The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

You Love God But You Crave Revenge: Why You’re Not a Spiritual Failure

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

If someone kicks you in the leg, you will immediately feel two things: anger, and a desire to hurt the person back.  You won’t want to just hurt them back a little—you’ll want to hurt them back to the same degree or more.  This is how functional humans are supposed to feel.  This is actually a sign of good mental health. 

Now there are some people in the world who do not feel the anger and desire for revenge that they are supposed to feel.  Instead, some people actually want to be hurt by others.  When Rachel gets kicked in the leg, her immediate reaction is pleasure and a desire to be kicked again.  She’d actually like to be kicked even harder than she was the first time, and she’d prefer to get kicked in a place that’s even more sensitive than her leg.  When we see Rachel responding so calmly to being kicked, we could easily think, “Wow, Rachel is such a gracious person.”  When Rachel then smiles at her attacker—because she is pleased by the pain he has given her—we could think, “Wow, Rachel is showing Christlike love.  Look how she doesn’t even step back.  It’s like she’s turning the other cheek, just as Jesus wants us to do.  What a stellar example she is.” But is this an accurate assessment of Rachel?  Is she really showing us the way God wants us to react when people hurt us?  No, not at all.  Rachel has some serious problems.  Her desire to be abused is a major flag that she’s got some unresolved psychological stress.  The fact that she is linking physical pain with psychological pleasure indicates that she is currently clinging to some very damaging lies—lies that she really needs to unlearn if she’s going to thrive the way God wants her to.  So we shouldn’t be applauding Rachel or trying to imitate her.  Instead, she’d be better off seeking counseling and getting help with resolving her psychological stresses.  We really want Rachel to get to the point where healthy instincts are revived inside of her.  We want her to feel anger and a desire for revenge when she gets hurt by others.  That would be a real step forward for Rachel, because that natural anger God has designed her to feel will help her draw boundaries and demand an appropriate degree of respect in her relationships with other people.  You see, anger isn’t all bad.  Like everything that God creates, anger has some very positive aspects to it.

Now what on earth is going on here?  This is a Christian website and Christians are supposed to be anti-revenge and anti-anger, so what are we smoking to say that God would actually want pain loving Rachel to dial back into the desire for revenge that she was designed to feel?  Well, here’s where you need to understand something about the teaching you hear at church.  When your pastor gets up and says that God wants us all to be merciful towards our fellow humans, he is correct.  But he’s also misleading you by not properly explaining what part of you God gives that command to.  It is only your soul that God teaches to cultivate an attitude of mercy.  Your earthsuit is a totally different deal.

You are your soul.  Your earthsuit is that amazing machine that you see when you look into a mirror.  In real life, when you drive yourself to the store, your car just goes along with the program. Your car doesn’t have a mind of its own.  When you get inside and turn on the engine, your car doesn’t snap, “Hey!  What do you think you’re doing?!  I was resting and I’m not in the mood to go anywhere right now!”  Your car isn’t a conscious entity, so you never find yourself arguing with it about what you want to do.  But when it comes to  your soul and your earthsuit, arguments abound.

Pastor Jack is lying in bed Monday morning thinking about all of the things he has to do.  “I have to get up,” he thinks, and this is his soul talking.  It is only Jack’s soul that cares about visiting his elderly parishioner who is recovering from an illness at the hospital.  Jack’s earthsuit doesn’t give a care about that old lady—as far as Jack’s earthsuit is concerned, it would be quite convenient if the woman died so that Jack’s soul would stop talking about her.  So when Jack’s soul says to his earthsuit, “I need to get up and go to the hospital,” Jack’s earthsuit replies, “Shut up and leave me alone.  I’m comfortable and I’m not done resting.”  You are having similar soul-earthsuit debates when you find yourself arguing with yourself after your alarm goes off.  It’s your earthsuit that votes for you to hit that snooze button.  It’s only your soul that brings morals into by saying things like, “But I promised my daughter I’d be at her concert,” or “But I promised my friend I’d help him go car shopping.”

