S07|03 - God, Me and ParentingAug 21, 2023
My past relationship with God was full of subconscious beliefs that actually kept me separated from Him, His goodness and His light. Shame, fear and control crept into my parenting, without me even knowing it (and definitely without me wanting it). I was stuck in the same patterns of generational parenting that had been passed down to me- and had no idea how much of a difference changing my relationship with God would heal this. Healed, loved, aligned and full of light (aka a more regulated nervous system, time for rest and stillness, and listening to my own desires and ideas more)- my life and my parenting is completely different.
In this episode you’ll hear:
- How my childhood changed my views of God and I didn’t even notice
- Spreading shame, fear and control in subconscious ways through how we relate to God
- What my relationship with God used to look and sound like, and what it looks like now
- Research studies done on how we learn about God, and how it affects us
- Changing our relationship with our kids through subconscious work
- Emotionally healing IS God-work
Article from this episode: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4580497/
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Crystal The Parenting Coach: Hi, I'm Crystal The Parenting Coach. Parenting is the thing that some of us just expected to know how to do. It's not like other areas of your life where you go to school and get taught, get on the job training, or have mentors to help you, but now you can get that help here.
I believe that your relationship with your children is one of the most important aspects of your life, and the best way that you can make a positive impact on the world and on the future. I've made parental relationships my life study, and I use life coaching tools, emotional wellness tools, and connection-based parenting to build amazing relationships between parents and their children.
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In this episode, you'll hear about a man who stabbed some high school friends of his and attributed it to God.
We are going to uncover explicit versus implicit views about God, how those can be completely unaligned, and where our views about God come from – how our childhood is related to all of this, and how our development is related to all of this; and how we might be perpetuating shame, fear, control…all of these past beliefs that have been passed down to us…through our parenting, onto our children and to people around us without even really knowing it and what we can do to change.
Welcome to today's podcast, God, Me and Parenting.
You may have heard me speak a little bit about parenting and God in my last season, on Faith-Based Parenting; you can go check out that episode from last season, it's really good – but I really wanted to dig a little bit further into it.
It's been on my mind a lot since then as I've been creating this Faith-Based Parenting course; you can check it out in the notes, it will be up really soon – if it's not already by the time this episode airs.
I've just noticed recently how much I say Um, and now it drives me bonkers every time I'm recording my podcast. Like, how do you get yourself to not say 'um'? Anyways, back to God, Me and Parenting.
How my childhood changed my views of God and I didn’t even notice
So, my belief, and what I've seen in my clients and myself, is that our childhood – and my childhood, specifically, but I think this happens to so many more people than just me – is that not only what I learned about God at my house and in church and in community and at school as I talked to people around me, that wasn't the only thing that created my beliefs about God…it was also how others personally related to me, especially how my parents related to me.
So, my parent-child relationship from when I was being raised affects how I implicitly view God and how I view him viewing me.
Our current relationship – I've seen this, over and over again – with God looks so much like that child-parent relationship. So, if your child-parent relationship was full of shame and was very fear-based and very controlling, that's going to seep into how you view God.
And a lot of people that just decide like, 'I don't believe in God anymore' – or universe or greater power, creator, whatever you want to call it – oftentimes, I see it coming from this because we just don't have a healthy relationship with God; we don't view him in a very healthy way, or we don't view ourselves through his eyes in a very healthy way.
Then this comes out from us. So, if we have these intrinsic beliefs, we're constantly…it's always think, feel, do, right? So, I have these beliefs and these thoughts that are leading to feelings; my feelings are fueling my actions, so they're always going to come through even if we don't notice that they are.
Spreading shame, fear and control in subconscious ways through how we relate to God
So, if I have some of those shame and fear-based beliefs about God and how he views me, that's going to come into my parenting. So, we're going to use shame and fear and control towards our children.
My goal is shame-free parenting – for me, for you, for our whole generation, for a new generation of change in healing – healthier minds, healthier spirits, healthier bodies…children that are raised in different homes so that when they age, when they're coming-of-age and going off on their own, that they'll have better emotional health. That they'll have better emotional intelligence.
I'm not saying perfectionism because I don't think that's ever possible, and I think it's through our mistakes that we can teach our children how to respond to their mistakes and failures in a really healthy way. So, we're not going to leave them unscathed.
