This was first published on KSL.com
Question:I read your article about different ways people do religion and in my family, the problem is a little different. I have some children who are very religious and some who have left our church and are choosing not to be religious at all. There is tension and awkwardness at family gatherings when anything spiritual or religious is mentioned. Everyone gets uncomfortable, and then I have children in both camps who feel judged by the others. Our religious children see their siblings as wrong and gone astray. The nonreligious ones think the religious ones are wrong and even stupid for not questioning what they've been told. Knowing they both think this way, it's hard to foster mutual love and respect. Do you have any advice for how can we be comfortable together when we all have such different, yet strongly held beliefs?
When your religious beliefs are different from the people you love, it can trigger some fear in both of you. The discomfort you feel is that fear showing up; in fact, all differences create fear.
Whenever there is a difference between two people — be it race, religion, culture or color, or preferences of any kind — you both tend to believe that someone is right or better and the other wrong or worse. You do this because you are subconsciously programmed to compare everything.
If someone gives you two apples, you will immediately notice which is better, bigger or brighter. If you see two people, you will likely see one as better and one as less, even without meaning to.
"It is impossible to meet someone and make zero internal judgments about them," says Marwa Azab, an adjunct professor of psychology and human development at California State University, Long Beach in an article for Psychology Today.
None of us want to be this judgmental, but unconscious biases make us compare and judge. Our brains are just wired for judgment.
When you are around another human, you are immediately going to feel either feel comfortable with them because you see them as a peer, intimidated by them because they seem better than you, or superior because you see them as less than you. The more different they are from you, the more likely it is that you will see them as less. This is a harmful human tendency we all must constantly watch for; it is the core of racism.
Differences in religious beliefs can be weighty differences, too, because people often see them as having grave, eternal consequences. This means these differences create a great deal of fear.
Here are some common fears that arise with religious differences:
Here are some thoughts you can choose to have to make these relationships better:
What you (or they) believe is not a fact
Belief in God and in any particular religion is based on faith, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a firm belief in something for which there is no proof." This is what makes religion tricky: There is no way to prove or disprove anything. When you have religious differences with people you love and care about, it is easy to forget that whatever you believe, you can't prove you're right — which means you could be wrong. Never forget that.
What you believe feels like truth to you, but the other person is probably having the same feelings about their beliefs. So, instead of saying, "My church is the only true one," maybe go with, "this is the right church for me" or "this church feels like truth to me, though I know it doesn't feel that way for everyone." You might even want to make this clear to your family and acknowledge that you respect everyone's right to their personal faith and beliefs.
Every person as having their own perfect classroom journey
This means the perfect classroom for you is probably not the perfect classroom for everyone else. Trust that God and the universe are wise teachers who know what they are doing, and each person is right on track in their unique classroom. They are learning different lessons than you are, and you cannot compare journeys on any level.
Allow each person their unique path and trust that God loves them and has them safe in his hands on that path. There is nothing to fear. Choose to believe nothing exists that God did not create for the purpose of our education on love, and this includes differences and different religions. They are here for a reason and we need not fear them.
No one group has the market cornered on God or spirituality
People all over the world, with a vast number of different belief systems, experience a higher power, spirit, intuition, connection with divine and spiritual experiences. It appears that if there is a source of divine power, it is no respecter of religions. God speaks to everyone and his spirit is found everywhere. Never think because someone has different beliefs from yours, that they are less connected to God than you are. They may have a different type of connection to spirit, and it can be different without being less.
Think before you speak about religion or spirituality
Think a minute before you say anything. Ask yourself why you want to make this comment, tell this story, or talk about this thing. Is it going to just make you look or feel good? Does it serve anyone else? Is there anyone here who it might make uncomfortable? Do you really need to say it? There is not always a need to talk about your religion, your ward, or your spiritual experiences at every family function. Before attending a family outing, think about some other topics or questions you can ask others to give them a chance to shine.
