I grew up in a religious family and then went on to shirk off a lot of the dogma I was raised in as an adult. But one thing that seemed to stay with me – No matter how hard I try to ground myself, I would somehow find myself at a party or on facebook with my heartbeat drumming in my ears as I try to justify my beliefs to some challenger. As a person who is natally very Mars-heavy (the fighter/warrior), it’s never a pretty sight. And I hated it. I felt like I was giving my challenger control over my emotions. I decided a few years ago that enough was enough and I needed to figure out how to talk to people about what I believe without getting shut down, overwhelmed, or angry. Here are is what I’ve learned of the last few years and I hope you find it helpful as well.
I.e. Stop caring so much. Seriously. It’s not your job to change other people’s belief system, nor is it their job to change yours. If you disagree with each other, that’s totally OK. I’m not suggesting that you believe what you believe any less, but there is a big difference between believing and caring. The moment you stop putting so much weight on what you believe, I guarantee you’ll be able to have a more well-rounded conversation with someone without getting up in arms every time they disagree with you.
Your belief is between you, your validation process, and your higher power, not anyone else. Personally, I take this one step further:
Hold on to beliefs to give you hope, to spark magic in your life, and to guide your intuition, but don’t let your beliefs put you in a box. Grasp everything loosely enough to be mentally flexible and you will find that creative attitude develops in other areas of your life as well.
As Peter Carroll says in Liber Null…
It is not for us to question the universe’s apparent lack of taste. Seek the emotion of laughter at what delights and amuses, seek it in whatever is neutral or meaningless, seek it in what is horrific and revolting. Though it may be hard at first, one can learn to smile inwardly at all things.
Now, some of you may be thinking, “But Teighe, are you suggesting I just start laughing at funerals?” While I might personally find that darkly amusing, the answer is no. I can tell you right now that there are appropriate and inappropriate moments for outward shows of amusement and I’m just going to trust that you, as an empathetic human being, know when and where those moments are.BUT, and this is a big ol’ round but, taking a humorous approach to anything you can will be a complete perspective adjustment and, I guarantee, will permeate through to other areas of your life as well.
This goes back to the whole, “Stop taking everything so seriously” thing I was talking about above. When you approach life’s challenges with humor, you will often find something amusing there in the trash pile of the human experience. Find the humor in the argument you’re in the middle of and I tell you what, it will completely break your pattern of anger. And you might even find the person who’s challenging you a wee bit endearing to boot.
In my personal observation, most (there are always exceptions) people who go to the effort of trying to dissect your beliefs, particularly if they aren’t family or friends, are doing it from a place of insecurity around what they, themselves believe… Or don’t believe. There are typically two types of people I run into who actually put the effort into trying to start a battle with me (accepting family and internet trolls, which are another fun subject altogether): The “Only One Truth” or OOT people and the “Everything’s a Lie” or EAL people.
OOT people have so much of their identity wrapped up in their belief system that anyone who disagrees with them is challenging not just their beliefs, but their entire existence. That’s a hell of a thing, isn’t it? EAL people desperately want to believe in something and through their own experience of life, have not been able to validate any form of spirituality. This often makes them feel angry at people who have found spirituality, disappointed that the effort they put into “finding god” or some form of spirituality turned up negligible results, and are now overarchingly (yes, I know that’s not a word) defensive about the whole damn subject.
In both cases, the most effective approach that I have found is generally the same: Remember that no matter how harsh they are being, they are probably pretty fragile around the subject of spirituality and religion. Approach them with gentleness and love and let them know that you are not trying to convince them of anything but are just openly discussing your theory on life based on your own experience and validation process. The love in your heart will come out in your words and it will, nine times out of ten, have a calming effect.
This is your get out of jail free card, I kid you not. Not only is “I don’t know” good for keeping you honest with yourself, it’s incredibly disarming for other people. The most common mistake I see people make in a debate about beliefs is the incorrect assumption that they are expected to be professors in the college of life and have to have an inarguable answer for everything. Thing is, no one knows everything. If this was even possible, science would have proven or disproven all of it already. Which hasn’t happened, so give yourself a break! If someone asks you a question, feel confident that you don’t have to know the answer. Tell them something like these:
“Well, I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out myself.”
“That’s a great question! I haven’t thought about it from that angle before. I’ll put a pin in it and let you know what my thoughts are next time I see you.”
“I don’t know. And honestly, I don’t particularly care that much because what I do believe works for me and makes me a better, happier person and what I don’t have an answer to just doesn’t much bother me. It’s a good question though. If you figure out an answer, let me know.”
The last benefit to the Magical Three Words, is that is an indication of an area of your belief you might want to suss out and your challenger has just give you a wonderful gift by bringing your awareness to it. What you do with it, though, is up to you.
With that out of the way, it’s time to get clear on what you do actually believe.
You can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone about your beliefs if you don’t know what they are. That sounds obvious but I cannot tell you how many people I’ve talked to who make huge life choices based on their beliefs but can’t actually discuss them. It’s OK if you don’t have an answer for everything. But figure out what you do have an answer for and be confident in it. I’ll give you my own example:
“What do I believe? Well, to be honest with you, I have a bucketful of theories, many supported by science and experience, some not so much, and some I just like the idea of and haven’t found any better suggestions to replace them with yet. When it comes to actual core beliefs, I really only have a few and they aren’t directly related to any particular religious system that I might be practicing at any given time. Truth is, like most, I just don’t know.”
Try arguing with that!