When I was in my fundy church, there was so much pressure to be “real”, and yet only the approved definition of “real”.
In some ways, we were much more dishonest with ourselves and others.
When I was in grade 4, our class just discovered “crushes”. You had to tell your close friends who you had a crush on, or they wouldn’t be your friends. Then, of course, they would go and tell everyone else, or at least your crush. What kind of friends would they be if they didn’t try to ‘help’ you?
I told everyone I had a crush on Jesus. It wasn’t true, although I thought that if I was a better Christian it would be. I didn’t trust my classmates. Jesus was safe; he wasn’t in my class.
We were pressured to be “honest” about our failings, which is one way to feel very close to people. The other kids in my highschool just got drunk with each other. Us church kids confided our secrets around bonfires and prayed with each other. It was the same way of finding intimacy in shared vulnerability.
I think this was a substitute for feeling intimate and connected without having to do the work of really getting to know someone. We could just confess our sins, one to another! Instant blackmail material, instant closeness.
Interestingly, our youth group’s secrets looked surprisingly the same. During our accountability meetings it was ok for me to admit I didn’t read my bible enough. (That was the safest thing to admit to, no one could say they read their bible enough!) No one ever shared about a same-sex attraction, although there were lots of juicy confessions of the other kind.
Lust was a commonly acknowledged sin, but anger at the church leaders who continually talked about their lust and then demanded the women and girls to cover more skin … that was only expressed by the rebels who skipped church.
It was ok to confess not having enough of whatever virtue, especially love and patience, or of not “sharing the word” when the opportunity came up.
It was not ok to admit to questioning the bible, or God, or the church’s teachings. It was not ok to admit pride, envy, or rage. Depression was fine, especially if you were female.
We tried hard to be the right kind of open and vulnerable. So, if we were depressed, self-doubting, and constantly putting ourselves down for not being the perfect christian, we fit right in!
I am so used to confessing a proper sin during every conversation, that it is taking me a while to realize I don’t have to. Ironically it lets me be, if not more real, at least less fake.