Saturday, September 13, 2008

The joy of being me

"Conformity" is defined as: 1) action in accord with prevailing social standards, attitudes, practices, etc. 2) compliance or acquiescence; obedience. (dictionary .com)

Religion, to survive, demands conformity. There are few or no choices. Individuality is discouraged and everyone is expected to think the same and to act the same.

It's considered a badge of honor to be there whenever the door is opened. When programs are instituted, everyone is expected to participate. The entire group is expected to be involved in the same Bible studies or discipleship groups. One of my previous posts attempted to describe the conformity that takes place during "corporate worship." In this atmosphere, the group is told what songs to sing, when to stand, when to sit and when to clap.

No allowance is made for the fact that people have different needs and are in different places in their journeys. Conformity to group expectations is considered to be more important than any differences in circumstances. With those pressure to conform as motivation, we develop what I think of as a cookie cutter religion.

By conforming to a group's expectations, our individual personalities are squelched. We become a different person to appease the group and we don't allow the real person to come out. As a result, our needs are never fully met nor do we ever fully develop as real people. This leads to insecurity, confusion and frustration and we lose the ability to hear God for ourselves and to make our own decisions. Instead of moving naturally, we need programs and leaders to tell us what to do and how to do it.

We've all been uniquely created with different personalities and different likes and dislikes. When the real person has been freed, there will be a flow to our actions. We'll respond in a way that is natural to us instead of trying to be someone we're not.

For years, I struggled to make myself into an intercessor but somehow, it just wasn't a good fit. I never could comfortably squeeze myself into that mold. It was only when I gave up trying to be who I wasn't that I experienced peace. Now, as I'm learning to move naturally the way I was created, Father is re-teaching me how to pray. Also, I'm finding that the need to fit in is lessening. I no longer feel as though I have to participate in activities that are not helpful just to please others.

I believe this conformity can promote immaturity in believers. In order to grow and mature, we need to allow Father to remove the masks so that we can be honest about who we are and what we really believe. We need to learn to be honest with ourselves, then with God and finally with others.

After all the years of trying to fit in, I found that I didn't even know who I was. The real me was hidden under so many layers of pretense that I didn't even know myself or what I wanted. Finding myself has been a process which I'm still trying to work through. Occasionally, there are setbacks and wrong turns but slowly I'm seeing the real me emerge and what's amazing is that I'm finding that the real me is a pretty neat person.

"We have been a generation of people who don't know who we are." - Darin Hufford

11 comments:

Karen (SoCal) said...

Hi Aida....it's a precious thing to begin to know yourself and like who you are. most of my life i sort of lived vicariously through others or had to have my experience or choices validated by others. have you read the book True Faced?

Aida said...

Karen, you're right. It really is a precious thing. Like you, I've been very insecure most of my life. It's only in the last few years that I've been experiencing this freedom and I'm really enjoying it.

I haven't read the book. Do you recommend it?

silent wings said...

I really appreciated you sharing this. You really articulated what I am slowly discovering.

Aida said...

Silent wings, I believe this really is a common experience. It's only as Father begins to open our eyes that we can see what's happening.

I'm glad you were able to relate.

Maureen said...

Aida I do relate so well to what you are saying in this post. Religion does seem to command conformity. And being "involved" somehow equals loyalty and fulfillment of the requirements of being a good Christian.

The institutional church has many ways to be involved. Sadly, so much of the activity does little to foster true connection and fellowship. It is much about attendance and organizing and, last but not least, food preparation. When we really should be connecting, during corporate gatherings, we are simply spectators who do some behind the scenes work to support the up front ones that lead. We are left mute in our pews, with no opportunity to release the giftings we have been given, or share the life of Christ with our brothers and sisters. Then we all trundle home again, supposedly having deepened our fellowhip with each other. It's like going to the same play over and over and over again, and never getting past the opening line.

It is truly a relief to let go of those requirements and just let God lead as He wills in my life. And though I am still in process, it is an even bigger relief to stop trying to be someone that I'm not, and know that I will always be accepted in the Beloved.

Thanks for an encouraging post.

Aida said...

Hi Maureen,

I can really relate to what you've said. Sitting mute in our pews is a great description of life in religion.

Following God without all of the manmade rules is exciting. At first it seemed strange and difficult because I wasn't used to it but now it's become, in my opinion, the only way to live.

Thanks for your comments.

Bino M. said...

I have sat in the pew and watched the religious show enough. Enough is enough! Jesus has given us a life to live, which is not that 'safe' as living in the confinement of religion, but it is worth taking the risk.

Manuela said...

I so agree... You explain it clearly and well! The pressure to conform is too great and, you're right, people lose who they are and who God made then to be. I am so glad to be out and at peace with it. I praise God...
I so agree with this you wrote-

"No allowance is made for the fact that people have different needs and are in different places in their journeys. Conformity to group expectations is considered to be more important than any differences in circumstances. With those pressure to conform as motivation, we develop what I think of as a cookie cutter religion."

So very, very, true. I remember this happening at a small group I was in and seeing that this one girl was just really distresed and needing to hear that what we were learning that day may not be applicable to her and where she was at. I'm glad the Lord gave me the courage to bring it up in discussion, though I don't know if she accepted it. When I was in the IC, I could see how this was happening to others but not always when it was happening to me. So I am very glad to be out. The system's pressure is just too great sometimes!
Anyway, you really have a gift for explaining complex things clearly. Keep being you : )

Manuela said...

Can I quote you on my blog and put a link to your page...?

Aida said...

"Jesus has given us a life to live, which is not that 'safe' as living in the confinement of religion, but it is worth taking the risk."

Great comment, Bino. We follow a God who is wild by nature and he leads us into areas where our only security is in him but I can't think of a better way to live.

Aida said...

Manuela, sometimes we really just need to get away from it in order to find out who we are. Once we're away from the artificiality of the institutional environment we can see more clearly.

I'm glad that you're starting to experience freedom to be yourself.

Thanks for your comments. Of course, you can quote me in your blog and link to my blog. You're very gracious to ask.