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When a family member rejects your religion
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In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim gives additional tips on overcoming fear of failure and loss when your loved ones believe differently. - photo by Kim Giles
Question:

Our daughter recently told us that she no longer believes in God and hasn't for a long time. This came as devastating news to us. Although we were aware that she hadn't been attending church, we thought she was still a believer. I have read your article on When your child rejects your religion every day since and it has been helpful, but I am still finding myself having moments of great sadness, anger, and even panic. Your advice makes sense in my head but my heart is broken. I would like to understand how she came to this conclusion but don't want to put her on the defensive. The result is, I don't contact her as much, because I'm concerned my emotions will spill out. I am praying for her many times a day, as well as for the rest of our family. Any additional advice would be appreciated.

Answer:

If you are still experiencing sadness, anger and panic, are pulling back and even struggling to spend time with your daughter you are still coming from fear, not love. I understand why this situation is triggering this fear of loss and failure in you. I really do, but those emotions aren't doing you or your child any good and they may make the situation worse.

In the other article on this I explained why unconditional love is the answer when a loved one rejects your religion. The problem is that as long as you are entrenched in fear, you arent capable of love.

If you cant change your perspective and get out of fear, your child is going to see you and your religion as unloving. It isn't and you know that you're scared because you love her so much, but your fear energy could make her pull even farther away. You cannot let your fear be bigger than your love.

You have to get you more fully in trust about this situation (and out of fear) so you are capable of showing up with real love, peace and acceptance towards your daughter. I encourage you to read and practice trusting the following idea every day for a while:

I am not a failure and neither is my loved one. We are here on this planet to experience all kinds of interesting and painful experiences so we can learn and grow, but at no time is our value on the line because life is a classroom, not a test. This means our value is infinite and absolute. It cannot change no matter what we do. None of us have anything to fear. My loved one may sign themselves up for some interesting lessons here, ones I would rather not have them learn. That is not about me. They are choosing their journey and they will find their way through it and in the end it will be OK. I trust their value and mine is secure and that this is the perfect classroom journey for both of us. I choose to trust God, there is nothing to fear, and every experience here is a lesson. I choose to let God's love fill me up every day so I can share his unconditional love with others. I choose to shine with pure love every day. I have the power to do this because there is nothing to fear.

(If you want to understand more about why life is a classroom not a test, read this article from December.)

Trusting these truths will show your loved one that your religion and your God are based in love. The God you believe in provided a way for all to return safely. He loves us all. Being fearless about this will show her that your faith in Gods goodness, your love for her and your strength are all bigger than your fear. This will earn her respect for you and make her see your religious beliefs as beautiful and inviting. Love is much more attractive than fear.

I also have a worksheet for frustrated parents on my website that might also help you with this situation. I encourage you to get it. It will ask you to identify your fear issues (that are really behind you being so upset about your child). You had fear issues about failure or loss (before this) and this situation with your child has just triggered them. This situation is therefore as much your lesson as it is hers. This is your chance to learn how to overcome fear and become stronger, more faithful and more loving.

So, instead of trying to fix your child, work on you. Trust God more and choose to act from love and fully accept her as she is, even being proud of her and never say anything negative, critical or guilt-producing. You can do this. You are a child of God (a being who is the essence of perfect love). You have the love inside you to overcome fear.

The worksheet will also ask What does your child need right now? The answer is your strength, faith, acceptance and love. She needs you to be strong enough to set your needs aside. (Your needs for her to fulfill your wishes, expectations and believe what you believe.) She needs to know you can let go of your needs and show up for her.

Spend time with her and (the entire time) keep choosing to trust there is nothing to fear. Spend every minute you have with her building her up. Look for the highest and best qualities in her, and tell her what you see. Focus on her goodness as a person and let her know you are proud of her. This is putting love first.

You can do this.

Dont speak to me about your religion; first show it to me in how you treat other people. Don't tell me how much you love your God; show me in how much you love all His children. Don't preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I'm not as interested in what you have to tell or sell or preach or teach, as I am in how you choose to live and give." Cory Booker
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