How should I handle having different religious/political beliefs than my family when it begins to cause distance between me and the people I care about?
Dealing with change and your family isn’t always easy. (Honestly, those are probably the two biggest stressors out there.) In this case there are a bunch of potential culprits behind the conflict: Maybe your family doesn’t agree with your differing beliefs, or maybe they do not want to offend you with opposing event invitations, or incite dilemmas they think you would be uncomfortable with. They could be afraid of being judged in light of your beliefs. Here’s the dilemma: You won’t know until you ask!
Start by addressing the elephant in the room—actually talk to your family about how you’re feeling. Easier said than done, right? Addressing the entire family about how they have disconnected from you, or are leaving you out, may not end the way you want it to. I understand that can go really sour, really quick. Instead, how about starting with one or two family members? Confide first in someone you’re close to. Having a favorite cousin, aunt or sibling on your side may help you feel like you have an ally. When discussing the problem, let them know you’ve felt the separation and reassure them by letting them know that although your some of your beliefs have changed, that doesn’t mean you have. You can hold different beliefs than they do and still be the same person they could rely on and talk to in the past. After all, we pick our religions and political views to align more with the morals and values we have. The political/religious beliefs you have now really could just enhance that wonderful person they may think has changed.
Finally, make sure you give them time to talk, and really listen to how they are feeling. Let this be a conversation, not a blaming match or venting arena. We’re trying to resolve the distance, not create a new conflict and more distance. So remember to go in with an open mind and a soft heart.
How do you respect what your family thinks you should do while doing what YOU want? I have a friend who’s in that situation right now. Her mom is from Greece and wants her to minor in Greek language. After dropping a Greek class that would be too overwhelming, her mom was extremely upset and accused my friend of throwing away her heritage. A lot of my peers are left in similar predicaments. Parents want what’s “best,” but they don’t always consider what their children want.
As crazy as our families can make us, sometimes it’s hard to remember they have our best interests at heart. However, respecting our parents’ opinions and catering to their wishes are two completely different things. At the end of the day we have to be able to look around ourselves and be okay with where we are and how we got there. If we constantly make decisions based on what others want instead of what we want and need, we’ll never find true happiness. In the case of your friend, she did the right thing by dropping her minor, if it’s not what she wanted. I’m pretty sure her mom wouldn’t be happy to hear she flunked out of college because the classes for her minor were too hard. Angry for dropping the minor, angry for failing classes—it’s like there’s no winning in these situations!
The great thing about the world we live in today is, if your friend is interested in studying Greek literature, art or language, there are endless opportunities in a college setting (clubs, organizations, museums, libraries, study abroad) for her to connect with the culture. Even after college with the Internet and social networks like Meetup, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram our reach to other countries and cultures is so much more accessible. When you are really interested in something, you can find a way to educate yourself on it.
Your friend, and this goes for any of us really, would benefit from being honest with her mom about why she dropped the class. When her mom expressed concern about losing her heritage she could simply explain the other opportunities she has to reconnect and keep it. Now, “if” is the most important factor here. Your friend may not want to study Greece at all, and like any of us she has every right to choose the things that make her happy in life. People can disagree about something and still love each other. There’s a big difference between telling someone “no” respectfully and telling someone “hell no!” We can show respect to our families, friends and anyone else who has our best interest at heart while still disagreeing with them; it comes down to how we respond—not to how often we give in. Your friend can show care and respect for herself and her dreams at the same time by choosing what makes her happy.