I have never “fit in.” I have never been “normal.” I started as believing I was not supposed to be “normal,” “mainstream,” someone who “fit in” with the status quo. Now I just don’t want to “fit within the mold.”
During my high school years, I strove to learn what those words/ideals meant and how to become that way. Lately I have come to the realization that I have no further desire to fully belong, comply, and achieve within the ideals of the “status quo.”
For the longest time, I felt weird, strange, odd. In grade school and middle school, I didn’t care. I wanted to learn from the experience, label, and ideal, but I really didn’t care. It was expected of me by my home and church to be different. I was taught over and over that Christians are to be different. The are meant to be shunned, be made fun of. They are built to be stepped on. I vividly recall someone stating something to the effect that “If you are a true Jesus-follower, you will be persecuted.” He also suggested that “If you act on Truth, you will be persecuted.” “If you are a Light in this Dark world, you will be persecuted.”
I took that literally at the time and have taken the literal concept more and more as time goes by – only through a whole different lens. I still want to believe, act, and preach what is “Right and True.” However, then it was religious, now it’s philosophical. It’s still based on religious ideals (preached but most typically not practiced), but has moved beyond – far beyond – the pulpit.
During those years of being in the church I was raised, I saw myself through the lens as being a true Christian. I thoroughly believed their stance that we had higher status and greater truth than ALL other Christians and non-Christians alike — except the Christians who were affiliated from that particular Christian church system. Thus, because of this higher status, knowledge, affiliation, and belief system, I was going to be persecuted. It was a belief that I took as being fact-based. Thus, to be “weird,” “strange,” and “different,” was “normal” and “good.” It was a high compliment.
From the very first week of middle school to the very end, the insults and negative treatment became more and more blatant. I immediately began to realize that the reasons for this treatment did not at all seem to correlate to how much of a Christian or Christ-follower I was supposed to be according to the church. It seemed to be related to something else. I’ve been on a quest to figure that out ever since. Is it me? Or is it the result of my act of proselytizing? Was it because of the clothes I wore or the words I used that correlated with the church’s belief system — something that they believed to be a statement of faith that would bring others to Jesus?
This whole thing of being “weird” and “different” and not living within – or meeting the marks of – the status-quo started the continual persistent question that has never gone away: What is it that I’m doing wrong? Is it me? Or is it something else entirely? What is truly going on?
During the very last week of the 5th grade school year, I was sitting in the very back seat of the bus. I was sandwiched between the window and a fellow female student. Her brother sat in the seat directly across the aisle. I told her that because she was not a Christian and did not believe in God, she was going to hell. She was quite offended. I explained that anyone who did not believe that Jesus died for their sins was going to hell.
That did not go over well. Not at all. She was deeply offended and deeply hurt. From what I could tell and sense, rumors flowed rampant throughout the entire school. I deeply personalized my interpretation that I was understood to be a Christian who hurt feelings and was a mean person because of sharing those beliefs.
My intention toward helping was taken a whole different way than it was intended. I was told repeatedly growing up that explaining this theological concept to a “lost soul” would convert someone to “believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior” and thus “save them from an eternity of hell and damnation.” If I didn’t share this with them, they would not have the opportunity to “go to heaven for all eternity, but instead would go to hell.” However, instead of my classmate, her brother, and everyone who would be able to hear the message I shared converting to Christianity, the opposite came to pass. They absolutely wanted nothing AT ALL to do with me OR Christianity.
I was confused. I was taught “We are to be the saviors of the world.” Instead, I had “cut someone’s ear off.” I wanted them to go to heaven. Instead, as taught from the traditional Christian point of view, they were going to hell.
This form of miscommunication has not stopped. I try and try to help. I try to help people, situations, organizations, employers, and more who literally and blatantly communicate the need and desire for help. In a number of situations it works fabulously well. In other situations it backfires. And bites me hard. Most typically, it works beautifully for the people being advocated for, but bites me in the butt big time.
Through the mistakes of not knowing how to communicate correctly and taking people literally, I am realizing more and more just how much “people really don’t mean what they say.” People, by and large, are liars. No matter just how hard we try, we all lie 99% unintentionally, yet another 99% intentionally. However, according to what I’ve gathered so far, the more a person follows the status-quo, the less honest a person is likely to be. But even so, this is really not true either.
This idea is incredibly harmful and destructive on many, many levels. Us Americans are becoming more and more afraid because of this idea that we are all liars. While we all lie to some degree, deep down, we rarely intentionally lie. We just don’t know how to listen, communicate, and truly understand each other. This lack of communication yields the sense that we all lie.
Those who internally lie, perceive all to be liars, and those who enable liars are the most likely to allow the effects of lying to win. However, the majority of us humans really, really do not want to lie. We definitely do not want to be lied to and we do not want to lie. It strongly appears to me that the only time we lie is when we feel we have no other choice but to lie. The frequency of lying correlates to the frequency and intensity of the fear.
In my grade school years, I noticed that they boys made a game of spitting at people from the bus windows. They all seemed to wait for a particular time to start spitting. I had no idea until many, many years later that these students made a game of watching for me to pass by just so they could spit on me as I walked alongside the bus line. I also noticed that there were times when my hair felt sopping wet. I quickly realized it was from, was termed then as, gleek, but I never realized that it was intentionally targeted toward me until someone asked my sister to apologize to me. I just figured they were doing what boys were meant to do, how kids were meant to behave when they were having fun.
