We recently announced that Amethyst would begin embracing the teachings of the Alpha Series, a counseling approach that teaches the gospel of grace by incorporating lessons from the Bible into a program of recovery. Three parts of this approach were outlined, the first of which focuses on biblical self-awareness. We would now like to talk a bit about that concept, and what patients who enter our programs may have to gain from embracing the lessons of these teachings.
Biblical self-awareness is pretty much what it sounds like—the search for identity and self-awareness through the teachings of the Bible. When you think about it, this is largely why the Bible was written in the first place. Yes, it was penned as a collection of stories and scriptures geared toward religious understanding and instruction. But why do people seek religion in the first place, if not to better understand themselves and the world around them? Those who first sought solace in the Bible were attempting to better understand the world by first understanding the nature of their God. Whether you are Christian, atheist, or simply a follower of another faith, there is no reason that you cannot use the stories in the Bible for essentially the same purpose.
To understand the importance of biblical self-awareness, we will first discuss the nature of humanity and our search for identity. We will then talk a bit about how our own lack of identity can exacerbate or even cause our family dysfunctions. Finally, we will discuss how the lessons in the Alpha Series—specifically those geared toward biblical self-awareness—might help you find the purpose for which you have been searching.
Humanity and the Search for Identity
As we grow older, we will inevitably ask ourselves one small yet incredibly significant question: “Who am I?” With no answer to this query, we will find ourselves in a tough spot. Our mental health may falter as we fall deep into depression, and our relationships will suffer as a result. This is one of the reasons dating in recovery is not recommended for at least the first year. While it is admirable that we have remained sober, cutting the drugs and alcohol from our daily regimen will not grant us a sense of identity. We need some time to figure out who we are before we begin bringing new people into our lives in any meaningful sense.
From the time we are young, we make many false assumptions about our own worth. These stem from (and sometimes help develop) any number of character defects from diminished self-esteem to immense pride. Driven by the desire to increase our worth and discover who we are—or who we could be—we will develop many problems in our lives. We may be impatient in our quest for self-discovery, and this may lead to anger. Shortly thereafter, we may easily find ourselves drunk or otherwise intoxicated.
Not all negative emotions are destructive (a fact which is covered in the Alpha Series), but many of them can be. Biblical self-awareness is not just about discovering a new identity, but also developing the ability to recognize destructive emotions when they grab hold of us. We also learn through biblical self-awareness that positive emotions are, to some extent, a choice. We cannot always control how we are feeling, but we can control our reactions to it. If we react to negative stimuli in a healthy manner, it may help us to clear away some of our more destructive thoughts and feelings.
Some may enter a stage of denial when faced with their own lack of identity. Finding the matter quite discomforting, they will choose to pretend that the problem simply does not exist. And this may work for a time, but it will be quite short-lived. We cannot fake our true feelings. Instead, we must learn to deal with them. And if they stem from a fear that we do not know who we are, then the best way to face our fears is to discover the answer to that question. Otherwise, we may drag down more than just ourselves.
Lack of Identity and Family Dysfunction
We often discuss the notion of addiction as a family disease. When we enter recovery, our families often must seek their own systems of support. And if we relapse, our families will feel a similar sense of pain and disappointment to that which we are experiencing. In short, our own negative experiences have an impact on those who love us. So it should come as no surprise that our families are often affected by our search for identity as well. This is especially true when our perceived lack of identity causes us to feel a certain level of fear.
Since the topic at hand is biblical self-awareness, we may actually turn to the Bible for examples of stories in which fear has resulted in family dysfunction. Lot offered his daughters to be violated by an angry mob out of fear, then later had incestuous relations with them out of fear that the destruction of Sodom would lead to the end of the family line (and thus the legacy of his identity). Joseph’s brothers turned on him, because they feared his overwhelming sense of identity would outshine them and allow his life to become something greater than their own—which it did, ironically as a result of their betrayal. A similar sense of envy and the harboring of resentments led to the first murder, an act of fratricide committed by Cain against Abel.
These are all fairly extreme examples, but biblical self-awareness shows us how relevant they truly are to our own lives. Have we not caused family dysfunction through the maltreatment of our brothers and sisters because we grew envious of their sense of identity while we were searching for ours at the bottom of a bottle? Have we not forsaken children or parents because we were simply lashing out and allowing them to feel the pain of our own misplaced fears? Perhaps biblical self-awareness will not reveal the actual crimes we have committed against our families, but it may help us to discover the underlying cause of our actions.
Whether or not you believe these stories is irrelevant. Biblical self-awareness is made stronger by faith, yet is not reliant on it. All that is required for true biblical self-awareness is the willingness to read these stories and look for aspects of ourselves within them. Then, we can develop faith that there is truly something greater than ourselves in the world, even if “something greater” in this case is simply the power of understanding. And once biblical self-awareness has given us this gift, we may begin to make amends to those we have wronged through our dysfunction. More importantly, we may also begin to develop the identity we seek.
Identity Through Biblical Self-Awareness
Naturally, the goal of biblical self-awareness is to look at figures within the Bible who have done much wrong and strive not to be like them in the future. Fortunately, we may discover through biblical self-awareness that there are also many biblical figures who have done much good. Just as Moses freed his people from the bonds of tyranny, we may spread the message of recovery and help other addicts and alcoholics free themselves from the bonds of their disease. Or, looking toward the New Testament, we may strive to meet our personal needs by attempting to develop a spiritual union with the Bible’s foremost healer—Jesus.
As we learn to better understand our emotions through biblical self-awareness, we find that Jesus is the ultimate role model. Whether or not you view him as the Son of God, there is no denying that he was a man of principle. He was the heart of grace, and we may derive a spiritual connection to him by striving to become more like him in our personal lives. This will be good for us on an emotional level, especially if we strive to commit ourselves to the performance of service work—something which Christ embraced quite avidly. And many of us will find that, once our emotional and spiritual needs are met, our physical health will begin to improve as well.
The key to our emotional healing is to discover through biblical self-awareness that every negative emotion we have experienced can be transformed into a positive one. We can put aside our hate and learn to embrace love toward our fellow man. We can cast away our self-pity to become happy, joyous and free. Where there was once anxiety, we will now know peace. Whether using him as a focal point of worship or simply as an ethical role model, Jesus may become a source of comfort in our time of need.
Biblical self-awareness can deliver a lot of wonderful improvement to our lives, but not without a little bit of elbow grease. We have to become truly dedicated to opening our minds and learning to see things from a new perspective. We have to have taken Step One in full, showing an enduring willingness to improve ourselves and admit that we have been powerless in our former way of life. Once this has been done, we will find ourselves able to discover true power through biblical self-awareness. After years of wondering who we are and if we have a purpose, we can begin our search for identity anew. But this time, we just may find some of the answers we have been seeking all along.