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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Bad Thing about Being a Good Boy

Several kind people when I was a young adult in my early twenties advised me that I needed to "come out of my shell."  The shell was real and did some damage.  Here's how it developed.  When I was a teenager, I had a fixed idea that I should be "a good boy."  This did not mean good in the sense of Godly righteousness, but it meant being in conformity with respectability and telegraphing to all comers that I would not be a troublemaker in any way (or mischief maker, show off, or wisecracker).  I was to be outstanding only as a "good boy."  Even though teenage hormones were raging, I was to deny this and make no public indication that I was interested in sex.  I was severely curtailed in social activities with my peers (other than the controlled environment of school--where, in any case, I was ironclad self-controlled and inhibited).  This encouraged a stymied situation in which growing up with increasing expressions of independence, responsibility, and assertiveness was tightly repressed.  In college at a Wesley Foundation meeting we freshmen were going around the table and introducing ourselves to the new chaplain.  A young lady from my hometown who attended the same church as me back home said that "Wayne was the type of boy that all the old ladies in the church loved."  Since I had a secret crush on her at the time, this stung--but I sat silent.  The "good boy" concept had triumphed.  And the shell was uniform affecting not only sexual relations but all social occasions.  College speech classes (in which assertiveness is an asset) were menacing threats to my tightly controlled censorship and reserve. Since I offered nothing real, I began to think that I had nothing real to offer.  The problem with being a "good boy" is that it is phony--it denies reality, including the reality that we have a need to be genuine and occasionally conspicuous.  Self-expression becomes perverted into a constant inward focused policing repression of the social, assertive self.  Perhaps the contrary assumption of a "bad boy" mantle (rather than the "good boy" role) is just as bad or worse since you can hurt others while hurting yourself.  But the "good boy" also can do much harm through sins of omission and an uncomfortably stiff insincerity.

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