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Removing the Blinders

Posted by Zenaida

One of the hard things about finding myself on the marginal side of Mormonism is seeing myself in a new, less than flattering light. Sometimes I catch myself thinking things about others that are judgmental or prejudiced, and I wonder how on earth I managed to acquire these views. The idea that people who are not members of the church could not possibly be happy or have good morals and values seems to be a given that lurks beneath the surface of many a smiling Mormon face. Just yesterday, I was speaking with a good friend of mine and she caught herself in assumption that I probably would have made myself not so long ago. I was ready to overlook it because I know where it comes from, but the fact that she caught it and corrected herself gave me hope. I’ve stepped outside the house to walk the grounds and found that the neighborhood is much bigger than I thought, and much friendlier.

I was taken to a local vegetarian restaurant that proclaimed itself to be “Humanese Cuisine,” and I have to admit that I laughed. My snarky comment was not very becoming, and probably a bit rude. I ate my words (and some amazing entrees), and I was introduced to one of the chefs. He is someone who was able to touch my spirit with only his presence. He has chosen a spiritual path that precludes him from using verbal communication, so he uses body language and hand gestures to communicate. His silence and peaceful demeanor are quite stunning. The love he shows for the people around him is amazing. He seems unabashed and humble in the compassion shown for other people.

I really try to take people as they are. Knowing people who do not fit the Mormon mold has made me a better person. I’ve never thought much of it until a friend once asked me, “Where do you find all of these people?” I could only think, it’s because I’m willing to see them, and my world is more colorful and enriched for it.

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” -Dali Lama

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  1. Jessawhy says:

    What a great post! I catch myself on both sides of this fence. Sometimes I’m using my Molly Mormon glasses to see people in a less than perfect light, and other times I’m using my more cynical eyes to see Mormons as the most hypocritical bunch in the world. “Judge not”, is a great phrase to live by.

    I’m amazed constantly by children, who don’t seem to have as strong of a sense of how things ought to be, who are more accepting of how things are (with the exception of wanting to go to grandma’s house). It’s sad to me that I’ve lost that ability to accept life as it is, and instead constantly try to change or control it. Seeing people as they are and accepting life’s events as they come go hand in hand for me.

  2. woundedhart says:

    This is something that I’ve been thinking about lately, too. And trying to correct. I think about the way I used to view non-members, and I project that view onto all the members I know, assuming that they are as narrow-minded as I once was, thus reaffirming my own narrow-mindedness, and creating rifts that would not otherwise exist. It’s like I exchanged my blinders for dirty sunglasses.

    At the same time, I don’t know how to deal with the people that actually do think there’s exactly one way to be happy, and it’s their way. I’m not peaceful, like the chef at the restaurant. I’m more of a defensive arguer, and I can’t keep myself from planning out all my responses to the questions that will inevitably come from family members about my spiritual choices. In my imaginary conversations, I usually come across as a superior know-it-all, which I’m sure will only reaffirm to people that my choice to follow a different path than theirs is causing unhappiness. There, I did it again. I projected judgment based on my own former actions and thoughts.

    I’d love to assume people who believe in Christ will be like Christ, but I also know there are many interpretations of what that means. And to most of those people, their way is the _right_ way. I’m sort of terrified.

  3. Jensie says:

    Having recently completed doula training, I have finally learned to accept women at face value, love them for who they are, and support them in their decisions, regardless of my opinions. Of course I’m not perfect at it, I am still learning, but have made leaps and bounds. I think it’s interesting that spending years in Christ’s church and serving in the Relief Society did not open my eyes as much as learning to help women through childbirth.

    As I make my way to the periphery of the Church, I see in hindsight how my prejudices and judgments of others have been hurtful. This to me is more shameful than any of my other “sins.” I can only hope to go forward now with my eyes and heart open, willing to let each woman (and man) choose her own path to happiness.

    Thank you for the post, wonderful thoughts and insight, and definitely something we could all think about more often.

  4. gladtobeamom says:

    It is funny that I wasn’t taught to be so judgmental as a Mormon but I too found myself being that way. (I believe it to be a cultural problem among Mormons) I still love the phrase that God is a big God. I am surrounded by his children. Most are not Mormons.

    I am trying to change as well and remember that He loves them and knows them better then I. They have had different lives, hardships, etc. All our paths will be different and I think God in the end will be the only one who can judge their path.

    We talk about being Christ like. Now it is time to put it in action. We are so hard on others in and out of the church. We would all find much good an make such change if we could keep our judgment focused on our own issues and be more accepting of others.

    Thank you for your post it gives me hope that its is possible to change such a bad habit.

  5. Caroline says:

    Zenaida, are you the author of this post?

    These last few years, it’s been a delight for me to look beyond Mormonism and see all the good in the world. I love my new conviction that Mormonism doesn’t have the market cornered on goodness or spirituality. I’ve loved reading the thoughts of great spiritual leaders in the world. They’ve been very inspiring and refreshing to me. Sister Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun working for women’s ordination, is one of my favorites.

  6. Catherine says:

    “The idea that people who are not members of the church could not possibly be happy or have good morals and values seems to be a given that lurks beneath the surface of many a smiling Mormon face.”

    I find that this is for the most part a by-product of bad teaching from parents. Not from the church.
    It is the subtle lessons we learn at home that make us what we are. More parents need to be more concerned with this kind of thing I think.

  7. Great post, I think the judgement’s that so many of us experience ourselves making as Mormons probably come from dividing things up so neatly into packages of right and wrong. Once I began to see shades of grey I realized that I couldn’t judge accurately. That opened up a lot of doors for personal healing and made making meaningful connections with others so much easier.

    I love your quote from the Dali Lama. I remember seeing a bumper sticker that read “Not all who wander are lost.” Now I find myself wandering and I can finally appreciate the beauty of it.

  8. Jia says:

    Beautifully written.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I always had this idea that everyone in other religions secretly knew that their religions were wrong. It’s ridiculous, I know.

  10. CatherineWO says:

    One of the many things my mother used to say was, “Mormonism doesn’t have a monopoly on truth.” (Yes, she was a member.)Now, as an older adult, I appreciate that more than ever.

  11. Zenaida says:

    Thanks for the comments! I really feel like there is a balance to be found between recognizing that we have truth, and learning the truth that others have found.

    I also feel like the issue cannot be reduced to an issue of poor parenting. I think the culture can foster an attitude of superiority, and as human beings, it is easy for us to sometimes fall into that vein. It gives me hope when general authorities speak out in conference against prejudice and judging our neighbors. I do think it is vitally important for parents to reinforce tolerant and compassionate views, but I also think it’s sometimes difficult to maintain a bigger picture view when nestled deep in Mormon culture.

    woundedheart, I feel your pain! I’ve definitely run the gambit of self-deprecation for thinking awful things about people, and then projecting my own views back toward other members, and I am consistently surprised and excited when people end up being more accepting than I expected them to be. I’m not sure what that says about me, but hopefully that I’m trying to learn from my own mistakes rather than get mired in them.

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