Faulty Love Systems
As we look at the heart of God and discover He is filled with grace, love, and kindness toward us, it should move us to desire to love and serve Him more. Often this doesn’t happen because deep down, we are still blocked by faulty belief systems regarding our love. When our earthly experience has been unloving, we may find it difficult to understand God’s love. God is our real Father! He is the one who made us, and therefore, His acceptance and love will conquer any and all negative earthly experiences!
We interpret our world through our own senses and experiences, and we unknowingly have inside of us thousands, possibly millions, of “messages.” Children raised in emotionally healthy family systems may be able to replay messages in their minds to recall valuable lessons their parents taught them. But children raised in emotionally unhealthy family systems may have messages that tell them, “You aren’t lovable,” “Something is wrong with you,” “You’re stupid,” “You’re fat,” “You aren’t good enough.”
These messages are terribly shaming and destructive. For the adult child (shame-based child who is now grown up) who heard these messages, these words have the power to damage his or her entire perspective of love and relationships for a lifetime.
As we begin to face the wounds of our past, it can become difficult to realize that some of our behaviors, even if filled with good intentions, result from responding to these dysfunctional, shame-based childhood messages rather than the healthy foundations we had hoped to create. As we’ve wrapped ourselves externally in a package that seems to be acceptable and filled with good works, it can be unbelievably painful to realize our efforts to fix, help, and compensate are rooted in our own pain, unmet love needs, internalized shame, and fears.
Most of these outward behaviors are driven by inward brokenness that occurs at a subconscious level. That means we don’t intentionally live from this flawed system of love; somehow it has been recorded in our mind as the appropriate way of functioning in relationships, and we do it by default.
Characteristics of Unhealthy Love Systems
Unhealthy love systems all stem from the four false beliefs we looked at in an earlier chapter. Bestselling author Robert McGee presented these in his book entitled The Search for Significance.
- The Performance Trap: “I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself.”
- The Approval Addict: “I must be approved of by certain others to feel good about myself.”
- The Blame Game: “Those who fail (including myself) are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished.”
- Toxic Shame: “I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless.”
Consider the Source
Many of us have at least heard the statement “like begets like,” which means a member of one species will give birth to an offspring belonging to the same species. A cat cannot have a dog as an offspring. Similarly, a human soul cannot create a spiritual reality – within ourselves, in relationships, or life in general.
Unhealthy love stems from individuals — bound to the four primary false beliefs — attempting to experience healthy, unconditional, Christ-like relationships from a source that consists only of unhealthy, conditional, human love.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6 ESV).
Within unhealthy love systems there are common internal shame-based factors that define those relationships:
- Proving our worth. Part of the obsession is in striving to convince other people we have value, goodness, and worth. In essence, we’re saying, “Something is wrong with me, but I’m going to try to prove (to myself and other)] that I’m okay.” Workaholics often fall into this pattern. Individuals with the Melancholy or Choleric temperaments often tend to align with this pattern. These two temperaments find their identity, worth, and value through the performing of tasks.
- People pleasing. There is often a tendency to be driven to please people, especially people who seemingly hold a place of importance in our life. In doing this, we give a great deal of power to another person. We believe we are only acceptable and worthy if we can somehow earn their approval. And as a result, our identity can never exceed the other person’s perceptions of us. Individuals with the Supine or Sanguine temperaments often tend to align with this pattern. These two temperaments find their identity, worth, and value through the approval and acceptance of others.
- Perfectionism. We are often perfectionistic and hold ourselves to an extraordinarily high standard and must convince others we have it all down perfectly. We may equate one mistake with total failure, and become embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated when people witness us making a mistake at any level. We must be strong, never let anyone down, and cannot show any sign of weakness. All five temperament types often align with this pattern, but each for different reasons: Melancholy: perfectionism is the standard of competence; Choleric: perfectionism is the standard for success; Sanguine: perfectionism is the standard for you to approve of me; Supine: perfectionism is the standard for you to accept me and not abandon me; and Phlegmatic: perfectionism is the standard in which I stand on, to prove why I don’t need to commit the energy necessary to change.
- Disassociation. We eventually learn how to present an outward façade — a “false self” — while our inward life leaves us with a sense of being unknown, unseen, and unheard. Trapped within our own skin, a separation occurs that leaves us acting one way on the outside while feeling something altogether different within. It has left us vulnerable to making poor choices, allowing people to mistreat us, and participating in unhealthy situations, all while claiming our actions were done “in the name of love.” Much as we examined above with perfectionism, disassociation takes on different faces dependent upon the individual’s temperament.
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