Your soul is the only part of you that gives a care about God’s moral code. Your earthsuit doesn’t care about God or morals and there’s nothing you can ever do to make it care.  This is one of those life-changing facts that most Christian pastors never get around to mentioning when they preach about how we should treat our fellow humans.

So does God want you to be merciful?  It depends how you’re defining the term “you.”  Most Christians think of their souls and earthsuits as a single entity.  They then make the epic mistake of trying to make their earthsuits abide by commands that are only directed at souls.  Since it is totally impossible for you to ever make your earthsuit care about pleasing God, trying to do so is guaranteed to drive you down into despair.

When God  tells you to be merciful towards someone, He is talking to your soul, not your earthsuit.  He is telling your soul to choose to embrace an attitude of mercy out of respect for who He is.  Let’s say that you choose to obey God—what will that feel like?  It will feel like you are in conflict with yourself.  Part of you will want to be kind to someone, while another part of you will want to stick it to them.  The part of you that is desiring mercy is your soul.  The part of you that still wants revenge is your earthsuit.  Here’s a critical point that you need to understand: your soul does not have the power to reprogram your earthsuit.   Often Christians think that this is what God is commanding them to do, which is why they end up feeling like perpetual failures.

You cannot make your earthsuit feel neutral about the fact that it’s just been physically assaulted.  Your earthsuit has been programmed by God with a very strong self-protection instinct, and this just isn’t something that it’s going to get over.  If your earthsuit is functioning properly, it will feel fear whenever it is threatened.  That fear will be converted into anger, which will then be converted into physical energy that your earthsuit needs to help it defend itself.  Tom is a good example here.  Tom’s earthsuit was sitting calmly at a bar until Mike came over and started yelling at him.  The verbal aggression put Tom’s earthsuit on red alert.  Tom’s earthsuit reacted with fear as it sensed danger and began trying to assess it.  When Mike then grabs an empty beer bottle and holds it up like a weapon, Tom’s earthsuit realizes it is in serious danger.  Panic surges through Tom’s earthsuit, and Tom’s brain instantly converts some of that fear into anger.  We see Tom’s face grow angry and he shouts at Mike, “What the heck is your problem?!  Get out of my face!!”  This is Tom’s earthsuit warning Mike’s earthsuit to back off.  But Mike’s earthsuit refuses to do so.  Instead, it starts to swing the bottle at Tom’s head.

Now Tom isn’t a fan of physical fights.  He prefers to avoid altercations whenever possible.  But in this dire situation, Tom’s earthsuit immediately uses the tools that God has given it.  It unleashes a surge of adrenaline into its system to give itself more strength, and then it flies at Mike and body slams him to the ground.  What happened to turn the other cheek?  It didn’t happen.  Tom is a Christian who really cares about God, but his soul was stunned by this entire sequence and didn’t feel like it had a chance to think before his earthsuit was in motion.  In this situation, Tom’s earthsuit is acting instinctively to protect itself.  Tom’s earthsuit doesn’t give a darn about morals.  All it cares about in this moment is neutralizing a threat.  So once it knocks Mike down, Tom starts throwing punches—more punches than are necessary.  Tom’s earthsuit is still caught in a surge of panic and it doesn’t dare to let up until it feels it is safe again.

Now as Tom sits on top of Mike, punching his face in, some other men rush over and pull Tom off of Mike.  They are able to succeed at doing this because the combined strength of their two earthsuits is greater than the strength of Tom’s earthsuit.  Now as Tom stands in their grip panting breathlessly, his earthsuit is still feeling panic, but his soul is finally able to react.  His soul sees Mike’s bloodied face and it is horrified by what has happened.  Because Tom’s soul really cares about pleasing God, and because God says it’s wrong to assault people, Tom’s soul is very upset by what his earthsuit has done.  Tom’s soul wants his earthsuit to speak an apology.  Tom’s soul wants to drive its suit over to Mike and help him up off of the ground.  But Tom’s earthsuit tells Tom’s soul to step off.  Tom’s earthsuit is still feeling afraid of Mike and it’s not about to move within Mike’s striking range.