We're not going to be perfect all of the time, and that's never the plan, and that's never what I teach in Parenting Coaching. But I do think that we can have a much healthier relationship with ourselves if we change our relationship with God first, and then we work on changing our relationship with ourselves, and then our relationship with our kids.
I think it's like a one and then a two and then a three; and that as we work on one, the other one grows as well. So, if your childhood was anything like mine – I was given love, praise, connection, acceptance, attention…all the things that you want as a child when I was "good".
So, "good" looked like maybe being quiet or calm or kind or being obedient – not having differing opinions, listening and obeying right away, sometimes being seen and not heard…being the kind one, the good one, the peacemaker, the one that always forgives and goes above and beyond and serves other people.
Not ever disrespecting an adult – always making sure that you don't even question it, right? Don't even question yourself or your inner knowing or your inner ideas – just listen to what somebody older, wiser tells you.
And I know that, logically, we don't necessarily believe these things, but extrinsic and intrinsic beliefs are two very different things; and that's what we're actually going to talk about on the podcast today – is how different those can be in our relationship with God.
And also, when you were "bad", so didn't do those things-- Maybe you weren't kind. Maybe you had a big explosion of anger. Maybe you showed big emotion. Maybe you didn't obey immediately for whatever reason. Maybe you questioned things, maybe you didn't agree with it necessarily. Maybe you didn't agree with your parents' values or the way that they did things, and you wanted to do things a different way.
So, maybe when those things happened, any behavior that is "bad" – that there was maybe ignoring, separation, forced isolation…some people call that timeouts…any sort of punishment, external punishment, consequence, or maybe given rewards. And on the opposite side, when you're doing the good thing that you were given the rewards.
What I used to think God thought about me, and what I think God thinks about me now
And so, that really got in the way of how I viewed myself and how I viewed God and how I viewed him viewing me; and what it ultimately did was kept me from him, which is so interesting.
These subconscious beliefs, these internal beliefs that I had that I didn't realize I had about myself and about God, actually kept me away from him. It kept me separated from Him, and His love and His goodness and His light.
What I used to think God thought about me; I'm not doing enough – I could always be doing more, I'm never there. It's like a finish line and there's some sort of a race, and I'm just never there.
Perfection is the goal, and I'm failing. We want to be perfect, right? Because we want to be like Christ, and I'm failing.
It's a problem when I fail. I'm a bad person if I fail or if I make a mistake. I'm failing as a mom, which means I must be failing God. I only deserve love when I'm good. God is not happy with me, most of the time. This isn't my best; my best is always a little bit more – my best is always more than what I am currently doing so I never attain it. They will love me more if I do better.
So, that's what I used to think that God thinks about me. Now, you might view this differently. You might say, God – or creator, source, higher power…whatever version of divine you want to use, just fill that in when I'm speaking about God and see if this relates to your childhood a little bit. So, that's what I used to think that God thought about me.
I'm going to tell you a little bit about how God thinks about me now or how I believe that he thinks about me now, and also how my life looks differently. And then, I'm going to talk about a really interesting research study that I found that I love. It was really fascinating when I was researching this topic. So, I'm going to give you even a little bit of science behind how, what is happening here.
So, what I think he thinks about me now; I'm deeply endlessly loved, always. I'm doing my best. God loves me no matter what I do or don't do, or what I say or don't say. God loves me on my best and my worst days – at my biggest emotions, at my saddest emotions, at my angriest emotions…that love doesn't change day-to-day. Through his love is how I feel secure, calm, and connected to him and to myself. I am doing enough. My best changes day-to-day, and that's okay. I'm good, whole, worthy, and accepted.
I also will add that I believe in a mother God and a father God. So, for me, I think more of it as they instead of as He.
So, if I sometimes say they, then you'll know where my belief's coming from that. And that has also helped in my healing process, as well as having this relationship with the mother and not just the father. Okay.
Research studies done on how we learn about God, and how it affects us
I decided to start researching a little bit more on this as I was thinking about this over the last little while, and I found some scientific research done in this area that I wanted to share.
