The Other Side of the Coin

Disenfranchised members of the church, ex-members, non members who have family in the church often relate feelings of anger or rejection?Ǭ† from family members who can’t seem to accept their choice. Often what happens is those family who reacted so strongly, come around, and attempt to repair relationships, and often after much time ( years, commonly) things are back to a kind of truce, as love can overcome so much.

What often isn’t addressed is when family members who leave the church reject those family and friends who stay; cutting off contact and having such a hatred for the church that it transfers to family members who are unwilling to deny their testimonies, and who have to endure the ridicule and condemnation of family who they love who can’t seem to separate their parent, sibling or other extended family from the church. It is all lumped into one big pool of hatred and anger.

There is nothing you can do to fix it except to leave the church and denounce your testimony. That would bring back your loved one. But you can’t do that, because to do so would be to deny who you are, and so you would lose yourself.

I know this doesn’t always happen, but it does sometimes and it is possibly the most painful experience someone can have. It really hurts and you can’t do a thing about it except the most offensive thing to the family member, and that is pray.

37 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Coin”

  1. I must have been pretty lucky. Those of my siblings who left the church haven’t been vitriolic to me.

    Granted, I don’t know that they left the church because of doctrinal or social issues. I think they just didn’t want to go to church anymore.

    If that is the case, maybe why someone leaves is related to how they treat others when they leave.

    Actually, come to think of it, I don’t recall that those of my family who stayed in the church every berated those who left. Maybe why they left affected our response to their leaving.

  2. I have a cousin who left the church in his late teens. We were close growing up and spent many sumers together. He basically cut himself off from the whole family. It was quite sad. He moved to Nevada but even when he came home if there was a family dinner in Lethbridge he’d somehow need to be in Calgary that day. Quite sad. Just over a year ago he died and one of the hardest things about losing him was that we also didn’t get to mend the relationship and let him know that we loved him no matter how he chose to live his life. I don’t think anyone in the family was unkind or didn’t want him around – he just chose to not associate with us. I wish I had tried harder to let him know I still loved him and cared for him and wanted him to be around.

  3. Kim

    You are right, well the person I am thinking of has never been rejected or castigated for choices made.

    Dawn I am so sorry, I do know exactly where you are coming from. All I hope is that one day there is the chance for reconciliation.

  4. “he just chose to not associate with us.”

    This can be hard on a post-mo.

    If you ever have a chance just sit and listen at one of these social events and see just how much of the conversation is church related.

    It can be off-putting to post-mos and nonmembers alike. Especially difficult if one is looking to avoid confrontation with one’s family.

  5. I think you’ve missed the point. It’s for love of their family that they don’t go to the event. They know their relatives can’t refrain from talking church (especially in large groups), and they know that they’ll say something to upset someone. The easy solution is to avoid the confrontation all together.

  6. If Mary’s talking about who I think she is, he doesn’t avoid talking the family because he wants to avoid talking about the Church. In fact, on the rare occasion he does talk with family still in the church and the church comes up, it’s him who brought it up.

  7. Any time I have gone out with a friend who is an ex-member in a group, we make sure we don’t make them feel uncomfortable and so we don’t talk about the church. Almost every time, though, the ex-member will bring the church into the conversation somehow. I’d also like to point out that every member I associate with is a well rounded, intelligent person and we all have interests outside of the church. When we get together we talk about many topics – not just the church.

  8. Rick

    Maybe for some, but not for all. In our case, the family member so hates the church, he despises anyone who still affiliates with it, hates any mention of it (even if not directed at him) as he is afraid of what others will think if they connect him in any way, even mildly, with the church. This person has gone so far as to completely cut off contact with his mother with no desire to even have a relationship with her in any way, shape or form. It is devastating. We don’t discuss the church with him, but even a reference to it sends him off.

    SS, yes, I see that, but in some cases it isn’t discussion of the church, but even the reality of it. Just the fact it is.

