I’m thinking a lot these days about that old adage, “work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends on God.”
I’m definitely a “work like it depends on you” kind of person. The thing about scrupulousness is that if you aren’t doing All The Things 100%, you think you’re not doing enough. You may be doing things A-G, but things H and I are still sitting there. What if your modest contribution was the tiny drop that made the difference between success and failure? It doesn’t matter if Things H and I are totally outside your comfort zone. In fact, that’s all the more reason why you ought to get over yourself and do them.
It sounds nonsensical when put into words–egotistical, even.
I recently listened to an interfaith podcast where they explored personality types not by Meyers-Briggs, but by enneagram, through a lens of how personality impacts faith: what we’re good at, what our spiritual “fatal flaw” is. The enneagram makes more sense to me than Meyers-Briggs. I can’t keep all those letters straight. But on the enneagram scale, I am a #1. To a T.
So for me, it’s natural to work like it all depends on me. I’m aware of the need to balance that with the “pray like it depends on God.” And I do. I pray a lot.
(But do I pray enough? asks scrupulousness.)
The purpose of that aphorism is to stress the need for balance, but for a person who bears the cross of scrupulousness, there is no balance. It’s always “more, more, more.” On both sides of the equation.
When I express this, certain people chastise me for lack of faith: if only you would trust God/Jesus/give it to Mary, all this internal conflict would go away.
No doubt that’s true for some personality types, but not for an enneagram #1. Anxiety binds itself around you like a spiderweb. You can’t get rid of it. It sticks to you no matter how much you try to shake it off.
Most people don’t “get” this. They seem to think I’m choosing the angst–as if I haven’t spent my life looking for a fix. Through solitude in nature, I can find temporary (and partial) respite. I can nudge myself a degree or two in the direction of release, but the current inexorably brings me back. It is how I was made.
I’m working toward being at peace with this, though. Because the fact is, God doesn’t make mistakes, so if I was made this way, it was for a reason. And if that’s the case, then in this apparent weakness (the people on the podcast said, “Oh, those poor people!” when hearing the description of Enneagram #1), there must be strength, too. A gift to be given, a gift that in fact requires this particular set of traits.
I don’t have it all figured out, but I can #seethegood at least this far: I recognize that my scrupulousness helps me to be a better steward of God’s gifts. It challenges me to use those gifts to the best of my ability. And it prevents me from living an unexamined life filled with conflict between my faith and my lived actions. I have a whole different set of conflicts to wrestle, but at least it’s a clear-eyed, authentic struggle.