This was article was featured on The Elijah List: http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word.html?ID=15898
Years ago I had a wonderful coworker in college who grew up in the feminist movement. She had experienced blows to her career and self-esteem because of her gender. By the time I knew her, I was 20 and she was in her mid-40s. My world was different than hers had been, partly because of her. But her past "warfare" was evident in the kinds of things she noticed and said. If I got a poor grade, for example, on something that seemed should have gotten a better grade, she might ask if my professor was a particular man she saw to be chauvinistic. Similarly, if a female's article or artwork was featured in our school, she might notice with relief that it was featured with equal prominence to a male counterpart's work.
Those kinds of thoughts never crossed my mind, but I had never been treated with prejudice because of my gender. My friend had been affected in such a way that she remained defensive even though she was no longer under attack. Her experience caused her to bond to me protectively and supportively in regards to our gender, even though neither of us was being mistreated.
My friend had a siege mentality. Recently the Lord spoke to me that the Church also has a siege mentality, and that in order to enter into the Jubilee, joy, unity, and all that He has for us, we're going to have to break it.
The Church Has Been Under Siege
"Siege mentality" is the military term for the psychological effects of being besieged. Besiege is a warfare tactic of surrounding and attacking a fortified place in order to isolate it from help and force surrender. It is any persistent effort to overcome resistance or long period of trouble. It means to crowd around oppressively, to surround and harass, to swarm, overwhelm or bombard. It even means to inundate with complaints or requests!
During a siege, the besieged may be destroyed from the inside out. Starvation, fights among comrades, and hopelessness break down the besieged's resolve to win. Armies have turned on each other, or chosen to surrender, simply because of the psychological overload. Therefore it's as much psychological warfare as it is combat.
What Siege Mentality Looks Like
The purpose of a siege is for the besieged to give up because they just can't take it anymore. It's a long-term strategy of terrorism. That's when siege mentality sets in:
Siege mentality is a shared feeling of victimization and defensiveness… It is a collective state of mind whereby a group of people believes themselves constantly attacked, oppressed, or isolated in the face of the negative intentions of the rest of the world. Although a group phenomenon, the term describes both the emotions and thoughts of the group as a whole, and as individuals. The result is a state of being overly fearful of surrounding peoples, and an intractably defensive attitude.
Essentially, siege mentality is the camaraderie formed around the idea that it's us against them. Siege mentality can be recognized in a culture by the things that are said, celebrated, or comforted, and by subtle daily interactions with others. While may be hard to see from the inside, it is apparent to those on the outside, as it was with my coworker in college.
Siege mentality is kept in place by symbols of past trauma. My good friend displayed this. Sadly, men were the symbol of her past trauma, and men were everywhere! Trauma itself imprints the physical brain in such a way as to perpetuate that experience indefinitely. For example, if your car was struck in an intersection by a car that ran a red light, you could re-experience the horrifying emotions every time you crossed through a similar intersection, or every time you saw someone run a red light. This could continue until you received therapy or healing from the Lord. This is how a symbol of real-life trauma event can keep "siege mentality" in place.
When cultures or nations develop siege mentality, it can be supported and perpetuated by social channels, cultural institutions, the education system and even governing rule. Current examples of this include North Korea, where it's believed Kim Jong-un keeps an 'us-against-the-world' mentality alive within North Koreans. Syria is another nation currently under a siege mentality.
People with siege mentality have been victims of real violence, though they are no longer being victimized. The key is that they are no longer victims, even if they once were.
The presence of siege mentality in the Church is both understandable and unbiblical. The presence of siege mentality implies we were barricaded in and defending ourselves from a constant onslaught of the enemy. This is true, as deep darkness has covered the earth, and the onslaught of darkness is never-ending, ever-increasing. However, Scripture says that it's the gates of Hell that will not prevail against us, not the gates of the Church that will not prevail against Hell! So if our psychological gates have given way to siege mentality, we have the opportunity to adjust our position and overcome.
Breaking Siege Mentality
To break siege mentality, we must get rid of victimization, change how we talk and bond with each other, choose joy, and get out of our barricades and onto the battlefield.
Getting rid of victimization is simple. Acknowledging that God is good, while giving Him praise and thanks in all circumstances, will break the victim mindset. I'm currently finishing my book on true Biblical thankfulness, which I believe will set the Church free from victimization.
Victimization is also broken and trauma healed by reading the Word of God. Trauma is what caused the victimization, and it must also be reversed. The Bible says we can renew our minds with the washing of water by the Word. Just because we have been besieged does not mean are brains are victims of trauma—we can be renewed by His Word! Choosing joy is essential in breaking a victim and siege mentality. Joy is supernatural, is a choice, and is possible in any situation.
Connecting appropriately with other people is another key to breaking the siege mentality. If siege mentality is kept in place by our inappropriate 'haters' mindset, by bonding over shared difficulties and shared 'enemies,' then that same mentality can be disempowered by changing those conversations. We must connect on the positive: what God is saying and doing, the beauty and good of God in others, and the joyous celebration of life.
Similarly, reaching outside our comfort zone will disempower siege mentality. Part of besiegement includes isolation and lack of trust. When we choose to reach out with kindness, we break isolation and daringly square-off the bully of mistrust and insecurity.
Finally, to come out of a siege mentality, we must choose to enter God's Third and Final World War. When our 'foot is on the break,' as God leads us as His army into battle, we will cause ourselves to be dragged in defensively. Instead, we must armor up, enlist willfully, and approach each day with victory! Victory comes from winning a fight. To have victory, we must fight to win!