Loving Angry Family Members Leaving The Church

Mother and daughter

One of my clients recently approached me with the following questions, and my answers might be helpful to you.

The questions: “How do I have a better relationship with my daughter who has left the church?  She is attacking the church on social media, and that’s all she wants to talk about with me.”  And their follow-up question was, “I want to love and understand my daughter without listening and reading all the things she is listening to and reading. How do I do that?

Here is how I answered my client:

Without taking into account your daughter’s actual words, what do you think she is thinking and feeling right now? 

It sounds like she has strong negative feelings about the church and wants you to validate those feelings. This is very common for us humans. We want our group, in this case, the family, to all do the same things. It sounds like she loves you and wants the best for you, and she believes that the best thing for you is for you to leave the church too. 

You can and should validate her feelings.

Sometimes this is hard for us to do because we think if we validate someone’s feelings, we are condoning their actions. 

The word “condone” means to accept and allow something that you consider morally wrong or offensive, as acceptable.  

You can validate the hurt your daughter feels without agreeing with her on other issues. You can show empathy and compassion for what she is going through.  Perhaps you could say something similar to this, “This topic sounds like it really hurts, is that how you feel?”

Then LISTEN.

Validating her feelings doesn’t mean that you have to listen to her endlessly talk negatively about the church or listen to all the information she is listening to.  Decide in advance how much, if any, you want to participate in, and then set a limit. “Sweetie, I love you and want to understand you, but this stuff is hard for me to listen to.  Let’s set a timer for 10 minutes, then let’s find something to do that we both enjoy.”

The formula is:

  1. Reassure them of your love.
  2. Decide how much you can listen to.
  3. Set a limit, and stick to it.
  4. Remind them we each get to choose what we believe. 
  5. Suggest a different activity you both enjoy.

These conversations can be hard. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t have them perfectly the first few times. It can take practice to learn how to respond to your child, but if you use genuine love and compassion for them, you can improve your relationship with them by making the effort to understand them better.

In my Becoming A Whole-Hearted Woman coaching program, I work one-on-one with women to answer questions just like the above example. I help them navigate their relationships with loved ones who are leaving the church, if you are in this situation, and I can help you too. 

Are you worried about your eternal family? Becoming A Whole-Hearted Woman is the place for you to learn to build strong relationships within your mixed-faith family, and also access your strength and wisdom to be a light to them.

If this is something you want, let’s talk.  Click on my picture below and sign up for a complementary 45 minute session.  We can talk about what’s going on with you and decide if we want to work together.

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Learning to Love As Christ Loves

Love as Christ Loves

Have you seen the multi-season series about the Life of Jesus called, “The Chosen? It portrays events in the life of Christ from a whole new, much more relatable perspective. I love watching it, and after finishing season 3 last week, I went back to Season 1 and started again. I love watching the character who plays Jesus. He shows love in such a genuine way in the series. I especially enjoy watching him because the character of Jesus is teaching me what loving kindness, also known as charity and the pure love of Christ, looks like.

For a long time I was confused by what I learned about “love” at church.  I heard so much about service and sacrifice, which is absolutely part of the pure love of Christ.  Unfortunately, I was always worrying if I was loving enough.  I even had a mental checklist of service to perform, and I worried that I wasn’t ever doing enough. I just thought I was really bad at love.

Watching the Jesus in “The Chosen” series show love and compassion is teaching me that I can do it too.

Before I went to church yesterday, I took a few minutes to quietly meditate on the parts of the day in front of me. I mentally went down my planned activities for the day; Sacrament Meeting, Relief Society, daughter and grandsons coming for dinner, planning my week, taking part in a workshop on marriage with Lee. 

I thought about the people I would be with and how I always want to show up as a little bit better version of myself. 

The moment came during Relief Society when the lady who sat behind me was introduced as new to our Ward. I turned around and introduced myself, and invited her to sit next to me.  During the meeting I thought about what I could say to her when Relief Society was over, to get to know her a little better. The question I asked her was, “ tell me the story of how you came to be part of our Ward?” I didn’t want to assume that she was married, had children, etc. We had a delightful conversation about where she lived and what she was doing, and that she has three fur babies and no human babies yet. 

