A recently published Stonyhill Nugget titled “Is It OK To Be Spiritual But Not Religious?” received a large number of emails reflecting the pain and conflict that exists in so many families around the subjects of religion and political beliefs.
Given the level of pain that people shared in their email comments to the article, I decided that I needed to address the pain and frustration they so openly shared regarding their experiences with both family members and friends.
Here is a partial quote I received from one reader —“When I try to talk about spirituality to my daughter who is very religious, she starts quoting scripture and tells me I can’t have both. I get very frustrated because I don’t know how to explain to her that I believe in God, but I feel more spiritual than religious.”
Here was my answer to her comment.—“The answer to your question is yes….you can be spiritual “and” religious. The problem is usually encountered in the other direction. It is often very difficult to be religious AND spiritual….especially when the religious beliefs are conservative and embrace rigid theological beliefs that use an imperative or authoritative voice to dispense “absolute truth.”
As I pointed out in the article, absolute truth is designed to shut down the conversation and open inquiry that could lead to authentic spiritual growth.
It’s fair to say that 90% of the conflict we experience in our relationships with others is caused by attitudes of arrogance, a critical or judgmental tone of voice, and a lack of civility and kindness.
This is especially true when discussing religious or political beliefs.
For example, religious and politically conservative people love to monologue about their beliefs using a “voice” that arrogantly assumes they are speaking about absolute truth, not simply their own beliefs. Their tone of voice conveys the judgmental message that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong, unintelligent, or mis-informed.
They commonly employ a dismissive or judgmental attitude that includes emotional and psychological “distancing” from friends or relatives who disagree with their beliefs.
Rather than simply agreeing to disagree, they often choose to cut-off or walk away from the conversation and/or the relationship entirely.
When dealing with friends or relatives that behave this way it is important to remember that you did not choose the conflict or the rejection that you are experiencing. We all have the right to choose the various beliefs and values that bring meaning to our own life.
We can take the path of compassion by not talking about those subjects that we know are going to create tension, but more often than not, those who believe they possess absolute truth seem to be unaware of the hurtful arrogance they are manifesting.
They can often become aggressive when “others” bring up religion or politics, but they seem to feel that it’s OK to talk about their own religious and political beliefs.
They may not bring the subjects up directly, but repeated comments such as
- “praise the lord”,
- “god’s will,
- stories about the power of prayer,
- derogatory and judgmental comments regarding homosexuals,
- negative racial and ethnic comments,
- critical comments regarding politicians from other political parties,
- how they think immigrants should be treated,
- why the country is in the shape it’s in, and
- welfare reform,
are very commonly sprinkled throughout their conversations.
It requires the patience of a saint to ignore such “sprinklings” since most of the comments will be focused directly, or indirectly, on what “you” should do or what “you” should believe.
On the other hand, those who speak with the gentle voice of personal passion, confidence, and conviction will just as clearly reflect the beliefs of the speaker, but he or she will not presume to speak “for” others. They will simply be sharing who “they” are, and what “they” believe.
People who share using the softer voices of passion and personal conviction are often fun to be around. Conversations with them tend to be thoughtful and interesting. They will often thank you for sharing your wisdom and thoughts with them.
They openly embrace new ideas and change. As such, they are evolving and growing. Sharing time with them is always a pleasure.
We all have a part of us that wants to grow, and all of us have a primitive ego that doesn’t.
The part we pay attention to is our choice.
If growth is important to us, we will grow. We will learn to pay attention to the part of us that resists change. We will begin to see clearly the narcissism and arrogance that we are guilty of when we assume to possess absolute truth on “any” subject. We will begin to embrace silence and a sense of “not-knowing”.
People who are growing tend to be good listeners.
It is painful to have friends and relatives pull away from us. It can difficult to be around them at times. But, like us, they too have the right to decide their own future.
We are called to love them, but we don’t have to take responsibility for the karma of their choices, their behaviors, or the “voices” they choose to use.
Please comment below so others can benefit from the conversations.