I can’t even begin to tell you the number of counseling clients I’ve met over the past decade who have sincerely confessed to me something like this: “I’ve always thought I was a Christian. But, if I really am, why do I still struggle with so much shame and doubt deep inside me? I thought that was supposed to go away, wasn’t it?”
Unfortunately, this widespread assumption, coupled with decades of pretentiousness among average American churchgoers, have caused countless individuals to go “underground” with their real-life inner struggles. Assuming the church doesn’t care about their hurts. Or being dissuade from trusting their relationship with Jesus, on the grounds “if I’m really saved, I shouldn’t still have these struggles.”
Maybe they’re battling loneliness they’ve felt since a parent passed away. Or feelings of unworthiness stemming from the emotional or physical absence of their father during childhood. Or the shame of having been addicted or incarcerated or divorced. Or maybe an overall inability to feel, which is causing issues with intimacy in their marriage. Or shame-based perfectionism that blankets every part of their life. Or the compulsive need to be in control, even of the uncontrollable.
Our Woundedness Must Be Validated
A person’s deep, honest feelings that don’t have an emotionally safe, accepting environment to be expressed and validated become dark, isolating “secrets” that they vow to never tell anyone. False beliefs – things we believe that have no basis in truth – begin to sprout like weeds in the mind, and they convince us it’s not safe to expose the “real” us, for fear others will reject us or not like / love / approve of / accept us anymore. And that would feel worse than death itself.
As Claudia Black presents in her book It Will Never Happen to Me, these predictable responses are referred to as the “three dysfunctional family rules.”
- DON’T TALK. “There’s no way I could ever talk about what’s really going on in my life. I have to pretend like everything is fine. That way everyone will think I’m fine. Because I know if I was really honest with people, they would just reject me.”
- DON’T TRUST. “People can’t be trusted. If I ask them for anything, they’ll either not care, be emotionally absent, or break their promises. So, it’s safer to just not trust.”
- DON’T FEEL. “I refuse to acknowledge my feelings, because if I do, they will either be ignored, or who I express them to will become angry, place blame on me, or shame me for being weak. So, it’s safer to just to stuff feelings down. That way no one can hurt me.”
Connecting the Dots
John Bradshaw provided me a path. Not the answer. Not a guru. But a path that would connect the unhealthiness of my soul with the presence of Christ living within me. That was 1988. I’m still on that journey today – yet countless miles further along the path. And I hope to illuminate that path for you through the chapters of this book.
So, what’s the destination this pathway leads to? Surely, it’s perfection, right? Or complete inner healing? Or the erasing of uncomfortable memories from the past? Nope. The journey is the destination! It’s less about where the path is leading, and more about who I am on the path.
God clearly desires for human beings to be transformed (morphed) from their life defined by the painful effects and the unrealistic expectations of their past, to the life He created us for, that is “pleasing and perfect,” and lived with inner joy and acceptance and hope and purpose. His purpose!
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give yourselves fully to God because of all He has done for you. Let this be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 NLT)
Soul health and spiritual maturity cannot be separated. Our counselors are ordained Christian ministers as well as certified and licensed Christian counselors. We are able to help you experience freedom from shame, anxiety, depression, or marriage / relationship conflict with methods that are purely Christ-centered. Please click on this link to learn much more about how our DEPRESSION COUNSELING can help you become a more authentic follower of Christ, and help you find freedom from identity dependence.
Life Training offers convenient sessions at our office in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as online counseling via Zoom or FaceTime. Our non-profit counseling practice has an outstanding track record for over a decade helping men and women, individuals and couples who are ready to move beyond anxiety, depression, and conflicts in marriage or other relationships find hope and healing in their lives. Contact us today at 502-717-5433, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org