My Original Sin

As a young Christian, I had a problem. I was too good.

I know, what an arrogant thing to say. I’m rolling my eyes at this moment, so let me take a moment to clarify. There were times I did bad things. I would promise to do something and then forget. I would leave my chores undone even though I knew mess really bothered my father. I, um… sometimes even though I knew God wanted me to give up something meaningful for Lent, the only thing I could think of that I loved enough to give up was Doctor Who, and I really didn’t want to give up Doctor Who. It made me happy when everything else felt empty.

See, that’s my problem. I’m trying to think of things that were bad, and that I would have considered bad at the time. There are things that I thought were right, but now regret. All the times I was arrogant and judgmental, all the times I proselytized at people who just wanted to get on with the theater rehearsal, all the misinformation I spread, all the gay-bashing I participated in. I also had shitty social skills and said hurtful things sometimes. Also, if you’re looking at, say, my childhood before I was seven or eight, there were plenty of times I lied or broke things or even stole. But I really wanted to be good. I was very motivated to live according to the rules that were taught to me. Recently I discovered a British comedy called “Would I Lie To You?” where contestants share weird anecdotes and their opponents have to figure out which are true and which are lies. While I was watching, I realized that from ages 7 to 17, I have no memory of lying. My sister can’t remember me lying either. I remember telling truths when I was terrified, when I felt certain that honesty would get me punished. I even remember telling the truth when I thought honesty would get me punished unfairly. The idea of lying was so terrifying to me I feel like I would have remembered it if I had. It’s hard to say for certain, but I’m fairly sure I went for about a decade without telling a lie.

My point is, once I was neurologically developed enough to have a reasonable amount of self-control, I followed the rules really, really well.

This was a problem because I was supposed to be a sinner. I was supposed to be overwhelmed with gratitude at the great love my redeemer had shown me in dying for my sin. I was supposed to understand that all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and that if I thought I was perfect, that just meant I was full of pride. All week, I would struggle to do good, and then on Sunday, at confession time, I would wrack my brains to think of something to confess, and the fact that I couldn’t think of anything filled me with guilt and terror.

This post reminded me of that. As a Christian I thought I was alone. I thought everyone else was easily caught up in this beautiful cycle of sin/forgive, and I was left out, because either I was too good to be forgiven, or too sinful to see my own sin. I wanted to confess my pride, and sometimes I did. It never felt adequate, because it was not a genuine confession that came from understanding that I had sinned, just a desperate prayer to cover my ass. Now, coming out of religion, I see my experience reflected so often. So many decent people, told again and again that they were bad.

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6 thoughts on “My Original Sin

  1. HI Ginny, I can relate to this. In the hospital on what we thought was her deathbed, I thanked my mom for being a good mom and her answer was “I am only a worm”. 70 plus years of Xianity and this was her self image. Fortunately, I was a poly pagan by then.

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    • That sucks. I’m glad you found a place that’s better for you.
      Also I’m Lane, the other, slightly less frequent blogger of this site. 🙂

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  2. I followed the link, and followed THAT link’s link, and I’m very glad you posted this. It is such an odd situation, to be an atheist adult who was a Christian child. My mother subscribes word-for-word to what one of the posts said: that anything good in her is directly attributable to God, and that anything bad is her own self. If she accomplishes anything, figures anything out, says the right thing to anyone—that was God doing that. If she does anything wrong, can’t figure something out, says the wrong thing—that’s her. It makes me feel physically sick. I get additionally angry because if I do anything good or come up with a good idea or make a good point, she says that was God working/speaking through me.

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    • That is, EVEN THOUGH SHE KNOWS I AM AN ATHEIST she still says that about God working/speaking through me. So then what she is saying is that God is still puppet-mastering me, despite my express wishes that he not do so (using her world view, which is that he does exist).

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      • This really is an odd dynamic. When I was a Christian I believed that God did, in fact, use unbelievers to do his will. Now that I’m out of that mindset I can see how ridiculous the notion is and that it flies in the face of the freewill that I also believed to exist. How is it freewill if there’s a master puppeteer? And how the hell did I not see that before?

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  3. Thanks for the link!

    The idea of original sin once was a comfort to me. It explained why I wasn’t good enough and then provided me a solution. But once I began to question the validity of the concept I realized just how little self-esteem I had. In fact self-esteem in my understanding was a misnomer. There was no worth apart from God and Jesus. It’s a really sick and twisted, narcissist/codependent relationship which in human terms is completely unhealthy. And human terms are all we have.

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