Today on the podcast, we're diving into this question I keep bumping up against.
On one hand we go to church, and we’re told you're sinful; you need to repent, you need to die to yourself.
On the other hand, we go to therapy, and we're told you're wounded; you've had trauma. You need to heal, so you can become more of your true self.
So which one is it? In today's podcast episode, we discuss:
1. What is woundedness and how does it impact our behaviors?
2. What is sin?
3. The problem of shame
4. What about "the other side of sin" - the wounds of the sinned against?
5. What about repentance?
6. An application from the Bible
7. A next step you can take
Thanks to our sponsor Organifi —Go to www.organifi.com/bestofyou and use code BESTOFYOU for 20% off your order today!
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
- The Best of You: Break Free From Painful Patterns, Mend Your Past, and Discover Your True Self in God, by Dr. Alison Cook
- Boundaries for Your Soul, by Alison Cook & Kimberly Miller
- Romans 2:4
- The Other Side of Sin, Edited by Andrew Sung Park and Susan L. Nelson
- Luke 22:54-62 Peter denies Jesus
- John 21:15-19 Jesus and Peter
Episode Twenty-Three The Best of You Podcast 6th September 2022
Sin With Dr. Alison Cook
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That's o-r-g-a-n-i-f-i.com/bestofyou and use code BESTOFYOU for 20% off any item.[00:01:09] < Intro >
Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, welcome back to The Best of You podcast. Where today we are going to talk about everybody's favorite or not so favorite S-word, and that is this word sin.
So we're in this series on boundaries and the Bible, and we've been talking, if you've been following along these last two episodes. We've been talking about keeping a promise to yourself. About building trust with yourself.
We've been, really, talking about this internal work that we all have to do in order to gain the clarity and to gain the courage, to set the healthy boundaries that we need to set with other people in our lives.
Because, so often, this work of setting boundaries is the result of some form of activation. Something happens outside of us, that stirs up something negative on the inside of us. Whether it stirs up stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, exhaustion, overwhelm, whatever it may be. We begin to feel chaotic on the inside, and we start to think to ourselves or someone else says to us, "It's time to tighten up my boundaries."
"It's time to get some healthier boundaries."
But what I'm, really, trying to do in this series is to go deep on that internal work that's required to, really, ensure that the boundaries we're setting in our external lives, in our relationships with our kids, with our friends, with our family members, with our churches, with the people in our lives, are flowing from that centered clear place inside.
That they're an actual reflection of who we, really, are and what we, really, need. And that requires us getting to know our own selves. It, especially, requires that we get to know our own woundedness, our own limitations, and I talk about this a lot.
That we have to be able to face our areas of wounding. We have to be able to face our own areas of pain, of woundedness, of vulnerability. Because these are the parts of us that are ours to protect, and we want to be sure we're going about setting the right boundaries.
Setting the boundaries, in the right way, that allow for these vulnerable parts of us to get the care they need, primarily, from us and, also, keep those parts of us from those things in our external lives that cause them further pain.
Now, inevitably, this conversation, about our internal terrain. About building trust with ourselves. About honoring our vulnerabilities. About paying attention to the parts of us that are hurting and that are susceptible to pain, that may have been wounded long ago, and that continue to need our protection.
Inevitably, this conversation brings up this question, what about sin?
"You know, Alison, you're telling me I should trust myself. That I should, in fact, spend time building trust with myself. But aren't I a sinner?
How can I, really, trust myself?
How can I, really, keep a promise to myself?
How can I, really, do this internal work of building trust. Of living from deep inside myself when what I, really, am is a sinner?"
These are the kinds of questions that I get. So let's talk about it. Let's dive in. Let's talk about what about sin?
How are we to factor in this idea of sin?
And, I think, some of the reason this question is surfacing so much. And why I've been thinking about it so much, as a therapist, there's, really, within the last 20 years, this whole understanding of trauma. And this understanding of what it means that we are wounded. That we have wounds in our lives, in our bodies, in our souls, and that these places of wounding are vulnerable.
