The Virtues of Being Misunderstood
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
Jean and I had a terrible misunderstanding this week. It’s really a testament to our friendship that it was resolved so quickly.
On Tuesday night, we had a long talk—while the girls were in and out of the room and constantly interrupting—about a meeting I’d had with someone interested in some of the experiments we’ve been trying. Something was said during the evening that had Jean up all night, stewing over whether I really felt a certain way about her opinions. When she shot me a quick note asking to talk on Wednesday night about something upset- ting I said, I imagined all kinds of things that I might have said to offend her.
The most probable, I decided while I waited to hear from her, was my comment on High Priestesses and Elders who refuse to grow. Some people would definitely take offense. As an Elder, Jean might have disliked my opinion.
As it’s turned out, I’ve had some expectations I didn’t realize I had. I thought that Third Degree High Priests and High Priestesses had their crap together to some extent. It’s scary how many don’t, but I know I wasn’t magickally (no pun in- tended) perfect overnight when I got my Third. But Elders? The wise women, the community leaders, the vessels of knowledge? Somehow I expected more than I’m seeing. In the past six months, I’ve approached a number of Elders and asked about similar experiences and if they’d like to collaborate, only to be shushed for mentioning it.
“I’ve been an Elder in my community for over twenty years,” one nationally known witch told me, “but I have never experienced that so I just don’t believe it could happen. You must have some bad information.”
Several other “big witches” questioned my motives or the motives of people I worked with on my interpretation be- cause they weren’t familiar with this particular experience, though a few more came back and relayed their experiences with the matter in other countries and cultures and it corroborated my experience.
I found it disheartening how many 1. said I must have misunderstood because they’d never had this experience so it didn’t possibly exist, 2. implied that once they reached Elder- hood, their quest for knowledge was over, and 3. shrugged off any thirst for new knowledge, whether in their own realm of experience or something I might present to them as an interesting experiment.
One Elder had even gone so far as to tell me that the people I’d gone to for information were purposely lying to me to make me feel special. The information did not make me feel special—it disturbed me, which is why I asked the advice of others who might have encountered something similar in their spiritual lives.
Not only were “big witches”–you know, ones who are household names in pagan households—quick to disavow any knowledge I sought but they weren’t willing to even think about whether there might be more to what we know. I didn’t realize how much I expected them to push for greater knowledge. I’ve been bitterly disappointed, but grateful that Jean and a few others are working on these experiments, too.
So when Jean called and finally said what was on her mind, I expected to hear that she didn’t appreciate my expectations that Elders not look at their Eldership as the be-all, end-all of their spirituality but instead keep pushing to learn new things that are popping up everywhere if you’ve a mind to look.
But that wasn’t it. My offending comment was some- thing I never would have dreamed of as offensive. In fact, I’d meant it to keep from drawing offense. I’d made a statement, while being interrupted by a teen looking for pantyhose for a school speech tournament, to the effect of something told to me was specifically aimed at me, not at her. Jean thought I was admonishing her not to claim something as her own, which was the opposite of my intentions.
We both managed to hit our hot buttons in one fell swoop.
With the interruption from my hosiery-seeking daughter, I never got back to explaining my thought process. I’d been trying to tell Jean about some important news given to me and that the news was good—wonderful—and aimed at me, not at her. What I didn’t get around to explaining was that the news wasn’t for her because the person giving me the news knew what I was doing and knew what Jean was doing but couldn’t discuss Jean’s work with me or my work with Jean because it would have violated the ethics of the situation, and that Jean and I could freely discuss our respective work with each other. Hence, the information was mine, not hers, as in…this information was given to me and she’d get hers info direct as I had. If the person I’d talked to could have discussed Jean’s work as well, then the news would have been for both of us. Confused? So was Jean.
Normally, I might not have been inclined to make that distinction of my info vs Jean’s info, and perhaps that’s what alerted Jean to something just not sitting quite right with my statement. It didn’t sit right with me, either, but for very different reasons.
Lately, when I’ve mentioned feeling led to do certain spiritual work, I’ve found myself questioned. By mortals. By clergy. Why do I want that? they want to know. Is it ego? Do I just want to feel like I’m The Chosen One? I’ve found myself defending work I feel called to do, work I’ve never considered myself better than anyone else for feeling called to do. In many cases, it’s not easy stuff!
“No, no, no,” I tell Jean, stammering all over myself. “I heard the words come out of my mouth and the first thought in my head was that I didn’t like the way that sounded. Like I thought I was special for being one to experience this thing. So I was trying to say that this news given to me would have been true of you, too, if she could have discussed your work openly. I was very aware of not wanting to sound egotistical and trying not to act like I’m more special-er than you because I was told this today when you’re doing similar work. I hate to sound like I think I’m special or something.”
Then, in another testament to our friendship, Jean re- plied, “But you are special to the Goddess. You are a Chosen One.”
I have to laugh. “I like to think we’re all special. We’re all Chosen Ones.”