On numbing, avoidance, and grace.

numbing avoidance gracejpg You know what’s neat?

Discovering something about yourself, then telling someone who promptly responds, “Duh. I could have told you that.”

It’s curious because it might be something totally shocking, something that seems to pop up out of nowhere, a thought that grows faster than a weed in a garden you thought was neatly kept. The shock of the breakthrough only increases as you realize how prominent this new thing is, and the information seems to make sense of your whole life.

Obviously I am going to tell you about my shocking personal discovery.

I’ve been blown away at seeing this one puzzle piece make sense of my entire life, but laughed when I told a friend about it, and she said, “DUH, Lex.” I never even knew this information was missing, but now everything fits together.

So the truth comes out: I’m an avoider. When things get hard, I take off. I want to avoid, escape, flee, numb.

I wish I could remember which specific thing finally tore the veil to let me see this in myself, but it’s been overshadowed by the avalanche of examples rushing forward for the first time.

Now I’m standing knee-deep in this revelation, saying over and over again, “Oh that’s why I act that way!”

  • That’s why I never check my voicemail, worried about being late on library books or financial check-in or whatever thing I forgot to do.
  • That’s why I distract myself with busyness and don’t know how to handle long stretches of free time.
  • That’s why I hate checking my bank account, and would rather blindly swipe my card and hope there’s enough money in there.
  • That’s why I flake on my friends and don’t show up to things when I’m feeling insecure.
  • And, that’s why I choose to get a milkshake when I’m sad instead of dealing with whatever lonely feelings I’ve got going on.

When uncomfortable things pop up, I have an established pattern in how to deal: I get out of there as quick as I can, following any impulse I have which will protect me from the uncomfortable feeling. Psychologists usually call this numbing, and I don’t think I’m the only one who does this.

Let’s take a look at our culture. Our country is more obese, medicated, addicted, and debt-ridden than ever before. This doesn’t just happen, you know. It’s a pattern we’ve established, seeking comfort or any way to fix our problems without sacrificing our addiction to productivity, ignoring our inability to be vulnerable.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown puts it this way: “When we’re anxious, disconnected, vulnerable, alone, and feeling helpless, the booze and food and work and endless hours online feel like comfort, but in reality they’re only casting their long shadows over our lives.”

Ironically enough, I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post. I’m constantly brainstorming blog ideas, but when I think about sharing something so personal, my walls shoot right up. Maybe I’ll save it for a guest blog. There’s too much vulnerability, so I’d rather be anonymous somewhere else, lost in the Internet, sharing my words with people who won’t ever make the connection to my real life identity.

Unfortunately, this numbing or avoidance response plan doesn’t go very far, and I’ve been on this track too long. My departure on this train should have come ages ago, but instead, I’ve been riding along oblivious, desperate to ignore the uncomfortable, watching life pass by instead of getting out of my seat and living it.

So let’s take just a moment to apply some truth. This has helped me and maybe it will do something for you.

I believe my battle with avoidance stems from a misunderstanding of grace.

The pattern usually starts with some personal failure, big or small, and of course I can’t handle the overwhelming truth that I am totally inadequate or a failure. And oh gosh, what if everyone else can see it, too? Shame starts to creep in, so I numb myself, stuff myself, distract myself. I decide to get crazy-busy to make up for it, or I become emotionally disconnected with the people closest to me. Why? Because I don’t want to deal with the idea that I’ve failed – and if I failed, then that must mean my whole identity is that I am a failure.

“Shame enters for those of us who experience anxiety because not only are we feeling fearful, out of control, and incapable of managing our increasingly demanding lives, but eventually our anxiety is compounded and made unbearable by our belief that if we were just smarter, stronger, or better, we’d be able to handle everything. Numbing ere becomes a way to take the edge off of both instability and inadequacy.”

-Brené Brown

To stop the cycle, we have to learn to find “enough.”

What if we looked at our mistakes openly, if we abolished the pressure to be perfect, then what? What if we learned to say – you know what, it’s okay that I mess up sometimes. What if we learned to find a place of “enough?”

I found that place when I surrendered my life to the Lord. God didn’t call you or me to be perfect or to never make mistakes. Instead, he allows us to celebrate our weaknesses… You and I get to participate in a greater good when we surrender this and then watch Christ work…. His work, not ours.

Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.


Let’s be honest. I’ve asked the Lord to make me perfect many, many times, and I like to think my intentions were good. But this is all I get in response:

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 – “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

We have to learn to let the pressure of perfectionism go, to quit numbing ourselves when we fall short, and to recognize that God’s grace is enough, if we would only choose to let it penetrate the walls we’ve raised. His grace is available in abundance.

I’ll close with this:

2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Anyone else recognize these patterns in themselves?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts by email: acdache@liberty.edu.

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