  9. I wonder how much of the ‘animosity’ or ‘agitation’ of ex/non-active/non-members around members and vice-versa has to do with preconceptions. the ‘oh no. here we go. they’re going to try to talk me into coming to/leaving church’ syndrome.
    I have to say that if I had friends/relatives that were talking smack about the church, I’d call them on it. If you’re cool to leave/not go, fine. Your choice. It does give one license to be free of rebuttal.
    Does it come around to the ‘can leave it but can’t leave it alone’… ‘left to kick against the pricks’ so to speak?

  10. Jason

    No you don’t understand. I can’t speak for everyone but it our case it is the existence of. Nothing is or has been said. It’s just that we are members and he hates that, being very clear about it. Can’t see how or why we would be, so limits any contact as much as possible. Without anything at all being said. And I can’t call him on it right now, because it wouldn’t make any difference. He doesn’t talk about the church, he would rather it didn’t exist.

  11. Mary,

    Re: 10

    My comment should have read ‘It does NOT give one license to be free of rebuttal’

    So, because this person ‘rather the church didn’t exist’ they have had a few ‘hissy fits’ and/or ‘spaz attacks’… hmmm maybe we should ask the Super Nannyhow to deal.

    I’m sorry, and church issue aside on this one, part of me says to deal in compassion and some sort of ‘reasonable accommodation’ (uggh!) The other part of me says ‘Grow up, son/daughter. This life is bigger than your petty problems. If you can’t handle my lifestyle, then you need some time in the corner to think about this one.’

    That being said, Perhaps this individual has a darker issue with the church and has major anxiety over the thought of discussing it with people, let alone family members.

  12. Jason,

    Ok. You are right, both of these issues are it, unfortunately the ‘grow up’ though it should be done, doesn’t work and we can’t approach him on that as he is dealing with other issues (serious ones) that really affect his response. All I can see that I can do is to be patient and trust in the Lord because He knows His heart, and I do not, entirely. Somewhat, yes, but there isn’t anything I can do. The compassion and ‘reasonable accommodation’ yes, you are right, that is all that can be done. I am learning to be patient, and pretty good with it, but it hurts a lot, because I love him very much and wish I could truly express it without being rejected.

    Your last paragraph is exactly it. I don’t think they really come from the church so much as he has bound it up with everything else. He is making progress in his life in other areas, but this one, he won’t let go of right now. It’s a learning and long term process, I do know this.

    Thanks.

  13. Mary it sounds like this person knows what they are doing is wrong and feels very guilty. It also sounds like they are looking to rationalize their behavior. Kind of like being part of the show “Interrogation”. The person would feel at a gathering that they are going to “gang up” on me so I cam going to go in on an attack mode and be defensive putting up guards by word and or deeds first to prevent this attack before it actually happens. All you can do is just love them. If they won’t be a part of family activities etc then just send them mail to acknowledge that you love them…. a “I am thinking of you card”. Not to the extent where they think you are overboard.

    When my sister cut herself off from our family (not because of the church) she refused all visits and phone calls. But I would send her chatty letters or cards once in a while. I never mentioned why she was doing what she was doing or bringing up the subject. I just chatted. A week before she died when I broke the no contact rule and flew out to see her she thanked me for not listening to her and still keeping in contact with her even though she never replied to my letters or cards.

    That is all we can do. Love them even if it is from afar. Our 4 children that had become lost knew they were never allowed to speak one bad word against the church in our presence. Ever. If they could not contain their tongues they were not welcomed. They could discuss why they felt they were right and discuss their reasonings but if it became an attack it would be stopped. Our house rules are our house rules. 3 of the 4 have wandered back in from this lost kingdom of no-man’s land and all of them have said over time that they knew if they chose to come over for dinner blessing on the food would be said, if they spent the night or their children had a sleepover then we would be saying prayers and scripture reading at night time. If they didn’t want to participate then choose not to be here.

