When I must be “The Bad Guy.”

When I must be “The Bad Guy.”

Image cour­tesy of DaveBloggs007.

I’ll nev­er for­get talk­ing to a friend — a for­mer super­vi­sor, actu­al­ly — and telling her about my athe­ism, my activism, and my writ­ing specif­i­cal­ly. She only ever knew me in per­son — and fun­da­men­tal­ist me at that! — some­one who was just start­ing to ask ques­tions, some­one who was soft-spo­ken and qui­et and afraid. As I told her the top­ics I tend to write about, she was sur­prised. I told her, “Well, I’m much stronger with writ­ten words than with talk­ing.” She start­ed laugh­ing uproar­i­ous­ly. At my con­fu­sion, she explained, “Don’t you see the irony? You’re just like the Apos­tle Paul!”

So…I mean, yeah. I kind of am like Paul. I’m soft and timid even in per­son often­times. The strength and fire I pos­sess live so deep in my spir­it that almost the only time they ever see the light of day is through my writ­ing.

After all, I am inher­ent­ly a peo­ple-pleas­er. A bridge-builder, peace-mak­er, a find-com­mon-ground-with-every­one kind of per­son. I hate con­fronta­tion and I hate con­tro­ver­sy.

So it’s with not a lit­tle bemuse­ment that in the past few years and in many facets of my life, I’ve sud­den­ly found myself in this role of The Bad Guy. The Bad Guy who just can’t keep qui­et any­more, who has to say some­thing, who has to ask a ques­tion, who has to see some­thing I’ve nev­er seen before.

And I hate being The Bad Guy.

I was The Bad Guy when I first start­ed writ­ing about the neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences I’d had with­in Chris­tian­i­ty, even while still being a Chris­t­ian myself. The more I decon­struct­ed my beliefs — about God, about gen­der roles, about my role and pur­pose in this great big wide world — the more I found myself being forced into the role of The Bad Guy. “Why do you have to talk about this?” peo­ple would ask. “What hap­pened to the Dani I used to know?”

You’re wel­come.

So when I pub­licly declared that I was no longer a Chris­t­ian, I prac­ti­cal­ly became a super-vil­lain overnight. Or at least you’d have thought that from the respons­es I got from friends and fam­i­ly alike. (Thank­ful­ly, my imme­di­ate fam­i­ly, online com­mu­ni­ty, and clos­est friends are sup­port­ive enough to cut some of the pain away from that.)

And now, once again, I find myself in this role of Bad Guy, because I’ve bro­ken off my mar­riage.

I don’t want to go into any detail what­so­ev­er here. I have no wish to turn any­one against him, nor do I want to delve too deeply into my pri­vate life. Suf­fice it to say that while we did both agree in the end that sep­a­rat­ing is the best deci­sion, I’m the one who insti­gat­ed it by say­ing that it was over.

When I am per­ceived as The Bad Guy, my knee-jerk reac­tion is to qui­et myself, make myself small and com­pli­ant, de-esca­late the ten­sion as quick­ly and effi­cient­ly as pos­si­ble. But I’m an INFJ, and I’m noth­ing if not trans­par­ent­ly authen­tic in every­thing I say and do and think. I can only hide my strug­gles for so long before they burst out of me all at once, and once they’ve burst there is sim­ply no stuff­ing them back inside.

I don’t know how to feel about all of this. What to do with it. How to rec­on­cile oth­ers’ per­cep­tion of me with the strength of con­vic­tion that runs through the very core of my being. Not to say that oth­ers lack this con­vic­tion, not at all. But some­times paths diverge and sim­ply can­not be con­verged again, no mat­ter how bad­ly they may wish to be.

I could explain my thought process­es for every step of these var­i­ous jour­neys. I’m very prone to explain­ing and dis­sect­ing and hop­ing beyond hope that I can just make you see why and how, make you see cause and effect, con­nect dots for you, con­nect dots for me. I want to feel jus­ti­fied, val­i­dat­ed. I don’t want to be The Bad Guy. I don’t want to accept that to so many, I am petu­lant and over-shar­ing and run­ning away from prob­lems that could be fixed if I would just try hard­er.

But I can’t change, even if I tried. Even if I want­ed to.*

And so…here I sit. The Bad Guy. It’s not com­fort­able. I don’t like it. But if this is who I have to be in order to be me, then so be it.

*Yes, this is a direct quote from Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm.” No, I’m not say­ing any­thing by quot­ing this. It’s just a line that has stuck out to me late­ly about who I am as a per­son. I’ve spent so much of my life try­ing to change to make oth­ers hap­py, and I just can’t do it any­more.

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