I went home feeling great about how easy it was to talk with someone when I was not simply crossing off “speak to someone new” on my checklist.  When I genuinely enjoyed getting to know her, I caught a little glimpse of my better self. 

How are you doing at becoming the “better self” that you want to be?

What are you learning about love from Jesus Christ?

Sometimes, when people we love choose different paths than we’ve chosen, it can be a challenge to accept their choices, not be disappointed or perhaps even “love” them.

I coach faithful women affected by family members losing their faith or leaving the LDS church. It’s a really rough time – I know from my own personal experience and that of many others I have worked with.  I would love to help you negotiate this overwhelming time. We learn that loving choices are always available to us. 

If you are in this type of turmoil, perhaps now is the time to get some help? 

I invite you to set up an appointment and we can just talk about what’s on your mind and in your heart.

Love / Hate Relationship With December?

Christmas sad or happy

The Christmas season is here. Are you looking forward to it with anticipation or dread?

For many years, I had a love/hate relationship with December and the whole Christmas season.  This was especially true after some members of my family left the church.  I started to wonder if all of my efforts to help my family love Christmas and the reason for the season, which is the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ, had backfired in a horrible way.  Was I the reason that some of my children and spouse no longer even believe that there is a Savior?

Many of us mothers are particularly sensitive and vulnerable during the Christmas season. As self-described “Christmas magic makers”, we feel responsible for making this the best time of the year for everyone we love.

As a matter of fact, many of my “natural woman” tendencies can be particularly active during this time of the year:

My “Inner Judge” likes to point out all the ways that I am falling short during December. Someone who has it all together would have gotten family photos, written personal Christmas cards to friends, planned exciting activities, gone shopping to buy the perfect personal gifts for everyone on her list, and most of all – managed to bring the true spirit into her home everyday in December. 

The “Controlling” part of my personality is screaming that if everyone would just follow MY plan the holiday would be perfect!

My personal “Stickler”, the one who loves all the rules and keeps track of all the things I “should” be doing, and letting me know where I fall short. 

My inner “Victim” feels so sorry for herself – everyone else has a perfectly behaved family.  Poor, poor me, I have to make do with what I have instead of the perfect life everyone else I know has. 

And finally, the “People Pleaser” in me tries to keep everyone happy all the time, which is an impossible task, yet one that I think I can do. If anyone is less than happy, I failed indeed.

Is it any wonder that I had a love/hate relationship with Christmas? 

Perhaps this sounds familiar to you??

Somewhere over the past few years I have discovered the spiritual gift of COMPASSION. This gift, which is the gift of empathy and the desire to relieve my own and others’ suffering, has allowed me to quiet those inner voices and approach the Christmas season with joy and anticipation. I’m happy to report that those inner critical voices are so quiet now that I can barely hear them.

With this gift, I am changed. I am currently looking forward to the holiday with love and anticipation.

If you are dreading the Christmas season, I invite you to schedule an time to let me coach you before December 13, 2022.  This is my “Cyber Monday” gift to you.  I can help you look forward to December with happy anticipation, even if you have always dreaded the season.  

You know who you are…

I would love for your December to have more love and compassion and fewer critical inner voices. Schedule 50 minutes with me between now and December 13th and we will identify your inner critical voices and talk about how to quiet them so you can feel the love and peace you desire.

Perhaps your Christmas season is already perfect and you have a friend that could benefit from some help with those above inner voices?   If you know someone that could use a dose of self-compassion this time of year, please share this gift with them.

This is simply a gift I am sharing.  You can be confident knowing there is NO cost, NO pressure, and NO sales pitch.  Simple coaching to help you make your Christmas season merrier and brighter than ever.  Click the link below.

Yes!  I want the gift of Compassion for Christmas!

Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention that I was on my good friend Tina Gosney’s podcast a couple of weeks ago and we discussed “Navigating the Holidays with a Mixed-Faith Family”.  If you are looking for some ideas on this topic, I invite you to give this podcast a listen.  I would be very interested to hear your thoughts after listening.

