I read your recent article about how to tell loved ones you are leaving the family religion. I am having a hard time understanding how my family thinks if someone leaves their religion they are automatically going to be a bad person, who will end up in Hell. What is it about religion that makes people judge others and determine their worth or worthiness, instead of the kind of person they are? And how come we tend to see people with different beliefs as the wrong or bad ones, and think ours are the only right?
It will help to understand some things about human behavior. All human beings (without exception) struggle with some fear that they aren’t good enough. We all compare ourselves with others, worry, and stress about our appearance, property, and performance. Since we naturally struggle with insecurity, our subconscious minds have been working, since we were children, to figure out ways to quiet our fear and feel safer in the world. Here are some of the ways we do this:
Psychologists call this practice of creating “us” versus “them” groups, othering. We see us as good and those other people as bad. This requires us to see the world in a very binary way. There are only two options, us and them, black and white, good and bad, righteous and evil, taller and shorter, or thinner and fatter. This binary, black and white thinking forces us to remove the grey area (where we might not be enough) and clearly put ourselves in a good group. By yourself you might not be good enough, but this group is good enough, even though you only think that because you are seeing the other guys as worse.
The dangerous thing about this human tendency is, it can be used against us. Advertisers know if they can present a cool identity that you could claim just because of the cool people who use their product, you will buy it because you need the self-esteem boost.
Any organization that wants to keep you buying it’s products or in its ranks, can subtly use this tendency to make you see them as the only good one and everything else as bad or evil. The truth is no person is ever all bad or all good (except maybe a few like Hitler, I will give you that). The rest of us are all grey, and purple, or blue striped, and totally diverse and different from everyone else. So, though othering (dividing yourself and joining groups) can provide a temporary boost to your ego, and quiet your fear, there is a cost.
The cost comes to your relationships. It’s hard to have mutually validating, safe relationship, if you tend to see everyone outside your group as bad or wrong. But that is what you need to do to get the self-esteem boost that being in the group provides.
This is the catch. How can you get the benefits of being in a special, elect, amazing group, yet be able to interact with “them” and not make them wrong, bad, un-elect or evil? There is a way, but let me explain about religion first.
The reason religion creates more fear than any other type of grouping is the beliefs are of eternal consequence (at least thats the belief) and God himself is involved in it. Religion makes us more scared and in this fear state, we are going to be less loving, tolerant, and open and more threatened. The more the other religious group insists they are right, they are obviously saying you are wrong, and that makes them a threat.
What you didn’t ask me was, How can you have safer, less threatening conversations and relationships with people, who have different religious beliefs or who see your beliefs as wrong?
The answer lies in removing the fear. Here are some ways to do that:
You can do this.
Coach Kimberly Giles is a sought after human behavior expert and speaker. She is the founder of 12shapes.com and claritypointcoaching.com and provides corporate team building and people skills training.
This was first published on KSL.com
I read your article last week about members of some religions not being comfortable with non-member neighbors. I wish you would tell me how to tell my family and friends that I have decided to leave the religion I grew up in. I started attending another church this last year and I know my family isn’t going to be thrilled about that, so I have been hiding it. But it shouldn’t be this big a deal, right? I don’t know why I am scared to tell them, but I am. I know it’s fear, like you always say, but how do I get past it and just get them to respect my choice. Any advice that would help me?
I have received this question a couple of times before, so it’s time to answer it. And you are right, it is a fear issue. Some people have compared the fear around this, as close to the same fear an LGBTQ+ person experiences coming out of the closet, as it brings up similar fears of rejection from friends and family. The first step is to get clear about what you are really afraid might happen when you break this news. See if any of these fears resonate with you:
Here are some things to think about that might help:
Some of those fears are unlikely to happen. If they are really your friends, most people don’t care which church you attend. If they do care and can’t love you where you are, they aren’t really your friends. There are also new people around every corner, and changing your friendships now and then isn’t all bad.
What others think about your choices, your intelligence, or your values doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t change anything about you. You are still you, with the same unchangeable value. Opinions are just flimsy thoughts floating through the heads of other people, they have no power to do or mean anything — unless you give them power. Don’t give them any power.
Decide that the only opinion that matters about your life is yours. No one else has to live with those choices. They may have thoughts about your choices but, in the end, they won’t think much about your life. They have bigger problems in their own lives to worry about.
