When you return to the world and start getting out more, you are bound to run into folks who had heard you went away to the convent and are shocked to see you in the frozen food aisle (for instance). Even more awkward are the encounters with the Church Ladies after Mass who want to pry into the depths of your heart. If you have not yet experienced this, I am quite confident that you will eventually (unless you move to Siberia and no one knows you).
So how do you respond? It’s easy to think that you owe people an explanation. After all, many of us had to do fundraising to enter the convent in the first place. Our church communities, acquaintances, employers, etc. did various things to help support us as we prepared to leave. When you know people have done so much to help you get to the convent, you can feel that you are obligated to explain. And, to be frank, sometimes people think you ARE supposed to tell them all the details.
The truth is you don’t have to tell anyone anything. Period.
But, but, but, that sounds so mean!
It can be an opportunity for evangelization!
It is a chance to teach people about religious life!
It can make people talk about discernment!
Yes, it could be those things at the right time, with the right person, for the right reasons.
Usually, though, it’s just inappropriate.
And so is your guilt for not saying more.
Please take a deep breath and give yourself permission to set some boundaries. The good news is that most people really will accept a simple explanation. It’s shocking how saying something simple like, I gave it a try and it wasn’t the place for me, will satisfy most people. Typically, I would get a big smile and a few encouraging words in response.
But a few will want to know more. Think about what you truly feel comfortable sharing with people, especially those who are barely more than strangers. Perhaps you can have a Tier 2 answer prepared for these folks. An example is: After spending time in religious life, God showed me it wasn’t His will that I remain. No matter why you left the convent and who made that choice, this answer is true. God is truly the One who made the decision and somehow it was His will that you leave.
WHAT IF THEY PERSIST?
Then you politely smile and say, I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable answering that question.
It’s unfortunate if they don’t like that. You are not being rude. Prying into other people’s lives is rude. End of story.
Isn’t it freeing to know that? When this was explained to me, I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. I wish I could have heard it sooner.
In conclusion, if you are having difficulty accepting this, I would recommend you check out a book called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud (http://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-When-Take-Control-Your/dp/0310247454). Part of the beauty of coming back to the world is that you have a perfect excuse to start anew. If you’ve struggled with setting boundaries in the past, God has provided you with a great opportunity to grow in this area. Good luck!
By Rosa Mystica.