Yesterday, I wrote about how, for the first time in a long time, I really do feel happy.
Funny, though, how the happier I get the more people insist that I’m not happy at all.
I get that a lot. “You’ve become so miserable and bitter.”…”Ever since you left church [read: the fundamentalist church] you’ve just been miserable.”…”Remember when you loved Jesus and church and you were so happy?”…”You’ve just become an angry feminist! Can’t you just enjoy your life?”
Last year at this time I might not have had an answer to those statements. I was miserable. When I first began questioning my faith and became a feminist, I had to go through an agonizing period of detox (something that I plan on writing about in more detail another time). Such words might have tempted me to go back.
But I didn’t go back. I pushed through to freedom.
So now when someone tries to tell me that I’m miserable, the only way I can respond is, “No, I’m not.”
But I get this now and then. Sometimes from people who haven’t seen me in years and don’t really know me well enough to make such a comment, but usually from people close to me who really should know better.
I’ve been pondering reasons why this could be and have come up with a few possibilities.
1. Maybe the mask I used to wear really was that good. Maybe, back in my fundamentalist days when you had to be “in-right, out-right, up-right, down-right happy all the time” in order to be a good Christian, I just did that good of a job pretending I did have the “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (where?).”
I suppose it wouldn’t help to tell people that I cried on my bed every night asking God to save me over and over, just in case I didn’t do it “right,” because I was terrified of hell.
I guess it wouldn’t help to say that I was being abused by a Christian man and sexually harassed by a pastor’s son, but couldn’t tell anyone. That I had to stuff down all the hate I had toward those men, even after I escaped both situations, because I thought I had to “forgive them.”
I suppose it wouldn’t help to say that during my first two years of college (at a Christian school) I was addicted to self-injury.
People see what they want to see and remember what they want to remember. I had some happy moments “back then,” but “happy” wasn’t a word that would describe my everyday life.
2. Maybe some people equate my outspokenness against abuse as unhappiness. When I was a fundamentalist, it was a sign that you loved Jesus and were happy about what Jesus did for you (whatever that was) if you were loud and in-your-face about it. Every Facebook status had to be a Bible verse or some note of condemnation against the enemies of happiness (atheists, homosexuals, democrats, you know…).
Now, when I talk about the things that make me happy (feminism, Universalism, a belief in love and justice), or call out “enemies of happiness,” (abusers, misogynists, bigots), that’s equated with unhappiness.
I guess I can see that. My talking about the injustice that exists in the world doesn’t put a smile on my face, that’s for sure. But I’m happy, and I want everyone to be happy to. That’s hard when so much injustice exists. I could never truly find happiness until I started working against that injustice, calling it out, doing whatever small part I can to fight it.
3. Maybe I just can’t be happy (in their minds) because my happiness is too threatening. Growing up as a fundamentalist, I learned that anyone who was not a “Christian” (read: a personal-salvation-believing, KJV-only, Independent Fundamental Baptist) couldn’t sleep at night for fear of death and hell. I learned that everyone outside of the IFB church had a God-shaped hole in their heart that could never be filled until they trusted Jesus as their personal savior, burned their rock music, converted to Republicanism, and otherwise conformed to the IFB way of thinking.
We had to talk about those who left “the faith” as if they were miserable–like the prodigal son, friendless, starving, eating pig slop out of desperation. Even if they seemed happy, we had to imagine them crying into their pillow at night, or turning their hearts into stone.
We had to think like this, because if those “outside the faith” were truly, sustainably happy then our extremely exclusive religion fell apart. If other people could be happy, maybe we weren’t the only ones who were “right with God.” If other people could be happy, maybe other people could be “right with God.” Maybe other ways of living/seeing the world were viable.
That was just too much for me to accept, for years.
So, maybe those who deny my happiness have the same “house of cards” faith that I once did. Maybe my existence as a happy person is a threat to that.
Who knows? But the fact is, I’m happy. I may not convince everyone that this is true, but you know what? To hell with convincing people.
I’m happy. Others’ disbelief isn’t going to change that.