I suspected I was targeted as the odd ball out by the greater population – including the teachers – when the only stuffed animals that were missing from a display cabinet were things I loaned for display. They were stuffed bears that were unique. They were gifts from my grandmother. This idea was also deeply implanted when I lost 1st place on a school-wide “race” due to rules being changed last-minute. Not only that, but the very same item that won the race (a rocket made out of Quaker Oat cereal boxes) was deliberately placed in front of the buses so that it would be run over. Those incidences were the very first time when I felt literally raw and hurt to the core, as though I were internally violated. I felt those sensations deeply as I internalized the feelings of the realization I was being intentionally victimized. Instead of my “faith in God” – martyrdom – being the blame, I began to believe with more and more certainty that it was I who was the problem. Right, wrong, or indifferent, those thoughts and feelings became more and more persistent over time.
Throughout those school years, I strongly believed this all stemmed from that single conversation on the bus. Initially, instead of thinking I was a target from being “weird,” I took it to mean that I had hurt someone deeply for proselytizing. I did not want to hurt anyone deliberately nor completely unintentionally, so I shut my mouth from further preaching with words until I could learn how to communicate without harm. I’m really, really glad I did. Preaching with ignorance along with self-righteous words and actions kills. Preaching with grace, kindness, humility, action, and knowledge yields much more positive results.
As time went on, throughout the days in middle school and high school even up to this very day I realize more and more how “strange,” “weird,” “odd,” I am.
When I realized I could do something about being weird, odd, and strange, I attempted to become “normal,” I then realized I wanted to become “normal,” to “fit in.” I wanted everyone to like me and to not be afraid of me. More and more, I realize just how much I am “normal” to feel that way, yet in actuality I am a huge anomaly in my life experiences, thought patterns, actions, beliefs, and goals. Who I am, was, and aim to be is just not “normal” nor will it ever be.
I need to fully let go of being afraid. I need to no longer worried about being intentionally – nor unintentionally – misunderstood, ignored, shunned, and sabotaged. All of this has happened to me – and more. I’m still alive. I’m stronger than before. I know much, much more as the result. I am much more kind, understanding, sympathetic, empathetic and compassionate as the result of being “weird” and “different.” I no longer need to be that person who everyone “likes,” “respects,” and/or “believes.” Do I wish for those things? Hell, yeah! Will I be able to advocate for those in need if I do this? Hell no.
I was taught by my dad that as a Christians, I am to be a doormat. He strongly believed that Christians are typified to be similar to the end result of the doormats made by some sort of plant that the Isrealites used in the Old Testament. I cannot find the passage, but I want to say it was during the time of the Passover and/or the 10 plagues. I vividly recall my dad reflecting on that passage then intentionally, directly stating to me: “The more you are stepped on, the sweeter you smell.”
Most often, I was a doormat. It has become a habit. In the process of being groomed to be a “good Christian woman,” I “lost my voice.” I got “stepped on.” I got “hated on.” I was one of the most submissive, subservient, obedient, compliant, loving, self-sacrificing female Christian anyone could become. I can honestly say that very few were as literally as kind, naive, and the epitome of what a true Christian woman is idealized by any fundamentalist – even Evangelical – Christian view could be.
It is because of my goal to be Jesus-like, I am who I am and who I was. I want to know: “What is Truth? Why?” – in relation to every facet, form, and aspect of every sector, belief, ideology, and more. “What makes a True Christian?” “What does it mean to “Love your Neighbor?” What does it mean to be a “Good Human Being?” How do you identify, define, and advocate for justice, kindness, truth?” What does it truly mean to “be Jesus’ hands and feet?” What does it mean to “be an advocate,” to ‘stand up for what is right?” “Why should I?” And, “How?”
As the result of these quests and more, I no longer fit in the status-quo of mainstream fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians. I do not fit in within the status-quo of society, of what it means to be a normal employee.
Do I want to be normal? Yes. But No. Do I want to be loved? Yes. But not if that means the detriment of another. Do I care about others? Yes. Do I care about myself? Yes. At times more than I should, and more often much less than I should.
As I become more and more mainstream, and find my voice become louder and louder, I fight more and more ferociously. I want to be a voice. I want to be heard. I want to matter. But more than anything else, I want you to matter. I want your needs, wants and desires to be met.
I beat myself up for this. Why should I continue to sacrifice myself for the betterment of others to my own detriment? Why do I continually put myself in a position that makes other people hate me, misunderstand me, ridicule me? Why do I feel I need to fight for truth, justice, equality? Why do I need to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves? Why do I want to be a voice? Why do I feel the need to advocate and speak up? Why can’t I just be normal? Why can’t I just be satisfied with fitting within the realms of the status quo? Why do I have to take everything so damn literally? Why?
Now I am changing my tune. I now want to know: How?? More than that, how can I do this effectively? In a way that people will listen, will “get it,” and will not be feel afraid to listen? How do I speak up in a way that compels unity in the fight for kindness, compassion, understanding? How do I get the knowledge-base to be an effective advocate? How do I attain the wisdom, assistance, guidance, and ability to be an advocate in the capacity I wish?
I am ready. All I need to know is “How.”
And “How” means to do – and be – the opposite of the status quo.