Self awareness and growth are two aspects of life that I value very much. But, they are not always easy and often come with some discomfort. The last couple weeks have been full of personal epiphanies and a fair amount of tears.
When I realized that I’m a Perfectionist, or an Enneagram Type 1, it helped clarify a lot of aspects of how I process thoughts and feelings. I definitely related to the desire to control and the harsh inner critic that is constantly telling me what I should do or what could be done better. I related less intensely to the passion of this type which is resentment or repressed anger. Also, I didn’t focus on the desire to “be good” and take responsibility for everything.
Through a recent situation at work, I recognized that I’d spun quite a story in order to preserve my belief that I was good and right. As I unpacked what happened and how I’d responded, it was very apparent that being “good” was the motivation behind my behavior. I’ve also come to see how often I take responsibility for the outcome of situations that are really not under my control. This isn’t the best quality as a manager, since one of my primary jobs is to hold others accountable for their work performance!
As I’ve been processes these experiences, I’ve spent a lot of time praying. I’ve been feeling unsettled and realized that I’ve strayed from many of my mindfulness practices that help me stay in the moment. Instead, I’ve been fused with my thoughts, aka “stuck in my head”. This is the pattern of my life. Surrendering and letting go usually takes a few days of prayer, defusing my thoughts, and accepting my feelings.
This morning, bright and early, I sat outside and read the Bible and a few pages of Thomas Merton’s No Man Is An Island. Merton describes “pure intention” as the desire for God’s will and “impure intention” as the desire for your own will. This passage struck me powerfully:
Only a pure intention can be clear-sighed and prudent. The man of impure intention is hesitant and blind. Since he is always caught between two conflicting wills, he cannot make simple and clear-cut decisions. He has twice as much to think about as the man who seeks only the will of God, since he has to worry about his own will and God’s will at the same time. He cannot be really happy, because happiness is impossible without interior freedom, and we do not have interior freedom to do what we please without anxiety, unless we take pleasure in nothing but the will of God.thomas merton
Wow. When Dennis and the kids came out to the backyard a few minutes later, I read them this passage and asked Dennis, “Can you read me this every morning?” He replied, “Let’s post it up all over the house!” He knows me well.
Sienna asked me what that passage meant. As I described it, I explained, “Sometimes I really like to feel in control, but it pits my will against God’s, which causes me a lot of unnecessary frustration and anxiety.” She looked at me with her big brown eyes (I swear that child looks straight into my soul) and simply said, “You’re good.” Those words touched something inside me as I’d recently come to know how deeply I desire to be good. Tears sprang to my eyes as I gave her a hug.
These tender moments of connection truly give life meaning. These are the moments that I miss when I’m “in my head” being all efficient and under control. While a desire to “be good” is a helpful trait, it can quickly become all consuming. Always being good is impossible and leads me away from dependence on Christ’s righteousness and grace. God is good and His will is perfect.
All my seeking and striving finally rest when I rest in God.