And that there's a reason, sometimes, that we act out. That there's a reason that we behave in certain ways that, sometimes, we wish we didn't. That we reach for our survival strategies. That, maybe, we reach to please others, to earn the approval of others. That, maybe, we look for love outside of those healthy relationships that we've committed to.
Where, maybe, we are inclined to numb pain with drugs, alcohol, shopping, spending, gambling, you name it. We develop these coping strategies, so often, to help us survive. Because we've got pain on the inside.
And this is what this whole trauma-informed approach to understanding the human soul, the human heart, the human body has raised. It's like, "Oh, my goodness, there's a reason I do the things that I wish I didn't do." And, so, on one hand, we go to a church and our church communities, our faith communities, sometimes, our pastors are saying, "You're sinful."
"You've got to repent."
"You were born with a sinful nature."
So we hear that message and we think, "Okay, I'm bad. I should look at all of this in my life as sin. All of this complexity, all of this messiness, all of this brokenness."
But, on the other hand, maybe, I'm going to my therapist over here and my therapist is saying, "This is trauma."
"You've been wounded."
"You've got to learn to heal."
"You've got to learn to become more true to yourself. To become more whole in your relationships with yourself and other people."
So we've got these two conflicting messages. On, one hand, we're told, "You are a sinner. Repent." On the other hand, you're being told, "You are wounded, heal." Which one is it? "Am I wounded or am I a sinner? And how can I trust myself in the middle of all of this?"
So let's start with this idea of woundedness or trauma. Trauma, as I discussed in episode four, you can go back and listen to that episode. There's, also, a whole chapter on it in my new book, The Best of You.
I look at trauma, as I've dived in so much of the research these last 15 to 20 years on trauma. I boil it down to this idea of unwitnessed pain.
These are unhealed wounds that live inside our souls. And these wounds are where we are vulnerable. It's where we've been hurt by other people. It's where we didn't receive the care that we needed. And, in many cases, it's where we've been hurt, actively abused, exploited, abandoned, by the people who were supposed to care for us, who were supposed to love us.
So where we have these wounds that haven't, yet, been healed, that we may not even know about. We're, really, vulnerable. And here's the thing, shame loves to enter in through these wounds. Especially, where they haven't been exposed, yet, to healing. Where they haven't, yet, been exposed to loving compassion.
Shame sneaks in through our wounds and tells us we're bad. It tells us that what happened to us was our fault. It tells us we're worthless, that we're rejectable, that we are unlovable. It tells us there's a reason we were cast aside.
Shame wants to keep us locked down. It wants to keep us isolated. It wants to keep us from the life that God has for us. We're vulnerable where we are wounded. We're vulnerable to more pain. We're vulnerable to being hurt by other people in the exact places where we've already been hurt.
So when we get activated in our adult lives. When someone else does or says something that hurts so badly. It's often a wound, an old bruise that gets touched on, that gets tripped over. And when we're activated, when our whole nervous system, our whole fight/flight response goes into effect, poised to protect us.
That's how God designed our bodies. Where we're vulnerable, we go into survival mode. We sniff out danger, we sense hurt, and we go into our fight/flight response.
We want to fight. We might want to flee. We might also freeze, and some of us move into fawn, which is where we try to please or win over the very people who are trying to hurt us. And I go, again, into a lot of this in episode four of the podcast and in chapter two of The Best of You.
So our wounds are where we're vulnerable. We're vulnerable to shaming messages inside our own soul, and we're vulnerable to hurt from other people. We're also vulnerable to acting out in ways we wish we didn't. So there's a lot of room for compassion here, and this brings us to this conversation about sin.
End of Part One.[00:12:13] < Music > [00:00:01] < Part Two >
So, first of all, what is sin? Sin is what we do when we're activated. It's a behavior or a posture of the heart. Sin, simply, means to miss the mark, and we talked about this a little bit in episode 21.
But if we're walking down the path of our life and we're in a good place, and we like where we're going. Sin is this distraction; an obstacle comes our way. Someone digs at us. Someone hurts us. Someone might betray us. Someone might ignore, reject, neglect us, and that old wound gets activated. And we're tempted to veer off that path.
