As I started to write this post almost a month ago, I realized that it wasn’t coming out right. Now I think I know why – I was too ready to point fingers at others, rather than hold the mirror up and look at my reflection.
The truth is that I am struggling with my church family right now. They want to blame my feelings totally on family changes in the past month. I admit that brought them back to the surface, but I’ve felt this way since the day I became a part of my ward. (“Ward” is the term we use for an LDS congregation.)
I have always felt like an outcast and an outsider. It seems that I am not seen for who I really am because the members of my church are too busy seeing my labels. I’m left out socially because of my financial status – no one wants to make me uncomfortable or feel like I need to use my “meager funds” unnecessarily. There seems to be this invisible category of callings that I can “handle” because they are not too demanding for a woman without a husband. Because I work, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to really be able to connect with me – I’m just out of sync with their schedules.
Harsh – I know. Sorry. But, I think you need to see the background thoughts to see where I am going.
The brain seems to be hard-wired to protect. One of the best ways it accomplishes this task is to pick out the evidence that says “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” That means I am no longer responsible for the misfortune and unhappiness I experience. You are – because you are so flawed.
The brain is so good at this game that all of these thoughts seem natural. Our “truth” is that we are good and doing the best we can and that the others around us are flawed and/or out to get us.
Re-examining the Evidence
Sadly, knowing this means that I am probably more guilty of the things I am grousing about than the people I am accusing. No one has told me that there are limits and labels in use – I “discovered” that “reality” for myself. Perhaps it’s time to look a little more closely.
- What is truly the standard for being included? Is church a social club?
- Have I reached out to others and tried to connect with them, or am I sitting back and waiting for others to take notice of me?
- Am I guilty of “ranking” the importance and value of people around me, so that I am overlooking potentially wonderful friendships?
Serving in the Church
- What do I really believe about church assignments? Do I secretly believe that they are handed out by humans and that where I serve is a measure of my social status? Don’t I believe that callings are extended through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and so they actually come from God?
- Will I receive bigger blessings for “bigger” callings?
- Isn’t my focus supposed to be on making the most of the calling I have and using it to being souls to Christ?
- How much time to I expect to have with other people? Don’t I have a schedule full already?
- Most of my hobbies are solitary. Am I willing to change them to be able to spend time with friends?
- Do I really know how much is going on in the lives of the people I expect to reach out and friend me? Do I think they are wasteful with their time because I can do almost as much as they can outside of work and still hold down a full time job? Do I think they’re just making excuses? Do I imagine that I am the only one in the congregation who needs someone to reach out to them?
When I began this post originally, my first sentence read: “Has anyone else noticed that religion can seem to breed the most intolerant people?” I was prepared to point out how hard it is to deal with people who let us down, put us down, leave us out, etc. I was then going to give “helpful hints” on being the “nice guy.”
I’m glad I never finished that post. Yes, dealing with other people who are imperfect can be rough. I think the hardest thing about dealing with imperfect people may be to be able to admit to my own imperfections and actually try to correct them.