    Repentance is a wondrous process having been one to be there done that.. know that every one has that ability. Just love this person and make sure they know you love them. Christ loves us all unconditionally as we all should as well. Easier said then done at times though.

  14. Mum

    Thank you. I will keep doing this, what I can to stay in contact, cards, letters whatever. I am maybe going to do it more through the children as he doesn’t seem to have a problem with them :) I do love him and I want him to know I love him. Sometimes I wonder.

  15. Hey Sally, I thought I’d send news from “this lost kingdom of no-man’s land”. The weather’s fine and we’ve got Sundays off. Just thought you might like to know.

    How is it possible to say “Christ loves us all unconditionally as we all should as well.” and in the same posting describe how you treat your kids conditionally based on to what extent they speak ill of the church?

    You even start the post with one of the most judgmental statements on the whole thread:”this person knows what they are doing is wrong and feels very guilty.” Are you kidding me?

    These people need space. Jeez.

    I’m thinking that given the option of a meal with family and your attitude, I’d choose to eat alone every time.

  16. it sounds like this person knows what they are doing is wrong and feels very guilty.

    Honestly, I don’t think he feels even an ounce of guilt.

  17. Rick

    “lost kingdom in no-man’s land” was a tongue in cheek comment. There is an area where we live at the US/Canada border that does not belong to either country that everyone calls no man’s land. People that can’t come across either direction meet there with their families from the other country and we can still visit. Lost is meaning being away from the gospel.. such as a lost lamb that Christ as a shepherd left his flock to find. When our children fell away from the gospel they were considered lost lambs.
    I did and still do love my children unconditionally. I may not always like what they did/do but I still love them. When they come over they know that is what we are going to do ex: prayer. I am not going to stop following the gospel just so one of my children can come over. I won’t stop praying or reading my scriptures if they are here. How is that not loving them unconditionally? IF they choose to not participate that is their choice. I don’t make them do what they don’t want to. When they wanted nothing to do with the church, we respected their wishes and did not ask them to offer prayer. We did it. We never once told them that they could not come over unless they did that.

    I wouldn’t allow any of our children to swear in my house either. Does that mean I don’t love them unconditionally? I wouldn’t allow any of them to walk around naked either does that mean I don’t love them unconditionally? Just as Heavenly Father has rules/commandments for us to follow to return to his home so do people that come into our home. You don’t drink in it you don’t smoke in it and you don’t swear in it. We don’t allow any of them to bad mouth their siblings.

    When I said “if they did not want to participate they could choose not to come here” did not mean that we forced them to participate. My idea of participation is knowing that this what we are going to do. If you want to be in the same room fine, if you want to kneel with us fine, if you want to remain in your room till we are done that’s fine too, If you don’t want us to have them at all while you are here.. well that is not going to happen. You see Rick, my children were sealed to me for all time and eternity. I didn’t stop being their parent when they moved away from home. I didn’t stop being their mother when they turned 18. My stewardship for them continues. I am responsible to them to make sure that I keep myself as grounded as possible so that when Judgment Day comes their parents will be there together to welcome all of them back.

    When I said “It sounds like they are feeling guilty” I meant just that.. that it sounded like they were feeling guilty I did not say they were guilty. I am not in their heads I don’t know what they are thinking. I never said they did not need space. In fact I made a couple of comments about backing away from my family member (sister) as in I respected her decision to not go over or call but I still let her know I loved her through the mail once in a while. How was that not giving them space?

    And as for dinner with Miss Attitude… well all I can say is considering we rarely ever have dinner with just my husband and myself obviously no one else thinks the same as you :) But I will be sure to keep a plate warm for you if you change your mind :)

  18. “You see Rick, my children were sealed to me for all time and eternity.”

    You do see the irony in the fact that these children don’t see it that way – and that the very acts of stewardship that you demonstrate are the tools that build their resentment, right?

    It is the act of the parent to release their children into the world. Just do it.

