June 27, 2007

Just Be Yourself

by Shelley
Regular Contributor to PW&F
Personal Blog: End of the Tunnel

You’ve heard it a million times – whether you’re getting ready for a first date, preparing for a job interview, or meeting the future in-laws, someone always offers the sage advice to “just be yourself.”

This is probably the world’s most widely used adage, and it sounds so simple on the surface. But when people give this advice, do they really understand what they’re saying?

Because if you’re truly being yourself, you are guaranteed to irritate, offend, or otherwise alienate someone along the way. What is pleasing to one person will grate on the next person’s nerves. Everyone will not always agree with you. And worst of all, you will eventually commit the cardinal sin of going against the flow.

As a childfree Christian, I feel the ramifications of being myself most strongly in traditional church environments. It seems that church folk encourage you to be yourself…“unless.”

For example, “Be yourself, unless you don’t like the way we do things around here.” We’re “family” oriented, so if you’re uncomfortable participating in programs orchestrated around parents and children, you’d best keep your mouth shut and do it anyway. And for heaven’s sake, stick with the prescribed “Christian” lifestyle. A woman who’s uninterested in motherhood is misguided and sad – a child is the only thing that will make you truly happy, and if you choose not to have one, you surely aren’t following the will of God.

When it comes right down to it, what people really want is for you to be like them. Because if you are finding fulfillment by doing things differently, that just might mean that they are the ones who could have made better choices. And where Christians are concerned, I think sometimes instead of deepening our relationship with God to find confidence that we have chosen the right path, we instead find that comfort in the fact that everyone else is doing the same things as us.

Romans 14:22 says, “Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.”

My husband and I believe children are not in God’s will for our lives, and we strive to ensure our thoughts and actions mirror that belief. I rejoice in being myself, because even if others don’t understand, I know God approves!

Flickr photo by
geopollock (cc)
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LauraS said...

Great post. You've got me running for my King James to check out that bit of scripture. Sometimes we need to be reminded.

AnitaD said...

Excellent post. I couldn't agree with you more. I'm so glad you have become a contributor. I originally come from the Bible Belt state of NC. Now I live in England and people are more accepting here of individual choices. But, my friends back in the states are still asking questions about when we are going to start having children. My Christian friends look at me in amazement when I say we don't plan to have any. Others assume we have something wrong with us medically. I wish I wasn't concerned about what people think. I do want to become more focused on what God expects of me...not what people expect of me.

britgirl said...

As a woman of faith (and once a church member for many years)I found that "being myself" and being part of "the church community" as defined by its members was incompatible. I'd read the Bible and see you could be who you were born to be. And then I'd go to church only to find that the main objective was to make you into something else. As you are is "not good enough" and everyone was striving to be like someone else (usually Jesus, or their won image of Jesus, almost never themselves). It was an interesting, but uncomfortable few years for me - 10 to be exact... and a while before I believed that being myself and being a church member wouldn't work (I thought it could) but in the end I had to get out - or lose my faith and not a little of my sanity.

As a childfree woman I know that being childfree and a churgoing christian is almost something you keep secret - unless you want to be hassled. It is seen in church circles as a stigma, and as you say, considered "ungodly." "Be fruitful and multiply" is quoted ad naseum as the "proof" for having children and plenty of them. If you are brave enough (or foolish enough, depending on how you see it) to reveal your childfreeness, you are more likely than not to have the whole church community praying for you,or counselling you - to change your mind, to come to your senses, to save you (from whatever) to be "blessed with children..." or cured from being "barren."

Yourself, you'd rather just get on with your spiritual relationship with God and just be who you are.

For some reason, you're not allowed to do that... not without a fight anyway. And that is such a waste of energy. I believe this is why the church is hammorraeging childfree people, the very people it should not be, at a time when it needs all people. Very sad. Hopefully as more and more women decide to be childfree things will change and the church will become as accepting as it should be.

(Sorry for the long comment) :)

Shelley said...

Laura: If you can't find your King James, just go to www.bible.com. You can look up any verse in any translation, and you can even do a keyword search. It's a really cool tool!

britgirl: Your comment touched me, because the pain you felt during your church experience comes through so honestly in your writing. I have been in that same place, and I completely understand how heartbreaking it is to feel rejected by people who are supposed to unconditionally accept you. But don't give up - there are churches out there that embrace everyone and really do strive to break free from the fundamentalist mold. In your area, you might try The Sanctuary. Time spent at that church is what inspired me to seek and ultimately find something better here in the United States. Don't freak out at the prevalence of kids pictured on the website though - they may not have a large childfree population yet, but I promise they will be very open and welcoming to you, and they won't ask you to be anyone except exactly who you are!

Britgirl said...

Thanks Shelley, that is a very cheering thought and something I will certainly bear in mind. Your post triggered a lot of memories, but it was still remiss of me not mention what a good post it was. Thanks again.

LauraS said...

Britgirl--I've done a bit of research on this and it turns out most biblical scholars agree the the "be fruitful and multiply" thing was intended by Jesus as a blessing to his followers, not a commandment.

Back then large families were important to the survival of the whole and male children, in particular, were important in the transfer of wealth and the accumulation of family assets.

reese said...

I am really glad I found you, your blog, and this post.

I found a lot of CF websites, but yours is the first that addresses the issues from a Christian POV. As a Catholic preparing for marriage (we're legally married, doing the sacrament here soon) I've often felt lost because of many of the issues you describe.

Neither my husband or me feel called by God to be parents. Yet, we feel called to be charitable, to help others, to donate of our time and money, and we do all those things.

Ultimately, what many do not know is God calls us to be true to our consciences and what the HOly Spirit tells us. If I were to listen to others, against what my conscience tells me, then I would not be doing God's will.

It's difficult to tell others we have no plans for children. I imagine it will get even moreso as we get further into our marriage. I swear at one point I'll likely throw up my hands and say to people "I'm sterile, ok? Shut up." LOL.