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Author Topic: How to deal with feelings of isolation?  (Read 882 times) Average Rating: 0
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Nephi
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« on: November 09, 2012, 10:35:38 PM »

I have pretty close relationships with my professors and fellow students, and I keep having these recurring feelings of isolation. They're pretty much all Protestant or of the Agnostic/Deist/None blend, and one Catholic. These feelings are mostly in reference to the Protestants, and the fact that I feel different, like an outsider. As much as we may agree on important stuff, it's like I can't help think I'm viewed as just someone worshipping cave paintings with some unique, as in irrelevant, beliefs.

The one professor in particular will drop comments, probably unintentionally, referring to the fact that Protestants of the Reformed tradition view icon/saint veneration as idolatry. We're on really good terms, and I know he thinks very highly of me as a person, but it feels like there's this unstated tension that is never vocalized.

Another instructor I have has referred to things that Orthodox would view as fundamental to the Christian faith as "esoteric nonsense;" e.g. Christology. So I think that he probably feels much of Orthodoxy to be "esoteric nonsense," and that I'm well-intentionally misguided. Again, not directly vocalized, and views me fairly.

Also, my sister goes to a Nazarene church where she's pretty involved with their youth, and she was talking with her youth pastor one day and it somehow came up to him that I'm Orthodox. He told her that she "needs to be praying for [me]," and that we're only supposed to worship God - to which my sister promptly defended me. It bothers me for some reason even though I know it shouldn't.

It just sucks being the only Orthodox person at my university and among my peers. Unlike in high school, I don't find it appealing to be and/or feel different from everyone. I don't juxtapose myself as "Orthodox" against "heretics," and I try to emphasize our "fellow-Christianhood" with these people, but it's not fruitful for me. It almost feels like I have a higher view of them and their tradition than they do of me and mine. I'm not at all triumphalistic, and it seems like that causes me more dismay than if I were to view them all as worthless heretics.

I'm sure that only being at my church on Sundays has a great deal to do with it, but because of distance I can't really help that. I also wonder if these thoughts are merely myself projecting, and not accurate of their feelings at all. I don't know.

Has anyone else dealt with this, or otherwise have anything to share? I'd greatly appreciate it.


And before anyone asks, yes, I will be talking with my priest about it. Wink
« Last Edit: November 09, 2012, 10:36:17 PM by Nephi » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2012, 11:23:57 PM »

sounds like your the only orthodox in a Protestant / nonorthodox world? In that case your feelings are justified. So, try changing the script---try hanging with mostly Orthodox, or dont discuss your faith with them!

you said "It almost feels like I have a higher view of them and their tradition than they do of me and mine."
thats cause your are the odd man out, the only Orthodox in an un Orthodox world.
Maybe thats why we are told to hang with our own?

When i was a little kid i refused to speak Greek even at home for a while (btw: im Greek Orthodox). I would yell at my family saying i cant here you speak English...that was cause some kids at school made fun of my heritage...long story.

Anyway what im trying to say is that take any trait, skin color, nationality, religion, disability's and you will get the same dynamic going as you have in your situation...UNLESS--the "friends" are true friends and go out of there way to make you feel comfortable and secure.

YUP, i saying they are not your true friends if they evoke the feeling you mentioned above!
Also re: the professors, i have know quite a few. Some great humans and some despicable humans and very snide. Kinda like your examples above where they throw out little hints making you feel inferior cause of your faith.

Bottom line: Find a new set of friends.
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« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2012, 11:53:34 PM »

Nephi, if your teachers/tutors/professors are marking/assessing you negatively because of your beliefs, then you have every right and cause to complain. If you're being treated fairly in your studies, then what's the problem? Sometimes it's better to remain silent, but, as you are still young, discerning the times to speak and to remain silent are not easy, especially in a society where the Orthodox are a very small minority. I find your predicament ironic, given the American credo of individualism.  Wink Or, perhaps, this cultural individualism is, in reality, more like the seminal Animal Farm quote: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Wink

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Nephi
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2012, 12:14:48 AM »

sounds like your the only orthodox in a Protestant / nonorthodox world? In that case your feelings are justified. So, try changing the script---try hanging with mostly Orthodox, or dont discuss your faith with them!

you said "It almost feels like I have a higher view of them and their tradition than they do of me and mine."
thats cause your are the odd man out, the only Orthodox in an un Orthodox world.
Maybe thats why we are told to hang with our own?

