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3 Ways We Sabotage Our Spiritual Growth (And How To Stop Doing Them)

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

"My goal is to lose 20 pounds this year."

You make this declaration at the onset of a new year and devise a plan to reach said goal. A few weeks go by, and you find yourself at your favorite fast food restaurant, ordering a number one with a coke.


You believe losing weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle is a good thing for you, yet you still find yourself engaging in behaviors that directly conflict with the goal you set.


There was a recent job opening at your company, and you desired to apply. You glance over the job description and deadline and commit to applying before the week is out. Self-doubt begins to set in, and procrastination is in full effect. You put applying off day after day until you mysteriously miss your deadline, and now it's too late.

Deep down, you know you were made for that position, but procrastination causes you to delay your career progress.


How many of us can relate to giving way to these types of behaviors? I'm sure we all have participated in self-sabotaging our growth in one or many areas of our lives. Self-sabotage is when we engage in behavior that interferes with our ability to achieve our goals, thus hindering our growth.

As believers, we must understand that self-sabotage can affect any area of our lives, including our spiritual life.

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Peter is encouraging saints to add several qualities to their faith and to have them in increasing measure. He is essentially exhorting them to grow spiritually.

We all start with a measure of faith in Christ, but we may not exhibit self-control or godliness, to begin with. When we add these qualities to our faith over time, we grow into maturity, enabling us to be effective disciples.

We Are Called to Mature In Christ

As a mother of four children, I have seen each child go from drinking milk to baby food and then mature to solid food. While they were babies, receiving only milk was satisfactory to them. But at a certain point in their development, having a milk-only diet would not sustain them. They had to move on to veggies and meat to keep up with the growth their bodies naturally desired.

It's the same with our spiritual development. As a disciple of Christ, we weren't meant to stay on spiritual milk. We are to experience spiritual growth that produces a mature faith in us. Most may know this and even desire spiritual growth but cannot experience it in their lives. Instead of reaching our full potential in Christ, we settle for just getting by. One reason for this could be self-sabotage. We may want to grow spiritually, but we engage in habits, oftentimes unconsciously, that interfere with us attaining that growth.

Let's explore the topic of sabotage more and identify three ways we hinder our spiritual growth with it.

3 Ways We Sabotage Our Spiritual Growth

1. We Give Partial Submission To The Lord

There is no way around it; the Lord requires us to love him with all of our hearts. A heart that has not been wholly devoted to the Lord will give him partial submission. When we don't fully submit every part of ourselves to the Lord, we won't obey him in certain areas. Giving partial submission causes us to do our own will and not give way to the will of the Father.

We sabotage our spiritual growth when we decide to only submit partially to the Lord. We are guaranteed not to reach our full potential in Christ when we don't purpose in our hearts to obey him in all things. Partial submission to Jesus will cause you to read your Bible whenever you get around to it. You will only pray when you deem it necessary and reserve worshiping the Lord for Sunday mornings only. Not allowing the Lord to have access to all of our heart causes us to shy away from committing to the very things that can, and will, bring about the growth the Lord desires for us.

2. We Tolerate Sin In Our Life

Sin, by its very nature, creates separation between man and God. The Lord is holy and can't be in communion with darkness, which sin produces in our lives. As a believer, it's of utmost importance that we know we have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). Jesus has won the victory over sin and has broken its power over us. We can choose whether we want to participate in it or not. When we decide to tolerate sin on any level, we engage in behavior that doesn't draw us closer to the Lord (spiritual growth) but pulls us away from him.

Do you find yourself tolerating sin because it's easier to give in to it rather than putting up a fight to rid yourself of it? Do you find yourself giving those "respectable sins" a pass? For things like discontentment, irritability, pride, and jealousy, we must remember that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9). Tolerating the smallest of sins gives way for the more egregious ones to take place. Tolerating sin is a sure way to sabotage your spiritual growth. With every yes we give to sin, we simultaneously say no to our spiritual growth.

3. We Make Excuses

Have you ever felt the Lord urging you to do something outside your comfort zone? Did it terrify you a little bit? Instead of having a yes be our first response, our minds can immediately go to why we can't possibly do what is being asked of us. Those moments of stretching are opportunities for spiritual growth. Instead of seizing the opportunity before us, we quickly give in to our fears or insecurities. We find excuses that keep us safe and cozy in our comfort zone. Excuses like, I'm too tired, I'm too busy, I don't know enough, I can't speak well, I'm too old, I'm too young, and I just can't change. We must be willing to remove the excuses and get outside our comfort zone to experience the spiritual growth we desire.

