Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim gives some suggestions on how to take the fear out of relationships when you have differing beliefs.
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:
- Are you afraid talking about the church at all will bother them (because it might look like you believe your way is best)?
- Are you afraid they will judge you for staying in the church, or are you afraid they will think you are judging them for leaving?
- Are you afraid, on any level, that hanging out with diverse groups of people might push you in that same direction?
- Are you afraid of any faith-related topics coming up and making everyone uncomfortable?
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.
3 ways to lessen the fear
1. Trust that nothing anyone does can make them less valuable than anyone else
Your choices don’t give you more value than other people, and don’t diminish your choice either. We all have the same amount of intrinsic value all the time. Trusting this as truth means you have to give up comparison and judgment. You have to let all humans (no matter their differences) have the same worth. The more you practice giving this to others, the better your own self-worth will become. You will also have less fear in any social situation because nothing can change your value.
2. Trust that each human soul gets a totally unique classroom journey here
You can never judge how anyone else is doing in their perfect "classroom" of life because they are in a totally different class than you are. You will never know why their path went a different direction than yours, and you aren’t even entitled to understand it because it’s not your journey. What you must do is honor and respect their right to be where they are. For some reason, it is the right journey for them. It’s not any of your business why. When you can trust the universe knows what it’s doing, you will feel safer in every situation in your life. You will also let everyone else be safe in their perfect classroom journey, and you won’t feel unsafe, uncomfortable or stressed around them.
3. Your perfect classrooms have crossed paths for a reason: growth for all involved
Growth and learning are why we are on the planet, and this means every person you meet is here to teach you something. The reason there is such diversity on this planet is that differences make us stretch the limits of our love. It’s easy to love people who are just like you. Growth happens when you are forced to stretch and learn to love people who you don’t understand. Instead of pulling away from these friends because it feels safer, lean into the discomfort as a chance to grow and learn. These people and their differences are in your life to teach you something beautiful. Embrace them, and the lessons, without 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 accidently 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 accidently 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.
Last week's LIFEadvice:
- - - - - -
Editor’s Note: Anything in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended, nor should it be interpreted, to (a) be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition; (b) create, and receipt of any information does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. You should NOT rely upon any legal information or opinions provided herein. You should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel; and (c) create any kind of investment advisor or financial advisor relationship. You should NOT rely upon the financial and investment information or opinions provided herein. Any opinions, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available are those of the respective author(s) or distributor(s) and not of KSL. KSL does not endorse nor is it responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any opinion, information, or statement made in this article. KSL expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.