When i was a little kid i refused to speak Greek even at home for a while (btw: im Greek Orthodox). I would yell at my family saying i cant here you speak English...that was cause some kids at school made fun of my heritage...long story.

Anyway what im trying to say is that take any trait, skin color, nationality, religion, disability's and you will get the same dynamic going as you have in your situation...UNLESS--the "friends" are true friends and go out of there way to make you feel comfortable and secure.

YUP, i saying they are not your true friends if they evoke the feeling you mentioned above!
Also re: the professors, i have know quite a few. Some great humans and some despicable humans and very snide. Kinda like your examples above where they throw out little hints making you feel inferior cause of your faith.

Bottom line: Find a new set of friends.
Thanks for the reply. I would definitely love to have Orthodox friends in my college life, but there are pretty much no Orthodox at my university. I honestly don't know of one other on campus.

As a result, the main place for Orthodox fellowship for me would be my parish, which has almost nobody my age and I'm not there enough to get to really befriend anyone. So I try to make do with my Christian peers and professors for limited fellowship, but I wouldn't say they're my friends exactly. Just other people in my college environment that I'm around, speak to, work with, and share a belief in Christianity in an otherwise secular/nominal environment.
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Nephi
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2012, 12:33:15 AM »

Nephi, if your teachers/tutors/professors are marking/assessing you negatively because of your beliefs, then you have every right and cause to complain. If you're being treated fairly in your studies, then what's the problem? Sometimes it's better to remain silent, but, as you are still young, discerning the times to speak and to remain silent are not easy, especially in a society where the Orthodox are a very small minority.
The problem is that we're close and they are my meager Christian fellowship outlet during my daily life. So it's not an issue of them acting improperly as professors, but a personal one.

Although, the one professor is so overtly biased (and he doesn't even realize it!) that it does cross over into being improper. Once he asked me in a History of Christian Thought class, "If Orthodox believe that the communion has a real salvific effect, then why aren't they always taking it?"

And regarding the idolatry statement, I was criticizing a paper we had read from a woman on Christianity and Islam in the Balkans where she asserted that the Christians practiced "iconolatry" and "hagiolatry," the result of their Christo-pagan syncretic and polytheistic blend that then crept into local Islamic praxis. I said that this was obviously a biased statement to combat perceived error (she was a devout Muslim), and evidence of it was that this was about the 10th century and icon/saint veneration was already universally dogmatic as per the 7th Ecumenical Council, to which he had to include the irrelevant comment that the Reformation/Protestants would view them as idolatry - neither having anything to do with Christianity in the 10th century, and much less the Balkans.

That said, I do have one professor that has a great deal of respect about what little he knows of Orthodoxy, and the feelings of isolation aren't caused by him. But that doesn't make up for feeling like the odd-man-out the rest of the time.

Quote
I find your predicament ironic, given the American credo of individualism.  Wink Or, perhaps, this cultural individualism is, in reality, more like the seminal Animal Farm quote: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Wink
I didn't think that about that, but true enough. It looks like I've abandoned the ship of individualism. I guess I can be cool even as one of the sheep. Cool
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2012, 01:31:10 AM »

I sympathize with you entirely. It sucks living in a Protestant world, but, hey, what are you going to do about it? I just learned to deal with it and think of hundreds of ways to refute their position whenever they say something that offends me.
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2012, 01:40:18 AM »

sounds like your the only orthodox in a Protestant / nonorthodox world? In that case your feelings are justified. So, try changing the script---try hanging with mostly Orthodox, or dont discuss your faith with them!

you said "It almost feels like I have a higher view of them and their tradition than they do of me and mine."
thats cause your are the odd man out, the only Orthodox in an un Orthodox world.
Maybe thats why we are told to hang with our own?

When i was a little kid i refused to speak Greek even at home for a while (btw: im Greek Orthodox). I would yell at my family saying i cant here you speak English...that was cause some kids at school made fun of my heritage...long story.

Anyway what im trying to say is that take any trait, skin color, nationality, religion, disability's and you will get the same dynamic going as you have in your situation...UNLESS--the "friends" are true friends and go out of there way to make you feel comfortable and secure.

YUP, i saying they are not your true friends if they evoke the feeling you mentioned above!
Also re: the professors, i have know quite a few. Some great humans and some despicable humans and very snide. Kinda like your examples above where they throw out little hints making you feel inferior cause of your faith.

