Friday, August 17, 2012

In the World But Not of It

Growing up as a Mormon in the Southeastern United States, I learned quickly that if I wanted to remain true to the standards I was taught, I had to be bold about my anomalous beliefs.  I had to honestly and straightforwardly answer questions without hesitating.  The sooner I stood up for myself and the more roundly I answered questions, the easier it was the next time.  In fact, more often than not, my religious beliefs were a non-issue.  There was sometimes the random insensitive guy who teased or considered it a challenge to get me to drink or smoke, but otherwise, people were generally very accepting of my way of life.  As a result, I have rarely had a moment when I was nervous to share my religion with others.

For the first time in a long time today, though, I got nervous.  My co-workers recently started getting drinks after work on Friday, and fortunately, I've been able to avoid having to go for the last few weeks.  It's not that I feel nervous about being in a bar or being around people who drink -- I've done that countless times.  It's just strange having to mingle with people I don't typically see outside of work and being the odd one out.  That combination is . . .  Well, it's uncomfortable.

So today as they were leaving, they asked me whether I was going, and I said I have something else to do tonight -- which is absolutely true, though I probably could've done both, if I had really wanted to.  I also said, "Besides, I don't drink" and I shrugged my shoulders.  Of course they all said it didn't matter, and I said, "Well, it's just kinda weird . . ."  And my other co-worker said she understood what I meant.  Another one said, "It's not like we're going to tease you!"  And then we all joked around about that for a bit until the same co-worker mentioned something about a Mormon he used to know.  "Yeah . . .  I'm Mormon."  I was so nervous saying it.  I didn't have to, but I felt like I should.  So I did.  And it was just a passing comment that quickly faded into the background and didn't even cause a blip in the conversation.

But now they know.  Now they know part of the reason I don't drink, and now they know a little bit more about me.  That's great, right?  Right.  Except I don't feel great.  I feel like I should've gone with them, anyway.  I feel like I should've gone, gotten a drink of water, stayed for 45 minutes, and left.  Why?  Because of this phrase:  "Be in the world but not of it."

President Kimball used that phrase in 1968 to talk about how Mormons ought to live.  The idea is that Mormons need to live among everyone else in the world while still holding fast to the standards they put their faith in.  But I don't think I do that.  I don't think most Mormons are very good at that.  Most of us cluster together in Utah, Idaho, California, Arizona, and other western states.  Most of us only spend time with the people in our local congregations.  Most of us see others as "Mormon" or "not Mormon," and it doesn't seem right to me.  We are, after all, supposed to live in the world.  We are supposed to be a part of the vast network of people that is the human race.  That's impossible, though, if we keep to ourselves.

So I should've gone to the bar for just a bit.  Just long enough to be relatable, to connect.  Otherwise, what's the point in explicitly stating a religious affiliation?

Next time . . .

Thing I'm thankful for: growing up in the Bible Belt


Blogger Margaret said...

Very insightful and courageous Sara. To some extent, we all do that...migrate to a certain group of people--it may not be because of religion like you were saying, but it may be for other reasons. Thanks for providing some thought provoking reading.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

There's a lot to be said for spending time with your co-workers in social settings, especially if you're hoping to improve your friendships. That said, you're not obliged to go anywhere or do anything – ever – that you're not comfortable with.

When my friends or colleagues are at any sort of social gathering and there will be drinking, I like to show up at the beginning. If things get uncomfortable (or inane), I take off.

11:50 PM  
Blogger cardlady said...

Very nice post, Sara.
I have become more comfortable in the "sports bar, like Applebees" scene.
When I was growing up, and hearing President Kimball say that, it was because I had been raised, not to go INTO any bars at all.
So when my boss at age 15, and family were going in to a bar to eat a hamburger, I was very nervous, because I had been taught NEVER to go into bars.
So, I have changed a bit, and am grateful, they sort of keep the bar separate from eating areas, but wonder what kind of influences really go on in those places. Should we be in those places at all?
Alternately, fires and tragedies happen in bars sometimes. I wouldn't want to be in one, when a fire did break out! People who have been drinking aren't thinking as well.
And, again, Pres Kimball, did help me to see, we should invite our non member co workers into our homes more often as guests. That would actually be better. So I have done that with dad's groups.
Anyway, I pray for all our safety, when entering into, even, sports bars. Love you MOMMA

11:45 AM  
Blogger mlh said...

My brother's ward mission plan was:

1-once a month, let someone new know you're Mormon, or talk about something you do or think because of your faith

2-once a quarter, inviting someone somewhere.

I really like the whole "and I'm a Mormon" thing because I think people think they know who Mormons are, but are drastically wrong (often they think we're Amish). It's like "if only weird people let others know they're Mormon, then other will think only weird people are Mormon."

That being said, it is hard to do.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Lyndel said...

I really liked your post about this. I am reminded of this every time Mike goes on gigs. He's in different places- bars,clubs,etc. with all walks of life. He loves that people know that he's Mormon, that his character speaks volumes above other "regular" djs... and that he gets other gigs because of it. Makes you feel good about living your faith in the world.

6:06 PM  

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