It is possible to have a deeply rooted spiritual life without bypassing our physical and psychological needs. The way out of spiritual bypassing is through spiritual embodiment. Spiritual embodiment is allowing ourselves to invite Jesus into the difficult emotions, relationships, seasons instead of seeking to avoid pain through spiritual bypassing.

It is well-established that the essence of any spirituality is to transcend the current reality in some capacity.   When this is healthy, what’s been transcended is not eliminated or excluded completely from our being, it’s repositioned and related to in ways that take into account all aspects of the human experience. In the Christian faith, Spiritual embodiment is allowing the Holy Spirit to reign supreme in our lives without ignoring that we also have a body and a soul that need care and consideration.

What does this mean?  Let’s look to Jesus as our example. Jesus entered into our human experience to redeem it.  He didn’t avoid the difficulty or pain inherent in the human experience.  Just as Jesus modeled, we can, too, allow ourselves to feel real human emotions and invite God into the messiness of being human.

Validation and Invitation

When it comes time to help a fellow human in need, focusing on validation and invitation can help us avoid spiritual bypassing.

“I know this is really difficult (validation) and I’ve found comfort in a few particular verses.  Would you like to hear them (invitation)?” 

This honors our desire to help support someone with life-giving scripture without overriding their autonomy. We can also practice spiritual embodiment through prayer and honestly sharing our struggles with friends without trying to over-spiritualize the outcome. “This is hard and I don’t know where God is in the midst of this but I believe He’s here somewhere.” We live in a culture that celebrates testimonies after the storm is over and when we feel like we have the answers. We share our gratitude when God has brought us through a difficult time.  As wonderful and faith-building as that is, but spiritual embodiment also includes having the courage to walk in honesty and faith while we are still living the questionsSpiritual embodiment says, “This is hard and I don’t know where God is in the midst of this but I believe He’s here somewhere.”

Intention vs. Impact

When it comes to spiritual bypassing, it’s important to understand the difference between intention versus impact.  Even if the intention of a spiritually bypassing comment is well-meaning (to try and alleviate someone else’s discomfort or your own discomfort), the impact can be harmful.  In fact, focusing only on intention is also another way we can bypass true psychological growth.  When we hurt someone, if we only focus on our intention, we are eroding trust and bypassing responsibility.  It is quite possible to share our intention but also take responsibility for our actions.  If you’ve found yourself struggling with spiritual bypassing, it may be time to seek support with a therapist or pastoral counselor who can help you identify what areas you’re seeking to avoid. This process will help you stop bypassing difficult emotions and learn how to integrate your faith into all aspects of your mind and heart. Take our free assessment to get connected to a therapist near you (GA residents only).