just goes to show in yet another way how amazing (and different) God’s creation is!

  7. Some of my deepest hurts have come from others not understanding my reactions to things. For a long time I wondered if I was an anomaly, a weird person who didn’t react “normally”. Now I understand that I am what I am, and I know who to call when I’m sad or upset or hurting or needing to process. And who not to call.

    • Honestly, I don’t think there’s a “normal” way to respond to so many experiences, Melissa. But your point about who not to call is a practical solution to that disconnect between people who react so differently.

  8. Wow. Powerful writing – thank you for sharing. My family and I deal with these exact questions every. single. week.

  9. I love this so much and I could write page after page sharing my thoughts and my heart. But I’ll leave it at a simple thank-you. Thank you for speaking into the crisis of my life and answering a question that I’ve been pondering for awhile. And thank you for recognizing the need for grace to all, because just as much as we desire grace for ourselves, we need to extend it others…others who grieve and respond differently than us. Again, thank you!

  10. I wish i could steal this for my column that I write every week for my hometown newspaper. It’s called “From the Hart” my maiden name is Hart. You so eloquently wrote this from your heart. We all do break differently. In our brokenness we heal differently also…hopefully someday, beautifully. We each must find our way through the journey. We stumble and are often blessed to find new friends who pick us up and carry umbrellas that shield us when our sky begins to fall as it will again. Thank you for your words this morning.

    • Janet, I love your word picture of friends carrying umbrellas as our skies fall. Thank you for sharing your heart! (And please note how difficult it was for me not to say “sharing your HART” because that is such a fun pun!) 🙂

  11. Thank you so much. This is an area I have struggled with so much. Great reminder we are all special in God,s sight and hurt and heal differently. Thank you for being so open.

  12. This is so very true. I have watched family through years of tragedy and sometimes we fail to “grace” one another during our grief periods. It’s so important to do that for each other. I’m going through one of those “pulling away to heal” times myself. Usually I don’t need that, but this time I broke differently. Thank you for sharing.

    • Rae, I’m sorry to hear that you’re grieving right now but thankful you are able to pull away to heal. I think it’s especially hard to extend grace with family, so I appreciate your reminder to me here!

  13. I experienced the same thing at the church we were going to. I was surprised not in a difference of reaction of my friends but how differently my husband and I reacted. Thank you for helping me see the importance of giving grace and that we indeed break differently.

  14. I am in the midst of something extremely similar with my two siblings. The difference between us is Christ however, their reaction to the same or similar childhood abuses have been radically different from mine to the extent that they accuse me of abandoning them when or because I do not react the same. It’s a difficulty for sure. Grace is the answer; a lot of grace in differing measures on different days. Thanks for the great message here.

  15. The church I grew up in changed pastors and went through a horrible time of back biting and dishonesty that resulted in the youth pastor of 6 years resigning before he could get fired and the new pastor & wife ruling over every church decision with an ugly attitude hidden behind a fake smile. It resulted in many families leaving, some who didn’t go anywhere for awhile and others who jumped into church somewhere else, but what I found the hardest to believe were the families who had experienced the ugliness up close and decided to stay with the church. Everyone breaks differently is right!

    My disillusionment with church politics and structure was born out of that memory, but I’ve also come to appreciate the different ways that people deal with their faith in times of crisis. In spite of all our glib words about fellowship and family, it takes so little to really tear us apart and send us in different directions. We are not as strong as we think we are.

    • Beth, what you said here is so sad…but so true. Until grace and love become our first responses, very little will keep tearing us apart. I know that’s been true in my life (the tearing apart, I mean…unfortunately!). Thank you for sharing your experience with us here!

  16. I love the word picture! Our family had to leave our home church also- it was difficult as many of our family members (both mine and hubby’s) still attended the church- including both sets of parents. It was also hard as it was my church home for my whole life to that point- 36 years! It was like ripping half my heart out to leave but it would have crushed my whole heart to continue staying. God brought us to a wonderful church home- one in which we did much the same as you- volunteered right away. My husband and I couldn’t help it- we decided we just aren’t pew sitters, part of our worship is service. So we serve and we love and we heal. Its been 3 years and the healing we have found has been amazing. God is good!
    Thank you so much for sharing your words and your story!

  17. Thank you for sharing this story. It is so true and what a great comparison to the bottles. It’s in how we repair and how we let God shape and repair us that the beauty is provided. He melts down that glass and reshapes it into another useful beautiful container if we let Him. 🙂

  18. Thank you Mary. I am experiencing a time of brokenness in my heart right now and your words really resonate in my spirit. Realizing that we break and ‘mend’ differently is important as we seek unity within the Body of Christ. I have been thinking along these lines also when it comes to relating to others who do not understand the depth of your pain. Not being offended at their seemingly careless words. They just do not understand. Perhaps they would break and mend differently in the same situation. We are each unique and loved beyond our wildest imaginations by God and we (I) need to remember that. Thanks for giving me a bit more light today.