While Tom’s soul and earthsuit are intensely fighting with each other, all the men in the bar see is Tom standing there with a distressed look on his face.  Tom’s lips move as if he’s trying to form a word, but he doesn’t actually say anything.  It’s Tom’s soul that keeps trying to force his mouth to say something, but because his mouth is part of his earthsuit, Tom’s earthsuit keep vetoing the orders.  While Tom stands there looking shocked and occasionally stammering, no one can hear what’s going on in his head.  No one can see into Tom’s soul or see how much he cares about pleasing God.  To the bartender, Tom looks like one more troublesome customer.  Meanwhile Andy–another Christian in the bar who saw the whole thing—is secretly judging Tom as a violent jerk.  Andy figures that Tom is one of those short-tempered men who probably beats his wife and kids.  Andy doesn’t even know Tom—he’s just leaping to assumptions while he smugly thinks that he’d never behave the way Tom did.  What no one is appreciating is the difference between soul and earthsuit.  In this scenario, Tom’s soul did not want the violence to occur.  Tom’s soul is repulsed by the thought of injuring other people, and he now feels terrible when he realizes that Mike’s nose is actually broken.  But Tom’s soul was not in control of the fight—instead, Tom’s earthsuit was running on pure instinct—instincts that were wired into it by God.

So what does God think of this whole situation?  God judges us by our soul choices.  Tom’s soul is actually in alignment with God.  Tom’s soul respects God’s moral code and it wants to treat others with mercy and grace.  God is pleased with Tom because his soul is making all of the right choices.  The only way Tom’s soul was going to have its way in this scenario is if God had given Tom’s soul the ability to override its earthsuit.  Sometimes God does this—He empowers our souls to force our earthsuits to go along with what our souls want to do.  But plenty of other times, God withholds the empowerment we need to do this, and in those cases, our earthsuits get their way.  In this scenario, the way Tom behaved did not reflect the true desires of his soul.  This is usually the case with humans—their behavior rarely reflects pure soul desires.  Instead, what we want to do is often quite different than what we actually do because we’re not able to get our earthsuits to entirely submit to us.

Megan doesn’t want to say nasty things to her husband when she’s feeling really irritable, but the words just fly out of her mouth.  Rex really wants to hold down a steady job, but he just can’t keep his temper in check.  Jen doesn’t want to keep taking meth, but she just can’t resist the temptation.  In real life, our earthsuits are often able to steamroll over our souls.  Then we go to church and get a bunch of lectures about how we are all getting into trouble with God because we’re failing to keep our earthsuits in check.  No one says, “It’s what your soul is saying to God that really matters.”  Instead, we keep hearing things like, “If you really cared about God, you wouldn’t be acting the way that you are. You would always love people. You would exhibit self-control.  You wouldn’t have addictions.  You wouldn’t use crude language.”  For souls who sincerely care about pleasing God, these lectures only heap on the despair.  Instead of helping Christians accurately assess their standing with God by teaching them how to align with His judgment system, we make sincere souls feel like spiritual failures by pressuring them to assess the state of their souls by looking at their earthsuits.  This is as ridiculous as saying we can assess how smart a person is by counting how many dents and dings his car has.  Earthsuits and souls are two separate entities with very different priorities and agendas.  When it comes to assessing your standing with God, it is only your soul that you should be focusing on, not your earthsuit.  It is only your soul that God relates to, and it is your soul choices which He judges you by.

So now that we understand that souls and earthsuits are very different things, let’s talk about the issue of revenge.  When other people stick it to you in life, it is entirely normal for your earthsuit to harbor resentment and a desire for revenge.  Rebecca intensely hates the man who raped her, and she finds herself daydreaming about doing horrible things to his anatomy.  But where are these daydreams coming from?  Is this Rebecca’s soul talking?  No, it’s her earthsuit.  It was her earthsuit that was assaulted during the rape, and it’s her earthsuit that now wants to trash the earthsuit of her rapist.  All of this is normal earthsuit behavior, and not something Rebecca can help.  But now what is her soul doing?  Her soul has the choice to either cheer her earthsuit on in its plans for revenge, or her soul can choose to align with God and want to forgive her rapist.  God is going to encourage Rebecca’s soul to embrace attitudes of forgiveness, mercy and compassion.  If Rebecca is aligning with God, her soul will agree with Him that these are desirable attitudes.  But while her soul will pursue these things, her earthsuit will still be seething.  So now what?  Is she stuck being this miserable forevermore?   No, she’s not.

