My senior pastor once told a story of a third world country he knew of where families lived in and among mountainous piles of trash.
In preparing to write this post, I remembered his story as well as a mission trip I went on as a 16-year-old with my youth group. We went to Mexico City where we helped in a school and clinic on the outskirts of the city. I still remember crowding into vans and making the drive outside the city where pavement ended and rolling hills of dirt, trash, and cardboard boxes collided. Driving on the steep, muddy, pot-holed roads, I observed whole families living in slums.
These families did not appear particularly sad or disturbed. In fact, I wondered if they knew what it was like to have clean floors, running water, and plumbing. I wondered if they knew what they were missing.
When I first heard my senior pastor tell the story of the trash piles, he did so to illustrate the point that many of us in first world countries are living in garbage of our own. We may have sparkling kitchens, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing, but (sometimes unknowingly) we live in trash piles just the same.
Our trash piles exist in our own relationships and families.
I remember my insides churning during that particular service. I remember walking down with a trembling stomach and asking for prayer. My entire family had come out for a visit, and they watched me make that long, solitary walk from the balcony down to the altar. But I couldn’t do anything but walk away from my pew because of the tears I was sure they would see in my eyes.
Although I did feel some of the emotional burden lift from me that day at the altar, it was not until a few years later that I would receive a full healing from the emotional baggage in my past. Ironically, it was at a time when I wasn’t even thinking about getting healed or expecting it.
Since then, I have discovered that I had so much emotional baggage in my life because I had allowed myself to be connected to others with negative soul ties. When Jesus walked me through personal healing, He had me break the negative soul ties in my life and get free of the relationships I had never been able to let go of.
What is a Soul Tie?
A soul tie is a close emotional bond or a knitting together with another person’s spirit. According to the Great Bible Study site, the Bible does not use the term “soul tie” but does refer to being “knit together” with another person both in friendship and in marriage. A key example of a positive soul tie in the Bible is in the friendship of Jonathan and David. In 1 Samuel 18:1, it says that Jonathan became “one in spirit” with David and “loved him as himself.” Another time that the Bible speaks of a positive emotional tie with another person that exists on the soul level is in marriage. Ephesians 5:31 speaks of a “man leaving his father and mother” and becoming “one flesh” with his wife.
Negative soul ties are those that can form in many ways, but for the purposes of this article I will just be focusing on those that form through sex before marriage or through idolatry of a person. (Soul ties can also form through vows and commitments, rituals, accepting gifts from those involved in witchcraft, etc.)
Idolatry of a person means allowing a person to take almost a god-like status in your mind and constantly thinking of ways to meet his or her expectations — even if it means changing yourself or going against what you believe.
How I Formed Negative Soul Ties
I realize in looking back at my past that I did have some sexual sin, and I engaged in the idolatry of certain individuals. I had both friendships and romantic relationships where I idolized the other person and an unhealthy attachment formed, or I allowed myself to be idolized.
These relationships developed because of my own low self-esteem. I was constantly looking for love and validation from other people. I allowed relationships in my life to define me. I clung onto persons I felt elevated me by allowing me into their presence. I allowed myself to engage in both homosexual and heterosexual behavior because I wanted the acceptance and love. I made individuals in my life into Saviors.
And even when I tried to move on from these relationships, I still felt tied to certain persons. There was a brokenness on the inside that I couldn’t get rid of. Even after prayer and confession of my wrong in these relationships to God, I still felt defined by and connected to these unhealthy relationships.
Although He didn’t tell me what He was doing at first, Jesus had me go back to these friends and relationships and break negative emotional ties. Here’s how He had me break them: The first thing I did is talk with a Hope minister at my church about my past, sharing it for the first time. Then I went back to some of the individuals and apologized for my part in the sexual sin and told them what Jesus was doing in me.
I also apologized for any bitterness I had held against them for the bad way the relationship had ended or the ways I had felt they had let me down. I also was honest with the person if he or she had hurt me and spoke about that to the person for the first time. In some cases, I wrote a letter or sent an email. In other cases, I talked directly with the person.
