We are continuing to examine the possible symptoms of “Spiritual” Dementia we began in our previous posts.
Closely related to the need to be seen correctly, is how Audrey took everything personally. Because of her paranoia, everything that happened to her was threatening. After six months in an assisted living facility, we moved Audrey out because she was completely distressed. She believed that people were gossiping about her, hated her, and some were trying to kill her. If someone was whispering, they were whispering about her. If someone was upset with life, they were upset with her. Everything was a reflection of her. The world revolved around her.
Yet, why am I surprised by her responses when I’m just as focused on taking things personally? It’s all about me! And not surprisingly, the Lord was revealing that through Audrey! When I fixed her breakfast in the mornings, sometimes she would make a comment about some aspect of it. One time she said, “Kathy, I couldn’t eat all the cereal because you put too little milk with it and it got too dry.”
My defensiveness reared its ugly head and I thought, “I can never please her. I always do it wrong. She is so critical.”
But then when I stepped back emotionally and saw the facts, I caught myself. Audrey was raised in the depression and to waste anything was akin to being sinful. All the meals she fixed for us over the years always ended with her scraping whatever was left onto Larry’s plate saying, “Eat this or else it’ll go to waste.” Unfortunately, it all went to his waist!
I realized that her comment about leaving the cereal wasn’t about me, it was about her. She was saying, “I hope you won’t think badly of me that I wasted the cereal. But I couldn’t eat it, it was too dry.” I could just imagine her being shamed as a child when she wasted anything. The little girl within her was still compelled to explain why.
Seeing the underlying reason for Audrey’s comment helped me not make everything about me. She wasn’t being critical; she was just protecting herself from being seen as wasteful–a shameful thing.
Remembering these dynamics has helped me to be more aware of times when I think people are being rude or unfair with me. What is going on within them that created that reaction? Maybe it’s not all about me but their own struggles. How can I reach out to love them and give them grace regardless, and not withdraw myself in a protective response? Maybe loving them well means subjecting myself to possible hurt.
I’m always impressed when I see the Apostle Paul’s Epistles to the people he mentored. When they struggle, he doesn’t take it personally. Even if he says they are a reflection of him, he still reaches out to them in the midst of their problems. He doesn’t withdraw himself from them trying to avoid their rejection or to force them to change.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:12-14: “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace. For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
Although he wants to boast about them, he recognizes that it’s God who is supposed to work in them; he is not totally responsible. I am learning that also as I face the form of spiritual dementia that makes everything about me.
Next time we’ll look at the symptom of “Where’s My Value?”