Maybe you chose not to circumcise your son.
Or maybe you breastfed for longer than “normal”.
Perhaps your diet doesn’t include many modern staples, like sugar, artificial additives, or chemicals. Maybe you are super crazy and, for whatever your reason, avoid certain foods or strive to eat only organic.
Possibly you don’t feel comfortable with modern medicines, or therapies, or even (gasp) vaccines. You may have decided to follow a more natural or holistic path.. chiropractic, homeopathy, massage, essential oils. You may even be one of those weirdos who actually put your health and wellness in a Higher Power, reaping the benefits of what God has given us (honey, coconut oil, turmeric) instead of what man has created for us.
And maybe.. just maybe.. you are feeling a little lonely?
Unfortunately, when we decide to go against the grain, chances are we open ourselves up to a whole new world of scoffing and criticism. It may manifest as the friend you lost after one too many debates, the mother who stopped coming around for play dates, or even the family members who designated you the family joke behind your back. Whether it’s a stranger online or someone close to you whom you have known for years, it all hurts.
This is a path I have been led toward for years. It is not a well-worn path, it is not an easy path, and it is not a simple path. I don’t know it all – and I never will. I don’t pretend to have some great knowledge or wisdom. I am learning constantly, adjusting daily. Even in the past week, I have had to change my perspective on some things, as new information has come to light. In a way, this has been a blessing as it has greatly simplified my perspective, but nonetheless, changes can be difficult.
The past couple weeks, I have had to come to the blunt realization that I am different. I am in the minority. I am even a punchline for some. As I struggle through the various emotions related to these realizations, I have come to accept them with a sense of peace and purpose.. for the most part, that is. So to those of you who may be struggling with the same thing, I have a couple things to tell you.
You are not alone.
Find your tribe. We are out here. Open yourself up to others; don’t confine yourselves. Support systems are so incredibly important, but remember they are a two-lane road. For so long, I prayed for God to lead me to supportive people that I forgot that I can be that person for others as well. When I changed my perspective on that, when I came to the conclusion that maybe someone else is praying for the same thing, a whole new world opened up to me. I started to notice the others around me, others who were also seeking their tribe. So often we get stuck in our own heads, or focus so hard on trying to keep the fire burning on the relationships we think we ought to have, that we miss the people who we are truly called to. Not that you have to surround yourself with only people who agree completely with you (because, really, who will you find like that?), but if there are people in your life who are constantly tearing you down, then maybe those aren’t the relationships you should be focusing on.
Remember your purpose.
Keep in perspective why you do what you do do. Chances are, if you can relate to this, you have come to these beliefs and practices after much research, critical thinking, and (hopefully) prayer. Others may label our lifestyles as “fads”, but that is far from the truth. You have started this journey wondering if there is more out there, knowing that you can’t be spoon-fed everything, and realizing that you alone are accountable for your family. Yes, criticism hurts, but in the end, isn’t that the only thing we have to worry about? Take a realistic look at the people who criticize and mock. Are they healthy? Are they happy? Are they thriving? Our lifestyles may be a more labor-intensive path, but it is a labor of love; if you truly remember your reasons, you will find the criticism won’t sting nearly as much.
I have realized that, oftentimes, critics of our choices don’t even realize why they are so against us. I was once having a conversation with a friend, trying to understand why I tended to attract so many negative people and drama. Yes, my lifestyle is different, but does it really, truly affect them? Why does someone else care if we eat organic, or if I’m still breastfeeding my two year old? My friend told me that my life tended to make others reflect on theirs, and whether they admitted it or not, it made them feel lacking in some way. It took a long time for that to sink in, as that has never once been my intention. I admit, in the beginning of this journey, I was a bit overenthusiastic. I just couldn’t understand how people could ignore what I was finding! I wanted to help everyone! And I didn’t always go about it in the best way.
In the last couple of years, I have learned more tact and learned more grace. I still don’t back down on my opinions, but I also am learning when to fight and when to step back, when to be loud and when to be soft. Ironically, I am finding this more as I grow in my faith. As a new Christian, you want to tell everyone about Jesus, and sometimes you may come across too hard and may push others away with your passion and drive. Does that mean we should not minister to others? No. It just means we need to always lead with love and understanding, accepting that others may not be where we are, but keeping ourselves receptive for when they are ready.
For example, another friend of mine recently made a post on Instagram that ended up turning into a circumcision debate. One of the posters said something to the effect of, “If you cut your son, then you can *bleep* off”. I was completely turned off by her attitude and judgement. She doesn’t know a parent’s reasons, whether they regretted their decision, or who may be debating that decision for the future. I guess what I am saying is, not every decision is black and white; we will be a greater example for our lifestyle choices – and our faith – by living positively, not aggressively. Our critics may not show love and grace, but we can. And you may find, that when you retrain your outlook, the critics.. they just don’t seem so bothersome anymore.