Over the past few years I’ve been spending an enormous amount of time working through a series of books and materials on emotionally healthy spirituality by Peter Scazzero. Pete is a pastor in Queens, NY who wrote these books and training resources out of his own journey of finding his christian faith an unhealthy mess of contradictions and dysfunction.
At one point his own wife approached him and said, “Pete, I’d be happier single than married to you. I’m getting off this roller coaster. I love you but I refuse to live this way anymore. I have waited… I have tried talking to you. You aren’t listening. I can’t change you. That is up to you. But I am getting on with my life.” She was resolute: “Oh, yes, by the way, the church you pastor? I quit. Your leadership isn’t worth following.”
He says at first, jokingly, besides wanting to murder his wife, he was embarrassed and ashamed because she had exposed his own nakedness. It was too much for his weak ego. Nonetheless, it was the most loving thing she could have done for him. She understood, but couldn’t articulate yet, that emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.
Pete continues with, “While I loved Jesus Christ and believed many truths about him, I was an emotional infant unwilling to look at my own immaturity. Geri’s leaving the church pushed me over the brink to look beneath the surface of my iceberg to depths that were, until this time, too frightening to consider. Pain has an amazing ability to open us to new truth and get us moving. I finally acknowledged the painful truth that huge areas of my life (or iceberg, if you prefer) remained untouched by Jesus Christ. My biblical knowledge, leadership position, seminary training, experience, and skills had not changed that embarrassing reality. I was engaged in what I now call emotionally unhealthy spirituality. I was the Senior Pastor of a church, but I longed to escape and join the ranks of church leavers.” (Excerpts taken from the book ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’)
Reading his own story I saw some incredible parallels in my own life and have been really working hard to process as I grow in maturity.
Here are Pete’s top ten symptoms indicating if someone is suffering from a bad case of emotionally unhealthy spirituality:
1. Using God to run from God
2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness and fear
3. Dying to the wrong things
4. Denying the past’s impact on the present
5. Dividing our lives into sacred and secular
6. Doing for God instead of being with God
7. Spiritualizing away conflict
8. Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure
9. Living without limits
10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey
And here is a list of things he says Emotional Health would be concerned about:
1. Naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings
2. Identifying with and having active compassion for others
3. Initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships
4. Breaking free from self destructive patterns
5. Being aware of how our past impacts our present
6. Developing the capacity to express our thoughts and feelings clearly, both verbally and nonverbally
7. Respecting and loving others without having to change them
8. Asking for what we need, want, or prefer clearly, directly, and respectfully
9. Accurately self-assessing our strengths, limits, and weaknesses and freely sharing them with others
10. Learning the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider perspectives of others
11. Distinguishing and appropriately expressing our sexuality and sensuality
12. Grieving well
Maybe you are already operating in a place of deep emotionally healthy spirituality. For me, its been a process of uncovering a lot of false truths and lies I’ve told myself, or inherited from my past, and confronting them head on. I continue to work on these every day, but its been a journey of self discovery and also a deepening spiritual journey.
I realize now that much of what I thought being a Christian meant was simply unhealthy attitudes and lifestyles I had inherited from others, and from my own dysfunctions. Discovering these truths has been earth shattering to say the least and digging deep and getting healthy continues to be the single greatest journey I’ve been on since my conversion.
If you would like to check out the book series and more resources please go to http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org