There is nothing more painful for me as a counselor than to watch someone self-destruct. When a threat comes from the outside it is possible to help the client evaluate and set boundaries with the source of their distress. But when the client’s own behavior is the cause of their pain, it is often hard to get them to place boundaries on themselves.
Of course we know that breaking denial is the first step, and from a distance it is usually relatively easy to see. But even when we are not in denial of our issue, the motivation to address it may be very low because of fear. What is that fear? It’s always about some kind of loss – and loss means grief.
I have a lot of compassion for people who are wrestling with the possibility that they are their own worst enemy. I have been there – more than once, and it hurts.
When it comes to addictions, the fear can be the loss of our life coping mechanisms. It could be drugs, alcohol, shopping, pornography, relationships, etc. Or it could be the loss of a dream that we hold onto, when it is unrealistic or not achievable without huge and unreasonable sacrifices.
I have seen women addicted to exercise and diet to the extent that they put their very life in danger. Why? They are believing that a “perfect” body will attract a “perfect” relationship.
I have seen men destroy relationships of all sorts in pursuit of a career that leaves them empty and unsatisfied. Why? They believe women are only interested in a big paycheck or powerful, successful men.
Very early on in our marriage I held some of those same beliefs with regard to my career choice as a musician. There is nothing inherently bad about that choice for a person. But the instability, temptations and unpredictability were more than I was able to manage. But it was a dream from my early years. If I had been selfishly persistent I probably would have self-destructed. For sure it put my marriage at great risk.
What can we do?
The Bible tells us to count the cost. (Luke 14:28 & Proverbs 20:25) In doing so, we may find that the trade-offs of denial and living a fantasy are just not worth it. Part of this may be that we don’t trust God to see us through to a better future. Instead we take control with a self-destructive trajectory. We may need help to gain clarity and perspective. That takes courage. It means being willing to hear what we need to hear, and not just what we want to hear, knowing that this is the kindest action we can take with ourselves.
Proverbs 14:12 (NLT)
“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”
Mark 8:36 (NLT)
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”
This is not about losing our salvation, but about leading a soulless life in the present. We were made for joy and freedom and deep connection. But we must be careful where we believe that deep connection resides. We must choose well in our faith, our relationships, who we trust, and what we pursue.