Why don’t you just leave?
And it’s heartbreaking. It is never ok to question someone’s testimony. That is bullying. It’s why this and so many Bloggernacle blogs have a policy against such accusations and similar questions. On the receiving end, it makes the person feel disposable: “That Zion we learn about at church? Don’t want you there.” “That eternal family thing? Yeah, doesn’t apply to this relationship. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
I’ve read many great responses to this question. Some will say that they have no issues with doctrine, just policy. Some shelve the tough topics. Some call upon history, “If everyone fighting for suffrage decided to leave, where would women be today?” Some call on the fact that life is complicated: some people set aside differences for the sake of family, friends, or occupation, or whatever else. We all have priorities and we don’t get to judge another’s.
But it has been my experience that responding with these doesn’t always work. You can explain your testimony until you’re blue in the face and you’ll still be written off. And I think that’s because both parties are overlooking one of the most debilitating parts of the question.
In asking, “Why don’t you just leave?” the asker is admitting, on some level, that if they had the same testimony struggles, if they had the same experiences, they would leave. Peel away the anger of “If you have all these problems with the Church, why don’t you just leave?” and you may find the scary answer, “I would have left already if I were you.”
Anger is a defensive emotion, used to hide hurt, shame, fear, guilt, and vulnerability.
What can we do on the receiving end? Deep breaths. Since it’s not actually about you, you can kindly try focusing it back, “Hmm. Would you?” But, “That’s not an option for me right now,” might be all you can do. Smile and keep on going. And breathe some more. Your own emotions are tricky, and dealing with someone else’s is trickier. Relationships are hard; they don’t always survive.
But know it’s ok to be on that edge. I wish there was something definitive that I could say and promise that it’ll work out or even promise that it won’t so you can move on. Some people will actually show you the door. Sometimes time heals all wounds. And if there’s anything I know about life, it’s that things will change.
Oh and, why don’t I leave? Well, God told me to stay. Take it up with Her.