Thursday, March 5, 2009

My perfectionism and the institutional church (made good buddies)

(this is sort of part two of my story... Part one, if you are interested, is here : My story)

Not too long after meeting Jesus....
I became one of those crazy people who felt they had to evangelize everybody they came in contact with... That then turned into inviting everybody to church or my small group- I thought they needed to be at my church. I've always had a pretty genuine relationship with God (despite my many flaws), so some folks would see that and come. And I thought I was doing what was right. But too much, I felt I had to say something about my walk with God to most everyone or I was not a good enough Christian. I couldn't do it all the time of course, so I would beat myself up for that. I constantly felt like I was not doing enough. I got so used to living this way, it became normal within the Christian settings I was in.

This fear, of feeling responsible for the world, is hard to shed. For me, it came from my upbringing and the impossible expectations that were placed upon me in my home... and not being accepted for who I was. And it was deep-seated.

When I came to know Jesus, I began to relax a bit, until the church grabbed hold of me and my weakness-- my perfectionism. I was enrolled to do all sorts of things because I was so ready and willing to try (and they always need workers!). The bad patterns from my home life were just re-enforced, because, by golly, now I could work myself to death for the Lord and his people's acceptance!
Somehow, I still continued to find me in bits and pieces. And I found these were not nurtured in this environment because I needed to fit into a mold. Some people were accepting, but only to a point, within the system- only if I served it and remained loyal to "it".... For a long time I thought the problem was with the particular church I was at, so I church hopped. In the last 15 years I've gone to a lot of different churches of all shapes, sizes and denominations- never staying anywhere for more than a year or year and a half tops (plus I moved a lot too). I knew from the get go something was way off, but I didn't know what to do or where to go, so all I did was try harder, until I decided to try to work within the system and perhaps change it. This to no avail. You have to be a leader there to have any real power I thought. And so I would interact more with the leaders trying to influence them, only to see they were enslaved to the whole thing so heavily, and also contemptuous of my challenges for the most part, if not me altogether! Though not always. Some would agree and concur but felt it was the only viable option to surrender to this system.... that most bow down to as if it were God himself.
So, I decided to leave and for good this time. God gave me the green light. In a way, I feel like I earned it (only saying...) I tried so hard.... I was never a really big honcho, and I'm glad for that. If I influenced anyone for any good, praise God for that. Mostly, I see all my mistakes (it's the nature of the perfectionism :) ) Mostly, I am being undone so my perfectionism is truly healed. It could never happen in the institutional church because it is just another world-like system of doing things and it requires outward performance... and perfectionism breeds on that!!! I'm telling you and I should know!
Perfectionism is an addiction and a compulsion; a way to cope with the pain. And it is as bad as any addiction, I'm finding. It is destructive to self and others. It drives you to a pulp (and puts CRAZY demands on those close to you) It is a most easily disguised "addiction" because the person often appears so together and "productive." The perfectionist is sure to appear balanced in so many ways, having such a handle on what is important, until you get real close to them (and that doesn't happen too often in the IC context) Only people close to the perfectionist see the real problems. And its' root is fear deep down-- fear of rejection, fear of abandonment. I see how the institutional church exploited this in me. I know many folks didn't specifically, but it is the nature of the beast.
And so I left and I am not going back and guess what-- I am healing!!! The chains are falling off and they keep on fallin.'

I don't know what the future holds, but my times are in his hands, and they are hands where I can truly rest.

Already by Rush of Fools

I try my best to work for Your love
I never rest, hoping You'll want me to

When it's already
it's already
it's already been done

I never stop
believing there's more I can do

I just can't resist
searching for ways to please You

When it's already
it's already
it's already been done

There's nothing more, there's never less
It's only You
and I am blessed

Well, there's nothing more, there's never less
It's only You and I am blessed

it's already, it's already, it's already been done...


lionwoman said...

Manuela, this is an excellent post too. The system largely thrives by exploiting people's need for acceptance. Even if the people running it honestly don't mean it that way. I appreciate your writing, you express yourself well and tell it like it is.

Manuela said...

...yeah, it does thrive by exploiting people's need for acceptance sad

Sarah said...

Hey Manuela-
I'm glad to hear that you are doing well. I was thinking about you yesterday, we were moving stuff around and I saw your phone number written on a piece of paper. Do you still live where you used to? What is your schedule like, it would be nice to get together.

Sarah Ward

Erin said...

I could have written a lot of this post, so I want you to know I understand. Church is an easy place for perfectionists, because as long as you follow the rules and stay in the lines, you'll be successful, get back-pats and generally feel good about yourself. It may not be healthy, but it works.

Manuela said...

hi Sarah- yeah, we're still here for now

Thanks Erin for relating :)
You've had some really good posts about all this (Fallen, and a few others) that have been really helpful to me!