Here are some things I've been thinking about:
Since ____________ (departing, going inactive, moving on?) from Mormonism, it's been very hard to accept that there will always be people in my life who think I made a mistake. In the past few years, loved ones have taken time to let me know how much their relationship with the church means to them, and how desperately they need me to know it is "True" in the same way they believe the church is true. They know, without any doubts or reservations that they are living their lives in the correct way, and they know I ought to be doing the same thing.
Sometimes I think their motives are less than pure. It can be very threatening when someone rejects previously shared values. Sometimes friends tell me we can't be friends anymore because I cause them to question what they believe, and they don't like it.
Sometimes their motives are very pure, and I remember the zeal and confidence that comes from knowing something. It makes it so easy to assume that if someone just prayed harder, or exercised more faith, or somehow became more like you, they would change their hearts and come back to the fold. If it worked for you, it should work for anyone, since that is how Truth works in Mormonism.
Sometimes people need to know something because they based every decision in their life, from who they married, to their careers, to how they raise their children, on their notion of truth being True. To question that, or allow someone else to, would cause them to not only question their faith, but their entire sense of being. I don't expect anyone to do that for me.
So it really isn't the knowing friends that bother me, at least not anymore. I know I can't ever change their mind, and trying would only cause significant conflict, and I'm not in the business of hurting people just to prove a point.
Instead, it's the friends that see just enough nuance in my situation to come very close to accepting me for who I am, only to fall back on their belief in universal Truth to avoid the abyss of pluralism and dichotomy and gray.
Sometimes they agree that maybe the church isn't the best place for me right now, they agree that God might tell someone it was okay to leave, as a trial and test of faith. Strong people like me who leave the faith are just "a sign of the times" a sign that even though Satan might get a few "good ones," it just means Jesus is coming soon, so everything will work out. Whatever the reason, I am a problem that eventually will be solved. This is the charitable view, the Christ-like view, the one people like me are expected to respond to with gratitude.
Sometimes, people try and be empathetic by telling me how sad my situation is. In many ways, loss of faith is sad, but their misplaced empathy creates a "deficit" view of my life: my life is "sad" because it isn't the same as their life, not because faith transitions are frequently painful and challenging.
Overcoming this internalized deficit thinking is very difficult for me, mostly because I didn't realize how much I let this type of thinking influence my perception of self. Learning how abandon the deficit mentality model: the idea that because I'm no longer a believing Mormon, my life is somehow less happy, less good, less honorable, less everything, will probably take me a very long time. That's okay.
Part of overcoming deficit thinking is accepting that some people will always believe I've made a mistake. If I can accept their Truth as right for them, (I believe Mormonism is true for people who need it to be true, because their reality belongs to them,) I need to actively believe my Truth is true for me, even if no one else agrees with me.
That seems obvious, but I was raised in an environment that praises conformity with ritual and ceremony. When I was baptized, friends and family celebrated with me. People traveled long distances to honor my temple wedding. Every week, people praised and supported me and my fellow Mormons for our lessons, our talks, our tangible manifestations of faith. People frequently told me how proud they were of me, how happy the felt when I made the same choices they did, the choices deemed acceptable by a God who grew increasingly unfamiliar in the months leading up to my initial crisis of faith.
When I left, no one was proud. There was no ceremony celebrating my decision, a decision I believe represents my integrity and honesty. There are no medallions for young women who leave.
Unless we make them ourselves.
I'm learning to view my life outside a deficit model. To stop seeing my new faith as a lesser equivalent to Mormonism, as a sad and deficient outcome of spiritual failure.
My life is no less honorable or holy because I left the church. When I think of all the opportunities my choice grants me, I am filled with joy. I am filled with joy every time I recognize myself in my thoughts and my actions, a self I abandoned for years as I tried to fit a mold that did not accommodate a very big soul. I am happy when I realize that my relationship with divinity and spirituality is mine alone, and my many mistakes are not sins, but chances to grow and thrive. There are no limits to my potential.
The most transcendent and spiritual experience of my life occurred the moment I realized my past life was over without feeling sad. When I let go of my grief, and my anger, and my sadness, I saw my world explode with possibility and wonder. The air filled with light, and I physically felt my soul re-enter my body, and felt the world turn technicolor after months of black and white.
So where is my deficit? The negative space supposedly left in my heart when I abandoned someone else's notion of Truth?
When I stop letting the Sometimes people dictate my worth, I move one step further away from the deficit model of spirituality, and one step closer to the world I created when I let my soul crash back into my body. That's where I am now, and where I want to stay.
That's what I've been thinking about lately.