  19. we do all indeed break differently…. when it’s something in our family as the mom I tend to be the strong one to get the others thru, and behind closed doors I lose it. I’ll stay strong thru a crisis, and even when God answers in wonderful way, it’s afterwards that I collapse and cry tears of gratitude….
    great story….gonna share

  20. Mary, just what I needed today, actually everyday for the last 4+ years! I had 2 Sons and they do break differently. My oldest passed in August 4 plus years ago, now I am not saying the way his body laid in the wreckage is the breaking; it is what caused the accident to happen. My youngest Son handles life differently. I am also commenting on this to say I broke and still feel like the glass is still shattering in places over this loss and friends & family who broke differently than me over it. Painful things were said to me about my loss from others. Grace, Peace & Healing from all of this is the season I am in now. Thank You again, this post is just what my heart needed. I thank God he put these words on your heart to write!

  21. I too experienced a great tragedy that resulted in a church. Something that took me so long to realize is that tragedy was the mistake of man, not of God. I unfortunately blamed God for the rejection that occurred behind those church doors. And I allowed that experience to ‘break’ me away from God. It took me too many years to allow myself to heal.

    I also want to thank you for reminding us that as each of us look different on the outside, we process things differently too. We should not look outwardly to others to see if what we are feeling or doing is normal, but to God. We also should never look outwardly to others and judge them on how they are processing. For none of us know all the ingredients that went into creating that soul. We all break differently and as we heal we all heal differently too.

  22. I’m going to send this to my mom tonight because she is in the middle of a very long-term but fresh-again struggle with how her own family was broken, starting many many years ago when they were children and continuing today as they near their senior citizen era of life! My mom broke one way and was able to carry on, build a pretty happy life with my dad…other siblings broke differently and are still shattered, still unable to cope and come to terms with life that happened decades ago. Because my mom seems the most healed/healthy, she bears the brunt of alot of anger and frustration over it. It’s been hard to extend grace for so long, but thankfully she stays close to the Lord for her strength and renewal. I think this post will encourage her greatly and give her a new way of dealing with the pain that is such a part of her family’s life. Thank you and God bless your journey to healing 🙂

  23. We have to stop looking at our trials and errors as regrets (although I struggle with this as well). Wisdom is given to us freely (James 1:5) it’s there for us during trials, during grief, in the good times and the bad. When we seek Gods wisdom we are blessed because we grow through our trials. Wisdom allows us to see these moments, we define as failures, and grab on to the Hope in Jesus. That change in perspective gives us the wisdom to see the moment refine our character, more to the likeness of Christ. Gods wisdom is key to growing in Jesus (heb 5:14). Wisdom aids us in setting aside ourselves, our desires, and wishful outcomes, for God will. God’s wisdom produces the fruit others see in our lives. True wisdom is birthed through humility, loving others as Jesus loved us. In my life I have often seen, God takes things our life that we, unknowingly, gain our value and worth from. So we will look to Him, Our Heavenly Father, as our complete satisfaction!

  24. It comes down to how we react to situations. When someone hurts us, they drop a seed of bitterness into our heart. We can immediately pluck it out by forgiving our offender and getting on with our lives, or we can cultivate it into a root that pollutes our lives. We have to remember that we represent Christ in our dealings with everyone. We have to strive to be like him.
    I recommend Lou Priolo’s book, “Bitterness: The Root that Pollutes.” It has profoundly affected me and helped me with my bitterness. http://loupriolo.com/

  25. I relate a bit too much to this. My husband and I went through a very similar situation with our old church “falling apart.” We left on good terms and immediately joined a new church while friends of ours followed very different paths. It’s been a few years now and my husband and I, although physically making the same decision, emotionally and spiritually handled it very differently. He was able to make the clean break, not accept others burdens and faults, and move on. I have had a lot of hurts and unresolved issues come back and to this day still have a hard time trusting a church enough to think of them as family. We find that as long as we talk about it and don’t judge each other, we’re in a healthy position for healing.

  26. Thank you for sharing this. I love (in)courage, but I missed this post the other day until my friend just linked to it. The analogy you used from Burn Notice is so good. My husband and I met while we were volunteers starting a church plant. It was one of the BEST experiences of my life, but four years in the church was folded back into the bigger church that founded it. We also had to move on and recover, and it’s taken me over a year to be “ready” to be involved with our new church. Part of me was afraid I was withdrawing from God by not being as active in serving, even though I could feel Him telling me to rest and heal from the experience. You’re absolutely right and I’m glad I read this.

  27. Thank you for this. I was going to get married and the guy I wanted to marry changed his mind and it has definitely broken me. Others do not understand why I am not over it yet, so thank you for this.

  28. I remember there were twin women (80+ years old) at a church and their husbands died within a few years of each other. The one whose husband died first jumped right back into things. When her sister’s husband died, she expected her twin to react like she did but she didn’t. In frustration, she came to my husband. My husband’s words to her was “we all grieve differently and on different timetables.” What might just roll of one person’s back, deeply wounds another. We are just different and we need to allow ourselves to be different.
    We left a church where we served on staff. I am still struggling after almost 1.5 years. Many don’t understand. People have even said comments about how long it is taking me to heal. I want to heal faster! But I am not. Thank you for your encouraging words.

  29. This is so so true. Thank you for sharing Mary! I am an (in)courager for a group of us women going through situations like you describe in this post. I appreciate the reminder as we heal from these kinds of things that we do indeed all break differently.
    Thank you for being so open about this as you share.

  30. Thank you for sharing this. My husband and I just completed a year long break from full-time ministry. We’re slowly stepping back in now in a new church. It’s been interesting to hear all of the different opinions (from other couples) of how/what we should have done differently. We definitely needed the time to heal…and we still do in some ways. Thankful for time to inch back in.