I’m not a monk. That requires a form of ordination that I’ve never submitted myself to. But I am a practitioner of Buddhism. Despite this fact, I’m not the type of person who flamboyantly brags about all the details of my life. And my faith happens to be one of those things that I keep to myself, unless it comes up organically in a given conversation.
Over the years, I’ve had situations where people have questioned my faith. This is probably the worst aspect of this post, since no person should be permitted to question another person’s faith. But this is exactly what I found myself having to deal with; and it was with someone I was involved with romantically.
Almost a decade ago, long before the arrival of my wife and sons, I was dating a girl from a nearby city. She was a bit to deal with, as most exes are, and the fact she lived four hours away from me made it no less difficult. You know how everyone always says that long-distance relationships don’t work? There just may be something to that…
Anyway, I was visiting this girl on a particular weekend where I had four days off. I took the girl in question for a drive to a neighbouring city, where we enjoyed dinner with her older sister. After some conversation and debating on key societal issues, the moment seemed to arrive organically into the conversation where I said, “Even for me, that’s a bit much. And I’m a Buddhist!” The girl I was dating looked me right in the eyes and spoke the words that echo in my head whenever my thoughts turn to her: “You’re not Buddhist! Stop saying that to people!”
It wasn’t just WHAT I said, but the way in which she said it. The sideways glance and roll of the eyes… It wasn’t just the passing on of the information she believed to be correct; it was the attitude she pushed behind it. I had been involved with her long enough for her to know some of the finer details about me, and that this wasn’t a joke.
“Excuse me?” I replied.
She replied, “You were born Catholic and were baptized. It’s cute that you do karate, but that doesn’t make you Buddhist. You really need to stop saying that to people.”
I was taken aback and confused. Had the woman I called my girlfriend actually just pull THAT card on me? I was at a loss, because walking out would have left her stranded almost an hour from her home. And staying meant that I had to find the self-control to keep that shit locked up until we left and had a chance for me to discuss it with her in private.
Folks, it absolutely IS true that my mother is French Catholic. At the age of less than two years old, my mother had me baptized into the Catholic faith. My mother and I have had a debate for decades over John the Baptist and the issues behind baptizing someone prior to the age of consent, but that doesn’t change the reality. YOU choose your faith. YOU decide what faith you observe.
There’s a part of me that feels that if I had never embarked on my journey in the martial arts, my stepping into Buddhism may not have happened either. But that was a choice that was mine and mine alone, and no one else had any right to infringe on that. You have that same choice, so be sure to exercise it.
Ultimately, you all know that I broke up with the girl in this story, as she happens NOT to be my wife. I’d love to say that her xenophobia against Buddhism didn’t play a role in our breakup, but I’m not a fan of lying. Even if you’re trying to find yourself and learn, it’s important to be true to yourself. No one has a right to question your faith, and only you can know what you truly believe in. ☯