You know the old saying, “It’s all about perception.” This doesn’t ring more true than when talking about such topics as religion and philosophy, where people have invested a great deal of emotional energy into creating their perception. I can truly appreciate another person’s point of view on such topics. I generally do not agree with them because I have such non-traditional views, but this post is not about me. Didn’t see that one coming did you?
Nope, this post is about my mom.
My mom is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I tell people this I get a lot of different reactions. Some people don’t know a lot about the religion and so they just let it go, as if I had told them that she has brown eyes. Some people don’t know a lot about the religion and this worries them, so they get all worked up. They say things like, “Are those the people that don’t believe in Jesus/Hell/God/etc?” I usually try to, very tactfully, set people aright about such things.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My mother tried to raise my brother and I in that faith but we both decided it was not for us. She has been very accepting of this and I hope that we have been just as accepting of her decision to remain in the faith. I think that sometimes I am not. This all sounds a bit contradictory, and for good reason. When people make accusations against JWs, I feel they are making accusations against my mother. It’s kind of like the whole older sibling thing. “Hey! You can’t beat up my younger brother. Only I can do that!” When people ask how I feel about the religion, I do not give glowing reviews. I don’t like any organized religions, however, so if they asked me about Catholicism, I would probably say the same thing.
I find that there are times when it takes a lot of effort on my part to mentally and emotionally untwist my perceptions about organized religion from Mom. I have gotten better at it, but I guess I can commiserate with the bigots a little on this one. I don’t excuse it at all, in fact I think it’s awful. It’s something about myself I am trying to change and I wish other people would too.
Generally speaking, people who know my mother first and then find out that she is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses are alright with it. This is because my mother is awesome. I am not comparing her to any other mothers, so get your knickers out of a bunch. Mom just likes to help people. She became a single mother very quickly, and at a young age so it spurred in her a sense of putting others before herself. This lasts til this day, where my mother will give her last dollar to another stranger in need. She loves to be around people with a good sense of humor, and has a great one herself. She makes the best damned chicken and rice and her desserts are to die for. Last of all, Mom rocks out to alternative music and has even played Rock Band on the Wii. Mom is cool.
With all of this in mind, people who are meeting my mother for the first time (people who do not know about her “coolness”) will judge her solely based on their perceptions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They will label her as weird, Jesus-hating, and unAmerican. It is strange because the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a very Jesus-based religion. In fact, the only holiday they are permitted to celebrate is that of the Memorial, or of Jesus’ passing from mortal back to Heaven to join his father. Yes, their beliefs are a little different when you put JWs under a microscope next to another, generalized Christianity. However, they are fundamentally the same. They all function on the same basic principles: Treat everyone with respect, put God first, find salvation through Jesus, and learn to appreciate life through the love God gives you. These are the basic principles of most any religion (if you tweak the God and Jesus parts a bit) so I find it very strange that people get so bent out of shape. I find it unAmerican. I find it one of the uglier parts about myself that I am, as I have stated, working very hard on changing.
I’d like to enjoy a lasting and positive relationship with my mom and I don’t want to let any little complexes I might have get in the way. The only option I can see is to eradicate them, or “fix” them. I am trying to do this by spending more time with Mom, trying to see things from other people’s perspectives, and reminding myself that just because I listen to someone else’s viewpoint and acknowledge it, does not make it my own. I do not have to argue everyone else into submission of my viewpoints. Mine are not the only ones, mine are not the correct ones.
We all create our perceptions out of the various and unique experiences in our lives. By sharing our ideas and emotions with other people, we are trying to impart not only those experiences, but the impact that they have had on us. I think being more receptive to what Mom has been through and how it has impacted her will help to ensure that we have a loving mother-daughter bond. Here’s to you Mom, thanks for all you do and keep up the good work!