Spiritual Bypassing

Spiritual Bypassing July 2, 2021

Photo by Rafael Barros from Pexels

I’m starting my vacation today!  It almost doesn’t seem real because I’ve been working 53 hours a week for almost 6 months.  I don’t regret it.  For the most part, I feel stronger and capable of more physical things.  But, a part of me needs some time to recover.

I have discovered that one of the most important things about working on an assembly line is to admit that there are parts of it that are painful.  To deny that only creates a conflict in our bodies.  If I say that I am am not hurting, my body quickly reminds me that I’m deceiving myself.  I searched for easy answers, but didn’t find any.  The most helpful thing someone told me was, “When you do this  type of work, your feet are gonna to hurt.”

Spiritual bypassing may be one of the most common ways of trying to avoid the hard work required in our journey of life.  We have a sense that we have trauma, but we opt for the imaginary easy road and end up only compounding our suffering and the suffering of others.

I talked about spiritual bypassing in my new book, Being:  A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity.  I learned about it from Robert Augustus Masters in his book, Spiritual Bypassing.  When we use religious platitudes or make excuses for why things are tough, we are attempting to make the path easier, but instead we are compounding the issues and trauma in our spiritual experience.  Sometimes we just need to admit that things suck, and until we do the hard work, they won’t get better.

Examples of spiritual bypassing could even be when we say we will pray for someone or when we ask for prayer.  We don’t make space for people in their hurt, so we say we will pray for them.  What if we just intentionally made more time for people to tell their stories without being judged or without saying things like, “God is in control” or “I’m sure God has a purpose” or “We’ll understand it better…”  When I gather a group online that includes religious people, I have to intentionally tell them to just listen and not respond, because they almost instinctively respond with bypassing or they try to fix the other person’s problem.

Trauma is a real thing and it’s prevalent for all of us.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and stop bypassing things that are difficult.  Let us admit that the work ahead of us is difficult.  As the fellow told me, “When you do this kind of work, it’s gonna hurt a little” (or maybe a lot).

One thing I can promise you is that the work we do can also be rewarding.  When I stopped bypassing the necessary work and started practices like focusing,  I found some real growth in my spiritual and physical life.  I now react less and respond more.  It’s becoming a more beautiful life.

My new book is when I faced the big things in my life.  It was the hardest work I have ever done.  It was painful to go deep inside.  The things I had ignored for decades need attention.  I can say three years later that it was without question worth the effort.  I am still on the journey, but it feels much more beautiful and inviting.

I invite you to listen to our podcast discussion about this on the The Desert Sanctuary.

Be where you are, be who you are,

Karl Forehand

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