J was the mother of two good children and the wife of a decent guy. From the outside everything looked like a happy family. But behind closed doors it was anything but. J’s overpowering need for everything to be right (according to her standards) was driving everyone away. And the worst thing about it was that she couldn't see it. Her interpretation was that she was saddled with a lazy and ungrateful family. But the truth was that her overly high standards and the rigid way in which she kept them were crushing her family.
And so she went around feeling bitter and disappointed and often isolated and alone, because her family tried to steer clear of her and her minefield of unrealistic expectations.
At work she got accolades from her boss for her high level of performance, but her co-workers felt that she was not a safe person, that anger was just below the surface, and so they did not engage with her like with other fellow employees. She just thought they were jealous and beneath her. But still, she was alone.
Diagnostically, we could come up with a whole list of possible pathologies¸ but the Bible would probably label J as hard-hearted or un-yielded or stiff-necked. And that would be true. Her own personal emotional and spiritual journey needs to include recovery from this un-loving attitude towards others.
But as much as I feel for J’s family and co-workers, I also feel deep compassion for J. Her life is not easy. As hard as she may drive others, she feels intense pressure to drive herself even more. She is constantly seeking validation that she is worthy, but never feeling completely at peace about it.
What do you do if you are J’s family?
You speak the truth in love – a lot of love, not backing away in anger or frustration. J’s husband, who has, but often does not feel power in the relationship, must especially hold loving boundaries.
What if you are J?
There is probably a complex spiritual and emotional battle going on inside of you. It is a jumble of issues related to your family of origin, temperament, and experiences of loss. The results are a foundation of fear and anxiety with its attendant coping mechanisms, one of which is not to acknowledge the fear and anxiety, but to externalize the problem.
This is where understanding God’s unconditional acceptance of you is crucial. When you feel His acceptance, you will begin to accept yourself and others. Grace, rather than critical judgment will flow from you, which will attract others to you like moths to a flame.
This is a journey you cannot attempt alone. It requires spending time in a healing community as well as spending time in solitude with God. It means surrendering your belief that you have a right to share your opinion or be heard above all others. And that will feel like sacrificing and suffering – because it is.
You can be right, or you can be in relationship. But you can’t have both.