When Hiding One’s Beliefs May Be The Better Choice…

Via our Ask A Pagan page…

Hello there, I’m a young Pagan, being only 16, but I live in a very small very strict Christian town and few here are open minded. Being in high school, and knowing how fast things go around, I try very hard to hide my beliefs which sometimes makes me very sad. My beliefs are me, so I’m hiding myself. Only my closest of friends know my religion, but I still have to hide in a whole. Should I just embrace my religion and not care about my social life as a 16 year old? There are moments here I actually fear for my life because of my religion. I don’t know what to do. Should I continue to hide it until I’m 18 and move out? Please and thank you!

I’ll come straight to the point… if you think that your life would be in danger if you were honest with others about your beliefs, then for now it is better that you keep them to yourself. While clearly it’s not fair to you, to have to keep silent about something that is such a HUGE part of who you are, it’s also not worth putting yourself in danger, at least not while there are still other potential alternatives.

We spoke a bit out Things to Think About, back around International Pagan Coming Out Day, and many of those will serve you now as you are considering what choices you should make. The key here of course is your age, and the fact that you are still living under your parents roof. The truth is that as long as they are the ones providing our food and shelter, then we have to abide by their rules. In most cases, it just isn’t worth the aggravation that it will cause to rock the boat, especially on something that you know they have an absolute fear or hatred of – even if that fear and hatred is unfounded or unreasonable.

The same goes for school. That you have a small core group of friends who know the truth and are ok with it, is truly probably the best you can hope for at this point. Realize too, that since these friends are likely the only ones whose opinions really matter to you, not letting others in on the “secret” isn’t such a bad thing. Even though there are laws against bullying, there is still the potential for the next few years to be a truly miserable experience for you, and it’s just not worth it. Especially when you consider that how you do in the last couple years of school can have a profound effect on your future college plans, and even your life as a whole, it’s better to hold off on anything that would further impact that.

It’s important to remember, that not being out about your beliefs does not mean that you can’t still be practicing and/or studying, and there are plenty of ways to do things (prayer, rituals, meditations, etc…) that aren’t immediately obvious to the rest of the world. While certain traditions do require specific tools or specific ways of doing things, if one is not an initiate of those particular traditions (and odds are at 16, you aren’t), then it really opens up a whole range of creative practices that can be used.  We do not advocate lying to one’s parents, or going against their rules and guidelines for what goes on in their own house. So if they have, in any way, expressly forbidden you to practice under their roof, then you should definitely respect that. It makes things a bit more difficult, but still not impossible. The challenge is to find ways that fit within your daily life, that can be used to honor your path as well.

Keep in mind as well, even the act of taking a walk around the block can be meditation, and rituals can be done in complete silence, while sitting on a park bench, or laying in bed at night. There are also many non-traditional items that can be used to represent elements, or the Gods, etc… if you want to have an altar as well. So while it can take a bit of extra effort, there are still definitely ways of keeping “silent”, but still being true to oneself and one’s beliefs.

Even once you are of age, making the decision to tell others of your beliefs, will still require a lot of careful thought and planning. You will want to make sure that you either have a place of your own and can support yourself, or – if you are still living at home, that you have a safe place to go in case your parents kick you out over it (something that is not entirely unheard of). When you are ready to let them know, be sure that you are prepared to discuss your beliefs with them (calmly), and that you are able to answer any questions that they might have. If they don’t take it well, or the community as a whole doesn’t take it well, you may seriously have to consider moving somewhere else, or at the very least be willing to endure their feelings of ill will. Likely it will get better over time, once they get used to it, but it can really make things uncomfortable for you for quite a while.

Overall though, the most important thing is that you STAY SAFE. While we would all love to be open about our beliefs and practices,  if doing so will put us in danger, then it only makes sense to not to say anything. It often comes down to timing, and if right now isn’t the best time, then it’s just a matter of just waiting until that right time comes. Remember as well, our religious beliefs and practices are very personal parts of us, so just because the rest of the world doesn’t know about them – it doesn’t change who we are inside… and that’s what really matters (not what anyone else thinks or knows).

Pagan Coming Out Day… Things To Think About

May 2nd is International Pagan Coming Out Day, a day when all Pagans should band together and joyously shout to the world… “I’m Pagan and Proud!!!” and dare anyone to take issue with it. Ok, not really, however it is an annual “event” that strives to “achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.

As mentioned directly on their website, “coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so“, and there is an absolute truth to that. While it would be very nice if we could all be open about our religious/spiritual choices or practices, in actuality it’s something that we need to think long and hard about. On the one hand we shouldn’t have to hide who we are, on the other, it’s worth noting that there are still plenty of countries that will kill Witches almost on sight, and even in countries where there are laws against that sort of thing, many have very poor opinions of Pagans, or really anyone who has a different religion than what is considered mainstream.

So when considering “coming out of the broom closet” we need to first decide if the benefits of doing so, outweigh any potential negative consequences. Then given that there will likely be at least a few negative consequences – are they manageable, or will having to put up with them make life miserable enough, that staying silent is the wiser course. Some things to think about…

  • First and foremost how will your friends and family react? If you are still living at home, or having to depend on your family for support, this can be a major factor in keeping one’s path to oneself, especially if you think they won’t take it well, and might kick you out. Are you willing to put up with potentially losing friends and/or alienating your family if they don’t understand where you are coming from? Are you willing to gather up relevant information on your path, and have calm, rational (can’t stress those two words enough) discussions, in an attempts to inform others on what your path is about?
  •  How will your employer react? Unless you plan on wearing overt symbols of your faith/practices to work everyday, this may not be a huge issue, but it’s still something to consider. Job security isn’t the best these days, so if there is any possibility that being out will cause you trouble at work, it might be better not to say anything at all. This would still apply if you are in school as well – though they can’t fire you, teachers (and fellow students) can make things difficult for you if they so choose. So it’s something to keep in mind.
  • How will your local neighborhood/community react? If you live in a large city, again this might not be a big deal, but if you are in a smaller town, or a close-knit neighborhood, then outing yourself as a Pagan, could have an impact.
  • For those who are married or in a committed relationship – how will your significant other react? I have this separately, even though it’s technically lumped into friends/family, but it’s a really big one, so it deserves it’s own consideration. If you are in a relationship with someone (or married to them), and they don’t know that you are Pagan, be absolutely sure that they will be ok with it, before saying anything to them. Keep in mind that telling them, can literally be the end-game to your relationship. Things may eventually work out, but you need to be willing to weather the bumpy ride, to get through it, if they are not overly thrilled about your choices.

I know at this point it may seem like I’m against Pagans coming out, and in reality that isn’t true, as I dream of the day that we can all live – if not harmoniously, then at least in perfect apathy to each other’s religious/spiritual choices.  However as we are not yet at that point, “coming out” can be a monumental, life changing event, and I don’t think that mere words can adequately convey the seriousness of the situation. I’d like to think that in this day and age, most people are cool with it, but if I’ve learned anything out of recent “current events” in the US, it’s that we really aren’t as “cool” as we’d like to think we are, if anything we’ve started to backslide quite a bit.

So while I encourage those Pagans who can, to “come out” on May 2nd, I definitely urge everyone to think carefully before jumping right out. Not that we shouldn’t all be proud to be Pagan, but ultimately it’s a question of… is this the right decision for me at this time? If it is… go for it!! If it isn’t, then there is nothing wrong with keeping it to yourself. You’ll know when the timing is right!!

If you are out, or are planning to come out, on the 2nd… feel free to comment and share your story with us. We’d love to hear from you!!

For more information on IPCOD, you can also check out their FB page.