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“I have a question for you: Which one is your spirituality?”

In the context of a recent and interesting conversation, my unexpected interlocutor asked this question without warning: “Which one is your spirituality?” He didn’t say “How is your spiritual life?” He said “which one”, suggesting that, in answering, I was expected to specify which, among many spiritual options, was the one I had selected for my life.

But actually, as it became immediately clear even before I answered (which, incidentally, I did not do), the question was not a question at all, but a kind of test or exam to see whether I would be accepted as a worthy person depending on my “spirituality”.

In other words, it was not a question at all, because it didn’t seek an answer that had been accepted and respected as such. It was questioning. I am sure I probably said or done something in the dialogue before I was asked the question mentioned that led my interlocutor to become restless, doubting of my spirituality.

The question moved me unexpectedly to the initial stage of my life when, in a cultural and social context very different from the current one, they continually analyzed, questioned, criticized. and corrected my childish beliefs (“childish” in the double sense of beliefs that I had in my childhood and beliefs that become unacceptable when one progresses in life.)

Being a child, I didn’t know what to do or how to respond when my parents, or the teachers, or some religious leaders questioned me about my spiritual beliefs by. And now, with more experience in life and more knowledge (not a lot more), I still don’t know what the best way is to respond.

Should I give a detailed answer about the philosophical, historical, and theological foundations of what I believe (assuming I knew them, which is not the case)? Should I pretend that I agree with the other person's approach to spirituality, not because I want to hide my true beliefs, but to avoid any unnecessary conflict?

Should I be direct and express to the other person that I know that he/she has already made the decision not to accept my spiritual life (whatever that may be) because it doesn’t exactly conform to what he/she thinks I must believe and practice?

Or, as a good friend of mine once suggested to me, should I just smile and feign insanity, calmly and politely ignoring the question?

All these options are valid and each of them offers its various advantages. But none of them seemed appropriate, because, as I said, the question was not a question in search of an answer, but a trap so that, no matter what I said, my answer would validate the doubts about the “orthodoxy” of my spirituality.

The whole situation bothered me because it revealed that some childish elements of my childhood are still present today, several decades later, being reenacted by those who believe they have the right to question others just for not believing exactly what they believe. Who, then, holds childish beliefs?

 

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