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Author Topic: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints  (Read 2873 times)

Serenjai

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Hello - I'm Seren, nice to meet all of you. :)

I'll start with a brief background of myself - I grew up in Texas in a quite strict Christian household (specifically Church of Christ).  My parents are missionaries by trade (they do most of their work in India, my dad makes 2 trips a year and has since the 70s) and have been utterly and completely devoted to their religion their entire lives.  They very much forced this on me and from a very young age I questioned that.  I went through the motions of going to church because they insisted upon it and that was quite difficult.

We mostly have avoided the topic of my feelings and beliefs but they are generally aware that I do not believe as they do.  I do not like to discuss religion with them as they get very upset; not so much angry but hurt and "disappointed" that I choose not to follow the same path as them.  I love them dearly and we get along incredibly well otherwise.

So, to my question.  I have recently started down some kind of path (still figuring that out).  I currently live in Canada and my parents still live in Texas.  They are coming up for a visit soon.  I have various things in my home and office that could potentially bring up questions about religion.  I have some pictures of Ganesh and a small altar in my office, along with a Wheel of the Year print out.  The last time they came to visit, I took them down and put them in my desk so as not to start a debate.

I do not enjoy discussing these types of things with them, if for no other reason than I don't want to upset them.  At the same time, it was quite painful for me to have to "hide" those things from them.  When they visit this time, I would like to leave my things around and try to deal with questions they might have.  I will probably chicken out and put them away.

How do I deal with their questions, disappointment and refusal to hear my side of things?
Invariably, they will ask me to go to church with them while they are here and I will refuse.  In the past they have been very hurt by this and said things like, "We want you to do what you know is right."  

Do they really not realize that I am doing what I know is right for me?

I sometimes feel as if I am too old to put up with their intolerance, as I am very much an adult, but they still think of me as a child in this regard.

Anyone dealt with this kind of thing in the past?

I would appreciate any insight at all.

Thanks!

celestialwolf

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2011, 02:44:35 pm »
Quote from: Serenjai;16649
I would appreciate any insight at all.

 
Serenjai, there are really two choices. You can hide who you are and what you believe to make them happy or you can be you and have them accept you for who you are.

The question is, are you at the point with your relationship with the Gods and your Parents to be open with your beliefs?

If you're not. Then you'll hide it.

If you are, don't flaunt that your path is different. Should they question you about it, just tell them you are exploring your beliefs and that unfortunately their path doesn't currently match your own but thanks for the offer to join them for church.

They may be disappointed, worried about your soul, or any other number of things but in the end you need to do what's best for you. And that my dear, is what they want for you no matter how they may feel about it.

Vella Malachite

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2011, 02:16:33 am »
Quote from: Serenjai;16649


 
Nice to meet you, too.

I'm still in the place where I haven't told members of my family.  It's all about whether it's more important to you that you show them your religion or keep them happy.  For me, it's not so important that my grandparents know I'm Pagan.  It's just not something that's necessary to our relationship.  The only reason I'd tell them would be to shock them, and that's not a good reason to tell someone something.  But if it's awkward whent they don't know, or if you think they'd prefer to find it out from you than by accident, then I'd tell them.  It's a matter of your priorities.
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If everything\'s under control, you\'re going too slowly.

HeartShadow

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2011, 07:05:43 am »
Quote from: Serenjai;16649


 
Something I'm currently dealing with with my own mother - you're never REALLY an adult to your parents.  No matter how much they see you as you are, they also see who you WERE, and that younger-you often made not-great decisions.  (we all do that, that's how we learn!)  Even if they want to see you as adult, that will always be a problem.

Your parents are missionaries.  That means that not only religion super-important in their lives, the RIGHT religion is super-important.  They don't believe other people in other countries can make the right decision without their help, so why would they believe their own child can do so?

On this one, I don't see any way in which you can tell them this stuff and not have it turn into a nightmare.  They've spent their lives bringing people to Christ and their own CHILD turned away?  They can see that as an entire denial of everything they are and do.

