“I never heard of a young woman but people say she is accomplished!”
“The word is indeed applied too liberally. I can’t boast of knowing more than half a dozen women in all my acquaintance who are truly accomplished.”
“Goodness, you must comprehend a great deal in the idea.”
“Absolutely. She must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages to deserve the word. … And something in her air and manner of walking…”
“And of course she must improve her mind by extensive reading.”
“I’m no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
“Are you so severe on your own sex?”
“I never saw such a woman. She would certainly be a fearsome thing to behold.”
— From the newer movie version of Pride and Prejudice; a scene which transpired between Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, and Caroline Bingley.
You know what I think? I think there are very few of us who ever feel “good enough.” Not good enough to deserve or to be anything specifically. Just… we feel like we don’t measure up and never will, I guess. Let’s see a show of hands: how many of you feel like you’re good enough? Hand down, William Dorrit, and be off with you. Why are you reading my blog, anyway? Now, as for the rest of you… good gracious, I don’t see many hands. Very few, in fact. Why is that?
I’ll tell you why that is. We never feel like we measure up because we are constantly confronted with standards that are either unnecessary, impossible, or, most often, both. Homeschoolers especially like to do this. Actually, pretty much everybody likes to do this. In order to be admitted into a societal group of any form, one must first achieve the standards. We homeschoolers often feel like we aren’t quite up to par unless we are (a) a bazillion times smarter than our public-schooled counterparts, (b) thoroughly informed in all matters concerning English and American history, (c) quite musical, (d) insanely organized and scheduled, and (e) a whole host of other things that I can’t think of and would be too lazy to write down if I could. Other groups have their standards too, of course. But you catch my drift. There’s a standard, and if you don’t measure up, you start feeling inferior to all the people who look like they are. And that’s not very nice. That’s not very nice at all. And it starts getting sinister when people start applying these things to Christianity.
You know what I mean. You can’t be a Christian unless you behave in a certain way. Maybe you haven’t quite been exposed to that kind of attitude before, but you will someday. The problem here is that, to a certain extent, it’s true. As a general rule, followers of Christ do not tend to be murderers, kleptomaniacs, drug dealers, or flouters of the law in any other unpleasant and harmful respect. But when I said to a certain extent, that was the extent right there. Sometimes you will get the distinct impression that you are not being a good Christian unless you can play How Great Thou Art on the piano and have memorized vast quantities of Bible verses and can discourse learnedly on the subject of infant baptism. Sometimes you will feel that you are not quite doing your duty unless you feed the homeless once a week and take meals to the infirm congregants in your church. And if you do not read the Bible together as a family every morning and have at least half an hour of Quiet Time With the Lord… well! You may not be instantly condemned, but that is certainly pushing it.
As I have had occasion to remark before, none of these behaviors are problematic in and of themselves. I myself have made a meal or two for the sick in my time, and we all know that my character is of a snowy unimpeachability that the Pope himself would envy…. Ahem! As I was saying, the problem is not that you do these things. The problem shows up when you begin to feel like a loser for not doing these things. Perhaps it has been overlooked, but the truth remains that God never actually requires any labor on your part to secure your salvation. That is to say, you can do (or omit!) pretty much anything you want. That’s just how the system works, and I for one am ridiculously pleased that it is so. I have neither the time nor the will to be learning hymns on the piano.
I wrote a post similar to this one recently. The basic gist of that one was that you can do pretty much whatever you want because Jesus will not send you to Hell based on the fact that you prefer skinny jeans over skirts. I said that you are not a bad person for liking to do certain things. But what I forgot to mention was that you also are not a bad person for neglecting to meet certain standards. The standards to which I am referring are fabricated by men and used by the same as control mechanisms. If you are in a group setting, the person you will look up to and wish to emulate is not going to be the rebel. The person who conforms best to the rules and standards set by your particular society is generally accepted to be the model for perfection.
For instance, in a group of athletes, the guy who can play sixteen different sports and play them well and can bench-press two hundred pounds to boot is the one everyone aspires to be. In a group of poets, the girl who can quote vast sections of Julius Caesar from memory and whose writing style has been compared favorably with that of Robert Frost is viewed with the greatest awe and deference. You get the picture. Whatever it is: athleticism, poetry, horse wrangling, music. Because these people are the best at what they do, we kind of come to assume that they are just the best period. We tend to view athleticism or poetry or horse wrangling or music as the very highest peak of awesomeness, and we therefore associate the ability to achieve the horse wrangling (or poetry or athleticism or music) standards as awesomeness itself. And who doesn’t want to be awesome? So we set out to become these people. We take their advice and we imitate their manners and principles. The person who is the best at feeding the homeless or dressing modestly or playing hymns or quoting Martin Luther (all of which are viewed as very Christian things) is considered the best Christian. But here’s the thing: that’s just silly.
I mean, really now. There’s nothing in the Bible about being a “good Christian.” There are whole hosts of chapters and verses and things on loving God. That’s it. That’s all you need. You don’t have to meet the perceived standards for being a “good person.” You don’t have to play hymns or be organized or know history or whatever it is you think you need. Previously I’ve had occasion to remark upon the fact that you can do or be what- or whoever you want to. And now I am telling you that you can also refuse to be or do something you don’t want to. Does that make sense? You don’t have to feel like a bad person for doing “bad” things, and you don’t have to feel like a loser for not doing “good” things. You just do whatever God is leading you to do (which is a thing YOU may figure out FOR YOURSELF). Who knows? You may end up playing hymns or feeding the homeless,
or you may end up just working at King Soopers.
I’m almost done here, and soon you may wander off and eat marshmallows or whatever it was that you interrupted to read my blog. The last thing I have to say to you is to never ever EVER feel like you’re not good enough because you don’t meet somebody’s standards for perfection. It’s the standards that are off, not you. You’re doing just fine how you are. And that’s all I have to say about that.