There will be moments in life that cause you to reevaluate what you believe. These could be moments that make you reconsider your political stance, change your views on how you should raise your children or cause you to think differently about a scientific phenomenon. There are even moments that might make you reexamine your faith. Sometimes these crises of faith are temporary. They may be the result of a sudden upheaval in your life that makes you briefly question what you believe. After the dust settles, however, you may find that what happened still fits within your previous worldview and beliefs. The events you experienced may fit neatly or they may have to be stuffed into your belief system like trying to fit one more shirt into an overflowing suitcase. Still, you can make them fit. Other times, however, no amount of mental gymnastics can make an experience fit with your previous views. When this happens, your faith often begins to shift subtly to fit what you experienced. You may not abandon your beliefs, in fact, many people do not. You cling to the overarching themes and broad brushstrokes of your beliefs. You do, however, start reexamining the minutia and the particulars. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.”
The self-reflection and spiritual digging required to pin down exactly what you now believe can be difficult. It is often spiritually and mentally exhausting. As such, you may well want to be able to share the burden with someone else, someone you trust. One of the most common choices is a family member such as a spouse or a sibling.
No matter how much you trust your loved ones, talking to your family about changing beliefs is not easy. Many traditions see changes in beliefs as weak or faltering faith. You may also worry about your loved one offering well-meaning but empty platitudes in response to your confession. There are, however, a few ways to make talking to your family about your changing beliefs easier and more productive.
Insist on the Conversation
Since discussing a family member’s changing faith is uncomfortable, many people want the conversation to go away. They may try and brush off the issue or resort to trite statements in an attempt to shut down the discussion. Be polite but firm. If you are determined to have this conversation, then insist on having it. If your family is determined to brush your concerns under the rug, however, you may have to reconsider whether talking with them about your changing beliefs is worth the struggle. It may be or it may not be. That is up to you to decide.
Serious discussions require honesty. You need to be perfectly clear with your family about what beliefs have changed for you and why. Do not sugar coat the situation or downplay it. While tact and diplomacy are valuable tools to have in your arsenal, this is not the time to dance around the issue. Brutal honesty can make people uncomfortable, but the situation is likely already unpleasant. Furthermore, speaking in half-truths or downplaying the situation can end up requiring that you have the same conversation months later. You are having this conversation to clear the air with your family, so clear the air entirely. Be upfront and honest so that everyone knows where you stand.
Have Explanations Ready
If your family is truly paying attention, they are going to have questions for you. Be ready to answer those questions. While you obviously cannot predict exactly what your family will ask you, think about what they are most likely to want to know, and be prepared to answer those questions. This will save you from struggling to explain something simple and also help your family members understand why your beliefs have changed and what that means for both you and them.
Feeling like you are explaining the same thing over and over again can be infuriating, but you may have to do exactly that when you talk with your family members about your changing beliefs. The odds are that your family is not trying to drive you crazy, they just want to understand. Remember, they are not in your head. They did not live your experiences and cannot feel your emotions. They can only react to what you tell them. So, be patient and be prepared to explain the same thing several different ways. What makes perfect sense to you may take a few tries for them to understand.
Faith is deeply personal and extremely important to people. This means that discussions about faith can quickly become emotionally supercharged. Accept that the conversation may well be emotional before you ever sit down to talk. That way, you are prepared to handle the firestorm you may well find yourself dealing with at the table. Also, brace yourself for the unpleasant reality that your family may not react well.Even if your family has never seemed to have issues with those who had different beliefs, understand that there is a world of difference between disagreeing with a stranger and seeing someone you love appear to turn their back on your beliefs. This does not mean you are wrong to have changing beliefs or to discuss them with your family. It does mean, however, that you need to be prepared for an emotional ride and that you need to find a way to stay calm. Even if everyone else panics or becomes accusatory, keep a level head. You cannot react rationally if you yourself are angry, guilty or upset. If you stay calm, however, you might be able to get through to your family members or at least keep the situation under control.
Remember They Love You
In an uncomfortable and emotionally charged discussion it can be easy to feel hurt or alone both during and after the conversation. Even if things get emotional or unpleasant, remember that your family loves you. People may need some space or time to digest what they have learned, but that does not mean they do not care about you. They love you.
Talking with family members about changing beliefs is often no easier than dealing with the changing beliefs themselves, but it does need to be done. Besides, you might be surprised. It may turn out that someone you love once went through the exact same thing themselves.