Sunday, October 21, 2012

hidden false guilt?

This past week has been interesting. I read some cheap romantic suspense novel, Code of Justice by Liz Johnson (Steeple Hill Books, New York, 2011), but it contained two people feeling responsible for things they really weren't completely responsible for. In one person, this was manifested in guilt from the past. In the other person, she felt like she had to do something to be responsible. Anyway, it was a Christian novel, so they end up giving it over to God and being free from their incorrectly assumed responsibility and guilt.

So then I was thinking about myself and past church experiences where churches fell apart. And I'm not really sure why I said it, but I said something to myself about my not being responsible for either church's demise. And saying that made me feel relieved.

The confusing thing to me is that I know so clearly that I couldn't be responsible for either one. I wasn't one of the main actors in the drama. In fact, I didn't do much. A conversation with a pastor here, a letter and conversation there, mostly just helping lead music at church, and watching my family suffer. Aside from freaking out about being deceived by a pastor who's message was less than accurate, watching my family struggle over it (and myself struggle for years to get passed it) has been the hardest part. I don't really blame the "bad guys," because that is too much work, and I'm supposed to forgive and I've been working on forgiving for years. I want to blame God, but that doesn't work out too well, you know? I believe God is good, but he let confusing things happen, so it looks like he let me down, but I believe he doesn't actually do that, so I leave it that I still believe him and I feel confused. But I didn't think I blamed myself, because there is very little, very little to rationally allow me to blame myself, and I am aware of that. In fact, so aware of that that I pretty much overlooked the possibility that I blamed myself.

But I did come up with this strange idea in my head that if I helped lead music at a church, then it would fall apart/have serious trouble. But I knew it was illogical. So I just wanted to prove to myself that it was illogical. Only, my last attempt at such a proof was not completely successful. I do realize that it isn't a fair test, because anything bad happening for years after I play music in a church can still be blamed on the fact that I stood in front of people with my guitar and helped lead singing. But I wanted proof, anyway.

Now, I want to play music at my new church. I know it will probably spike my anxiety, but I'd like to sit it out and get rid of it. But recently, I've been thinking that maybe I will never be able to prove this to myself. (The fact that I have OCD should lend strength to this new assumption.) But now, I'm wondering, if I could just accept that it wasn't my fault, that none of it was my fault of the bad things that happened, of me being deceived, of all of it, would I be able to sit through a sermon relaxed? Would I be able to drop the "on-guard," stressful way of listening, measuring every word to see if there was some big problem there? Something I should act on so as not to suffer like I did with the first church or with the second church that fell apart? If I wasn't responsible for spotting any incorrect teaching, if I wasn't morally obligated to find and respond to every significant error, would things get better? Put in these terms, I wonder if OCD decided to join in the post-church-death struggle. Is there some kind of scrupulous hyper-responsibility that I picked up? And if there is, how do I change it?

Aside from OCD, I'd think, I need to teach myself that it wasn't my fault. Great. I really don't know how to do that, aside from saying it and trying to believe it.

If it is OCD, then I can conduct exposures. Like sitting through sermons not looking for problems, risking being "led astray" and suffering another disturbing Church death experience. Because I've been sitting through sermons, so I've got the Exposure part in there. I think it is the Response Prevention that needs added in. Or maybe some kind of mental scripts to more completely expose myself to my less-than-rational fears?

In other words, hard work. But not doing that hard work isn't working out too well for me, so I guess I'm ready to tackle it. I think I might want to wait and talk to my counselor, first, though, and get her input.


  1. Boy - I have not been through a painful church experience like you have. I am sorry. I can only imagine how painful that is.

    I identify a lot with what you said about thinking that because a situation happened a certain way once, or even twice, then it will always turn out that way. Like you say, I KNOW it's irrational, but the feeling is still so strong!

    Your new church sounds like a neat place; hope it will become a safe place for you.