Integrity or Exhibitionism

I was talking with my therapist last night.  The subject as always was on religion.  About half way through the hour, I realized that we were not on the same page.

I was talking about my anxiety about being honest about my spiritual state with people I am close to.  I told him I really admired people who could say what they believed on any subject and not be overly concerned with the approval of others.  I gave the example of fellow bloggers I know who advertise their blogs on Facebook.  They have strongly held beliefs and they are willing to share them with anyone.  Inevitably they offend others.  But they take it in stride.

Me?  I am honest in my blogs.  But it is a dirty little secret that I do not share with friends and family.  I am too afraid of what they might think of me.  So I do not draw attention to my writings.

My therapist seemed genuinely surprised by this.  I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he did not understand why I would want to always reveal what I am thinking.  He believes thoughts are private and really no one else’s business.

To clarify my own thoughts, I am going to switch gears and talk about my philosophy of life.

In college, I was a Psych major (yeah, one of those).  Much of the psychology I read was over generalizing and stereotyping human behavior.  But there was one school of thought that really resonated with me.  It is a little know group of psychologist who practice integrity therapy.  Integrity therapy in centered on the notion that when people act contrary to their own belief system, it creates psychological stress and sometimes illness.  The way to resolve the problem is to live in harmony with one’s own beliefs.  And when you have violated the tenents of your belief system, you must confess and make restitution.

I aspire to live consistently within my own core values.  But there is one area of my life that I think is completely out of whack.  I am no longer honest.

Am I a big fat liar?  No, I just do not reveal what I really think.  I really value authenticity, but I am in many ways a fraud.

And guess what my fraud centers around?  Yep, you guessed it faith.  I grew up in a very closed faith circle.  My friends and family all shared my core values.  I lived in a bubble of like minded individuals.  I would often argue minor points of theology.  But in general, I shared 99% of the core beliefs of my circle.

But now my faith has been rattled.  The pendulum inside my head swings widely between desperately wanting to recover my faith and total faith abandonment.  But when I interact with all but a few very close friends, I act as though I am still one of the gang.

Nameless Family Member: “The Lord has really blessed Mrs. Smith.”

Me:  “Yes, that is so wonderful.”

My Brain:  “Luck be a lady tonight.”

I have not called my family in over a month.  I just cannot pretend to be whole when I am not.

So why not just tell them?  I think I would rather they see me naked.

I value authenticity, but I fear rejection more.

And so I find myself drifting away from people I love because I cannot deal with the possible disappointment they might feel that I do not share their faith.


3 comments on “Integrity or Exhibitionism

  1. I’ve had this ongoing conversation on my blog for the better part of ten months now. And still have trouble articulating it. There’s a dichotomy between what I believe, and what I *tell* people I believe. I think I am just trying to protect their feelings, or maybe protect myself. But when it comes to it, who does that help at all? I agree. I want to say what I feel. I’m more-or-less proud of where I was, and what I’ve been through, and what I’ve become over the last 40-odd years. I shouldn’t feel ashamed, even in front of many Christian friends, who honestly might be happier believing I was happy, than knowing I was a fraud.

    Doubt and reflection are a real pain in the ass.

  2. I hear you. My parents keep telling me what I need to be doing at church, how I should be fitting into the leadership (and I’m in the group) but I am not feeling it. I try to sidestep the church talk and cliches – “don’t you just love it when God works it all out?” but sometimes it feels like a minefield. I am slowly, slowly becoming more honest as I know myself more and my own place,independent of any position I might hold at my church.

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