Inner vows and “bitterroot judgments” are responses to hurts, unfulfilled expectations, or unmet needs. They can be defined as decisions or determinations designed by the child and set into the heart as templates or “tracks to follow”, until they are broken.
Often vows and judgments are intertwined, both formed in response to the same hurt. Such declarations are made primarily for one of two reasons: either as a defensive reaction to wounding, or because of a choice to reject a parent.
A vow formulated decades ago may be forgotten by the conscious mind, until brought into awareness through depth counseling or inner healing work.
Unlike other childish proclivities and peculiarities, inner vows don’t alter as we mature. They are like threads that continue to be woven into the fabric of our lives and relationships as adults.Examples of inner vows may be: I’ll never be fat like my mother… I’ll never let anyone get close to me again… I’ll never yell at my kids the way my father did!
The fruit from inner vows does not always show up immediately. Instead, these statements may lie dormant and forgotten, until triggered by the right person or situation. Yet over time judgments begin to manifest outwardly in several ways. Excessive anger, hatred, guilt, anxiety, and compulsive behavior can point to vows; as can responses to a given situation that are out of appropriate range, considering the present context.
False expectations in current relationships can also be markers of inner vows. For example, a woman bitter toward her critical father judges all men to be that way and treats them accordingly. In instances like this, God-given discernment, used positively to separate good and evil when in healthy intimacy with the Lord, is perverted into a judgmental attitude by “fig leaves” and false conclusions (Matthew 7: 1-5 BIBLE).
Not all vows are obviously harmful to the individual. Positive, helpful vows can be made as well as negative, destructive ones. Though in heart-healing counseling we most often encounter the need for renunciation of negative vows and judgments, ultimately positive vows (e.g. I have to be the best skater in my family!) also compromise our freedom to become all we were created to be, because they keep us attempting to totally control our destiny, thus preventing the surrender of our lives to God’s will and purpose.
Inner vows are often discovered when processing root memories. After a counselee has examined a germane incident from her childhood, we ask if she made a particular decision to control her life in a certain manner as a result of this occurrence. Commonly, when an individual is “in” the memory and feeling its impact, she remembers that she dealt with the pain by making a specific choice, such as not ever to let anyone hurt her in the way a parent did. By taking that control, she actually bound the opposite outcome to her life, because she became “tied” to the judgment that undergirded it, by the law of sowing and reaping, a universally recognized natural principle found in the Bible as well as many other philosophical and religious structures.
The Scriptural law of sowing and reaping, often repeated throughout both the Old and New Testaments, can also be seen as the spiritual manifestation of the natural law of balance found in mathematics and science. For example, in physics for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction; and in mathematics and chemistry every equation or formula must balance.
In moral and spiritual life the law is: “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6: 7 BIBLE); and “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matthew 7: 1-2 BIBLE). The idea is that all things ultimately come to resolution and balance, or justice.
The law of sowing and reaping also implies multiplication: a tiny seed produces a giant tree; a spark can ignite a forest fire. Before the fall of Adam and Eve, the law was designed to increase blessings. The advent of sin into the world also meant that same principle could rebound to destruction.
Again and again we have seen how a person’s vows and judgments set in place dramas, which produce effects exactly opposite what the person actually desired. For example, young Mike was disgusted with his father, who was violent, abusive, and addicted to food. He said he would never be like his father, and strove with all his might to make himself different. However, all this struggling and “independent identity-crafting” continually created more frustration, pressure, and cumulative stress for him. He found himself eating to relax and “check out”, just as he had seen his father do. As he matured, he was attracted to gentle and attentive codependent women, like his mother. After he married one, he found himself criticizing and yelling at her in anger, just as his father had done.
During depth counseling, he remembered a crucial incident of heartbreak when he watched his father brutally beat his mother and rage at the child Mike. After dealing with the pain in the memory, he recalled judging his father to be disgusting and reprehensible and saying to himself he would NEVER be like him.
When Mike judged his father and made the vow never to be like him, the law of sowing and reaping (the measure of judgment you give out you must receive) went into effect. He lost his freedom to enact God’s plan for his life and fulfill God’s identity for him when he decided to define himself as necessarily in every way different from Dad.
The way to deal with vows and judgments is through repentance and renunciation. First we ask that the individual acknowledge to God his judgment of the person, recognizing that this purview is God’s alone. For example he may confess: “God, when I saw my dad beat my mom I hated him, and judged him as evil and worthy of rejection.”
Then he states specifically the vow he made based on that judgment: “I vowed I would never be like my dad in any way, and never treat a woman the way Dad treated Mom. Now I am yelling and criticizing my wife, just like Dad did. All I wanted was for Dad to love us, and for my parents to have a happy marriage. Please forgive me for hating and judging my dad.”
At this point he renounces the vow: “I renounce that vow I made never to be like my dad. I pull it out by the root and cut off all effects of that vow in my life. From now on I ask you, God, to be in charge of every aspect of my life and marriage. I ask you to show me how to be the husband and father you desire me to be.”
Bitterroot judgments and inner vows can cause stubborn resistance to change, which blocks release in other areas, seen and unseen. The power of spiritual authority (Greek-exousia) is needed to release the hold of inner vows. It doesn’t take authority manifested by loud screaming or posturing, but the quiet assurance that stems from the living presence of God within. The newest Christian who understands his position of spiritual inheritance (Galatians 3: 13-14 BIBLE) can uproot a vow or curse, though more is needed than a cursory ritual or invocation for God to intervene. What is required is vocalized first-person prayer founded on faith in the victorious Blood of Jesus.
Inner vows are as unique and varied as people themselves. Some are simple, such as the case of the boy who vowed never to sing because his father told him he was off key. This young person discovered many years later not only his own beautiful voice, but also an inborn love for vocal performance.
Some vows are complex, as in a woman’s panic to drive on country roads, because it felt unsafe. Her previously unremembered vow had to do with the fact that she was molested on a rural road, so going into the country instantly caused her to feel out of control.
Renouncing vows, even “good” ones (e.g. “Never beat a man at a game”), enables our relationships to become much more authentic and less obsessive in nature. Freedom to relate with transparency to other people adds delight and adventure to our associations. When individuals stop controlling their behavior based on restrictive vows and judgments they can find happiness simply in being present with God and others.
Breaking vows also seems to disengage unseen strongholds in the spirit realm. Counselees have reported such unusual occurrences as phone calls from distant estranged relatives and breakthroughs in relational stalemates, seeming to occur “spontaneously” within days of renouncing a vow, judgment, or curse.