Bottom line: Find a new set of friends.
Thanks for the reply. I would definitely love to have Orthodox friends in my college life, but there are pretty much no Orthodox at my university. I honestly don't know of one other on campus.

As a result, the main place for Orthodox fellowship for me would be my parish, which has almost nobody my age and I'm not there enough to get to really befriend anyone. So I try to make do with my Christian peers and professors for limited fellowship, but I wouldn't say they're my friends exactly. Just other people in my college environment that I'm around, speak to, work with, and share a belief in Christianity in an otherwise secular/nominal environment.

Humm, i see.
Well stay strong in your faith.
Try not to be baited to debate or justify your faith, the odds are against you.
And most importantly, it sounds like you know orthodoxy and that it IS the correct religion.
i would say that when you are done with school you and your faith will be much stronger due to this trying period.
I  will say a little prayer for you.

On a side note:
I gota say icons and idolatry, have already beed hased out. We dont worship icons, you know this and im suprised they dont???
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2012, 04:21:36 AM »

Nephi,
I can sympathize a bit, I suppose.  I don't know, things are just different now.  When I first converted I didn't think or expect that that choice would be as divergent as it seems to have been.  My friends are still my friends and no doubt still love me as they have before, but there isn't the same communion as there once was.  My family (most members at least) are still gracious, forgiving, and loving, but they seem to find me more peculiar.  Relationships with women come to a standstill over the issue of me being Orthodox.  It is what it is.  I have no real encouragement for you.  I'm sorry.  "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."  Maybe it is true.

Edit:  My cat treats me with the same indifference as before.  So I have that going for me.  Wink
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2012, 06:59:37 AM »

Just focus on study, prostrations and prayer, God has givin to you an opportunity for detachment and exile, cultivate the quite light and many around you will be saved.
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« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2012, 10:28:20 PM »

sounds like your the only orthodox in a Protestant / nonorthodox world? In that case your feelings are justified. So, try changing the script---try hanging with mostly Orthodox, or dont discuss your faith with them!

you said "It almost feels like I have a higher view of them and their tradition than they do of me and mine."
thats cause your are the odd man out, the only Orthodox in an un Orthodox world.
Maybe thats why we are told to hang with our own?

When i was a little kid i refused to speak Greek even at home for a while (btw: im Greek Orthodox). I would yell at my family saying i cant here you speak English...that was cause some kids at school made fun of my heritage...long story.

Anyway what im trying to say is that take any trait, skin color, nationality, religion, disability's and you will get the same dynamic going as you have in your situation...UNLESS--the "friends" are true friends and go out of there way to make you feel comfortable and secure.

YUP, i saying they are not your true friends if they evoke the feeling you mentioned above!
Also re: the professors, i have know quite a few. Some great humans and some despicable humans and very snide. Kinda like your examples above where they throw out little hints making you feel inferior cause of your faith.

Bottom line: Find a new set of friends.
Thanks for the reply. I would definitely love to have Orthodox friends in my college life, but there are pretty much no Orthodox at my university. I honestly don't know of one other on campus.

As a result, the main place for Orthodox fellowship for me would be my parish, which has almost nobody my age and I'm not there enough to get to really befriend anyone. So I try to make do with my Christian peers and professors for limited fellowship, but I wouldn't say they're my friends exactly. Just other people in my college environment that I'm around, speak to, work with, and share a belief in Christianity in an otherwise secular/nominal environment.

I'm so sorry, Nephi. I wouldn't drop your friends and acquaintances, as isolated as you already feel.

As far away as your home parish is, is there another parish that's just as close? If so, maybe that parish has people closer to your age. It could be worth checking out.

Regardless, at your college you're still a person relating to other people. If you're really the only Orthodox at your college, you might be the first one they've met. That makes you a novelty--at first. But if they can't relate to you as Orthodox, they're relating to you in some other way, and that's the lens through which they're looking at you. If you're friends with someone of a different background, culture, or lifestyle, is your friendship defined by that background? There are other ways to connect with people, no isolation required. Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2012, 10:39:21 PM »

Nephi,
I can sympathize a bit, I suppose.  I don't know, things are just different now.  When I first converted I didn't think or expect that that choice would be as divergent as it seems to have been.  My friends are still my friends and no doubt still love me as they have before, but there isn't the same communion as there once was.  My family (most members at least) are still gracious, forgiving, and loving, but they seem to find me more peculiar.  Relationships with women come to a standstill over the issue of me being Orthodox.  It is what it is.  I have no real encouragement for you.  I'm sorry.  "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."  Maybe it is true.