Whether we are aware of it or not, opportunities for growth are always presented to us. We must see them as such and say, "yes, Lord, I will go."

Has the Lord called you to ministry? We must refrain from clinging to excuses birthed from our inadequacies. The Lord is enough. Is the Lord challenging you to build godly friendships or to get planted in a church? It may be uncomfortable to allow people to get close, but if you result to making an excuse, you will hinder your ability to grow in your faith. This growth may only come about in the context of a healthy community. Every excuse we make stifles our ability to grow spiritually, causing us to settle for less than God's best for us.

Why Do We Engage In Self-Sabotage

If we examine most of our behavior as humans, we would see that they are often attached to a belief we have. Beliefs drive behaviors. In the area of self-sabotage, our behavior is often motivated by a wrong belief about God, ourselves, or both. We may have a deep-seated belief that God isn't as good as he claims to be, so we withhold parts of ourselves from him. We may also believe that we are not intelligent enough to study the Bible on our own, so we settle for being spoon-fed by others. In both cases, our behavior sabotages our spiritual growth and stems from a wrong belief.

In addition to wrong beliefs, fear can cause us to sabotage our spiritual growth. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of man, and fear of success all can be strong motivators for us to sabotage what the Lord desires to do in us. Spiritual growth causes us to step into uncharted territory, and with this new territory comes fear. The fear of the unknown can paralyze us where we stand, not allowing us to take another step forward. Fortunately, we serve a God who can perfect us in his love, driving out all fear.

It is so good to know we don't have to allow wrong beliefs or fear to motivate us to sabotage ourselves. Like with any behavior, self-sabotaging behaviors can be corrected, allowing for spiritual growth to take place.

Let's look at the three steps we can apply to our lives that will stop us from sabotaging our spiritual growth.

How To Stop Sabotaging Your Spiritual Growth (3 Steps)

1. Become Self-Aware (Know the Behavior)

Self-awareness is a skill that we, as believers, need to acquire. We can't expect to change our self-sabotaging behavior if we aren't even aware of the behavior in our life. Self-awareness helps you have a conscious knowledge of your character, behaviors, feelings, motives, and desires. You become more self-aware through prayer (revelation), paying attention to your behaviors, journaling about your interactions with people, and asking friends what they see in you.

This is not an exhaustive list, but if we begin with these, our self-awareness will increase, and we will be able to identify our self-sabotaging behavior.

2. Identify the Root (Understand the Behavior)

Once you notice the different areas in which you sabotage your spiritual growth, you can move on to understanding the behavior. In this step, you are identifying the root cause of the behavior. You determine the root cause by asking yourself why. Why did I say no to teaching a class? Why am I dodging opportunities for fellowship with my church family? As we discussed earlier, you will often find the root cause is attached to a wrong belief you have about God, yourself, others, or all three.

3. Challenge the Behavior

Once we identify the root cause of our sabotaging, we can then challenge the behavior. We can challenge our behaviors by saying yes when we once said no. We can find reasons to do something instead of meditating on all the reasons why we can’t do something. In addition to that, a part of challenging our behavior is adopting new beliefs. If we have wrong beliefs, we can acquire the right beliefs through prayer and community. Having right beliefs will ideally drive the right behavior. So when you come to a situation where your default is to sabotage, your right belief can enable you to challenge the behavior by pausing, identifying the opportunity for growth, and seizing that opportunity.

We challenge the behavior by moving our excuses out of the way, saying yes when we once said no, and replacing any poor beliefs with better beliefs.

Let's Choose Growth

Spiritual growth is something we all should strive for. We weren't meant to stay babes forever. We were meant to go on to maturity and reach our full potential in Christ. The enemy would love to see us settle for less than God's best. We don't have to appease him and engage in self-sabotaging behaviors. We can choose to end our sabotaging ways today and embrace all the Lord has for us. Are you with me in making that choice? We have some growing to do, saints. Let's grow together.

Application Questions:

  1. Out of the three ways given for how we sabotage our spiritual growth, which one resonated with you the most? What do you think is driving that behavior in your life?

  2. I only listed three ways in which we sabotage our spiritual growth. Can you think of other ways we tend to do this?

  3. If you have engaged in sabotaging your spiritual growth, what step would you be willing to take this week to stop the behavior?

Let's stay connected!

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