We put a lot of energy into symbols in our lives. Certain things make us feel more comfortable or less.
Symbols we see on a daily basis include logos, flags, rings, tattoos—they are a greater part of our lives.
We carry symbols with us that bring us some degree of peace. Maybe you wear a necklace, such as Redditor hundmoln, who found she wears a symbol around her neck that brings her peace, but made someone else in her life uncomfortable.
Unsure of how to handle this, she went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole?” or “AITA” for clarity on if she was doing anything wrong:
“AITA for refusing to change my necklace?”
Our original poster, or OP, started by explaining the significance of her necklace.
“I have worn a necklace for the last ten years. My friend, who is pagan, gave it to me as a gift when we first met. This friend passed away last year. The necklace is a pentagram.”
OP also clarified that the significance of the pentagram, to her, is a memory rather than of faith-based importance:
“I do not believe it has magic. I am agnostic. I do not believe in any religion being better than another, because I don’t think any religion is right. But I keep this to myself. I just like the necklace and my friend was/is important to me. It is the only jewelry I wear.”
The trouble started when OP met her brother and his new girlfriend for dinner:
“I recently met my brother (Måns) for dinner and he introduced his girlfriend Eva (early 30s). She is Christian. She believes in very many things I do not.”
“She was very polite, but my brother told me she was uncomfortable. He said she comes from a culture where those things are evil. She does not want it in her life.”
OP stood up for herself:
“I said I am not evil. I am wearing a star. It is rude. I did not ask her to take off her crucifix, which had a dead man nailed on it. Which creeps me out a little.”
And then OP’s brother started asking more family members to get involved:
“He told me that Eva would be coming to dinner next Sunday. It would be at our parents’ home. They do not believe either. Måns asked them to please talk to me. They said no. In their home I will wear what I like. They have said they would not pray either, like Måns has asked.”
“Our sister Greta has asked Måns not to bring around someone ignorant.”
OP is now wondering if anybody could misconstrue her standing up for herself as rude:
“Måns is mad at me for not removing the necklace. I believe that it is not evil, that saying someone is evil because of a star is wrong. And I do not like his girlfriend for demanding such things. AITA?”
Redditors ascertained if and where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Nobody thought OP was in the wrong. Not one person.
“NTA. It’s pretty entitled to expect other people to avoid wearing or doing things just because you may not be comfortable with. You should be able to wear what you like.”~flora2117
“I’m guessing OPs from Scandinavia and that Måns’ girlfriend is from one of the so called “free churches”- They usually marry amongst their own since the rest of us are pretty a-religious even if we do celebrate Christmas. Asking to say grace here would be highly unusual. I’ve never experienced this – even the few people I’ve known who where this religious would respect their hosts and not do this, neither is it done at work during breaks.”
“I’m also guessing that Eva is looking for a husband and has told Måns that it’s a dealbreaker to marry someone outside her faith. It happens but their kids will probably be wrangled into this via her anyway and from her behavior I’m guessing she’s trying to convert Måns (or already has, religion is a bit of an embarrassing topic in Scandinavia and conversion will probably be met with way more resistance than if Måns came out as gay or, gasp, right wing political). Her demands might soon become his demands and I’m guessing when they’re not met, Måns and Eva will withdraw from the pagan in laws.”
“I’d stand my ground. Religion is a private matter to me and if you want to say grace at home or monitor whatever symbols are around you, you do this at your own home. OP, try coming out as a Harry Potter fan, if you want to stir the pot 😉 NTA”~Thedonkeyforcer
“10 second google search tells me Christians used to use the pentagram as a representation of the five wounds of Jesus. So it is a Christian symbol as well as Wiccan as well as many other things.”
“It was called ‘evil,’ if flipped upside-down by an occultist (who apparently quit the priesthood) writer in the 19th century.”
“ETA I’m not saying you should shut her down with some actual knowledge of what a pentagram is, what it means and its history, but it could be fun. She is 100% wrong about its meaning.”~Myrmele
“Yours has something better than belief attached to it. It’s love. I had a friend who died ten years ago and she also made jewelry. I wore one of her necklaces everyday for at least three years. I still cherish them now.”~MaddyKet
Between the fact that the necklace is meaningful to OP and that the pentagram itself is not inherently evil, nobody can find a leg for OP’s brother and his girlfriend to stand on.
