Sonia Banks's picture

Aerial rarely gets to exercise. Her children are busy with activities, her job crowds out personal time, and she feels her husband is discouraging. Over several years she has formed a poor self-image that is reinforced by an unhealthy and overweight body and a spiritual faith that is mired in defeat. Who knows? Every one does and yet no one. Even Aerial isn’t aware of just how much her silent agreement affects her body, mind and spirit.

While most of us have never used or even heard of this term, silent agreements are present in our everyday lives including our faith and beliefs about our fitness. Silent agreements are those unspoken “rules” that grow from the needs, wishes and expectations that we don’t often share with others but are convinced others already believe. Many times we are unaware of how these values or expectations are now “stories” we keep telling ourselves that are controlling our behavior.

Whether in alignment with God or not, the silent agreements we’ve not acknowledged or openly discussed often reveal how we really feel. The real silent agreement is that we act as if the silence is less frightening than the ‘real’ story about what we are thinking and wanting from our lives including fitness.  We avoid discussing our own difficulty in reconciling how our faith and fitness don’t always seem to align in our minds.

Take time now to examine five common silent agreements and discover how you can overcome them. The Bible offers us examples of how silent agreements develop and yield disappointments, distortions, and false assumptions in our faith. With God’s grace and strength you can build on the practical advice offered here to make changes and transform your understanding. Gain courage to communicate with yourself and others so that you can have a happier faith and a healthy active lifestyle every day. 


Change may mean moving toward what you want. Stagnation could mean resigning yourself that you will never have what you want. Consider how often we say we want to change and then when the opportunity presents itself, we choose stagnation over the unknown change.

John 5:5 There is a Bible parable that shows how powerful faith is when we want to change: When Jesus saw a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years lying near a healing pool and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “ Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then, Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured, he picked up his mat and walked.

Like the man from the pool, we have perceived expectations and crave results that improve our situation.  We are often completely convinced, unlike this man at the pool, that change will mean discontent and discomfort – not healing and happiness. And that may be true. Whether the change is as small as a new workout routine or meditation as spiritual practice, we tell ourselves a story about the process for change and sometimes resolve it is too difficult. Even the invalid at the pool had an expectation based on a belief of God.

We constantly tell ourselves a story to guide and support the decisions we make. It takes faith to move in one direction or another, particularly when the end result is not clear and the path is challenging.

You staying in shape today is a different physical experience from the miraculous healing power the man in Jesus’ time had at the Bethesda pool. However, managing to stay fit requires you overcome many stigmas and comments from cynics the same way the invalid had to ignore them. We all wrestle with beliefs that threaten us and keep us from thriving the way God intends. Choose to open and break the silence that may be crippling your power to change!


Consider fitness as physical medicine. Your “gym time” helps you create an expectation to become physically fit. What if everything in the gym were designed to help us change our stagnate approach to life into a more movement consciousness. This would mean more than just equipment. It requires we have an honest and courageous conversation about what is really getting in the way of getting in shape. Meet with your trainer, a friend/workout partner, a wellness professional or pastoral leader and start a conversation. Talk with someone familiar or someone new to you. Decide what works best for you. Focus on the root cause of your physical stagnation. Be sure to acknowledge what you need spiritually to change your mindset and plan to open your closed agreements one workout at a time.


Does your routine limit or empower you? Your physical flexibility may be limited by the inflexibility of your routine. Many of us avoid gym equipment we don’t understand. We never mix up the workout routine. Some of us think, “If I change the workout routine, I may not lose weight or I will look silly using that machine. I am not in good enough shape for that.” That is the inflexibility silent agreement we keep with ourselves. It commits our fitness goals to clearly defined limits. We lose our faith and hope that we can rely on God even in the gym.

Inflexibility extends further though when we refuse to understand that our fitness needs are directly linked with our spiritual needs. It is unfortunate that most fitness organizations and professionals don’t ask about our spiritual needs. Gym owners, fitness directors, personal trainers, wellness coaches, dietitians, even fitness ministry professionals contribute to silent agreements of inflexibility by thinking, “I won’t ask about my clients’ spiritual needs, because I may offend them or be perceived as doing something inappropriate.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The fitness industry, like the health care industry has a primary purpose to help people and help them achieve lasting change. Gathering personal physical information while not gaining an understanding of a person’s spiritual needs is an incomplete process. It is the silent agreement that contributes to personal wellness plans not being as effective and successful as they could be. When professionals are not flexible enough to ask important life shaping questions, a wider range of improvement options are never even considered.

Professionals that think people expect a fitness experience to be void of spiritual components are being inflexible in how they understand the role and scope of the fitness facility and services. Individuals who pursue physical fitness with the silent agreement that spiritual fitness is irrelevant, achieve a partial result --- an incomplete solution.


If you identify inflexibility in your fitness routine then take time to examine your fears and concerns and then pray for courage and clarity. Instead of focusing on what others think of how you look using equipment or exercising, observe others, ask questions and pattern best practices. You’ll likely find people eager to help you. Take it further and ask how they learned to use new equipment and how they overcame fears. You can find videos and tips for most equipment and exercises. Finally as you become more flexible observe YOU. The more you can see your own flexibility the more you can grow that capacity within you.

