This month’s column is in response to the July “Pressure Points” concerning spiritual warfare. To read the July column online, go to http://reporter.lcms.org/?20138. One reader responded to that column with what follows.
I think your answer covered a lot of the important spiritual aspects. I am first and foremost a Christian, but I believe the field of psychology does also have something to offer. Some of the topics that come to mind … are “grown wounded children,” “children of shame,” “adult children of narcissistic parents” and “codependency.” I think that the deep wounds of that pastor go back to childhood and that understanding some of these topics and applying them might be helpful in his healing process.
Thanks for your thoughtful reflections. Lutherans believe that we live in a fallen and, therefore, imperfect world and that being redeemed by Christ, we are simultaneously saint and sinner. There are a ton of practical implications to this anthropology. Among them is that none of us — even though our parents could have been wonderful and caring — has had a perfect childhood, nor has that childhood been totally devoid of challenging and even damaging experiences.
Born with certain biological characteristics, we live and grow in this world, learning about ourselves and others. In so doing, we develop views of things like whether others are basically to be trusted, to what extent we are the center of the universe (to reference the “narcissistic” note in your comment), whether we are essentially lovable (or whether we are lovable only to the extent that we do things that people like) and how feelings such as anger and love are to be handled.
These all go into the devel-opment of our way-of-being, our “personality.” Of course, this is a whole field of study.
Mostly, people (including me) do not ordinarily consider giving significant reflection on how we are as human beings or how we got to be characteristically who we are. I hope that we will consult someone if we get too depressed, but who comes and says, “I’d like to review and consider how I got to be the way I am?”
But all of us do carry the wounds of which you speak — some of them barely “scratches” and others that are deeper. We can see more clearly that deeper wounds are present, to the extent that any of us are not able to or are unwilling to consider our behavioral part in whatever conflict or struggle we find ourselves.
You have explored in some depth your wounds (as you have discussed in another communication with me) and your hope is that the pastor who wrote in the July column would be involved in that process as well. He is. Following is a portion of his response.
Since we talked, I have begun counseling. Very good it is to get some things off my chest that have been bothering me for years. I am beginning to discover that burying some of what happened to me as a child that has caused me to feel inadequate and guilty is not good. My counselor is helping me put into words what happened. By that, I mean to share them with someone else and try to understand how I have been affected.
This kind of process may take a while to unpack. Good for you for starting it. Our Redeemer, Jesus, is present with you and your Christian counselor, as He has promised. May the Holy Spirit empower and guide your conversation. And, as another reader has written:
We continually need to look outside of ourselves to what God says in His Word and in Holy Communion, as well as through the promise of Baptism, [that] “the pledge of a good conscience toward God” … is God’s pledge to us, not the other way around.
The Rev. Bruce M. Hartung, Ph.D., is professor of Practical Theology and director of the M.Div./Alternate Route programs at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted Aug. 24, 2012