The Dialectics of God’s Love and Radical Acceptance (DBT musings part 3)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has the aim of teaching people to both accept themselves as they are and at the same time realize their need for change.  It works on shifting a person’s assessment of themselves (and the world) from one of dialectical thinking (either all good or all bad) to one of non-judgement, and acceptance.

In the previous post, commenter Sean challenged the view that Christians can be non-judgemental in all circumstances and clearly differentiated circumstances which warranted  refraining from judgement (being judgemental) and those that warranted judgement (i.e. to identify sin.).  This is a dialectic in itself and merges well with DBT’s aim to encourage its participants to both accept themselves and realize their need for change.

This dialectic of acceptance and change is one that is inherent in the Gospel.  We learn through Jesus that God loves the world so deeply that he gave his only son (John 3:16).  However, God’s love requires reciprocation, action, and relationship as the rest of the verse says “whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.

Time and time again in the New Testament Jesus demonstrates God’s extravagant love to those considered the most outcast, hated (not loved) and rejected including the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the woman who lavished him with perfume (Luke 7), the tax collector (Luke 19), etc.  He was accused by the religious of frequenting with “sinners and tax-collectors”.  This likely aggravated the religious folk because they feared that he was accepting of sin, as it seems contradictory that you could both accept and reject at the same time.  Indeed it can be.

The key to handling this dialectic is forgiveness.  God’s amazing ability and offer to forgive to all who seek it provides a true and radical acceptance a bridge between being who we are and changing to becoming more like God/Christ.

When Jesus teachers his disciples to pray he teaches this practice of continually coming to God in for forgiveness, realizing that at the same time we are his beloved Children, we are also deeply fallen and sinful creatures who need God’s love.  Many people get stuck in this process.  They find it hard to let go and believe that God could truly love them and forgive the things in the past that were truly sinful.  Another problem we have is blindness to our own sinful nature- especially as people who have been trying to follow God for a little longer- we haven’t committed some of the “big” sins and so we figure we are “Ok” and fail to look more deeply at the nature of our selves and have come to accept too much of our desires and yearnings that are in fact more worldly (“Me” centred) rather than Godly (God-centred).  So we both need acceptance and forgiveness to engage in the radical acceptance and transformation that God offers through Jesus.

You may wonder how this differs from the “Radical Acceptance” espoused in current psychological treatments.   Radical Acceptance in DBT is based on Buddhist principles that we will endure pain but we have a choice to suffer- radical acceptance may entail accepting a situation or a person as they are rather than striving to change it, or bemoan it.   To stop dwelling on things that we may or may not have control.

There are passages in the bible and whole books (Job) which talk about suffering.  Paul regards suffering as purposeful,cleansing us from selfishness, as a place of joy (Colossians 1:24) and connecting us to Christ’s suffering (2 Cor. 1:5-7). Jesus also admonishes us that those who follow Him will be persecuted for righteousness. In this way Radical acceptance may at times be advisable to Christians.  In addition the reasons or results of enduring pain, for the Christian, may be different from those espoused by Radical Acceptance in DBT.

Enduring pain seems justified for those who suffer apart from their actions, but can Christians advocate radical acceptance when suffering is self-inflicted?

That’s a very good question.

What do you think?


Jesus and Judgement (DBT musings part II)

Today I was in the DBT group that I observe as a student therapist and found scripture coming to mind as we covered mindfulness basics.

Nonjudgement is a key aspect of of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. In DBT Mindfulness participants are encouraged to refrain from judgmnt and instead to observe, describe, then fully participate.  Many people who come to the group are plagued with judgement of themselves. 

Jesus says “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7 1-2)

It is interesting that Jesus makes this link.  I previously interpreted this verse to mean that God will judge me as I have judged others.  However, I see now that it is also possible to interpret this scripture in the present tense- the more judgement I pass on others, the more I will also pass on myself. 

However, as in the parable about the log and speck (Matthew 7) just as we judge others incorrectly we also judge ourselves (I’m no good, I’m unloveable) inaccurately, often overjudge, and miss the parts of ourselves that hurt others (pride, arrogance). 

Throughout the Bible we are told that the only true judge is God alone- he is the ultimate judge- then why do we so often take on that role? 

Even Jesus’ disciples were notorious judgers- how many times did Jesus’ disciples want to turn away people because they innacurately judged Jesus’ love and desire to meet them?  For example, the little children (Matthew 19:13-15), and the Caananite woman (Matthew 15: 21-27). 

Is part of faith in Jesus refraining from judgement?  Not only to others, but to ourselves, and in judging what God can do and how He loves the world?

At first when I heard about non-judgement  I thought that th idea was ridiculous and not Christian as we want God to change our lives and free us from sin.  Isn’t judging the way we recognize sin in our lives?

Maybe, maybe not.

First of all we ask God to identify sin in our lives (Psalm 139: 22-24). 

Secondly we can examine ourselves with compassion and kindness- without judgement as God affirms us that he has saved us through his son and there is no condemnation (Romans 8: 1).  Why would we condemn ourselves when God has freed us?

How then do we identify sin in our lives?  We can examine our lives and observe the times and ways in which we have been far and near from God.  This can take the from of the daily examen – an ancient practice develop by St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Through observation of ourselves the discrepency between what is Godly and good, and what are the desires of flesh we can understand our actions, and seek forgiveness, repent, and recieve new life.

Many who have been saved by God continue to condemn and judge themselves.  Especially people we see in our neighborhood who have mental illness and drug addiction, are estranged from their family, and see their life as a string of failure. 

“It doesn’t make sense why God would love a person like me…”

“It’s hard to see anything but sin and regret in my life…”

Can Jesus free us from self-judgement? Yes, he must.  But he also fills us with the Holy Spirit which groans within us to rebuke us kindly and gently and as we experience the father’s love he slowly shows us our sin as we’re ready in a gentle way through scripture and his spirit.

In that way observing and describing and refrain judgeing can be a good start to accepting the love of Christ, rather than pushing it away or reinforcing the lies of the world (that we are unloveable, no good, constantly failing…). 

What do you think?  Comments?? Ideas?