I have a friend on Twitter who is young. We met through hash tag games, and follow each other. At the beginning of our friendship, she got into a debate about religion with a mutual follower. The mutual follower felt she was being persecuted for being a Christian, and had no tolerance for atheism. My friend saw that she wasn’t going to be reasonable about it, so she asked if they could agree to disagree. But our mutual follower felt victimized, and went silent.
The next day, I was chatting with my friend about something unrelated to the previous issue. The mutual friend saw me being kind and supportive of her, and became angry. She blocked us both, and told me I had betrayed her by befriending someone who had abused her over her religion. She didn’t allow me to say anything to that, not even goodbye. For a moment, I felt upset that she would react in such a childish way. Then I realized she probably felt triggered by the incident, and that it wasn’t really about anything but my failure to protect her as my friend. That put her reaction in a different light, and it became easier to understand.
I don’t resent her for what she did. I don’t think there is anything I could have done in that moment to assure her that I cared about both of them, regardless of whether they got along. So I care about her without her knowledge now. I won’t be the person she needed me to be in that moment. I won’t reject my friend on her behalf. I won’t reinforce the painful message she’s already deduced from her life so far. It would be wrong. I know this with everything I am.
This young friend is a beautiful person. She doesn’t know this. She’s intelligent, witty, kind, concerned, and aware. She reminds me of myself when I was younger in that she wishes her mom would have elected to have an abortion, rather than birthing her, and struggling. I remember feeling that way for a long time. It’s something I outgrew as I’ve grown, and I’m confident she will too, in her own time. What she is saying is that she loves her mom so much, and would do anything to make her life easier, even if it meant giving up her life. She’s saying that she doesn’t believe she is worth the struggle her mom has endured. She’s saying that she wishes she never existed sometimes. Most of the time.
Feeling that way is like that ache in the back of your throat when you’re trying your hardest not to cry. It’s that resentment you feel when the first tear edges it’s way down your cheek despite your willing it to cease. It’s that lack of control you feel, when you realize your body reacts in a disobedient manner. It’s a deep depression. It’s scary and sad. I know this because I’ve lived there before. So of course I can’t turn my back on her. I can’t let her go on thinking she’s worthless when I know it’s not true. I can’t ignore the fact that she’s a bright light in this world.
So I try to gently remind her that she has value. I know she disagrees now, but just reading my words sinks in a little, if only subconsciously. She goes back and forth with religion, as many do at her age. The desire to disbelieve in fairytales and declare yourself an adult is normal growing pains. To throw religion away is a bold declaration that you have your own mind. It’s not done to offend those who believe. It’s not done to try and get others to disbelieve as well. It’s a process of growing out of indoctrination, and questioning everything in order to have a full understanding of where you will eventually take your stance. It’s finding the confidence in your beliefs and values.
It’s something I think most people do, although probably not as openly. There are phases where arrogance and superior intellect are lies one tells oneself to compensate for the bitterness thrown at them by Christians who are insecure in their own beliefs. The finger pointing when one who is identified as a Christian does or says something that is clearly not considered a proper action for the religion is another. But these are part of the process. She’ll outgrow all of this in her own time.
I just support her for being herself and finding her way. I see the goodness in her. It doesn’t make me feel old. It makes me feel like some of the hard times I’ve already lived through were worth it, because now I can see past the mask and recognize the pain behind it.