The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Disrespecting A Person’s Beliefs

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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]


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  • man, what a tough lesson to learn! I’m glad you learned it, though. I just met someone this last week who made me feel like you probably made your friend feel. And we were on the “same side”! Why do we (people) have such an everlasting need to be right? If we can let that go, I bet some beautiful relationships would happen.

  • “Why do we (people) have such an everlasting need to be right? If we can let that go, I bet some beautiful relationships would happen.”

    So true Kyla. If we could move ourselves out of the way, maybe something wonderful could grow in the absence. It is a process I’m still learning for sure.

  • You did have good intentions, and might it just be possible that Booketta overreacted? I’m not saying what you did was the best idea in the world, but I’m not sure if it warrants Hulk-4-tank-smashing anger.

  • I’ve thought a lot about this post. The way you went about it obviously was bad, but I can’t help but thinking that at least you tried to help her. Good intentions with poor execution can really hurt people, but good intentions with doing nothing also really hurts people in the long run too. I can think of many times I have had the opportunity to say something or help someone and I didn’t. Those are more painful to me than the times I tripped, stumbled, and bumbled in dealing with someone. I hate knowing that I’ve hurt someone, but I hate thinking about the times I hurt someone by remaining silent or choosing not to meet a need.

    Anyway, you’ve grown and changed a lot since then. You are a reformed “religious jerk” who won’t make that mistake again 🙂

    • Bruton, I hear you man. Doing a good thing for the wrong reasons vs. doing a bad thing for good reasons…if I had the answer to that conundrum, we could party like it’s 1999. Many times I’ve wished I had said something instead of my silence screaming.

  • I found this in the middle of my anger with a man. I felt completely mistreated by him. That hurt me a lot. Until now he has no idea what went wrong. He said “I am sorry for whatever”. That type of apology on top of everything got me tottaly mad, angry, furious. Ignorance can do serious damage. Disrespecting other people´s beleifs or feelings is a way to really hurt. An I undersand Booketta, in the middle of the anger words dont come easy.

    This article is very very sweet, sincere and useful.

    thank you.

  • Hi Carmina,

    Wow, thank you for sharing your story. I think you have great insight to discern the validity of the dude’s apology.

    And I hear you about words, as Maya Angelou said: “Words are things.” Check out the youtube video clip of her here:

    I’ve not used words well with people and hurt my fair share of people. And your right, they don’t always come easy.

    Thank you for the kind words and have a fantastic day.

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