This morning, I thought I’d have a productive Tuesday by going to Einsteins before work. Got my egg sandwich and iced vanilla latte and had a decent couple of hours in the zone. As I was leaving, two women behind me stopped me and said “Hey, sorry for creeping up on you, but we were just talking, and we were wondering if we could share the bible with you?” I’m honestly quite passive when confronted by strangers, if I don’t completely ignore them. To these confrontations, I typically say, “Sure,” with a smile and patiently listen to what they have to say. I’ve always tried to be genuinely interested and open-minded about these things, but today, I said instead, “I’m sorry, I’m in a rush to get to work,” which to be brutally honest, was a blatant white lie. They were sweet about it and said, “Oh, it’s okay, when you get a chance, look up John [I don’t remember the exact verse]!”
Immediately after, I texted my friend this, to which he replied, “It’s fine to say no thank you.”
I had to stop and think about this for a while. I have never felt like I am allowed to say no to strangers who confront me about religion. It seems offensive or rude, and I’ve never thought that I had an option to refuse them. I have my own personal views on religion, but I am not anti-Christian, and more broadly, I am not anti-religion. I feel that it is a right to allow everyone an opportunity to say what they need to say and that I take time to listen. I want to listen. I want to be well-rounded and educated, and I want to learn about what makes somebody feel the desire to tell me about the things they think I should know. What makes somebody feel like it’s worth their time to talk to a stranger about? Tell me.
But in all honesty, some days I feel like I’ve heard it all, and more, which, of course, could never be the case. Some days, I hear them speak, and they all start to sound the same to me. I think to myself, do I have time for this right now? When my beliefs are indeed steadfast (although people could argue that they are not…), and I’ve prioritized other things above spontaneous intellectual discussion, is it okay to refuse a stranger’s honest attempt to stir my mind? Because I don’t want to be rude or come off as ignorant. Because I love spontaneous intellectual discussions, and I believe that you always learn something new, that it’s never not worth even a little bit. And so, walking away from those two women made me think really hard about this. I never came to a definitive answer, but it occurred to me that saying no to somebody who wants to tell you about their religion (or any other topics, for that matter) is okay. Allowing myself this choice will probably not stop me from continuing to feel submissive in those situations, but it’s an interesting new perspective to realize that I do have that choice.