What kind of definition does the Bible give of what psychiatrists refer to as borderline personality disorder? Cathy Wiseman offers wise advice on this issue in her “Borderline Personality: A Scriptural Perspective.” She defines BPD, from a scriptural perspective, as:
“a pervasive pattern of demanding interpersonal relationships, unstable self-image, volatile emotions, and marked impulsiveness. These individuals demand suffocating intimacy in their relationships and yet their hurtful behavior destroys those same relationships.”
She insists that the behaviors exhibited in those with BPD are defined in the scripture as “works of the flesh.” She thinks that this scriptural perspective, though perhaps “tough love,” offers hope to those suffering with these tendencies, quoting Paul on the subject:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like”(Gal. 5:19-21).
She cites the “The Message” translation of the biblical as well (in reality, it is more of a paraphrase than a translation):
“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzeid and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness, cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.”
She argues that individuals with BPD are unstable because of their spiritual and emotional immaturity, citing another relevant scripture:
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things”(1 Cor. 13:11).
“We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine”(Eph. 4:14)
“For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind…He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways”(Jas. 1:6, 8).
She cites a commentary on James 1:8 as teaching: “Double-minded is literally ‘two souls.’ If one part of a person is set on God and the other is set on this world, there will be constant conflict within.”
She says that from a biblical perspective, personality disorders in general stem from “our core commitments, our basic beliefs – what the Bible terms ‘ the heart’ and describes as the center of our being.”
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man . . . “(Matt. 15:18–20)
“What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within and defile a man “(Mk. 7:20-23).
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45) But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14–15)
She quotes Greg Gilbert on the topic of human sin:
“According to the Bible, sin is . . . the breaking of a relationship, and even more, it is a rejection of God himself—a repudiation of God’s rule, God’s care, God’s authority, and God’s right to command those to whom he gave life. In short, it is the rebellion of the creature against his Creator.”
She also quotes Henry Brandt and Kerry Skinner:
“if it comes from the heart, it is sin. If the problem is sin, there is no human remedy. No counselor, pastor, or friend can get rid of sin. But, if sin is your problem, it is the simplest thing in the world to deal with. Why? Because Jesus came for the express purpose of dealing with sin. God’s Word says: “She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin””
In the article series to come, we will look at what she believes the Bible has to say about the DSM-IV symptoms of BPD.