8 Ways Denial is Holding You Back

Sadly, the person in denial can often be the last person to become aware of an issue they need to deal with. Those close to you will know what the problem is, but denial will keep you from looking into the mirror with greater clarity. We all have certain denial tendencies, but those neck deep in it can use this survival mechanism to avoid some important issues that need to be faced.

Dealing with brokenness in the heart can be incredibly challenging, so it’s understandable that denial can be a “go-to” coping mechanism. But at some point, we all need to face what we keep pushing away, so we can truly heal and mature.

Your friends can bring it up, counselors can make attempts and even your pastor can even try to address the issue; but until you come to grips with your denial tendencies, you’ll continue to remain stuck in certain areas of your life.

During certain seminars, I would often joke that many people row their boat down the river De-Nile. But denial is a tough subject. It can one of the most destructive forces to keep people from healing and growing.

When you become a person who remains in denial:

  • Your growth will be stunted.
  • You’ll lack sympathy for the weaknesses and flaws of others, because you haven’t thoroughly dealt with your own.
  • You will continue to harm those around you with dysfunctional behavior that goes unchecked.  
  • Walls and limitations will be erected in your relationships, as people can only go so far with you. Your marriage and parenting potential will be capped. Your friendships will only go so far.
  • You find yourself living in the same patterns, quoting the same rhetoric, yet lacking any change.
  • You may continue to blame others or your circumstance for problems that are occurring.

So are you living in denial? Do you see denial patterns in those you love? Here are some simply signs that denial is a part of your life.

Signs You Are Living in Denial:

  1. Everyone around you is aware of a particular issue, but you are the last to see it and deal with it.
  2. Your reaction to certain subjects being brought up is to dismiss them away.
  3. You can’t talk about certain issues. Those close to you know that you have a “don’t go there” sign over specific subjects.
  4. You become easily defensive and argumentative, even when people are kind to you about these topics.
  5. You turn the subject against someone else or use blame to project the topic away from yourself.
  6. Anger rises up often in discussions.
  7. You find super-spiritual ways to paint your circumstance, with bouts of “preachy” talk, intended to impress others and lead them away from seeing your denial.

Many of my readers will think, “Mark is this me? Am I in denial? I don’t want to be in denial.”

Those are typically not the kind of person I am writing about. The ones who ask those kind of questions are usually not in denial. People intrenched in denial’s ways are not interested in reading an article like this. Most of my readers who are open to heart healing are actually looking out to make sure they are not in denial.

Many of you reading this will be led to think about someone you love and think, “I wish ______ could read this and get it,” or “if only she would stop fighting and see how denial is affecting her.”

Here are some things that denial produces:

1. Denial creates a false sense of reality.

In order for denial to work, you have to live according to a reality that is not real. You may feel a sense of “safety,” but it’s a false protection that keeps you from seeing the real problem.

2. Denial prevents you from seeing the real problem.

People will cycle through the same problem with you continually without much progress, because your denial mechanisms kick up every time to push people away from speaking into those areas. The root problem never gets addressed.

3. Denial promotes band-aid living.

I’m fine. You’re fine. Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing. Nope. It’s not affecting me. I’m good.

Too often the goal becomes, “get this problem away from me as soon as possible.” Quick fixes and fast statements which dismiss problems. The problem doesn’t go away. It just digs further into the soil of your heart.

4. Denial promotes spiritual and emotional passivity.

One of the most deadly works the enemy is producing today is spiritual passivity. Unfortunately, this issue comes up in marriages quite often. The wife brings up a subject to her husband that deeply concerns her. The issue triggers a lot of insecurity and fear in the man. But his mode of operation is denial, so he dismisses the importance of the issue, not because it’s a small deal. It’s really because he just doesn’t want to deal with it.

5. Denial will make you really defensive.

This may not be in all areas. It usually isn’t. But there are heavy defense mechanisms in specific areas, where no matter how nicely loved ones bring it up, they bump up against a spiritual Fort Knox.

I have found at times, I can temporarily knock someone out of denial, but they will most quickly go right back to it unless they experience a humbling or spiritual breaking of the walls.

Delivering coaching or spiritual counsel can be nearly impossible with the one who lives in denial. They have quick responses and canned answers any time you hover around the vulnerable issues of the heart.

6. Denial will hinder your ability to hear from God.

Denial is tied to a work of pride. God says He will work with any issue, but pride will lock down the flow of what He wants to do in our hearts. God outright resists it:

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5b

No matter what battle you are facing, God’s grace is available, providing you welcome a spirit of humility, where you put down the defense mechanisms and allow yourself to be vulnerable and teachable.

Unless you and I cross through this threshold, we will always wander without the fruit that is possible.

7. Denial keeps you from the healing you need.

The healing of our hearts is a journey, where God walks with us and layer by layer, sanctifies and matures the issues of our hearts. But if you have a “don’t go there” sign over certain rooms of your heart, the process stagnates.

This is one big reason why many Christians lack a dynamic walk. They haven’t given God a full access pass to their heart.

Denial is a classic way that many people protect themselves from guilt, shame or exposure. They convince themselves that there is no need to address certain issues or subjects. Denial builds a fortress around our hearts so that no one can have access to the vulnerable places. It gives a false sense of protection, but it is pure imprisonment.

8. Your relationships will only go so far.

Sometimes it takes us a walk around the mountain a bunch of times to realize that not everyone around us is the problem. We need a solid moment of sobriety, to look in the mirror and see what’s really happening. This is not mean to be done in shame, but all of us need to become aware of how denial tendencies are limiting and even hurting our relationships.

But no one can face this for you. It must be a decision of the heart.

Are you aware of where denial is holding you back? What step can you take today to move into a new direction?