Have you ever found yourself sitting around the dinner table with the feeling of dread in your stomach, waiting for someone to bring up the topic of God, or spirituality? Suddenly, the topic arrives and your heart starts racing as you prepare to go into battle to defend yourself…
Spirituality is often a triggering subject for people on both sides of the spectrum – those who feel spiritually aligned and those who do not. If you consider yourself on the spiritual side of the spectrum, you may have found yourself trying to defend your beliefs from what can feel like judgement or scrutiny. Quickly, there is a growing sense of frustration and what could have been an expansive and illuminating conversation gets brushed under the carpet to avoid the sticky feelings.
This makes total sense – it’s a natural human response to want the people around you to support you in your life choices in order to feel connected, but how do we navigate different opinions and beliefs? Is it possible to meet in the middle, with a mutual respect for each other’s different beliefs? Can we learn to completely accept our loved ones without needing them to think, feel or act the same as us—or even to approve of our choices?
In my experience, it is possible to stay centered, even during challenging or confrontational conversations. We do this by continuing to open our hearts, to trust in our spiritual path, and to let compassion lead the way.
Top Tips For Navigating Spirituality With Loved Ones
Tip #1: Create Space
Group dynamics and tendencies during debates can often amplify differences of opinion and misunderstandings. It can be difficult to access the deeper levels of conversation that we require to really connect with someone and share in heartfelt communication. Creating intentional space to be present and to connect with your family members one-on-one can offer the space to explore your beliefs on a deeper level. Explaining your spiritual experiences and why it is important to you can help to bridge the gap in understanding that can sometimes be the cause of friction. We humans are not so good at accepting things we do not understand.
Tip #2: Listen with Love
We all have our own personal truth or our ‘model of the world’ that is based upon our beliefs, values, desires, expectations, and learnings throughout our life. Being able to truly listen to someone means putting aside our assumptions and treating that person as a unique individual who has unique experiences. This means asking, rather than assuming.
Ask your family members what their beliefs are. Ask them how they feel about spirituality and what their own ‘model of the world’ looks and feels like. When they answer, take the time to listen to them and to accept their perspective without trying to prove your own beliefs or make it fit into your own framework of how you see the world.
Listening with love shows that you respect another person’s belief system and, in doing so, you are setting the tone for mutual respect and appreciation for your differences. You might also learn a thing or two that surprises you!
Setting the foundations for compassion and honest communication allows both people to explore different spiritual perspectives and views of the world without either side being invalidated because of the difference. There is no right or wrong—there are simply different human experiences.
Tip #3: Drop Your Defenses
Your spiritual practice can’t ever be taken away from you. In a heated moment you may feel as though you are having to defend what you believe in, but in reality, no one can take away your peace or your personal power. They are always within you.
When you approach every conversation with the knowledge that nothing (and no one) can take your peace away from you, it’s much easier to open your heart to the person in front of you, to hold space for them with compassion, to reconnect to the love you share, and to find a place of acceptance and mutual understanding.
Tip #4: Allow, Accept, and Embrace
Every part of our lives can be seen as an opportunity for growth and spiritual evolution, and our family dynamic can often be the catalyst for huge transformation.
Allow the tricky conversation to be a chance for you to practice your spiritual values, to accept people exactly as they are (even when they might infuriate you), and to embrace them with all the love in your heart. When you feel the emotions rising up, ask yourself “what is this here to show me? How can I learn from this situation and use it to fuel my growth?”
Being a human is a tricky business, no doubt. We are all trying to navigate our own intimate relationships with shame, judgment, abandonment, and so much more. But that’s one thing we all have in common–we are all trying to make sense of things.
So how do we prevent spirituality from dividing our families? Come back to the core of what it means to you to live a spiritual life, embrace your family with an open heart, and watch how the expression of unconditional love transforms your family dynamics.
No More Dread
Conversation with loved ones around the topic of spirituality is bound to arise. While your knee-jerk reaction may be to tense up and brace yourself, you might, instead, see it as an invitation to embrace what makes us wonder.
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