Congruency// n. Agreement or Harmony. (Apple Dictionary)
It’s basically when what you say and do matches who you profess to be. When your values align with your actions.
However, it’s difficult to stay true to your values, and the very things that make you who you aspire to be if those values aren’t stagnant. And if you don’t place the same importance on them as you once did.
This past year, I’ve found that when I tried to hold onto pieces of myself that weren’t essential anymore, it made me question my congruency, and I felt guilty for it.
Freshmen year, I valued:
- My dreams
Now, most of these are the same. However, religion is the biggest one that has changed. Growing up in the Bible Belt South as a cradle Catholic, I came to really love my religion and God during a retreat called Happening my sophomore year. It was such a beautiful retreat, and I actually cried during it.
Sophomore Year-Senior Year of High School
From that retreat, my faith became a center focus of my life. I began to really enjoy going to Church, being involved in retreats, listening to Christian music on the daily, and talking about God. And at this time, if someone proclaimed that they were an atheist, I took that as a cue that they just thought they were too smart for the word, or maybe too jaded. As Blaise Pascal said, why not wager that God exists? If [it] doesn’t, you lose nothing. If [it] does, you gain everything.
For me, my own personal brand of Catholicism, was filled with beauty. I didn’t agree with everything the Church did, nor did I believe that I had to. I also believed (and still do) that every religion has its own little piece of the truth. I believe in God and think that maybe the Divine has its own little gods and goddesses working with it.
Freshman year of college
For me, whenever I was at the highest with my faith, that’s when I felt most at home and like myself. If I had God, I had everything. I could not see why faith ever had to be a roller coaster. God was constant. I worked for Campus Ministry. I was present during mass and enjoyed going most weeks. I was IN LOVE with the Jesuits and their social justice mission.
My first year seminar was on Catholicism, and I took a theology class with the same teacher. Best teacher ever, best FYS ever. My understanding of my religion from HS to college definitely changed, but I would say for the better. It became more beautiful, less literal, and more all encompassing.
Sophomore Year of college
I still work for Campus Ministry but have thought about quitting. I involve myself further in ministries for the liturgy- lectoring, more Eucharistic Minister dates, and acolyting.
I don’t go to mass every Sunday.
- Because I can’t concentrate.
- Because I don’t really want to. I don’t have the same motivation.
I can’t decide if it is better for me to take a break from my religion or to continue to go through my routine.
But religion has been a part of who I am for so long, so who am I when it’s not there?
I date a boy who tells me he believes in something, he just doesn’t know what.
My values from high school tell me that I’m okay with that. He’s not an atheist, at least. Other than that, he looks at me in the most beautiful way. So maybe I won’t marry him, but I like him, and he’s sweet. And maybe I will marry him, but we get to raise our children as Catholics. And if he was Jewish, well we could raise them as Catholic and Jewish. But he’s not. He’s agnostic. And it’s fine.
My grandma asks about his religion, and I tell them his mom is a Buddhist. She says it’s okay.
It’s not. But she loves me. And if I’m happy…it’s a little okay. And I am happy. But sometimes I’m not… because, does this boy match with my values? But what are they?
So, we’re hanging out in his room one night, with Tuscany tagging along. Tuscany is hella Catholic, which I didn’t know, but I’m nodding my head and proud of everything he says. My boy has switched his position from agnostic to atheist, and I’m a little upset that I didn’t know. Atheist…that’s on the verge of not okay. Because my religion is important to me. It orients my life, and it tells me how beautiful, how extremely beautiful the world and its people are. It tells me about love. And you don’t believe in anything, so how do you believe in the world?
I complain about how I don’t think our values match up, mostly to my friends. KH asks me if I only want people who agree with me. Do I?
Tuscany comes to mass with me, and you don’t- but I never invited you.
And school ends. And by this time, we’ve broken up.
I go to one last mass. The homily, told to the graduating seniors, is everything that I needed to hear.
The summer begins. My grandma asks about my boyfriend. Well, we broke up. And she asks about his religion. And I finally say that he doesn’t have one. And she’s upset. Buddha was on the verge of not okay, not having one at all is extremely not okay.
And am I mad at my grandma? No. Because religion orients her life, and she is the most sincere person I have ever met. God is the purpose. And that’s all there is to it. That’s my grandma, and Betty Anne is beautiful and wonderful and great.
But, I defend that boy. It’s fine that he doesn’t have a religion. Yes- even to me, it’s 100% fine. Because in the months after he broke up with me and through all the outbursts of tears I had in the weeks to follow, I realized something when I got home.
I’ve seen plenty of things in the media that makes me almost not want to identify as a Christian. So much hate from us. So much. And people who tout it and know not what it’s truly about.
My ex-boy. Christian he was not, although he wore a steel cross around his neck, simply because his grandma gave him the necklace. He showed love. And he saw the people around him with beauty. And sure, he thought I was too optimistic about the world and naive. And maybe he proclaims to be more cynical. But he wasn’t.
When I got home for this summer, I realized an atheist/an agnostic/an whatever he is or is not, showed me how to love, through an amazing example. And he didn’t have to be Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, anything to do it.
Frustration with the world didn’t lead me to question my religious values. Neither did questioning my religion itself. Being shown how to be an amazing human by my wonderful friend did.
Was I ever frustrated with him? Hells yes.
Did I want to punch him when he said he didn’t agree with civil rights because of activists? No. But I was mad.
Did I experience so much confusion when he expressed interest in joining the army but denounced violence? Uh, yeah.
But, ruminating on his influence on me- I can only say good things. I’m grateful to have known him. Sophomore year of high school, I would never have married someone I considered to be an atheist. I thought they had a terrible world view. Even the beginning of this year had me as a nay-sayer. But now, I wouldn’t rule anyone out based on their religion or their lack thereof. If you love religion, great. If you don’t, go ahead and don’t. I’m not going to make assumptions about you anymore based on that. (I also won’t jokingly call you a devil worshipper…yeah, sorry about that)
But, I’m forever grateful for the friend I gained. I’m eternally apologetic that I didn’t show him nearly as much love as he did me.
But where am I now?
My value on religion has changed. It is no longer the most important thing to me. I don’t know if it will eventually become that again. Within my family and those around us, it still is. God is first. I don’t disagree. I still pray. I still feel a calmness in certain situations that I attribute to God. I operate within this world as a Catholic. I wouldn’t choose any other religion because I do love mine (but aye, this could actually change too). I love the Catholic Imagination and how our religion tells us that we’re already saved. Jesus did all the hard work, you’re welcome. I love how Catholicism tells me that everyone is my neighbor and to see God in every person, every thing, EVERY single experience.
But to my boy, ex-boy, friend, person I’m really sorry that I hurt- thanks for opening up my eyes. Throughout everyone and everything, you were the best example of the best kind of love. And while I am confused on where I stand in religion, I’m not confused that love exists in everyone. And that everyone deserves it.
*Inspired: “Unless You’re Oprah, Be Yourself is Terrible Advice” by Adam Grant