We both love how Matthew has taken the concept of sin and given a breath of fresh air to the topic. You must read this book because in its pages you will finally gain a biblical perspective on sin and what it takes to free yourself from the bonds that so easily entangle!

Gary and Michael Smalley
Smalley Relationship Center
When mental illness afflicts a loved one, how can we understand what is happening and respond appropriately? This biblically-literate and scientifically-informed book offers helpful insight, encouragement, and practical advice. For pastors and for those who hurt for those who hurt, Matthew Stanford offers sensitive and welcome guidance.

David G. Myers, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology, Hope College and author of Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Personality Disorders and the Bible

A personality disorder is a rigid, ingrained pattern of thoughts and behaviors that deviates significantly from the expectations of one’s society. This maladaptive pattern is usually well-established by late adolescence or early adulthood and is serious enough to cause distress or impaired functioning. People with a personality disorder are usually unaware that their thoughts and behaviors are inappropriate, so they tend not to seek help on their own.
Two of the most common and troubling of the personality disorders are borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). These personality disorders share a number of overlapping and related symptoms including problems with emotional expression, difficulty forming stable, healthy relationships and impulsive, self-destructive behavior. You may have thought that the Bible would have little to say about personality disorders, but in fact it gives a very clear description of two individuals who shows many of the symptoms associated with BPD and ASPD. I believe that we see an example of ASPD in the description of the “stubborn and rebellious son” found in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (and possibly Ezekiel 18:10-13) while Gomer in the Old Testament book of Hosea appears to be an example of BPD.
The book of Hosea outlines a five step process of restoration in the life of Gomer that may be effective in ministering to a person diagnosed with BPD or ASPD. Step one is to clearly identify sinful behaviors and describe the associated consequences of such behavior (Hosea 2:1-13). When ministering to the individual with BPD or ASPD, we must be honest with them about the nature of their behavior and its consequences. This must be done in a spirit of love not judgment. Step two is to not become an enabler of the individual’s sinful and extreme behavior (Hosea 2:6). This means that you are not accepting or in denial about the seriousness of the individual’s extreme behaviors. Inconsistency in your response will only make these behaviors more likely to occur. Step three is a difficult one, especially for parents: allow the individual to suffer the full consequences of their behavior (Hosea 2:7). If you or someone else constantly covers for the individual or minimizes the negative consequences of their behavior in some way (e.g., pay off debt, post bail), then the potential for restoration is greatly limited. Step four is to continually make it clear to the person that restoration and forgiveness are possible regardless of what they may have done (Hosea 3:3). In many instances this will require you to humble yourself. It is only through full submission to Christ that you will be able to offer such unconditional acceptance and forgiveness. Finally, step five is to set up appropriate boundaries. Behavior does not change overnight. Once the person has returned to the family or relationship, they will need to be guided towards healing and restoration (Hosea 3:3). Clear and appropriate boundaries will help both you and them as you guide and monitor their progress. This is a long and difficult process for both you and the person with the disorder. Reward successes and point out failures in an environment of acceptance and love.

6 comments:

  1. I am a man with BPD. I am married (to the same wife!) and have 4 grown children. What can you tell me or guide me to help with the hell I go through every day?

    I have been to about 7 Christian counselors/psychiatrists in the last 24 or so years. In the end I got put down, abandoned, or condemned by most of them. I've gotten better over the years, but, it is still a struggle everyday.

    Maybe because I'm high functioning they think I'm exaggerating or lying. Needless to say, I'm apprehensive about seeing another Christian. But I can't live like this. I need help. Any thoughts?

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  2. Personality disorder is a type of psychological disorder. There are many negative effects of personality disorder. It affects badly to a person's life, family and social life. People with personality disorder have conflicts with many other people. There are many types of personality disorders like Paranoid personality disorder, Schizoid personality disorder, Dissocial personality disorder etc. People with this disorder have negative attitude, instability in relationships, loves breaking rules and regulations, mistrust for others etc. For more details refer personality disorders

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  3. I have BPD. I'm 31 years old, married with a daughter and step-son. I am also a Follower of Christ. I was diagnosed with BPD when I was a teen. I was suicidal and self-destructive. I had a very hard time distinguishing reality from my own abnormal thought processes. It seemed as though I could only think in black and white...and always in extremes. I was on meds for a while, but i haven't been for years now. I believe that through Christ, I can live a very successful life without the help of medication. I do still have my moments where something triggers me, and emotionally, I collapse. I have intense moments of rage, followed by severe depression and hopelessness. But if I honestly look at what's happening in those times, for me, I can see that I am giving myself over to the power of sinful thinking. Instead of taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, I find that I easily let my mind sink into the pit of despair with the ungodly thoughts. Do I see this as a disorder? Yes, it's a sin disorder. A very severe one, brought on by years and years of improper thought patterns, strongholds, and mentalities. But I do hold on to the hope I have in Christ. I am not a victim of this "illness." I am not its slave. Through Him, I have freedom, and I have been set free from the power of sin and death.

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    1. Your viewpoints on BPD are surely not mainstream, but I have really enjoyed reading your comment, Broken4Christ! While most people say that there is no hope for various personality disorders other than medication, your experience gives hope that God can and does teach, make new, and deliver. Your personal testimony is very valuable, especially to know that someone with BPD is teachable! You've described some great tools for living with this "illness". Thanks for sharing your insights!

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    2. I am engaged to a man with BPD. I am also very good friends with his ex-wife (they were married very young and remained friends after the divorce, which was caused in part by BPD). She has been a huge blessing in my life, sharing with me his triggers, her experiences, and encouraging me when I think I've had enough. He shares with her that he loves me, and although I wish he would express it to me personally, I appreciate that he says it at all.

      I am very much in love with him, and we are going to be married next month. I have two children from a previous marriage (a very unhealthy marriage, and although their father is very loving and attentive to them, he is a liar and an addict, and they are quite used to mental illness, unfortunately). My kids love my fiance, and are excited that he will be their step dad. However, they are all too aware of his disorder, his rage (he has NEVER been violent or abusive in ANY way), and his moods.

      I am wondering if any of you, whether those who suffer from BPD or are loved ones, would be interested in becoming a prayer partner with me for my future husband. He is a new Christian, although he was raised in a Christian home. There is a history of mental illness in his family. When his borderline "flares up", his faith is the first thing to go. He admits that he pushes God away in the same way he pushes me away.

      Please let me know if you are interested. I would be happy to lift you and your families up in prayer, too. I just feel like I need more support, and more guidance from other sufferers, particularly those who are Christian, since you understand the torment that he goes through.

      My email is bpd4205 at gmail dot com. I created it specifically for this purpose.

      Thank you.

      March 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM

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