Is pretending to be OK part of your spiritual ‘discipline’?
An abstract of Inside Out by Dr. Larry Crabb (Part 1)
12 May 2018
“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”
When prophesying the siege of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, Jeremiah pointed out a clear sign of sin and distance from God: superficiality and pretense. This was when God’s people had a habit of covering their spiritual issues with superficial pretending that things were OK when they were not. Can you relate in the 21st century?
Making through life through pretending
In his book Inside Out, Christian psychologist and counsellor Dr. Larry Crabb discusses the very same pattern modern Christian communities engage in. He argues that most of us make it through life by coping, not changing.Somehow the core problems involving who we really are remain only partially addressed.
Real transformation as God desires involves more than cleaning up our visible act or sweeping the streets; God wants us to climb down into the sewers and do something about the filth beneath the concrete. He directs us to enter the dark regions of our soul to experience His presence when we feel most alone. Biblical change never requires us to pretend. Christ wants us to face reality as it is — including all the fears, hurts, resentments, and self-protective motives we work hard to keep out of sight — and emerge as changed people who can deeply love, not pretenders.
What are your barometers of spiritual health?
Like the Pharisees, we reduce sin to manageable categories and preoccupy ourselves with maintaining the standards we set for ourselves and others. Spirituality is then measured by meeting moral standards or doing spiritual activities rather than by the quality of our relationships.
The hard-to-handle issues in our soul that keep us from relating to others deeply are ignored, while easier-to-handle matters, such as social courtesies and appropriate language, become widely accepted barometers of spiritual health.
Too often, our idea of obedience reflects not a passionate desire to pursue God, but a stubbornly fearful determination to not feel deep frustration and personal pain. When the energy behind our obedience is supplied by the desire to deny pain, the human soul is not engaged in an openness to investigating what God might really want from us.
Is denying hurt part of your spiritual ‘discipline’?
In many Christian circles, maintaining a comfortable distance from inside problems is strongly encouraged. There is an incredible resistance to owning internal pain. Even a glance in the direction of discouragement and fear violates our idea of what a victorious Christian should be doing. A ‘good’ Christian should be rejoicing, right?
When teenagers struggle with resentment toward their parents or confusion about their identity, youth workers simply recommend more Bible reading or prayers. These are good, but far too often hard questions get buried beneath a pile of memorized verses and Christian conduct. The tough issues seem resolved when they are shoved out of sight. They continue to take their toll on our true well-being.
Many Christians have been ‘trained’ in conservative churches to deny that they hurt. We are rarely asked, with penetrating, sincere interest, how we really feel. A response longer than “Fine, thanks” is usually not expected. Our conversations rarely invite a honest sharing from our heart. We all have a tendency to keep safely distant from each other’s feelings. To deal with what’s really going on inside is disturbing, so we hide the inside truth from others, and most importantly, from ourselves.
In other words, our longing for intimacy comes with a terror of intimacy. These mindsets are so inherently embedded in our makeup that we never think to question them. We tend to measure people’s love by how they avoid triggering our negative emotions. Only the Gospel can argue against this position.
By: Dr. Larry Crabb