Welcome Fellow Good Girls!!! How did everyone like the first three chapters of Grace for the Good Girl? Her words were soothing to my soul...as I read, I kept thinking, "Yep, I do that," or "That's Me." Anybody else? If you are joining us and haven't had a chance to read yet, no worries - just try to catch up before next week. I know your heart will be filled by reading this book. To kick things off, we are just going to go ahead and ask:
Are You a Good Girl in Hiding?
This week we are focusing on hiding behind our performance and good reputations. Emily begins the study with the idea of us hiding behind our masks and she uses the example of the masquerade ball in Phantom of the Opera. As good girls, our hiding is much more clever. Emily says, "The masks I chose to hide behind were not obviously offensive. In so many ways, the life of this good girl mirrors that of the party guests at the masquerade ball. My masks were nice. They were lovely. They were bubbly and likeable and attractive. They were the masks of a good girl. Yet, I hid behind them."
Is that what it means to you to be a good girl? To be nice and bubbly and do everything right? For me, I have spent my whole life being a good girl. Those that know me personally can attest to this. I smile at you in the hallway. I was the cheerleader in high school, always trying to keep my effervescence afloat. In college I excelled in extra-curricular activities. I was dependable, likeable, and people could trust me. But, under all of this, I too have been hiding.
Hiding behind my guilt. I couldn't allow myself to make a mistake. If I did something even slightly wrong, I would have an insatiable amount of guilt about it afterward.
Hiding behind my fear. Fear of taking risks. Worse, fear of people not liking me. Emily writes, "It doesn't matter who you are; I want you to like me and I will hide my real self - with all of my real problems and issues and fears - so you can see what I consider to be my best." Emily, I feel the same way.
As I hid behind this fear of not being liked, this led to a fear of rejection. Like Emily, whenever I feel rejected - whether real or perceived - I let that thought get into my head and I question it for days on end. That constant tormenting inside of me leads to defensiveness (because I hate to be wrong). Then, I begin to worry or get anxious about a situation. It is just a spiral of terribleness. I LOVE what Emily says about this: Worry is a thief, Fear is a liar, and Anxiety is their trembling, furrow-browed baby. Worry robs me of the peace I know is available. Fear lies and says there is no peace at all. And their immature, screaming baby Anxiety keeps me up at night with her unrelenting cries of what if? and what now? and what will they think?
Can you identify with this brand of good girl? Or, is your brand a little different? Either way, do you agree that you too have been in hiding?
Good girls are excellent at hiding behind their performance. Excellent grades, praise-worthy work, leaders of clubs...good girls revel in being the best. We strive at excelling in our performance. We are extremely, extremely, extremely (so extreme, I had to say it three times) hard on ourselves. We are our worst critic and will beat ourselves up over the most insignificant details of life. Something that Emily wrote in chapter 2 is so relatable to me right now. She says, "If I fail to live up to my own standard of good, I label myself a failure. I lack motivation. I become indifferent. I entertain anxiety. I snap at my children. I want to be alone. I dream of Hawaiian vacations. I wallow." Ugghhh - that was totally me last week and as I read her words I found some relief that I wasn't the only one who ever feels this way.
Good Girls live by Expectation.
Expectation to be the best wife, mother, and friend. We have this twisted vision of who we should be and what we should be capable of doing. Even if we work all day, make dinner, and sew a dress at night we still think we could have done more with our day. Had better time management. Good wives keep a clean house all the time and their children are always well-behaved. They don't speak in a loud voice and they make their own soap. Good wives never want anything for themselves, they always give to others. Good wives always submit to their husbands and never offer their opinion.
I'm tired of living this way.
Emily says that expectations aren't inherently bad things but they are often misused by good girls. She goes on to say, "Jesus didn't put expectations on himself. He didn't micromanage his own image and constantly try to align his reality with his ideal. Instead, he lived expectantly, waiting for the next step. His was a life of total and complete dependence and submission to the voice and will of his Father."
In chapter three, we learn that good girls also hide behind their good reputations. Growing up, we weren't the ones that got drunk at parties and had sex with boys. We were too scared of ruining our reputations. It was too risky and it never sounded that fun anyway. We wanted to be loved and accepted by guys but we had morals and standards. Even when we were tempted ever so slightly, we would still resist the urge and feel guilty as soon as we came home. As grown up good girls, we say yes to every committee at church even if we feel like God is telling us to not volunteer for the bake sale. We have the reputation of being dependable and committed and to quit would ruin what others would think of us from now on. When someone shares their insecurities with us, we still don't share ours back. Good girls are supposed to be perfect and we have no insecurities about ourselves. Emily says:
In Christian circles, we tend to call that self-righteousness.
She goes on to say, "We could also call it self-dependence, and this gospel of self-sufficiency robs good girls of a life of freedom and victory."
Girls, when is this going to stop? When are we going to begin to see what it truly means to know Jesus? Emily shares this verse in chapter one and it is one of my favorites as well (see here). I want us to leave on this verse today....take a moment to absorb its' truth about who Jesus is:
God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us
Ephesians 3:20, The Message
Emily offers this advice: If you begin to feel "pushed around" by the knowledge of your own lack, that isn't the voice of God. He moves deeply and gently within us, not forcefully and rough without. If you have a moment, take time to journal your story: the age when you accepted Christ, the primary ways you've tried to live by him, and ways that you believe to be hiding. Meditate on this verse and try to listen to where God is gently working within you to break you from your good girl mask and to live freely in the open.
Girls, this study is just as much for me as it is for you. Let's go ahead and read chapter 4-6 and we will meet back here next Wednesday. Feel free to leave any comments or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till next time, let your light shine!
*Quotes taken from Grace for the Good Girl. Freeman, Emily.