Acceptance. I have never really understood how to put this word in to action.
In my years as a Christian I heard over and over again that you can accept a person but not the deed. Love the sinner not the sin.
Love the homosexual as a person but still take a stand against the sin.
So in my life this looked a little like a deceitful game. I was friends with many gay and lesbians while I attended college and had my first career. I found them to be beautiful people with great, loving long term relationships with “spouses” that they loved as much as I loved Mark. They were more committed to each other than many heterosexual married couples I knew. And, yet, because my Bible condemned their sin I would silently vote against their rights in the voting booths.
Acceptance looked a little like hidden backstabbing and not truly love of the individual. I was still judging their relationships and behaviors. How is that acceptance?
My oldest brought home a piece of artwork he did in class and it has this definition:
Acceptance means helping people feel safe to show you who they are.
I love this! It seems so simple. Yet here I am again unable to process how to actually put this in to practice.
I’ve tried looking at acceptance from my point of view. What does it look like when I feel accepted by others and when I do not feel accepted?
Since becoming an atheist, relationships have been challenged and strained especially among my family members and long time friends. On the one hand there are those who openly like to argue and discredit my beliefs. Who like to mock and throw biblical viewpoints at me. Or one up me with their great christian deeds and beliefs. Or simply state their willingness to pray for me.
I definitely don’t feel accepted in those relationships.
And then there are those people who have chosen to ignore the issue all together. And at first because it was a nice respite from all the arguing and undermining others were choosing so I felt accepted. But as of late I still don’t feel accepted in those relationships. I always feel like there’s this giant elephant in the room that everyone is trying to unsuccessfully sweep under the rug. And then I realize I’m not accepted here either. I’m not free to state my ideas or opinions because it’s been made silently clear that my voice is to remain quiet. That way no boat is rocked and no feelings are hurt. It’s better to pretend the exit from christianity didn’t happen.
In my pipe dreams my Christian friends/family could sit in a room with me and hear what I have to say and actually respect that I have a valid viewpoint. They would continue to see me as a beautiful person, a fantastic mother, and simply a great human being.
But instead they see me as a lost soul. An atheist. Possibly even evil at times. And so even without saying anything they have denied me acceptance.
Knowing how it feels to be unaccepted I’m now flipping the tables again. Do I make people feel safe to show who they are? And I don’t think I do. I think I’m better at it and I’m accepting of more groups of people but when it comes to the religious how can I show them acceptance? If I left 30 years of Christianity because I think it is a made up fairy tale with blind followers then how can I accept those who practice it? Our view of life and our view of afterlife are in a sense, enemies. How does one bridge that chasm so that all involved feel loved and accepted?
I’m not sure it’s possible and ultimately that makes me sad.