Unpublished: Neurotic Christians

Following Jesus involves a certain amount of ego-strength. It takes ego-strength to let others go first, to take the last place, to be a servant, to allow others to get the accolades. This is a struggle for many of us. Not because we are wicked but because we are so unsure about our basic self-worth that we become addicted to praise, compliments, attention and popularity. We engage in what psychologists have called "excessive reassurance seeking," constantly taking the temperature of our social network to verify that we are being noticed, approved of, and included.

Another way to say this is that we often fail to follow Jesus because we are neurotic. And our neuroses cause us to be self-focused and attention-seeking when we should trying to become self-forgetful and other-oriented. Instead of listening we like to talk. Instead of giving compliments we fish for them. Instead of serving quietly we like to share our accomplishments. Instead of admitting wrong we give excuses. Instead of sharing our failures we live a lie.

We are "curved inward" upon ourselves not because we are wicked or depraved but because we are socially anxious and neurotic.

--an unpublished post exploring the impact of neurosis upon followers of Jesus

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11 thoughts on “Unpublished: Neurotic Christians”

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  2. Yes. I'd only add that there is also a kind of sickly servanthood, a false humility, that allows others to go first, etc. -- indeed to walk all over oneself -- because of ego weakness (ranging from low self esteem on down to self-loathing). Thus Screwtape's advice to his nephew: "You must conceal from the patient [i.e., the human] the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character."

  3. Good post. "We are "curved inward" upon ourselves not because we are wicked or depraved but because we are socially anxious and neurotic." It is important to identify the concrete reasons why we do something. Saying that we are wicked and depraved seems to explain our behavior but it doesn't. It can become a kind of excuse. From my experience, the best confessors are those who take seriously psychology and try to get to the root of the problems.

  4. It's the worst kind of bad (and demeaning) jokes about "It's OK I'll just sit in the dark" Jewish mothers. False humility or one coming from a lack of self respect is at one time very sad and at another manipulative if conscious and corrupt. Being true to oneself is not conceit, and it does permit you to do well for others because you honestly care about them. Healthy societies rest on healthy people. Nothing good can come from neurotic actions.

  5. I'm a woman grew up CofC and I agree with you christyinlosangles! we are treated like customer service agents! this is a problem church-wide all over America. I've even let other women and family members manipulate and walk all over me in the guise of "servant hood". I'm still trying to stand up for myself. Whenever I do, my family of orgin acts shocked like I'm selfish or something. I'm not living that way anymore. I sure don't want my daughters to behave like me.

  6. Isn't this sort of neurotic behavior a form of wickedness? Why shade the ethical dimensions of our mental states? Indeed, the Pharisees are condemned for their avid love of praise, honors, and "righteous" living.

    And Kim below is spot on: false humility is equally evil, being afraid of simply 'being'. Cultures of this thinking create a social toxicity where any recognition of gifts or talents are framed as arrogance, envy, or bragging. This too is a wickedness.

    Lord knows I've dabbled in both! Have mercy!


  7. Yes, a false humility that seeks attention from the trumpet blast and announcement, "I am nothing!!!" is dangerous, poisonous thing. Yet, God's embrace of the anxious and the neurotic is the "king size bed" of grace. The "pecking order" in which many have been told most of their lives, "You sit over here and wait until the rest of us are finished performing", has caused many talents to lie buried under an honest, tormenting silence. And it just could be that the small journal beside the bed, the song softly sang during the drive to work, the poem running through the mind during a walk through the city, amid its odd and lonely characters, or the Psalm composed in silent prayer, are the only things holding the universe together at this moment.

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