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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Bypass’

I was recently reintroduced to a concept known as “spiritual bypass,” coined by American psychotherapist John Welwood. Spiritual bypass occurs when one worships the spiritual experience and exploits it to avoid working on necessary psychological tasks.

Dr. Welwood observed the phenomenon in the context of his Buddhist experience, although I recognize it also in the context of Christianity, causing me to infer that it is a universal phenomenon.

Bypassers are the folks who jump headlong into religion, especially during a time of crisis, using chapter and verse to smile when they should be weeping and gnashing their teeth. It is justification for not feeling, chalking it up to “God’s will;” psyching ourselves out of critical opportunities for growth. Misplaced priorities.

This is the churchaholic, throwing themselves headlong into every activity available when the church doors are open, thereby bypassing perhaps what God really intended for them.

This is the workaholic, grinding away at the office for hours on the premise of doing a good job and bringing home extra bacon while neglecting duties of primary importance.

This is the alcoholic, the drugaholic, the sportsaholic. And, yes, the Facebookaholoic.

I propose that the concept of “bypass” is not only spiritual, but emotional, mental, physical, psychological, and any other framework within which one chooses to avoid God’s reality for them. I’d venture to say it even has neurological underpinnings, and is not unlike the brain’s ingenious way of creating dissociation in the face of unbearable trauma.

How many times have we seen those who are addicted to substances, to abuse (victims or perps), to human dysfunction of any sort, “find Jesus” (or Buddha, or environmentalism, or any good cause to an extreme) and “miraculously” turn their lives around for a time?

This is where the concept of salvation may seem shady to some: one “dedicates their life to the Lord,” only later to stumble and fall, and then at some point may again rededicate.

Throw a little Calvinism into the mix and you’ve got some worthwhile confusion to chew on.

Nobody wants the wood, hay & stubble, yet we wrestle with what quantifies the gold, rubies and Good Stuff. I like to think of it as a process that God needs us to go through to be closer to Him.

I suppose “bypass” can be any means of avoiding God’s will for us to fully experience our weaknesses. By His mercy He gave us manna, judges, prophets and, finally, Jesus, to help us face the fears we have behind our avoidance. He gave us these things to soften the blow, because He loves us. He knows we are vulnerable to pain – that’s how He made us. There is merit in ashes and sackcloth. But also in balance.

Jesus faced those fears head-on, but not before an attempt at bypass, Himself (“…let this cup pass.”).

I challenge you to examine your own bypass, ways you evade the experience of going through the necessary eye of the needle:

How do you bypass your own discomforts?

How do you bypass God’s intentions for you?

Do we sugar-coat these things with do-gooding and man (or self)-pleasing benevolence?

Sit erectly in the pew with the utmost appearance of faithful attentiveness, or lie crumpled in a heap, quietly weeping in a dark corner where only He can see?

Stay on the track we think best, when He’d rather we go on a wilderness walkabout?

What if you went through the eye, totally raw, skinless, open to the experience? Willing to feel? Amenable to risk? Susceptible to His sharpening?

What would that look like? And feel?

Courage, my friend.

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