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  • Writer's pictureMarc-Henri Sandoz

Spirituality: beware of the shortcuts

Does your spirituality help you to live? Or does it help you avoid life?

Often, if we are very lucid about ourselves, our answer must be: both!

In any case for decades this has been the case for me.

On the positive side, my Christian spirituality helped me to face life, gave me hope, strength. I was surrounded by people who shared my faith and it was good, I felt like I was part of a big family rather loving even if everything was not perfect. I had values, a cause to serve. Often I felt intimacy with the divine, and it made me feel loved and supported.

But on the other hand, my spirituality helped me to hide from myself and from others several things that were very problematic:

  • my dysfunctional and co-dependent couple relationship

  • my deep personal wounds

  • the abuse and neglect that I suffered in my childhood and adolescence

  • my fear of life

Whenever something hurt or scared me, spirituality helped me to numb pain and anguish. The tools that my Christian faith offered me had become a way to avoid seeing pain or fear in my life. Spirituality had become a way to avoid life.

And the result: instead of seeing the problems, suffering from them, looking for solutions to get out of them, learning from my failures and growing up, I was taking refuge in passivity and resignation disguised in peace and hope, and situations rotted, wounds worsened, relationships deteriorated.

To get out of there, I had to open my eyes, ask for help, get therapy. I had to make decisions: quit my job as a pastor, give up my faith that locked me in, find a new job, get a divorce. I had to find out who I was at the bottom, without the varnish of my religion. I had to cultivate my inner life, discover all the emotions that I repressed and that I avoided: sadness, anger, fear, shame.

I had to give up shortcuts.

It took time and was not easy. But the butterfly has finally come out of its pupa. I started to grow, to change, to mature. To live like I had never lived before.

I rediscovered spirituality, and I understood the difference between a healthy spirituality and a toxic spirituality:

  • a healthy spirituality helps you to live, gives you strength and courage to face life and grow, knowing yourself better and fully feeling each emotion and each event that you encounter

  • a toxic spirituality helps you find shortcuts, avoid facing your fears and pains, and in doing so it locks you into a narrowed and suffocated life

Any religion, any spirituality can be used in two ways. It is not unique to Christianity or any religion or movement in particular. Toxic spirituality is more present in the most radical, sectarian or conservative movements, but it exists everywhere where spirituality exists.

This is not a reason to reject spirituality or religion: there is something deep in the human being which is deeply drawn towards the quest for meaning and the mystery of life, and all religions and all spiritualities were born from that.

A healthy spirituality, for me, is an integral part of a fulfilled human life, and it represents a great resource for advancing in existence, finding meaning, evolving, broadening our horizons.

But it is necessary to be very clear about our tendency to avoid pain and fear, to find shortcuts and bypasses to avoid to face what life sometimes puts in our way. This opens the door to toxic spirituality, and ultimately takes us on dead ends.

I have observed this tendency wherever I have seen people practicing any religion or spirituality. We can use meditation, yoga, shamanism, prayer, mantra recitation, divination, sacred dance ...

  • either to avoid feeling the emotions that are there, to justify our passivity and take refuge there on the pretext that we invite the divine to act for us, to short-circuit fear, pain and thus avoid the signs that invite us to act, to change, to grow

  • either to draw strengths and resources, and with these strengths to look life in the face, to welcome what it puts in our path, including what is difficult or painful, and thus to learn and mature

If you recognize yourself in all or part of what you have just read, I invite you to enter a healing path. This path begins by opening your eyes to toxic spirituality and the way it influences you. This influence can exist even if you have turned your back on religion for a long time: an education in a sectarian movement, a conservative or extremist spiritual current, has certainly left in you traces that still condition your relationship with life today, and also that deprive you of full access to the resources of a healthy and happy spirituality.

To see more clearly and enter into this process, I built an online course: "Heal Your Spiritual Life". I put all my experience into it and I know that it can help you and save you time in your path to heal and come into possession of all your resources, self-confidence and the ability to grow and to face difficulties successfully:

‘Heal Your Spiritual Life'

Watch too my book about toxic spirituality: ‘Toxic Jesus, my journey from holy shit to spiritual healing'

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