A recent question in Reddit‘s “Am I the Asshole?” forum involved a Catholic woman who called out her non-religious friend.
She said she was hanging out with her friend — both are 20 years old — when she ran into two nuns from her church. She introduced them to him as “Sister Mary and Sister Teresa” (pseudonyms), but he called them “Mary and Teresa.”
… I asked if he knew how to address them, because he wasn’t supposed to call them by their names. He said no, but that because he’s not Catholic, he didn’t think he should have to.
I told him I believed it was nothing to do with religion, but that it was just a sign of respect and it’s how they ask to be addressed. It got a little heated — no one shouted or got out of control or anything, but the debate got a bit intense — and we couldn’t come to an agreeable answer.
His stance is that it’s forcing my beliefs on him, and that he should address the nuns however he feels comfortable, not vice versa.
My stance is that they should be addressed by the title they choose to use, out of politeness and respect.
Was he right? Or was she right for calling him out? Was she being an asshole?
The top-rated comments all say she’s not the asshole in this situation. I happen to agree. If someone goes by a particular title, religious or otherwise, it’s a sign of respect to use that descriptor.
That should be even more obvious given the recent controversies involving pronouns and trans people, though the two situations are obviously not the same. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the non-Christian friend is progressive and liberal; chances are, he supports using someone’s pronouns and would be upset by conservatives who misgender someone.
Why is that basic principle — putting respect over your own personal beliefs — any different here? If “Sister” is the title that signifies their chosen profession (or vocation, in this instance), then people who meet them should use it. It has nothing to do with agreeing with their beliefs.
If for no other reason, do it for the sake of consistency. Follow the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated.
(Image via Shutterstock)