I met a man a few years ago who was fascinated by the fact that I had walked away from the faith of my family. While I looked back on my journey as a necessary step for my soul to be at peace, he saw me as a courageous lioness. We would talk for hours over coffee as I would answer his questions about the process I went through that led me to quit hiding and speak my truth.
From his perspective, my transition from a complete immersion in the Mormon faith, to an aversion to any form of deity and religion, to my current open-ended perception of spirituality was fuel for hours of animated conversation. For me, these conversations served as an opportunity to revisit a difficult period of my life with a new perspective. Talking openly about my experiences helped me heal areas of my life that were traumatized at a deeper level than I had previously realized.
I now recognize the courage required to openly defy my family’s expectations of me. But it wasn’t just my family. When you live in Small Town USA, and your neighbors are also part of the church congregation and everybody’s business is everybody’s business, you aren’t just defying your family. You are facing the wrath of everyone that you know! To disagree with every person that is important to you, and risk their disappointment is no small obstacle. The people you love most, your family and close friends, expect you to fill a role for them. It baffles me that our tendency is to present the image we perceive that everyone else expects, even when that image is incongruent with our own core. I did it for far too many years.
When I realized that I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror, the courage to reconcile my Self with the image I was presenting came bubbling up and I never looked back.
I Can’t Be The Only One
Because I have walked that road, I admire and respect those who dare to follow their own spiritual yearnings, asking questions with answers that only lead to more questions. It is not an easy journey, definitely not for the faint of heart.
My heart goes out to every other person who longs to be ‘free’ from the oppression of a belief system (and the associated dogma) that does not resonate with their inner knowing, yet cannot, for whatever reason, reveal their authentic feelings. Fear of judgment and alienation are mighty obstacles for those who haven’t established a foundation for themselves outside of the religious community.
I especially ache for those whose families are unwilling to accept them unless they fit into a pre-defined role, based on the doctrine of their faith. I long to ask parents why they use a strategy such as withdrawing love, acceptance, and approval as a means of coercing their black sheep to come ‘back into the fold’. How does this reflect the Unconditional Love which is loudly preached as a cornerstone of every major religion?
Recently, I became aware of a man who committed suicide at the age of 42. The family requested assistance in understanding the situation, and I was able to provide some insight and guidance. From his astrology alone, I knew immediately that he was a deeply spiritual being who spent much of his life troubled and tormented by the depth of his inner knowing pitted against the limiting dogma of his environment. I could see that he spent most of his life yearning for deep spiritual truths, and suspected that he had never found an outlet for exploring or expressing this aspect of himself.
Without sharing too many personal details, my initial reading proved to be correct. Extremely intuitive and sensitive to energy, he experienced bouts of anxiety for which he was medicated. His struggle included an intense hatred for the parts of himself that drove him to perceive life differently from those around him, yet, for all of his efforts, he just couldn’t figure out how to be ‘normal’ to their standards.
Though his family loved him, they were not adequately prepared to accept him for anything other than the role they believed he was born to play. Expectations were high, and he filled them, with a void in his heart and his eye, resenting the fact that not one of these family members knew him well enough to recognize the root of his misery. Facing their disapproval, suffering from the notion that he was failing at living ‘right’, and a continuous internal battle proved to be far more than he could handle.
Where I was willing to take the risk of being ostracized by my family and friends, this man didn’t believe he had any other choice but to end his life. He chose suicide over disappointing his family and facing their judgment.
It is only after his despair reached the point of no return that the family began to ask themselves, “Why?” My heart hurts for this family. The revelation that their son was much more tormented than they ever suspected is devastating, but more damning is the realization that a smidgeon of understanding and acceptance for his individuality could have made the difference.
How many more people suffer in silence? I believe it is a much higher number than you would ever expect. Unknowingly millions of families all over the world silently torture those they claim to care about by requiring that they conform to the group faith, judging those who do not meet their standards of righteousness as ‘unworthy’. I will spend the rest of my life speaking up as loudly as I can about the importance of being free to explore your own spirituality, to honor your authentic self.
For those of you who long for acceptance, the key is to start revealing your authentic self. Those who embrace you are the people you want to surround yourself with for the rest of your life. You risk losing some important people, yet, the injury to your soul for denying your truth is not worth these superficial relationships. You are pulled to search for a deeper reason, and your soul will not cease to propel you forward until you heed its promptings.
I implore you to be a courageous lion or lioness – please do not give in to despair. You are amazing and wonderful and unique, and there are people in the world who love you just the way you are.
Like me. I love you so much more than you will ever know,
p.s. if you or someone you know could use some support in taking off your mask – please consider joining The Butterfly Maiden Project. It takes courage to reveal who you really are, so we are doing it together!
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