We can see easily see how strong ideologies can tear people apart and cause nothing but destruction.
Want an example? Just turn on the news.
There is a difference between standing up for what you believe in, and destroying all those who don’t agree with your beliefs. One is loving. So loving. And the other is fear that breeds more fear.
Recently, something in my life has happened that has allowed me to understand this concept more deeply.
Let’s start with this. I was born and raised as a Catholic in a very Catholic family. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten until 8th grade and have been to mass every Sunday for most of my life.
When I was a teenager, my rebellious brother showed me the documentary Religulous and soon after it wasn’t hard for me to drop Catholicism. I quickly went from a girl who prayed every night to the big man in the sky, to someone who was quite indifferent about it all. Maybe it was to be cool. Maybe it was to be like my brother. I don’t know, but it just wasn’t something I wanted to participate in anymore.
So, fast forward to a little under a decade later. I had gone through some real dark times and somehow made it out after discovering a new definition of God. I saw God in every face, every plant, every laugh, every particle of dust in the air. And it was with this liberated way of practicing my spirituality, I found something that is here to stay with me for the rest of my life. However, still living with my parents, I had to still go through the motions of going to mass or pretending like I went to mass, when really, I would go to Starbucks and read Buddhist or Spiritual self development books. That was my version of going to mass. That was my version on being with God.
Very recently, I found that I had had enough. I was feeling guilty because I kept lying to my parents about going to church. I knew if I told them the truth, it would hurt them, particularly my mom, who was raised in a severely Catholic household. So one day, I woke up on a Sunday and went downstairs for my coffee. My mom sat there sorting through some mail, and asked me what time I would prefer to go to church.
“Nah, I don’t think I’m going to go.” I said it so casually, almost being foolish with my tone. I thought that if I phrased it in that way, it wouldn’t seemed like a big deal. But boy, I was wrong.
My mom’s mood quickly changed, I swear it was like I saw a sudden flash of lightening fill the room. I knew I had just figuratively stepped into a horrific pile a elephant poo that would leave a foul smell on my shoes for days.
“What do you mean you don’t want to go to church?!”
“I just don’t. It’s boring and Catholicism doesn’t resonate with me anymore.”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?! YOU’VE BEEN A CATHOLIC ALL YOUR LIFE!”
“Well, I don’t want to be one anymore.”
“Aren’t you scared of what God will do to you if you don’t go to church?!”
(I suppress a laugh.)
“So that’s it? You just won’t pray anymore or go to church?! After going to Catholic school?! What about your soul?! You need to do something for your soul! This world is already as horrible as it is!”
She continued to rant on and on, and I was honestly astonished to hear all of the fear she’s tied into her own religious beliefs. Most of the things she was saying sounded like threats or impending doom. Like, if I didn’t go to church, a thunder bolt would come out of the sky and hit me. And I’ll go to hell. Like, if I didn’t go to church, how would I earn brownie points with God? How could I enter into heaven? The assumptions that I was fundamentally flawed and evil and that I needed go to church and pray to be on the good side of God just shocked me. I’ve been ignoring Catholicism so much that I had never even realized what it was really teaching. And maybe this isn’t all what Catholicism is about, but this was the version of Catholicism my mom believed. And it honestly made me sad to see that she felt so much fear.
“I’m not doing this to hurt you, mom.” I said to her, once she stopped talking.
“Yes! Yes you are doing this to hurt me!” And she slammed the door shut and left.
That stung. It really felt like she ripped a hole in my chest. Shortly after, however, I oddly felt calm. Usually, something like this would shake me up pretty bad, but it revealed to me how afraid she was. As we all are. Instead of clinging to mantras, meditation, and tarot cards like the rest of us, she was clinging onto the act of going to church and doing penance. She thought that by not having her daughter go to church, she was basically letting me go to hell. And as a mother, she couldn’t have that. So that I understand. But to what extent do you fight for those beliefs? And if it is being done out of love, then why do I feel so condemned and rejected by her?
After this incident, she didn’t talk to me for a few days. I tried to just act normal and talk to her as if nothing had happened. I didn’t want this to hurt our relationship. But at the same time, I was willing to stand my ground as firmly as I could.
And this got me thinking. Was she really willing to distance herself from me, her own daughter, because I didn’t believe in the same things she believed in? Were her beliefs really worth damaging this relationship? Was this really worth shutting me out?
I’m a person. A real human being. With thoughts, feelings, and her perspective on life. And it fucking hurts to be put aside like this just because of differing beliefs.
People who favor ideologies over people destroy towns. They burn their bridges. The set fire to anything and anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They live in black and white. They forget that these people are real people. Not some tool to advance their own beliefs. Not somebody to yell over while they’re speaking to tell them they’re wrong.
I’m not saying that my mother will destroy towns or set fire to anything. I’m simply using this as an example to depict what lengths people will go to prove that they’re right.
That being said, I’m not going to continue to practice something I don’t believe in. Even though it would make my life so much easier if I could just keep lying to her saying that I go to church like a good Catholic woman, I won’t. I can’t. Because it’s not my truth and it’s not something that feels right for me anymore. I’m so unwilling to keep lying to the point where I’m willing to face the wrath of Mom and all the things she’ll say to me about how bad of a person I am—so I can stand for the truth I believe in. And I resist, I resist, yelling back and telling her about how Catholicism is bullshit. Even though I really fucking want to. Because if I yell back or if I tell her how much I am right, and how much she is wrong, then I am no different. Standing up for what you believe in can be done peacefully. In fact, standing up for what you believe in is peace. MLK, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama. You know them. You’ve heard what they’ve done. You know it’s more than possible.
My situation isn’t unique or special. And it’s obviously not as worse as it could have been. People everywhere around the world are going through this–I don’t even have to say it. But this personal situation has revealed something of immense value for me to pay attention to. It’s helped me relate to the world differently and taught me to understand what standing up for what you believe in looks like in my life. And as I continue to gain clarity as to what is right and authentic for me, this I know is invaluable.
Kisses & Meows,