Edit:  My cat treats me with the same indifference as before.  So I have that going for me.  Wink

Thank you - very good points, and I have a similar relationship with my cat... She ignores me all day except for those few minutes she throws herself at my hands to be pet, and then she's back to sleeping.  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2012, 11:02:55 PM »

I'm so sorry, Nephi. I wouldn't drop your friends and acquaintances, as isolated as you already feel.

As far away as your home parish is, is there another parish that's just as close? If so, maybe that parish has people closer to your age. It could be worth checking out.
Sadly it's the closest parish, just under an hour's drive from where I live.


Quote
Regardless, at your college you're still a person relating to other people. If you're really the only Orthodox at your college, you might be the first one they've met. That makes you a novelty--at first. But if they can't relate to you as Orthodox, they're relating to you in some other way, and that's the lens through which they're looking at you. If you're friends with someone of a different background, culture, or lifestyle, is your friendship defined by that background? There are other ways to connect with people, no isolation required. Smiley
I think you're on to something. A major aspect of our connection is our shared Christianity, but I'm not sure if either of our traditions actually defines the relationship. It's definitely true that they see everything through a Reformed lens, and it'd be hard to set aside since these are mostly philosophy and religion classes at this point.
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« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2012, 12:54:31 AM »

I have pretty close relationships with my professors and fellow students, and I keep having these recurring feelings of isolation. They're pretty much all Protestant or of the Agnostic/Deist/None blend, and one Catholic. These feelings are mostly in reference to the Protestants, and the fact that I feel different, like an outsider. As much as we may agree on important stuff, it's like I can't help think I'm viewed as just someone worshipping cave paintings with some unique, as in irrelevant, beliefs.

The one professor in particular will drop comments, probably unintentionally, referring to the fact that Protestants of the Reformed tradition view icon/saint veneration as idolatry. We're on really good terms, and I know he thinks very highly of me as a person, but it feels like there's this unstated tension that is never vocalized.

Another instructor I have has referred to things that Orthodox would view as fundamental to the Christian faith as "esoteric nonsense;" e.g. Christology. So I think that he probably feels much of Orthodoxy to be "esoteric nonsense," and that I'm well-intentionally misguided. Again, not directly vocalized, and views me fairly.

Also, my sister goes to a Nazarene church where she's pretty involved with their youth, and she was talking with her youth pastor one day and it somehow came up to him that I'm Orthodox. He told her that she "needs to be praying for [me]," and that we're only supposed to worship God - to which my sister promptly defended me. It bothers me for some reason even though I know it shouldn't.

It just sucks being the only Orthodox person at my university and among my peers. Unlike in high school, I don't find it appealing to be and/or feel different from everyone. I don't juxtapose myself as "Orthodox" against "heretics," and I try to emphasize our "fellow-Christianhood" with these people, but it's not fruitful for me. It almost feels like I have a higher view of them and their tradition than they do of me and mine. I'm not at all triumphalistic, and it seems like that causes me more dismay than if I were to view them all as worthless heretics.

I'm sure that only being at my church on Sundays has a great deal to do with it, but because of distance I can't really help that. I also wonder if these thoughts are merely myself projecting, and not accurate of their feelings at all. I don't know.

Has anyone else dealt with this, or otherwise have anything to share? I'd greatly appreciate it.


And before anyone asks, yes, I will be talking with my priest about it. Wink

I pray you can find some brothers or sisters of the faith to be with, after all, even Christ had the Apostles.
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« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2012, 01:22:23 PM »

Hi Nephi!
If you are feeling isolated, maybe just stick to non-contentious issues and find commonality with people? Different friends serve different purposes in our lives. I have friends with whom I discuss sports, friends with whom I discuss religion, friends with whom I discuss politics. There are not many people with whom you can discuss all of those things, and they are the true keepers. But that doesn't mean you need to disregard the people with whom you can only talk about last night's football game. They are great people, too. Just recognize the boundaries of your relationship, stick to the football, and leave the other topics for other friends.