The Road To Abilene – A Trip To Resentment

The Road To Abilene

A few weeks ago, I heard the phrase “Low Candor and High Courtesy” applied to many of us at church.  In this phrase, “low candor” means we don’t exactly share the full truth, and “high courtesy” means we do this because we want to be kind to others.

When my husband was a young manager at Boeing, he was sent to a course that included a 1984 movie titled “The Abilene Paradox”. During the first six minutes, the movie showed two couples sitting on the porch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. One man in the group casually suggested to the others that they could drive to Abilene, Texas for supper.  One by one, each of the other people agreed to go on this 53-mile drive on a hot summer’s day. By the time they got home, tired, hot (no air conditioners), sweaty and grumpy, each of them shared that they never really wanted to go in the first place. The man that offered the idea also said “I didn’t want to go to Abilene to begin with, I was just making conversation!”   “Low Candor and High Courtesy”.

So, the lesson from the Abilene Paradox is that when everyone agrees to do something that nobody really wants to do – to be kind to others, EVERYONE will likely be disappointed with the outcome. 

“Are we on the road to Abilene?” became a favorite family question when we were attempting to make decisions as a family. 

Recently we discovered a copy of this old video on YouTube, and my husband and I watched it again. (End at about 4:35 seconds into the video.)   Yup, even after all these years, we still occasionally find ourselves going 90 MPH on the Road to Abilene!  

One thing we’ve realized that we especially need in our mixed-faith-marriage is clear communication. Even when it takes a little extra time and patience to hammer out what we are each thinking and meaning, it is worth it.

After watching the movie together, we discussed the story and who we thought was to blame for everyone going to Abilene. I thought the person who made the suggestion to go when he didn’t really want to go was dishonest.  He was probably suggesting an activity that he hoped no one would take him up on. My husband thought it was fine to make a suggestion, but the dishonest people were the rest of the group who said “yes”, just to be polite.  Each of you will need to decide who you think was to blame for yourselves. 

Here is an example of NOT being on the Road to Abilene:
Recently, my husband asked me to go with him to an RV show a few miles away.  I quickly thought about his offer, knowing it was Sunday, it was hot, there was a lot of walking and really, if you’ve seen 100 RV’s, you’ve probably seen them all…  So what do you think I decided?   I concluded that being with him on a Sunday afternoon doing something he really wanted to do was more important to me than the rest of my arguments. We were NOT on the road to Abilene. We went and actually had a great time together, and as I predicted, no RV’s followed us home.

Here is an example of BEING on the Road to Abilene:
On another occasion, my husband invited me to go out to dinner at a place he thought I might like.  I said yes because I thought it was someplace he wanted to go.  (But I really didn’t like that place.) When we got home, neither of us had enjoyed our meal, and I was really grumpy when I found out he didn’t like the restaurant either – he was just being kind and thoughtful because he thought I liked it.  I decided to go because I thought he wanted to go. In my way, I too was also trying to be kind and thoughtful.

It turns out neither of us are being kind and thoughtful when we are not honest about what we want.  Actually, this can be a recipe for resentment. This is where our improving communication skills come in handy. 

When you are in a mixed-faith marriage, opportunities abound for trips to Abilene.

The solution?  Although we may be in a “low candor, high courtesy” culture, being honest about what we want is more important than trying to go along with others that are simply trying to make us happy.

I know you’ve all been there!  I would love to hear your version of being on “The Road to Abilene” – just leave a comment.

Barbed Wire Boundaries

Barbed Wire

When I visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City a while ago, I was fascinated by the barbed wire exhibit. There were 1,000’s of different varieties of barbed wire!

Likewise, I was fascinated to find a much smaller barbed wire exhibit at the Museum of Idaho last week.  The exhibit displayed barbed wire styles that were unique to each rancher. When you saw a certain style of barbed wire you knew who’s property you were on. This made me curious to know if my family had their own style of barbed wire, a question that there is probably no one left to answer… 

It turns out that barbed wire forever changed the way that ranchers kept beef cattle in the American West. Previous to barbed wire, there was no cost-effective way to confine cattle, so they mostly roamed free on the open range. Once barbed wire was invented, cattle were fenced in and ranchers could increase their herds without the fear of losing cattle to cliffs, to bad grazing plants and mixing with other herds.