Does it hurt to lie about a part of yourself to your parents?  Of course it does.  But really - other than your personal comfort in that one aspect, is there an ADVANTAGE to telling them?  Or just a pile of hurt that will color every other aspect of your relationship with them from then on?

Etheric1

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2011, 08:01:34 am »
Quote from: HeartShadow;16823
Something I'm currently dealing with with my own mother - you're never REALLY an adult to your parents.  No matter how much they see you as you are, they also see who you WERE, and that younger-you often made not-great decisions.  (we all do that, that's how we learn!)  Even if they want to see you as adult, that will always be a problem.

Your parents are missionaries.  That means that not only religion super-important in their lives, the RIGHT religion is super-important.  They don't believe other people in other countries can make the right decision without their help, so why would they believe their own child can do so?

On this one, I don't see any way in which you can tell them this stuff and not have it turn into a nightmare.  They've spent their lives bringing people to Christ and their own CHILD turned away?  They can see that as an entire denial of everything they are and do.

Does it hurt to lie about a part of yourself to your parents?  Of course it does.  But really - other than your personal comfort in that one aspect, is there an ADVANTAGE to telling them?  Or just a pile of hurt that will color every other aspect of your relationship with them from then on?

 
This is really well said.  So whether or not you tell them I would say depends on how stressful it is on you to NOT tell them.  I'm not sure burying things is always the best move, but on the other hand, there is something to be said about fighting the right battles. Laying it all out to them is going to be hurtful to them.  But you do have to be your own person as well.  So if it were me, I'd want to try to seeing what the consequences would be to tell them as well as what they might be if you do not.  

Personally, both me and my sister had to get really aggressive with our parents and tell them we are not children anymore and they do need to respect us and the decisions we make, even if they do not agree with those decisions.  Luckily for us, they were willing to listen and did not realize how much they were stressing us out.  As a result, our relationship with our Mom and Dad got better.  But, like HeartShadow said, the urge for parents to be parents never goes away.  Granted, everyone is unique so you are going to have to deal with to potential that this could not turn out nearly as well and turn into a nightmare too.  

Good luck with this, whatever you decide.
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hufflee

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2011, 11:09:45 am »
Quote from: Serenjai;16649

Anyone dealt with this kind of thing in the past?

I would appreciate any insight at all.

Thanks!


I deal with this in the present! :) I too, agree with Heartshadow. I told my parents once upon a time what was going on in my spiritual life (the surface of it anyway) and it upset them a LOT. My dad was a deacon and my mom is ordained.....so I get it. Since then we just don't talk about it. I put away anything that I think they would see and automatically say "not Christian."

It doesn't upset me, however much I wish they would accept my decisions about my own spirituality. I don't smoke in front of my mom for the same reason (I'm a mother of 4 and 29 years old). She knows I smoke, but if it's not in front of her face it doesn't cause an argument. Same with the religion thing. I would rather spend the time we have left together in this life not at odds with my parents. It's as simple as that.

They don't like that I'm not Christian, and I don't like that they're not more tolerant. We just agree to disagree, and it works for us! No sense in arguing about it since neither side is going to change their way of thinking.
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AthenaiiseSofia

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2011, 11:28:01 am »
Quote from: Serenjai;16649
Hello - I'm Seren, nice to meet all of you. :)

How do I deal with their questions, disappointment and refusal to hear my side of things?
Invariably, they will ask me to go to church with them while they are here and I will refuse.  In the past they have been very hurt by this and said things like, "We want you to do what you know is right."  

Do they really not realize that I am doing what I know is right for me?

Anyone dealt with this kind of thing in the past?

I would appreciate any insight at all.

Thanks!