I realize that not everyone may agree with my action of returning to these individuals. Certainly, not everyone agreed with this action when I was doing it. I was seeing a Hope minister at my church prior to my decision to make the contact with these individuals. When our sessions were coming to a close, I began to get a few people in mind that I needed to go back to. She assured me this was completely unnecessary, but I felt Jesus telling me to do it.
What It Felt Like to Break Free of My Negative Soul Ties
The process of making contacts to a handful of people from my past was the most excruciating one I have ever undertaken. I was alone. I had no support for my endeavor, and I underestimated the emotional toll it would have on me. What no one told me beforehand is that going back to the past dredges up old feelings. I felt, in many of those cases, not like a mature 35-year-old woman. I felt like a 14-year-old again. A 16-year-old. All of the fears and insecurities I had experienced in those moments so long ago raced back as I was doing it.
However, I felt Jesus nudging me on. How could He be so mean? So pushy? How could He make me relive all the awful again? I know why now. I had never handled those relationships properly during the time or ended them properly, so I had been left with a great amount of baggage. Soul ties to people I didn’t want to be tied to anymore. He wanted me to do it so that I could get free.
Additionally, I believe that God had me go to these individuals to not only break the emotional ties but also to help me overcome my shame over my wrong choices. I didn’t realize that by hiding what I had done from others, I was being held in bondage by shame and guilt. But as embarrassing as it was for me to talk with these individuals and share with others about my past — I ended up feeling really clean and peaceful inside afterwards.
What Does This Mean for You?
If you are reading this and you know you have a lot of baggage from your past, start with God. One thing I was amazed to discover is that He did not condemn me for my wrong choices — He helped me get past them. The condemnation I felt for a long time was actually coming from Satan. Facing the people in my past that had hurt me or I had given too much power to for far too long was very freeing.
Ask God to reveal to you where you might have negative soul ties with another person (either in your past or now) because of sexual sin or idolatry. If you haven’t already, I would ask God to forgive you for your part in sexual sin with the other person. Or, if there was not a sexual relationship but you know that the relationship was unhealthy for other reasons, ask God to forgive you for idolizing that person or putting that relationship above your relationship with Him.
Then ask God if there is another step you need to take. I would also highly recommend sitting down with a Christian counselor or a pastor versed in counseling. With that being said, go with what God is telling you above all else. Like I mentioned, I had a difference of opinion with my Hope minister about whether it was necessary to revisit the past.
I sought God very carefully on the issue over a several month period and received several confirmations about what He wanted me to do.
If you feel that God is nudging you to contact a person, but that person was a controller or abuser in the past, or you are concerned that a physical or emotional attraction remains, keep contact minimal — a letter. An email. And tell someone else what you are doing so he or she can hold you accountable. If the person or the person’s family can’t be reached, write a letter to the person to get the negative emotions out and then trust that God has healed you because of your step of faith.
God doesn’t intend for us to have sexual relationships outside of marriage or have negative soul ties with other people. He created boundaries to protect us. However, He doesn’t condemn you if you have made unwise choices. He wants to help you get healed.
However, just like He asked the crippled man at the pool at Bethesda, He wants to know: Do you want to be healed?
He wants to help, but there may be a step you have to take to receive that healing.
Author’s note: I wrote about soul ties in regards to consensual relationships, but soul ties can also form in sexually abusive, non-consensual relationships. If you were a victim of rape or sexual abuse, I would urge you to seek out the help of a Christian professional. You do not need to apologize for the wrong another person did to you. Your path to healing may look different than mine. I would also urge you not to be in contact with anyone who has physically harmed you — or put yourself in danger in any way.
If you are reading through this and feel that you may have negative soul ties in a friendship or relationship, please feel free to leave a comment below, and I will pray for you. If you would like to keep your name confidential, or have more questions about my experience, you are welcome to write to me through the Contact page, and I would love to help you on your journey to freedom.