Every so often, I run into folks who seem to have a major chip on their shoulder when it comes to how others practice their own Spirituality. Stop me if you have heard this before: “I looked into <x> brand of <some Pagan-oriented system> and I just couldn’t get into it because everyone associated with it doesn’t have my values or ideals when it comes to a Spiritual Path” or some such nonsense. I grok that someone is looking for a Path that fits their values and their perception of what is wrong with today’s societal juggernaut, but when I hear folks seemingly get uber judgmental about how others are approaching their own Spiritual Paths, I get really disappointed in what I see and hear.
A long while back, I wrote a blog post called “I’m Woke, Just Not in the Way You Might Assume”. The point was that I do not really follow in lock-step on some of the various social injustice proclamations. And I certainly do not feel that every individual following a Pagan, Polytheistic, or Druidic Path must hold to the same ideals that I do or that there are certain “core” social issues or stances that make an individual a Pagan, Polytheist or Druid or even disqualify them from such a perspective. So, when I hear people slam a system of belief or even a faith-oriented organization because it does not fit their precious, self-inflicted paradigm, I have a tendency to roll my eyes and move on. But I always keep an eye out for these folks as well, because their self-aggrandizement can be harmful to others that they encounter. And I damn well want to be sure to not step in the way of shit like that.
See, I know what it is like to be belittled in ways like that. I know how hurtful that kind of tripe can be, and I certainly do not want to see anyone else go through that. I went through it with my parents. I had a desire to be a programmer coming out of high school. My parents did not want to see me go a route like that. There was not enough money in it. Besides, a medical doctor is where I should be. Both of my parents worked in the healthcare field, so there was a desire for me to follow in their footsteps. My younger sister certainly did not have the desire to head in that direction (nor did I), and while my grades were not the best (I was next-to-last in my graduating class in high school in terms of GPA), I had the acumen to learn complex issues. That was one of the skillsets that I thought really qualified me to be a programmer. Besides, I loved my little Commodore 64. To my parents, it was a toy, nothing more.
Every step I tried to take in the direction of working with computers was met with resistance. I was told I was not smart enough to do the job. I was told that there wasn’t enough money in the field to get rich. Even in my senior year of high school, I never had a desire to be rich, just to make enough money to live comfortably. Anything beyond that would place me in a position of responsibility that I just was not comfortable with. Yes Virginia, having lots of money adds extra responsibilities on to you that some folks just cannot fathom. For my parents, the amount of take-home-pay I earned was the be-all, end-all of what employment was all about. And every step I took away from that one over-arching principle was to be squashed, belittled, made fun of, looked down upon – even if it meant crushing my personal self-esteem in the process.
Yes, I know what it is like to have over-bearing people paint their principles, their mores, and attempt to supplant your hopes and dreams with their own. I spent a lot of time deprogramming my own personal thinking from those days, just to get back to where I am today. I sure as the Nine Hells would not want to see that happen to people who are trying to find their footing within their own individual Spirituality.
I get it, some people get a feeling of moral superiority when they can slam others for not finding a more actualized way of living. I have been on both sides of that coin before. But can we not focus on our own Path without having to charge into the judgment of the chosen Paths of others? Personally, I think folks can manage that, be able to focus on their own Spiritual undertakings, DISCUSS their own perspectives, and let others decide how they want to add (or not) this type of perspective to their own practice. We can certainly do that without judging the rightness or wrongness of how someone else approaches their own needs on their own Spiritual Path, right? Maybe?
Lastly, there are the folks who deem it necessary to make a huge stink about how a Path doesn’t work for them. Get over it. Get on with finding something that does work for you. I am more impressed with the folks who set down things that no longer work for them and check into other ways and perspectives without having to send up flares for the world to see where they have problems. As one of my supervisors in the Air Force told me: “..solve your problems at the lowest possible level with the least amount of noise and fuss.” In other words, if I have an issue with a person, take the time to privately discuss the issue with them on a respectful level. If I have an issue with Paganism and find that it no longer works for me, it would be far better if I kept that to myself and looked through other Spiritual platforms for something that did. No need for histrionics. No need to pull at my hair and claw at my clothes. Just look, research, and try other things.
Sometimes, I wonder why we need all the drama in our lives. Why do we need to create something unnecessary? To fill some void we feel? Or do we need to draw the heat of the spotlight to ourselves? Me? Honestly, I prefer the edge between the light and the dark – where the shadows are in twilight. Not because its the start of darkness, but because its quiet there. Because I can spend time working on me without worrying too much about how others may or may not perceive it. Because, believe it or not, I may desire to not care one whit about how others might feel, but there’s a sliver deep down inside me that certainly does. I just do my utmost best to ignore it and to not feed it.