"Unwanted Defenses in Community" | Marian Amo

If I got a dollar for every time I heard someone explain their irrational behavior as a “defense mechanism” I would be rich right now.  We call it “defense mechanism” like the scientific categorization of it justifies the nonsensical attitudes that come from it.  Defense mechanisms look like this: you not talking to someone for over extended periods of time because he or she ‘ruffled your feathers’, breaking up with someone so they don’t break up with you first, guilt tripping someone so you won’t have to take responsibility of your own shortcomings, acting uninterested in someone you are interested in so you don’t feel vulnerable, playing mind games, disengaging and systematically marginalizing someone because you feel threatened by them or just playing the silent, nonexistent treatment on someone because they failed to prop up your ego. The only thing those behaviors defend is our own pride and fears. Unfortunately, Christians have bought the lie that these defenses are acceptable and should be regarded as normal.  Well, they’re not, and even more importantly, they hinder us from being blessed and being a blessing to others. Last year God taught me a very simple but fundamental truth about serving alongside fellow Christians; we are a community, accept that and get over it. So hiding behind our “defense mechanism” isn’t going to be much use.

What does being a community mean? It means that not everything is about you. It means you can’t treat one person like they don’t exist because that person is connected to everyone else you care about. It means you’re not the only person given a calling to do something great or the only one chosen for a particular gift. As much as I believe that there are specific things only each individual can do, I believe that those calling only manifest in power when they come alongside others. You don’t own a position, I don’t own a ministry. Community means that God can use and call whomever he so chooses to do the work that needs to be done. God is not interested in our cliques or our crews. His will is above our preference for certain people.

God tells us to love one another. When God commands something, it’s not only because it reflects who he is but because it really is to our own good. Christians need to love each other because they are the ones God has chosen to work together for his glory. You can’t leave a church every time you encounter conflict. You can’t keep running away whenever things don’t go your way. You and I are in community. We are gifted with many different talents, there’s no room to be territorial over one area because it was never designed to only be for you or me. Whether we like everyone or not, God’s plan has made it that we will work with those we fellowship with. He never designed church to be a place you come, sit and then leave until next Sunday. Church is us when we look in the mirror. It’s us living as genuine Christians. So when we bring in divisional mentalities we only end up hurting ourselves.

Truth be told, most “defense mechanism” are just the excuses we give to not properly address the issues we face with people. I’m not saying that it’s easy to let your guard down. In fact, it rarely is. But let’s stop making that our scapegoat. Let’s seek after God for the areas of brokenness and hurt. Let’s fight past our emotions and chose to forgive. Let’s battle with the doubts we have about God’s character through his word, let’s wrestle against the spiritual laziness that often hinders our consistency with God. Let’s not be ashamed to ask the Holy Spirit to continuingly create godly desires in us because we naturally crave the things of this world. Let’s learn to communicate; that means ask, listen and wait to speak rather than ASSUME, DISENGAGE and then CONDEMN. Whatever it is we do, let’s STOP excusing poor attitudes, corrupted beliefs, and selfish mentalities.

If your defense mechanism looks anything like what I’ve mentioned, please understand that you’re not protecting yourself and you’re definitely not guarding your heart.  The word of God says His peace, love and wisdom guards your heart, not your “defense mechanism” - whatever it is. As much as we would love for every Christian to always live like they are filled with the Spirit, the process of redemption over sinful tendencies means we will encounter some ugly things about people and ourselves the longer we are in community with people. So Paul was right when he wrote: make allowance for each others' faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you – Colossians 3:13.

Rather than trying to justify what’s wrong by a label, let’s remember that the more we love each other the easier it is for everyone to live as a community.

Marian Amo, a prolific writer of poetry and creative nonfiction is a student of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild with a certificate in publishing and working towards an MFA. Her spiritual insight can be credited to the power of God's word, her personal experiences and her personal relationship with Christ. Marian grew up in New York City and has been exposed to a wide range of cultures and ideas, which have often challenged her faith. The consistency of the word of God shown true in a plethora of different circumstances has made her capable of delivering biblical insight that is relevant and practical.