We're tempted to go down a road that might not, actually, be in our best interest. Or in the best interest of this life that God has before us. We, sometimes, go off that path. We might even miss the mark in how we respond to that hurt that comes our way. That temptation that comes our way.
On one hand, we've been hurt, that's our woundedness. On the other hand, we have a choice to make out of that hurt. And, sometimes, that choice we make misses the mark, and we might call that sin.
But there's something I want you to hear me say about this word sin. It's a churchy word. It's a word that has a lot of baggage that comes with it. We have to disentangle this word sin. This idea of missing the mark, making a choice that, maybe, isn't in the best interest of the situation at hand of the moment.
We have to disentangle this word sin from shame. And, I think, that's where there's been such a misalignment in so many of the church messages. We've gotten the solution to the fact that every single one of us has wounds. That every single one of us, is going to be tempted to act out of those wounds from time to time.
In many ways, some of us, our whole nervous system is positioned to miss the mark. It's cued up to go into fight mode, and we, almost, don't have conscious control over it in some moments. That's why it's so important to recognize there's no shame in missing the mark. We can name something without shaming it.
We can name the fact, "Oh, my gosh, I missed the mark."
"I lashed out."
"I reached for the booze."
"I scrolled social media for four hours instead of facing my own pain. And, as a result, I neglected a friend or I neglected a responsibility. I missed the mark." We can name that. We can own that. We can honor that without shame. Shame is never the solution. It's never the solution to our wounds, and it's never the solution to our sin. It's never the solution to when we miss the mark.
In fact, if we don't learn how to name when we miss the mark, as a result, so often of our woundedness. If we don't learn how to name when we miss the mark without shame, it's so very hard to heal.
Imagine something with me, for a moment, where do you think we're the most tempted to miss the mark. To veer off the path. To take matters into our own hands. To go into that fight/flight response.
Do you think we're the most tempted to do that when we're in our most confident? Our most alive, our most joyful, our most peaceful selves?
Do you think that's where we're tempted to miss the mark?
It's not. We're the most tempted to miss the mark. To protect ourselves. To cover up, to hide, to manage other people, to hurt someone else, to lash out, to project on someone, where we are the most wounded.
Our wounds are, intimately, tied to where we're the most susceptible to shame. And where we're the most susceptible to shame, is where we're the most susceptible to missing the mark in our reactions to protect ourselves.
That's why we have to be so honest with ourselves about our own areas of wounding. About our own areas of pain. About our own shaming messages and we have to do that work with such tenderness, with such gentleness, with such kindness.
It's a both/and. It's like surgery to the soul. And if you think about a surgeon, you think about a surgeon who goes into those delicate tissues in the heart. They go in with the finest of tools and they're so careful. A surgeon doesn't go in with a hammer. A surgeon goes in delicately, gently, with precision.
When you become a doctor of your own soul, it requires patience. It requires kindness, it requires gentleness. There's no room for shame. Shame would be like going in with more toxicity, to a place in your soul that's already been hurt. It doesn't work.
The path to freedom, to joy, to this life that God has for us, involves clarifying areas where we might miss the mark inside our own souls, and before God. It involves clarifying when sin does show up. When we do miss the mark. When we do go astray, veering off the path. But that work requires us to be gentle with ourselves.
It requires us to learn to set aside the shaming and condemning poison that often accompanies that word sin. And this is why in these last two episodes, I focus so much on this idea of building trust with yourself.
If you're going to be able to set healthy boundaries and forge healthy relationships with your kids, with your spouse, with your friends, with your small group, with a church community. You're going to have to learn to be tender and gentle with your own areas of wounding.
Because, listen, other people are going to trip over your wounds. They're going to bruise you. They're going to hurt you. Even the best of people, the worst of people are sure going to do it. But even the best of people are going to do it, and this is where we're vulnerable.
We're vulnerable to hurt and we're vulnerable to missing the mark. We're vulnerable to acting out to protect ourselves in ways that miss the mark. And here's what's so delicate about this conversation, and I want you to hear me say this.
