We moved to Utah from out of state and we are good Christian people with high standards and values, and like most people outside of Utah we drink coffee and wine. We also use a phrase that apparently is taboo here. We say “Oh my God” quite a bit and never in our lives considered that a swear word. But twice since moving, here my children have been told that’s bad to say that, and this has been very confusing for them because it is so normal at our house. The way they were scolded about their language was very judgmental of my husband and I as parents. We have also have had numerous families tell my children they can’t play with theirs, because we are not Mormon and have wine in our house. We have never had wine in front of their children and we actually don’t drink very often, but really, we’ve never experienced anything like this. My children have good manners and are kind, sweet kids, but they are cast as bad in our neighborhood because we are of a different religion. I am not sure how to handle it? I am shocked that religious people would be so unkind. Do you have any suggestions?
First, we would like to openly apologize to you (on behalf of our state) and say we are so sorry this kind of thing happens here. Please know there are many Utahans, who would never treat you and your family this way and are saddened to know this has been your experience.
As for some advice, you have two options in this situation. You can be angry, bitter, resentful and unkind back, or you can take the high road and demonstrate your beliefs better than they have theirs. Our advice would be to take the high road and treat them with kindness and love anyway. Do this, not because they deserve it, but because it’s the kind of person you want to be.
You might consider killing them with kindness, instead of being unkind back. Take them cookies, shovel their snow or find other ways to demonstrate what love looks like.
Let your children know these people are afraid. They have a fear problem around certain words or actions that make them feel unsafe. If we see their behavior as scared, instead of judgmental and unkind, it’s easier to have compassion for them. They are doing the best they can with what they currently know and see, though ignorance isn’t innocence.
Suggestion for righteous people everywhere:
We would also like to offer some suggestions to you, who find yourselves feeling uncomfortable with people who are different from you, or not of your faith.
We hope you will be open minded and consider you might have some subconscious fear issues that arise when interacting with people who are different from you, and this might trigger behavior that is less than loving.
We all have subconscious biases in play, but that doesn’t excuse unloving behavior. It is always your responsibility to identify your discomfort around certain things or people, and force yourself out of your comfort zone. This is the only way to grow and learn to accept and embrace people, who are different.
We believe this one lesson (loving people who are different from you) is the primary lesson we are on the planet to learn and it is why the universe is filled with diversity. Diversity gives you an opportunity to see “the limits of your love” as they show you the boundaries of your comfort zone and challenge you to learn to love bigger.
If you are uncomfortable around people of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation, people who drink coffee or wine, have tattoos, swear, or have gauged ears or piercings, you need to find some of those people post haste, and spend some time with them. Get to know them. It is simply a matter of choosing to expand your world. You will probably be surprised too, because these people are often the kindest you will ever meet.
We were at a conference recently and saw a transsexual woman sitting alone at a table. Because we haven’t had the opportunity to know many trans people, we could immediately see getting to know this person would be a good stretch for us. We asked if we could join her and had the most amazing time learning about the challenges she faces and feeling of her goodness. You must also do this kind of thing if you want to grow.
We also recommend asking yourself, what does being a righteous person mean to you?
The dictionary defines righteousness as: being morally right or virtuous.
This is definitely a noble pursuit, but that is about one’s own choices and behavior. You get to decide what your values are and what behavior you deem right, but it does not include putting those same values on others. As soon as you do that, you have moved from righteous to self-righteous.
The dictionary defines self-righteous as: believing one is totally correct or morally superior to others.
This is where it all goes wrong. When you believe you are morally superior to another person, you are no longer righteous, in our opinion. It is not right to push your beliefs on other people or scold them for language you have decided not to use. When you do this, it is not defending God’s name, it is making another person or family feel small. You are choosing to see some human beings as having more value (or being more right or better) than others, and this is a problem.
If you want to raise confident, loving, wise children, who grow into mature, kind adults, then teach them to see all human beings as having the same value, no matter the difference in their journeys, language or behavior.
We know you are trying to teach your children your values, which in this case includes the idea that drinking coffee and wine are bad. We understand the fear you have, that children, who don’t see drinking as bad, might be prone to do it. The problem is you are also raising judgmental children, who will miss out on getting to know a large number of amazing people all over the world, because their fear will overpower their ability to love them.
There is a way to explain to children though drinking is against your family’s personal values, it doesn’t make a person who drinks bad or less than you. You can teach the dangers of alcohol, while also teaching them to accept and love those who have different values. There are good kind people all over the world who drink responsibly and live healthy lives. You may also have a child who drinks at some point, and they need to know there is nothing they could do, to separate themselves from your love.
Most of all, make sure you are teaching children to accept and be kind to everyone and the only way to teach this is by example. If you have ever made a neighbor feel judged for being different, don’t underestimate the power of a sincere apology. It’s not too late.
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.