Spirituality has to do with relationships – with each other as fellow humans, with family and friends, with a Supreme Being, commonly known as God. What has a difficult past, traumatic experiences, and what we carry within us from previous generations got to do with our spirituality?
Biblically speaking, the Apostle Paul in his book II Corinthians, Chapter 5, Verse 17, says that when you become a follower of Christ, old things pass away and all things become new, so all I have to do is forget those old experiences and those who created or contributed to them, and my Spirituality will be in order. Right? Wrong! Paul was NOT speaking of our personal histories. He was not speaking of personal painful experiences. Paul was speaking here about the old ways of not acknowledging God as Lord and Savior. He didn’t want us to experience perpetually putting ourselves down, and living in guilt and shame.
You have hopefully already read how trans-generational and personal wounds received have affected us physically and emotionally. So how can this impact us in our relationships with family, friends, spouses and God?
Let’s think logically for a bit. If we are impacted in our physical body with illness as the result of the stress from wounds we’ve received, and if we are impacted emotionally with behaviors that are harmful to ourselves and others, shouldn’t our relationships with others and with God be impacted as well?
How many times have you heard people complaining about some sad or tragic event that has befallen them, and in their discourse asked, Where in the world was God when this was happening to me? As humans we are famous for blaming others for what happens to us, and if we can’t find anyone else to blame, we’ll certainly blame God. Why didn’t He stop the beatings I got from my father? Why didn’t he intervene when I was being sexually abused? Why did he allow me to be born into such a sick family?
Let’s say that you have at least two generations that you know of, where physical abuse was common from parent to child, and then you received it too as a child. That abuse is going to affect your attitude toward people as a whole, not just your parents and grandparents. Others are going to be suspect; you find it difficult to trust them. So you exude anger or you withdraw from others to prevent further wounding. This impacts your spiritual nature, because remember, your spiritual nature is about ALL relationships.
What if your family were alcoholics and/or drug addicts? The major portion of their attention might have been devoted to their addiction rather than to their children. Wouldn’t that affect your attitude toward others? You would expect that everyone will reject you like your parent(s) did. When you expect rejection, you even act in a way that would get you rejected, and there goes your spirituality. Why did God reject me by giving me addicted parents who didn’t love me?
The development of our spiritual nature is a process, not an overnight event or even the result of baptism. It is a lifelong process that demands that we grow emotionally as well as spiritually. Becoming more religious is not the way one becomes more spiritual. We can engage in regular church attendance, even attending all of the additional church activities, just like the Apostle Paul, but this does not improve our spiritual nature. Sometimes it even diminishes our spiritual progress, because we still find ourselves filled with guilt, shame, and experiencing betrayals, disappointments, relationship breakdowns, and unresolved longings lurking beneath the veneer of our highly thought of selves. Our growth demands that we go back in order to break free from our unhealthy and destructive patterns that stop us from loving ourselves and others.
In an excellent book entitled Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Dr. Peter Scazzero, is written the following:
"It is so easy to compartmentalize God into Christian activities around church and our spiritual disciplines without thinking of Him in our marriages, the disciplining of our children, the spending of our money, our recreation, or even our studying for exams. According to Gallup Polls and Sociologists, one of the greatest scandals of our day is that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered and sexually immoral as the world in general."
Why? Might it not be due to the fact that we have ignored and denied our histories and our trans-generational and personal wounds, or we have just plain not been willing to look at and process through them in a recovery process? Could it be, at least in Christian Circles that we have thought that religious performance would cover up the old wounds, and that prayer would take them away?In actuality, we are told in the Bible that we must examine ourselves.Instead we have become expert at using scripture interpreted incorrectly to prove that prayer will erase our memories, thus taking away the emotions left from the wounds we have received.
The bottom line is that all of our wounds negatively impact our relationships both with God and with each other. We are either ultimate performers for God, wearing a righteous mask and behaviors, Atheists who totally deny the existence of God, or angry, sad, and antagonistic individuals who are rude, inconsiderate and even abusive of others.
Spirituality is "The human experience of discovery, meaning, purpose and altruistic values (benefiting others), which may or may not include the concept of God or a transcendent being." This process in one of emotional maturity, which can only come as one grows up and out of the results of wounds, including the need to be self-centered.