So, the main article that I'm going to be sharing can be found on the NIH, no NCBI website through the NIH, which is like the National Library of Medicine. And this research article is called How Children and Adults Represent God's Mind, and it's by Heiphetz, Lane, Waytz, and Young. They quote a several other articles as well in this; they refer to other articles as well. So, I will link this below so that you can go and dive in if you want to learn a little bit more about it.
One of the interesting things that they found was that our explicit versus our implicit views on God vary quite a bit.
So, explicitly, if you were to ask somebody what they believe about God, it would be very non-human right? It would be like more like they're just unconditionally loving and kind and all-encompassing and omniscient…and all of these things that we don't believe about humans, we explicitly do believe about God.
So, if somebody were to ask me those beliefs, I would tell them that, but that doesn't necessarily correlate with implicit. In fact, it does not correlate with our implicit views.
So, when you ask people different things-- They did different like research studies on this, but they would ask in different ways and in different scenarios. They actually found that people's views implicitly about God were a lot more human; a lot more what I would say, like judgmental or not as unconditional, or a little bit more opinionated or whatever. They were just different.
So, what we actually internally view about God and what we say we believe about God, explicitly, and we even logically believe, aren't necessarily aligned.
So, a few different things that they said here is that these religious concepts emerge early in life through cognitive development and social learning. One of their central arguments is that distinguishing God's mind from human minds requires sociocognitive development and deliberate reasoning.
So, you have to kind of be at a certain level of emotional and social reasoning; your brain has to be developed to a certain point in order to really understand God – and your explicit and your implicit views and all of that.
So, what they started with sharing a story that happened in 2011 where a man named Gary Schmidt stabbed a former high school classmate and his classmate's daughter, a total of 20 times.
After his arrest – I'm quoting now – "He claimed that he had been following instructions from God. Despite the fact that both survivors could identify their attacker, Schmidt was found not guilty due to insanity. The court's reasoning is of particular interest because the insanity defense could not have depended solely on Schmidt's claim that God spoke to him."
So, they're talking about him, like he truly believed that. So, whatever-- In my opinion – I don't know a lot about this situation – his social and emotional and cognitive development was probably stunted or not developed as well. And so, he really had these muddy views about how God spoke to him and what God wanted from him.
Obviously, that's a really extreme example. But I just thought that that was an interesting way that they started out. And what they said was that adults' explicit reports may not always match their implicit representations.
And so, then that's kind of what they dive into throughout the research study. Their conclusion is that perceptions of God's mind as human-like emerge early in development and remain implicit even for adults.
So, we actually view God in a more human-like way than we think that we do, implicitly, even as an adult because we don't really notice that we're implicitly believing things about God that are a little bit more human-like.
We think, explicitly, that we believe things we believe about him are more God-like and not as human-like.
So, another really interesting article that they quote is there was Danish Christian-- They researched Danish Christian adults, and they had them do four different tasks; they recited the Lord's Prayer, they prayed to God using their own words rather than well-known prayers, and then they recited a familiar nursery rhyme – oh, and they told Santa Claus their wishes…that was another one.
So, they examined activation in different brain regions; and it says that they were the regions associated with reasoning about human minds and mental states. So, you can read more about the different regions of the brain in that article, but that's what they were scanning. So, they were scanning to see kind of what was activated.
So, there's a different way-- There's different activations based on if we're just kind of like saying things out there to the air, I guess, versus like connecting with people – actually, having a conversation with somebody or connecting with someone.
So, it says here, "If God is represented as an imaginary being or as an impersonal force, praying to God should not uniquely activate these brain regions."
So, if it's just kind of like an external force out there, then those brain regions that are like more connection-based aren't going to be activated.
So, it says if these regions are simply activated, anytime people direct speech toward an agent, neural activation should be similar across the prayer and Santa Claus conditions.
However, this research found more activation in the personal prayer conditions. So, that's when the people that were participating said things in their own words and connected with God in their own way than in the other conditions.
So, they actually had that activation of-- I say "connection", but they said it was more of like a communication…like what happens when we communicate with another person, that part was activated when we were communicating with God in this more personal way versus just like reciting prayers or telling Santa Claus our wishes. So, that is interesting as well.
The research article goes on; and they talk a lot about different aspects of God and people, and why they believe and what they believe.