I loved looking at all the types of barbed wire. But, it made me think about the function played by the barbed wire.  It set boundaries, to keep cattle in and predators and rustlers out. 

We each have our own variety of figurative “barbed wire” for our personal boundaries. Healthy boundaries are a way to define who we are as individuals and what we will and will not hold ourselves responsible for. Learning to create healthy boundaries is an important part of our self-care. 

But, just as barbed wire keeps cattle in, it also keeps unwanted critters or people out.  It’s this aspect that I wanted to talk about today. As mothers of adult children, it’s so easy to think of our children as an extension of us.  Sometimes we forget the plan is for training them to manage their own lives, separate from us.  As they grow in abilities, our children need to develop healthy boundaries to be able to live their own lives without interference from their parents.

This can be frightening for us parents, since we love our children and want to stay close and protect them. We may not recognize our children’s “barbed wire boundary” and attempt to break through it, by offering helpful observations or advice.  Or in the case of mixed-faith families, helpful reminders of the religious teachings that you taught them to make their life “better”.

Our rationale is that we only want what’s best for our child, and that we have more life experience, and we are only trying to be helpful.

I saw a related rule of thumb on Twitter the other day:

“Unsolicited advice is criticism, always”.

I agree with this, although I don’t always practice what I preach. I do have a habit of doling out unsolicited advice to my adult kids and then having to apologize when/if I recognize I’ve overstepped their boundaries.

If you feel like you have been caught in barbed wire in your relationship with your adult child, you might ask yourself if you are trying to break down a boundary they have established to create independence from you?  Is there a better way for you to have a relationship with your adult child? 

If you need help answering these questions, coaching might be a great fit for you. One of the things we learn about is creating boundaries for ourselves, but also recognizing the boundaries our kids and others have set for us.

If you would like to discuss your situation, select a convenient time and we can Just Talk. 

Its NOT about YOU!

It's ALL about Me!

A couple of days ago, I got a phone call from a loved one with discouraging news. 

I was shocked and I couldn’t gather my thoughts together and make sense of what happened or how to respond.  I finally had to end our call so I could process the news. 

I thought about the conversation with my loved ones, and why I couldn’t respond. After thinking about it a bit, I realized that my first thoughts were about me and not them. In other words, I was making their news all about my feelings, thoughts and concerns. I wasn’t thinking about how this would affect them except by way of how it was affecting me. 

One of the hard parts about being willing to do the work of making ourselves better is discovering really embarrassing things about ourselves. This was one of those embarrassing moments for me… 😳

It’s NOT About YOU!

This is the lesson I (re) learned this week.  When you make it about you, you can’t respond to those who are hurting. You can’t mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. You can’t lift the hands that hang down or strengthen the feeble knees. You can only worry about how it will affect you.

Thinking about ourselves first is a very common reaction from those of us who have loved ones who have left the church. We get wrapped up in how this news affects us. How we are going to look at church, how we are going to respond when our loved one wants to bring home their girl or boyfriend to stay overnight with us, how much we are hurting.

We do need space to process these things, but if we want to maintain a strong connection with our loved ones, we really need to have the eyes and the heart to see how this information is affecting them. What do they think about what others are thinking and talking about them?  Are they afraid that we will reject their girl or boyfriend? Where are their pains?

I called my loved ones back that afternoon and apologized for my reaction and told them that I wanted to be supportive of them, but I wasn’t very good at it yet, and asked for their understanding and patience. When I hung up, my brain was able to start thinking of ways that I could support them, because I was making it about them (the people with the problem) and NOT about how it would affect me. 

For a few minutes after our phone conversation, I was able to bask in the glow of being someone who was learning to walk the talk of all the things I am learning for myself and teaching others. This is what it feels like to be a follower of Christ. 

