INFJs can get hurt pretty easily. Usually, these hurts come from other people, but in some cases they come from institutions like a church. Of course groups like this are made up of people, but in many cases the hurts that happen within a group aren’t blamed on individuals. They’re blamed on the organization or sometimes, for churches and religious groups, on God.
So what happens when church hurts an INFJ? One thing I found most interesting about my article “Religion and the INFJ” is how many people I’ve heard from who relate to what I mentioned in that post about INFJs being turned-off from church/religion/God. This phenomena isn’t limited to Christian INFJs, but that is who I’ll be focusing on today.
Door Slamming God
You’ve probably heard of the INFJ door slam, right? That’s what happens when someone hurts an INFJ so much that they “slam the door” and stop investing energy in the relationship. In certain situations, INFJs can also door slam whole groups of people, or even concepts like “romance.” Some INFJs who’ve had particularly terrible experiences with religions even slam the door on God.
Doors slams don’t happen because INFJs don’t care. They happen when INFJs care so much that they open up, trust, and let someone/thing in and then they get hurt because of it. The door slam is a reaction designed to never let ourselves get hurt again in the same way.
The most common reason INFJs cite for abandoning a religion is hypocrisy. Actually, it’s a common reason for leaving churches regardless of your personality type. For INFJs in particular, hypocrisy triggers our already fine-tuned bullshit meter. We hate it when people present themselves one way but are actually something else.
Catching someone who professes to live a certain way acting contrary to what they described as their faith leaves a sour taste in our mouths. An authority figure telling us to live one way, then violating what they’ve preached in their own lives activates our indignation. And being told a church lives by a certain book, then realizing they’re not following the teachings in its pages makes us wonder what is the point of staying here.
The Really Bad Hurts
For some INFJs (and others) the hurt of hypocrisy goes beyond noticing inconsistencies between what someone practices and what they preach. I’ve talked with a heartbreakingly high number of people who’ve been physically and/or emotionally abused by people in the church. When you’ve been assaulted by someone who presents themselves as “a good Christian,” and especially when other Christians don’t believe you or tell your to cover it up, that can (understandably) turn you against Christianity as a whole.
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Alternative To A Door Slam
With all this going on, it’s no wonder so many INFJs want nothing more to do with the faith they encounter in churches. But there’s also a fairly high number of INFJ Christians who haven’t slammed the door on God or His church. These INFJs have also seen the hypocrisy and been hurt by other Christians, but we stayed faithful. Why?
My parents, who have some spiritual PTSD of their own they’re dealing with, taught me from a young age not to blame God for what human beings do. I think that’s the key here. Humans are flawed creatures who make mistakes, sometimes terrible (and even criminal) mistakes. but they don’t do that because they’re trying or professing to follow God. There’s no reason to door slam God or all His people because of what people who follow Him imperfectly or aren’t really following Him at all have done.
Finding Good In Church
My bad experiences with church haven’t been nearly as bad some that I’ve heard of. Still, I have felt betrayed, abandoned, and lied to by individuals and by church groups. But I’ve also experienced just how wonderful a good church can be. Though deep hurts have come from some Christians, other Christians have been among the most comforting and empathetic people I’ve ever met. I’m not sure how I would have gotten through my breakup earlier this year, for example, without the hugs, tears, and comfort freely given by my friends at church.
I also know several people who haven’t door slammed God and who want to find a good church, but just haven’t been able to. That’s a truly sad commentary on the state of the modern churches. If the churches aren’t a safe place for Christians seeking fellowship, that’s on all of us who are currently in those churches. God desires peace and unity among His people, and if we’re not modeling His love in our churches then it’s well-past time for some dramatic change.
I’m confident that “God sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:8), though I wish He’d hurry that process up for those of you who are isolated right now. In the meanwhile, I want every INFJ reading this to know that they’re not alone. I’m here for you, and I’m praying for you even if I don’t know you yet.