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Healthy vs Unhealthy Self-Denial

Healthy vs Unhealthy Self-Denial

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This is a talk/conversation I gave earlier in 2022 at LOOM, a Christian gathering exploring faith and art. My dear friend, Corey Frey (, invited me to share a bit about myself as a poet and a counselor, exploring the sacredness of seeking to be present to whatever life and people bring forth. From there we delve into an often-painful question of whether Christianity and art are inherently at odds: Can someone be a Christian and be an artist? Though the Anglo-Catholic streams of Christianity have had a much healthier relationship with the arts (e.g., consider how so many great works of art and architecture were commissioned by churches in centuries past), modern, Western, Protestant culture has often been outright antagonistic towards the arts (which I argue is a rather unkind and un-Christian stance). This unhealthy dynamic is sometimes framed as a dichotomy between a so-called Christian self-denial being at odds with a supposed secular self-expression (of the artist). And in this talk I push back against that in part by suggesting (using the life of Christ as a characterlogical template) that a truly healthy self-denial is actually built upon a thorough, deep love of self that then spills out into a love for others such that we choose to make sacrifices for the good of others, in order that all people might flourish. A truly Christian self-denial, then, is about choosing to lean into struggle and discomfort (as opposed to abusing religion as a way to avoid discomfort) in order that we and others might grow and heal and become more fully ourselves.

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