I read this post by Eliza R. Snitch the other day and it made me a little sad. In it she answered the question of whether she has had her name removed from the records of the church or not. I may have misunderstood the tone, but a couple of the comments seemed to disagree with her decision or reasoning for it. I have a hard time with that kind of judgment; because it seems that no matter what you do someone will think or say YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG! It’s true that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. And you really shouldn’t try because I feel that the whole point of life is to do your best to live a fulfilling life that YOU can be happy with and whether other people agree with your decisions or not should be irrelevant; should being the keyword there. The problem is that no one likes to be judged, and we are all guilty of judging others whether intentionally or not.
So I have been thinking a lot about why people do what they do. I know why I do what I do, because I know what I think and what I have experienced in my life. Because of that I can’t decide what is right for someone else to do in their life. I can give them advice (if they ask for it), but my advice will still come from my limited view, without the benefit of knowing their life experiences and how they might affect the decision.
There is usually judgment by TBM’s when someone leaves the church, or even if they just stop going to church. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons behind this, and I’m not a psychology major so I don’t know what they all are, I just know that it really bugs me. The problem is [CONFESSION TIME] I have found myself doing the very thing that I hate. I have been guilty of judging members of the church for believing in something that I feel is obviously false and have viewed them as being naive or ignorant because they can’t see the issues and still believe in the church (even though this is what I did for 35 years). Or the members who know the issues but still believe, which has been very puzzling to me. Then there are the people who know about the issues, no longer believe the church is true, but still attend. That seemed dishonest and frustrated me a lot.
But what I have come to realize and accept is that people do things for a lot of different reasons, which I will never fully understand because I am not them and I don’t know what they are thinking or what they have experienced. As far as believing members go, I think there is a broad spectrum of level of belief and commitment to the church as well as enjoyment and fulfillment received from being a part of it, and those things all play a role in why people believe in the church or not, or attend church or not.
I could only see the church from my perspective; of feeling trapped in something that I believed to be true but hated because the structure of the church didn’t work for me and my personality. So when I discovered the church wasn’t true I was OVERJOYED! I thought everybody would be just as happy as I was to hear the news, and that was the case for only one person (my sister) who was just as miserable as I was in the church. But there were other people I told who just didn’t care about my issues with the church and I was so perplexed by that. In my mind, these things were imperative to determining whether the church was true, but I came to realize that a lot of members believe that the church is true, they enjoy being a part of it and the information I had was completely irrelevant to them.
It has taken me a while to come to the realization that some people are better off because they are members of the church, and destroying their testimony would be detrimental to them. I think I have been honest enough with the people I am close to that if they had doubts about the church and wanted more information about why I left it they could ask me, but I hope that my friends and family know that I won’t try to get them to leave the church. I respect their right to be a part of the church and don’t think less of them because of it, and I hope they can give me the same courtesy.
As for people who don’t believe in the church anymore but continue to attend and appear to believe; I struggled with this for a long time because it seemed wrong to do that, but again, they have their reasons and it’s not my place to decide what they should do. Some people really enjoy the social environment of the church and would lose their only social connections if they were to leave it. Others may be employed by the church and would lose their jobs if they left it. Then there are family and friends to consider. Some people would lose important relationships if they left the church and those relationships are worth a little pretending. I can totally understand all those reasons, and I know there are a lot more that I haven’t considered.
The bottom line is I have felt a lot of peace lately because I have been able to let go of judgments that I didn’t realize have been weighing me down. I have also gained a greater love and appreciation for all people because I know that most people are doing exactly what I am; they are doing their best to make the right decisions for themselves and their families. I have no right to judge their decisions. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to be judged, because I think its human nature (or Mormon nature – was that being judgmental? Damn!). And obviously I will have to work on not judging others myself, but I think the world would be a pretty great place if we could all just love and appreciate each other for who we really are and not get hung up on labels and judgments. I applaud those of you who have already figured this out; I can be a little slow sometimes. And I also want to say that I really appreciate the support I have received from the online ex-Mormon community. I can’t believe how awesome you guys are! In the name of the flying spaghetti monster, AMEN! Now let’s go have a beer!