Do you hesitate to disclose the truth about your spirituality?
It’s a classic parenting situation. You visit a quaint little coffee shop for story time. Another mom or dad walks in and sits next to you while his or her child begins to play with yours. One of you, it doesn’t matter who, strikes up a conversation and after a few moments of small talk you begin to find many commonalities. By the end of the story, phone numbers are exchanged and play-dates arranged. We all know the thrill of finding a new friend on the desert island of parenting, especially if you are a stay-at-home parent who doesn’t get much adult interaction.
I have heard from numerous readers that frequently on a second or third play-date, a seemingly innocuous question is asked, “Where do you go to church?” Do you have a comfortable answer at the ready or do you share the experience of others, with unconventional spiritual beliefs, of awkward silence followed by a stumbling explanation of your world view? Do you live in an area where your New Age Spiritual Beliefs are readily accepted by people with more Traditional Religious Beliefs or do become flush with worry that you might be alienated and lose the potential future play-dates for your child?
Hopefully, this hasn’t been your experience and, instead, the people around you are accepting, full of love and tolerance – adept at embracing differences. But if you have been in this situation and you were met with trepidation, misunderstanding, or even fear that you might try to convert them “to the occult” – you are not alone. (This illustration, of course, should not be construed to indicate that you necessarily believe in anything that can be attributed to the occult, nor that there is anything wrong with it if you do; but only to show that sometimes beliefs outside of the mainstream are viewed as scary by traditionalists).
Here are some questions to ponder: Does it make you hesitate to be completely honest the next time you are asked about your beliefs in a new situation? Have you tried to find “work-arounds” that aren’t necessarily lies, but aren’t really true either? An example might be, “Well, we don’t really go to church” – without divulging that you don’t ascribe to traditional religion. Have you devised an answer that equates your beliefs to something more relatable for others? One such answer might be, “We believe something very similar to Buddhism,” although you aren’t exactly in line with it.
Do you just avoid the topic? Do you lie to avoid confrontation, or tell the whole truth knowing that if they choose to end a budding friendship over this they were not meant to be your friends anyway? Does it make a difference, even if you believe in living a “Christ-like” existence, if you admit that do not consider yourself to be a Christian (if that is the case)? Do you worry about the negative consequences others’ condemnation will have on your child? Are you careful not to judge others for their beliefs?
How do you balance teaching your child to be true to himself with the risk that if he talks about his spirituality the other child’s parents might discontinue outings, and what if the majority of people around you feel this way and it could directly impact his opportunity for friends? (A very real proposition in some parts of the world.)
I hope and believe when you show people Who You Really Are, most will appreciate and love you, regardless of your perceived differences. Really, there is no right or wrong way to handle this situation and I think it might be helpful to remember that Separation from other human beings, especially when it comes to beliefs, is a myth. Conversations with God stands to remind that We Are All One and all beliefs are just parallel pathways to love, peace and connectedness.
Spirituality is a very personal decision. You can be private about it and avoid outward confrontation, but that might cause an internal struggle. On the other hand, you can choose to be open, honest, and live without fear of other’s reactions. I can tell you from my own experiences in the Midwest (of the US) that this can be hard, although pure authenticity is what I desire.
Even readers of this online community have varied interpretations of the words God, Love, The Universe, The All, and/or The Source so there is obviously not going to be a single answer with which every person in the New Spirituality can answer these questions. In fact, many CwG readers use the other words in place of God.
My call to action, here and now, is for us to support each other with advice and recommendations in the comment section below. How would you handle this type of situation? What would you do if you were faced with someone from the traditional religions showing fear that you will corrupt them? How do you protect your child from being hurt as a result? How do you coach your child to know what parts of her beliefs and ideas to share and what parts to keep on reserve? Let’s have a brainstorming conversation!
As always, I send peace and love to your family!
(Emily A. Filmore is the Creative Co-Director of www.cwgforparents.com. She is also the author/illustrator of the “With My Child” Series of books about bonding with your child through everyday activities. Her books are available at www.withmychildseries.com. To contact Emily, please email her at Emily@cwgforparents.com.)