EXTEND GRACE

As many of my readers know, I have obsessive compulsive disorder.

Wikipedia defines the condition this way: mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called “rituals”), or have certain thoughts repeatedly (called “obsessions”). People are unable to control either the thoughts or the activities for more than a short period of time. Common activities include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. Some may have difficulty throwing things out. These activities occur to such a degree that the person’s daily life is negatively affected. This often takes up more than an hour a day. Most adults realize that the behaviors do not make sense. The condition is associated with ticsanxiety disorder, and an increased risk of suicide.

Some parts of this definition describe me. Others do not. I am not a compulsive hand-washer, and instead of “having difficulty throwing things out,” I feel compelled to purge.

I detest owning extra anything. When I begin obsessing over the fact that I have too many shirts, spatulas, Band-Aids, bath towels, etc., I go into full-fledged panic attacks, and some of these things must go.

My husband teases that he is afraid to leave me alone when we are having a garage sale. He fears I may sell our house for $10.

So, you ask, “Why are you telling me this?”

I am telling you this to educate you on this condition. You may know other people who are diagnosed with the disorder or display symptoms of it.

The OCD sufferer probably looks completely normal. She may seem a bit odd at times, but who doesn’t? But inside, she is often a raging mess.

She may be frantically counting the letters in the words she hears you speak. She may be panicking about having unintentionally harmed someone. At one time I feared (illogically, yes) that I may have been the force that prompted a man I didn’t even know and who lived in another state to kill his children.

The level of my fear of causing harm to people is off the chart. I have felt guilty for causing divorces, car accidents, illnesses, and violent crimes that I could not possibly have caused.

And, I am preoccupied with these fears. If you notice I am not listening to you when you speak, or I snap at you for no apparent reason, or I insist upon doing something that seems irrational (repeatedly checking the news feed on my phone), know this: I am acting on emotional impulses I haven’t yet managed to control.

Someone, and people disagree about who it was, said this: Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

You know this is true. You, being one part of the people included in the phrase “everyone you meet,” almost certainly fight battles. I don’t know what they are; therefore, I may not make allowances for them. I am sorry.

Don’t make quick judgments about people. Realize that you don’t know everything about anyone. And some of the things you don’t know are significant, life-altering, and painful. Make being kind your natural, default way of interacting with everyone.

And always, always extend grace.

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14 thoughts on “EXTEND GRACE”

  1. I don’t understand why people aren’t kind to each other. I think you are a happier person when you are always nice and it is not hard to be kind. I would love to live in a world where everyone is kind.

    1. Amen! Possibly they aren’t kind because they did not experience kindness when they were growing up and becoming who they were to be as adults. Maybe they literally don’t know how to be kind.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It takes a great amount of courage to let others into your life in this way. I have so much respect for you, and know how you have worked to deal with this. You know I’m here, and by the way, I may have to turn you loose on my house to set up for the garage sale. 😊

  3. Thank you, Debbie, for your boldness and courage to be so transparent about your OCD diagnoses. Yes, for sure, we all have our private issues and fight our battles. If I were to tell you some of mine, I think you would be shocked. And yes, the world would be a better place if kindness could be our default. Kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit we are to embrace. I’ve always heard it said that it takes less muscles to smile than to frown!

    1. Thank you, Becky. Maybe God is counting on all of us to live more transparent lives. When we share our problems, we give other people “permission” to share theirs without fear of ridicule or rejection.

  4. I was so ignorant about OCD until I had a daughter that was diagnosed with this. So regret my lack of understanding for many years. Shame on me!

    1. Belva, you have NO REASON to feel shamed for not recognizing your daughter’s OCD problem. She probably hid much of it from you, as I hid mine. You loved her the best you could and that’s all any of us parents can do. You have been a true blessing to THIS OCD sufferer! I never feel a hint of rejection or judgment from you.

  5. Debbie, I’ll raise my teacup to that! I have that saying about be kind because everyone is fighting a hard battle on a plaque in my laundry room! It never ceases to amaze me how after getting to know someone better, we share more in common than not. I recently read a kids novel Perloo the Bold by Avi (I’d never even heard of the book until a few days ago), and there was a saying in it something to the effect that if you get to know your enemy before you hate him, you might not have an enemy. So it’s not exactly what you’re saying, but kinda. Well done as usual, Debbie!

    1. Thank you, Julie. I hope my talking about my OCD will free other OCD people to talk about theirs. There is so much healing to be had in speaking out loud about an inner issue.

  6. We have a bit of OCD in our family, too. But like you, not all of the traits. Perhaps a bit of OCD isn’t a bad thing:) It keeps things clean and running smoothly.

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