Sunday, May 22, 2016

Insight into the Experience of Doubt

I recently read a blog post Kayla Lemmon that discussed Tyler Glenn's new music video in which he expresses his pain and anger at the LDS church. The purpose of my post is not to discuss the blog post or the music video, although I found both interesting. I just found a response to a comment on the blog by someone named Kerry to be particularly insightful and thought I'd share it.

TK's Comment (parent comment):
Having seen many fall away from the Church, my heart also aches for these individuals. 
My problem is the approach of many of these departing brothers and sisters. I understand that they are hurt. Often, when the culture (not the doctrine) is the cause of the pain, they have every reason to be hurt. 
But, when I speak with offended or questioning individuals (and I have on many occasions), they have never been willing to approach their Bishop and discuss their concerns. They are never willing to speak to leaders or reach out to those members that sincerely want to help them. Instead, they reach out to the John Dehlins or the media. Instead, they attend the Saturday afternoon session of general conference so they can scream “no” at the top of their lungs–even though this act represents a serious misunderstanding of the practice of sustaining. Or, in this case, they create music videos where they deface religious icons that are important to many. 
I wish they would reach out to the many caring bishops that would sit with them and help them understand, resolve, or overcome their issues. Obviously, there are bishops out there that–for unfortunate reasons–may be unapproachable. In my experience though, the vast majority of these leaders are willing and desperate to help. 
To sum up my thoughts: my heart aches for them, and I wish they would use the mechanisms in place to get the help they need. Those mechanisms do exist, but they don’t appear in the forms we are used to in a democratic society. They aren’t done on the street corners or in a crowded forum; instead, like the act of rescuing a lost sheep, they are done on an individual basis.
Kerry's response to TK's comment:
Non-member here, with a life-long fascination with the church and years of experience reading about and talking to those who leave. I occupy a strange middle ground in this debate, and as such I think I can explain the behavior of those departing in a way that makes sense to you. 
I’m sure your experience with leavers is honestly represented here, but bear in mind that nobody really knows another person’s story. Those people who refused to talk to the Bishop were almost certainly carrying trauma you didn’t see. In virtually all cases, leaving the church is an incredibly painful and lonely experience. It is not a decision that people undertake lightly, or simply because they are offended. Imagine what it would take for you to lose your faith, and you have some idea what these people are up against. They don’t want to lose their faith. Very often it is an internal battle that is fought and lost over a period of months or years. 
The thing that makes this battle so incredibly painful is the fact that usually it cannot be shared with anyone. Raising serious doubts and concerns, unless it’s done with extreme caution, will in most cases provoke angry and frightened reactions. Believers will see it as a threat to their reality, and they will react defensively. In order to maintain the peace and protect those they love from pain, doubters tend to carry their doubts alone. They hide the burden until they cannot hide it any longer, and usually at that point they leave. This decision can seem sudden and rash to those around them, but it isn’t, it is simply the visible culmination of an invisible struggle. 
Usually a lea[v]er’s friends and family will counsel them to pray, read scripture, talk to the Bishop, as though the leaver hadn’t tried all these things repeatedly and found them to be ineffective. It hurts to hear these suggestions, because it reminds the leaver that their friends do not understand their struggle and cannot help them. Some people will not meet with a Bishop at any point during their deconversion, but this is rare, and usually happens because the leaver understands their own problems well enough to know that the Bishop has no answers for them. It’s not that Bishops are not caring and eager to help; of course they are. It is that solutions simply do not exist. Again, imagine what it would take to destroy your faith and you will understand why a meeting with the Bishop is not going to change anything. 
You say that you have empathy for those who leave, and I believe you. But bear in mind that even kind intentions, when improperly expressed, can cause damage. When you speak to someone who is on their way out, please give them enough credit to assume they have already prayed and asked for help. Approach them with an attitude of trying to understand them, rather than trying to fix them. Whether they ultimately choose to leave or stay, their journey and yours will be better if you treat one another with respect and kindness.
The bold emphasis is mine.

I don't have much to say about it other than it really summed up my experience clearly and spoke to me. Thank you, Kerry, whoever you are.

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