Why are soap operas so popular? (Okay, so they’re less popular these days. You can substitute reality shows.) Why do we love watching these fake dramas?
Because they are not our dramas! There is something that makes us feel better about ourselves and our situations when we watch others struggle in theirs. Even when we know it is fiction and acting, it still feels better to have it be someone else. That’s also why soap operas and reality shows have to get more and more ridiculous; we are catching up to the fiction. We want the characters to have more divorces, more fights, more drug and alcohol problems, and more problems with kids—than we have. At least there is someone worse off than me.
So what do you do when you can’t watch television or go to movies? You watch each other! (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)
But there is truth in that, isn’t there? People in legalistic groups or churches or even families watch each other. They enjoy the drama of others because it takes their focus off their own drama. In fact, if they work it right, it might even take the focus of others off their drama.
We all struggle through life. There are times when things don’t go well. We have our dramas. But remember, the legalist isn’t supposed to have these problems. Their system is supposed to protect them from troubles. If they tithe, they shouldn’t have financial struggles. If wives submit, husbands won’t wander or be angry. If parents use the right discipline, children won’t rebel. A drama in the life of a legalist shouts failure for others to see.
So friends of legalists know they are being watched. They are being watched for weaknesses others can use to keep the focus off themselves. No one wants to be the weekly drama for the group. Who knows, your problem might even come up in the pastor’s sermon. (I have known pastors who will talk about counseling sessions from the pulpit. Anonymously, of course, but the family he’s talking about cowers in shame and fear.) Have you ever noticed how people turn around in church to see whose kid is acting up? Why do they need to know who it is?
Think of what that means for friendships in the group. You don’t dare express your real heart, your fears and failures. And, if you do, you have even more fear that your “friend” talks about you to others like she talks about others to you. Don’t give her any ammunition! Don’t let her into your house to see the disorder. Pray that she isn’t around when you have to discipline your kids. And certainly don’t let her know that you and your husband are struggling. After all, she is your friend.
Maybe legalists don’t really have friends. Maybe they just have projects and entertainment.