Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's not (just) me. It's (also) you.

I’m sick of the oft asked/answered question, “How can one leave the Church without destroying relationships/hurting people?”  The repetition isn’t my problem.  I just don’t understand why the onus to preserve relationships and avoid hurting feelings is always on the person leaving the church.  Are there things we can do?  Sure.  We can avoid equating religious faith and superstition.  We can avoid using a condescending tone.  We can refrain from swearing/drinking/smoking in the presence of people who might be offended by it.  In essence, we can display understanding and empathy for their feelings because we’ve been on their side of the member/non-member or active/inactive fence.  But that is far easier said than done when we're being judged and accused of un-apologetically hurting those we love.

CAN we leave the Church without ruffling any feathers?  Is that possible?  Of course it isn’t.  There are going to be friends/family/ward members who are going to be sad if not angry, offended, scared, disdainful, shocked.  We can handle it in the best possible manner (whatever that is) but some people are going to experience negative emotion as a result of our disassociation with the Church no matter what.  Remember, we are no longer going to be with them in the Celestial Kingdom for eternity.  We’ve given up our birthright. We’re the ones who have changed.     

But, is it too much to expect that our loved ones show us some compassion, sympathy, understanding? Is it too much to expect them to take a peek over the fence, ask questions rather than make assumptions, validate our reasons and feelings, and attempt to understand our points of view?  I think we let them off the hook too easily.  Since when is intolerance acceptable?  Since when is it okay to be self-righteous, judgmental or closed-minded?  Relationships are two-person gigs.  People are allowed to change and grow.  Sometimes relationships survive change and sometimes they don’t.  If we’ve been respectful, kind, tolerant and patient then we have done our part and certainly shouldn’t be beating ourselves up for hurting people who have chosen to be hurt and have stubbornly refused to allow healing in the relationship.  

A relationship isn't based on sharing all of the same goals, beliefs, interests, and values.  A relationship is based on enjoying the common ground while also accepting that sometimes we play at different parks with different playmates who share others of our interests.

What do you think?  Can we start asking our family and friends to hear us out, trust us (because we're not saying we have intellectual reasons when in reality we just wanted to sin), and then be mature enough to accept our viewpoints even if they still don't share them?  Can we start asking each other how we can do OUR part to preserve our relationships AS WELL AS what is reasonable to expect from our loved ones in return?  Can we stop accepting that love is conditional upon  absolute conformity?

In the interest of full disclosure, I've had this very easy by comparison to many, many others.  I have had very supportive and accepting friends and family.  So, I could be totally off base here.  Maybe my inability to understand why it might be too much to expect reciprocation of compassion stems from my experiences exclusively with people who have accepted and loved me despite my lifestyle/worldview differences.  


  1. Exactly. I feel pretty lucky that I found exmo friends to talk to, so my family didn't hear all of the anger and pain I was going through. That helped them to not want to shun me...

    Generally speaking, people in the church believe their way is the right way, therefore it is not only okay but GOOD that they try to convince you to come back, but then if you try to tell them why you left, they throw it back in your face. It's all very confusing to me.

    It's like the abusive spouse that says, "Why did you leave?" and when you answer the question, they say, "Why are you always bringing up the past?"


  2. This post is in the running for a Brodie award in the category of "Best Discussion of Mormon (or former-Mormon) Community". Please go here if you'd like to vote (or campaign) for yourself. :D