Spiritual Atrophy

As I was revising the information that I had to know for the completion exam for the Health and Wellness Promotions Leaders Academy, I came across something very interesting in the “Spiritual Health” module that I had accidentally skipped.

It says under “Spiritual Atrophy” that someone who is experiencing spiritual atrophy have the following traits:

• emptiness • anxiety • loss of meaning • self-judgment • self condemnation • apathy • long “dry” spells • conflicting values • needing to improve myself • worried/annoyed/acting in haste

It was interesting because I think I have all of those traits. What follows is the next slide that says:

Signs of Spiritual Distress
  • Loss of direction
  • Sense of emptiness/feeling alone in the world
  • Hopelessness and helplessness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Self-destructive language
  • Bitter or jaded outlook on life
  • Fearfulness, dissociation
  • Prolonged anger at God/higher power

It was interesting for me to read that because I have lost my direction and sense of purpose. I don’t feel like I have a purpose in this life except to suffer and to waste oxygen. I do feel extremely alone in this world – feeling like no one care or understands. I feel hopeless and helpless every single moment of my life. I’ve withdrawn from friends and family and have a bitter outlook in life. I’ve dissociated myself – which has resulted in all the different parts of me. And though I haven’t really had prolonged anger at God, I have had a prolonged sense of shame whenever I think of God.

I guess my depression which are all these traits and more is very much connected to my spiritual health. I have stopped praying or reading the Bible because of how afraid I am of God’s anger (or perceived anger) towards me. I told S on Monday that I have stopped doing those things because I’m afraid of what I will find in the Bible when I do read it.

Interestingly also, this conversation I had with S on Monday relates a lot to my post today:

The context is that we’re talking about my struggle with my sexuality. After a while of hashing things out, S said, “That’s an interesting point though, I mean why, with everything that you’ve been through, why do you think it’s been… That you haven’t turned to God with this?”

“I don’t know. Um… I think… I think in some ways… I feel like… I think um… I feel like… He must be angry with me. He must be disappointed…” I said.

“You think he must be angry. You don’t want to face that…” S said, completely hitting the nail on the head. He does that a lot.

“Yeah… I mean… I feel like… In fact, I feel like even with people I feel the same. Sometimes I feel like ‘I wonder if S’s like ‘Oh man that’s disgusting’’”

“Like I’m judging you…” S said, completing my train of thought.

“Yeah and and… If you’re like disappointed or… I mean, I know you’re not. It’s just that feeling…”

“There’s a part of you that thinks I must be in that moment…” S again, completed my thought.

“Or anybody who’s straight… If I ever tell them, must think this… Um… God must think this.”

“And that’s… I’m glad you brought that up. I remember… I feel like that sort of theme has come up here before… Seems like you’ve felt comfortable with me since the very beginning… And yet there’s these things that you haven’t been able like to bring up. So seems like there’s part of you that’s like ‘Well I know he’ll be fine with that’ but another part of you that’s like ‘No, he’d be angry. He’d be disgusted with you’” S said, providing me an interesting insight.

“Yeah… I’m not sure why you know? And I wonder… If part of it is just what society thinks of it. And you know um… I think just what my parents think about it… Cuz someone’s asked me before ‘Have you ever talked to your parents about this?’ and I said no. She asked why not and I said that ‘I really don’t think that they take too well to this…’ you know?”

“Does it go back to the shame that we’ve talked about before?” S asked, referring to the time we had discussed my shame.

“There is a lot of shame connected to it. There’s a lot of pain. Almost all feel like a really tightly wound up ball of pain, and shame, and guilt… And uh, it doesn’t get any better… I mean… Back when I was in college (the first time), I was really involved in the church. We would talk about, we would study the Bible very constantly and although I feel like… I feel saved… At the same time, these verses also condemn. The thing is intellectually I realize that I’m saved, that there is nothing I can do that I can add to my salvation. And yet I can’t stop feeling the way that I do. I can’t stop feeling so guilty. Feeling like I’m not good enough…”

“It’s that ball of guilt, and pain and shame…” S iterated.

