Once upon a time, there was a very good little girl, raised in a strictly religious home. Rules abounded, since their god had specific laws for people to follow, and big expectations for performance. Her parents had high ideals and promoted good morals. They carefully approved only the very best behavior; the utmost effort by their daughter, and disapproved thoroughly of any tendency to slack off in her duties.
The girl’s personality was serious, she took criticism hard, and suspicion was unbearable. She might have been another Mother Theresa. She determined to behave impeccably in every department. She was a gentle soul, taking everything to heart, merciful, and desperate for mercy, in an environment where survival of the righteous was the guiding principle.
She learned early that god and dad were either the same person, or closely related. To disobey their god was disobedience to dad. Disobeying dad was disobeying their god. Whatever dad wanted, god wanted. Whatever disappointed dad, disappointed god. Dad was a priest of their religion. He reminded his little family constantly that he and god were to be respectfully obeyed. And feared, too. The kitchen table was his pulpit; the family room too, everywhere really. He had a lot of messages from their god, a lot of sermonettes to deliver.
He spoke out loud to their god as well; had regular conversations with him. Nobody else ever heard god reply audibly to father, but father could hear him. Everyone must bow their heads and close their eyes while dad was invoking their god. Dad kept a close watch for infractions. He was allowed to look, because he was different. His prayers had an awful lot of commentary on what god wanted. It was something like this:
“Dear father, we just come before you now, asking you to just bless us and guide us today as we follow your words, and obey you in everything we do. We know you know everything, and see everything we do. We would ask you to help us to just be a good example to everyone around us. We know how much you want us to respect our parents, and our teachers, and just to always do the right thing, so help us do that, for your glory, in your name, Amen.”
The family knew dad and god were talking about the children and their mother. Dad was basically god, father, and teacher. Dad’s prayers were about doing the right thing and god agreed. Dad and god were one, really. Dad knew all the special words, incantations, and formulas. He was an insider. He and god were real tight. If dad wasn’t watching, god was. If god was busy at the moment, dad took up the slack. They were a good team.
Dad also read their god’s book a lot. He could understand everything. He lead the family in expressing devotion to their god daily. He always read the book to the family and explained what god meant for each to do. It was clear god was nobody to be trifled with. He had rules, and he was watching. Follow the rules, and receive his favor and blessing. Break the rules, and make him disapproving and angry. Then he sent punishment upon the disobedient one; the consequences of rebellion must be felt, perhaps by sending tragedy and death.
Everyone had to be on high alert. God was watching, assessing, and grading performance. Doing less than one’s very best was a sin, too. God would know, he always knew, and he always told dad. There was no escape.
One day, dad decided his tender little girl had lied to him. She hadn’t; she was telling the truth. She gave the same truthful answer over and over while dad grilled her like a suspect under interrogation. Exhausted, and believing that if dad and god didn’t believe her, then she MUST dutifully admit she lied, she finally lied for the first time, really, and admitted she lied. She was punished severely, something she found more unbearable than death.
Her truthfulness was judged to be a lie. Her lie was determined to be the truth, because she agreed with dad and god. At last she formed her own personal guiding principal. She would never again admit to anything. Whether she was guilty or not, or believed she was innocent or not, the simplest approach was best.
Never admit to anything ever.
While this had the effect of protecting her from further emotional water-boarding, it also set in place a system she would follow the rest of her life.
1. Be good always, extremely good, and appear that way to god, and dad, and demand righteousness in others also.
2. Be extremely careful to state the truth perfectly in every detail to god, and dad, and require others to follow the same rule of perfection.
3. Never admit to anything, neither to god, nor dad, nor others.
4. Disapprove thoroughly of any defect in herself, or others, except for god and dad, purge the sin with a vengeance, and distance herself from the law-breaker.
She grew in stature, and physically she became a woman, but on the inside she remained a frightened child, rigid, uncomfortable, and self-conscious, knowing that she must perform not just dutifully, but beautifully for god and dad twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of her life. The scrutiny was more than she could bear. Outwardly she was rigid, withdrawn, anonymous, and retiring.
As the years passed, she hid from her dad and god the best she could. She sat all day behind her bed, in the dark, curtains drawn, drowning out her thoughts with crossword puzzles, reading, radio, TV, and crocheting. But god and dad were there. At night when she lay down beside her husband, god and dad were there, watching. When she forced herself out into the light and washed the dishes, god and dad were watching. If she missed a spot on the fork, god and dad saw. They knew. They always knew.
She feared and hated god and dad. But she wasn’t going to admit it. She feared and hated her husband, because god and dad were men, and so was her husband. Men were to be feared and hated for the evil dragons they were, and finally vanquished. Men only wanted two things, control, and everybody knew the second. It was just another form of control anyway. Controllers. But she must not bite the hands that kept her alive and fed her.
She was designed awesomely. Her potential was amazing.
Her capacity to bless infinite. But she never developed a personality. She was never given space to bloom. She was stifled, choked, and suffocated. The beautiful flower never graced the world with fragrance, because it was tightly encased, still in the bud, when it was cut off.
She was indeed her father’s daughter. He created a copy of his own image.
The universe will never recover from her loss.