Deja Vu: Hypocrisy and Bipolar
I’ve decided to save my “commercial interruptions” for those times when I really cannot wade through all the thoughts cluttering up my head and take another path for those times when I feel like I’m revisiting lessons that God has already shown me. I did it yesterday with that “Deja Vu” post and I’m finding that I really like that idea.
Once again, I happened to check out a post that one of my readers read today and was amazed that I could have written the exact same post yesterday… with a few significant changes. I am growing and changing. Seeing where I was when I initially wrote this post and where I am now proves to me that I’ve changed. The original post “Hypocrisy and Bipolar” posted on April 11, 2011 needed a few tweaks, but I’ve posted it in its edited entirety because it serves as a reminder for me and a cautionary tale for you…
Hypocrisy and Bipolar
When I read things I take them literally. I always have. So when I read things like “Love your neighbor” or “Pray for those who persecute you” I take them pretty literally. These are not just things that God is suggesting or that might be nifty if you give it a try. He means it. And before I start whining about how awful this particular neighbor is, I need to remember that God already has the 411 on what my neighbor’s really like.
When I look at my life it doesn’t line up so well with the Bible. I am not especially kind, warm, or loving by nature. My friends, however, would say otherwise, but they’re my friends. I like them. Of course, I’m going to be all warm and fuzzified with my friends, so they rarely see the other side of me, the side that I struggle to control every day. I lean towards pessimistic, cynical, and abrupt by nature. I’m bitter, resentful, fearful, and paranoid by nurture. But nature or nurture aside, I kinda thought all that would just go away when I became a Christian… like Jesus would lobotomize me or something and give me a new and improved personality.
When that didn’t happen I got angry — which is also second nature to me. Over the years, the fact that I didn’t sprout a new personality overnight… or even over several years only made me even angrier. First I got angry at God. Surely, it was HIS job to change me and make me all warm and fuzzy?? If my life didn’t line up with scripture in all the pertinent passages, it had to be HIS fault. That, of course, leaves out the notion of free will. I am perfectly free to be as pessimistic, cynical, and as angry as I want to be. God’s not going to stop me.
The fact that God didn’t stop me use to make me feel like I was a big hypocrite and that created problems for me of the mental health variety. A few years back my pastor spoke about “cognitive dissonance,” which roughly explains the disconnect we feel when our actions don’t match up with what we say we believe. In my case, these areas of disconnect (sexual addiction and mental illness) were especially troubling. I would think that I was the worst Christian ever (which I know is patently untrue). If God wasn’t going to fix me, change me, do some kind of mojo on me, then I didn’t want to live. Living with too many levels of cognitive dissonance is not good for my health. Many a suicidal episode started with me feeling spiritually inferior or bankrupt. Hypocrisy was to be avoided at all cost. How could I claim to be a member of the “Love your neighbor” religion if I didn’t even like my neighbor?
Today was the first day since my surgery that I felt really overwhelmed and out of control. The old Bipolar fears were rearing their ugly head. Just about every button that I have was being mashed big time and I spent most of my day in tears. I didn’t rush out to forgive the people who were pushing my buttons either. I also didn’t fix my eyes on God or handle the day without grumbling or complaining. I freaked out and pretty much stayed in panic mode most of the morning. All the wonderful things I say I believe about God were nowhere in sight today and I was a horrible witness at work. What must my non-believing coworkers think?
Some of what happened today was due to poor communication. Some of the stress of today was of my own making, but much of it was completely out of my control because of unrealistic expectations that other people are putting on me. And a portion of it, a rather large portion, was because somebody hurt me. Since I know it was unintentional, I know I need to talk to the person to clear the air. Ignoring the offense is only going to make things worse. Since I know what I’m supposed to do with the events of today… I need to let it go to God and be still. If I feel bad now it’s because I’m allowing myself to feel bad.
So I had a bad day and I didn’t handle it well. That doesn’t make me a hypocrite or a bad Christan or even Bipolar Girl. It makes me human. So I don’t feel a bunch of warm fuzzy feelings. SO WHAT. God is still God no matter what I feel, no matter what happens, or no matter what I feel about what happens. When the road really got rocky today, I did what I believed I needed to do: I sought out prayer. I went to the one staff member who I knew would pray for me without asking any questions. Then I tried to surrender my plans and my expectations. And when panic began to rear it’s nappy head, I texted some friends asking them to pray.
Having struggled with a mental illness for all of my Christian walk, I am used to people questioning my faith when I experienced episodes. Upon reflection, I can now see that this says more about their character and faith than it does mine. Instead of having compassion for me during a crisis and coming along side me in prayer they made judgments. If I expect other people to stop doing that to me, then I need to stop doing that to other people.
Today was not about being Bipolar, although that was a very real concern for me. It was about learning to have mercy and grace for myself because that’s the only way I’m ever going to know how to extend it to other people. Lord willing, I will not have a repeat of today, but if I do I hope to handle it with more grace than I handled today. Today was rather embarrassing and humbling. I hate being embarrassed and humbled. I’d rather humble myself before God than have him doing the humbling. But if I do have another day like today, and I still don’t handle it well… I’m going to try to do one thing differently: keep my eyes on God and keep praying.
God may not like hypocrisy, but he knows that we don’t always handles life’s challenges well. The resulting cognitive dissonance creates trouble… but God loves it when his kids look to him when they are in trouble. No loving Father would call their kid a hypocrite if they were in trouble and called out to him. A loving Father would stretch out his hand to help.