We have all probably heard the slang words that describe someone who is new to something. Especially popular in the gamer crowd ( of which I am a member of ), it is frequently used in a derogatory manner, to imply they are too new and therefore not worth the more advanced person's time and effort.
Love thy newbie, for thy was also once a newb!
In the gamer world, you have your seasoned players, who have logged countless hours playing said game, and then here comes someone who started just last week, who is still learning, and they may make some grievous error out of ignorance, which pisses the advanced gamers off and causes them to have fits of rage, complete with scathing insults heaped upon the "noob's" head, making that person feel like crap, simply because they have not had enough experience to know any better.
Another place this happens frequently is in the world of Paganism. Not everyone is this way, of course, and there are plenty of Pagans who love to help people new to their paths, but for years I have seen those who are more advanced, who have been on their paths for many years, who act just like the veteran gamers do. They have no patience for the "noobs"
So I am writing a bit of an open letter, first to seasoned pagans, and then to the Newbs out there.
Dear Seasoned Pagans,
Stop being asshats to Newbies. You, yourself, were once just as green as they are, and we are in a great position to stop a lot of the fear and misconceptions about being a Pagan. Maybe you were rejected in the early days of walking this path, and now you feel you are entitled to do the same. Maybe you were totally self taught, you put in all the research, legwork, trial and error, and everything in between to be where you are, and feel that every person should have to do that. Maybe you simply do not have the desire, or the patience to teach anyone something that, even for "Public Pagans" is still at it's core, a deeply personal experience.
I get it. I have been there, and I understand where you are coming from. NONE of those reasons, however, gives us the right to treat these newcomers like unruly children. Granted, some Newbs are asshats, and will not listen, or think they know it all, and I will get to them in a minute. There are still ways to not rain insults on them and make them doubt if this is the path they want to be on, if all pagans are such jerks. Ours is a path of supposed acceptance and knowledge. One of the reasons a lot of us are pagans is because Christianity left us with a bad taste in our mouths so to speak. One thing I can say is that I have never seen or read about a patriarchal religion turning down newcomers who want to learn about their path or religion. I am sure there are some out there, but usually you can't get them to shut up teaching about it, they don't insult you and tell you that you are a newb and make them feel they are not worth spending time and effort on.
I am not saying we have to answer every question, or take everyone under our wings and show them the ropes. Hell no. I can't do that myself. I have very little patience or desire to teach anyone about it anymore, even my son, who is fresh on the path. I will answer his questions, because he is my son and I love him, but I also direct him to go look it up for himself. My point is, it takes less energy and blood pressure points to give a basic answer and direct them somewhere they can find out the information for themselves, if you happen to know a few places in particular, or to simply say "Sorry, I am not a teacher in the least, but so and so is, or do a quick internet search and you will find lots of answers" than to spend ten minutes or more ranting and raving at the person and making them feel like crap. You can decline to be a teacher without being a total jerk. Think about how you would feel is someone did that to you. ( And maybe they did, and how bad did it make you feel?? ) Be respectful.
No one likes a know-it-all jerk.
Dear Green Pagans,
Don't be an asshat either. I know a whole world is opening up before you, and you want to cram as much info into your cranium as possible, but it took a lot of work to be where we seasoned pagans are today. I know you are probably reading everything you can get your hands on, and that is great, but there is a HUGE difference in book knowledge and practical experience. Don't be afraid to get out there and just do it. Be cautious, but do it. There is nothing anyone can tell you that will make up for good old fashioned experience. Even though there are very well known and respected public pagans, that does not mean that everyone you know who follows an alternative religion or path wants to pull up a chair with you and tell you everything they know. Even those who are willing to answer your questions still consider their practice a deeply personal thing. Do not act like because you read a few books, cast a spell or two, or conducted a ritual, that you are on even ground with someone who has been on the path for a decade or more. Don't be a know-it-all jerk to them either. Trying to lecture a seasoned pagan is a sure fire way to not get taken seriously, and make it to where no one wants to help you with anything. Some people will be happy to share with you. Many people will not, and that is their choice. Keep searching, be respectful, and never stop learning. ( That goes for us seasoned pagans as well...things change all the time, new information is always being presented, and even though you may not practice it or adopt it into your path, keeping up with the times is always a good thing, and can help you to understand the next generation of pagans.) This is not always an easy path, but it can be a very rewarding one.
So in conclusion, there is no reason that new and more advanced pagans can't find common ground, as long as a little mutual respect and a bit of patience is present on both parts. No one wants to be treated like an asshat, no matter how long you have been on a path.
I hope you will take that into consideration the next time you ask a question, or have the urge to blast someone to bits because they do not know as much as you do about something.
Have any thoughts about this? Tell me in the comments!
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