In this digital age where the world is living life in full color through the internet on sites like Facebook and Twitter, there is a new sort of connecting taking place. I’m friends with you and you are friends with her and she is friends with him and he is friends with that other guy and that other guy is friends with that person I met unexpectedly at the grocery store the other day. Magical connections are happening because of the internet and, for that, I am so grateful.
A few years ago, I somehow got electronically connected with my best friend, J, from junior high and high school. She and I parted ways back in the early 90’s, but I couldn’t remember why. We had been best buddies in high school and I was really excited the first time her name popped up in my friend request box. While I have been very publicly present on facebook since 2007, I hadn’t noticed her online and it wasn’t until the last few months that I began experiencing her as active on her page. However, we had an opportunity to talk in person at our 25th high school reunion in 2011 and I realized that night just how much I enjoyed her company. Still.
Thing is, though, life just kept rolling on. J’s world and mine were very different and so I thought we didn’t have any common ground anymore. I judged her as being in an elevated space because she was still incredibly active in the religion of our youth and I had left that religion in 2006. I judged her as being one of “those” stereotypical Mormons – even though she had never been one. But my status of non-LDS created this thought pattern in my brain that lumped her in a group with all the other “Mormons” who I judged to be judging me.
Now, I’m hoping you can see the problem here…
*I* was judging them to be judging me. I was doing the very thing I was assuming they were doing. I was being bugged by their judging, but their judging was in my head. Do you see the problem?
At any rate, J was never one of those stereotypical Utah Mormons. She is the personification of Love and Joy and has always been. My favorite memories of her is our silly times together and the unending laughter that ensued. As girls, I had experienced her as doing everything right, never questioning authority, and never going against what we were taught in the church. I was the polar opposite of her in my mind and wanted so desperately to be like her. Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, back then I was always “wrong.” I bucked against authority, questioned everything, and had to try it for myself or I simply didn’t understand. If I was told to “not” do something (other than drugs and smoking, that never appealed to me) then I had to try it for myself to understand why not to – or to realize that I did want to.
She didn’t live like that. She listened to authority. She didn’t question. She followed the teaching of the prophets. And she did it seemingly well and with a smile on her face. I didn’t understand it.
I remember we had a conversation one day after we had graduated high school, while our respective boyfriends were serving missions for the church. I had been exploring intimacy with a young man whom I had known for about five years. I remember talking with J about it because I needed to talk to someone about it, but I couldn’t. I had been immoral and everyone in my world was LDS. Immorality – sexual activity with someone other than your spouse – was a grave sin. Any level of sexual expression from french kissing to touching to “blue jean lovin”… it was all frowned upon. And, for me, that was confusing.
More often than not, I found myself in trouble for exploring these delicious practices and this time was no different. Or would be no different, if I talked to someone of authority. But I needed to talk to someone so I trusted her to be the person with whom I had the conversation. I was still technically a virgin but I knew that a few more moments would have obliterated that state and I also knew I was curious enough to return to the situation and go those few moments further. So I really needed to “talk it out” – talking is how I process myself and although I didn’t know that then, I often followed the impulse to “talk it out” when I needed to.
She and I were at her pool. I was in the water, arms crossed on the side of the pool, chin resting on my arms, legs splashing in the water behind me. She was laying on a towel beside the pool, head near mine, dangling her left hand into the water, fingers trailing on the surface while we talked. I shyly shared about the experience, fearing she would no longer want to be my friend. She listened quietly and with an understanding that I imagine she had no way of really understanding because she had never willingly gone against the teachings of the church.
She lovingly said, “Angie, I don’t understand why you can’t just listen to the prophet and do what he says.”
She didn’t mean it to be judgmental and I didn’t take it that way either, but it gave me pause. My feet stopped kicking and floated limply down beneath me so I was standing in water with no ground beneath me. I stared at her and wondered and said, “I don’t understand why I can’t just do that either, J.”
My inability to follow without question led me to continually question and seek answers that satisfied my questioning. It caused me to search within the confines of the religion and, when that didn’t bring me the answers I sought – or led to further questions – I began the quest beyond the religious construct. All of this eventually resulted in my choice to leave the LDS church – not because it was “bad” or “wrong,” but because my soul thirsted for something more than I could find inside the walls of that religion, or any religion for that matter.
This journey away from the church created within me a sort of sensory system that will deflect any religious person who practices the art of harsh judgment. I understand that my energy magnifies wherever a person is. So if they are choosing to be in judgment, they will hold me in a very harsh light. If they are in Love, they will see me as I am.
Thing is, though, that magnification comes from within me. I just recently realized that those who I am judging to judge me harshly are doing so because I am judging them to be doing that. I am magnifying myself and they have no choice but to respond in the way I am seeing them. And it is a chicken-egg sort of thing because I have no way of knowing if they were judging me because I was judging them to be doing so or if they were judging me and I picked up on it. So it is wholly up to me to release my judgment and to pay no attention to their behaviors. That is their responsibility.