My Angry Buddhist Uncle (and other things I’ve escaped)

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I’ve been wanting to write this one for a while. Last year, I had sent a Facebook friend request to a long-lost uncle.

I have been no contact with my family of origin for over ten years now. It was either my sobriety, or the emotional f*ckwittage, and I chose the former. I still have so love for my family, but not at the expense of love for myself. And from a distance. I am finally FINALLY at peace with this decision, having had much therapy and lots of grieving the living, which is so much harder than grieving the dead.

I heard nothing back, and that’s okay. I knew he led a life as a Buddhist monk in the part of the country I was raised in, and that he too had much family bitterness.

Now let me just say that I’ve been doing some light study of Buddhism, and I find it to be a LOVELY belief system. Beautiful in its simplicity, practical in its application. I really enjoy the teachings.

So I sent this uncle the request because I was curious – he is only 8 years older than me, and I lived with him with my grandparents in early childhood. As anyone who is estranged from family will tell you, you get pangs. You are homesick for something which never was, which makes no sense, and it’s all very confusing.

Fast forward to several months ago. I had found his YouTube channel, where he talks about the Buddha and how it is the only religion he has ever really loved.

And he should know from religion! Raised Southern Baptist, he also built a literal altar to Satan in his bedroom when I was six. “Oh, that’s just him being weird,” my grandparents said. I heard inhuman noises at night coming from his room, and sometimes I’d wake with his dark shadow in my doorway. Still, I always felt bad for him. He was a seeker in a time and place where seekers were heretics and people on the spectrum were treated awfully.

In due time, he tried Hinduism, atheism – everything from Norse Mythology to Pentecostal.

I received a lot of love from my grandparents. They passed many years ago, but I truly loved them. But they had NO idea what to do with a weird kid worshipping the devil in their home where even dancing wasn’t allowed.

So they beat him. A lot. He took the “short bus” to school, because of behavioral problems, even though he was plenty bright. In those days, the “short bus” was a rolling can of stigmata. Other children wouldn’t play with him. He had no friends. And he was an outcast, in his own family, and I DO love me an underdog, so I always tried to be kind to him.

I guess that’s why I looked him up on that glorious new opiate of the masses – the internet.

What I found both broke my heart and finalized the peace.

One of his videos – a pretty nasty one – was about me.

Keep in mind, the last time I saw him I was 16 years old. A child.

And this Buddhist monk – who purports to seek peace and find the good in people – lambasted me, first for “not helping him” forty years ago, and again for reaching out to him. He sneered and snarled for what seemed an eternity about “supposed family members” and “I don’t even want to call her a niece. She is dead to me.”

He wants nothing to do with me. Take a number, Buddy.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been told to F*CK OFF by a monk, but I have! It’s quite the experience!

“I got a FB request from a someone in my family,” he says on the video through seething vitriol, betraying his uber-serene countenance. ” I don’t even want to call her family. She wasn’t there for me when I was young.”

My first reaction was pain, because I thought every possible nail had been put in the coffin that is my upbringing, but no – here’s a spare, one – because LOOK! There is a tiny opening where I had hope. Better nail that shut.

I DID need to see it, though, to make that final seal.

“I read her bio,” he continued. “And she calls herself a ‘Jesus Freak.” His lips scowl. “JESUS.” Ah. There it is. Because even though I do not align with the evangelical church anymore and don’t associate with fundamentalism on any level, I will ALWAYS love Jesus, and just having the word “Jesus” in my bio pissed him off.

But see, he doesn’t know I’m not a fundamentalist anymore, because he couldn’t even get past my bio.

And it occurred to me that nobody in my family gets past my bio. I have been on this crazy, amazing, passionate journey of discovery for a dozen years, but they don’t know me. At all.

What was my next reaction to the video?

RELIEF, to be honest.

I was a little girl when I knew him. And I was a deeply hurt little, girl walloped by trauma from the beginning. I already felt like I had to “take care” of all the adults in the family. So even as a child, I’d try to make sure everyone was okay, when in reality – NO ONE was okay. Not a soul in that dysfunction was alright on any level.

Nothing was ever resolved because “Well, no family is perfect,” which is about the most invalidating thing you can say to someone who has undergone years of trauma.

My childhood was dark, I can’t explain it any other way. There was emotional abuse, constant screaming and fighting. Physical abuse. It was a sick way to grow up, so when I myself became a teenager, I (God I hate to use this terminology,) “found Jesus.” Mind you, I didn’t, because he has already found all of us and is not playing hide and seek.

I took all the pain and darkness and decided that I would just be a super good girl and not upset the precariously full apple cart.

And I don’t think this uncle ever forgave me for clinging onto a religion that had used as weaponry against him. So, for that, I have compassion.

But I’m not a “good girl.” I’m a regular girl. And at sixteen years old, I couldn’t save a 24-year-old man. I could barely save myself. I mired myself in the Bible and was determined to undo all the damage done to me. But the Bible never undid the damage in me.

But do you know what DID?

It’s not religion, of any sort. It’s LOVE.

And love? He won’t let that in.

I feel very sad that he has never experienced the kind of love that heals. He has so much to heal from, and is so bitter. He spoke about me with such disdain, because to him, I am just another family member who let him down. Just another Christian full of it.

I decided to show him grace by not contacting him any further. And as painful as it was to lose the last possible link to my family, here is my post-fundamentalist take on it:


I don’t feel like an orphan anymore.

Something CLICKED in me when I saw it and took in all the hurtful words.

I feel like I escaped the CRAZY.

I got OUT.

I got OUT!

Not only did I get out, but I am also thriving in so many ways.

I chose to break cycles for my daughters.

And I needed to be told off by a Buddhist monk to come to terms with that. I needed that final blow to have utter peace about letting go.


You can wear a habit. You can shave your head for religious reasons or wear it shikha. You can be modest as a polygamist bride or as proper as an Episcopal priest. Call yourself an atheist. Consider yourself a Child of God. Refer to yourself as Holy. Identify as a Jesus Freak.

Heck, you can even ride in the Popemobile and make people believe you have the power to absolve their sins.

But if you have NOT love…

And I have LOVE now. In my life, in my heart, overflowing abundantly.

I wish light and love on them all, in the meantime.

From afar.

4 thoughts on “My Angry Buddhist Uncle (and other things I’ve escaped)

  1. “Lambasted sneered and snarled” Just had me a delivery of same …jana you are pure gold!!! Your transparency and breath-taking honesty is a rare and most precious gift.

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. This was a very interesting article. I am glad that the uncle did not bring you down and you have found how to love yourself and other people


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