It’s taken a long time working on myself and practicing to start catching on to myself sooner than I used to.  I am still a work in progress…

LDS Mixed-Faith Conversation Starters

Conversation Starters

I wanted to share some additional thoughts about my experiences with loved ones that have left the LDS church.  My first daughter left the church right after graduating from high school. My second daughter left after searching deeply for answers to simple gospel questions, and not finding supportive answers. My third daughter to leave the church did so for personal reasons.  Last, but not least, my dear husband left the church after many years of trying and failing to develop a relationship with God and Christ.

People join religions and leave religions for a variety of reasons.  The same is true for your loved one that is leaving or has left the LDS faith.

Some of their reasons for losing faith or leaving the church may include:

  • Gospel questions without satisfactory answers.
  • Historical information they recently discovered, leading to the feeling that the church may have been hiding or misrepresenting important details.
  • Observing the behavior of others in the church and feeling the gospel is not true if these things are allowed.
  • Not understanding the nature of God, or not feeling his love. 
  • Not agreeing with church leaders regarding women’s roles, homosexuality or concerns about lack of transparency.

Oddly enough, although still faithful and believing, you may even share some of these same concerns.  This is completely normal, and we each need to find our own answers.

Your loved-one that has doubts or no longer believes in the church may have their own feelings of disappointment, anger, or sorrow, and fear.  Perhaps they have a combination of all these emotions.  Depending on their reasons and their feelings, their outward lifestyle may be affected very little as they leave the church, or it may be affected in many major ways. 

My LDS Mixed-Faith Conversation Starters workbook is just one of the tools that I would love to share with you to help smooth your journey as your loved-one leaves the LDS church.  

Although I can’t restore your loved-ones’ faith or bring them back to church activity, I can help YOU find peace around their choices.  I can help you have confidence that your family really is OK, and things will work out. 

Your life can still be full of joy and peace no matter what your family members choose to do.

I would be honored to be your guide. If you would like to simply talk about your situation, and perhaps hear your thoughts out loud for the first time, I invite you to click HERE and schedule a time for us to talk.  Let me help you begin putting the pieces of your life back together again.

A Mixed-Faith Family Father’s Day

Father's Day

If you are new to being in a mixed-faith family, seeing the differences between the believing members of the family and the non-believing members can be unexpected and painful.

For example, next Sunday is Father’s Day, and you have always spent Father’s Day at church as a family, fulfilling callings and having the Young Women/Men distribute treats for Father’s Day.  But what if dad no longer participates in church?  That can feel quite different for all members of the family. 

Especially if, rather than go to church, for his special day, Dad was hoping the family could go see the new Top Gun movie and then enjoy dinner at his favorite restaurant or a peaceful walk on the beach at sunset.

How do you handle this seeming’ mismatch between the believers’ traditional Father’s Day and the non-believing father’s wishes for Father’s Day?

It really doesn’t have to be a mismatch, there are many options for both believers and non-believers.

With a little creativity, we can find choices and make decisions that don’t have to be all or nothing propositions, with “winners” and “losers”.  When a family wants to feel loved and connected, there are many ways to achieve this. 

Perhaps you could sit down together before Father’s Day and work out what is important to your family. If dad no longer attends church, some family members may want to stay home with him, while others may want to attend Sacrament meeting and then go do things with dad as a family. Some may want to celebrate Father’s Day on Saturday so those who want to attend Sunday services can, while Dad does something he’s been wanting to do on his own. 

For those new to being a mixed-faith family, I offer the following 4 suggestions:
o Plan ahead

o Decide what’s most important to each member of the family

o Decide that there will be options where everyone “wins”

o Put family connections ahead of being “right”

You can use this formula for so many family situations, and every time you practice loving and connecting with each other as a family, decisions get easier. 

For our family, there hasn’t been just one “right” way.  Some years we make plans to celebrate Father’s Day on the Saturday before.  Some years I have gone to Sacrament meeting and then come home early to spend the day doing what Lee (my husband) wants to do on his special day, which has occasionally included going out to dinner. For our family, eating out wasn’t a normal Sunday activity.  Now it happens occasionally, and I feel that this is a choice that is aligned with my priorities, and what is most important to me.

