The 10 Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

Linda and I would like to start a time-defined group in Santa Barbara to develop some relationships and consider the topic of emotionally healthy spirituality.  We anticipate using Peter Scazzero‘s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.  The following is a quick overview of an article he wrote…

A person can grow emotionally healthy without Christ. I can think of a number of non-Christian people who are more loving, balanced and civil than many church members I know. At the same time a person can be really into prayer, silence, Scripture, and other Xian disciplines and be emotionally immature and socially maladjusted.  It is the 2 together – emotional health and contemplative spirituality – that release great power to transform our spiritual lives, our small groups and our churches.

The pathway out of this disconnect is radical. That is, it very likely cuts to the root of your entire approach to following Jesus. Trimming a few branches by, for example, attending a prayer retreat or adding a couple of new spiritual disciplines to an already crowded life will not be enough. The enormity of the problem is such that only a revolution in our following of Jesus will bring about the lasting, profound change we long for in our lives.

Before I prescribe this pathway, it is essential for us to clearly identify the primary symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality that continue to wreck havoc in our personal lives and our churches. The following are the top ten symptoms indicating if I am suffering from a bad case of emotionally unhealthy spirituality.

  1. Using God to run from God (e.g. applying Scripture selectively to suit my own purposes, not me doing God’s will.
  2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear (e.g. not being honest with myself and/or others about the feelings, hurts and pains beneath the surface of my life).
  3. Dying to the wrong things (e.g. denying healthy, God-given desires and pleasures of life (friendships, joy, music, beauty, laughter, nature) while finding it difficult to die to my self-protectiveness, defensiveness, a lack of vulnerability and judgmentalism).
  4. Denying the past’s impact on the present (e.g. not considering how my family of origin and significant  people/events from my past have shaped my present).
  5. Dividing life into “secular” and “sacredcompartments (e.g.  compartmentalizing God to “Christian activities” while usually forgetting about him when I am working, shopping, studying or recreating).
  6. Doing for God instead of being with God (e.g. evaluating my spirituality based on how much I am doing for God).
  7. Spiritualizing away conflict (e.g. Missing out on true peace by smoothing over disagreements, burying tensions and avoiding conflict – rather than disrupting the false peace like Jesus).
  8. Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure (e.g. not speaking freely about my weaknesses, failures and mistakes).
  9. Living without limits (e.g. “trying to do it all” or “bite off more than I can chew”).
  10. Judging the spiritual journeys of others (e.g. finding myself occupied and bothered by the faults of others).

What God did in our lives spilled out into the church immediately, beginning with our staff team, then our elder board and eventually the rest of our leadership.

The result has been a rippling effect, very slowly, through the entire church.

Beginning with the staff and elders, interns, ministry and small group leaders– directly and indirectly–we have intentionally integrated the principles that are explained more fully in The Emotionally Healthy Church (Zondervan 2003) and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Nelson, 2006).

Once you go through the door and leave what I am calling “emotionally unhealthy spirituality,” there is no turning back. It is the beginning of a journey that will change your life, your marriage, your church and, ultimately, your ministry!

To see the full article click here.

One thought on “The 10 Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

  1. Greg, I came across your blog while looking for references to John Wesley’s conversion. This is excellent! I trust that the Lord will use your ministry in marvelous ways.
    In Christ, Win Corduan

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