Sad pandas, boundaries, and relationships.


Sad pandas, boundaries, and relationships.


A cou­ple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the per­cep­tion of me from some of my for­mer church camp friend group is that I’ve cut off most peo­ple from my past life and might be rude if for­mer friends were to reach out to me. I talked about how this per­cep­tion great­ly both­ered me, since from my view­point I’m not the one who did the cut­ting off, and I relat­ed some of my expe­ri­ences and how they’ve hurt me, how I’d hon­est­ly love to still be friends but don’t know that it’s pos­si­ble. I’m not ashamed to say that it was a real­ly sad pan­da post. Some­times I’m a sad pan­da, and I need to write about it.

Today, though, I want to talk about these things a bit more abstract­ly, since I feel like in my sad­ness I neglect­ed to expand on some of my oth­er relat­ed thoughts.

I’m a real­ly big believ­er in bound­aries and respect­ing the choic­es, expe­ri­ences, and desires of indi­vid­u­als. I think peo­ple get to decide how oth­ers are allowed to inter­act with them, and that the onus is on oth­ers to real­ly hear what that per­son is say­ing (yes, even when that per­son is silent. Silence is an answer, after all, and that answer is “I don’t want to talk to you.” Respect it!). I’m just afraid that my post didn’t reflect these beliefs as clear­ly as I’d like it to have.

No one is oblig­at­ed to remain friends with me. Hav­ing been in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, but on the oth­er side of the sit­u­a­tion, I real­ly under­stand how uncom­fort­able and even painful it can be to remain in con­tact with some­one who has aban­doned a core com­po­nent of your rela­tion­ship. I have no wish to cause oth­ers pain, and I hon­est­ly have no real ani­mos­i­ty towards those who have decid­ed that I’m a tox­ic influ­ence in their life and they’ll be hap­pi­er and health­i­er with­out my pres­ence. I think they they’re the best expert on what will make their lives hap­py and healthy (even if I dis­agreed), and I try to save my ani­mos­i­ty for those who are open­ly dis­re­spect­ful and/or big­ot­ed. But, I mean, I 100% sup­port the deci­sion of peo­ple who don’t want me in their lives. Tru­ly.

In fact, it’d be pret­ty shit­ty of me to insist that they must remain my friend, to con­tin­u­al­ly insert myself into their lives, to con­stant­ly try to manip­u­late them into a rela­tion­ship they want no part of. That’s not an okay thing for me to do, and I do my best to be respect­ful of their wish­es.

But it still hurts.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? They get to decide that they don’t want to be friends with me, for any rea­son what­so­ev­er, and I must respect and accept that deci­sion. But my feel­ings, my pain, are still valid here.

I’m not say­ing that I get to have my feel­ings at them. I don’t get to try to make them the care­tak­er of my hurt feel­ings. That’s super not okay for me to do. But I do still get to grieve. I still get to acknowl­edge hurt. And hon­est­ly, the loss of friend­ship has been so wide­spread that I don’t know how else to acknowl­edge my hurt and work it out oth­er than in writ­ing, as I tend to do.

Part of my con­fu­sion, also, comes from the var­i­ous Chris­t­ian friends I do still have, friends who have out­spo­ken­ly stood up for me when my beliefs and my char­ac­ter have been dis­re­spect­ed or malaigned. Peo­ple who affirm that just because we don’t share our faith any­more doesn’t mean we don’t still share our lives and our love for one anoth­er. Peo­ple who real­ly under­stand that my lack of faith isn’t an attack on their faith. I just have to won­der why that is. I won­der if it’s because our inter­ac­tions were nev­er pred­i­cat­ed on shar­ing the same belief, the way my inter­ac­tions with my fel­low Ply­mouth Brethren seemed to unspo­ken­ly be.

But hon­est­ly, at the end of the day, I just don’t know. And I prob­a­bly can’t ever know. And that has to be okay. I have to be okay with that. But it also has to be okay for me to be sad about it. Just because I’m sad about it doesn’t mean that some­one has to help me not be sad. Some­times sad­ness, grief, just needs to hap­pen.

Peo­ple get to set their own bound­aries, believe what they want to believe, and I will absolute­ly respect that. But I don’t get why their bound­aries and beliefs are to be respect­ed, while mine are viewed as hos­tile or unrea­son­able. I don’t under­stand why even just pub­licly talk­ing about my athe­ism (exact­ly the same way I pub­licly talked about my faith for years) is tak­en to mean that I’m unap­proach­able or some­how changed in any­thing oth­er than my beliefs and my back­bone. The only expla­na­tion I can find is one that Neil Carter of God­less in Dix­ie talked about recent­ly:

Why is it auto­mat­i­cal­ly an attack on one person’s faith for anoth­er per­son to mere­ly state that she is an athe­ist and that she feels mis­un­der­stood?  It real­ly doesn’t seem to mat­ter how nice­ly you put it.  It seems they are offend­ed, not because of the con­tent of what we’ve said, but sim­ply because we’ve said any­thing at all.  That in itself was the trans­gres­sion.  It seems there is an unspo­ken rule that if you’re gonna go and stop believ­ing in your reli­gion of ori­gin, that’s up to you but the one thing you have to remem­ber to do is not say a word about it to any­one, you hear?

When it comes down to it, I love my friends. Even the ones who, well, aren’t any­more. But I don’t love them enough to hide or lie about who I am. I respect them, and I grieve the loss of our friend­ship (oh man, do I ever grieve it). Those aren’t con­flict­ing state­ments at all. And while I grieve and won­der at the loss, I also have to embrace who I am now. Change and all.

Sor­ry for ram­bling. Just some thoughts I’ve been hav­ing about all of this.

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