The Shame of Morality

Let me tell you a little bit about me. I’m the girl who grew up the perfect archetype of a good Christian girl. I can’t remember a period of my life when I wasn’t attending church consistently, often multiple times a week. I breezed through high school with easy straight A’s, then went on to attend one of the most conservative Christian colleges in the nation. The first time I had a drink just because I wanted to was a thrilling moment during which I giggled inwardly at the scandal of my rebellion.

I’ve always pursued morality tenaciously, and I’ve felt plagued with guilt every time I inevitably fell short of the standard I enforced upon myself (though I always told myself it was God who enforced it on me).

This might seem like a good thing, but I can assure you it is not. When you ride yourself so hard, you have a way of turning good morals into an idol, and conflating your adherence to those morals with God’s love for you. So when you fall short, the worthiness you feel in the sight of God also diminishes, and that is something that should never happen.

Now I’m going to turn a corner, and tell you a secret. I made it to third base with a guy I was in love with. I compromised my values, capitulated to lust, and awakened desires and impulses that I never knew existed.

And to this day I feel the shame of that. My idea of morality is so hopelessly entangled with my desire to please God that I can’t really sort out whether I feel ashamed because that’s what I’m supposed to feel when I compromise my sexual purity, or because I sinned, or just because it all felt so good in the moment.

I think there might also be a deeper, more profound reason for this saturating sense of shame. Messing around with my (now ex) boyfriend was the first time I’d ever deliberately committed one of the “big sins” I’d been taught to avoid. In other words, it was the first sin I’d committed that truly tarnished my image of myself as a “good Christian girl” and came face-to-face with the reality my own depravity.

So maybe, in a weird and ironic way, something good came out of my choice to compromise. I learned how weak my flesh can be, and how disposed to sinfulness I really am, in spite of my upbringing and my commitment to my values. I’ve come out the other side a wiser and more careful woman, though also a woman who now has some emotional baggage to work through that I didn’t have before.

So, what do you know. Perhaps good can come of sin after all—even the sexual kind.

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Posted on February 21, 2014, in God, Guilt, Relationships. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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