The book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality reflects so much of what I believe about the correlation between our mental and spiritual health.
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WHAT IS EMOTIONAL MATURITY?
We’ ve all found ourselves in the uncomfortable situation at one time or another where we realize we are playing a part.
Author and pastor, Peter Scazzero found himself in this same predicament, preaching at church about living as a Christian, while his marriage and temper where falling apart. When he began to recognize his need for emotional maturity, he was able to address it and pursue deeper spiritual growth.
Scazzero outlines 10 areas where we as Christians can be lacking in emotional maturity which in turns affect our spiritual maturity. I found myself relating to more than I was comfortable with, but it challenged me to set some spiritual goals for myself. This book was also my motivation to get counseling to allow for accountability in my spiritual growth.
10 SYMPTOMS OF EMOTIONALLY UNHEALTHY SPIRITUALITY
I felt that the message of his ministry is so in line with mine here at Intentional Living, where I focus on the importance of setting the ground work of spiritual growth through addressing all the other areas of your life:
- Taking care of yourself so that you can grow in awareness of what you need to move forward (Self Care)
- Discovering your gifts and God-given talents so that you can find meaning in your day to day (Goal Setting)
- Pursuing deeper spiritual growth through knowledge (Bible Study) and application (Christian Living, Motherhood, Marriage)
To better understand where it is we need to grow, here are 10 areas he gave to explain what it means to be emotionally unhealthy in our spirituality. How many of these can you relate to?
1. Using God to run from God
Here are Scazzero’s examples on what this means:
- Do God’s work to satisfy me, not him
- Do things in God’s name he never asked me to do
- Pray about God doing my will, not about me surrendering to his will
- Demonstrate “Christian behaviors” so significant people think well of me
- Focus on certain theological points out of concern for my fears and unresolved emotional issues rather than out of out concern for God’s truth
- Use biblical truth to judge and devalue others
- Exaggerate my accomplishments for God to subtly compete with others
- Make pronouncements like, “The Lord told me I should do this,” when the truth is, “I think the Lord told me to do this”
- Use Scripture to justify the sinful parts of my family relationships, cultural values, and national policies, instead of evaluating them under God’s lordship
- Hide behind God talk, deflecting the spotlight from my inner cracks, and become defensive about my failures
- Apply biblical truths selectively to avoid anything that would require making significant life changes
2. Ignoring anger, sadness and fear
Many Christians don’t believe they have permission to admit or express their feelings, especially when it comes to fear, sadness, shame, anger, hurt and pain. But how can we listen to what God is saying when we cut ourselves off from our own emotions?
3. Dying to the wrong things
While we are called to die to our sinful nature (arrogance, hypocrisy, judging others), we aren’t called to die to the healthy desires and pleasures of life (friendships, joy, art, music, beauty, recreation, laughter, nature). Our lives as Christians shouldn’t look miserable, we have been given gifts and creativity and joy from our creator!
4. Denying the impact of the past on the present
Our views on almost everything have been shaped by our upbringing and past experiences. We need to look at the ways we relate to one another and evaluate whether they reflect our family’s morals or God’s.
5. Dividing life into “secular” and “sacred” compartments
This is the struggle many Christian have, where you act one way at church and another the rest of the week. We are called to look different from the rest of the world, not be indistinguishable from one another.
Statistics show that Christians marriage end in divorce as much as non-Christian marriages. This also flows over into other areas like domestic violence, materialism and racism.
6. Doing for God instead of being with God
Here are a few false beliefs Christians struggle with:
- Doing lots of work for God is a sure sign of a growing spirituality.
- It is all up to you. And you’ll never finish while you’re alive on earth.
- God can’t move unless you pray.
- You are responsible to share Christ around you at all times or people will go to hell.
- Things will fall apart if you don’t persevere and hold things together.
7. Spiritualizing away conflict
Jesus’ life was filled with conflict! He showed us that healthy Christians don’t need to avoid it. However, few people were raised in families where conflicts were resolved in a mature, healthy way. Here are a few of Scazzero’s examples of unhealthy ways to deal with conflict:
- Say one thing to people’s faces and then another behind their backs
- Make promises we have no intention of keeping
- Give people the silent treatment
- Become sarcastic
- Give in because we are afraid of not being liked
- “Leak” our anger by sending an email containing a not-so-subtle criticism
- Tell only half the truth because we can’t bear to hurt a friend’s feelings
- Say yes when we mean no
- Avoid and withdraw and cut off
- Find an outside person with whom we can share in order to ease our anxiety
8. Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure
No one is perfect—even those who seem to have it all together! The Bible is filled with examples of people trusting and following the Lord that were also broken, deeply flawed people. Everyone, regardless of their gifts, is weak, vulnerable and dependent on God.
9. Living without limits
A lot of Christians carry guilt for not doing enough, which leads to discouragement. Unfortunately, many times this results in disengagement and isolation from “needy people” because they don’t know what to do.
Even Jesus didn’t heal every single person in Palestine, yet we feel like we’re failing if we don’t “do it all”. This also spills over into our need for self care.
Do you feel that taking care of yourself equals not caring about others? Of course not! What good are we to others if we can’t even take care of ourselves?
10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey
When we are so caught up with pointing out other people’s faults, we have no time to notice our own. This is the basis for the “us vs them” mentality and what divides so many of us. Jesus tells us to first take the plank out of our own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else’s.
SO NOW WHAT?
Ok so if you’re like me, you’ve recognized yourself all over those 10 unhealthy habits. So how do we grow and correct these behaviors?
Scazzero outlines six stages of faith that we go through, and points out that if we find we haven’t grown much since becoming an adult after growing up in the church our whole lives, we may still be in the infant stages!
The first step he did to improve was to put time for quiet and solitude in his schedule.
“We need to be alone so that we can listen. My journey into emotionally healthy spirituality began very simply. Each day, as part of my devotions with God, I would allow myself to feel emotion before God. Then I would journal. Over time I began to discern patterns and God’s movements in a new way in my life.”
The second thing he did was to slow down the pace of his life.
He went from a 6 day, 70 hour work-week to a 5 day, 45 hour schedule. While this may seem impossible to you, make it a priority to look over what you have on your schedule and see where you can slow down.
“Silence and solitude are so foundational to emotionally healthy spirituality that they are a repeated theme throughout this book. We observe this from Moses to David to Jesus to all the great men and women of faith who have gone before us.”
He also sought out trusted advisors—counselors, mentors, spiritual directors, mature friends.
You may feel like you have no one in your life you could go to for advice. Counselors are a great way to do this, or seeking out leaders in your church for mentoring. Make a list of people you admire and reach out to them for coffee or something this week. Pray for guidance from God in this area as well.
ORDER YOUR COPY OF EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY
There’s so much in this book that I haven’t included, such as:
- Six Stages of Faith and Assessing Where You Are
- Four Areas to Help You Grow and How to Monitor Growth
- Healthy Ways to Cope with Pain
- Creating a Daily Rhythm and Observing the Sabbath
- Recognizing the Impact of Your Upbringing on Your Views
I know you will be blessed to learn more about yourself and how to become healthier emotionally and spiritually when you read this bestselling book. Order your copy here.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…
For more posts on my favorite books, check out:
- “Cultivate” by Lara Casey
- “Imperfect Courage” by Jessica Honegger
- “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron
- “The Year of Less” by Cait Flanders
- “Meditation and Mindfulness” by Andy Puddicombe
You’ve got this!
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