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Breaking a daughter

One way crazy religion is crazy is in putting massive pressure on people to distort their own natures and aptitudes and wants. The fancy name for this sadistic habit is “dying to self.” A “broken daughter” tells us what it feels like.

Some people don’t seem to bother that much, but it’s always been hard for me to be as selfless as I was expected to be. You see, I’m a very private, calm, introvert kind of person. Though I grew up in a big family, I always liked being alone. I’m not much of a team player, I prefer doing things all by myself. I didn’t hate having a big family where there was always somebody, quite the opposite, I loved it. But I always tried to make room for myself in some way. That didn’t mean that I wanted to do things I liked, it was more like just being by myself doing ANYTHING really. I hated washing dishes. I loved doing it alone. I didn’t like vacuuming. It was ok as long as I was alone. Everything I didn’t like in a group I usually liked if I could just do it by myself. I treasured the quiet moments, though my hands were busy, my mind was free to wander, not occupied by yet another conversation, prayer, training or anything like that.

In other words her brain wanted periods of rest. It’s perfectly natural and reasonable…but oh no, it’s not what Jesus would have done.

Now my Dad was eager to teach all of us, especially the girls, that dying to self is key to life and salvation. You weren’t allowed to do anything fun, you were asked to serve others every moment of your life. If you didn’t listen to him, he’d have a speech prepared. “It always about ME ME ME. Do you think Jesus was like that? Do you think he would have died on the cross for us if he cared about himself? NO! He would have hidden somewhere and lived happily ever after! He wasnt about ME. So why are YOU?” and so on. I felt really bad every time I heard that. I started wondering if Jesus could even love me if I kept acting like this. I tried to train myself. I didn’t allow myself to do things alone. When I had to wash dishes, I called one of my smaller sisters over to help me, to teach her to be a servant and a good housewife. How to keep things in order. When I was working in the garden, I asked my brothers to do boy stuff, like carrying the heavy water buckets for me. I desperately waited for God to reward my selflessness. I gave up what I liked in order to feel as good as the people who kept raving about how great it feels to be selfless, how God rewards you for it. But I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel any different at all except that I was more stressed out than ever.

And for no good reason; there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be alone while washing the dishes, but the patriarch had to fiddle and fidget for Jesus.

Right now, I’m sitting here in complete silence. I’m all alone, doing stuff by myself. I’m selfish. I’m detestable. I’m lost. And I like it. God is quiet, he doesn’t bother me with his voices anymore. I now will go into the kitchen and have a coffee in complete silence, closing my eyes and enjoying nothingness. And I know that God will still be quiet.

And no harm will be done to anyone. Free at last.

Comments

  1. Michael says

    It sounds like I’m making it up but it’s true: Back in the 1950’s our Sunday School teacher told us that when she was a child her father would tell her off if she laughed on Sunday. “Now, now, girl, it’s Sunday…”

  2. Ophelia Benson says

    Oh no I believe it. I’ve read enough about 19th century Sundays for it to seem entirely plausible.

  3. julian says

    I now will go into the kitchen and have a coffee in complete silence, closing my eyes and enjoying nothingness. And I know that God will still be quiet.

    Beautiful.

  4. ospalh says

    You weren’t allowed to do anything fun…

    Isn’t the central tennant of Christianity to love the other like yourself? That sounds like you should love yourself, to a degree. “Dying to self” sounds not only like a terrible idea, but unbiblical, too.

  5. Sheesh says

    This pretty much breaks my heart. I’m sure if I cared to look some fundamentalist patriarch (or ‘well-meaning Good Christian’, natch) has taken “idle hands are the devil’s plaything/workshop/whatever” to its absurd conclusion to the same ends.

    Why can’t people see this is harmful to children if not outright abuse?

  6. says

    Isn’t the central tennant of Christianity to love the other like yourself?

    Yes and no. It’s a bit complicated. There are many statements and sentences in the Bible, and each specific branch of Christianity seems to put more weight on some than others.
    Even branches and people that claim to regard the Bible as God’s literal words disagree wildly on how one should behave as a Christian.
    It’s a consequence of the fact that:
    1. Most Christians would agree that noone is free of ‘sin’, and that for this reason we must seek forgiveness through Christ. If not for that, any sin at all would get you thrown to Hell.
    2. So to some degree, we must accept that sin happens.
    3. However, that does not mean you can just run around murdering people, for instance. So we must still be conscious of sin.
    4. But does that mean we must also be deeply sexist, as is often commanded? Or feel bad about not being it? Or should we just willfully ignore such commands from the Bible?

    And that is where such trouble start. It is practially impossible to stay consistent. Some will try to follow as many directions as possible, some will ignore most of it. Most will pick and choose what seems sensible to them.
    And then, even worse, the moral code gets passed down through the generations and can distort into something even more horrible.

    I am glad she found silence. I felt a bit that myself, though my experience as child has been nowhere near that horrifying.

  7. Beth says

    I didn’t read the link. I probably shouldn’t.

    I died to self, or made a grand attempt to that effect. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it nearly killed me. It never seemed to occur to anyone that someone could take their words so seriously.

    It wasn’t just my parents who did it. In fact, they rarely degraded me with religious language aside from “Honor thy father and mother” and “Children, obey your parents”. No, it was Christians, particularly ones from the church, who figured that any kid complaining of mistreatment by their “good Christian parents” who were in church at every meeting was obviously lying, disobedient, and impudent. I remember these verses (KJV) playing a large part in death to self:
    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
    “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

    The former meant I was evil inside; the latter meant I shouldn’t even trust my own thoughts. This fit in quite nicely with things going on at home. Any pleasure I took in my accomplishments was pride and worthy of punishment. Thinking I was good in any way was being full of myself. And why should I? at home, nothing I did was ever right. As for the latter… it fit because my parents gaslighted me. What horrible thing happened one afternoon had never happened by the night and the awful thing that happened at night never happened by the next morning. By the time I was willing to talk about it, I was constantly told my parents were good and only wanted the best for me — and that I was evil for saying anything.

    The church taught death to self especially to the kids. Put yourself last. If you have to think of yourself at all, think of yourself as something disgusting. Obviously I wasn’t practicing this if I was complaining about the treatment by my good Christian parents, so a pastor took special interest in “helping” me. When I was crying, he took me aside and told me to stop. When I told him I felt worthless, he said, “Good. You are worthless!” and showed me some NT bible verses, though I can’t remember which ones.

    I guess I as good as died to self then. Didn’t help. In any case, I was then told that I couldn’t love others unless I loved myself. Some catch, that catch-22: If you love yourself, you’re evil; if you don’t love yourself, you’re incapable of love altogether. Whatever you do, you lose. Is it any wonder my thoughts turned to suicide?

    Yes, I got out. It was a very long road.

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