In the last blog post, I received a comment that is one of the most common questions that I hear from new Pagans. “How do I deal with how my non-Pagan family and friends will/might react to me being a Pagan?” Believe it or not, this question can be answered in a myriad of ways and is not as straight-forward as one might think.
The easiest answer I can give is my own approach. However, that’s because its what I live every single day: I don’t care. Or I should say that I don’t lend a lot of energy to the situation because I do care what my family and friends think about me. I just try my best to not get too caught up in trying to model myself in a way that I think others will accept me. I’m me. If people cannot handle that or disapprove of it…I shrug and move on. In the basic basics of things, I must live my life in a way that allows me to feel free and places me in a perspective of being free and true to myself. If I try to be what they want me to be…well, I wind up feeling like I am living a lie. However, I tend to tone down my Pagan beliefs and perspective when I am around my DNA family. I do my best to not kick up arguments with them. We don’t agree on a lot of things – beliefs, politics, etc. etc. – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love them any less. They are, after all, family. However, I do tend to keep my face-to-face interactions with them at a minimum, to keep the strife down.
Another way of dealing with such things is to ostracize yourself from your family. I can understand the approach. I did the same thing when I first left home for the US Air Force. My mother was a very domineering individual. So, when I had the opportunity to leave, I removed myself from the dynamic. I didn’t contact my mother for close to two and a half years. So I can relate to this perspective to a degree. Eventually, I made amends to a point, but I was truly never very close with my parents after that point – a perspective that was amiable for both sides.
There is a myriad of other solutions, as I said before. However, whatever solution you come up with, just realize that the dynamic can change. After all, people do soften or harden their perspective on issues, depending on the individual and the dynamic in play. Everyone has a different perspective, need and dynamic – so there really is not a “single solution” that fits all.
I think that the hardest part is telling someone about your Paganism for the first time. You never know how they might react, so one tends to steel themselves to the worst possible interaction. Many folks develop what everyone seems to refer to as the “Two-minute Elevator speech.” Basically, its just a short little one-way dialogue explaining who you are and what you believe to someone that is encountering you for the first time. Personally, I find it to be a waste of time to develop something like this, but others have found it to be quite useful. Again, it’s a matter of what you feel works for you. Everyone is different.
Ratcheting up your courage to initiate the conversation/encounter might be the most nerve-racking part of all of it. It usually is for me. However, I remind myself that there is nothing to be afraid or embarrassed over. Paganism is a part of who I am. I am a Druid. There is nothing wrong with any of that. Its no more embarrassing or “odd” than Evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, the Muslim faith, Agnosticism, or any other belief system or perspective. I’m not embarrassed of who I am. I’m not embarrassed of being an Information Technology Generalist. I have no need to hide or deflect over the education that I have received over my three degrees. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea or shot of whiskey, but that doesn’t mean that every single individual will be repulsed by me. It’s just a measure of finding those who are my tribe. The individuals that accept me for who I am and revel with me in the uniqueness of our differences. Those that cannot do that, I acknowledge the differences and respectfully move on. No fuss, no explosion, no heavy energy. No need for dramatics. Simple as that.
Now, everything I have described here is my own way of dealing with things. As I have noted over and over, this works for me. You might try it and find it doesn’t work for you. Believe it or not, that’s perfectly fine. Everyone is built differently. Everyone reacts differently. Some folks are going through more shit right now than others. There are so many factors that play into face-to-face interactions. You just have to do a little detective work to figure out what methodology or approach works best for you.
So, if you are sitting back and wondering how to broach the “Pagan topic” with people in your life, remember that it’s your choice that matters most. I would add that approaching things from a perspective of respect is usually a good tact to utilize. You know, that saying of attracting more flies with honey than vinegar. Just remember if things go sideways – quietly walking away is an option too. That approach calmed a lot of tension between myself and my mother. We eventually found footing that allowed us to effectively communicate with one another. She never accepted my choices and decisions in where I went with my life, and that took a long while for me to realize that never was going to change. But despite her disapproval, I know that she loved me.
Coming out is a difficult decision that can only be made by you. Whether that is your religious belief, your sexuality or even the number of partners that you decide to have. Being part of what the world terms as an “alternative” lifestyle is not always an easy choice. But it’s a part of who you are. You won’t always be accepted over your choices by others, particularly in your family, if it’s a fairly conservative one. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Just remember that you can temper your interactions with others. Find your tribe. Should you ever need to talk, my Email is always open. There are so many others that are willing to listen, willing to give you that hug to reassure you that you are cherished as you are. There are always options.