But the last part that I want to mention from their article is that they say, "How we learn about God and how he views us--" There's a few different theories about how this comes to be. So, where do we get these implicit and explicit ideas of God?
There was three different theories that they talked about, but the two that they said were most empirically backed – where there was the most evidence and the most research, and they cited a whole bunch of sources there – were these two; number one, children's everyday social interactions with other people contribute to their developing understanding of other people's minds…including their development of understanding God's mind.
So, their everyday social interactions with everybody else-- This came from an article from Carbondale & Lewis in 2004, where they were able to understand God's mind – or their views of that came from other social interactions, right?
So, basically, what I've been saying, this whole podcast and what I believe and what I've seen in my clients, this is one of the ideas that they say of how our views on God develop.
Harris and colleagues have argued that children learn about God's mind through others' testimony about God, featuring the messages that are prominent in their cultures and that are provided to them directly by parents, friends and religious leaders.
And so, they're saying the other side of it, and the other empirically backside of it would be they learn it from other people who are like extrinsically teaching it to them, which I also agree with. But I think that our views are always being filtered through our belief system, right?
Changing our relationship with our kids through subconscious work
So, if I was raised in a really fear-based shame-based home, and that's kind of what my view of God is, when I'm teaching that – if I'm a religious leader or if I'm teaching somebody else this concept, even my children – it's going to come through that viewpoint.
I think of our self-concept as the lens through which we view the world. So, we put these glasses on, and every thought that we have is first filtered through that lens of how we perceive ourselves.
And so, if God is important to you, your self-concept is going to be connected with that. So, that's going to be part of the lens that which you're viewing the world and viewing others. And so, everything is going to be filtered through that. So, the messages that you spread about God and what you teach – if you are a leader or teaching in your community – are going to impact that also.
So, I think like most things, it's probably a combination of both; both our social relationships when we're younger, and then also what we're explicitly taught by others in church and community about God as well.
But what we can conclude, I think, is that our personal relationship with others and how they view God, and what they teach us and what we were taught about him and about ourselves, has a huge impact on what we believe now.
On Wikipedia, the term deconstruction, the definition is, "It's a way of understanding how something was created – usually things like arts, books, poems, and other writing."
Deconstruction is breaking something down into smaller parts. Deconstruction looks at the smaller parts that were used to create an object, the smaller parts are usually ideas.
So, a lot of people talk about this when they say the term faith deconstruction. And what it really just means is like you're just taking things and putting them into little parts.
So, when I think of it, I just think of not necessarily that I'm like throwing away all my faith and like, 'Oh, I don't believe in God anymore,' but I'm taking all those little parts.
What parts came from my childhood, what parts came from my parents, what parts came from religious leaders, what parts came from siblings, what parts of my belief in God came from other people and interactions that I had that were either negative or positive throughout my life? What parts came from scripture? What parts came from my own personal ideas and opinions in prayer? Like where did these all come from? Where do-- What are all of these parts?
And then I also think it's important to reconstruct – to reconstruct, what do I actually believe? And for me, I want those implicit and explicit views of God to be aligned. I want to, how I say and how I speak about him to also be what I internally believe and how I internally live.
So, I want to deconstruct what I believe about God, and this is what I did. And what I personally, internally believe about him…and what I externally believe about him, I want those to be the same.
And when I have done this work on my own relationship with myself and really deconstructed how I think God views me and changed that, it came from looking at God's ministry on the earth.
And this is what I see; what I see is love, compassion, inclusion, connection – always like connection, connecting with individuals, right? Like even just the one person. There was like the one lady who had an issue of blood and she like held onto the hem of His garments; and he like stopped and paused for like a moment with her.
He was always just so loving and connecting with everyone; and there was never like an end to his love, right? It didn't really matter what the people were doing, he was just always loving and forgiving. And I think the most extreme example of this is when he's dying, they're literally killing him.
So, like the most that you could do to him; and he's still saying, "God forgive them because they don't know what they do." Right?
He is loving and connecting and accepting even at that. Yet we think, 'Oh, I'm not reading my scriptures enough…I'm not praying enough, I'm not doing enough, I'm not serving enough, I should be more loving, I shouldn't yell as much.'
