I recently picked up a book called “Grace for the Good Girl - letting go of the try-hard life.” I saw the author, Emily Freeman, on a Canadian talk show My New Day. I watched the video on you tube:
Even the title of the book sort of calls to me, because I am a good girl. I have always been the good girl. In my family when I was growing up, I was the responsible one who didn’t get in much trouble. At school, I was the smart one who got good grades and didn’t cause problems. (Often I was referred to as the “Teacher’s Pet”, which I hated because I knew it was a derogatory term, but I didn’t really understand what the problem was with that. The teachers always liked me. Isn’t that a good thing?) In high school, my “good girl” status went up a few notches because of the standards I held myself to in terms of boys. I intended to wait for sex until marriage, and that definitely made me a “good girl”, in my own eyes as well as the eyes of others.
Looking back on it, I can see that my good girl reputation and standards in this area was mostly due to fear. I was terribly afraid of getting pregnant and what my dad would do if I did. I felt desperate for male attention and romance, but I was too much of a good girl to go for just anyone. I mean, what would people think if I had a boyfriend who was a loser? I was much too smart for that! I couldn’t have anyone talking about how stupid I had been for ruining my life because of some boy that I had “fallen in love” with.
Any boy that I would allow myself to be in a relationship with had to share my faith, too. That’s the rule. You don’t have sex before you are married and you don’t date anyone who isn’t also a Christian. Now, part of this was just good judgment. My parents and Sunday School Teachers and Youth Group Leaders had taught me these things. I had also seen the results of not following these rules played out in the lives of kids at school, as well as at church. The problem came when my ability to follow the rules and make good decisions became a source of pride in my life. I judged myself to be better than those kids who didn’t “keep themselves pure”. I looked down on those girls who had the reputation of giving the boys what they wanted. In my mind, I didn’t do that because I was better than that.
In reality, I didn’t do that because I was scared . . . and because no one asked me to. I don’t really know what would have happened if the opportunity had presented itself. The day I realized that was a sobering day for me. It was quite a shock to face the fact that the great reputation I had, a good part of the way I defined myself, my great self-control, could have disappeared very quickly if a guy I really, really liked had paid attention to me and tried to take advantage of my affection. Suddenly I realized that I wasn’t better than anyone else. I was just protected. It had nothing at all to do with me and everything to do with God.
So, when you use something like your good reputation to define yourself, what happens when your life doesn’t live up to the standards that you, and everyone else, has for you. Well, if you are me, you work really hard to hide those parts of your life. You pretend like they don’t exist and make sure that no one gets close enough to see otherwise.
If you are me, and your life as a wife and mother doesn’t look like you think it should look, if it doesn’t look the way you think other people think it look, you make sure everyone is dressed their best for church on Sunday morning so that you can show up as the beautiful little coordinated family and people will think that you have it all together. You never mention the fights that you had with your children over the clothes that they are wearing. You don’t acknowledge the fact that you made your daughter cry because she wanted to wear the yellow dress, but you had decided that everyone should be wearing shades of blue today.
If you are me, you never invite people over to your house, because if they were to pass the threshold of your home they would not be able to ignore the fact that you are not a very good housekeeper and are not particularly gifted at organization. They would see all the old furniture and know that this mom has not accomplished what she should have in her life, because if she had, there would be designer furnishings and tasteful art on the walls and beautiful arrangements of family portraits in the hallway instead of this sad situation of clutter, hand-me-down sofas and piles of never-ending laundry.
These are things that must be hidden at all costs. No one must ever know, because if they did, the reputation would be ruined. People would think that I can’t hold it all together. They would think that, like my home, I must be a mess.
But the truth is. . . I AM a mess. I’m NOT holding it all together. The more I try to control everything that happens in my life, the more out of control it gets. And . . . I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of being lonely because I’m afraid that people will reject me when they see that I’m not perfect.
So, at Emily Freeman’s urging, it’s official. I will no longer be hiding behind my good reputation. After all, if the truth is that my life is messy, but I pretend like it isn’t, then really, I’m living a lie. And I think that is also called "living in denial".
What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. Ephesians 4:25 (The Message)