No matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, my desire for acceptance from my parents will never go away. I grew up in a strict Catholic home, where religion was the foundation for our family.
There was a lot of love in our home; no one could argue that. But everything revolved around the church and I learned as an adult: without religion, there wasn’t a solid foundation for our family.
When we were kids, our parents built our daily life around a church schedule. Catechism classes every Wednesday, which my parents both taught. Thursday afternoons were for altar server practice. Confessions were on Saturdays, which we could not miss, or else we’d be forbidden to have Sunday communion.
In our family, our relationship with God was more important than our career, our well-being, our education, and our family.
As I grew older, I became confused with most of the practices in our Catholic home. I wish they didn’t ground me for questioning certain rituals – like why it was necessary to confess to a priest every week.
I wish they didn’t tell me my body was a temple only for God, and I wish they didn’t teach me anyone who had sex before marriage was a sinner and in desperate need of my prayers.
Dr Justin Coulson helps a podcast listener who’s worried she’s yelling at her kids too much. He discusses dealing with conflict without raising your voice. Post continues below.
In high school, my best friend lost her virginity and she called me crying after it happened. She was confused, scared, and needed someone to talk to. I responded with anger. I was only mimicking what I learned was appropriate in that situation.
In her vulnerable state, I told her I was disappointed and I would pray for her soul. I was that person. I didn’t know better then, and I’ve asked for her forgiveness since, but it still kills me to remember my initial reaction.
As high school progressed, I fought everything the church had taught me.
I started to hate everything about religion because it was forced into every part of my life. When I wanted to skip church to hang out with friends, they grounded me for considering missing a Sunday mass. I started arguments about abortion and masturbation as a teenager because they told me those things were one-way tickets straight to hell. It only made my parents force more religion onto me, and I couldn’t wait to move out.
As soon as I left for college, the world opened.
I was finally out of my restricted religious bubble and I felt a freedom I had never felt before. The most shocking lesson I learned was when I made friends of different faiths. My friends were supportive and even though I wasn’t the same religion as them, everyone respected the others’ beliefs.
Did you know it’s possible to still have your faith while also being happy for others, even if they don’t share your views? I didn’t.
When I came home from college, I was no longer attending church, and my parents were disappointed. They didn’t approve of my lifestyle, even though I was making the Dean’s list every semester in college. For as long as I didn’t consider myself Catholic, I was a disappointment. My father actually said the words aloud, “I’m disappointed in you.”
His statement stays with me as a reminder that the words we use matter, no matter how casual we say them in passing. I know his spectrum of disappointment is objective, so I do not use it to weigh my own opinion of myself.