We're the ones that are so hard on ourselves; he's so loving and forgiving and compassionate. And my belief is that with connection-based parenting…it's from that loving connection, secure, attached place that then we can find-- we can settle, we can find this peace inside ourselves. We can feel relief and comfort.
And from that space is when we grow, when we emotionally learn…and we emotionally grow and change.
And so, I know some people are like, 'Oh, but if you think that God is just always loving and accepting of you, then you're just going to give up and not do anything.'
Well, let me tell you what my life looks like now because I feel the very opposite of that. I think, first of all, I'm going to talk a little bit about empathy. I feel like this came from empathy.
So, the definition of empathy on Google is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another; and I feel like God is the only one who can truly do that in the most perfect way.
Like we can try to feel empathy – and we can feel that empathy for people in certain situations and at certain times, and depending on how we're doing and whatever – but I think that God is the only one who can like endlessly completely have that empathy, that ability to understand and share the feelings of another, because he felt all of that.
He felt that, and he understands that. He is omniscient. So, he's the only one that can uniquely understand and feel that empathy for us and allow us to sit in our sadness – sit with us in our grief, in our sadness, in our pain, in our anger, in our rage, in our frustration, resentment, defensiveness – and completely and wholly understand us.
And that empathy, that connection is what heals us as we move through our pain and we move through our trauma. I know I've mentioned this before, but one of the quotes about trauma is that trauma is an event held in aloneness.
It is not the actual event itself that is so traumatizing; it moves into trauma in our body when we don't feel connected, when we don't feel held, when we don't feel supported through that event.
And who better to hold us than somebody who can feel that pain with us completely and doesn't tell us just to move on right then, or to not feel sad or to not feel angry; he sits with us in it.
Empathy is not like, 'You should feel better now'; empathy is sitting in that feeling with us.
What my relationship with God looks like now
So, this is what my relationship with God looks like now; I spend time with God daily – both in scripture study and in prayer in a more consistent way than I've been able to in my entire life without writing down like, 'This is what I'm going to do it' and 'This is how long I'm going to do it for'. Or like trying to like create a like "habit" in the ways that we normally think that we create habits.
None of that happened for me; it just happened so naturally. I never miss a day, like ever. And it's been years of that now. And not because I'm trying to be perfectionist about it and trying to make sure that I get it done, but because I actually want to – because I desire that connection every single day.
I feel truth on a deeper level. When there's truth around me when somebody says something or I read something or I hear something or learn something, I'm able to feel it inside – whether or not it is. Like, I just feel like I have this monitor almost to be like, 'Yes, that is true…that feels like universal truth.'
And that's where that space of intuition and spirit and answers come from for me. And I feel like now my life is led by that way. My whole life; what I say, what I do, what I don't say, what I don't do…just feels so much more natural and intuitive and God-centered.
There's more compassion and love for others without trying. I don't feel like I have to like really put myself out of my way to like try and forgive, or be compassionate, or kind to others; I feel like it just naturally flows for me to think about others and be more understanding – especially for people that are unkind or people that are judging or people that do something to hurt me.
And I used to just hold onto that for so long. I don't care so much about personality perfectionism. I've never been a perfectionist when it comes to like keeping my house clean and organized and looking lovely and stuff. But definitely, personality perfectionism, where I was like, 'Well, I should serve more and I should love more and I should do this more.'
And like, I had these aspects of my personality that I was always trying to develop that I never felt like I could quite develop because I was definitely perfectionist about it.
I'm so much more comfortable with who I am now; my parenting is less shame-based. And when my children struggle…I'm able to help them in a helpful, supportive and guided way. I find time for meditation and stillness every day, which has led to a calmer nervous system and me being less reactive.
So, the common question I get is; if I love myself completely, and if I believe that God loves me completely, I will just give up and I won't do anything.
Well, look at my life now, that is not how it's like at all. And it's not just me; I've coached several clients who've had this same relationship with God. And as they noticed it start to change…that they were more comfortable with themselves and more at peace and at ease with themselves, it helped heal all their relationships in their life.
They didn't just like give up and decide that like, 'Oh, well, if my best is okay right now, then like…not going to do anything.' That is not how it went. Their nervous system was more healed, their traumas were more healed; they were more calm and they were more okay with being themselves.