“Yeah…” I confirmed.

“I guess that’s… Some kind of an ironic thing really… Because you’re trying to obey God’s laws, you’re turning away from these desires and you have all this guilt, and the pain, and the shame, because of that, but that’s the same thing from what you’re saying is what’s keeping you from turning to God more fully… And it sounds like it’s the same with other people as well… That even in here, you feel that shame and it’s kind’ve preventing you from fully opening up sometimes. Though you’ve been very open most of the time, there are times when you haven’t been able to bring something up. You worry that I’m going to judge you…” S said, bringing up something that I’ve never considered before – that what’s happening to me pulling away from God in order to please him has been an ironic thing.

“Yeah…”

“And the same with J (Hubster)… And the same with your parents… You mention that point where you get in a relationship where you start feeling like a burden. And I wonder if that’s kind of what’s going on there as well…” S theorized.

“Yeah… I think so… I feel like… I don’t know. I think that’s why I get so angry at people sometimes. People who are openly gay or people who are Christian but have a partner or whatever you know… It’s like… I think I get angry because it’s like ‘Wow it’s so easy for you. You’ve totally copped out’ or something like ‘I wish I could just say the same too… Be ok with this…’ At this point, I really can’t. I’m not sure what to do about it…”

“I think… Maybe that’s not the important thing right now… You’ve mentioned that God has always been there and you felt like you’ve been turning away. So maybe that’s what we need to deal with right now… To help you connect with God. And figure out what he wants for you…”

“Yeah…”

“I think maybe… We’ve talked about transference here… I think the same thing can happen to God. I mean, Freud thought that all God was was just us projecting our own paternal figures into the ether and that’s why God wasn’t real. Now obviously I don’t agree with that (he and I both identify as Christian) but I think there’s something to that. God being distinct or at least not as empirically sensible as a human being kinda enables us to do that projection. We think about what our parents were like sometimes by eerie coincidence mirrors our perception of God and it can be hard to get past that….” S said, saying things that really made sense.

“Yeah…”

“But I encourage you to pray about some of the stuff that we’ve talked about… And just maybe, focus in a way that you haven’t before and see what that feels like.”

“Yeah… I’m gong to have to do that. I think I’m… I think I’ve been running away…”

“I understand why” S said, kindly.

“Yeah… Cuz I think it’s the same exact thing that I did to my physical parents. I’ve been running away from facing these things… I guess it’s easier to run away from my parents”

“It is… You put a lot of distance between you and your parents…” S said, agreeing.

And that conversation ended there because we ran out of time but it was an insightful and interesting conversation. I didn’t think it would be something that I would relate to again so soon after we had it.

I know my spiritual health has been suffering – it’s been suffering for years now. I’ve just never wanted to fix it – again, it goes back to the fear that I’ve been having that God is angry at me.

It seems like finding that module in the Health and Wellness Promotion Leaders Academy course was timely. It seems like a sign almost – that I need to get back on caring for my spiritual health. Again, I don’t expect people who don’t agree with the idea of a God governing the universe to understand. But I respect people’s opinions enough to not get mad if someone were to tell me that I just need to not believe in a God. In any case, I do believe in God and it isn’t something I’m willing to back down on.

Despite being a thoroughly non-confrontational person, when it comes to my faith, it is definitely something I’ll defend to the death. It’s just my opinion and my belief on the matter and I accept that not everyone can see it this way either. And that’s fine with me. I just hope that others can be civil with me about this as well. I don’t set out to try and “convert” people either. I’m not like most Christians you’ve met or heard of in the news. I don’t ever intend to be like that either.

Anyway, this has been an interesting exercise in reflection. I was in a very distressed state of mind just an hour ago due to some circumstances and was contemplating suicide again. I had a plan. I’ve calmed down enough now though.

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