In our church we have what we call wards. Basically it's just the congregation, but ours is divided up geographically. So you have no choice where you go. If there is someone or something about that particular ward that you don't like, well you have two choices: you stop going to church, or you change what it is in yourself so you can function and forgive.
A ward is a very interesting thing to watch if you're a voyeur like I am. It is a microcosm of relationships between people who are forced to be together. It's not all bad, not even mostly bad, but there are downfalls for sure.
A Bishop oversees the ward and he has two counselors. These are normal everyday men who we believe that the Lord chooses to run his church on the earth. I've never had an issue with a Bishop. They all have their different styles. Some I've liked better than others, but I learned to love them all. I have on the other hand had issue with a counselor. Just one, one time. I could not even sustain this man. I just couldn't get past it. It ate me alive. All I really have to say is we ended up moving from that area and all I felt about that man later proved to be true. I have a killer instinct. It comes from a lifetime of watching. It works for good and evil.
The female relationships in wards are very interesting to watch. It seems that in our church there is a lot of competition. Or I should say that there can be, or it can get to you if you let it. I think women feel the need to compare themselves to each other to see where they are at. This causes many interesting phenomena’s. It seems to be about everything, how involved you kids are, how cute they dress, how thin you are, how many talents you have, how quickly you bounce back after having a baby, how many children you have AND how closely they are spaced. That last one kills me. I once had a sweet friend say to me that her children who are three years apart had a huge gap. That they are not spaced closely enough...WHAT?? Three years...It broke my heart because it was apparent that the competition was getting to her.
A female in our church holds so many responsibilities and I think her success is often measured by what others see on the outside...statistics if you will. What I would give to be a fly on the wall in some homes. I am a voyeur after all. I learn by watching. It's how I get through life. I watch, I ask a million questions, I pick apart and take what is good, I move on. It's the only way to survive when you are raised without influence.
I've never been one for outside appearances. I've never pretended to be something that I'm not. I don't care what my kids clothes look like as long as they are clean and the kids are happy with them. I know what it is that I am here to do and everyday I chip away and work. I don't care if my child doesn’t bear his testimony at church independently as long as he knows what the Holy Ghost is and how to use it. I've never fallen into the competition, but I've seen friends crushed by it. I wish I could teach self confidence to some of my sweet friends.
When we were deciding whether or not to have baby number four, we went to talk to the Bishop. Chris and I have relied on the counsel of our church leader very heavily throughout our marriage. The church is like our parents. Anyway, we told him of our issue and he proceeded to counsel us for a long time on how he doesn’t want us to fall into the competition of our ward. I was laughing to myself. He said wait a year or two, make sure this is what you want to do...blah blah blah yes we knew that already, but this was further proof of this....thing that women do.
But then he offered the advice that struck me. The thing we went there for, but didn't know it. He said, make sure your house is in complete order, your kids are spiritually feed and treated right, make sure the gospel is being taught and you family is strong before adding another one. He said to give them what Heavenly Father would give them. Of course we knew that already too, but to hear it again. It was good. So we tightened up a little. Made some changes, and about a year later got working on that baby...again.
I really don't think anyone has it all figured out even if they put on that front as if they do. I think everyone is scared and weak on the inside. I think if we could show that to each other we would be helping way more. When I get really...well...I call it honest...Chris says it's "Melissa in the raw". I think everyone should really be more like that. Not mean or cruel, just honest, with themselves, with each other. Honest on the inside and out. Independent of others projections. It's a much better place to be.