Nov
15
2012

We unwittingly project onto God our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves… But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves—unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely. Brennan Manning

A predominant characteristic of the behavior that I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection. F. Scott Peck

Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it. Salvador Dali

Atelophobia, you might wonder, is the fear of not being perfect. This can often be the challenge of the person who has been a Christian, but never has really learned God’s grace for themselves. Sadly, this can be the chief problem of the person who has stayed a servant too long. The process of being a Christian can have some dangerous marking points—after getting a few years under your belt, you are soon placed in a role of leadership—perhaps you’re teaching Sunday school, perhaps you’re leading a small group, perhaps you are pastoring a church of three thousand. As this begins to happen, people will begin to look up to you. They begin to have high expectations. They will applaud your service and your life. They will think you have it all together. But in reality, deep-inside, there might be significant problems attacking you from each side and because you feel compelled for some reason, you keep on playing the part of the “good Christian.” Perhaps, you think, maybe you should be looked up to. Maybe, you should be applauded. Pretty much, you begin to feel like you do have to have it all together. Or that’s what you tell yourself. However, there is another truth behind your mask:

  • A seemingly benign struggle with depression has become problematic in your life.
  • A recent bout of chest pains which your doctor tells you is because of anxiety and stress has slowly built up in your life.
  • You are fighting the present negative psychological ramifications of growing up in a family in which you were never told you were loved and worthwhile.
  • You have developed an inability to feel any emotion which is creating havoc with your spouse.
  • You have a sexual relationship with your spouse which is less than fulfilling and you begin doing things which at one point in your life you would have deplored.
  • You verbally assault your spouse and children on a regular basis and this anger seems to come out of nowhere.

As time goes on, you fail to deal with your brokenness inside, because you are not allowed to be broken, because you are a leader at church in some capacity or simply because you profess to call yourself a Christian. Christians don’t have problems, right? You feel a hollowness inside, but as time goes on there is not the room in which to really look at your life and expose those places which need to be dealt with in your life. If you did, everyone would know the real you and that wouldn’t be good. If this is where you find yourself, this is what Jesus calls building your house on sand. (Matthew 7:24-27)

There are often many moments in our lives in which God shines a light on our dark places and asks us to deal with these scary places in our lives. At this moment, it is up to us to dig at that area and unearth the deep-set sin or the deep wound from years past. No one is exempt—each of us are broken and God so much wants us to deal with that brokenness. With each of us, we have done great wrong in our lives in some capacity and God wants us to acknowledge that and begin to make amends with him, with others and with ourselves. With each of us, in some way, whether great or small, we each bring a woundedness to our lives. With this bruised part of our selves, each of us has learned to respond in negative ways in which we hurt others and bring harm to ourselves. We need to go back to the beginning and look at our lives and face those places which have brought harm to us so that we can heal.

  • It’s okay to go see a counselor about when you were sexually abused at age eight or because of a marriage that is deeply dissatisfying.
  • It’s okay to tell someone that you can trust that you are developing a drinking problem and your anger is destroying your life in subtle ways.

In terms of those I have counseled, a lot of folks I have seen simply do not deal with who they are and what their lives have become. They gloss over or deny the problems that they are facing in themselves, their marriages or families. For those who have glossed over their problems, often these folks are Christians. We are really good at doing that because we have this propensity to feel that we have to “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) We take a verse like that and misinterpret what it is trying to say. The verse offers us a good goal, but it is not supposed to be a standard we are to meet day-to-day. In this context, a better verse for us to remember is found in the book of James. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16) We need to come clean about our lives with others and be honest with others about where we stand. Only then, this verse states, can we find healing.

Here is a suggestion with this issue. When I became a psychologist one of the challenges that our profession requests of each therapist is that we also open up our lives to seeking some help from a fellow counselor. It is first for our own mental and emotional health and also so we have first-hand experience in what it is like to go to counseling. I have done this and it was very rewarding and helped me sort through some problem spots I have had in my own life. I truly believe that everyone should try it at least for a short season in their lives. To have someone who is unbiased offering you good direction in your life can never be a bad thing. While it is important to find a gifted and skilled Christian counselor, I think that anyone can benefit from going and talking to someone about where they have wanted to make a change or where there has been a consistent problem in their lives. Counseling is founded on the importance of confidential conversations, and therefore, is a place where you might be able to share some things you’ve never shared with anyone.  Maybe you should give it a try. Maybe it will be the first time where you were allowed to share the real you.


In: Friend to Jesus
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