Spiritual Bypassing

I recently read about a term called spiritual bypassing.  It was coined by a psychologist named John Welwood in the 1980’s.  The term is used to describe when a person uses their religious beliefs to avoid dealing with uncomfortable things, healing old wounds & meeting important psychological needs.


While the term applies to all religions, I thought of it as to how it relates to Christianity since I’m not overly familiar with most other religions & most of my readers are also Christians.


Also, please know that I’m not trying to judge anyone.  I’ve been guilty of doing some of these things myself.


Becoming very active in church activities.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being active in your church, but when you spend more time at church than with your family, something is wrong.  It needs to be done in balance.  Otherwise, resentments can build & trouble starts in your relationships.  You may even develop a superior attitude because you participate so much in your church.


Judging people for being angry or hurt.  The Bible says we shouldn’t let the sun go down on our anger.  Jesus said we are to forgive those who trespass against us in the Lord’s prayer.  Seems obvious to me that we’re going to feel angry or hurt sometimes, otherwise the need to forgive wouldn’t be mentioned in the Bible.  Remember, there is nothing wrong with anger or hurt.  They are God-given emotions that tell us when something isn’t right.  It’s what we do with the emotions that can be wrong.


Ignoring your own anger or hurt in favor of saying you forgive that person.  Maybe you think it makes you holy to claim forgiveness rather than facing your negative emotions, but it only sets you up for problems.  Emotions demand to be heard, especially the strong ones like anger.  If you ignore them, they will find another way to be heard, & most likely, not such a good way.


Being too positive.  So many people in the world emphasize the importance of thinking positively.  Positive confessions are stressed as very important.  People are criticized for “being too negative” if they admit they are struggling or hurting.  In fact, people can be downright shamed for discussing abuse since it’s so “negative”.  I’ve been told I need to “get over my childhood hurts” for example, which at the time, was extremely painful to hear.  I felt ashamed.  I felt like I was making too big of a deal out of being abused.  I felt like a bad Christian for not just forgiving & forgetting.  The truth is though, that when I tried to be positive, not talk or think about what I’ve gone through, & to “forgive & forget,” I was miserable.  Now that I’m open with my experiences, & facing things head on, I’m not so miserable.  I started using good boundaries.  I’ve gotten a more balanced view of my situation- bad things happened to me.  Horrible things, really, but God brought me through them & is helping me to heal.  He’s also helping me to write about my experiences to help others which I love doing.  I can’t honestly say I’m grateful for my bad experiences, but I’m grateful good has come from them.


Claiming to be happy 100% of the time.  Yes, in God’s presence is fullness of joy, according to the Psalms.  Yes, Jesus told us to “be of good cheer.”  However, no one is above feeling bad sometimes.  It’s not a sin to feel sad, scared, hurt or angry.  They are natural reactions to abnormal circumstances. Jesus wasn’t exactly happy in the Garden of Gethsemane now was He?  Or, when He flipped over the vendors’ tables in the church.  He also got frustrated with the apostles & their lack of faith.  Even Jesus wasn’t above feeling emotions other than joy.


Trying to be perfect all of the time.  People are NOT perfect!  If we were, we wouldn’t need Jesus now would we?  ’nuff said!


Seeing the best in people.  I have given up looking for the best in people, & instead, look for the real in people.  If you only see the best, you can set yourself up to be taken advantage of or victimized in some way, because you’d feel guilty for being negative or judgmental.  It just makes sense to be realistic about people.  There is nothing wrong with that!  Jesus basically told His apostles the same thing.  Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (KJV)  











Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health

10 responses to “Spiritual Bypassing

  1. Sometimes church doesn’t help because you’re filling up with the wrong messages, ‘forgive and forget’ – instead of ‘process and heal’. I think I ran to the church, not realizing that the wounds that I already had would have salt poured on them.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “I’ve been told I need to “get over my childhood hurts”…” Me too, and it made me furious. That admonition, addressed to me by one of the enablers of my NM, implied that the abuse wasn’t still ongoing and hurting me in the present. If she would admit what she’s done, ask for forgiveness, and repent (change her conduct) I might consider it. But he refused to see the truth that, like all narcissists, she hasn’t changed one bit since we were children. Why should she when he and others refuse to hold her accountable for her conduct? Maybe he doesn’t mind what she does to HIM (and her disrespect for him has been very painful to me because I love him), but he has no right to impose that on me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Exactly, Suzanne!!

      That admonition is ridiculous. It denies that the abuse is ongoing & that it was even abuse in the first place. Childhood hurts & child abuse are 2 very different things. One of my aunts told me that. Another one has referred to my current situation with my father as “tension.” This tendency to trivialize abuse & deny it is abuse highly pisses me off.

      And seriously.. why are we supposed to tolerate what they do to us? Just because some loyal flying monkeys can tolerate that kind of treatment doesn’t mean everyone should. They choose to tolerate it- we choose not to. Plain & simple.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Teresa Dexter

    Thank you Cynthia…..I am going to print out copies of this post to put up around my home ……your words were so healing!! Love n hugs From Teresa Dexter.xxxx

    Liked by 2 people

  4. what a post…. relate very well to this… was a great church but needed to be able to be human! undoing the damage now…


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