When your faith is important to you, but not to the rest of your family, navigating the dynamics of faith and family life can be difficult. But it doesn’t mean you have to hide your faith at home.
Recently, Dr. Gregory Popcak, a Catholic counselor and noted author, stopped by The Phil Sandoval Show to share some advice for those who find faith and family to be a source of conflict. Below are some highlights of the conversation:
When your spouse and kids don’t want to go to Mass with you…
Sunday is too late to have that conversation. The time to have the conversation is Monday, after this whole things happens and ask, ‘What do we need to do, to plan our week so we can get to church next weekend? This is really important to me, and here’s why it’s important to me.’
And really share a little bit of your own testimony of why God is important to you, and why it matters to you to be in church. So that your wife and your kids understand that it’s not just about sitting there and listening to words and doing certain habits, but it’s really about engaging God, and being able to experience God in a personal and meaningful way.
Talk to them about that, and how it is important for you to be able to share this with them. Ask them to think about when they want to do something with you (draw you a picture, go to a game) and your response was, ‘No, I’m not really into that.’ They’d be crushed! And that’s how you feel when you try to give this gift to them. And you understand if they don’t get it, if they don’t understand it at the same level that you do, but you’d like to share it with them and have conversations about it.
On fears of your faith offending others…
We’re so afraid of offending our families, offending people, because we take our cue from the popular culture that says you can’t make people love God, you can’t force Jesus down people’s throats. Who is asking you to do that? It’s not about that.
The reality is that we wouldn’t not breathe around our spouse and kids, we wouldn’t not eat around our spouse and kids, so why are we afraid to live our faith around our spouse and kids? I think we need to go into it with the expectation that we’re going to make this happen, that this is important to you, and you’re going to share this with them.
Is it a problem with religion, or a problem with respect?
When religion becomes a point of conflict in a household, it’s never about religion. Because there are lots of people who don’t share their faith with their spouse, but it’s still a positive relationship because there is enough respect in that relationship for both spouses to see the truth, the goodness, and the beauty in what each spouse finds true, good, and beautiful.
Where you see religion becoming a flashpoint in a marriage or in family life, it’s not where religion is the problem, it’s where respect is the problem. There’s a basic unwillingness to see what’s true, good, or beautiful about the other person’s perspective.
When you have a respectful household, if I try to share something with you, you might not get it. You might not appreciate it the same way I do. But you love me, so you want to ask me questions about it, you want to understand it from my perspective, you want to see what I find good in it. But when there isn’t respect in that household, what happens is you say, ‘That’s ridiculous. Only stupid people would want to do that. Why would you like that?’ And then we feel ashamed.
That’s abusive behavior. And so when that happens around religion, it’s not a religion problem, it’s a respect problem. It’s potentially a verbal abuse problem, and it’s time to get professional help from someone who can get at the underlying issue.
The Phil Sandoval Show airs weekdays from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Pacific.