Approval and Adulthood
“Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9, Stephen Mitchell translation
These are words to live by, but I still needed other people’s approval until just recently. As a female, I was not raised to be emotionally independent. My mother couldn’t give me what she didn’t have.
I could have saved myself years of church attendance and emotional manipulation had I not been so willing to be someone’s prisoner. There is always the seductive lie: “Obey me and I will take care of you.” The truth is much simpler: “Obey me and waste years of your life and keep our dysfunctional system going. Oh, by the way, we never intended to take care of you; you were always on your own. Your needs didn’t get met? That’s your own fault (for being stupid enough to believe the lie in the first place).”
I’m a little bitter, but mostly I just feel duped. My emotional needs advertised themselves to authority figures and made me an easy target. Christians refer to my upbringing as “training,” as in “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Buddhists refer to this emotional hell as “conditioned existence,” the source of much suffering and precisely what we are to depart from to achieve emotional freedom and adulthood. One philosophy encourages perpetual childhood; the other promotes maturity. I so lost myself in Christianity; I only hope I can find myself before I die.