A Commentary on Christian Culture: Trauma Dumping
Taking advantage of safe spaces to share inappropriate stories can lead to toxic environments
Hi. We’ve never met, but I’m going to share my testimony with you. In it, I will include all the most traumatic experiences in my life with gruesome detail. I will not warn you ahead of time, ask if you’re comfortable with this information, or give you a chance to respond. Welcome to modern testimony culture.
What you just read is a prime example of trauma dumping – oversharing troubling experiences or thoughts in a way that can harm the listener. Everyone needs a place where they can share about the ups and downs of life. However, venting to friends is different than trauma dumping. Venting is talking through a frustrating event which can quickly be resolved. It is a basic, human way to cope. Trauma dumping is suffocating. It is springing heavy issues onto someone with no resolution.
Sharing this type of information with an unsuspecting party may leave them feeling anxious, hopeless, upset, or angry. If you share a gruesome story about a sickness and their loved one is going through something similar, that could cause them to worry more. Trauma dumping often leaves the listener feeling trapped with sensitive information that he or she didn’t ask for.
Testimonies are a wonderful tool used to share how God has transformed your life. It often conveys hope in times of desperation. The issue comes in when it becomes a therapy session. A testimony is not the time to share about traumatic events in order to feel better. In fact, it shouldn’t be about the speaker – it’s God’s story.
Vulnerability comes in stages. You have to start at a surface level and work deeper. The caveat to this is that the other person in the conversation might not want to go any deeper. Being able to gauge the other person’s comfortability is key – something that is not available in a public speaking setting.
When sharing vulnerable information, you have to know who you’re speaking to. If you know that they are currently struggling with the issue you’d like to speak on, you must gauge whether your story will benefit them or not. Sharing vulnerability is an act of love. Are you loving someone by sharing your story?
Psalm 71:15-18 (ESV) says, “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”
These verses focus on telling God’s story of righteousness and glory. We are called to share our testimonies in a way that shows who God is, not just what we’ve been through.