There are ways to help earthsuits calm down and recover from traumas.  Rebecca doesn’t have to settle for constant misery, but to help her properly, we need to accurately assess her problem.  Rebecca isn’t a spiritual rebel because she can’t stop thinking about revenge.  She isn’t siding with demons.  She isn’t mentally imbalanced.  She simply has a very stressed out earthsuit that needs help processing a traumatic experience.  Because Rebecca’s soul is already aligned with God, helping her earthsuit is going to be an easier process than if her soul was rebelling against God and rooting for her earthsuit’s carnal agendas.

If you have sore muscles, a massage might help them recover.  If you have soul angst, then it’s not a massage you need, but theological guidance.  Earthsuit problems are different than soul problems and they need different kinds of solutions.  Captain Wesley is horrified by the way he behaved on a battlefield.  What kind of monster must he be to have do those sadistic things?  Well, if we were to deal with each specific event that is haunting Wesley, we could help him see the difference between his earthsuit’s actions and his soul choices.  We could then find ways to help his earthsuit recover from the terrifying situations that he was forced into while we help his soul get into alignment with God’s judgment system.  The very fact that Wesley’s soul is feeling so awful about the immoral things he did demonstrates that he’s not the monster he thinks he is.  When earthsuits are threatened, they try to defend themselves.  There is a rational logic driving the most shocking and aggressive earthsuit behaviors, and when we take the time to realize this, we can stop wasting energy on condemning ourselves and instead become receptive to learning the many positive lessons God wants to teach us through the trials He puts us through.

If you are a Christian who is currently struggling to forgive, you need to realize that the whole notion of forgiveness comes from God’s moral code, and your earthsuit doesn’t give a flip about that code.  This is why you can earnestly want to just let go of a grudge but the darn thing just won’t let go of you.  It’s your soul that wants to be merciful, but your earthsuit wants to attack back. The more severely someone hurts you, the more intensely your earthsuit will want to obliterate that threat, and this is where desires to break, torture, and kill people come from.  The desire to lash out with disproportionate anger originates from earthsuits that feel threatened and afraid.  We mask our fear with hate and anger, and this leads to recurring fantasies about trashing our enemies.  The solution here is to acknowledge how hurt we have been and ask God to help us recover from it.  Trying to sweep our pain under the rug and instantly move on does not work, it just intensifies the problem.  It is utterly ludicrous to tell a devastated human to “just get over it” or to “just let it go.”  Just as you can’t make a cut on your arm disappear by yelling at your skin to hurry up and fix itself, you can’t flip your earthsuit out of revenge mode by trying to heap on guilt.  Healing takes time: this is not a moral failing, it’s a fact of life.

While Christians generally do an abysmal job of explaining what God expects from humans, the good news is that as a human, you don’t have to wait for some Christian teacher to get it right before you can know the truth.  God invites you to talk to Him directly, so ask Him to help you align with His perspective of your struggles.  God is far more compassionate, realistic, and easy to succeed with than other humans are.  When we look to Him to guide us, we will find that He is encouraging, positive, and constantly pointing out reasons for hope.

FURTHER READING:
Overcoming Shame
Overcoming the Guilt of Failing to Protect
Understanding Divine Judgment: Illumination, Empowerment & A God Who Delights In Mercy
Recovering from Abuse: Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation
You Love God But You Hate People: Why You’re Not a Spiritual Failure
Soul vs. Earthsuit: Two Sources of Fear
Emerging From Darkness: Guidance & Hope for Malicious Torturers
Understanding Your Perverse Fantasies: A Sign of Stress, Not Defectiveness
Brain-Soul Mechanics: Why God Doesn’t Expect You to Have Pure Thoughts

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