Speaking, Silence, Situational Ethics: Relationships In Review
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Article ID: 10074
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,142
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Author: Patricia Telesco
Posted: September 11th. 2005
Times Viewed: 4,570
I was standing in the hallways of a College after a lecture on coming out of the Broom Closet. A young woman approached me, visibly upset and asked for a few moments to talk. She lives with her elderly grandmother whom she adores, but the grandmother wanted her to go to church (which she did regularly). The young woman went on to explain how hypocritical she felt in not telling her grandmother the truth, but she knew that truth would damage that relationship, perhaps forever. What should she do?
This woman's question and the emotional struggle associated with it cuts to the heart of intimate, loving, interfaith relationships. I have always felt that religion was meant to bring people together, NOT push them apart. I also have never felt that there was any requirement in our faith to hang a "Witch Within – Beware!" sign on our thresholds or stand on a street corner thumping a Book of Shadows.
Do no harm means the way in which we handle relationships, too!
Ultimately, whatever Path you've chosen, the focus of that endeavor is one of improving your spiritual aptitude while reconnecting with Deity, both of which are incredibly personal. Whom you choose to share that relationship with is likewise very personal. It is not the least bit hypocritical to seriously consider the impact of your religious declarations before jumping into the proverbial "hot water."
My advice on this occasion was: love your grandmother. Enjoy your relationship with her. If she asks you a direct question about religion find a gentle, "PC" answer that you feel is user-friendly (such as likening your beliefs with those of Native American traditions - for whatever reason most folk can wrap their heads around that concept without the knee-jerk reaction that the words “magick” and “Witch” generate) . The young woman sighed with relief, confessing that's what she planned to do but really needed some affirmation to get over that sense of nagging guilt.
Why the guilt? That's something I don't understand. Have we presented such an idyllic spiritual picture in our writings and teachings that we feel guilty if our life and relationships don't live up to that shiney-run-through-the-daisies image? Let's face it: Neo-Paganism has a long way to go before it finds complete ease in the public sector. That means, in turn, that our relationships are not always going to be easy when we come around to talking about religion. We need to be prepared for the difficult questions and respond to them in an adult, educational manner. This is not the time to loose it. And, if you ultimately choose to remain in the Broom Closet, it's not going to change who or what you are inside! If it does, there's something seriously wrong with your choice of Path!
Now, that was but one relationship - what about people at work? While they're typically acquaintances, you spend a lot of time with these people and inevitably various questions arise (often around holidays like Easter and Yule). As wishy-washy as it sounds, there's a level of situational ethics that must be considered in ANY relationship be it interfaith or not. Ask yourself the hard questions. Is there any reason for you to be out of the closet at work? If not, and if being completely open might threaten your financial base, protecting your family's security is more important than religious proclamation. Also, how would your beliefs make co-workers think or behave? Will it ultimately affect your ability to function professionally? What is the greatest good here?
What about friendship? The level of openness and honesty in a friendship often has to do with the depth of that friendship. There are "friends in passing, " "friends for a lifetime, " and "friends who are kin of the heart" - the last two categories are those with whom I'm more likely to share such personal information. Additionally, close friendships are often based in trust - and hiding things from each other certainly doesn't develop trust. The only caution is this: there are some people who will NOT accept your choice, and you may risk loosing that friend - however, if you can't be yourself around that individual then what have you really lost?
The question of trust brings us naturally to intimate relationships - and I'm not talking about a one night stand. If you're having sex for sex's sake - fine! Enjoy! But you don't need to hang your pentacle on the bedpost or door knob! On the other hand, if you're going into a long-term relationship with someone, the things that affect your spirit will also affect that relationship. There is no room for fudging here. If your potential life mate or long term companion cannot minimally "agree to disagree" on matters of faith and respect your choices - you're going to have problems crop up every time you read a new book or want to go to a gathering! For that matter, you'll have problems if you just burn incense because you're doing that "stuff" again.
For those individuals who discover a new Path when they're already in a long term relationship - now things get dicey. While we rationally know our partners will grow and change throughout our time together, emotionally it's not always that easy to understand. One would pray that a productive and happy middle ground could be found, but again there are risks and you need to be honest with yourself about those risks, and choose your timing and words carefully. I do not recommend blurting it out over Brussels sprouts! I also don't recommend saying a lot until you have answers to all the questions you anticipate your partner asking. Forewarned is forearmed.
I am fortunate in that my husband is Buddhist, something that happens to blend nicely philosophically with Neo-Paganism. Our families, however, are predominantly Christian. Due to my work in the community, I've had to step pretty far out of the Broom Closet with these people - and it took many years of "walking the walk" for some of them to relax with me and not whisper at family gatherings. Some will never truly accept or understand (that is simply reality). So I have found a peaceful space within myself - knowing there truly is a time for all things including speaking and silence. Each situation is unique; each relationship is unique and they must be balanced in your mind and soul before taking action. The wisdom comes in knowing the difference.
Location: Amherst, New York
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