Does The Bible Offer A Treatment For Personality Disorders?
Personality disorders are heavy weights placed on the shoulders of individuals that are often unaware they are even struggling with a disorder. Personality disorders are rigid, ingrained patterns of thoughts or behaviors that break from the expected behaviors of society.
The disruptive patterns are usually deeply rooted by late adolescence and they can cause problems functioning as well as distress to those around the individual. Unfortunately, most people with a personality disorder is unaware that their thoughts and actions are inappropriate, so they rarely look for help without pressure or action from someone else.
The most common forms of personality disorders are borderline personality disorder, BPD, and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). They share many traits including difficulty expression emotion, relationship building issues, and impulsive or self-destructive behavior.
Many assume mental health and personality disorders aren’t in the biblical texts at all, while some believe these types of issues are manifestations of sin or other detrimental forces, but Mental Health Grace Alliance points out there are actually two individuals in the Bible who showcase many of the symptoms of BPD and ASPD. Specifically, they look to “the stubborn and rebellious son” from Deuteronomy 21: 18-21 for signs of ASPD and Gomer of the Old Testament book of Hosea as an example of BPD.
The book of Hosea also outlines a five-step restoration process in the life of Gomer that Grace Health Alliance believes may be useful when ministering to a person diagnosed with BPD or ASPD.
The first step is to “clearly identify sinful behaviors and describe the associated consequences of such behavior” (Hosea 2: 1-13). When ministering to people with personality disorders, it is important to be honest about the consequences of their actions and how they affect others. But, it is equally important to create a situation where it is clear these feelings are coming out of love rather than judgement. Ministering out of judgement rarely helps people already struggling with issues.
The next step is ensuring you are not enabling the behavior, or not denying the seriousness of the person’s actions. When you love and want to help someone struggling with a disorder, it is easy to excuse or downplay their actions in order to protect them, but usually this only perpetuates their actions and causes them confusion when you do disparage their actions.
Another tricky step if allowing the individual to suffer the full consequences for their behavior (Hosea 2: 6). If the individual never experiences the consequences for their actions they will never fully understand the effects their behavior has on others or even their self.
The last two difficult tips serve are eased by the fourth step, which is to continually make it clear that restoration and forgiveness are possible no matter what they have done. Whether it be through humbling yourself in front of Christ, or humbling yourself in respect to your limits, it is important the individual always know there is support and love that will always be there to help them on their way to restoration no matter what mistakes they make.
The final step finally works toward changing their behavior through establishing appropriate boundaries. People with personality disorders often have trouble relating to others’ boundaries, so it is important to make them clear and proscribe set behaviors which will help them to gradually progress.
As with most mental health issues, counseling and non-judgmental support from their community is essential to working towards restoration, but this process has potential to help you work with personality disorder sufferers in day-to-day life.