Lovely to meet you, dear. I hope we can help you out a bit. =)

Everything everyone else has said is very spot-on. You are an adult, and you have every right to follow whichever path you choose. Still, for a very LONG time, people with a path like ours have had to hide it and deal with other people's disagreement. But, if it makes you feel any better, you are not alone. =)

Hiding your stuff and just not talking about it would be easier, but would you eventually want to bring it up? They are your parents, and they love you very much, and they want to see you happy. Eventually, they may come around. But then again, maybe not.

If you do bring it up, you need to be firm and clear. Explain that you respect and understand their feelings, but this is your choice, and this is what feels right to you.

Right after I began getting into Wicca, I started wondering if I was going to hell. I was raised Christian, but we were'nt a very religious family. When I started looking into Wicca, the person helping me out was doing very bad things, like toying with other's fears. Karma got to him, and I got really afraid. So, just in case, I gave up on Wicca and tried to be a good Christian and redeem myself in Jesus' eyes. But after a while, I was like, "Hm. This doesn't feel right. I am worshipping this god simply because I am afraid and I don't want to go to hell. Not only is this hurting me, but it's extremely disrespectful." I realized that by worshipping out of selfish fear, it was worse than anything I found in Wicca. Perhaps bring that up to your parents. Ask them if they would rather you only follow their religion out of fear, and tell them your heart isn't in it. Perhaps that may help them understand?

I'm a happier person since I found the Goddess. My love for Her eclipses everything else. Remember, this is probably how your parents feel about their religion. It will be a hard road trying to get them to understand, but in the end, everyone will feel better. =)
"Go then and make of the world something beautiful, set up a light in the darkness." - from Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis

Serenjai

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2011, 11:43:57 am »
Quote from: HeartShadow;16823

Your parents are missionaries.  That means that not only religion super-important in their lives, the RIGHT religion is super-important.  They don't believe other people in other countries can make the right decision without their help, so why would they believe their own child can do so?

 
Thank you very much for your comment.  I struggle with the quoted bit SO much, you've stated it exactly how I see it.

There really is no advantage in telling them, other than my own comfort.  You've given me some points to think about, thank you. :)

Serenjai

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2011, 11:45:25 am »
Quote from: hufflee;16845
No sense in arguing about it since neither side is going to change their way of thinking.

This is an excellent point, thank you. :)


Quote from: Nuri;16849

I'm a happier person since I found the Goddess. My love for Her eclipses everything else. Remember, this is probably how your parents feel about their religion. It will be a hard road trying to get them to understand, but in the end, everyone will feel better. =)

This is what I'm going for.  I am still finding my way, but I am much happier than I've ever been.  For far too long I have put off seeking out religion because in my head it was all bad or negative.  I have tears in my eyes as I type this because there are people who are dealing with similar situations and making it okay. Thank you so much for the comments. :)
« Last Edit: August 31, 2011, 11:52:14 am by Serenjai »

HeartShadow

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2011, 12:07:18 pm »
Quote from: Serenjai;16857
Thank you very much for your comment.  I struggle with the quoted bit SO much, you've stated it exactly how I see it.

There really is no advantage in telling them, other than my own comfort.  You've given me some points to think about, thank you. :)

 
You can always tell them later - you can't UNtell them. :)  Glad I could help

hufflee

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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2011, 05:44:17 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;16866
You can always tell them later - you can't UNtell them. :)  Glad I could help

 This actually has me laughing out loud. Excellent point.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change - Unknown
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Re: Questions about dealing with family and differing religious viewpoints
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2011, 08:14:30 pm »
Quote from: Serenjai;16649
So, to my question.  I have recently started down some kind of path (still figuring that out).

 
Don't tell them anything until you have a good idea as to what you believe. And then, before you tell them (if you do eventually decide to do so), think about what sort of arguments they'll make based on their own religion, so you'll be able to answer their questions confidently.

Will that make everyone happy? Probably not. But... if you sound like you know what you're talking about (because you actually do), can assuage their fears, and can perhaps give them some friendly reading material to take away, you will at least come off as an adult in the discussion. If they then choose to refuse to accept what you do, that's their loss, not yours.

Karen

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