I feel like my desires now are more aligned with God's desires. I believe that our desires are given to us spiritually; like, we were born with these intrinsic desires. And so, when I think of like; my will is more God's will, it's more because I'm listening to myself and listening to my deep-down truest self.
Like, what do I truly want out of life? Do I want to be like working and busy and hustling all the time and like – I don't know – just having this complicated life? Or do I want to be more simple and more still and more peaceful? And do I want to have more time to connect with other people?
Even my mission and my purpose in trying to help heal the world in this way – heal parent-child relationships, heal parent-parent relationships – and spread more goodness and light into the world, I feel like I was given this desire not just for me. I feel like it's been here forever. I've had this desire forever.
And so, I feel just more aligned with how I live my life. I feel like finding him and finding me are the same, that I did that work at the same time – even though I didn't know that that's what was happening. Sue Monk Kidd calls it the God's spark. And the God's spark is this divine within me that's connected with the divine that's outside of me; and I feel much more connected with that.
And obviously, I'm not saying that everything's perfect all the time, but things are so much more slow. My energy is different. My ability for love, connection, compassion – my ability to be more connected, and compassion and understanding of others is so much higher than it used to be.
Emotionally healing IS God-work
I think that getting emotionally healthy is God's work. I hear so many people say, "Well, we don't go to therapy…we don't go to counseling, we don't talk to people about our problems – or – we don't have problems." Or like, "We're okay"…even after they've endured really significant trauma.
And I just want to say that I think that God and his healing is also getting emotionally healthy. I think that therapists and counselors and coaches are on the earth for a reason; and I think this help is on the earth for a reason.
It's like being really, really sick, and deciding you're not going to do anything about being sick. You're just like, 'Well, I'll just pray about it and I won't do anything else.' Right?
I think we have medicine, we have herbs, we have all of these other healing modalities when we're sick that we use, right? I use that all the time and they work so effectively for me, why would I not also do that to get emotionally healthy? Getting emotionally healthy is God's work.
Thought work, breath work, coaching, mindfulness, mental health journaling, inner child work, meditation…all of those things that help calm your nervous system, that help heal your trauma and your past – and help get clarity on right now and being more mindful right now, I really believe that's God work. So, that's all I have to say about that.
I will mention that I have that program I talked about, Faith-Based Parenting; you can go listen to another podcast episode where I share about it, I'll have a link to that in the show notes. Hopefully, it's live. If it's not live by the time this is airing, it will be very soon, I promise.
And one more thing I really want to mention, quickly, is that I'm having a retreat. I'm going to be closing the doors to that in a couple of weeks. And this'll be the last retreat that I'm doing because my family and I are going to travel for the school year, and I don't know where we'll be next year at this same time.
So, the retreat is September 18th to the 20th; It's in the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Alberta, at Charmed Resorts – you can check them out on Instagram, they're amazing. I think on Instagram they're @charmedplayhouses, and they're these little FairyTale Playhouse cabins in the woods.
I find nature so healing. There's also a lot of science to back nature being healing, but it really is so good for your mental emotional health. And so, I feel like what we do at the retreat is really what I've been talking about in this whole episode; it's finding this healing…it's finding the spirit inside of ourselves, it's coming back to ourselves, it's coming back to the divine.
There was an exercise that we did that we'll probably do again, that I just love every single time that we do it, where people have this conversation with themselves and their higher selves; and the notes that come out from that, the messages that come out for that are things like…you are loved, you are still whole, you are understood – what you're going through is difficult and I'm here with you, you're not alone.
And it's so interesting to me to see the same kind of phrases coming out of this meditation exercise we do each time, but that's how the retreat is. That's exactly what it feels like; it feels like…this stillness, this intuitive space, this healing space.
And a lot of healing can happen in a short amount of time. It's three days of goodness, it includes; therapy and coaching and yoga, and just a lot of amazingness, a lot of connection with other women that are on the same journey – which, in and itself, is healing and connecting.
So, if you have any questions about that, you can reach out to me. You can also find the link below this; and there's FAQs at the bottom that can answer all of the questions that you probably have. And I will see you next week.
Thanks for listening. If you'd like to help spread this work to the world, share this episode on social media and tag me – send it to a friend, or leave a quick rating and review below so more people can find me. If you'd like more guidance on your own parenting journey, reach out.