If you really feel prompted to share a spiritual experience with another person, ask permission to do so first. Ask if they would be open to letting you share a spiritual experience or if they would prefer not to talk about religious stuff. Give them a wide, safe, window to decline. This is respectful and will strengthen the relationship.
People might judge, but that doesn't change your value
Remember, people will always judge — they subconsciously can't help it — but you have the same intrinsic value as every other human on the planet and nothing, especially the opinions of others, can change that. Your value isn't in question, cannot be earned or lost, and is based on your uniqueness as a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul.
Never let anyone's opinion change your opinion of yourself. You are safe, bulletproof and good enough no matter what others think, say or are experiencing in their classroom.
Members of your family who are different from you are your perfect teachers
Everyone around you who is different from you has the potential to stretch you, grow you and expand your ability to love. It is easy to love people who are the same as us; it is much harder to reach beyond those boundaries and love people we don't understand or like. These people show us the limits of our love and the places where we have work to do.
If you don't like a person or aren't comfortable around them, jump right into that and commit to the work of loving them anyway. Show up for them, ask questions to get to know them and who they really are. Choose to see them as amazing, unique, beautiful souls having a different journey than yours. They can teach you so much. Instead of dreading seeing them, ask God to help you feel his love for them. Work on finding love inside yourself to replace the fear. Other people are, for the most part, just like you: scared, struggling, students in the classroom of life.
You get what you give
Choose to trust God that your value is unchangeable and your journey is perfect for you, and theirs is perfect for them. Trust that you are in each other's lives to bless and grow each other. Choose to love them where they are and don't allow differences to matter.
Despite the differences you have, you and the other person still have much more in common than you think. You are both scared and you both want to be loved and seen. You both need validation and want to feel accepted. Remember, you get what you give and the more you give all these things, the more it comes back.
More helpI am hoping this article will help, but I wrote another article on KSL a few years ago about not letting religion define people, and it would be worth the time to read too. I recommend maybe sharing both of these articles with everyone in your family. Let them know that your only desire in sharing these is to have everyone feel safer and more comfortable with each other and honor and respect each other's beliefs.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I have written extensively in the past about personality differences and about how we all have a tendency to believe that our way of being is the right way. I've written about different communication styles, different value systems and the different core fears that drive our behaviors to help you understand others and yourself better.
In this article, I want to share personality differences that influence how we show up in our spirituality, religion and faith. We often judge other people when they don't practice religion the way we do. The truth is, no other person will ever have your genes, your parents and your unique life experiences and lessons. So, no other person will view the world, life and spirituality exactly the way you do. We each have the right to be wired our way and see the world from our perspective because we literally can't see it any other way.
We must honor each person's right to be wired the way they are and allow them to be who they are. We must see the value of having different people with different value systems, strengths and weaknesses in our community and choose compassion and gratitude for them over judgment.
As I explain the six spiritual values personality types, understand that you do not fit just one type. You are always a combination of a few — and maybe you even have a little of each — but you will definitely lean a bit toward one or maybe two that dominate the way you practice your faith. As you read about each, think about people you judge because they do faith differently than you do. Remember, there is no absolute truth that says one way of being is inherently better or worse than another. Your value system may tell you that yours is the best, but that is only because you see the world with your value system.
The point in learning about these different types of people is to lessen our judgment, increase our compassion and tolerance, and help us choose love for the people who are different.
The six spiritual values personality types
The enlightenment seeker
These people tend to overvalue personal growth, spirituality and personal spiritual experiences. They often see them as not just the point of life's journey, but as even more important than serving the less fortunate, keeping commandments or being obedient.
Enlightenment seekers take the time to meditate, pray and connect with the divine. They often have amazing spiritual gifts, intuition, visions or dreams. They are always hearing messages and being guided by spirit. They love to share the wisdom they gain and make wonderful teachers or spiritual guides or healers. They serve and give to others this way instead of making casseroles or watching children.
Enlightenment seekers can irritate people who overvalue doctrine, rules, systems or service. Other types don't think they are obedient, service-focused or disciplined enough, but we need people who are like this. We need these seekers to share their spiritual insights and show us how to spiritually connect to the divine.