I'm not saying you don't get to protect yourself where you're vulnerable, you do. But you've got to build that trust inside of yourself so that you know, exactly, what you need. So that when you do carve out that path in front of you where you are shielding yourself from harm.
From toxicity, from poison, from even the best of people who will hurt you, you are doing so from a spirit-led authentic place.
You're not weaponizing boundaries. You're not lashing out. You're not punishing. You're not retaliating. You're not putting more toxicity into a toxic situation. Instead, you are tending to yourself with care and compassion. And, as a result, you'll no longer put yourself in harm's way.
I want to now touch on this idea called the other side of sin. And this is a book I read years ago in graduate school, it rocked my world. It's called The Other Side of Sin: Woundedness from the Perspective of the Sinned-Against. It's edited by Andrew Sung Park and Susan L. Nelson. And I want to read a quote from the introduction. It says this, "Demanding repentance of sin from the abused, the hungry, and the humiliated is not good news but absurd news."
And I want you to hear this, especially, if you're someone who's been abused, marginalized, oppressed, shoved aside, in any of these big T trauma ways. So many stories in the Bible, show us how God moves toward those who have been the sin against.
And, so, this is another angle on the conversation on sin that we've got to be really careful about. I do a lot of work with folks in recovery programs. Many of these folks having come out of prison. And when you hear back stories behind people's addictions, even their crimes, you begin to understand, very quickly, why they turned to these behaviors. There's a reason.
There's a reason why parts of us do whatever they can do to survive. And we've got to be, really, careful, even if we're naming something as missing the mark. That we not serve that up with a side of shame.
Now, listen, we're still responsible. We still have to take responsibility for our own lives. For our own woundedness, for our own traumas, for our own healing. We have to take responsibility. But remember that we do not heal in the context of self-shame, self-criticism, self-judgment. Nor do we heal in the context of others shaming us, others judging us, others criticizing us. We heal in the context of compassion.
Finally, I want to touch on this note of repentance. Another big, gozy, churchy word. Repentance, simply means to turn away from. We repent from sin, meaning we turn away from missing the mark. We turn away from that detour on the path.
But here's the question, if we're turning away from something, what are we turning toward? We're turning away from, maybe, old ways of coping. Old ways of surviving. Old ways of getting by. Old ways of making it through the day.
We're turning away from that, sure, but what are we turning toward?
We're not turning towards shame. We're turning toward the work of healing. It's turning away from shame. It's turning away from the ways we've learned to cope, from those fight/flight responses that have been so embedded in our nervous systems.
It's turning away from the ways we learned to get love, to seek approval in other people. It's turning away from the ways we learn to numb, to shut ourselves down. It's turning away from the ways we've rejected those tender parts of us, that need our love the most.
Turning away from missing the mark is not turning towards shame, it's turning toward the work of healing. It's turning toward those wounds that are underneath all of those behaviors. So we have to be careful about these words that we use. This word sin, especially, when we're talking about those who've also been sinned against. Which is, in some ways, a little bit of all of us. We've all missed the mark and we've all been wounded.
So we have to be careful about this word sin. Especially, when we consider this idea of the sinned against, which is a little bit of all of us.
We've all sinned. We've all missed the mark, we've hurt other people, and guess what? We've all been sinned against. We've all been hurt. We've been wounded. And this is why I think when Paul talks about it Romans 2:4. He says, "It's God's kindness that leads to repentance." It's God's kindness that leads us to turn away from missing the mark and toward the work of healing.
Now, at the beginning of this episode, I posed this question; am I wounded or am I a sinner?
Am I someone who's been wounded in need of healing or am I a sinner in need of repentance?
And the answer is both. We are both wounded. We've been hurt. We need to heal, we need to face those areas where we have pain.
And, guess what, we also all miss the mark. We go toward reacting, responding, moving toward things that miss the mark. That are not toward the best God has for us.
We've all been hurt by others and, at times, we will all hurt others. This is so important to face in ourselves, honestly, it's both/and. But here's the thing, in order, to face ourselves, honestly, both our areas of woundedness and the areas where we miss the mark. We have to learn how to build trust with our self. We have to learn to face ourselves, honestly, without shame.