Each year I take a solo retreat for a day or two, and I go over my values and priorities – because they change slightly from year to year. When I know that my relationship with God is my first priority, and that my relationship with my husband is my next priority, and my participation at church is down my list a little ways, I know what I value most and can evaluate nearly every choice almost instantly, so what I choose to do is inline with my values and top priorities. 

Speaking of personal values, do you know what your values and priorities are?  Perhaps now is a good time to review them again?  I’ve been working on a worksheet that helps us identify values and priorities, and I would be happy to share it with you. 

I hope this information is helpful to you.  If you have specific questions or thoughts that you would like to get feedback on, or if you would like a copy of my Values & Priorities worksheet, please feel free to contact me

Rethinking Sin, Salvation and Everything In Between

All Things New

Recently I’ve been reading the book titled “All Things New, Rethinking Sin, Salvation and Everything In Between” by Fiona and Terryl Givens. Reading this book has changed the way I think about several gospel concepts, and I am very excited to share what I am learning. 

Several of my Instagram friends started talking about this book “All Things New”, and I resisted getting on the bandwagon until one day Fiona Givens spoke to the LDS Life Coaches group I below to. I was so excited by what she had to say that I bought the audio book and listened to it.  Then I wanted to be able to underline phrases and concepts, so I bought the paperback book too!  The book is now underlined in many colors and dogeared. 

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is a history of Christianity with a focus on the nature of God. The Givens write about how the view of Christianity changed from the early church through the teachings of Luther, Calvin and Augustine, and how the modern restoration fits in. They discuss how the way we view God, has changed over time, from a loving God to an angry, punitive God, and how these views damage our relationship with Him.

The second part of the book looks at our language and how the distortions that have crept in over time have damaged our language and understanding of basic gospel concepts.

Because I have understood several concepts so differently, I’ve returned again and again to read the chapters on Sin, Repentance, Forgiveness, Salvation and Obedience. I’ve also researched these 5 words in the Gospel Library app, looking in the gospel topics section, topical guide, and the Bible dictionary.  I’ve even read recent General Conference talks with this book playing in the back of my mind. I love finding teachings in General Conference talks that support these thoughts. In Elder Christofferson’s talk, “Our Relationship with God”, he said that repentance, obedience, and sacrifice matter because “they are the means by which we collaborate with Him in our own transformation from natural [wo]man to saint.” I love the idea of collaborating with Christ to become a saint.

One of the things that I found so interesting was reframing the concept of “Sin”. When I grew up, I thought sin was terrible and felt I had to be perfect all the time. I didn’t want to do anything that might create sin, and when I did sin, I couldn’t face my own weaknesses or shortcomings. In reality, I was trying to be “my own Savior” by being “good” all the time.  I was also rationalizing things that I did as not really sinful, because sin was horrifying. This way of thinking caused pressure on me all the time to always do things the “right” way. It didn’t really bring me closer to Christ, it actually kept me away from Him. 

The example the Given’s used to reframe the concept of “sin” was from the new world as Christ did ministering and healing, not preaching, rebuking or judging. They suggest looking at “sin” as being wounded, and wounded so deeply that we are separated from God and that we need to be “healed” of our “wounds” to return to God.

I started asking myself how I had been wounded this week or how I might have been the one to wound others. At church, I approach Sacrament time by thinking about wounds and how God was able to help me heal from my wounds and minister to others that are wounded. I really resonated with this teaching and I found that thinking this way helped me be more willing to see my own hurts and how I hurt others. I really felt changed and I saw myself having more love and compassion for myself and for others. I am seeing things in a more optimistic way and I am more willing to change myself rather than hide away from sin.

So I offer an enthusiastic two thumbs up for this book. I think that it is especially appropriate for mixed-faith families, as I have witnessed people who I love that have been wounded by their association with the church. Seeing them as wounded changes how I view them and our relationship. Now I just want to be better at loving them.

If you read this book, I would love to hear how you felt about the concepts. I would also be interested in hearing about any of your favorite books that have helped you with your mixed-faith family.