I’m a Christian good girl.
You know: the kind who’s never rebelled against her parents or gotten involved with the wrong crowd. The kind who’s busy doing ministry, who posts Scripture verses on Facebook and Christian quotes on Instagram stories, and has memorized a book of the Bible . . . You know the kind I’m talking about.
On the outside, I’m good.
On the inside beats a heart selfish, sinful, broken, and in desperate need of Jesus.
For years, I put my identity in my external goodness. But deep down, I saw the difference between who everyone thought I was and who I knew myself to be.
A good Christian wouldn’t think things like that, shame whispered.
No one can ever see the real you—they’d be shocked, insecurity taunted.
Look how you’ve fooled everyone—they all think you’re so good, pride mocked.
So I worked harder, put on a mask, and placed my hope in all my do’s and don’ts, have’s and have never’s.
Can you relate?
There’s nothing wrong with being “good.” But I know firsthand that placing our hope in our own goodness comes with a trap. A temptation to pin our holiness and salvation, not on Christ and His shed blood, but on our own inadequate attempts at goodness.
As God has revealed this destructive mindset in my own life, I’ve become aware of three specific lies good girls believe.
Lie # 1: I must never show weakness.
I’m afraid of letting people see how broken I am. I want to appear perfect, put together, always in control. I keep my struggles hidden because I don’t want to burden anyone and because if I shared them, my false front would fall away and leave me exposed.
To us, weak is a four-letter “bad word,” because we’re praised for our strength and competency. To be anything else—to show the weakness behind the mask—would be denying our supposed identity. We appear strong and strong we must be . . . even if we’re falling apart inside.
Strong good girls don’t fall apart, after all. They can’t. They square their shoulders, paste on a smile, and offer to carry another’s burden, even as they’re collapsing under the weight of their own.
It’s an exhausting and lonely way to live.
What if we were created for vulnerability? What if weakness is authentic and our false front is just that—false? What if we had the courage to tear off the mask and be authentically weak and broken, but completely secure in Christ?
Weakness is not a bad thing. If we’re always strong, we wouldn’t need God. And by putting up a barrier of strength, we’re implying we don’t need God. We don’t need help. We don’t need anyone. We can do it.
Except we can’t.
Good girls are not humanity’s exception. The ones who can shoulder the weight of the world and still stand up tall. God designed us to be weak, so His strength can be perfected in us. Jesus tells us His grace is sufficient. His power made perfect in our weakness. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
It’s okay to not have it all together. There’s more power in admitting our weaknesses and leaning into Christ’s strength, than covering them up with a counterfeit mask.
Lie # 2: I have the right to judge you.
I would never post something like that on Facebook.
You wouldn’t catch me wearing that outfit.
I can’t believe they said that.
I judge everyone by my own standard of goodness. If you don’t measure up? Well, you must not be as good as me. I don’t give much grace, either, except to myself. If I hear someone else mention faults of yours, I feel a smug sense of self-righteous satisfaction.
This is an ugly mindset. Unfortunately, it’s one many good girls live with: constant comparison, silent condemnation, judgment calls.
Yes, many people—even many Christians—don’t always live in a manner pleasing to God. And yes, we may notice. Jesus did too. He knew the deepest, darkest sins of all humanity. But He didn’t die so we could walk around condemning each other and ignoring our own sin. God calls us to love as He loved—with all the honest and hard truths of the gospel, but also with the grace that made Him say, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
So was that Facebook post, outfit, or thing they said wrong? Quite possibly. Was I justified in my self-righteous condemnation? No. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
All. That means me too.
Just because my sin is different than theirs doesn’t give me the right to smugly elevate myself, condemning, judging, and putting myself in the place of God. I don’t need to approve of it and I don’t need to imitate it, but neither should I call out a harsh judgment so I can self-righteously exalt myself and feel better about my “goodness.” We’re all in need of grace. None of us is the standard for goodness. Jesus is and Scripture is. I cannot judge people by myself to determine if they fall short or not. For “with what judgment you judge, you will be judged” (Matthew 7:2) and I know I fall short—even of my own standards, let alone God’s.
There is a time to call out a sinning brother or sister in Christ. (see Matthew 18:15-17, James 5:19-20, 2 Thessalonians 3:15) But it is to be done in humility and love, with repentance as the goal. Not condemnation and not for the benefit of our own ego.
Lie #3: I must work hard to earn God’s favor.
List-checking and rule-following are two favorite things for the good girl. We think if we complete this set of requirements, do this and don’t do that, we’ll work our way into earning God’s blessing. The problem is the more we focus on what we do, instead of who God is, the longer the list becomes and the more impossible it is to complete it.
I’ve lived like this. If I make sure to read my Bible for at least 30 minutes every day, pray for another 45, don’t have bad thoughts, and be sweet to everyone around me, God will look at me, see my goodness, and give me a stamp of approval. Or so I thought.
The problem wasn’t in what I was doing—those are wonderful things—but that I assumed doing them would keep God happy with me. I was checking items off my good girl list, begging God to love and approve of me.
I didn’t realize He already did.
The problem is that we put all the focus on what we do, instead of what Jesus has already done. We accept Jesus as our Savior and believe He died for our salvation, but then live like it’s not true. We subconsciously believe God gives shame instead of grace when we mess up—so we better try really hard not to mess up, because God might not forgive us next time. We place our identity in our performance instead of God’s goodness. Our hope in our goodness instead of Jesus’s righteousness and shed blood.
This pattern isn’t true and it doesn’t work.
Isaiah 64:6 says “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are like filthy rags.”
My righteousness is nothing but a filthy, second-hand attempt. And yet I cling to it, even though Jesus offers me His perfect, beautiful righteousness. It’s time for the great exchange.
My paltry goodness for His unceasing righteousness.
My failed attempts for His death and resurrection power.
My masks for His truth.
My striving for His grace.
Fellow good girl, let go of these lies and cling to Jesus.
Whether you identify as a good girl or not, know that Jesus has all the goodness we require and He’s offering it to us in His nail-pierced hands. Let’s not be girls whose identity is found simply in the word good, because we’re already girls whose identity is engraved with the word God’s.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I’d love to hear from you!
–Do you consider yourself a “good girl”?
-Which lie do you find yourself believing the most?
-How can you replace those lies with truth?
Bio: Sara Barratt is a 19-year-old writer, avid reader, chocolate lover, and lead editor for TheRebelution. Her first book releases Spring 2020 from Baker Books. Her passion is challenging teens to live sold-out and set-apart for Jesus. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and her website sarabarratt.com.