And this is what I wish we heard more about in faith communities, "You are not bad."
"You are not a mistake."
"God called you good, beautiful, well-made." Before sin entered in. Before shame started to sneak in with its messages.
You have to learn to recognize how beloved you are, how beautiful you are to God. How tender God is with your areas of woundedness, and with those areas where you have missed the mark. That's the foundation from which we can all begin to heal. We can all begin to participate in God's work of healing.
I want you to consider, for just a minute, the story of Peter denying Jesus in Luke chapter 22. Peter had sworn his allegiance to Jesus. But the minute Peter grew frightened, the minute people asked him, questioned him. People who he perceived to be dangerous said to him, "Do you know Jesus? Were you with Jesus?"
He went in, my guess is, to some sort of fight/flight/freeze/fawn response. His nervous system got the best of him. He was frightened and he immediately said, "No, I don't know him. I wasn't with him." He betrayed his friend, he lied. And, as a result of that, yes, he missed the mark. He betrayed his friend and then he wept, when he realized it.
He felt the pain of what he had done. He faced it. He faced the pain of what he'd done. Of course, he was frightened. It was dangerous. It was a dangerous situation. We can put ourselves in his shoes and empathize and understand, what Peter did in that moment and why he did it. Those guys were scary. They had power over him.
So two things were true, he was terrified and he missed the mark. And here's the thing, how does Jesus respond to Peter when he reconciles with him in John 21, he asks him a question, "Do you love me, Peter?"
He asks it again, "Do you love me." A third time.
"Do you love me?"
He's pushing into Peter. He's pushing into that bruise just a little bit. He knows what happens, he's not bypassing the reality of what Peter did. But then what does he say to Peter as they reconnect?
"Feed my sheep, Peter." He gives him a job to do. He honors him, He respects him. He doesn't shame him, there's no condemnation. There's reconnection and that's how we heal. That's how we turn away from missing the mark, and we turn toward the work of becoming the best of who we are.[00:19:54] < Music >
So what do we do? What's our practical takeaway, today?
When you feel activated, hurt, disappointed or angry, these are all feelings that tempt us to want to miss the mark. These are all feelings that can ignite our fight/flight/freeze and fawn responses.
These are all feelings that can ignite shame, we want to get out of that hurtful situation. We might even be tempted to weaponize a boundary, when we're in that place. Which means we might want to punish someone. Retaliate, take justice into our own hands, or hurt ourselves, punish ourselves, or turn away from the healing God has for us.
When you feel that way, I want you to begin to think about what would it mean to turn away from that instant reaction? Take a pause and ask yourself; what am I turning toward?
I want turn toward the work of healing. I've got a pause. I've got to take that U-turn we talked about in last week's episode. I've got to notice those protectors, those coping strategies, those parts of me that want to go for it. That want to fight, that want to freeze, that want to fawn.
I've got to notice them inside my myself first. I've got a journal about them. I've got to name them to a friend without shame. I've got to get curious about those protectors because underneath is a wound, is a tenderness, is a vulnerability, and I've got to get there first.
Not so that I can let that other person off the hook. But so that I can begin to grow in, truly, getting myself the good things, the true help, the true healing, the nourishment that I need. We tend to get hurt and we tend to get hooked where we have wounds.
So these are invitations to get curious, to take that U-turn and get curious about our own wounds, about our own areas of pain. This allows us to grow in caring and nurturing ourselves deep inside. This is how we build trust with ourselves. This is how we learn to establish healthy guardrails. Healthy boundaries from a calm, clear, brave place.
We don't want to stay stuck in the toxic cycle. We don't want to meet toxicity with toxicity. The goal is to tend to that vulnerable part of us deep within because when that part of us is well cared for. We will have the strength, the courage, the clarity, and the conviction to advocate for what we need from the people in our lives.
We'll have assessed the situation. We will know how to honor ourselves and advocate for ourselves in a way that is wise, and that's the path to freedom. That's the path toward this brave and beautiful life that God wants for each and every one of us.[00:23:23] < Outro >
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show.
You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison, with one L- cook.com. Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out.
I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.[00:24:01] < Music >