The servant of the poor
These people tend to overvalue service, especially for people who are struggling, poor, marginalized or in pain. They are highly empathetic and they feel the suffering of others and believe the most important thing one can do is alleviate the suffering of others.
Servants of the poor sacrifice personal time to connect with God, study religion and follow commandments for time to help those who need help today. They find self-esteem, joy and fulfillment in feeding the hungry and showing up for anyone who is down.
Many people assume this way of being is the best value system and the way we should all be, but we also need people who are different from this, who are good at running the systems (churches and religions) and people who take time to have visions and inspired ideas. Servants of the poor can irritate those who see the letter of law as critical because a they will always bend rules to show up for a person.
The do what is righter
These people tend to overvalue the tasks they feel their faith requires of them. They are subconsciously wired to feel their value is connected to their performance and doing all the things God asks. They are obedient (or trying to be), disciplined, and striving to do what is right. This may include a great deal of serving the poor, but it is driven from doing what's right more than feeling the pain of others, like the servant of the poor.
Do what is righters are constantly worried about checking all the boxes, and if they fail to do enough they can be hard on themselves. They also worry about what others think, how they are seen, and they are often people pleasers. Spirituality for these people can be a busy and stressful experience, but they are amazing and productive in all the good they do and how hard they try. They can irritate people who think they are more worried about earning their salvation than they are loving others, but they feel subconscious pressure to earn their value and please God.
The heaven on earth creator
These people believe God means for them to live abundantly and have joy. They strive to create a life of happiness and wealth and then share their blessings with others. They are driven and hard-working but don't much make time for spiritual experiences or studying doctrine. They leave the enlightenment, casserole making, dogmatic ideas and strict obedience to others.
Heaven on earth creators are often very generous and happy to share their wealth with the less fortunate, and without people like this focused on making money and willing to share it, the servants of the poor wouldn't have the means to help others. We need these people and their contributions to make churches, communities and neighborhoods function.
These people can irritate others who fail to see the contributions they make as vital as their own and people who overvalue spirituality and lack balance in their life. Heaven on earth creators understand the importance of balance and they don't let spirituality, religion or faith take over their life. There is nothing wrong with this way of being, but you may think so if you are a type that overvalues spirituality.
The steward of systems
These people are practical, organized and logical. They are the ones who organize and run churches, meditation groups, Bible studies and entire religions. They highly value systems and making organizations function and they understand the need for rules to make this happen. This is something enlightenment seekers, servants of the poor, and heaven on earth creators don't want to do and aren't good at.
Stewards of systems are the ones making plans, creating structure and instituting the policies and procedures needed to make things happen. They are often seen as systemic, letter-of-law and obedience-driven in their practice. They can seem to care more about obedience, repentance, keeping commandments, avoiding sin, and controlling people than they do about love, but that's not necessarily true.
These people see their way of being as loving, because they overvalue the idea that obedience is showing God you love him. They feel God's love for them as they follow the rules. We need these people to be in charge of doctrine, procedures and systems because none of the others want this job.
The knowledge seeker
These people tend to overvalue learning, understanding complex concepts and ideas, doctrine, research and history. They are the great thinkers, writers and seekers of greater knowledge and understanding.
Knowledge seekers love God by seeking to know him and his ways. They spend their spiritual time learning and teaching, and they believe that God wants us to do this. They feel obedient and fulfilled when they are learning and gaining a deeper understanding of God.
These beautiful souls are also needed, though people who undervalue knowledge may be critical of their ways. Knowledge seekers aren't usually as empathetic, giving, spiritual or connected to love as other personality types, but the things they learn and share, serve us all.
For your own spiritual practice: You might want to see the six types in terms of where you are stronger and weaker. Ideally, balance is best and we should strive to be a little of each. If you are deeply entrenched in just one type, you will be overvaluing specific things and undervaluing something else. Could you focus more on areas you undervalue? Would this serve you if you did? Also, acknowledge your strengths and accept those traits and the beauty in them.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.