Tough Love Rules from Gathering Voices



Gathering Voices post by Beth Pyles

Sooner or later, someone is going to tell you of a life experience that is beyond description in its horror and evil.  Here are some suggestions for how to not screw it up.

1. Suck it up.  Do not cry – not then, not while you’re in the room with them.  This is their horror, not yours.

2. Do not run from the pain of others.  If they could live through it and they can tell it, the least you can do is hear it.

3. Talk less, listen more.  They need to tell and they need you to listen.  They don’t necessarily need you to understand every detail.  But they do need you to pay attention.

4. Do not underestimate the cost to you of the listening – it costs you something of your soul to learn firsthand about the reality and enormity of evil.

5. Share with a trusted confidant your own processing – your feelings and reactions.  Think about how all this affects your own faith and worldview, but before doing any of the thinking work, simply feel your own feelings – after you’ve left the presence of the story teller.  Own your revulsion, your rage, your horror, your grief.

6. Find your own way to forgiving the wrongdoer(s).  Judging them and what they did is not the answer to your own reaction.  You need to do the work you preach and forgive.

7. Avoid telling the one to whom it happened about their need to forgive.  Maybe that’ll come later.  But in the throes of relating a story of great suffering is not the time to speak of forgiveness unless the story teller brings it up.  Chances are they won’t, except perhaps as a challenge.  People telling about horrible things that have happened to them are often, if not always, reliving the experience in the telling.  When you’re in the middle of the event is not the time to talk forgiveness.

8. Tell them you’re sorry it happened to them.  Don’t cringe from naming the reality.  The one who lived through it and is brave enough to tell already knows what it was.  “I am so sorry you were raped.”  “I hate that you were tortured in this way.”

9. Treat what they have told you as the strictest of confidences.  Never allude to it in the company of others – not from the pulpit (even in general terms), not in a social setting, not even in the presence of those closest to them.  It is their story, not yours.

10. Acknowledge that you don’t understand.

11. Never, never, never, say that you know how they feel.  You don’t.  Even if something very similar happened to you, you don’t know how they feel.  You know how you feel.  And sharing your own experiences when someone is sharing theirs is stealing center stage for yourself.

12. Maintain eye contact.  It’s tempting to look anywhere but into the eyes of the suffering, but they need that contact from you.  Give it to them.


Snippets from Detention

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
~John 1:5

…thrown out…

…i pray for my father’s death…
…i wanted to be president…
…i miss my children…
…i don’t need anybody…
…i have to be wanted…
…i wonder where god is…



Child Slavery is Bigger then Ever

York-led study finds homeless youth more vulnerable to crime

York-led study finds homeless youth more vulnerable to crime

A poem: “I am from nothing”

Below is a poem from mindy hardwick’s blog.  She facilitates poetry writing workshops in youth detention centers.  I think this really gives a glimpse into the mind of a youth in prison.  Especially the idea of being nothing and coming from nothing.


Written by a Teen Girl


I am from nothing.

A hole in the wall

An unnoticed fly on the ceiling

I am from deception

A never-ending circle of flies

A knife in the back of a friend
I am from perversion

The look on a man’s face

as he steals the innocence of a child.


I am from nothing

But I will not BE nothing.

Impact of Chaplain Programs on Discipline

The state of Florida did a study on the impact of participation in chaplain’s programs on discipline for those who are incarcerated.  The news is AMAZING!!  (DRs are Disciplinary Reports).  For the complete report, go here.

July Chapel Attendance Total Inmates Received DR DR%
0 times 21,363 2,001 9.4%
1-3 times 4,437 324 7.3%
4-9 times 2,004 119 5.9%
10+ times 937 37 3.9%
Statewide Average 72,075 5,083 7.1%


Marshgate Prison Chapel
Marshgate Prison Chapel

Detention: No Place for Kids

Hey…a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports:

  • Youth prisons do not reduce recidivism
  • Youth prisons waste taxpayer money
  • Youth prisons expose youth to dangerous and abusive conditions

But, the good news:

  • States have reduced their juvenile corrections populations
  • There has been no corresponding increase in juvenile crimes or violence


  • Limit eligibility for correctional placement
  • Invest in promising non-residential alternatives
  • Change the financial incentives for incarcerating youth
  • Adopt best practice reforms for managing youthful offenders
  • Replace large institutions with small, treatment-oriented centers for the dangerous few
  • Use data to hold youth correction systems accountable

View the complete report here:  No Place for Kids:  The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration


Some good news for Washington state…

The good news is that across the time period that this report talks about, Washington state decreased its juvenile detention population by about 600 youth.  And that Washington state is decreasing its occurrence of “maltreatment” of youth.

Recurring Maltreatment of Youth in Detention
Recurring Maltreatment of Youth in Detention

Bible Study Tonight: The Ten Commandments

Tonight, in the Youth Detention Center, we did a Bible study with the boys about the 10 commandments.  We let the youth write their own 10 commandments.  Everybody had to come to consensus on what was an agreeable commandment.  The consensus process was a little challenging, but the youth were great at the process!  I’m going to record as many as I can remember here!  Some were wise…and some were, well, interesting!

  1. Everybody gets what they need (and they work for it)
  2. Honor your elders (attitude)
  3. Obey God
  4. Help the poor
  5. Help the needy
  6. Be fruitful and multiply (but no prostitutes)
  7. Respect life (quite a discussion about what murder is and is not)
  8. Live the life you were given and do the best you can

As you can see, I can’t quite remember them all.  Maybe I’ll come up with them sometime in the middle of the night!

What would be the 10 commandments you would write?