One day, I decided I was not going to church. I had reasons for this, and I also had the right to not explain them to anyone. On that day, a man in my life decided that I was going to church whether I wanted to or not. He came into my room, physically pulled me out of bed, yelled at me to get dressed, packed my child into her car seat, and strong-armed me into leaving the house. He justified this action by saying that I needed “tough love” to get somewhere that would be better for me. I did not feel loved.
One day, I asked a man in my life to stop evangelizing me. I told him that the tone he took when trying to convert me to Christianity was disrespectful and harsh. I told him that I wanted to have a loving, happy relationship with him, but that I could not continue to voluntarily subject myself to the harshness of his words. He told me that he would not respect my wishes, because refusing to show me the respect I requested was not “loving,” if the alternative was my soul spending eternity in hell. I did not feel loved.
One day, a man in my life called me Amanda. I laughed, and asked him to please call me Mandy. Amanda, I explained, made me feel like I was in trouble. I preferred Mandy. He laughed too. As he continued to talk to me about Jesus, and try to explain why I should return to church, he called me Amanda again. I gently reminded him that I wanted to be called Mandy, and could tell by the glint in his eyes that it had not been an accident. He continue to call me Amanda for the rest of the conversation, being more and more deliberate every time. “You ARE in trouble” was his message. “Evangelizing you is more important than respecting you.” I did not feel loved.
My mother disagrees with me on many things regarding religion and spirituality. I often think that she fears for my soul. I have expressed to her that there are certain things I don’t want to discuss. I have expressed to her that there is a certain level of respect I would like to receive. Without fail, my mother had given me this respect. She has choosen to care more for our relationship than for being right. Time after time, she has given me space, demonstrated respect for my boundaries, and reinforced my personhood. Her actions make me feel loved.