    You should note, that you didn’t say,”It sounds like they are feeling guilty” you said,”it sounds like this person knows what they are doing is wrong”. That is a judgment statement and a moral assessment. It’s judgmental, so you might as well admit to it move on.

    I can see the need for rules in one’s home. I have them as many others do as well. But to denigrate them on their choice of lifestyle, be judgmental and seek to control them outside of one’s home is rude and patronizing. Remember “they were never allowed to speak one bad word against the church in our presence”? That doesn’t sound like it applies to your domicile exclusively. Does it?

    I don’t know a single thing about your kids in particular(obviously) but I have plenty of experience with relatives who say just enough to be prodding; who say everything but the thing, and that time spent with them is excruciatingly frustrating.

    For some reason (perhaps unjustified) I get this vibe from you.

    Oh, and I’ll hold you to that dinner invite when I’m at the temple dedication over in your neighbourhood. ;)

  19. My sisters, nieces and nephews are not members of the church. Most of them are not active in any church, and a couple go so far as to say they are atheists (I also have a niece-in-law who practices Wicca – she’s quite fascinating to talk to!). Nevertheless, all of my family respect my beliefs, as I respect theirs. They do not swear in my presence (even in their own homes), they do not denigrate my beliefs (although we do have some kidding back and forth about religion – I know all the jokes about Utah and repeat them with glee to my member friends), they do not make fun of the church or the gospel. I have never said to them, “You can’t do that” or “Don’t say that in my presence”. It has just been a given. Maybe it’s because they love me, maybe it’s because they know how much the gospel means to me, maybe it’s because something of the spirit whispers to them. Sally’s children were raised in the gospel. They know how much it means to her and her husband. They know that – above all else – their mother loves them no matter what they believe or don’t believe. All I see – and feel – from Sally’s post is that she has given her children leeway to believe what they want to, and her children love her enough to follow her wishes in regard to her home and her feelings. It’s called respect.

  20. Rick

    “bad mouthing the church exclusively at home”… means just that. But then when you mentioned it I thought of other times when we would be all out as a family, and we didn’t allow it either. But in my defense, to bad mouth the church is bad mouthing my Father in Heaven and that is pure disrespect. I would not allow my children to disrespect their earthly father and as their mother it is my responsibility to make sure of that. I do the same thing when I am out and someone uses the Lord’s name in vain that is beside me and I politely ask them to please not do that.

    As for the prodding experience with your relatives being excruciating.. well all I can say is by the sheer amount of times that our children are constantly at out house I would have to say it can’t be that excruciating. And as 3 out of the 4 have come back to church obviously they knew that we did love them unconditionally and would not hold judgment on them or their behavior during their idiot moments.

    Now as for dinner, I would be honored to have you over for dinner!

  21. “…during their idiot moments.”

    …do I even need to say it, Sally?
    Ok, one more time.
    Judgmental.
    Ok done.

  22. ROFLMBO!! I said their idiot moments not that THEY were idiots lol. I actually call my own idiot moments as my idiot years I had so many of them! As for my children lost or otherwise I would say probably in the last 4-5 years they have all come to us and thanked us for raising them the way we did (for the most part.. they didn’t always like our idiot moments either), that they now understood why we did what we did when we did it, and that they were glad that while they were home we stood firm in our beliefs that no matter what was going on in our lives they knew we loved them and gave them the best of what we had.

    Now we watch them with their children and see them do things that totally drove them around the bend growing up, things they swore they would never do to their children, things that somehow with their maturity growth , has come to mean something more special.We also watch them take what they learned from us and make it better, we have seen them take some cycles and stopped them, taking the good and making it better and taking the bad out with the recycling on garbage day.

    Each generation in our family gets better then the last, and no matter what anyone else thinks of us, I know without a single shadow of a doubt that our children love us very much and that our grandchildren think we are the King and Queen of the world. What more could one mere mortal ask for? THAT to me means unconditional love.

