In church this past Sunday the pastor made a call from the pulpit that “anyone who needs deliverance- whatever the situation may be: financial, healing, addiction, trouble in your marriage- Just come to the altar and God will deliver you.”
I’ve heard this same line, or some version of it, for most of my life.
After I left home and joined the Army, I picked up the habit of smoking. A friend of mine offered me a cigarette one day on a whim and urged me to try it. So I did. I nearly passed out, but I realized why people smoke. Nicotine makes you feel great. But when it wears off, it leaves you wanting more. So I slowly developed a pack-a-day habit. I knew it wasn’t healthy, and I tried to limit how much I smoked. I even tried quitting several times. Before we shipped off to Saudi Arabia, I told myself that I was going to smoke all of the cigarettes I had before getting on the plane, and never smoke another one again. I did that. but then when we got to Saudi, they still sold cigarettes. They even had bidis, which were pretty cool to smoke. They were smaller than cigarettes, but were little leaf-rolled “cigars”, for lack of a better term. So I kept smoking. But I didn’t want anyone to know, so unless I was around my friends or alone, I didn’t smoke.
After I met my wife, we talked about it, and I tried to quit, but I could never completely get it under control. So I would smoke while at work. I would “need to go out to the store” for some random item so I could sneak in a smoke. I don’t think she ever knew, but she always would mention that I smelled like crayons.
So I would quit for a few months or a year, then start back up. Then I would struggle for a while, then quit again. That’s been going on all of adult life. I actually quit for about three years. Then my mom died, and that set me off again. At some point, I unconsciously realized that smoking made me feel better when I was stressed. So I would always turn to that when I got down. After mom died, I finally got it under control again, and have actually not smoked for about two years now. Since then, I have only smoked on two occasions: one day during the middle of my latest bout with depression, and a few weeks ago I got the urge for a cigar. Both times, I realized exactly why it was important to quickly discontinue smoking; it makes me feel like shit, mentally and physically, once the nicotine wears off. And I can’t stand the way it makes me smell and the way my mouth tastes afterward. Ugg!
So I said all that to say this: during the worst of my battle against addiction, I would hear the preacher say to come to the altar for deliverance, and I would come. I wouldn’t get the deliverance promised by the preacher. “This kind only comes out by fasting and prayer” was another line they would serve up. I fasted religiously for years- one day a week. Still, no deliverance.
The reason I quit this last time was because I forced myself to think rationally about the situation, then I stopped smoking out of mental clarity and fear of what it was doing to my body. That has kept me from smoking for about two years now.
After leaving the oneness church, I started looking at it all a little more rationally. One of the main things was the realization that I was suffering from “Nice Guy Syndrome“. Once I read Dr. Glover’s book, I very quickly stopped having the need to constantly bombard my mind with other stuff to quell the doubt, discomfort, and hatred of who I was. I did not like myself, and I had to distract myself from who I was with self-destructive behaviors. Once I figured this out, and I decided to like myself (change who I was in order to like myself), I didn’t need to distract myself from myself any more.
For me, THAT was deliverance!
Now, I realize there were other things I had been doing all along for this very same reason. All of it was because of my Nice Guy Syndrome: the smoking, the drinking, the procrastination, the disconnect from others- all of it. And the ultimate deliverance came not from going to the altar- not from fasting and prayer. It came from understanding what was wrong with me, understanding the human psyche, and finally knowing how to fix it.
But why doesn’t the church’s method of deliverance work? In a nutshell:
The church says that you have to put yourself last and serve others. Dr. Glover details why that it is one of the Nice Guy’s biggest problems. I had to learn to not only like myself, but to please myself and make my own needs a priority.
The church says to submit to God. We don’t have any power in and of ourselves. The godly way is to let the Holy Spirit work through us. Dr. Glover makes it clear that we DO have power, and only by reclaiming that personal power are we ever going to overcome the crap that keeps us from living up to our true potential.
The church says that we should live our lives for God and work to serve his purpose. Dr. Glover makes it clear that only by living the life you want- on your own terms- will you ever break free of the mental prison that is Nice Guy Syndrome.
So there it is: The church’s method for deliverance never did work for me. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. I remember several times in my life thinking that I wasn’t praying enough or fasting enough, so I would ramp it up to the next level. I would pray more and read my Bible more. At one point, I was fasting three days a week. None of it worked. But when I read No More Mr. Nice Guy, I almost immediately found deliverance from these “demons” that have haunted me most of my life.
When my pastor made that request to come to the altar this past Sunday, all I could do was cringe. Then I giggled to myself a little.