Thursday, August 28, 2014

Conditional love...

As I write today's post, it occurs to me that I have never tagged any other post with the term "conditional love".  When I snuggle with my dogs, I have a sense of unconditional love-- or as much as a dog can "love" a human being.  They accept me for who I am, what I look like, what my beliefs are, what kind of work I do, how much money I have...  My dogs, if they are capable of love, love me unconditionally.

I think few human beings are truly capable of unconditional love.  There are only a few rare people out there who are able to be wholly accepting and not judgmental of another person.  I think when it does happen, it happens between parents and children.  But I think even the most loving parent has limits as to what is and what is not acceptable in their offspring.

This morning, I ran across the following letter that was written to a young man who decided he didn't want to be Mormon anymore.

Original source... (or at least where I found it)

The person who wrote this letter to their son obviously loves him very conditionally.  If he doesn't fall into their beliefs and do exactly what they tell him to do, he is cast out and treated like a pariah.  They are obviously threatened by their son's decision not to be Mormon anymore and fear that his apostasy will spread to his sisters.  So instead of trying to understand where he's coming from and why he no longer believes, they cut him out as if he were a cancerous tumor on the family.

Obviously, my husband Bill can relate, since his own kids did the same thing to him.  Part of his situation was caused by Mormonism.  A larger part was caused by his ex wife being terrified of losing control of her own little mini cult within her own family.  If you aren't "with her", you are against her and have to be exiled.  Fall back into line, though, and she's glad to have you... where she can control and exploit you and treat you like a minion.

I'm not sure what I would have done if my parents had presented a letter like this to me when I quit going to church years ago.  Fortunately, I wasn't raised in a family where church was that important.  Yes, I had to go every Sunday.  I didn't enjoy it much.  Church bored me and I thought it was a waste of time going every week.  But when I got older, I realized that it wasn't all bad.  I was exposed to good people in my church, a few of whom are still in my life.  I'm old enough to be interested in a sermon now and I can see why many people enjoy being part of a church family.  More importantly, the church I grew up in wasn't nearly as controlling or intrusive as the LDS church is.

The man who posted this letter is presumably still pretty young and may or may have not needed his parents to help him launch.  Their threats and demands may very well have forced his hand, though according to a thread on RfM, they are now on speaking terms and the parents have relaxed their stance a bit.  These parents' demands would have forced my hand when I was 19 or 20 years old.  But, the thing is, that kind of heavy-handedness is likely to backfire.  A person can go through the motions and pretend... but at some point, they will be able to make their own decisions and they may decide to say "sayonara" to their parents who think it's okay to make threats over religious beliefs.  I have to wonder if this man's parents are really willing to just shitcan one of their offspring because he doesn't want to be a Mormon anymore.  But then, reading this letter, it's obvious that they are; just like my husband's former daughters were willing to ditch their father over religion and lies their mother told them.  They lack the curiosity to find out for themselves what made their father leave the LDS church and their mother, just like this man's parents are not curious or interested in what caused their son to have a change of heart about Mormonism.

This video is of an irate Catholic mother who is upset because her son says he's an atheist.  Clearly, this phenomenon happens in a lot of religions.  The letter writer above just happened to be an ex Mormon.

In the above video, this supposedly religious mom uses a lot of profanity when her son says he doesn't believe in God.  She takes a threatening and controlling stance in an attempt to get him to fall back into line with her rigid beliefs.  She's not at all prepared to listen to her son, nor does she seem very loving.  At the same time, as I watch this, I almost wonder if it was staged.  Then I read the letter above and think maybe it wasn't.  At least this mom doesn't seem ready to throw her son out of the house.

I don't think very many people are capable of unconditional love.  When someone does something egregiously wrong and they do it often enough, I think most people with a shred of self-respect get to the point at which they fall out of love.  This should happen less often with parents and children, but as I've seen firsthand and read in letters like the one I posted above, people can and do love conditionally, even when it's their son or daughter.  I think it must be pretty miserable to have to live with parents who use religion, money, health insurance, and access to other family members to exact so much control.  Hell, I know it is... because Bill's ex wife did the same thing to him.

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