Pity Or Empathy: Responding to the Divorced

Divorcee:“I’m divorced.”

Christian church-goer:“I’m sorry. That’s too bad.”


Sometimes, it is easy to feel like one has a scarlet “D” tattooed to one’s backside. Do I have to justify my divorce to every Christian to whom I reveal my marital status?

I know some of us do not struggle with this. Some people seem bulletproof when it comes to the subtle shaming messages. Who cares what others think? I know I’m not to blame for it. 

I am getting closer to the bulletproof camp but can still relate to former sensitive types. It can still feel like I have to explain my divorce came on the heels of my ex-wife’s adultery when talking to other Christians. The truth is that I do not owe them an explanation.

The other part is what I am writing about in presenting the above scenario or exchange. I might have been guilty of the same sort of response to divorce news in the past. But I can see how responding that way can convey pity and not empathy/care as is warranted.

“I’m sorry. That’s too bad.”

With those words, we can feel relegated to the “B Squad” of Christians who could not quite cut it in keeping our marriages together (as that seems to be a deciding factor–apparently–on who is considered “Varsity”). A sad thing about this is that the Christian saying such words may actually want to convey care. But it is easy to hear the condemnation–especially if you had wished your marriage had not ended in divorce at all.

Just because someone is divorced does not mean that he or she is morally inferior to someone who has never gone through such a dismembering experience. Remember, God went through a divorce–i.e. He divorced Israel over the matter of adultery (see Jer. 3:8).

God certainly is not inferior to “good” Christians who never divorced.

Instead, I would encourage a more empathetic response. Consider how hard that experience was for the individual. To a faithful spouse who announces that they are divorced:

“That sounds tough. What got you through that?”

With those words, you affirm the divorcee and his/her experience. By asking the followup question–if you are genuine–you express that they may know something or have something from that experience worth sharing. You value them not in spite of their divorce but because they made it through such a difficult experience.

I am convinced the Church could learn a lot from faithful spouses who have gone through the fires of infidelity discovery and divorce. But the question remains:

Is She willing and ready to listen?*


*As an encouraging note in that regard, I have been invited to preach at an Evangelical Free Church in St. Cloud, MN this Sunday morning (August 16th) on divorce and remarriage. This church is doing a series on I Corinthians and have come to chapter 7 where the Apostle Paul deals with matters regarding divorce/abandonment in the church in Corinth. I would welcome prayers as I prepare to share my own story and to open the Bible on such important matters.


3 thoughts on “Pity Or Empathy: Responding to the Divorced”

  1. That you would have wisdom to convey a clear and graceful message this Sunday, that your vulnerability would touch hearts and open eyes.
    Thank you for your blog.

  2. I CRINGE at these comments that are not helpful. Divorce is horrible and it hurts enough, without fellow believers being thoughtless. MY worst offender is the pastors wife. She’s only known me 2 years and not well. I am learning to AVOID her. Ive been married 31 years to a serial cheater / SA, and finally got the couage to change my life from the fraud i married.

    Apparently, in her humbe opinion I am ANGRY, have an UNForGIVING SPIRIT, She thought I should stay sleeping with him and perhaps try to “win” him back, recently I shared that he had moved 800 miles away and left while I was shopping –and took all of our money on the way! We had been to court and he was in contempt for doing this but as you Narcs do what they want!! Her pitiful remark back to me was “well this is what you wanted” She acted disgusted with me that I was finally getting what I asked for. VERY hurtful. I have heard the words you wrote about as well as there are two sides to every story (huh?) I love you both. SMH

    I read DM regularly to stay encouraged and validate what I know. Sometimes I just can’t figure these people out. My 31 years marriage ending up in divorce was not my fault 100% his. I thank GOD for sheiding me from these idiotic statements.


    1. Gigi,

      Reading your comment breaks my heart and I’m repeatedly shattered to hear when someone like us (veterans of betrayal) get attacked with such a character spin.

      “Well this is what you wanted?” what a remark of insanity! and is it collusion?

      (Unless this happens to you? You have no idea).

      I pray you have a new rich life grounded and validated by the truth.

      Much love

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