Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rose-Colored Glasses

Leaving the LDS church can be a very painful process in many ways. Like a fresh and aching wound that leaves one feeling raw and vulnerable, taking those first small steps away from the comfortable confines of organized religion can feel almost unbearable at times. This is mostly due to the social, cultural, and family norms that you may be breaking away from in the process. In fact, many who cease to believe continue to actively attend church simply because they don't want to lose their friends or disappoint their family. The desire to be one's genuine self is weighed heavily against the expectations placed on them by their peers. I know this feeling. I have felt this pain.

Case in point - a journal entry of mine, written in early 2010, shortly after my husband and I decided to leave the LDS church:

"From the moment I was born, I was being programmed. All children are. They are born into a family, a society, a world that pushes group beliefs, fears, and social norms on that child, shaping and molding him into the person society wants and expects him to be.

But what happens if that child grows up and refuses to fit the mold that has been prepared for him? What will his friends and family say? Will they be disappointed? Will they disown him? Or will they keep open minds and continue to love unconditionally this person who has found out for himself who and what he wants to be?

I think most of us know what is likely the unfortunate answer.

Life is rough right now. I feel like I'm constantly playing a violent game of tug-of-war in my head. On one end of the rope is this gut feeling that I am doing the right thing - that I cannot and will not continue to stand behind a church and community that is so backward and twisted, one that never practices what it preaches and is full of people who are so quick to judge others and to defend to the death what it deems as "right." On the other end are all those beliefs I've been programmed with since birth - that if I do not obey, stay in line, walk the straight-and-narrow, I will lose everything. My family will hate me. My friends will desert me. My husband will resent me. In short the message is simple: Stay in the church or watch your life crumble.

I wish I could switch my brain off, just be still and not have to think for a while. This constant battle rages in my head day and night, a heated debate that never seems to end. It's almost physically painful - removing those rose-colored glasses that were placed on me at birth and to see the world in real, vibrant, raw color.

It's amazingly wonderful.

And utterly terrifying.

So what do I do? Do I sacrifice the relationships I have now to obtain my own happiness and discover who and what I really am, or do I maintain the status quo to appease others and lose myself in the process?

I know the answer. In my heart I know the answer.

So I guess the question I'm sending out into the universe - to all those who are family, friend, or both is this:

If you knew I wasn't Mormon anymore, would you still love me? Would you still be my friend? Would you still speak to me? Would you still care for me?

Unfortunately, I know the answer to this too."

What an inner battle was waging within me, wanting to be true to myself and yet being full of so much fear about disappointing others. I am very grateful that those feelings have (for the most part) passed and that I chose authenticity over friendship, genuineness over conformity. 

The advice I give those who are just beginning the journey toward breaking away from the LDS church, feeling that inner struggle waging strong, is the same advice that I have heard time and time again from others: Life gets better. So much better! 

Will your family be disappointed? Maybe. Will they disown you? Perhaps. Will they some day come to their senses and at least attempt to understand you in order to preserve precious family connections? I certainly hope so. And if they refuse to accept you and love you for you, then they are not following the teachings of the religion they profess to follow. Remember that.

Will you lose your friends? You'll certainly lose some. I lost them all. It will be hard to move on without them, but move on you will. Will you make new friends? Yes! And the best part? They will like you because you are fun, smart, interesting! They will not only like you because you share common religious beliefs. The new friendships you cultivate will match your new personality and perspective because they will be genuine. And that's an amazingly wonderful thing. 

If you have decided to remove those rose-colored glasses and see the world as it is - as it really is - it will be difficult at times. Painful at times. But one morning you will wake up, rub the sleep from your eyes, and as you stare at the ceiling and mentally run through your daily checklist of things to do, you will come to an amazing realization: You have never been happier in your life than you are right now. 


I can't describe to you how incredible that feeling is, but I promise it will come. And when it does, you will never look back

1 comment:

  1. "or do I maintain the status quo to appease others and lose myself in the process"

    That right there was the thought that finally decided it for me when I was going through that struggle. If I didn't stand up for myself, a part of me would be lost forever. I didn't want to lose that part of myself, and suddenly I knew what I had to do.