Friday December 31 2021

Random Musings on Built Guilt

Dear Diary,

2021 is pretty much over… and I have barely written anything! As usual, I don’t exactly know where I’m going with this one. But hey… at least I’m writing! 

While recovering from Covid, I’ve had more time in the past few days than I have in a long while, to think about life. 

I come from a long lineage of pastors and church folk. I am church folk 😃 lol. For a very long time, it’s all that defined me. Being my dad’s exact replica has also not exactly helped… but oh well… 

If I’m being honest, there are times when being born into church folk alone makes it a little harder to be truly Christian. I mean it has its perks don’t get me wrong…. I love getting to ask questions when I don’t understand things, knowing that I’d get an answer from people who have read and understood God’s word, and who know the Holy Spirit deeply – I still believe being able to question some of these things, and getting real answers are part of why I remain Christian. 

In high school I would write my parents these letters asking the most random, most intense questions, and mummy would either have long contemplative talks with me about them, or daddy would debate with me, often ending with us agreeing to disagree, and him telling me that the fact that I disagreed didn’t change the fact that it was true/untrue – whatever it is I was asking about. 

When I say being born into church folk can make it hard, one thing I mean is unlearning certain things – key of which is the culture of hypocrisy. 

Two days ago, Mummy, Abs and I had a conversation about Bisi Adjapon’s “Of Women and Frogs,” which has been republished as “The Teller of Secrets.” (Please go and buy that book!!) I read the book back in 2020, and my amazing bookclub ladies got the pleasure of hanging out with the author! She was an absolute delight! Down to earth, with her hair constantly down… figuratively and literally!

Anyways… back to my tirade…. We talked about the book and some of the things it described about our high school…. (All the females in my family went to one high school – Wesley Girls High School. Gey Hey, as it is affectionately called – All 5 strong independent women in my family lol😜) And I have come to realize with time, that just like church, the culture of hypocrisy in my alma mata stinks! 

I was allowed to date in high school – as long as my parents knew him and approved, of course. And so my ex, (who I dated 5 years), would join my parents or siblings to visit me on Visiting Saturdays whenever he got the chance to. Those were funny times! We would sit and talk about everything, only to realize after a short while, that the girls were giving me “the look.” 

I remember how every sermon from whenever we returned from a holiday would emphasize the guilt I felt. “Some of you have boyfriends back home… and if you do not leave them, they will lead you on the path to hell!” Ei… I was certainly on the fast track to hell if these sermons were anything to go by.

I remember I would not let him hug me often… and when I did, I would feel so terrible! Because what if God hated me because of that? 🤦🏾‍♀️ I would randomly break up with him, on a few occasions, stating my reason clearly: “maybe God isn’t happy with us.” It amused and frustrated him and stressed him out!  I would return to school after chastely hanging out with him almost daily, only to sing to myself “Dear God and saviour of mankind forgive my foolish ways!”, all term long. 

The guilt gradually built into me a very disturbing self-loathing and weird compensating self-righteousness that I had to work really hard to unlearn. Funny thing, this self-loathing and self-righteousness formed a major part of why I broke off our 5-year relationship. I was in Uni then, at that age where everyone was getting it on, and while we hadn’t gone anywhere beyond making out here and there, I felt we were not pleasing God, and we’re bound to incur His wrath!

There are definitely good things I got from Gey Hey. How to know God for myself (even if I thought he was a fire-breathing hell-sending God, who would cut me off for having a boyfriend haha.) How to juggle (or try to juggle) everything with work that needs to be done – from social clubs to hockey, to chores, to random seminars and programs… There was no excuse for which your schoolwork should not be done. How to clean spotlessly – we scrubbed gutters with toothbrushes to a point where they would shine! (Fun fact – Gey Hey is the one reason why we never had gutters anywhere we lived. If my mother had anything to do with it, there would be no gutter… because gutters meant excessive scrubbing). I learnt the power of individuality also – of being (or at least trying to be) yourself… I learnt to save and invest in High School… because that bank system we had was really top tier. There are so many amazing things I learnt from school… 

But I wish I knew then that the negative things were negative… I wish I’d known enough to call them out. Or I wish someone had done it. 

I remember how Gey Hey grew in me some funny perception about other religions. They were always ‘the lesser ones.’ 🤦🏾‍♀️😓 The ones doomed for hell. I remember that a couple of months ago a few of the Muslims from Gey Hey spoke up about how they were treated there. It made me really really sad! Because not only did I not realise it then, I see now, that it was really no way to treat anyone… especially not anyone you’re trying to win over to Christianity. 

In my second year of Uni, I fell in love with a Muslim guy. That is a looong story for another day…. But I cut him off so quickly, because “How can I go and tell my father I like a Muslim!” and “God will send me straight to hell!” I told him some of these to his face, and to this day, I regret that brazen honesty immensely. 

Oh, and when I think back to all the things the “bad girls” of Gey Hey did…. I realise I would be one of them right now if I was back there. The things we considered bad😂? You won’t believe it🤦🏾‍♀️😂! 

1. Having a phone in school… someone got expelled for this, after being shamed to the whole school… (I know it was because it was a broken school rule, but we were a little too dramatic about it!) 