  23. From my side of the coin, so to speak, I think that unconditional love should also mean..
    ~not saying things like “we all love our cousins and family members who aren’t here, and we know that they aren’t happy because they aren’t doing the things they are supposed to, like going to church, so let’s make an effort this year to get them back to church, because we want them to be happy right?”

    ~or “if you love us (as parents) or your H.F. you would ensure that your children get to seminary and go on missions, because that is where they need to be.”

    ~or by asking those that do come around what there calling is in the church, or what ward they are in, when they know full well that they are not attending church.

    ~or when there is a church discussion, not respecting the comments made by those that are not active, because of course it is out of “bitterness”

    ~by saying that it hurts their feelings, everything hurts their feelings….but what about other’s feelings? ( oh right, couldn’t possibly have feelings but anger, or bitterness )

    ~by bearing testimony and having a battle of faiths….( because someone who may have other beliefs has a hardened heart and just isn’t praying hard enough, or getting the right feeling when they do pray )

    Now…talk about it being uncomfortable at family functions. I have family members who of course refuse to come around, and I really don’t blame them one bit. When you are constantly being looked down upon, and not given any credit for being intelligent for coming to any conclusions. It is always emotions….unhappiness, bitterness, hardheartedness.

    It is so ironical to hear…it is only because we love them. If you love someone you respect them, and don’t judge them…no matter what.

    1. I spent my life raising a child that I adore! She has two children who I have doted on from birth. She is a drone for the church now. A church that has taken something very precious to me. I am mad, bitter and filled with disgust! That is true but when she regains “Free Agency” I will be waiting with open arms. Her church friends and life will shun her if they can’t bring her back into the mind control fold! Bitter to the end!

    2. I understand completely! I have never felt remotely welcomed into my daughters life. The conversations revolve completely around church. I believe that the church occupies everyones time completely so that there is no time to question anything or even have a conversation that does not revolve around church.

  24. In the situation I am referring to, this hasn’t happened at all. As I have said, this person barely refuses to have anything to do with family who are members of the church because he hates the church and not because anyone is trying to ‘get him back in’ or have any conditional love for him. And no one says it ‘hurts their feelings’ to him because it would be useless anyway. And it doesn’t hurt my feelings he doesn’t go to church, it hurts my feelings he ignores me. It’s not a matter of not judging him, it’s a matter of being completely rejected by him because I don’t believe the way he does.

    You would have to understand him and why he thinks this way. It isn’t a matter of “live and let live” on his side of it. He can’t see why anyone could believe in the church and anyone who does, in his eyes, is inferior intellectually.

  25. “He can’t see why anyone could believe in the church and anyone who does, in his eyes, is inferior intellectually.”

    Whereas on the other side of the other side of the coin… Many members see anyone who does not believe in the church, in their eyes, to be crippled spiritually.

  26. Rick

    You still don’t get it. I don’t care if he goes to church or not. That’s his business. What I care about is that he doesn’t love me or want much, if anything to do with me. ‘Crippled spiritually’ has nothing at all to do with this situation. But you are proving a point that non-members, inactive members feel the suffering is more on THEIR side and are unwilling to accept that they can have a good tolerant relationship with members who DO NOT HASSLE them. Does it make sense now???

  27. Oh it makes perfect sense. I just haven’t been witness to any member who did not in some subtle way (perhaps unknowingly) work the church into the conversation.

    I don’t know this person. I’m just speaking from my personal experiences and experiences others have expressed to me. Yours might be (and sounds to be) completely different.

  28. Unfortunately many church’s tend to get stuck into tradition and ingrained culture and lose sight of the original philosophy upon which it is based.

    Then the rules become more important than the philosophy.

    Tolerance is preached by many churches and religions but tends to get waylaid.

    Religions also, unfortunately, practice excommunication and disenfranchisement. Disconnection in the Scientology church. None of which endear people to that religion. Religion is supposed to bring families together, not split them apart. When it does this it has failed.

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