3 Ways Resistance Affects Our Personal Lives
Resistance and the Self
Resistance has far wider implications than just keeping you from your work. It’s everywhere, in everything, and affects all of life.
In my previous post, I introduced the concept of resistance and argued that the Christian concept of the abstract Doctrine of Original Sin was brilliantly described as resistance in Steven Pressfield’s, “The War of Art”. You see, the problem with abstract doctrine is the following – so long as doctrines remain theoretical abstractions or mental exercises, then it is possible to go through life without noticing just how we are being affected by forces and realities these doctrines are trying to express.
For example, we all know that gravity exists because we experience it every moment of every day, but when we talk in terms like “the earth’s gravitational force” somehow our understanding of gravity falls short.
Why even consider doctrine?
So let me digress for just a moment and ask this question. Why is understanding doctrine (or theology) important? The answer, I believe, rests in the power of doctrine to shape and mold our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in everyday life.
Consider for a moment when you first encounter the reality of forgiveness. When you experience genuine forgiveness by another person who was wronged by you, some “thing” or “positive force” occurs inside you changing the way you think (your thoughts), changing the way you feel (your feelings), and changing the way you relate to that person (your behavior). In other words, the posture and act of forgiveness does something holistically inside your being and you change, most often for the better.
If something as simple as forgiveness can have such a powerful impact on us, then why wouldn’t we want to understand its potency?
Now notice how these categories (thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) correspond to how we view God. Thoughts answer the question — What is true or factual or what do I believe to be true? Let’s call this the “Spiritual Perspective.” Feelings answer the question — What is going on inside me or how do I “feel”? Let’s call this the “Existential Perspective.” Behaviors answer the question — what kind of things do I “do” or how am I relating to other people? Let’s call this the “Social Perspective.” Everyone of us goes through this process, sometimes without even realizing it. Good doctrine should be able to explain the spiritual, existential, and social aspects of life.
So let’s return to Pressfield’s definition of resistance. It is a “negative repelling force.” Resistance keeps us from believing the truth about God (Spiritual Perspective), achieving lifelong ambitions, accomplishing great work or feeling self-confident (Existential Perspective), and building healthy authentic relationships with others (Social Perspective). If you recognize that there is a negative repelling force at work trying to distort, frustrate and corrupt each of these perspectives, then you can begin to understand why life seems difficult and complex. There is never a time where peace seems to be fully realized.
Resistance and Personal Alienation
Tim Keller, author of Center Church, describes the effect of sin using the word “alienation.” Consider for a moment what it means to be “alienated.” If you Google the word alienated, the definition comes back as “isolated” and “estranged.” To be “alienated” means to be isolated from some person, place, or thing. Most of the time when we use the word alienated, it is in relationship to someone or some community. We feel alienated from her or them. Mental Health Professionals will tell you that when a person is alienated in a particular way, their vulnerabilities are exposed.
Keller’s insight into the reality of alienation is helpful. Using Genesis 3:17-19 as the biblical background, Keller notes that because of sin, humanity experiences alienation in three major areas. Let’s connect our use of the word resistance to Keller’s use of the word alienated.
So how does resistance (or sin) express itself in each of these three perspectives?
- “Spiritual Perspective” — We are spiritually alienated from God. Resistance isolates us from God by keeping us from believing his word and truth. It feeds us lies and distortions about God’s view of us. Resistance denies his very existence deceiving us into thinking we are alone or unaccountable for our actions.
- “Existential Perspective” — We are psychologically alienated within ourselves. Resistance isolates us from ourselves by filling us with fears, anxieties, or even shame. It lies to us about our value, calling into question our worth. Resistance wreaks havoc on our ambitions, dreams, and realities. It distorts our perceptions of ourselves either over-inflating our egos or sense of self importance. Or resistance beats us down to ruin, leading only to despair. I could go on here. But you get the point.
- “Social Perspective” — We are socially alienated from others and from nature. Resistances isolates us from the world, leading to a string of bad relationships or never excelling in our work or careers. You can always count on resistance whenever you participate in any staff meeting, church committee, family get together, or home improvement project. Resistance will break apart families, destroy relationships, eat marriages for breakfast, drive you to look at online pornography, make online pornography, and always results in wasted lives, exhausted resources, and lost dreams.
Resisted But Not Defeated
The above description of resistance seems bleak and overwhelming. But we must remember it is real, complex and unavoidable. In truth, whenever you pull back and look at life from a negative view, it is easy to fall into despair. But you shouldn’t. Instead, cling to hope. Christ’s message and the good news according to Jesus was hopeful.
Remember something unique about resistance, the more you push against it, the stronger you become. So we are not without hope or defeated but remain strong. St. Paul captures this idea so elegantly when he says, “We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed (2 Corinthians. 4:8-9).” Because of Paul’s faith in God, he is able to push against resistance believing that all of these things happen “for our good” (2 Corinthians 4:15).