Over the last few years, the zealous beliefs of many of my friends means I find myself scratching my head in bewilderment and mumbling, “Really???” And then I tend to pull back, step aside, and look at not only what someone has said on any given day, but at how that person lives.
The “preachers” I shift into the column of “grain of salt” because I doubt their sincerity. They spend so much time proclaiming their views and sermonizing from their hilltops that they rarely recognize their hypocrisy. This is the woman who posts a daily devotional on her status up-date on Facebook but whose own relatives no longer speak to her. This is the man that proclaims his undying devotion to his faith while he lies to his co-workers and steals from his company. This is the woman who asks friends to pray for her or her family because they need a new car or money for a vacation. These are the people who always ask for more while they give less. And they never see the flaws within themselves while they function by spreading fear and misinformation.
I find myself avoiding this type of person more and more. At a younger age, I’d try to engage someone like this in a debate of ideas, but time and experience have taught me that extremists yell loudly and insult freely—both things I like to avoid in my milder middle age.
I have other friends who have deep and profound faith. Not all of them believe in the same religious doctrines, and some don’t believe in any religion at all; yet they embrace a spirituality that cultivates certainty and calmness. This is the woman who shares her beliefs not because she’s expecting to convert anyone, but because she allows friends to see her flaws within her life in the hope that others will find strength by her example. This is the man who questions the canons of his childhood as he survives a divorce and learns to redefine himself and his role as a single parent. His quest takes him onto a different path and leads him to a new creed. This is the woman who spent her childhood and early adult years mired in a religion that piled guilt upon her for every wrong thought or deed. She shares her journey for finding peace within her heart—and passing it on to others. These are the “teachers” in my life.
And although I don’t embrace the same beliefs as these friends, I never feel their criticism. They never react to me with hostility. They don’t expect me to change who I am or what I believe to match their viewpoints. They don’t define our relationship by forcing me to fit into their round holes.
So I find myself puzzling over these two types of believers—the Preachers and the Teachers. Both types profess great faith and use their religions to guide their daily lives. Yet, one grates upon me until I sometimes feel raw and bleeding. With the other, I see the nurturing that comes from their convictions. I understand the reasons behind their need to believe because it makes them better people.
Copyright 2014 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman