One of my greatest difficulties in recovering from my former Christian religion is that I have to navigate the subtext of faith without having an adequate outlet. Simple things that people take for granted become terrible hurdles to overcome when you don’t have a positive view of the religious source. That itself can lead to anger, resentment, and a whole host of other problems over time.
Much of this comes from a negative point of view.
Oftentimes, interacting with people when they say seemingly innocuous religious platitudes can feel like an exercise in biting your tongue. Praying for me? Please don’t – your invisible friend should be helping other people more in need of divine assistance than I. However, since people were trying to be nice, I’m the monster for taking the time to explain how such pleasantries are not pleasant to me.
My initial reactions are similar whenever I feel like I’m forced to sit down and shut up to avoid offending people. Of course, this is because I was forced to do it all the time when I was younger. That kind of anger boils up and burned me from the inside.
Really, the anger is only a product of that initial friction because I don’t know what to do with it. Changing my perspective, reacting calmly to the nonsense of others helps steer the conversation away from such problems to the point that people might not even remember that it happened at all. Maintaining a cool head allows me an opportunity to not reinforce anything terrible, or add to the misery of others.
But it hurts more when I have to maintain a relationship with religious people.
It’s like living next to a bonfire that I have to keep hugging. My scars won’t heal and flesh won’t mend. I feel like there’s nothing that can be done about it.
What I’m not seeing is that by maintaining my wits and keeping my outward calm, I’m making a decision to not be part of the problem. Erupting in the moment and fighting fire with fire carries its own consequences. Some of them are worse, like the possibility of feeling like I never left faith in the first place. Considering all of the hurt that it caused, I’m quite fearful of that.
How is anyone supposed to live like this?
I don’t know. Part of the reason why I’m depressed and anxious is because of all of this. Being forced to endure that which is painful isn’t pretty, and being reminded of that is even less so.
But being quiet is not always a bad thing. Often here on the Internet people might say that you have to stand up always in order to keep the moral high ground. That’s not always true. When you’re hurt and bleeding, it’s okay to take time to heal.
And maybe taking the time to calm down and think things through is a good thing, too. There will always be that person or people who like to open old wounds – even unintentionally. Choosing the option that leaves fewer scars is infinitely more humane.
4 thoughts on “Managing Unhealthy Religious Relationships”
To anyone who offered to pray for me, I’d offer some Quakerly advice: “Prayer would be an evil rather than a blessing if it were only a way of getting God to do what we ourselves will not make the effort to do” or “Whenever we intercede in prayer we must be prepared for an answer which places a practical obligation upon us. A prayer is always a commitment”. I’ve conveyed the gist of that advice on perhaps 2 or 3 occasions in 50 years and the individuals have never mentioned prayer again. I suspect they may still pray for me privately/secretly, but that’s their problem, not mine.
Being both a migraine sufferer and autistic, I am sometimes inundated with “helpful” suggestions on ways to cure or alleviate both conditions. I have solved that problem by letting all and sundry know that I find such suggestion a negative trigger and distressing as it’s a constant reminder of the difficulties I face. I also let in be known that they should warn others that they should also remain silent about what cured their friend’s mother’s cousin’s granddaughter’s autism. I can now rely on those I know to keep “helpful” suggestions of others at bay. The truth be told, the suggestions are an irritation rather than distressing, but this is one case where I feel I can justify a little white lie.
Perhaps you could hint that having constant reminders that you have lost your faith is both distressing and counterproductive in that it drives you further away from God. That might have an impact you desire.
In similar situations I carry a gratitude stone in my pocket. Any old stone will do but I prefer a smooth one. When I feel such reactions, I reach into my pocket and feel gratitude that I am no longer a prisoner of such thoughts. (The stone is just a reminder or a trigger, not a magic talisman.) I think the proper emotion (we all create our own emotions and are therefore responsible for them) is pity; not in a sloppy self-serving way but in an understanding way. They are just doing the best they can … as am I.
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“But being quiet is not always a bad thing. Often here on the Internet people might say that you have to stand up always in order to keep the moral high ground. That’s not always true. When you’re hurt and bleeding, it’s okay to take time to heal.
And maybe taking the time to calm down and think things through is a good thing, too. There will always be that person or people who like to open old wounds – even unintentionally. Choosing the option that leaves fewer scars is infinitely more humane.”
Love this part Sirius. Wisdom.
Really well written article. Anyone of any religious persuasion would find your article highly insightful and deeply fascinating. I personally maintain an absolute,
unconditional belief in there being no God. And as any atheist will know, that disbelief will NEVER be taken away. I’ve given you a follow – would you be so kind to return the
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