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.
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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.