So then there was the time I completely and utterly failed as a friend by being a religious jerk. It was my freshman year, I was a bright eyed, seventeen, and swimming in my own hubris.
I made friends with, I’ll call her Booketta McJingles, another freshman in my class at Mary Washington College. We had differing religious viewpoints which led to rousing conversations.
Booketta McJingles was (might still be) an Atheist, and I truy felt it my duty to show her how wrong she was and how she needed to believe/think like I do. Yes, I do see how rude that line of thinking was and trust me, it gets worse.
How It Became Worse
After several months of enjoying her friendship and still trying to save her soul, I took drastic measures. It pains me to write this, but I wrote down on a sheet of paper several bible verses I believed would sway her and taped this sheet of paper to the outside of her dorm room. Like the Anti-Martin Luther nailing his 99 thesis.
I walked alway, fulling believing this was not only the right thing to do, but her response would be something like:
“Oh Jermaine, thank you for caring so much about me and my eternal soul. I see now how much I need to believe like you do and change my life.” And I would be all modest and say, “It’s all good Booketta McJingles, I’m here for you”, and she would start coming to church with me and it would be awesome.
Reality, or Thank God There Weren’t Sharp Objects Around
A few hours later, I receive a phone call from Booketta. You know how some people ask if they can talk to you, yet it’s not really a request but more of, hey I’m coming over to talk to you right now and you best be there when I get there or else. That’s something like the call I received from Booketta.
She came over to my dorm and we talked in the lobby. Have you ever seen someone angry? Not mad, mad is more like being upset. I’m talking about angry!
After the 1st 30 seconds, I kinda fazed out. I remember a lot of profanity, a lot of how I embarrassed her, how could I do something like that, more profanity, who do I think I am, how dare I, and yes, a bit more profanity.
I sat there and didn’t say much because I was dumbfounded. I honestly could not see why she was so angry with me. I could not wrap my head around why she She-Hulking out on me.
Yet, I felt horrible because I hurt her, even if I couldn’t understand why. She made it clear our friendship was…strained and it would be best if I left her alone. So I did. And things were never the same between us.
Hind and Fore Sight
I see now the err of my ways. I was more concerned with doctrine and less with dialogue. I hadn’t learned Booketta can hold onto her beliefs and I can hold onto my differing beliefs and we can have conversations and respect each other. Even better, we can perform acts of service and instigate hope together.
I was more worried about saving her soul instead of realizing no one needs me to save them. Because I can’t. All I’ll do is get in God’s way of loving them. God didn’t need me to tape scriptures to her door where her roommate and everyone who passed by could see it and think whatever about her. God needed me to love, and show acts of kindness and service.
Maybe this was you at one point in time. Perhaps not only with religion, but in some other way you forced your way of thinking/personal belief system onto someone else. Maybe you’ve been the one traumatized with someone else’s dogma and wondering why your feelings/beliefs are invalid.
I hear you. On both sides. I ruined a friendship and hurt someone because I didn’t listen to or respect her. Which was more important: convincing someone how right I think I am or respecting someone?
We don’t need or want lectures. We need and want respect. How can we best demonstrate that to someone else today?
[photo by Chris Pirillo]