I am the product of a Black Church. It is ironic that in order to have had an investment in the Christian traditionalism of my youth, I was required to have a robust trust in the devil, the enemy, satan. I had to trust that anything I encountered which was named unholy by my ecclesial community, interpreted as sin biblically, or simply an undesirable experience was “a trick of the enemy.”
Within a very authoritarian religious community, Marlene Winell, licensed psychologist, suggests a belief in satan and eternal damnation can be an aspect of what leads to “religious trauma syndrome”, along with additional prominent causes such as suppression of normal child development, damage of normal thinking, having an external locus of control, and physical and sexual abuse.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy purports that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. Our thoughts contribute to our feelings, and our feelings contribute to our behaviors. Proverbs 23:7 offers, “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” What we believe certainly makes a difference.
In my adolescence I had to trust the evil I identified in my life then, such as thoughts about sex, having sex, the desire to listen to “secular” music, struggles with my sexuality, molestation, and sexual assault, were as a result of this lurking entity, satan. All the spiritual disciplines I engaged as a young person were not to grow closer to God, but to save myself from the devil and hell.
My trust in satan was injurious and trauma-inducing. I sacrificed so much to believe in this particular manifestation of evil. My trust in the devil’s presence made me focus more on the things I didn’t want in my life and magnified the presence of the unwanted. I eventually had to release this belief because it did not serve nor edify my relationship with God or myself. This is one of the wisest decisions I have made to date.
About four summers ago, I was having a conversation with my mom about going back to therapy because wounds from my experience of sexual trauma were coming up again. My mother’s response, “It’s a trick of the enemy.” I chose to believe that whatever was coming up for me was an invitation to deepen my healing and wholeness.
This is indicative of a universal human struggle. We all at some point in our lives have given more power to things we DO NOT want in our lives. What would your life be like if you focused more on abundance instead of struggle, more on gratitude instead of lack, more on creating instead of the destruction around you?
What are you choosing to believe in that does not serve you? It is time to let it go.
Rev. Kyndra D. Frazier, LMSW, M. Div.
Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, FCBC
Executive Director, The HOPE Center