Are you familiar with the term ‘spiritual bypassing’? Psychologist John Welwood first identified these patterns of behaviours within Buddhist communities in 1984:
“I noticed a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.”
When we are faced with uncomfortable and distressing societal struggles and failings of justice, I’ve noticed a tendency for spiritual folk to come out with the same old tropes:
- Everything happens for a reason
- You create your own reality
- Keep your thoughts positive — only focus on the good stuff
- Trust the Divine timing of life
- And a new one… all lives matter
If you find yourself saying this to people in struggle, no matter how well intented: stop. If you are able to say these personal life philosophies flippantly as a fix-all throwaway comment, you’re likely in a privileged position, where you’re not threatened on a daily basis by police because of your skin colour.
“Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow elements, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.” — Robert Masters.
When we behave in this way, we are complicit in oppression.
It is offensive to those who are suffering; suffering because of systemic racism, brutality and injustice.
Faith can be a personally strengthening resource during times of struggle. Sending love and light is a beautiful thing to do, and will ripple. If this is all you are able to do, then thank you for your contribution.
However, I’m asking you to check your #whitespiritualprivilege .
Be an ally.
Allow yourself to feel this.
We HAVE to feel this. For only when we allow ourselves to feel can we find our way forward.
My heart and solidarity are with those who experience violence and discrimination because of the colour of their skin and the country of their birth.
I stand with the oppressed. I support those who fight the system and are active in creating the change we so desperately need.
I will do my spiritual practice in quiet and solitude. I will not parade it as a badge of superiority or use it to suppress, silence or discount others.