Some people who have left exclusive religions or sects spend too much time trying to find a workable relationship with relatives (usually parents and siblings) who have remained in the religion or sect. When is enough effort at trying to find common ground enough? When is it time to let it go?
Dan Allender, in his book, Bold Love, recommends repeated confrontations that consist of holding up a mirror to the person, so they can see what their violations look like: “You were rude to my friend in my house. You ignored her when she was trying to talk to you.” Allender says that mature people respond quickly to the confrontation, but immature people need to be confronted repeatedly for years. (And truly evil people are those who enjoy hurting others.)
Jesus, the King of Reconciliation, recommended having nothing to do with some people (Matthew 16:16-18). What kind of people? Those who are so offensive that they have been brought before the elders, and still do not repent.
Well this particular portion of Jesus advice is not going to work for those of us who have left hardline churches. We won’t go before our relatives’ elders, and they usually won’t come with us to a mediator or counselor we choose. So when is enough enough? Or should we keep trying forever? Here are some things to think about that might help you decide:
1. When a relative is determined to make all the visits uncomfortable, it is time to call it quits.
2. When a relative will not respect the rules of your household, then they cannot visit, or need to take a break from visiting.
3. When a relative is consistently discouraging, often enough to make you dread being around that person, it is time to call a halt to hanging around that relative.
4. When the relative is rude to your friends in your own home, it is time to draw the line. If your friends are ignored or given the cold shoulder it is time to put some secure boundaries around your home.
5. If you cannot trust your relatives with your children, if your relatives say upsetting things about your faith to your children, when your children are too young to be able to deal with it, it is time to cut off unsupervised visits from your relatives.
6. When you spend inordinate amounts of time trying to think of a way to have a workable relationship with a relative, it is time to call it quits.
Letting go is difficult, if not impossible at first, for those of us who have grown up in a sectarian environment. We were not given the equipment to declare independence with. We were not encouraged to have our own opinions and to think independently.
So how do we get the courage to let go? We have to have more mature mentors and friends to relate to. Mature mentors:
1. Encourage independent thought
2. Are empathetic to our emotions
3. Are excited by our successes
4. Do not sneer
5. Respect our boundaries
Letting go is a long term goal that involves establishing respectful relationships with respectful people.