Open a discussion about flexibility with the staff or manager of your gym.  Let them share their beliefs about how spiritual fitness can strengthen a personal wellness plan.  Help staff to consider what consumers really want in a fitness experience that caters to the mind, body and spirit.

Encourage fitness professionals who are uncomfortable in helping people explore beliefs and understand spiritual strength and development. They may be wondering why people leave and go somewhere else.  Instead they need to discover the potential they can deliver when they confront their own bias around integrating faith and fitness. They could be delivering real outcomes that gym members would love.


Many of us remember “gym” from grade school. It was a mandatory class where we were told exactly what to do, what to wear and what was expected of us. It did not offer much in terms of creativity or innovation. Class had a distinct beginning, middle and end and someone in charge.

That is not the way the gym works now. We are on our own to figure out what is best, what to wear, how long to be there and even when to come. For the fitness initiated, it seems easy but for those of us who are less inclined to interact with machines and prefer people; we find our options limited to classes and a trainer’s buffet. This silent agreement is often out of awareness for those of us “gym” shy and not disciplined in the ways of organized fitness.

Not until it becomes vital or essential do we engage in what feels like “relationship” with equipment. Even music and new age circuit training only hold our “not sure if any of this will work” attention span for a short time. Perhaps we never really believe that all of the fitness focus is absolutely necessary. 


We need to change our mindset about the “gym”.  Focuse on the spiritual elements of fitness instead. We know the hormonal upswing that is touted but what if staff and trainers share not just the science of fitness, but the data supporting spiritual connections. Silent agreements can be converted when we become more satisfied that this fitness routine is supporting our mind, spirit and our bodies. That is the faith that grows us and changes our perception of what is possible.


All Silent Agreements start with the ones you have with yourself.  They then build and multiply with your relationships. Visualize it this way - they stack like pancakes.

Philippians 4:12-14  In the Bible it says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Our faith expects us to remain spiritually fit – managing life balancing feelings of security with insecurity. Much like faith, we need to commit to fitness in order for it to work. The more we realize how our insecurity miss-directs our confidence, the more we can avail ourselves to face the dysfunctional silent agreements we make with ourselves. Each time we challenge ourselves to consider the “muscle building” assistance that resistance in weights and life offers, the better chances we have to not only endure but thrive on the spiritually influenced fitness course.


Resolve to commit to a secure future even in the face of insecurity.  Understand the power of “abound in any and every circumstance”. We each have a spiritually built in tolerance for riding the ambiguity of life. Challenging our silent agreement to remain insecure requires us to believe in our God for faith that our bodies are in submission to our minds and hearts and most of all spirits. We can abound in every circumstance and that includes working out!


Our desire to innovate and yet hold to tradition gives us the ability to manage the inconsistency in our own lives. In our health and fitness practices, we can be driven by our pre-conceptions. Some of them work for us and other thoughts work against what God says is good for us.  We have silent agreements that get in the way of our fitness. For example our concepts of vanity or modesty, what a man or woman should wear or how they should behave, even what a younger or older person can or can not do --- all of these assumptions can keep us from creating a new story of fitness to tell.

Consider a silent agreement (story we tell ourselves about what is right or not) about exercise and how we should look in our fitness outfit.  Even a quick thought – can set in motion other thoughts both negative and disruptive. Anxiety can stop your desire to workout.  A silent agreement may keep you thinking, “If I reveal my modesty and nothing happens, then I am safe - but if I show up and get too much attention I will not return”.  That unspoken agreement can stop you from exercising in a socially supportive atmosphere.

Traditions can be good but they can also hold us back. Innovation in equipment and options for exercise provide a more creative, innovative and relational approach to fitness. Yet we are often determined not to explore why we hold on to our repressive ideas about health and fitness. Explore how you can innovate yourself by challenging the silent agreements that keep you away from a new way to be fit.


Focus on strengthening and protecting your body. The Bible says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”

Realize that God gives us freedom to innovate.  It is part of His creative nature that is in us.  Use it to support a life of discipline and gain the benefits of a well-strengthened body. Try a new group exercise, fitness program, or machine.

When you prefer to be in your own little silent agreement regarding modesty or vanity think instead about the freedom Christ had while on earth. He never behaved conceited or self-elevated instead he was humble. At the same time, He was never fearful or preoccupied with how He looked. He was never concerned about being embarrassed or humiliated. Seek to mature in your faith and build more open agreements. Examine, define and re-construct new agreements that buffer you from harsh disabling criticism and encourage you in a spiritually disciplined way to open yourself up to more fitness  These are your faith silent agreements that strengthen you.

About the Author

  • Sonia Banks's picture
    Sonia R. Banks, PhD, LCP is co-founder of Sessions: Innovations in Psychology. Dr. Banks is a licensed clinical psychologist offering therapeutic intervention, coaching, leadership program design and community health prevention. She, coaches how to apply positive psychology and spiritual formation theory to healthcare, academic, corporate, public, non-profit, government and faith-based organizations.

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