If I don’t come out, am I being honest with myself?

Todays question comes from Mike who asks….

Name: Mike
Message: Out or in?  I was raised in a conservative Christian household, but can remember questioning my faith from an early age.  I played along for the sake of my family, but finally decided about five years ago that I am in fact an atheist .  Now in my 40’s, I have a wonderful fiance’ and friends who share and/or respect my beliefs, but I am wondering if I should “come out” as atheist to my parents, siblings, and childhood friends.  The prospect of this terrifies me.  My family are not just believers – they are committed Christians that feel you should be constantly in prayer, commit bible verses to memory, have a daily “walk” with Christ, etc.  I’m worried that this revelation would kill my mother.  Literally.  My father would probably react with anger and dismay.  I KNOW that they would spend the rest of their days praying for my lost soul.  I could face being ostracized by my sisters and childhood friends.

What should I do?  Do I spare my family the heartbreak of this news and continue to go through the motions?  Or am I betraying myself and lying to my family by not coming out?

Well Mike. That’s not an easy question to answer. In my own experience I was able to “come out” to most people in my family except my grandmother. I knew it would hurt her and I didn’t want to do that to her, so I avoided talking about it around her. To me, it wouldn’t have done any good.

Some people will say however that by not telling your family that you are somehow not being honest with yourself. I think the flaw in this argument is that there are things that we already keep to ourselves because we don’t consider them to be appropriate. For example most don’t share their sexual kinks with their family. Why not? It’s part of who we are isn’t it? Aren’t we lying by not telling our families that we may be into tentacle porn? (Just an example people. Keep calm.)

I think it’s a case by case basis. If you want to come out to those who you know won’t think less of you or that wont be hurt, than do so. I see nothing wrong though with keeping it to yourself if you think it will do more harm than good. That’s not being dishonest, that’s being compassionate.

One last thing, and this is something I always say to those who want to come out. Before you do, be an example. Be better then they expect you to be. Be kinder. Be more compassionate. Be more. Then when you do come out, if they judge you, they will be judging their prejudice of you, not you. Eventually with time, they may see that, and it may give them peace.

Hope that helps.

One thought on “If I don’t come out, am I being honest with myself?”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Every situation like this is so unique making it impossible for a one solution-fits all type of answer. Actually I won’t be trying to give you an answer because you know the impacts of your decisions far better than I do.

    What I will do is give you a small perspective on how I have handled the situation. Note that my situation is very different from you in that my extended family (who I’m not incredibly close to) is VERY Christian or Catholic, but my immediate family is a mix of weak Christian/spiritual/(and I just found out my lil bro is atheist, score!). Anyways, my particular method of “being me” is being open, but not insistent or assertive. I won’t ever lie about my atheism, nor do I bring it up without reason. Everyone should know I’m an atheist, but honestly we never talk about it. In my life I remember less than 10 conversations about it with friends or family. Another thing that I do is shamelessly put “atheist” under the religion description on facebook (this is hidden from non-“facebook friends” and from my grandmother though). And again, everybody has access to see this, but nobody has gone out of there way to talk to me about it, nor do I seek to talk about it with others (unless they are also atheists).

    If people ask questions I’ll answer, and I’m happy to answer. I wish people would ask! But in my particular situation, not many do. In yours, my approach may create more problems than good, or it might make you feel relieved that you are no longer in hiding, I don’t know!

    That’s my short bit on how I handle my atheism publicly. Take from it what you will. Good luck!

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