I hope you can find a better, stronger Orthodox community in the future. In the meantime, I pray that you can dwell not on your differences but find joy in the commonalities and good things!
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« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2012, 02:04:16 PM »

No problemo.. You cannot walk together spiritually.. Can two walk together unless they agree?What part has Christos with Belial? and so on and you shouldn`t.They are heretics.They are wrong.You can socialize and live together as friends and human beings on secular activities and in secular topics.Religion divides people.A former teacher of mine rightly said there are three questions you shouldn`t ask a person because they are divisive : What religion are you , How much is your wage and I forgot the third..
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« Reply #15 on: November 16, 2012, 04:37:41 PM »

nephi, i think yr feelings are normal for someone who has become orthodox.

my orthodox friends are from church and my work colleagues and family are not orthodox.
thank God i can occasionally go to weekday evening things, and i have a very understanding husband.
i would add one thing to the good suggestions here:
try to make good friends with the people who are not your age at church.
my best friends are either more than 15 years older than me or 10 - 15 years younger, and even when i was young i had plenty of friends who were middle aged or who were little kids.

maybe in your parish, there is even someone like me, looking for a young friend to hang out with!
ask them faith questions and cultural questions and find people who have similar interests and make time for them.

i have a friend in church who is (well, looks!) at least 70 and is not in the best of health. i love him a lot, like a kind of grandfather (although realistically i am the age of his children , not grandchildren!) he also seems very pleased to see me, like he is not used to hanging out with younger folk. he knows a lot about the history of the church in the roman empire and he is always bringing me tea. maybe you have a grandad waiting to get to know you, who is just a bit shy!

you don't have to have the same beliefs as your work friends. keep being friends with them, you may be the only orthodox Christian they know, and much later on, they may remember you and then start on their own journey of spiritual exploration.

also make friends with the saints. when you are studying the Bible and praying, also ask for their intercession and read stories of the saints. i always find this very encouraging when i am feeling like 'the only orthodox Christian' at home or among my work friends or in the extended family.
i just got used to repeating the usual defences and explaining again and again while i am 'still a Christian' etc. i think it gives me patience, and occasionally people are genuinely interested, which is a welcome relief.

may God give u plenty of friends, and may He help you also to be a good friend.
 Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: November 16, 2012, 08:22:47 PM »

nephi, i think yr feelings are normal for someone who has become orthodox.

my orthodox friends are from church and my work colleagues and family are not orthodox.
thank God i can occasionally go to weekday evening things, and i have a very understanding husband.
i would add one thing to the good suggestions here:
try to make good friends with the people who are not your age at church.
my best friends are either more than 15 years older than me or 10 - 15 years younger, and even when i was young i had plenty of friends who were middle aged or who were little kids.

maybe in your parish, there is even someone like me, looking for a young friend to hang out with!
ask them faith questions and cultural questions and find people who have similar interests and make time for them.

i have a friend in church who is (well, looks!) at least 70 and is not in the best of health. i love him a lot, like a kind of grandfather (although realistically i am the age of his children , not grandchildren!) he also seems very pleased to see me, like he is not used to hanging out with younger folk. he knows a lot about the history of the church in the roman empire and he is always bringing me tea. maybe you have a grandad waiting to get to know you, who is just a bit shy!

you don't have to have the same beliefs as your work friends. keep being friends with them, you may be the only orthodox Christian they know, and much later on, they may remember you and then start on their own journey of spiritual exploration.

also make friends with the saints. when you are studying the Bible and praying, also ask for their intercession and read stories of the saints. i always find this very encouraging when i am feeling like 'the only orthodox Christian' at home or among my work friends or in the extended family.
i just got used to repeating the usual defences and explaining again and again while i am 'still a Christian' etc. i think it gives me patience, and occasionally people are genuinely interested, which is a welcome relief.

may God give u plenty of friends, and may He help you also to be a good friend.
 Smiley

Thank you for this. You're probably right. Smiley I only wish I lived closer to my parish so that I could get to know the other people better.

But I think the part with the saints is definitely do-able right now, and something that I'm going to start doing more.
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« Reply #17 on: November 16, 2012, 08:26:00 PM »

And thank you to everyone who has replied and/or prayed. I am feeling much better now, and it's pretty much dealt with. I'm just afraid more of it was in my mind than actual. Cheesy

Anyway, feel free to discuss these things in a general way in case someone else has similar problems. Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2012, 02:18:34 PM »

@mabsoota why not adopt the little fellah @nephi as your friend?
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