When you make a decision that other people disagree with, you have two options when you interact with those people: You can approach them afraid of rejection because of this difference — and you will probably be defensive, quiet and tentative about being around them — or you could approach them the same loving way you always have. You can stay in trust that your value is the same as everyone else’s no matter what you do. You can then stay in a loving, outgoing, open state where they will feel your love, not your fear. The way you approach your friends and family will determine the way they respond to you and your news. If you are the same you, it makes it easier for them to be the same them too.
Try speaking your truth to someone in your life that you know is very loving and accepting first. Follow the procedure below to speak your truth lovingly with each person in your life:
Reassure them that you are going to be fine and you would really appreciate it if they could trust it will work out fine in the end and focus on their love for you instead of their fear. Tell them you really want to maintain a close relationship with them and you know this can and will happen if you both focus on love instead of fear.
The funny thing about religion is there is no ultimate source of absolute truth about God or the afterlife. Even though people say they know their truth is the truth because they feel it’s truth, they can’t prove it. This means we are all choosing a belief system that feels right to us. We cannot prove we are right or that anyone else is wrong. So, we should allow each person to follow the dictates of their own heart and should not push our beliefs on them, nor should we try to make them wrong. You might remind them of this truth and ask them to set aside any fears and trust that we are each in the perfect classroom journey for us.
If you are rejected (which I highly doubt you will be), choose to see even that experience as your perfect classroom journey. It would be a great growth opportunity and a chance to focus on owning your own value and not caring what others think.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a sought after corporate people skills trainer and is the founder of www.12shapes.com the latest social science for families and businesses. She is the author of the book Choosing Clarity on Amazon.
This was first published on KSL.com
We recently moved to Utah and love our new home, but my son is having trouble with the other children in our neighborhood. I have actually heard kids tell him they won’t or can’t play with him because he is not a member of the dominant Christian religion here. I have seen them run away when they see him coming. He is a sweet, friendly kid, so I know it’s not him. I also have felt awkward with women in the neighborhood, as they definitely treat me like an outsider. I don’t really care about their friendship, they can like me or not, but my son desperately wants to play with the kids near us. What can I do as a mother? How could I change this situation? I figure there isn’t an easy answer, but I wanted to see what you thought.
I am glad you asked this because it's not the first time I have heard about this happening here in Utah. Many find this hard to believe though because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches tolerance, love and acceptance of others. A song they teach their children to sing in primary says, “Jesus said love everyone. Treat them kindly too.” Church leaders also encourage missionary work and fellowshipping neighbors. But sometimes fear overpowers people's ability to love. Just know, not all Latter-day Saints are like this, and most don’t want this happening in their neighborhood either.
Here are some reasons religious discrimination might happen in your neighborhood and how to eliminate it:
1. Fear is likely the problem
The reason your neighbors are behaving in a way that is inconsistent with their church's beliefs could be that they are scared. They believe their choices could have serious eternal consequences. They may fear their children will be led away from their religion by friends who have different beliefs, and to some, that would be as bad as, or worse than, losing a child to death. They may be scared of you and what you represent, and might believe being around you and your kids will make them or their kids want to leave the church.
I want you to understand it could be fear-driven so you will understand it’s not about you or your kids. It’s about feeling safe. Having said that, it doesn’t make it OK.
2. Differences scare people
It is basic human nature to feel more comfortable with people who are just like you. We all choose friends with whom we have things in common. We do this because we have a subconscious tendency to compare ourselves with others, and differences of any kind inherently mean someone is better (or right) and someone is worse (or wrong). Because of our tendency to compare, it feels safer to stick with people who are more like us, where the risk of "better or worse" isn’t in play. This may be what is motivating your neighbors.
I believe there is a divine purpose in differences in the people around us. Differences stretch us and show us the limits of our love so we can work on them. We are very loving to most people right up to that limit line where fear takes over. Differences provide opportunities to grow and become more loving. We need to fear not growing and stretching (the real reason we are here) more than we fear differences and possibly being wrong.
3. They may fear some specific things in your home
Drinking coffee and alcohol may scare your neighbors or make them uncomfortable. So, if you have coffee or alcohol in your home where kids can see it, they might be scared to allow their children in your house. You might consider keeping it somewhere that cannot be seen or accessed by children (even restaurants in Utah have to keep bar areas separate from dining areas where children eat).
Using the Lord’s name in vain or swearing in general is another thing that could create discomfort.
