“…the only Higher Power I’ve ever known is God,
and the God my parents taught me …
is a God who looks at me in judgement.”
We counselors sometimes challenge our clients to name something bigger than themselves that may aid in their recovery process. We find for many of them the very image that could be helpful if left in pure form has been emotionally paralyzing. Although our clients may come to us with cries for help with substance abuse, self worth, or depression, we find their treatment requires that we address the years of skewed and ultimately destructive religious training family members and church members have cast upon them.
A critical part of the counseling process involves helping clients identify so-called “protective factors,”—sources of strength that we all need to face the difficulties of life. In addition to the love of family, and friends, many people say that their religious beliefs help them. And yet, sometimes the religious beliefs we’ve learned work against our best efforts to move forward.
Sometimes the problem is even deeper. Sometimes the punitive religious images we carry are precisely the problem. If God is pictured as punishing and judgmental, our reliance on this Higher Power throttles the grace and self-compassion we need to face the broken places of our lives. If God is demanding and critical of our failings, this Higher Power instills fear instead of confidence. If God is angry with us, this Higher Power feeds shame, and not self-acceptance.
As I counselor I promise to give you unconditional acceptance. But if you’ve experienced religious abuse, I also have a place in my heart to help you rediscover an image of a loving, accepting, forgiving, gracious God who, through years of unhelpful religious teaching, has become nothing more than a harsh and punishing burden.
If this applies to you, please call us at 214-385-5445. You deserve to find your protective, healing, and loving Higher Power.