It doesn’t matter where they put the bars, a person’s most critical freedom is determined from within. There are prison inmates enduring long periods of incarceration who discover the value of deep freedom despite their obvious physical and financial limitations. Conversely, there are people who are in easy life situations ensnared in a prison of depression and despair. The one is content, accomplishing purposeful goals and free to be creative; the other is frustrated, restrained and deprived of a more abundant life. The former is comfortable with ‘who they are’ allocating personal energy well. The latter, seeking elusive comfort and trying to act, to be somebody else, frequently finds the personal energy tank on ‘empty.’ People who are mature in their faith got that way in part by coming to terms with, and facing the causes of, their pain from the past. Encumbered people on the other hand often ‘maintain’ those deep problems, taking them from one life chapter to the next, all the time wondering, “Why doesn’t God answer prayers?”
People with personality disorders affect everyone around them. That’s especially obvious when their actions victimize someone. But more subtly, the condition of our relationships can serve to help us see the affects and alert us to do something about them. We may not be aware that the way we relate to God, to other people and even to ourselves can be like the canary in a coal mine. In other words, personal trouble and difficult feelings that surface and resurface around certain relationships can be valuable sensors like those that detect a suffocating gas in a closed space. They alert us to engage in important heart-wound work, or else! Admitting such work can be especially difficult for folks who feel pressure to appear that they have already arrived at some standard of maturity set by an audience of peers.
The temptation to fake maturity in order to belong, or impress, becomes a barrier to working at the needed process. To purge a man’s soul of old festering sin – both his own and the sins of others that have influenced him – is a kind of ‘baptism’ where a person can trace their feelings and ultimately their relationship sores to their source. That source may be shielded and disguised by lies wrapped around deep and painful memories. (e.g., “I’m not good enough, because …” )
Someone is guilty if they have done a legal, moral or ethical wrong. It is good news that a man’s mistakes are redeemable and forgivable. On the surface a guilty person can confess, repent, make restitution where needed, and naively move on in life. Without self-examination to uncover the source of deeper scars, the growth and healing and resulting freedom can elude us. Our tendency to continue along in life with selfish and immature behaviors has a source. If we hurry past the work of locating that source it will remain rooted somewhere in memory. Demeaning behaviors and recurring moods can then lead to undesirable patterns resulting in psychological handcuffs.
What to do? Take inventory of the major relationship areas of life. If you have peace about your connections to God, to other people, you’re in a good place. If you are practicing the disciplines and satisfied with your calling, seeing fruit, you are in a better place. If you are feeling fullness from loving God and sharing your unique set of gifts with a confused, misguided and needy world, you’re in the best place of joy and creativity satisfaction.