What Betty Said

This is the text of  “The Smith Family Chronicles 5: Betty’s Soliloquy.

Today I learned that my husband kicked my daughter out of the house when she told him she was a lesbian. I also learned that while I was pregnant with Jane, my husband, and my best friend Darla had sex together. This means that every single thing in my life is a lie. That chair is a lie. The floor beneath my feet is a lie. Those two ugly pictures are a lie. I live in a fake house. With a fake husband. And my best friend is a fake best friend.

I am dreading telling my mother about all of this. She will be so disappointed in me. She is always so disappointed in me. She will not be on my side. My mother has been correcting and trying to improve me for my whole life. She gives me plenty of advice. But she never really gives me love.

It is not my fault that Bob and Darla did what they did. I know that I am supposed to forgive Bob. That is what my mother will say, what everyone will expect of me. But I’m not sure if I can forgive Bob, or even if I want to. What I do know is that I’m not even close to being done being mad at that jerk. Oh God. What will the kids think of me, of their father! How could Bob throw Jane from our house? She is an abomination? How about him? Shouldn’t he be pulling the plank from his own eye before he tries to remove a splinter from hers? Doesn’t he know her? Doesn’t he know how sweet, how sensitive Jane is? She’s wanton, my fanny! This is the girl who cries at dog food commercials when the puppies in them don’t get the right brand of chow.

And Darla, my best friend. I have always admired her so much. Where I always hold back, she jumps into the fray, always so boldly speaking the truth. She is so different from me, from my mother, so strong in the way she deals with people. But all this time, I have not seen who she really is. She is no stronger than me. And neither is Bob. He has always been so certain, so sure, so decisive. His boldness, like that of Darla, has tricked me. Not until now have I seen that they both lack the strength I have to admit my weaknesses, my doubts, my fears.

I am so angry that I am actually calm. And in my calmness what I see, for the first time, is that I have been leading a fake life, for all of my life. I have always been the good girl. I have not lied or cheated, no. But I have never looked at the world with my own eyes. And that is a very real kind of lie. I have always let everyone else tell me what is right, and never really dared to question what they said. I thought living that way would keep me safe, that it would be enough, that if I always said and did the right thing, then my mother, and Bob, and God would love me. Oh, how wrong that was. By trying to do everything right, I did everything wrong.

I have been foolish.

We have all been fools. We are all so busy trying to be perfect that we miss the whole point of life. But now I see that the real truth is that I cannot be perfect. I will never be right all the time. I may never be right at all. But what I can do is be kind. I can love. I can try. My honest failures will be so much better than this antiseptic life I have been living. I don’t want to pretend anymore.

I will figure out what to do about Bob. And I will use the conscience God gave me to figure out for myself if Jane’s being a lesbian is a sin. Why have I never trusted my own conscience? Can I really not trust myself? Do I really not trust God? How stupid I have been all these years! God has always been right here, beside me, all along! Whispering to me to trust myself, to trust him. Finally, I hear him.

I can’t believe I actually feel this way. I am living honestly, and plainly, in my own skin. It is exhilarating! Is this how it is supposed to feel to be alive? Is this what it feels like to finally be who you really are?

Is this what it feels like to be Jane?

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.twitter.com/senarae Christie

    “We have all been fools. We are all so busy trying to be perfect that we miss the whole point of life. But now I see that the real truth is that I cannot be perfect. I will never be right all the time. I may never be right at all. But what I can do is be kind. I can love. I can try. My honest failures will be so much better than this antiseptic life I have been living. I don’t want to pretend anymore.”

    I struggle with this acceptance of the “real truth” so much. I am still in the cycle of attempting perfect. I am constantly being shown that it is not possible, yet I strive for it as much as I can. If I am good, kind, and loving, to my capacity in any given situation it still is not perfect. It isn’t perfect because I am trying to live up to this idea of what I “should” be, WHO I “should” be. In that quest, I think I have lost much of who I actually am because I am trying to please others.

    My goal now is to love. Love God, myself, and everyone else. It’s taking practice, but it’s working I think.

  • melissa

    Wow, have you been hanging here in my head and taking notes?

  • Listening

    Betty and I are at exactly the same place.

  • http://rinmmkay.blogspot.com Mariah

    After a few weeks of (sad to say) being indifferent to the whole thing, I just watched all the episodes of TSFC thus far and “liked” the Facebook page, after reading this post. The emotions in Betty’s speech are so powerful (though expressed in a medium that holds no emotion, which feels rather odd), something I have felt echoed in my own heart time after time.

    I’ve come face-to-face with the pain, and feeling of inadequacy, and the uncertainty we endure in our lives when we hold others up to such a high standard and feel ourselves struggling to “keep up” or to be “better.” Feeling that we must be perfect in the eyes of our loved ones in order to deserve that love.

    That those people ultimately fail us as human beings will, that we will inevitably “let ourselves down” in our search for perfection, can bring us down so far. I’ve been struggling to find the truth; to be the “nice” girl who always understands, always lets things slide. That is what is expected of me. But what I find in my heart when I go looking is not what I want to see.

    When we come to the eventual realization that we are amazing as individuals, that those we hold above us as “bolder” or “stronger” or “wiser” are in fact no better than we are, that the ugly things in our lives are not our fault, we can find that place where we can learn to love. I believe that people were put here to become more perfect in love, and learn to live by the words “Love is Patient, Love is Kind . . .” In order to achieve this, we must first learn to love ourselves.

    Good on Betty for coming to a place where she can finally learn to do that. She is much stronger than she knows.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Nice. Thanks, Mariah.