2. Singing/knowing non-Christian music. (I kid you not!) 

3. Having a boyfriend. (The cause of 80-90% of my guilt) 

4. Wearing short clothes – anything above the knee was of the devil, please😂! Wow… they should see me now 😜😂🤦🏾‍♀️ 

5. Not being Christian (Muslim, Buddhist, etc. non religions… it didn’t matter). 

6. Getting too many letters from the boys’ schools. (Lol… there was a senior who would seize my letters from this boy that I liked – prior to boyfriend, btw lol. I still don’t know if she liked him, if she was upset at how often we wrote each other… I have no idea what her motives were 😂🤣🤣😂) 

Honestly the list is endless. But I was such an eager-to-please misfit that I checked all the seemingly right boxes, to be considered a good girl. If I knew then what I know then, I would have just lived! I would not have made this huge mountain out of all those molehills! 

I didn’t know it then, but I look back, and I wonder what it must have felt like, to be a Muslim, or of any other religion, or really a new Christian trying to figure out your own faith, and having to deal with all of that. In hindsight, I don’t know if Gey Hey really achieved the aim of winning that many to Christ… within the school at least. I’m believe the school strengthened the faith of many already strong Christians. I was one of the leaders of the Village Outreach group, so I can say with a little certainty that we at least won souls outside the school. Yet within our school, I cannot be so sure. 

Ghanaians are generally quite a hypocritical population. But the Christian community makes it so much worse. High school taught me to imbibe that culture, and while growing up, I’ve had to unlearn so much.

Another way being born into church folk  makes it hard is all the expectations. The day my father was ordained a Rev. minister, someone looked me in the eye, and told me that as a pastors kid, I had the evil grace of the sons of Eli… so I should pray against it! What a welcome into the community of Pastors Kids!

Oh, and then there’s the issue of knowing that someone on the pulpit… some parent or sibling, or cousin, or uncle, was preaching amazingly, or singing melodiously, or leading all those people, and yet had just beat up his wife…. or was constantly gossiping, or was the kind of person who would constantly say such evil things out of anger… 

How was I to reconcile that?  Was this what Christianity was about? Hiding your sin impeccably while working for God so well outwardly? 

Back in Gey Hey, one of my friends spoke to me about a young boy she liked. She didn’t want to like him. He was… not the kind of boy a Christian girl was supposed to like. I couldn’t offer any advice, so we would just talk about him. But then she didn’t like how guilty it made her feel… so she went to speak to one of the Christian counsellors we had. I don’t remember if I was the one that advised her to. I really hope I wasn’t. Because if I told you the advice she was given, you’d weep for that fifteen-year-old girl, and the condemnation she carried that day onward! It shrivelled her just a little bit, and I bet it was a lesson learnt in ‘keep your ‘sins’ hidden, or you will be doomed.’ 

I published my first book this year, 🥳🥳🥳🥳 Perspectives (You really should order a copy here!). It’s a novel that walks the lives of multiple people in life… showing things from their viewpoint… things we don’t see… especially people in the church. I think I wrote it because I needed to document all these things that I’ve seen and heard as a child born into the church. 

The culture of hypocrisy and condemnation really needs to be dealt with. And love – the Love that brought Jesus to be born as a human, and to be killed for our sin… that love is what should be shown. Not this constant censure and self-righteousness that decides how superior some sins are over others.

Like I said, Dear diary…. I don’t exactly know where I’m going with this. But I do know that I’m finally writing again, and I’m happy to be learning and unlearning so much. 

Sometimes, I wish I could go back to the little girl I was, and hug her, and say: “Live a little… there’s so much more to life. Breathe! God loves you, whether you kiss a boy or not. He loves you. He is not man. He loves you!”

6 thoughts on “Friday December 31 2021

  1. I for one went to a Christian school, a Mission school and boy oh boy were people hammered for having boyfriends…and when i think of it now, it doesn’t surprise me why all those teaching were laid upon on the girl child. Women have always had to be made to take full responsibility as though they’re little devils trying to get boys off the church wagon. Beautiful story Elise, i did laugh hard on not being allowed to listen to church music. I recall for hip-hop lovers there was once the Truth Behind Hip-Hop sessions which had most people ready to let go of the genre. Wishing you a prosperous new year!

  2. I loved reading this as well. I never went to a mission school. But I can definitely relate to those experiences. Surely it’s high time we shake off that guilt we had in the past of talking to boys or having a boyfried😂😂.. Thank you for being real and telling it like it is!!!

  3. I’ve enjoyed this. You’re said it well that most of our cultures and religions in Ghana form us into being hypocritical in our ways. Growing out of such ways takes such great efforts especially if you’re from a religious family.

  4. Nice piece of thoughts.
    I remember, while in undergrad, I tried to date a church girl but it end up in tears. Fell church members pursued her as if dating was crucifying Jesus again. So, much guilt built in her and we decided to end the relationship.

  5. Haha…Elize, I can really relate to what you just put down here! Back in school, Gey Hey, there was a time my class was tasked to produce a performance for entertainment night! Almost everyone in my class was not ready to spend their time on that…more so because it was a dance to a secular song that was selected! Well, the entertainment rep for my class (now a lady pastor married to Bishop Dags son😊) was so devastated and frustrated. A group of us decided to help out although we were all “church girls”. You saw me that particular night after the performance and all you said was “ei Asoreba! I saw what you did on stage” I dont think I ever performed again and neither did I ever stop feeling terrible for doing that till it came to mind somewhere in Uni. Well I just decided to forgive myself for that performance…not because it was a sin but because I had to move on from the guilt I received afterwards. Lol…but I’m happy about this piece, it makes me know that we all didn’t understand much about what knowing Jesus is all about😊😘

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