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.