Emotional health versus Spiritual bypassing

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Alison Cook wrote a nice analysis where she differentiates between “Emotional health” and “Spiritual bypassing”

Emotional health

Spiritual bypassing

I notice that I feel anxious and I’d like to understand why

Praying always takes my anxiety away

I am not sure of the right words to say. I am aware that this is a tender topic.

I am called to help this person by giving the right message

I feel angry and want to know why

I never feel angry. I choose forgiveness.

I feel uncertain about the future, parts of me feel frightened.

Faith keeps me from worry, my future is certain.

Healthy spirituality isn’t a pleasant state of blissful neutrality. That’s certainly not the example we see in Jesus. Healthy spirituality is about facing hard things - not avoiding or denying them.

Spiritual bypassing does just the opposite. It’s a way of hiding behind God vs. entering into reality the way Jesus did. It’s not healthy.

If you look down the column on the right, you’ll see that I have magnified the language of certainty because it’s an obvious “tell.”

Spiritual bypassing shows up in far more subtle ways. It can show up in a gentle, yet condescending tone. It can show up in a hand squeeze, “I’m praying for you. It can show up in someone who says all the right words, but you just never really feel like they can connect with you on a meaningful, human level.

If you are confused about health vs. spiritual bypassing, look for the fruit.

As you look down the column on the left, you see many of the fruit of the Spirit evident: kindness, patience, gentleness, faithfulness self-control, humility, etc. You see grace and honesty and vulnerability. This ability to honor and name our very human experience in a messy world is a sign of emotional and spiritual health, not weakness.

Emotional health is not denying our emotions - it’s connecting to them and leading them in partnership with God. It’s holding space for real emotions with tender awareness, without having to be dictated by them. It’s being aware of our anxiety, our doubt, our fears, our uncertainty AND knowing that we’re going to be OK.

There is no zap of a wand, no magic trick that keeps us from facing hard things. If your spirituality is promising that, I’d start asking some questions.

This is what it means to be human: we feel, we cry, we breathe, we regroup, we connect, we stay present, we honor ourselves, we honor others… and then hit repeat. This is the reality of this magnificent, messy spiritual journey.