In my last post, Thorns in the Rose Garden of Spiritual Growth, I spoke about how spiritual growth can be painful because significant change is uncomfortable. This post addresses ten common ways people resist change. Think of these things as yield signs warning you to proceed with caution.
1. Constantly changing mentors, churches, Sunday school classes, etc., because you can’t find the perfect one. The only constant in that equation is typically you. When you are stuck and really don’t want to change then you will just keep jumping to new people. You are hoping to find people who will validate the position you want to keep. Ironically, you just keep changing whatever challenges you, so that you don’t have to change.
2. Rationalizing where you are. You know exactly what you need to do, but you have an endless supply of reasons why you cannot. If pushed on why, you either keep changing your reasons or get very defensive.
3. “If-only-itis”. That’s what I call it when someone is struggling internally and he or she thinks, “If only I could…..(insert fantasy of choice here)….then life would be good.” For example, “If only I could get a new job, or spouse, or home.” This phenomenon is so common it is nearly predictable. A pastor once described to me a parishioner who was showing classic signs of hitting the shock of significant spiritual growth. She had started intensively studying the Bible and it pushed her through so much change that she found herself reeling in confusion. So many basic assumptions about God and what it meant to follow God had gotten significantly challenged. So I asked, “Let me guess, is she moving, getting divorced, or quitting her job?” My friend replied, “Getting divorced.” Sadly, what inevitably happens if someone makes one of those changes, he or she discovers in six months that the new spouse, job or home is just like the one they left. Guess what, the problem wasn’t on the outside.
I need to qualify this. Sometimes significant spiritual growth pushes major changes that are needed. There is a fine line of discernment in knowing the difference. Often times when we are motivated by just wanting to escape, we will keep recreating the same scenarios. So be very intentional about why you are making big changes.
4. Longing for the good old days. You yearn to return to life as it was. You may even glorify the past into something it wasn’t. Remember that some of the Israelites stood on the border of the promise land and wanted to go back to Egypt. Stop and think about that. There they were ready to have it all and their fear of living into that had them saying, “Hey I think I’d like to go back to Egypt.” I can almost hear Moses saying, “Excuse me. Don’t you remember that we were slaves in Egypt. Have you forgotten making bricks without straw.” But guess what…that is human nature. When faced with change, even good change, fear of the unknown will prompt you to edit and glorify the past. You will cling to it and stay stuck.
5. Spiraling in addiction. Think of this more broadly than just drugs or alcohol. When you abuse something as an escape to the point it is problematic then you need to pay attention. For example, if you come home plop on the couch and channel surf until the wee hours, and then are struggling to function at work. That’s problematic. Television, computers, relationships, food, sex and even exercise can be abused and used to escape. Escape isn’t always bad. Some times we just need to numb out for a bit. However, if the bit becomes such a norm that your paying for it in other areas of your life, then you know you have a problem.
These next five are signs that you are so overwhelmed by change that you are shutting down.
6. Failing to maintain the basics. Some real basics of life are just getting neglected. You have dirty dishes piled in the sink. You have money, but are behind on paying bills. Clutter has accumulate to the point it is unmanageable. Your pulling clothes out of a laundry pile in order to dress. Your car is accumulating fast food bags. Sometimes this is life because you are just overly busy. However, it is also a common reaction when someone is overwhelmed by change and getting paralyzed by it. Frankly, if you are that overly busy, wake up. Something is wrong
7. Isolating. If you are withdrawing because you feel like no one understands what you are going through, then you may be hitting some walls of growth. Feelings of loneliness or being misunderstood are not uncommon when you go through a spiritual growth spurt. Solitude (purposeful withdrawal for renewal) is healthy. Isolationism is not.
8. Physically Stagnating. Some people physically shut down when faced with change. Their energy disappears. They are overwhelmingly tired and may literally not be able to get up off of the couch.
9. Missing beauty. You become aesthetically blind. You float through life not noticing the Fall leaves, the pleasantness of rain on a roof, the pure joy of a child at play and many of life’s obvious beautiful pleasures. Your feelings and emotions are muted. You do not experience joy in things you typically love.
10. Losing laughter. That’s pretty self explanatory. Well, these are just some of the signs that you may be overwhelmed by and/or resisting change. Everyone is different. I don’t know if you noticed but many of these things are not cut and dry signs. Nevertheless, you should slow down and try to figure out what is going on when you see them. Most of us tend toward pet favorites. It’s really helpful to know yours. What would you say are the three most likely ways that you resist change out of the list above? Can you think of times when any of these described you? What was the change you were resisting or experiencing?
In my next post I will address some tools to help you get through the tough times of spiritual growth. Blessings to you from The Practical Disciple.