My brand of fundamentalism had several unhealthy intersections with ‘poor man thinking‘, inferiority, doormat mentality, and dissatisfaction. Here’s what I mean.
Growing up, the overarching theme that framed every aspect of living was that our primary purpose in everything that we do is to reach out the unsaved so that they get saved, and go to heaven instead of hell when they die. This involved the ‘sub-ideas’ that I should be a witness and testimony everywhere to everyone at all times. In other words, when I was outside my house, I was ‘on.’ My personal interests, personality, ego, all took a seat to this heavy yoke.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” from Matthew 11:29, 30 was not true for me. My personal yoke was heavy, and I was nothing more than a Christian ox whose mission in life was to faithfully pull the Gospel Wagon everywhere I went.
Since the only thing that mattered was not me, I was taught to take being teased and insulted ‘for testimony sake.’ In other words, be a doormat to let other people walk on me because they might accept Jesus as their Personal Savior if I keep my feelings and more importantly, my angry words to myself.
Keeping my feelings inside meant a few things; First, I had few personal boundaries that others would respect, and I eventually lost my own ability to stand up for my own needs and wants. I became looked upon as a ‘wimp’ if not by others in reality, at least by my own self-internalization. I became unable to voice what I needed. Guess how this impacted future relationships? Secondly, I lost all my personal power. I grew up feeling powerless and too afraid to speak up asking for what I needed or wanted. Sadly, when I really had enough, my ‘speaking up’ erupted as a volcano of anger. Secondly, I became all things to all people, a chameleon in order to get along. This led to a perverted sense of internal pride on my part when I realized that I could control the conversation with other people, and it gave me a sense of pseudo-power.
In fact, I looked for power and acceptance in all the wrong places. My sense of ‘power’ came from trivial ego ideas, like thinking that ‘I am smarter than most people’ or ‘I am more morally upright than most folks’, etc..ad nauseum. . .but I always knew that I had no real power because in addition to being physically small, our family also had very little money, so I always had less than other ‘normal people.’
And having less money, meant (to me anyway), that I was less than other people. I connected money with power. And I’ve always wanted to make lot’s of money because then I wouldn’t be powerless to bill collectors, banks, the IRS, etc…Okay, we are all under the thumb of the IRS regardless!
My perceived lack of money, gave me a realization of how much living I missed out on. Our family never took 2 week vacations to anywhere. No Hawaii, no Disney Land, no trips to foreign countries. Just fast, short trips to visit family. I have lived a very small, limited life. And this has spawned dissatisfaction with many situations I’ve found myself in because I’m never content.
To me, being content almost equals giving up. Picking a course and staying on course feels like being trapped, when there might be ‘other options’ that could be better! But this twisted thinking merely translates into starting things without finishing them. Spinning my wheels in very similar ruts.
But hey, what really mattered in my life? Me or making sure that I was the proper Christian Salesman for ‘the Gospel’?
And what if ‘the Gospel’ fails before it even starts? And I think it does. So what does this mean to me?
I was forced to be a ‘Christian Salesman’ for a failed cause. I wasted my life, I missed out on a hell of a lot that ‘normal’ people routinely enjoyed! I was so screwed up going into my marriage, I had so many stupid, false expectations of ‘how things should be’, that it was almost the perfect storm. Except that storm destroyed the most precious soul of a loyal, smart, brave, gentle woman who never deserved the devastation I brought.
Now, my task is to take responsibility to fix my own character flaws, gather up the pieces broken in the storm, and create the best life that I can. What does that look like?
Well to me, it looks like being aware of the lies, the false expectations, judgmental attitudes, the internal drive to always ‘defend the truth’ which really means I am being a jerk to people who disagree with my particular views. Then replace the angry lies with a positive, truthful supportive mental state. I will have to work at being accepting of other folks, being gentle in my spirit, forgive myself.
This will be a lifetime engaging work in progress. . .