The hidden danger of self-defense mechanisms

“It’s not cool to be feisty of sassy, because that’s not how God is.” I physically recoiled when I heard those words during a sermon. “Maybe that’s not cool for you, Mr. Pastor, but it’s been working pretty well for me,” I thought to myself. In that moment, all I could think was that my feisty nature was the very reason no guy had ever tried to bring me down and mess with me. In that moment, I didn’t see my sass as unhealthy, but rather a defense tool that had been working very well for me, thank you very much.

hidden danger

Certain self-defense mechanisms manifested themselves as part of my identity.

Growing up in an abusive home, I learned multiple self-defense mechanisms before I even knew what those words meant. They’ve been ingrained in me since childhood, which makes them even more difficult to identify and resolve. In fact, it got to the point where certain self-defense mechanisms manifested themselves as part of my identity. My sass, my rebellious nature, my aloofness and standoffish nature all became part of my identity.

You’re sabotaging every relationship you have without even realizing it .

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating self-defense mechanisms when in an abusive environment. Most of the time they’re necessary to survive. You need them in order to survive your abuse with as little lasting damage done as possible. The hidden danger lies with whether or not you place your identity in these mechanisms. These mechanisms are meant to keep you safe from harm, so when you apply them to every other relationship in your life, you create an environment where you’re treating a loving friend as an abuser. You’re (without realizing it) creating a wall between yourself and any potential spouse. You’re sabotaging every relationship you have without even realizing it .
I struggled for so long with the question of “Why do I struggle with making friends? Why have I never been able to really connect with a guy, to the point where I would be able to date him?” I didn’t realize the problem was the very identity I had carefully constructed from early childhood. Now, are my self-defense mechanisms who I am at my core? Of course not! But they’re the only thing I let others see. I don’t let others see the vulnerable and caring side of me, because I don’t trust them. I still fear that the minute they see kindness, they’ll interpret it as weakness and attack me.

I don’t have to be a product of my environment.

Is this outlook my fault? Absolutely not. It’s how I was raised; I’m a product of my environment. However, I don’t have to let this outlook rule my life. I can break free. Something I didn’t realize until this year was that I don’t have to be a product of my environment. I don’t have to let the sins of my father rule my life. That all starts with changing my outlook on life, and letting my self-defense mechanisms go. The beautiful thing is, I don’t need those mechanisms anymore. Physically, I’m no longer trapped in an abusive environment. Mentally, though, those chains still exist. I can only break free of those chains by choosing to live like Jesus, and trust that He will protect me from any future harm.
Jesus was compassionate, loving, generous, servant-hearted, gentle, committed, patient, humble, among so many other things. Don’t those traits seem so much more inviting than sassy, hard-hearted, and aloof? I certainly think so. When asked, “How would your friends describe you?” I’d rather have them choose those adjectives, as opposed to aloof, standoffish, or feisty.

We were not meant to be constantly on guard.

If you’re still in an abusive relationship, there’s hope for you. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Turn to family and friends for help. Turn to God for strength and protection. If you’re free from your abuser, start breaking those chains fully. Let go of your self-defense mechanisms, deliver them into God’s hands. Strive to emulate Christ, and you will find that He will comfort you and protect you. We were not meant to be constantly on guard. It’s tiring and draining and completely unnecessary in an everyday environment. God has redeemed us, and will continue to do so. You just have to take that first step of relinquishing your worldly identity, and finding new identity in Christ.



  1. Jamie Carter

    I don’t have sass and I’m not feisty, but I know what is to distance myself from people, but I wasn’t abused. My self-defense mechanisms are the result of having been bullied for years and realizing that if people aren’t out to hurt you, they’re out to watch and aren’t about to help you.
    To me, when I’m public, I’m never in a safe environment and I need those self-defense mechanisms to make it through the day. Most people see me as a cheerful and kind person, I’m also noted for patience. So you can have Jesus-like traits with self-defense mechanisms.


    1. gracieevelynn

      That’s true, you can have Jesus-like traits and self-defense mechanisms coexisting. I guess my point was, if you still actively cling to and use self-defense mechanisms when you’re not in danger, you’re not trusting God as much as you should be. I struggled with this, and I know others who do. Self-defense mechanism, when not employed during immediate danger, are not healthy. We aren’t meant to live on edge, constantly under threat all the time. While it may seem like every person is out to get you, the reality is they aren’t. And you need to trust God with your safety and well-being.


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