Thursday, April 09, 2009

Pain

I have the site PostMormon.org bookmarked, but I rarely go to it. Well, yesterday I decided to browse around the forums, and ran across a thread titled "Why Mormons Can't Understand the Pain of Being Postmormon." It's a pretty old thread that keeps getting bumped, but wanted to share and write about something the original poster said.
This is the agony that faithful members of the church simply cannot understand. We have them visit us here periodically on the forum, challenging us on why it hurts to leave the church, and how everyone is free to believe whatever they want, the church doesn't hold a gun to anyone's head and make them attend or pay their tithing, blah, blah, blah. They have no idea what the real pain is. It's not their fault--they have not had this experience, and from their perspective, it makes no sense. They simply cannot wrap their minds around that which is not real to them.

The real pain is in the knowledge that in the eyes of your faithful Mormon friends and family members, you have failed. You don't measure up. They may continue to love you, but now you are the prodigal child. You have strayed from the fold, soiled the family name, and because they are good and righteous people, they will continue to extend their love to you, but now it is out of pity, not respect.

It no longer matters the quality of your character. It no longer matters the quality of family you raise, the quality of life you live, the love you extend to others, the accomplishments you achieve, the things you learn, the lives you touch...all that matters is that you failed. You are a disappointment to your parents, to the church, and ultimately to God.
I'd add to this that most people in general don't get this.

My heart just aches when I read over that, because it's so true. It's been almost six years since I made the decision to leave the church. I'm still dealt with rather... awkwardly by my family. Maybe it's just the way I perceive it, but, nevertheless, that's how it feels.

It feels like they're all uncomfortable around me.

It sucks.

8 comments:

Erin said...

Robert Kirby, a columnist for the SL Tribune, wrote a column just within the last few weeks titled, "Apostasy, good or bad? It depends ..." (It doesn't appear to be available online any longer). In his column he reminded the LDS that while the popular view is to shun apostates, converts to the LDS church are ultimately apostates from another church.

The same church that teaches doctrine of eternal families also teaches doctrine of agency. Ultimately it may be awkward for your family to acknowlege that you don't accept the same doctrine, they also have been taught that it is your choice.

In my family, there are members of varying levels of church activity - from the apostatized to the fanatical. The bottom-line: family's family. No matter how differing religious beliefs might be, I'd hope that a family can see eye to eye when it comes to loving and supporting one another.

Mandi Baby said...

I would like to echo Erin's comments. I just had this conversation with two of my really good friends last night that no longer associate with the church. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that people should feel like you do! I think agency is such a great gift and I hate when people try to/make me feel uncomfortable about MY lifestyle to be LDS so why do so many LDS people make others feel uncomfortable for not being it? It just doesn't make sense to me.

Michelle you are such a wonderful person! Unlike the excerpt from the article, I bet your family does not "extend love...out of pity." They know YOU and love YOU because of who you are, not because they "have to."

Michelle said...

Right. And this is PRECISELY why I say you don't get it.

And it is NOT ridiculous. It is reality.

1. MOST mormons are hypocritical in that they say out loud that families are #1 but then treat any differences in the family as black sheep, outsiders. (Erin, if your family is accepting of everyone, that's awesome. But rare.)

2. As a Christmas present one year, one of my sisters gave me a framed picture of Jesus holding a sheep, with the phrase "Come Unto Me" included on the picture. Is this acceptance and love for who I am? I think not.

3. I was not allowed to my sister's wedding 2 years ago. And I am not allowed to attend the other sister's wedding next month. In fact, I was told by her that it was convenient that I couldn't come so that I could babysit while the rest of the adults are in the temple. Family first? Nope.

4. In fact, I'm quite certain that a number of one of my sisters' friends don't even know she has an older sister.

5. Etc.

So, whatever.

You can presume to know what I feel and how my family and old friends are to me. But you are wrong. It's not your fault, but you are wrong. You can't understand, which is what I was trying to say in my post.

Michelle said...

Hopefully it will get better for you. I am 19 years out of the church and the first 12 years were really rough. Now I have flare ups with my mom every 2 years or so (when issues like Prop 8 pop up). For the most part I get the sense that while she certainly doesn't agree with my non-religious views, she has a respect for the firmness of my convictions and the way I ended up with them - if that even makes a lick of sense. I know for years she just thought I was lazy or misguided. I never wanted to hurt her feelings by laying all my thought processes out for her. But one day we had that difficult conversation and after that we seemed to reach a comfortable plane for both of us.

Saganist said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been getting this vibe lately from my in-laws. I didn't join the church until I was 22, and when my (born in the church) wife and I were dating, her mom made an off-hand comment about her daughter dating a non-member. "It's not exactly a mother's dream come true," she said. I was not present for this comment, but it has haunted me ever since. Now that I no longer believe, I feel exactly the way you describe in this post.

Thank FSM my own family is not particularly religious, and completely accepts me regardless of whether I buy into all the Mormon crap.

Janet said...

I appreciate your blog and have it bookmarked. Although I've never been Mormon, I was raised Catholic and left that church to join my husband's, got deeply involved in the conservative Christian movement and have left that, so I have some similar experiences. It bothers me, for reasons I don't totally understand, that the Catholic church sees my marriage as invalid. If a baptized Catholic (and they baptize infants, so what choice did I have) marries in a different church, the Catholic church claims their marriage is invalid. I see it as a way to maintain control and to punish heretics. Usually it doesn't bother me, but once in awhile...

Michelle said...

Welcome Saganist and Janet... thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Look, I agree completely about how ostracized you can be if you leave the church and your family is still in, BUT I think that it could be different--if, say, Mormons didn't feel that anyone who has left the fold is a per se challenge to their choices and lifestyle [see comment 2].

I'm a practicing, nonbelieving Mormon and I absolutely know that my relationship with the bulk of my family would be destroyed if I told them the truth about my beliefs. I don't know if my father would ever speak to me again [and that isn't just me imagining, his wife, to whom I have confided the truth, says that that's what would happen. It does suck.

However, for me, there are enough payoffs to being active Mormon that it's worth it in the end.
-G