Saturday, June 20, 2015
Putting a False Brave Face On
One thing I notice about the culture here, that is stronger, then on the other side of the state I used to live on, is much higher degree of reticence and this emphasis on putting on a "brave front". I am sure if you get cancer in NYC you can say "This sucks, my insides are rotting out!" but here, it's strange. At a book club today, I know two people with serious health problems and they are nice people and they attend this local church that does a lot to help the poor, but they are putting on this brave face. I almost wanted to tell them, "You don't have to for me" but didn't want to embarrass them among the others saying they were brave and strong. If I was closer to them, I would tell them being ill sucks, and they don't have to sugarcoat things for a woman that has been sick almost all her life.
I know there is a code among some neurotoypicals that "complaining" is bad. It's one reason that one friendship of mine failed, but then I can't be someone else to please her. This is something too that has grown very strong in the Christian world. Almost like this idea to prove holiness one must always keep a smile on their face, and say things like "God is in control", and "God has a plan for my life". I hate to tell people but if we judged God by people's plans for their lives on this earth, then that is troubling. The apostles died martyred, most likely penniless and losing everything. How did their life go? The Bible tells us to expect tribulation and suffering:
1 Peter 4:12-13King James Version (KJV)
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
I think one reason the Christian world got the Duggars, is because people look for these fake, perfect acting and looking people, who in reality were hiding giant skeletons in the closet. The Duggars were trained never to complain, and to always smile, but how real are they? Not very considering the sex abuse going on behind closed doors. The "Christian" world is awash with phonies. When non-believers express disgust about the "keeping sweet" crowd, I agree with them. Some are sincere people and perhaps even some of the Duggars are [well except for the parents and Josh] but they have taught you must look, appear and act a certain way. Some emotions are "wrong". Even the way they speak is like a script, but sadly I have seen this in a real world too.
Narcissists always demand this of their victims to keep only positive emotions and never complain and keep smiling and act in a way that is most comfortable for them. As the society grows more narcissistic, and everything becomes competition, the pressure even for those in secular society to "keep sweet" only grows. You see all those who say you must have a positive attitude and never say anything bad about anything but then where is the creativity or questioning there? It's gone. If one even thinks that a lot of art comes out of the fountain of pain, if everyone is busy putting on false faces, art will suffer too.
It makes me sad though when I see these people suffering terrible things, and they feel this pressure, first to be quiet about it and tell no one, or secondly always present a brave, strong face to the world. If they are in the church world, these pressures are even more strong. The pressure is there to always look like you always have it together! This ties into the "be positive" ethos too which demands that everyone even put a positive spin in public even if you have stage IV terminal cancer. All of this seems exhausting to me and seems to just say to people, "You can't really talk about your troubles.", you have to prevent this fake façade to the world. I know some have been offended by this blog, including even the ex-friend, because I do expose some mighty troubles to the world. I talk about illness, severe abuse, and things many people are trained to keep behind closed doors. Some may say I am a sucker for the "confessional culture", but then I know hiding behind a fake smile would have just succeeded in destroying me.
You know the "don't complain ethos" where one is to be brave and ever suffering and not unload their troubles on anyone else. Something worried me, how this seems so strong now, that one is to never speak of troubles anymore of if you do, it is always suppose to improve you, or be meaningful. What if it's not improving you? What if there isn't meaning in it? Bad things happen to people. It's a simple fact. I think there is such a denial of suffering in American society that it has screwed people up in the head. In fact I think this fact that we are to hide all troubles and compete even in OUR HAPPINESS leads to more unhappiness and severe depression. What intimacy is there for a cancer patient who among even their closest friends must always put a brave face? To be honest in my life, anyone who can't handle the vestiges of severe illness has already walked. This is a screening process like no other.
Often these types will say things like "God is in control, or "I know God has a plan". Here my belief system diverts, I do not think God created disease and death but it came in via Satan and sin. Satan is the prince of this earth and it's not God who gave you the giant tumor in your stomach, or any other multitude of disease processes. God is not the author of evil. God made for us to have eternal life via Jesus His Son. I realized if I believed the way they did, having been sick since the age of 28 and having gone almost deaf and recently losing more hearing, I would have ended up an atheist again. Job gets the snot beat out of him but it's not because God cooked up trouble for him but because of the nature of this world.
This is some of the kind of stuff, that actually makes some people say forget this God business. They see these "perfect" Christians like the ones I wrote about in the last church I left. While the church people often are "good", "nice", "kind" people on the surface, one feels almost frozen around them. Where does that frozen feeling come from but some of the social more's that means a freezing up of free expression or even exposure of emotions or thoughts?
This may sound bad but sometimes I found myself thinking as they put on the extreme brave faces, like they were reading a script. Inside they were thinking, "I am supposed to be brave and faithful in the face of severe illness/and or death and not show distress." If I was closer friends to one of them, I would say, "You can cry you know and say it sucks!". I don't expect them to pour out every emotion to everyone but I felt troubled for them. I've been sick long enough to know too well the real emotions involved. Real life is messy, the endings are not always prettily tied up in a bow.
I am not the most stoic person. I think we should be able to tell each other our problems. I know one reason that friendship ended locally is because she has been taught the reticient school of problem dealing. One is always supposed to appear brave, and "moving forward" and as if it all has meaning.
I'm not interested in this. If I was like that I would have long ago cracked up. Who are all these people trying to impress? God knows if you are crying and in pain and the people who expect everyone to always be smiling and saying brave and good things every minute even if they are very sick, are a bunch of narcissists. Real friends don't mine hearing the troubles of friends. I and my close friends talk about everything and anything. There is none of this false front stuff. I sometimes wonder if someone people in American culture, don't even have one person they can "get real" with and that makes me very sad. This whole culture needs a can of "Get Real".