The Fear of Judgement
To explain the present realization, I need to explain the past.
I am the eldest daughter of an Episcopalian priest. Being the oldest child, and always being a very analytical person, I have never felt free from the pressure of "doing the right thing." I had a pretty traumatic childhood that led me to play a major role in raising my 2 younger sisters. When I see someone hurting, it is in my nature to immediately want to form my life around theirs, molding my life to be a loving example for them to follow. My greatest concern is making sure that people around me know that I fully love and accept them despite any fears they may have.
Growing up as a priest's daughter, I literally had hundreds of people older than me trying to parent me and critique me on who I should be. All of the people in my church were kind and good people, but in trying to love me, they instead made me feel constantly guilty that I could not be the person that they expected me to be. Thank God my dad always just let me be myself and choose my own life. But that constant feeling of continually disappointing those around me has never left, thanks to all of those people trying to tell me who I could and couldn't be.
"Moorea, you are the priest's daughter, you can't listen to that music."
"Moorea, what would your father think of you if you got a B in Religion class."
"Oh, so you are a priest's daughter huh? Are you the angel one or the rebel one? Every pastor's kid either ends up being a saint or a drugged up loser in and out of jail."
All I wanted when I was little was just to be left alone. Everyone wondered why I was such a shy kid, why I couldn't be bubbly and friendly. Everyone couldn't understand why I fought so hard to just not be labeled. But, how was I supposed to just be a kid and feel the freedom of childhood when everyone's eyes were ALWAYS on me? Every parent in the church was analyzing the priest's daughters. Everyone was making up their idea of who I was and then spreading the false gospel of "who Moorea is" to their children as an example of who they should be. I am not perfect. I am not your ideals. Likewise, my father is not the embodiment of your ideals. He is not God, he is not Jesus, he is simply a human who cannot escape the presence of God. At the same time though, it is in my nature to want to be a good example to others. And in my dad's nature as well. But being the best example to others is not just "following the rules" all the time. The best example one can be to others is to love others deeply and truly, and love ones self as equally as much. Both require honesty. Both require acceptance. Those are far more important than being legalistic and blindly following rules.
I have always been cautious and wary of opening up fully to those around me. I try my best to let others know that I fully accept them despite any shame or fear that they have because that is exactly what I need in return. But rarely do I feel safe enough in the presence of others to open up to them as much as they open up to me. I am fully myself and cannot be un-true to who I am. And because I am fully and truthfully myself, I often times feel like I have to restrain certain opinions and thoughts that I have so as not to offend someone who I relate to in a different or contrasting way. I am cautious, and I am passionate about what I believe to be true. My major problem is that I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, but I am very liberal. My whole life I have felt half accepted and half rejected by my Christian friends and the same goes for by my more liberal friends. I don't preach about my faith, and I don't preach about my liberal leanings.
I stay moderate by staying mute. And, up until the past 5 years, it has always left me feeling depressed and alone.
After I transferred to college in Seattle, I finally found friends who both believed in God like I do but also had more liberal ethical and social leanings. For the first time in my life, I felt free from the judgment of those around me. [ Note: I am NOT a Hipster Christian. Please, never call me that. Never have I felt cool because of my beliefs. Never would I choose to be Christian because it was trendy or suddenly accepted. I am haunted by God, and so I follow him. Simple facts. ] With the friends I made in college, I no longer felt like I had to constantly make decisions based on making an example for others, I was free to state my deepest thoughts and honestly and openly live my fullest life. An accepting and open community is the best place to let a person blossom, without labels, without expectations. Why are such spaces so rare?
In the last month, I have suddenly felt that community dissipate. I graduated from undergrad over a year ago. But this past month was the one where all of my very closest friends moved away. Brit to NY, Anne to Guatemala, and Katie to California. I found out 2 days ago that my sweet friend Justin is suddenly moving to Florida for a job on Wednesday! It has been a lot to take in.
I am a strong willed woman. I believe in the power of putting one's mind to something and following through. After a debilitating bout with depression 6 years ago, I suddenly understood what it meant to find strength in oneself and in a universal power to keep going and stay positive no matter what. But suddenly losing all the friends I feel most vulnerable with, most safe with, and most understood by within the last month, I think I just cracked. I couldn't open up to any of my friends who are still here in Seattle. There was a lost soul wandering around in my interior world.
I didn't realize though that the sadness I was experiencing was because of a lack of vulnerability in my current life. My boyfriend is working at a camp in the woods 2 states away from me and I hadn't been able to talk to him in 2 weeks because their internet stopped working. Not his fault, but it still meant we were unable to talk for a long time. I felt the presence of all of those I love deepest just vanish, all within the past month. And I felt trapped in a space of lonely quiet, a space of confinement and fear. And yesterday, I suddenly realize the root of my problem.
My deepest fear is being misunderstood by friends and seeing them disappointed in me. I am fearful of Christian friends saying that I am not Christian because of what I believe. God is love, but sometimes his followers are really mean. And I am fearful of non-Christian friends rejecting me because I believe in God and associate myself with some really judgmental people. I can't just quickly open up to others because I am a completely honest person and I cannot lie about what I hold true. I can't open up quickly because I am fearful of others feeling offended by what I believe in. I am fearful of others being disappointed in me for what I believe. I am fearful of others thinking less of me simply because of who I am and what I hold true. I never want to judge others because I am fearful of their judgment and I don't want them to have to fear like I do. I want them to know that their beliefs are as equally valid as mine, and I can't handle the thought of them thinking that I think less of them for anything we may disagree over.
It was a little overwhelming realizing all of this yesterday. Strong willed and artistic women don't like to admit fear :) But here I am ladies and gents, letting you know the deal. I am human. I am not perfect. I am not your ideals. I am not God, I am not Jesus, I am simply a human with a rational thinking mind and an emotional creative spirit who cannot escape the presence of God. I didn't ask to be Christian. I just experience God and I can't ignore Him or escape Him. So here I am, a liberal lover of God. I am truthful. I am honest. I am fully and wholly myself. I am ever changing, ever morphing and growing, but always in the eternal presence that is now, that is I, that is we.
I want you to know, I am your friend. If you read my blog, we probably at least have 1 or 2 things in common that keep you coming back here to say hello :) But all beings are unique. And that is beautiful. We are diverse. And that diversity is needed to help us shape each other in love and in acceptance. I want you to know that I sincerely and honestly accept you and love you fully, EVEN with all of those things that I may not hold as my own truths, EVEN with all of those things that you are ashamed of, EVEN with all of those things that you think I might not like. It doesn't matter. You are full, you are you, own all that you are. Always seek to love others, and always seek to trust that others will learn to love you by the example of acceptance and love that you give to them. You are strength. You have your own free will. Now go do something beautiful with all of the powerful person that you are.
I feel so much better realizing my fear. Now that I understand it, I have the choice to fight that fear and come out even more sincere and loving <3 I am still a bit afraid to make some bold statements about what I do believe in my faith and how there are certain things that I completely disagree with in the greater church. But growing and freeing oneself is a process. I hatched out of depression a long time ago, thank God. And I've stayed safe in my nest for a few years. But now it is time to start figuring out how to fly. I've got to let myself flounder for a bit and learn to feel fine when other birds see me falling out of my nest, running into trees, and doing other things that they think are ridiculous. I will trust that all that matters is my own strength, the love I have in friends near and far, and the never failing Son that warms my spirit and shines on every sweet being here on earth, where gravity tries to keep us down, but love keeps us floating.
especially if you managed to read this whole thing, haha