How Harmful Religion Impacts Decision-Making

I was raised in a conservative, Evangelical Christian church the first 2 decades of my life. This wasn't the type of church culture where you just showed up on Sundays. This was your life! Being raised in this high-demand religious group heavily impacted my ability to make decisions. And it impacts many others who were raised in similar religious cultures.

It impacts our ability to make decisions in 2 major ways:

First, it impairs our perception and our ability to see the whole picture.

In religious cultures that are unhealthy, there is an emphasis on black and white thinking. Right or wrong. Good or bad. Us versus them. When these types of thought patterns are drilled into your mind, that becomes how you operate in other aspects of your life. You start to look at everything as either good or bad... god’s will or not god’s will. And if you make one wrong decision, god’s going to be mad at you!

Then, every decision has this weight to it, because so much is a stake. It becomes really hard to see the grey areas, other perspectives, or the whole picture. We can freeze up when it's time to make a decision, because decisions usually bring about fear. Fear of making the wrong choice. Again, the emphasis is on rightness. God’s will or the flesh. God’s will or your sin nature.

This is what I was taught my entire upbringing and young adult life, so any time it came to making a decision, I would freak out. I would think about it constantly for days and days. I would be praying on it and looking to other people to help me make this decision, seeing what they think god would want me to do. There was this surge of anxiety when it came to decision-making. It was really difficult for me to even make simple decisions!

There was such weight to decision-making, because what if you chose the wrong thing and that’s not really the thing god had for you! Your mind spirals in a million different directions. You find yourself constantly asking "what should I do?!"

Second, high-demand religion impacts our ability to make decisions by hindering our ability to trust ourselves and connect to our intuition. I remember a really clear message that a pastor at a conference said when I was a teen. He said “we keep teaching our kids to believe in themselves and to trust themselves. I say, why don’t we teach them to believe in god, not in themselves!” This stuck with me at a core level for years. Essentially, this message taught me, don’t believe in and trust yourself.

Then, you even have verses like “lean not into your own understanding” and “the heart is deceitfully wicked.” And that was always interpreted as “don’t do what you want to do. Don’t trust your own intuition and instincts. Make sure that everything that you do is approved by god or godly people."

Because of this indoctrination, there’s a disconnection in our ability to assess what feels right for ourselves. What does my heart say? What does my intuition say? What is actually best for me?

You’re constantly looking outside of yourself for the answers to the decision.

This causes us to feel really disconnected from our own power and agency. That was all stripped away. We weren’t allowed to trust in ourselves. You’re not even allowed to have questions or curiosity about things other than what you were told to believe and how you were told to think.

It’s all about what would god want you to choose versus how do you feel about this? What do you want to do?

That’s why its so important to reconnect with yourself and your inner voice and your ability to make decisions. It’s finding the power within.

We begin doing this by connecting to our bodies and learning to tune in to the signals it gives us. Our decisions then become about turning inward and listening to our intuition (which is where the mind, body, and spirit meet) rather than turning outward for someone else to tell us the answer.

When you learn to tune into the wisdom of the body, you don't get stuck in your head and filled with anxiety when it comes time to make a decision. The fear around the decisions feels a lot less overwhelming. You make decisions based on what feels most aligned and best for your body, mind, and spirit. The concern is no longer about being right or pleasing someone else. It's about making decisions that are true to who you are and what you want for your life.

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