Can Christians Use NLP?

by Doug Cartwright.

If you are a Christian who has considered using Neuro-Linguistic Programming it is likely you will have be warned off it with statements like:

NLP is manipulative.
NLP is dangerous
NLP is a humanistic attempt to replace God.
Visualising is wrong.
NLP is a tool of the devil.

I know one minister in the United States of America who was actually asked to leave his church because he used some of the tools of NLP. He was and is a man dedicated to helping others enjoy and serve God.

So what's all the fuss about? Is it really that bad or can Christians use the tools in service of spreading the 'good news'?

I have been using NLP for 16 years and have been a Christian for 12 years. I don't have all the answers but I have come to some conclusions about the use of NLP - the advantages and the dangers. I can only cover these briefly here but I hope my ideas are helpful.

One of the first things to consider is the philosophy of NLP. Any self help tool has a theoretical underpinning and the creators of NLP use a number of presuppositions (assumptions) to help them in their work, such as:

The Map is not the territory (what you think about the world is not the same as the way the world is)
People have all the resources they need to solve their problems
You cannot not communicate.
The meaning of your communication is the result it gets.
And many more.

As there are about 22, you can find many lists of these on the internet under 'NLP presuppositions'. In fact, all therapists, coaches, psychologists presuppose things about you so don't be fooled by any statements about 'value free' services. It's values all the way down, folks.

The important point here is to examine these assumptions (and their explanations) and decide for yourself which of them align with the word of God.

It is also important to realise you don't have accept these presuppositions as 'true' because even the creators say that these assumptions cannot be proved, they are just useful to use. The better news is that you can still use the tools without having to use or believe the 'assumptions' because they are not 'laws' just theories (as indeed are most psychological works). I know this from personal experience.

Because NLP produces some powerful results there certainly is a danger of looking to its tools to solve your problems instead of submitting them to God first, and then using the tools in his service. I have done this myself and there is a temptation to try and solve it myself first without giving honour to God. I think also there is the danger of treating NLP like a religion, another evangel of 'good news' because of its power to help people change.

But just as you go to a doctor who treats your body like an organic machine that needs to be fixed with medicine, you can use NLP to treat certain conditions of the mind - and make improvements. It's no different and if you think it is, perhaps you should stop seeing your doctor because he doesn't believe in God? And do you worship your doctor because he knows more than you about the way your body works? He uses his knowledge like a tool-kit to improve human functioning. A good NLP Practitioner can be like an engineer for your thinking processes.

Where NLP comes in useful is in its focus on human functioning and what you can do to function more effectively. NLP uses the metaphor of a computer to represent the human mind. Our 'computer mind' has 'programs' which create our thinking and behaviours and can be 'programmed'.

This word is one of the things that people react emotionally to - 'programmed', especially when they hear about NLP courses where people are 'put' into deep trances and ideas are fed into their minds. A very human fear is the fear of being 'controlled' and so people stay away, not realising that the tools of NLP themselves are designed to put them at 'cause' rather than effect. But if you don't like a guided visualisation because you are concerned the trainer will put in his spin on 'the universe will provide' just sit out, or better still find a Christian NLP Trainer.

Of course, this means we can bring up the related idea that 'NLP is manipulative' and here I get a bit annoyed. Accepting this statement at face value is a bit like saying all Rottweiler's are dangerous, or that every man working with children is a potential paedophile etc. In the UK we have a media addicted to creating scares that have led to people stopping eating eggs, chocolate bars, baby food etc.

Every knife is a potential weapon but that doesn't stop a surgeon using one to cut out a cancer or you to cut vegetables in your kitchen. The issue is one of intent as well as usage.

I, and thousands of others, have used NLP to:

Create rapport leading to deeper more fulfilling relationships
Heal people of deep hurts helping them to lead healthier more enjoyable lives
Reconnect people with parts of themselves
Manage toxic emotions
Reconnect with their God-given abilities and talents

People have also used NLP to:

Seduce women
Con people into buying things they later realise they didn't want
Create fear and phobias
Intimidate and overpower

It's all a matter of intent. Would you stop reading the bible because of what happened at the Church for Mary and the restoration of the Ten Commandments (they locked all their members in a building and burned them to death). They read the same bible you do.

Because NLP can be used to communicate any idea more effectively, people who believe differently to Christians have mixed Shamanism, pagan ideas and all kinds of other beliefs about life, the universe and everything into their teaching. And so people think this is what NLP is about.

I think that using NLP has some potential problems, as you see above. But if you search around on the internet you can find sincere Christians who are attempting to sort the wheat from the chaff and use the 'safe' end of the knife.

In the end God meets ALL of our needs. Yes, all. But we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and that seems like a fairly active process to me. If other human beings (who maybe don't believe the same as I do about God) have discovered ways to help me 'renew my mind' more effectively, I am going to use them.

God Bless

Douglas Cartwright is a 'personal clarity engineer' who helps people 'renew their minds and live their words'. To find out more, visit http://www.livingwords.net and book your free introductory session. This powerful change experience is not for everyone. But it might be for you. Come to the site and find out. You can also go to http://www.livingwords.net/livingwordsebooks/index.html and buy Sanctified Emotions, a tremendous electronic book which talks about the place of emotions in the Christian life, and some tools for 'sanctifying them'.


2009 Doug Cartwright All rights reserved.