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How Do You Navigate Religious Differences in Your Family?

photo:  Fr Maxim Massalitin on flickr

photo: Fr Maxim Massalitin on flickr

Dear Meli,

The holidays are upon us. This year, I am going back to spend time with my family of origin, something I haven’t done for a long time. My family is really religious, especially my parents and two of my siblings. I consider myself really religious too, but in a way that is totally different from what they would consider religious. I am now a minister in my faith, but I know that parents and siblings don’t consider me to be a real minister, as it doesn’t fit with what they believe. I really want to find a way to talk about spirituality with them and find the common denominator, but it also scares me because the conversation also has the potential to be extremely divisive. Any thoughts on this?

Really Religious

Dear Religious,

I have this same experience in my family, with one family member. We have had many beautiful conversations about our love for Spirit – which we each express in our own style.

If you are truly curious about their experience of their faith, or religion, then asking them might be seen as a beautiful gesture. However, the key is not to have any unspoken agenda.

If you really want to convince them that you’re religious too, or have a fantasy that they might see the errors in their own beliefs, it will surely blow up in your face!

I think the most important thing is that you deeply reflect on what it is you want from the conversation. If what you truly want is to understand them better, they will feel the purity of your motives. But if you have a secret need for them to finally see you or understand your experience, forget it.

My experience is that this takes deep and honest reflection. When I have succeeded in having conversations with my sibling or friends who have a different set of standards of what religious is, it has always been when I come without a secret desire to be seen or understood.

Remember that loving is a spiritual practice. And truly loving them means loving them just as they are – even if they believe that your religion isn’t as good, or righteous, as theirs.

All this said, each person (and family) is unique. Your family might not be able to have this conversation with you without wanting to convince you that you are wrong, regardless of your motives! Some people simply can’t have such conversations without feeling threatened or defensive. In that case, this will lead to an unpleasant end. Only you know whether this is your family.

My hopes are that you can dive deeper into the love you have for them by opening the dialogue.

Blessings and Love to you in all you do!


What’s your experience with religious differences in your family? Share your comments below!

Have a question for Meli? Interested in a private session (in person or Skype)? Contact her at meli@ohmygodlife.com

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6 Responses to How Do You Navigate Religious Differences in Your Family?

  1. Julia December 15, 2015 at 6:56 am #

    Excellent advice! You have to go in with the intention of only love & to understand them. If it comes back to you it’s a wonderful surprise.

    • Melissa Phillippe December 19, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Indeed, Julia! I’ve experienced both – it coming back, and not so much. BOTH scenarios left me feeling great about my part – though, I admit, I really do like it better when the response is yummy! :-)

  2. Pam January 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    Oh, this is great! Just what I needed to hear. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Melissa Phillippe January 8, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

      Oh Gosh, you’re welcome, Pam! Happy to help! :)

  3. Walt January 8, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

    There’s a lot of defensiveness in my family. But then again, I am pretty defensive too. That’s where I came from, after all. Thanks for these reminders.

    • Melissa Phillippe January 8, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

      You’re welcome, Walt! I have experienced my share of defensiveness too – both in me and in others, in response to me. Good on ya for being able to see it in yourself! :)

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