Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pain and Insecurity

There are lots of well-meaning Christians out there who write books and articles to help people just like me.  There are millions of them out there, telling people that they "just need to remember their identity in Christ."  I have to say... I was not aware, until I started looking, at the handful of buzz-words out there in the Christian self-help and Christian counseling circles.  You aren't "insecure" -you have "fear of man" issues.  You are an idolater, that's all.  You need to forgive to make sure bitterness doesn't take root.  I find there are just as many buzz-words in the Christian self-help/counseling world as there are in the pop-psychology world that Christian counselors scoff at.  There are just as many buzz-words and just as many canned solutions.

I think a lot of what is out there in Christian circles is really just not helpful at all.  In fact, all it seems to do is promote the kind of endless mental meandering that I love to do to avoid the suffering that is really going on inside me.  What could be better than to make my pain a simple theological problem with a theological answer?  That is right up my alley.  The problem is that I can remind myself of who I am in Christ all day long and it won't fix me.  It is good to know.  It is good.  But it won't just make my suffering go away.  It won't take away my inner bondage.  It won't take away the nerve-shattering pain that produces so much anxiety inside me.  It won't heal me.

And I can read books a hundred times that tell me about fear of man and idolatry and how I need to not focus so much on self-protection but instead on reaching out and loving others and how that will make things better, but it doesn't.  It doesn't make it get better.  Sorry.  It doesn't help.  Sometimes I think these well-meaning folks just try to cogitate and make up solutions to things that can't just be "solved" like that.  But it gives people hope, and some people, somehow, are helped by it.  Yet what is the number of people who are truly helped by that?  I haven't met any who have made any true and lasting change by remembering their "identity in Christ" or by "filling up with Christ" or "putting off their fear of man."

I think there is more honesty and true-to-life-ness in these words, from a blog I found, than in just about any of the Christian self-help books I have ever read.

"i carry on for the sake of being normal. no one can see this darkness inside me. no one can know just how insecure i am.  is it even called an insecurity if it's true? no one can know just how ugly i am, inside and out. ugly. that sounds more accurate than insecure. ugly. ugly. ugly sounds like such an ugly word. ugly. ugly. ugly. me. that's me. i'm ugly. ugly. uggglllyy. the more you say it, the uglier it gets."

That is what it feels like inside.  Maybe you will want to spiritualize it and say, "Ah.  This person is self-obsessed.  This isn't a 'self-esteem' problem.  They actually love themselves too much."  Great.  If there is even any truth to that, how does that really help?  How does having that answer really help?  I haven't found that it does.  I have been suffering and reading Christian self-help books and seeking counseling of all sorts for over a decade, and I haven't found that the answers, even if there is a shred of truth to them, are helpful.  I still remain stuck in myself.  I know exactly how that person feels.
The one thing that I see is this:  emotional pain, harbored within and not dealt with, feels ugly -it makes you feel ugly with an ugliness that cannot be described nor covered.  It feels like ugliness, blackness in your soul.  You feel like Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  You can't make eye-contact with people because you don't want to be looked at.  You don't want them to look through you and see the ugly -you don't want them to look through your eyes and see you, because you are too monstrous to look at.  Everything inside you says, "Don't look at me!  Go away!"  For some reason, it seems that some people don't process hurt and betrayal like this.  They can cope or keep it outside of themselves and get past it (or can they?  maybe they just suppress it).  But other people, like me, have it stick to them like glue.  It becomes my little inner prison, a black-hole inside.  It is like a weight on my soul, one that I desperately want to be rid of but one that can't be dumped as simply as deciding, "Ok, I don't want to feel hurt anymore, and I don't want to feel small and black and ugly inside anymore, and I want to let all that go."  I wish.

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