Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sectioning off who you are

I have different categories of friends. Friends from high school, friends from college, friends from church. My friends have known me in different times of my life. I've had theatre friends, floormate friends, Spanish Club friends. Generally friendships are formed based on common interests. Isn't that what you do with your friends? You get together and do something you both enjoy.

I hate having to wall off part of who I am when I'm around some people. I'm not talking about when you decide not to disclose all of your deepest, darkest secrets with a friend you've only known a short while. In my case I'm talking about my faith. I went to a Christian college, so my college friends and I share the same basic faith. My church friends and I share the same basic faith. But when it comes to friends from high school, or maybe people at work, my faith is something that I feel I have to hide.

My friends have always respected me to my face. They've never said I was stupid for believing in God. They've never accused me to my face of being judgmental. I have a deep fear that if I was honest about my beliefs on certain things, some people would no longer be my friend. In high school, I was afraid of losing the only friends I had, of losing a life that I'd never had before and was desperate not to lose. Now that I have a wider circle of friends, I'm not as afraid of losing my friends. What I'm afraid of is of saying or doing something that would offend them so much that they wouldn't be open to anything having to do with God at all.

Not all of my beliefs are politically correct. Actually, most of them probably aren't. And I'm OK with that. I do believe that people should be free to choose what to believe in. I also believe that despite thinking others should be free to choose, they can choose wrong. I don't believe all religions are equal. And I think there are a lot of things in our culture today that are widely accepted but shouldn't be, because they're sins.

I really wish I knew how to be my whole self no matter who I am near. My faith is so central to who I am that it feels absurd when I section that part off. It feels kind of dishonest when I don't speak up about something that I disagree with. But I don't want that to be the only thing people focus on. I think it's also important that I love to read, that I like to paint, that I have a passion for theatre that is so big I can't describe it. I think it matters that I love fall and I'm not wild about fruits or vegetables and my favorite color is purple. The world around me is crying for people to be tolerant, but I think we've actually learned to be less tolerant of differences. It seems to me that forcing everyone to believe the same sorts of things isn't tolerating our differences at all. And who decided tolerance should always be a good thing, anyway? I wouldn't want any of my friends to tolerate an abusive relationship. We do not tolerate people committing crimes without consequences. The fact that we have laws about what is and what is not acceptable shows that there are things that should not be tolerated. I value my freedom, and I hate when I am told that I can only express my freedom in certain ways so that I don't offend others. I struggle to value the right for others to have their opinions when they're opposite of mine, but I know that freedom needs to go both ways, or it's a dictatorship.

This all comes about because tonight I was with a group of people, and as great as they are, I had a moment when I realized that I had to hide my reaction to something or they would all have a big problem with me. My belief about something doesn't change how I treat them. I already believe it; it's already how I'm treating them. It's a hard line to walk. I want so desperately for my friends to have an encounter with the one who loves us so much he sent his son to die for us so we wouldn't have to be separated for eternity. Love like that totally changes everything. I wish I wasn't so scared that my own story is too full of pain and not full enough with love to be very hopeful. Somehow, even though I know it's silly to think that God can't move because I am imperfect and my story isn't finished, I still worry that I'm going to screw up eternity for some of the people that I love the most. I hope I can learn to just be more like Jesus. He totally shook things up, was totally not PC, and he loved people like they'd never been loved before.

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