“What Ward do you belong to?”, he asked me when I met the person I was writing a story for the local paper on.
Wards are part of a religion that was the majority one in the place where I grew up. I wasn’t part of their religion so I answered “I am a member of faith X.” He acted surprised. I explained “This charity is a good work, and I want others to be aware of the prosocial things you are doing here. Is that a problem?” He said no, and continued with the interview.
People often assumed that I was the same religion as they were and often I was the only nonmember in community events that I attended. Another example is a play that I was in. I was asked to lead the prayer and the other cast members told me afterward that it was beautiful what I said and that they could appreciate my obvious spiritually. I am not saying that to brag, but rather that when you don’t focus on the labels, you are more alike than different.
Why am I sharing this? To say that often others look at you with their filters of what they think the world is. I experienced that all of my life just like everyone else. I was often the fantasy of another person until they asked questions and got to know me. That’s why I try to be sincerely interested in others. It helps to make people real, and not just a shadow/imagination of what we think they are.
I never was tempted to join that religion, but I had many positive/helpful interactions with people of that faith. I also had some negative ones, and that is life. You can’t judge someone on just one aspect, and I have found it helpful to not judge people at all. I let them live their life and assume they are doing the best they can to navigate the complexity of life.
It is kind of strange to say but out of the four religions that I knew and was involved with growing up they all would read this and think that I have lost the faith and become an evil person. Perhaps I have always been an evil person, but I don’t know who has the truth so I just act with kindness and respect and let others judge me however they want.