“NTA. Pentagrams were neutral symbols of protection before christianity ascribed a negative connotation to them.”
“I’m sure she also thinks reversed crucifixes are a sign of devil worship and not the martyrdom of St. Peter.”~LelahMunster
“NTA. I am a Christian myself, and wear a cross necklace. The GF shouldn’t expect others to cater to her like that. It’s impolite, no matter what she believes. If she hates it so much, she should take some time to pray/ponder that. I have come across people wearing pentagrams, while I’m wearing a cross necklace, and we both make eye contact knowing full well we have kinship in displaying something controversial around our necks, and I’ve never had a problem thus far.”~MultipleColoredChloe
“NTA. It’s a star and it literally has no more power than anyone gives it.”
“I’m also fairly certain that a normal pentagram in and of itself is not evil, it’s the inverted one that’s considered evil, though I have no proof of this other than ‘I think I read something somewhere.’”~Rega_lazar
“Sometimes I wonder why people even post some of their stories, like ‘Am I an a**hole for refusing to take a necklace off?'”
“Of course not, stuff like clothes and jewelry falls under personal autonomy in my opinion. That and the only people who have this problem are your brother and his girlfriend. Everyone else in your family is backing you up.”
“I mean, literally asking everyone to pray before a meal? Sorry, but you’re free to pray at our table but I’m not forcing anyone else to do that. NTA”~JiggJiggersonJR
Reddit agrees that religious choices are not free to infringe upon the personal autonomy of others.
“NTA, everyone is entitled to believe what they want to believe but it doesn’t mean they can demand someone else cater to them. Your brother is trying to make a good first impression, but if he asks his family to be fake around his gf because he’s afraid she’ll be uncomfortable about who you really are then that’s just setting the relationship up to fail.”~only_the_wild_ones
“NTA at all they’re incredibly entitled and just plain wrong there’s nothing evil about a pentagram at it’s literally a symbol of the four elements being connected to spirit. A heck of a lot purer than like you said wearing something used to murder a Jewish man.”~cant_sleep420
“NTA. I hate the assumption that a the pentagram worn by pagans is the same as that worn by Satanists. (For those who don’t know, it’s the same symbol but worn in a different direction). But that doesn’t even really matter here… OP, you handled this well.”
“Eva is ignorant, judgmental, and has no right to dictate what you wear. Religious or sentimental, that’s rude to ask. You’re so not an a**hole for standing your ground.”~auntiechrist23
“NTA at all. Let me speak to my experience with conservative Christian Americans as a liberal indigenous American: Particularly in the American South, known as The Bible Belt, Christians believe that they are constantly under attack. Every service, they are told that they are being persecuted and the religion is at risk of dying, and that the only way to salvation is to preach the gospel to the world.”
“This Mission work serves two purposes: one, it reiterates to the congregation just how unwelcome they are in the world of ‘nonbelievers’ which cements a psychological Us vs Them mentality not unlike cults; secondly, it perpetuates the racist ideologies of Manifest Destiny and imperialism/colonialism.”
“When you and your family refuse her requests, she will perceive it as another attack against her religion because that’s what she’s been brainwashed into believing. Do not be surprised if it turns into a fight or if she makes a big show of prayer.”
“Her behavior/tantrum will largely depend on which brand of theology she subscribes too. Subtle differences in doctrine that matter little to an agnostic like yourself mean the difference between heaven and hell to believers like her.”
“Stand up for yourself and maybe have some popcorn on hand for the show.”
“***I recognize that true followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ as he taught them would never do this. American Christians are different from the rest of the world because their teachings have incorporated Nationalism which has no place in true Christianity.”~rez2metrogirl
While everyone is entitled to their own religious practices, nobody is entitled to project those practices onto others.
If OP’s household is not devoutly Christian like her brother’s girlfriend is, they’re under no obligation to put up the façade to make her feel more comfortable. If they did, they’d only be setting the relationship up to fail someday.