Reposts and Recreation

marilynWe’re on holiday for the next few days, so here’s a few from the archives..

I’ve been thinking a bit about the good girl/bad girl divide and this is something that Dan Allender explores in a fantastic book called ‘The Wounded Heart’.  The book has been written for survivors of sexual abuse, but has application for all areas of pastoral theology.

Allender argues that survivors tend to fall into three types – ‘good girl, party girl and tough girl’, each with different strategies for managing pain.

The good girl is kind and gentle, very giving, but not especially passionate or outgoing.  She  struggles with her sin – not with a healthy conviction, but with deep self-hatred and shame. She then beats herself up for feeling angry and sad – but hates confrontation of any kind, which in turn makes her feel worse. She pours herself into doing things to find identity and approval, but will burn out before asking for help. She doesn’t feel that she has the right to express her emotions and is always apologising, but from a low sense of self worth instead of real sorrow. She feels she can’t do anything right and hates to impose on others.  As a result she can be lonely and depressed, channelling her anger and pain towards herself.

The party girl is completely unpredictable.  Out for a good time, her moods change from one moment to the next – from genuine and honest to fake and deceptive, fragile and vulnerable to confident and dominant.  She makes and moves on from friendship to friendship – making those in her circle feel that she needs them, whilst holding them at arm’s length (often using humour).  She is enchanting and mercurial, but deeply frightened of relationships and handles this by minimising her own needs.

The tough girl sees herself as someone who can take charge and get things done.  She views feelings as weakness and refuses to depend on others – often lashing out at them in anger when they awaken her desire for relationship.  She can come across as arrogant and busy and she will do whatever it takes to ensure she is never hurt again.  As a result she is feared and respected, but rarely liked.

These aren’t hard and fast categories.  I can see bits of myself in all three.  And probably everyone’s a mixture.

Eating disorders (and any number of other addictions) provide an ideal outlet for all of these types.  They are ways of making yourself small, holding others at arm’s length and relying on self so as not to be hurt again. It’s perhaps easiest to see how the anorexic relates to the good girl model (often a perfectionist, finds identity in helping others, struggles with having emotions etc), but the swings of the party girl may parallel those of the bulimic, who both starves and stuffs.  This may be reflected not simply in eating patterns, but in other areas such as spending habits, sexual behaviour and frequent risk taking.

How do we respond to this?

Sin often feeds off something else: it takes what is good and distorts it.  Similarly, the enemy can target those parts of us that the Lord intends for most blessing. For years I’ve been frightened of letting others in.  I don’t want others to know that I’m weak and scared and selfish.  But hiding away not only stole life from me, it took away a part of Christ’s body. Instead of blessing others with a mask – my weakness is His strength.

Redemption makes us more of our true selves and not less. It is not sweeping aside every aspect of our good/partying/tough personalities but putting them in their rightful place.  The good girl who wanted to be “sweet” and “nice” is now a true blessing because she has the courage to be strong as well as kind.  The party girl who was “wild” now knows the fulfilment of her drives in Christ’s love as her passion for life includes and infects others.  The tough girl who closed down and drove forwards has a new softness as she recognizes that her dependence is part of what makes her a genuine leader.

Can you see these ‘types’ in yourself?  What would the redemption of those patterns look like?

2 thoughts on “Reposts and Recreation

  1. When I read the description of “the good girl” it seemed like you are talking about me. That’s exactly me. I find it hard, or well, actually impossible to let others in my life, because then they want to help me and it’s not me helping them anymore. Also I am suddenly vulnerable, weak and out of control.
    So I guess the bit rough girl in me makes it hard for myself…

    But how do you overcome this fear of depending on others and being not the one in charge?

  2. Hello! Hello! Hello! I’ve got all three, not bits of each, but all three as distinct personas that are either one or another. Whew! We are exhausted.

    For me (us) the first and most difficult step was to find a “safe” place to do the sorting out. This means having at lest one other person to talk to who really gets it and is willing to be a sounding board. The sorting out is the beginning of integrating into one basic person. ( search my heart oh God and see if there be any wicked way in me).

    Knowing when and with whom I become “good girl” is very important for seeing how wrong a lot of my good deeds have been because they were done for sicko motives. Knowing I am valued and fully loved already by Him, allows me to serve others out of love, without expectations or unspoken demands.

    Knowing what triggers party girl to start singing and dancing and telling jokes exposes the truth behind the “now you see it, now you don’t” performances. Knowing that God already sees the real self and doesn’t turn away, gives the quiet courage to reach out to others in honesty, no clown masks needed.

    Tough Girl is a real problem. She must be in control so there can be NO MORE HURTING…even if it means she has to hurt people!! This can be the worst one, because you are watching yourself turn into an abuser. Full out surrender to the Lord is the only thing for stopping this self-knighted crusader. Knowing self reliance is often thinly veiled self worship, when she submits to God’s will and is tempered with humility her “bold moves” can be fruitful and appreciated.

    Still stumbling through this game and I will probably always keep a reputation of being rather hit-or-miss.

    (I just noticed I speak of good girl as “I” party girl as an “it” and tough girl as “she”. Interesting…)

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