Happiness and the Conservative Christian Girl

For most of my life I’ve had to pass my happiness and desires through the happiness and desires of someone else, first. I couldn’t just make a choice because it would be good for me and make me happy, I had to check first to make sure if what I wanted to do was acceptable to someone else.

A certain amount of this is necessary in order to exist alongside other people and maintain positive relationships. Making sure you’re not obtaining your happiness in unethical ways that harm others. It only really became a serious problem because of authoritarian and hierarchical power structures in my life, propped up by religious indoctrination and cultural norms.

Religious indoctrination said my flesh was weak and my heart was evil, and that what I wanted came from a place of sin, not from God. So I had to pass what I desired through God to make sure He found it acceptable. God, of course, wasn’t likely to communicate what He found acceptable directly. Instead, I was supposed to look to the Bible and to God-given authority in my life for guidance. That’s where I would find what was acceptable.

That God-given authority started with my parents, of course. I was supposed to be obedient to them in order to learn to be obedient to God. The message I received growing up was that I couldn’t be happy outside of God’s will. If I embraced a life pursuing temporal happiness it would result in me being a sad, unhappy mess, or straight up dying because God had enough of my shit and decided it was time for me to shuffle off the mortal coil.

Even if a sinner seemed happy and content with their life, it was false. Deep down they were probably feeling lost and alone without God. If they weren’t feeling lost and alone without God, they must be pure evil and were, of course, going to get their comeuppance with an eternity in Hell. We weren’t put on this earth to enjoy life.

Happiness was pathologized – at least if your happiness came outside the standard patriarchal box.

If you were a man that wanted to be in charge of his life and have a wife and kids and a settled home life – if being the head of your household and being obeyed by your wife and children made you happy – your temporal happiness was just fine. It was the result of living life the way God wanted you to live it. The desires of your heart weren’t wicked or hedonistic. They were the desires God had given you.

Convenient, that.

If you were a woman that wanted to get married and have babies and liked having someone else wear the pants, and that life made you happy – your temporal happiness was just fine. It was the result of living your life the way God wanted you to live it.

If, on the other hand, you were a woman that didn’t want children and didn’t want to follow a man around, and that wanted to obtain temporal happiness from having a career, an education, and being in charge of your own life… well, those were the craven and evil desires of your sin nature and you needed to let go of those desires and live life the way God wanted you to live – as a wife and a mother with your husband being the leader.

I always felt the unfair nature of the hierarchy. But it wasn’t about life being fair. It was about learning to be obedient to God. You could be happy after you were dead – or before, if you simply obeyed until you were happy obeying.

No one can say I’m not persistent. Thanks to my desire to be a good person and please the people I loved, I tried to become happy and content with obedience. If only I had embraced that old saw sooner – the one about how insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Obeying is not my kink. I’m never getting off on it. I’m not going to feel safe and secure and happy because I have someone to tell me what to do. I never have, and I never will. It’s not in my nature.

Fuck AAAALLLLL of the people that said girls like me had to give up our “sinful” pursuit of happiness and autonomy, for God, when what they really wanted was for us to give up our happiness and autonomy so Christian men could continue to be happy and comfortable at the top of the hierarchy.

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