There is no “almost” in fundamentalist Christianity. Either something is, or it isn’t… there’s no in between. I grew up being told that either I was sinning, or I wasn’t sinning… I was either lying, or I was telling the truth. The list continued. I knew what was required of me; my shortcomings weren’t because I was ignorant. The standard that I am compared to is ever-present… and never ceases to remind me that I can’t reach it.
See, there’s no “almost.” And the standard that I am held to is perfection. I must be the perfect daughter. I must be kind and softspoken, dutiful and diligent, enthusiastic and industrious… It was a long list, and if I were to ever fulfill everything, there would be no doubt that everyone would rise up and call me blessed. But instead of being Superwoman, I’m human. As such, I continually fell short of what was expected of me.
And there’s no “almost.” There’s no “pretty good.” There’s no “Wow, you did great, now let’s try to do it better.” If you didn’t do it, you didn’t do it. I call(ed) it failure. Now, though, I realize I should call it being human.
It is hard to accept that it’s okay to make mistakes, or to not be perfect. There was no in-between growing up, and it’s hard to break a habit. I wasn’t shown love or acceptance when I didn’t make it. Instead, I was met with disappointment. Those dreaded words… “I’m disappointed in you, sweetheart… do you want to tell me what went wrong?” There was the reminder of Bible verses that spoke to the subject at hand. Or just the harsh yelling at how you messed up and how could you do this to them after all they had done for you, how they had raised you… you were a failure and a disappointment.
What I wanted most… what other daughters wanted most… was to be loved. And since we couldn’t have that, we opted for the second-best thing — approval. We tried our hardest, bent over backward, and went out of our way to gain approval. We wanted somebody to acknowledge us, to say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” We didn’t need love, as long as you told us that hey, we did alright.