for a Destructive Person to Become Healthy
by Leslie Vernick
The Bible tells a story of a man, Naaman, a mighty warrior and a commander in the King of Aram’s army, yet he was plagued with leprosy. Through a captured young slave, Naaman heard of a prophet in Israel who might be able to heal him.
When Naaman approached Elisha for help he arrogantly assumed his healing would come easily and fast. The prophet Elisha didn’t even open his door to talk with Naaman. Instead, he told him what to do if he wanted to be healed. He said, “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River and your skin will be restored.”
Insulted and outraged, Naaman stalked away. Naaman had expectations for how his healing should happen. He said, “I thought Elisha would certainly come out to meet me! I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me. Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana, and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” Naaman left in a rage. Later his officers tried to reason with him and eventually, Naaman complied with what Elisha told him to do. Only then his leprosy left him (See 2 Kings 5).
This story reminds me of how destructive individuals sometimes ask for help and healing, but aren’t ready or willing to do the work. They expect it to be fast and easy. They want it their way. Like Naaman, they want to be in charge and are outraged and insulted that someone would expect them to actually submit to a higher authority for help. Yet it wasn’t until Naaman submitted himself to Elisha’s treatment plan, was he healed.
Based on this story, there are seven dips of healing if you want to be changed from a destructive individual to a healthy one.
Dip #1. You need to learn to submit to others instead of always demanding your own way. This involves giving up control, putting yourself under another’s authority─the group, the church, the counselor, the law.
Dip #2. You need improved skills in communicating and problem-solving. You have relied on your own power to control, manipulate and deceive others. Now you must learn new ways of sharing power, cooperating, making joint decisions, and mutual submission.
Dip #3. You need to learn how to identify and appropriately express your feelings without abuse, intimidation, deceit, or manipulation.
Dip #4. You need to learn how to allow your spouse to be separate and say no to you. You must grow comfortable in allowing her to disagree with you without labeling it disrespectful, getting enraged, or feeling terrified of abandonment.
Dip #5. You must learn how to speak directly about what you feel and what you need and trust others are there and care, even if your needs don’t always come first or always get met.
Dip #6. You must learn how to manage your negative emotions without abuse. Healthy relationships are still disappointing at times. Human love is never enough to fill your tank endlessly. You must let God be God to you instead of trying to be god for your spouse.
Dip #7. You need to learn to trust God to meet your needs as well as learn to take the initiative and responsibility to meet your own needs rather than demanding that another person always do so. Your spouse is not responsible to make you happy or make sure you always feel good.
These changes take commitment, consistent effort, a supportive community, and accountability over time to heal so that they become habitual. Paul tells us to put off our old selves and to put on our new selves, created to be like Christ. (See Ephesians 4:22-5:1 to read what this looks like.)
Promises to change are not the same as doing the work to change. John the Baptist tells the religious leaders, “Prove by the way that you live that you have repented of your sin and turned to God.” Luke 3:8.
If you’ve been habitually destructive or abusive, don’t expect instant trust or reconciliation from others. You have harmed someone by your repeated hurtful behaviors. If you are truly sorry, work on yourself and give the other person the time and space to heal. When they see your consistent changes over time, then and only then can they consider reconciliation by rebuilding broken trust.