Many have said that when the Church is being the organism in which we practice loving one another, it is a hospital for sinners. It is the community in which we are able to acknowledge our spiritual wounds and failures in order to remove all the obstacles to spiritual healing.
Church communities, however, being made of sinners, fallen human beings, are also subject at times to all of the ills that impact humanity living in the fallen world. Sometimes we fail to acknowledge our own fallibleness as well as our fallenness. We all, including leadership, can fall into denial about our true state of affairs. Fr. John and Lyn Breck write:
Just as addictive nuclear families are plagued with denial, so too is the church family. Denial is a powerful defense mechanism that allows people to go through life without considering how their thoughts and actions are at odds with the call to holiness. This leads to a moral dilemma. As A. W. Schaef and Diane Fassel write in The Addictive Organization, “Ethical deterioration is the inevitable outcome of immersion in the addictive system. It easy to understand how this happens. If your life is taken up by lying to yourself or others, attempting to control, perfectionism, denial, grabbing what you can for yourself, and refusing to let in information that would alter the addictive paradigm, then you are spiritually bankrupt.” (Stages on Life’s Way: Orthodox Thinking on Bioethics, p. 181).
Denial is not merely a psychological state – it leads to “ethical deterioration”. Right thinking yields right behavior. Unfortunately, distorted thinking, wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior. Healing restores us not only to physical health or mental health, but also to spiritual health.
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The question is how do we heal addiction when we are in denial? How do we uplift the veil of hypocrisy, see our own lies, and ultimately change the habits that have lead us to “ethical deterioration”? Admitting you have a problem is the hardest part. It’s also the first step, and is usually met with considerable resistance because of our denial.