Being aware of these differences gives you the opportunity to change some things that will make your neighbors more comfortable. You may or may not agree with their reasoning, but the reality is making some small changes could help your children make more friends.
4. Address the kids' parents directly
Learn how to have a mutually validating conversation and create a space where you can honor their beliefs, feelings and fears, and ask them to honor your beliefs, values and needs. This means having a loving conversation where both parties feel understood and not attacked. It might be tempting to let them have it, and either get confrontational or weepy with self-pity; they probably won’t respect either.
Start by asking questions about their beliefs and whether they feel uncomfortable with non-members. If you can ask it from a place of honestly wanting to understand — not accuse or put down — they might be open to talking about it.
After you have listened to them and their views, ask if they would be open to letting you share what your son is experiencing. Don’t use phrases like “you did this" and "your kids did that;" use “we” statements like "we have experienced," "we found," "it’s our observation," etc. Then ask if they would be open to figuring out a way their kids and yours can be friends — a way that would make you both feel more comfortable. Most people are totally open to working this out. They might like to be your friends and have just felt uncomfortable talking about it. Honor and respect their beliefs while also asking them to honor yours.
5. Talk to some of your other Latter-day Saint neighbors
Let other members of the church who live in your neighborhood know what is happening and see if they might be willing to ask others to make sure your children are included.
Good people everywhere, of every religion, believe in treating others as you would want to be treated. The only thing that gets in the way is fear for our own safety and well-being. If we are afraid, our fears make us subconsciously selfish. I am sure your neighbors didn’t intend to hurt your kids; they may just be scared of differences. They just need a little reassurance that you understand them, and you should be able to improve the relationship.
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is the founder and president of Claritypointcoaching.com and www.12shapes.com. She has a podcast called "Explain People" on iTunes and you can read all her articles at coachkimgiles.com
This was first published on KSL.com
We have friends in our neighborhood who recently told us they had left the church we both belonged to. We have always had much in common — kids the same ages, and similar beliefs — so this feels really awkward. We still love them and respect them choosing what is right for them, but it’s like there is a huge elephant in the room when we are together. It feels awkward, so I admit we haven’t reached out to do things with them as much. This is bothering me because I assume they think we don’t want to be friends with them anymore because of their choice. That is really not the case, but I don’t know how to interact with such a huge elephant in the room. There are so many topics that feel off limits now, I feel like we can’t talk about what is going on in our lives, since so much is ward or church related. I also know they drink alcohol now, and since we don’t that also makes socializing awkward. How do we continue a friendship, regardless of this change? Do you have any advice for this situation?
I am sure it is awkward for them too, because all differences create fear and discomfort. This happens because we are subconsciously programmed to see the world always in comparison, in terms of better or worse. We compare every single thing in our lives — people, houses, jobs, teams, races, religions, sodas, etc. The problem comes because comparison assumes that if two things are different, one must be better or more right and the other less or more wrong. Because of this, any difference make us feel unsafe.
As human beings, we have a hard time letting different be just different, with no inherent value, or "better" or "worse" attached to it. The trick in your situation, or any situation where you discover differences, is to remind yourself there is nothing to fear; there is no better or worse, there is only different. Seeing the situation this way means you will show up with more love than fear.
Think about what you are really afraid of if you socialize with them:
I recommend you work on the three things described below to help eliminate the fear, then call your friends up and invite them to do something with your family and show up exactly the same as you always have. There is nothing to fear from differences.
Here are three ways to lessen the fear:
You might want to talk about the elephant in the room up front. Tell them you love their family, and what church they go to, or what they believe, makes no difference to you. Tell them you would love to get together just like you always have, but you have concerns about saying the wrong thing, mentioning your church or accidentally offending them.
Ask what they would feel most comfortable with. Talk about whether you are comfortable with drinking or not. Should you make a rule to leave the religion and church topic out (there are plenty of other things to talk about)?
Tell them there is no judgment from you, whatsoever, because everyone gets to choose their own path and truth. Tell them you respect the amount of courage it must have taken to be true to their beliefs. Ask for forgiveness up front, if you accidentally say something about the church. They are probably equally anxious about hanging out with your family because they fear judgment.
Addressing this right up front takes the elephant out of the room. Then relax and just be normal.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a marriage, family and relationship coach. She is the founder of www.claritypointcoaching.com and www.12shapes.com She is an entertaining speaker and certifies people interested in being life or executive coaches.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
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.