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Choosing Spiritual Integration Over Spiritual Bypassing (Part 1)

Spiritual bypassing is unhealthy.

This mental health awareness month is a time to speak about healthy mental modes. In this series of blogs we’re discussing spiritual integration instead of bypassing..

Spiritual bypassing is using one's spirituality to avoid facing unresolved issues either on a personal, interpersonal or systemic level, according to John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist who coined the phrase.

Simply put, spiritual bypassing disregards emotions, pain, and in some cases the reality of injustice. It places a high regard on positivity, pretending, and pithy expressions of cultural faithfulness such as “too blessed to be stressed.” Spiritual bypassing assumes that faithfulness is pristine and perfect.

In my own life those cultural phrases became a standard to live by. Saying too blessed to be stressed, for example, is a way of saying my blessings negate any potential stress. Further it means that blessings and stress cannot coexist. When I became a youth pastor I quickly integrated this phrasing when I invited youth to share their blessings and stressings during the time formerly known as joys and concerns. This allowed them to speak to both of the realities happening in their lives. It is healthy to acknowledge both the blessing and stress of life. In addition, being stressed, having panic attacks, anxiety, or doubts, none of these discount faithfulness. They can be seen as part of life, humanity, and even the journey of faith.

A healthy expression of faith is integration. Health is both/and approach instead of either/or. One way to look at integration is to include all parts of us and our experiences. In addition, integration is to love Jesus with our head, heart, and hands (thinking, feeling, and doing).

After I experienced panic attacks, I began to slow down and value integration. For me this looked like acknowledging my emotions instead of pretending I didn’t feel. Having this more holistic approach to my faith was healing. As people of faith, we’re called to an integrated life - salvation. The Greek word sozo is used to speak of salvation in scripture. In Greek it means whole. To integrate is to be whole. To be saved is to be whole.

This call of Christians is to health: salvation, wholeness, integration.

Action Brings Clarity

Notice if or how you dismiss or bypass in speaking about faith in God and your journey. Then reflect: what would you say differently to speak more integrated about that part of your life or God belief? Write a few sentences and see how it feels.

Getting the support of a counselor can help with integration. The bulk of my personal therapy was with a Dialectical Behavior Therapist.


© Charity Goodwin, 2023.


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