Trauma that stems from a young age is often the basis for the dysfunctional behavior we present as an adult. Hurt is messy. We are each the victims of pain, undeserved hurt, indifference, and unjustified circumstances. As a result, unresolved trauma triggers the brain’s survival defenses. We place walls around our emotions to guard against any perceived attacks to prevent ever having to experience harm to the degree of previous experience.
Emotional defense presents in many forms:
- Fight- yelling, threats, demands of perfection from ourselves or others, and aggressiveness.
- Flight- incessantly busy, panic, anxiety, workaholic, inability to relax.
- Freeze- distrust of others, choosing solitude over healthy connections to others, physically or mentally frozen.
- Fawn- forfeiture of personal needs/wants/rights/preferences/boundaries to appease the needs/wants/preferences/desires of others, codependent relationships. https://themighty.com/2020/01/fight-flight-freeze-fawn-trauma-responses/
Trauma that stems from a young age is often the basis for the dysfunctional behavior we present as an adult. For example, if you were raised in a house with hyper-strict rules, you may find yourself confused as an adult why you keep attracting relationships that end up taking advantage of your goodwill. The compliant behavior that helped you survive your strict upbringing and avoidance of harsh beatings now leaves you dismissing your own healthy boundaries and self worth as an adult. Your prey-like behavior fits like a glove to the selfish instincts of a predatory relationship. This is also true of the dysfunction of the predator. Being selfish and demanding is likely a survival mechanism that helped them have a voice in an environment that may have been otherwise dismissive. Your parent’s strict rules may stem from a time in their life when they had to preform and produce noticeable results in order to gain the love and attention they were desperate to attain as kids. As we can see, unresolved dysfunction and hurt is like Newton’s law; Every action has a an equal and opposite reaction. http://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/propulsion/2-every-action-has-an-equal-and-opposite.html
The behaviors we developed in order to obtain our needs as kids (safety, belonging, acceptance), do not simply disappear when the demand to preform goes away. Our behavior has become a learned and well-practiced trait. Even with this knowledge, it is not easy to simply give up behaviors that we have come to function within. And for many of us, the work to learn and implement replacement behaviors is a step that (for a variety of excuses) seems like more work to overcome rather than simply manage within dysfunction.
Enter the religious church. Made up of people. Maintains a history of unaddressed dysfunction. And as is typical of dysfunction, passes on hurt that is believed to be necessary for survival.
Hurting People Hurt People
The hurt inflicted upon religion seems to stem from a misconception of a responsibility to maintain a cure to sin. This is an impossible feat since religion cannot serve as the source of cultural restoration. Lacking the authority to emancipate humanity from transgression, yet assuming this responsibility not only hurts the church, but also the community who desperately seeks peace and truth. Because religion lacks the ability to change individuals in culture from within, it is guilty of giving false hope of security in Christ by setting up an external guideline for culture to live by.
Scripture has much to say regarding judgment:
John tells us, “Don’t judge anyone by your human limitations. Only God’s judgments are flawless (18 15-16).
Matthew reads (quoting Jesus), “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speak of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye” (7:1-5).
Jesus has sympathy for the fact that it is human nature to judge. Judging the mentality and actions of others helps us survive on a basic level. Where religion has gone wrong is that it believes in order to survive, it too has to judge other’s chances of eternal survival. Jesus makes clear that this is not our place. Not only is it not our place, but as a warning not to assume this responsibility, the same measure of judgment we use on others will be used against us.
Paul reminds us, “Don’t be quick to condemn someone else’s actions. God is patient, but He doesn’t overlook anyone’s disobedience, especially yours (Romans 2:1-5).
James warns, “Don’t speak destructive things about others. Are you qualified to perfectly judge someone else? (James 4: 11-12).
We are also told, “Don’t attack each other. Try to be a good example so others won’t copy your bad behavior (Romans 14:13).
I consider myself a social media missionary. I find that this is the closest place we have in common to the city gates depicted in the bible where greetings and discussion of current events take place. In this place are a mix of beliefs, attitudes, standards, expectations, and demands- most of it is raw and authentic. It is in the raw exposure of emotion and beliefs that we can have an authentic conversation and meet others where they are. It is not uncommon for someone who has been genuinely hurt by religion to lash out and attack anyone who seems to be approaching them with what has hurt them in the past.
When the church uses religion as a way to position for God’s rightful place in determining purity and right-living, we pass hurt to those who may not be yet ready to succumb to that step in their faith.
The injustice of unwarranted and assumed judgment comes with a clear warning as Jesus states above. This is likely because we not only inflict pain on others regarding the lack of behavior they show in comparison to what we have attained in our personal relationship with God, but we also inflict pain on the one who created us by showing a lack of faith in the Holy Spirit. I have come to believe that much of the reason we are quick to judge others and feel the need to hold them responsible for their actions, is that we are not fully at peace with what is expected of us. This is also a painful realization- but also a freeing one. It is well worth our time and effort to comb through our beliefs to determine if they are a source of the Holy Spirit’s calling and expectation, or simply a way to appease the religious people around us who assume the responsibility of dishing out their own rules for judgment.
Once we declare freedom of religious judgment, we are truly free in Christ.
We no longer will carry the falsely assumed burden of putting our expectations on others. We will no longer experience the pain of never being perfect enough to live as a child of God. We will have the capacity to love others where they are at and not lash out at others who lash out at us when the topic of Christianity surfaces. We can understand and relate to their hurt and simply love them through it. We are free from the bondage of living to the standard of religious judgment and the expectation to pass that standard on to others in turn.
I pray that the church can and will shed the assumption of religious authority. We can no longer present ourselves as a false God. With authority comes responsibility, and without authority to judge, we must no longer assume the responsibility of maintaining a standard. We are free to love without judgment. We are free from hurt. We are free to no longer pass that hurt to others. We are free to disarm hurt that others have inflicted in God’s name. We are free to invite others, in a manner of love) to do the same.